Fabulous start to a new, romantic-suspense, YA series
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: September 19, 2019
Pages: 170 pages
Source: Booksprout ARC
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Hazel Ross and Cruz Donovan were close friends in middle school, along with Hazel’s two cousins, Bodhi and Emmett Boyd, as well as Spike Matlock and Peter Moody, whom she had been friends with since kindergarten. They are all extremely talented soccer players in a small town where soccer is king, Defiance Falls, which is 30 miles south of Boston, Massachusetts. Hazel played on the boys’ soccer team until she was 12 and was forced to switch to the girls’ team. After Cruz transferred from the local private school to the public school, he took her place on the boys’ soccer team.
Cruz is a few months older than Hazel and the other four boys, though they are all in the same grade. All five boys and Hazel were close enough that Hazel considered the boys a second family—until three years ago. Just before their freshman year, when Hazel and Cruz were only 14, they were briefly a couple. They shared a few sessions of very intense kissing, until Cruz broke it off between them shortly after his 15th birthday. He broke Hazel’s heart in the process, and she couldn’t bear to be near Cruz after that. Which meant she hasn’t spent time since then with her former crew of male best friends, and has hardly even spent time with her cousins, other than weekly dinners at their mutual grandparents’ home.
Until the night of Cruz’s 18th birthday party, shortly before the beginning of their senior year.
Suddenly Cruz is constantly in Hazel’s space, acting as if they were never apart, and simultaneously drawing Hazel back into close connection with her former friends and her two cousins. The trouble is, it soon becomes apparent that the boys—most especially Cruz—are keeping dangerous secrets. The mystery seems to be connected to an ongoing feud between Cruz’s family, the Donovans, and another bigwig family in town, the Malones. Both families are extremely rich, and the Donovans in particular own the largest pharmaceutical company in the world. Soon after the patriarch of the Malone family, Flynn Malone, turns up dead, presumably from suicide, the Malone boys, who are around Hazel’s age, begin acting threatening toward Cruz and the boys. And Hazel suddenly finds herself potentially in danger from the Malones as well, simply by being in the boys’ radius.
This fast-paced, romantic-suspense, young-adult novel is a change of pace for the talented Ali Dean. Though she has previously written romantic-suspense, it was in the context of the primary focus of the books being on the heroine as a star athlete, secondly on the romance, and thirdly on the suspense plot. In this new series, though both Hazel and Cruz are star soccer players, there are no scenes of either of them engaged in playing soccer. Instead, the main spotlight is primarily on the romance, and secondarily on the suspense plot.
This is a very gripping read on both counts. The sexual chemistry between Hazel and Cruz is intense, and the suspense plot is scary.
I enjoyed very much reading about Hazel’s father, who is a single dad who had her at age 17 and, when her mother abandoned her, raised Hazel with the help of his parents. He is only 34, and a very loving and “cool” dad who does MMA and works from home as a high-tech computer programmer.
I also enjoyed reading about Hazel’s loving grandparents, and her two quirky male cousins.
This trilogy seems to be essentially a three-part novel, so this book ends, as advertised, on a cliffhanger, with many important, suspense-plot questions remaining to be answered. Per the author, Book 2, Defiance Falls Revolution, releases October 10, 2019, and Book 3, Defiance Falls War, releases October 30, 2019. I don’t normally like to read a series with cliffhangers until all of the books in the series have been released, because I am too impatient to know what comes next to wait for the next installment of the story. However, I am such a big fan of Ali Dean’s fiction, I immediately grabbed a copy of this book as soon as I could get it, and I am eagerly anticipating the next two installments for more chances to read about Hazel and Cruz.
Parental Advisory: I would personally rate this book PG-13 due to foul language, underage drinking, marijuana use, and sexual activity. It is recommended for older teens and adults.
Note: I received a review ARC from Booksprout.
I rate this book as follows:
Romance Plot: 5
Suspense Plot: 5