Cancer survivor Mandy Hardy is scarred both physically and emotionally when her ex fiance's former best friend, Justin Seward comes back into her life. Author Ashley Willis's brave, yet hesitant main character won my heart within a few pages, although seeing Mandy struggle to accept the hopes Justin has for her, and for them, hurt my heart a little at times. Deserted by her fiance just as she fell truly ill with breast cancer, Mandy is terrified to open up to someone again - even loyal, patient Justin. But Justin stole my heart as he won Mandy's - slowly, and with infinite care and tenderness. Having admired, respected, and maybe even loved Mandy from afar for years, Justin finally approaches her once Ty, her ex, is out of the picture, and what plays out across the pages of Ashley's parnormal romance is a beautiful, loving relationship that, while not without its bumps, really warmed my heart, and brought me to tears a time or two.
This story is definitely a paranormal romance; however, it isn't the first in a series, and it is not on quite as large of a scope as say, JR Ward's Black Dagger Brotherhood, or Gena Showalter's Lords of the Underworld, which I think is part of what I enjoyed so much about it. I knew I was reading a stand-alone book, and that the struggle the two main characters were facing was more internal than external. I think I loved that more than anything, because it allowed for so much character growth, and asked some really important questions, like ones Mandy had to ask herself: is one broken heart enough to close yourself off to love for good? Anyone who has ever withstood a break-up will understand and sympathize with Mandy; even if sometimes throughout this book for me that was wanting to nudge her along, or give her a shaking.
At its heart, The Calling is Mandy and Justin's story. It's a story about beating the odds, in more ways than one. Ashley Willis paints a vivid portrait of Mandy's battle not only to love again, but simply to let herself go and give herself permission to live her life to the fullest, without fear. And for Justin, it means overcoming his own past - finding a way to mend what's left of his tattered family, and believing that he can have a future with the woman his heart has chosen.
I really fell in love with Justin. Ashley Willis definitely created a male worthy of swooning over in The Calling. Justin is just enough of an alpha male to suit my tastes, which means along the way, we get some delightfully steamy scenes between him and Mandy, which were the perfect accompaniment to their relationship. But he's also not without his issues, and seeing his growth during the course of The Calling just made me want to hug him. Justin is caring and solid, a touchstone for Mandy, a friend, and a lover, and really, just everything any girl could want. Yet Ashley also gives him enough attributes so that he still seems genuine, and not overly perfect.
My only dislike about this heart-warming and satisfying read was the end. The pacing was right on the money, and the plot was solid, as were the main and secondary characters and their relationships. I felt like the end fell apart a little bit though. A certain character's explanation for why he did some of the things he did didn't feel like it was ever truly explained, at least not to my satisfaction. And while the ending was satisfying, the climax of the story fell a little flat for me, because in some ways, it just wasn't what I wanted for this couple. But that is why Ashley is the author, and gets to determine the story that's told. Overall, I really enjoyed this book!
Recommended for fans of: Lara Adrian, Gena Showalter, JR Ward, Jacquelyn Frank, Jessica Andersen
I received this book from the author in exchange for an honest review. No money or compensation of any sort exchanged hands. I review books with no intention of monetary gain; rather, I review books out of my love of reading.
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