I was given the novel Under the Influence, written by author L.B. Simmons, in return for an honest review after reading it. Going into this book, I wasn't sure what to expect because this is a new author for me. I loved the cover design though, and although we've been told repeatedly to never judge a book by it's cover, well...I do. I actually do it quite frequently, but the great thing about that is that I've found some awesome new-to-me authors that way too. The cover on this book is beautiful though, if I do say so.
So, before I officially begin this review, here's a little
something: I give you one of the best parts of the entire book, a gorgeous, moving excerpt from Spencer's point of view.
Dalton’s voice is thick as he begins to speak. “I’m sorry, Spence. I know I hurt you—”
I shake my head dismissively. “You didn’t hurt me. I’m just tired.”
The corners of his mouth dip downward and he lifts his hand, placing his palm against my cheek and swiping the moisture with his thumb. My heart would typically melt at the tenderness of the gesture, but now I find it only aggravates me. I narrow my eyes and shove his hand away from my face.
“Don’t do that. Don’t do something you don’t mean.”
Channeling my sorrow, anger begins to churn as I step away and turn my back on him. My bare feet carry me to the wooden rail that lines my porch and I brace my good hand against it, leaning forward and inhaling deeply.
Dalton growls with frustration. “What the fuck? Of course I mean it. The last thing I want to do is hurt you, Spence. I’m trying to apologize here.”
I laugh humorlessly and turn to face him. “For what, exactly? For stalking me on my date tonight?”
His blue eyes now heat with a different emotion as they slice to mine. “The date in which you were being manhandled by some fucking loser who asked you out for no other reason than to get back at me?” He scoffs openly. “You should be thanking me.”
I cease the fight to hold back my tears, permitting them to flow freely as I respond. “I handled it, did I not? I don’t need you to protect me, Dalton. I can take care of myself.”
He chuckles, unsmiling, as he removes his cap and throws it to the ground, dragging his fingers through his hair in irritation. My glare hardens as I continue my rant.
“And yes, he asked me out to get back at you. Are you apologizing for that? Or are you apologizing for the fact that because of your stupid crusade against me dating anyone EVER, I was so excited to be asked out that I accepted a date with said fucking loser because I wanted to know what it would be like to actually be wanted for once?” Not entirely true, but true enough to make my point.
My breaths are heavy and my pulse is thrumming rapidly through my entire body. I angrily wipe away the tears as I inquire, “Why is that, Dalton? Why is it that you don’t want me, but no one else is allowed to have me?” I shake my head in frustration as I stumble on my words. “I just…I don’t understand.” My voice trembles and my chin quivers with the admission.
Dalton heavy boots sound as he stalks across the porch. I avert my gaze, but once he’s in front of me, he curls his fingers around my chin and pulls my face into his line of sight. His eyes burn into mine as they narrow in earnest. “You think I don’t want you? Goddamn it, Spencer,” he bites, “I want you so much I can’t fucking breathe when I’m not with you. Every single time I force myself to walk away from you, I feel nothing but agony as the anger that simmers here,” he breaks to pound his closed fist on his chest, “breaks free and chars my insides with each step I take.”
His eyes begin to glisten and his jaw tightens as he shakes his head. “I can’t fucking breathe without you, don’t you get it? I want you so much that being without you is absolute torture.”
He swallows deeply and moisture seeps from my eyes at the sight of his exposed emotion as he continues. “I want you, Spence, but I can’t have you. I won’t allow it. You’re too good, too pure, too innocent, and just as your presence soothes me, mine will eventually flaw you. It’s inevitable, and I care too much for you to let that happen.”
I watch a lone tear fall from the corner of his eye before he concludes, “But you’re right. Even thinking about you with someone else, with someone else’s arms around you as you look into their eyes the same way you’re looking into mine right now, I just…” He casts his stare downward and shakes his head. “I just can’t. So I guess I’m just a selfish, heartless prick, because where does that leave you?”
The tear finally falls free from his chin, and I watch it strike the wood beneath our feet before placing my hands on the side of his face and forcing his eyes to mine. My voice trembles as I speak. “I know you like to control things, Dalton. That’s how you’ve learned to cope and I understand that, but you don’t control me. My feelings. My heart. And even though you feel you don’t deserve those things, that they’re not yours to have, you’re mistaken.”
I tighten my grip as he tries to look away and state with emphasis, “You ask where that leaves me? Well, it leaves me right in the same place, on this same porch, as I was six years ago when I met you. The day that all of those things you think you can’t have I willingly handed over without question.”
Releasing my hold, I turn away from him, knowing his refusal will absolutely destroy me as I state into the night air, “I have always belonged to you. I will always belong to you. Regardless of what you’ve done, what you do, or what you will do, I will forever be yours. And that’s my choice to make, whether you choose me or not.”
Doesn't that just MOVE something inside of you too? Wow! This brilliant novel by L.B. Simmons is seriously flying under the radar...waaaay under it because this should be flying off of store shelves. It's a timeless, yet modern love story that deals with first love, first heartbreak, hope, and redemption. The characters Spencer and Dalton are portrayed with such vivid detail and realism that they truly felt real to me. I couldn't help but to root for their happiness, whether that meant with each other or someone else. I just wanted them to finally win in life, especially after all of the pain and heart ache they'd already suffered practically their entire lives.
I can't give enough kudos to how much this story made my heart simply feel. Throughout the book, the story led me through so many emotions. I was happy, sad, a little lost, scared, heartbroken, hopeful, and finally happy again. What an adventurous ride, even though this wasn't really a fast paced book. I highly recommend this title and really, truly look forward to having the opportunity to sample more of this author's work in the future.