Series: Santa Cruz Skydivers, Book 1
Author: Joanne Efendi
Publisher: Evernight Publishing
Release Date: October 6, 2015
Genre: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
ARC Received From & Reviewed For: IndieSage PR
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Twenty-five year old professional skydiver Levi James has a troubled past that he just can't seem to leave behind. The main cause of his problems—his father. The billionaire Australian publishing magnate, who after being MIA for most of Levi's life, has decided Levi needs to start playing a role in the family business, whether Levi wants to or not.
Andi LaRosa, a twenty-one year old Costco cashier, comes from a loving, if somewhat suffocating, traditional Italian American family. With no direction and in a deep depression, she often seeks solace in Valium and the bottom of a Vodka bottle. That is until see meets Levi and instantly falls for his Aussie charm.
The daredevil skydiver makes her feel alive and gives her a sense of direction that she so desperately craves. But can their fledging relationship survive Andi’s personal demons and Levi’s meddling father, who refuses to his son go?
(Reviewer's Note: This story is fairly lighthearted and, at times, pleasantly humorous. But it does get dark rather quickly at the end. The despair and heartache Andi experiences pushes her to do the unthinkable. I don't know if suicide was her intention but it nearly became the result. The reality of her decision is one I'm all too familiar with. While I have an easier time reading about it now, some of you may not. Please, please, please take this into consideration before purchasing this book and/or reading my review.)
There is only so much money can buy. Houses, cars, clothes, gadgets. But those are things that, in the grand scheme of life, hold very little value. There will always be a bigger house to want, a fast car to drive, the latest fashions to wear, the newest electronics to own. But do they fulfill a life? To be honest, they don't.
Living the life he wanted was all Levi wanted. He was content being a skydive instructor. He was okay not being committed to anything except his job. The problem was his dad and ex-girlfriend. One wanted to control him. The other wouldn't leave him alone. Visions of grandeur and happily ever afters bombarded him. Which were all fine and good...except they weren't Levi's visions. His happiness didn't hinge on wealth, prestige, or notoriety. He found happiness in doing what he loved best, being with people he loved most, and living life to the fullest.
In a way, the jump Levi and Andi took was the perfect depiction of his life, or what he dreamed his life could be. The adrenaline rush from the freefall was a terrific representation of his excitement for his day-to-day. Deploying his parachute at the right moment showed he was in control of his destiny, not his dad, not his ex. The landing (it was a bit rough) reminded me that happy endings don't always happen smoothly. It made me wonder if his and Andi's relationship landing would be just as rough or if they would experience a smooth one.
I think I should say something about Andi. She's the quintessential girl next door who works a regular-person job and comes from a regular-type family. She struggles with her self-acceptance, doesn't see herself as beautiful as others do, doesn't know how she could possibly stack up against another woman. And she struggles with addiction. It isn't obvious at first. The occasional mention of pain meds, the indulgence of alcohol. I got the feeling the meds were something she leaned on when she was distressed. The end proved that theory correct when she overdosed on meds and alcohol and wound up in the hospital.
I was surprised at the turn the story took there. I wasn't expecting it. I didn't think she'd go that far. But heartache makes people do out-of-character things. And her heart was broken. She was broken. The truth of Levi's past had come back to haunt him, and hearing about it from someone else, along with what she felt was betrayal, sent her over the edge.
I'm not sure which was more heart-wrenching. Andi's near death or Levi's deal with the devil, his dad. Levi's deal bought him the access he needed to see Andi after his her family barred him from the hospital. It also put into perspective his father's side of why he'd been absent so long from Levi's life. I kept hoping some light would be shed on that situation and Ms. Efendi wrapped it up nicely.
I liked how, despite everything he faced, Levi held onto the fact that Andi would wake again, that she would live, that they'd have the future they wanted. I don't know if it was Levi's pleadings or Andi's resolve or their undeniable love for one another. Whatever it was, it was enough to pull her out of darkness and back into the land of the living.
I enjoyed this story, especially the thrill of jumping tandem from a plane. I'm too chicken-shit to do that, lol, but I love how detailed Ms. Efendi wrote it. I could hear the plane's engine, feel the burn of Andi's ears as they fell, experience the exhilaration of the fall when she relaxed and reveled in it. And I especially like how the ending is left open. It isn't a happy for now or a cliffhanger but the promise of a brighter tomorrow is definitely there in the how Ms. Efendi ended this story.
Ms. Efendi is a new to me author. This story is a terrific debut to this series. Levi and Andi are beautifully flawed characters, each coming into this story with their own baggage but leaving them behind in favor of a better tomorrow together.
Joanne is a lover of books and the written word. It had been a life long dream of Joanne’s to write and publish a novel. A dream that she finally fulfilled in early 2014 after writing YA Paranormal Romance Illuminated Darkness for close to three years. In 2015, her NA Romance ‘Freefall’ was signed by Evernight Publishing.
Joanne grew up in sunny Queensland in Australia and currently resides on the Sunshine Coast with her husband and two sons. She has always had a passion for writing and is a former radio announcer and journalist. Currently she works in her other passion- teaching children the vital life saving skill of learning to swim. In her spare time she likes to drink coffee with her friends and train and compete in triathlons (very badly).
Joanne is currently writing a sequel to Freefall, and a YA Contemporary novel that may or may not take another three years to write. She also has plans to write a sequel to Illuminated Darkness, that will be titled Darkness Enveloped.