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Withering Hope, by Layla Hagen

Withering Hope______________________________________________

Aimee’s wedding is supposed to turn out perfect. Her dress, her fiancé and the location—the idyllic holiday ranch in Brazil—are perfect.

But all Aimee’s plans come crashing down when the private jet that’s taking her from the U.S. to the ranch—where her fiancé awaits her—defects mid-flight and the pilot is forced to perform an emergency landing in the heart of the Amazon rainforest.

With no way to reach civilisation, being rescued is Aimee and Tristan’s—the pilot—only hope. A slim one that slowly withers away, desperation taking its place. Because death wanders in the jungle under many forms: starvation, diseases. Beasts.

As Aimee and Tristan fight to find ways to survive, they grow closer. Together they discover that facing old, inner agonies carved by painful pasts takes just as much courage, if not even more, than facing the rainforest.

Despite her devotion to her fiancé, Aimee can’t hide her feelings for Tristan—the man for whom she’s slowly becoming everything. You can hide many things in the rainforest. But not lies. Or love.

Withering Hope is the story of a man who desperately needs forgiveness and the woman who brings him hope. It is a story in which hope births wings and blooms into a love that is as beautiful and intense as it is forbidden.

“Being on the brink of losing everything had the remarkable power of setting me free.”

I have a thing for end of the world as we know it stories. Be it a zombie apocalypse or two people getting stranded on an island without anyone knowing it, these scenarios are something I quite enjoy once in a while. So when someone recommended this book to me, I got curious.

“I need him to survive the horrors outside. He needs me to overcome those in his mind.”

I’ve read stories about people stranded on islands or even lost at see with only a raft as a place to live, but never the Amazon rainforest. I wasn’t sure I would enjoy it as much at first actually. Let’s just say weird bugs and things that crawl and have more than four legs kind of freak me out. And Aimee describes the forest as a place where, if you stand still for more than thirty seconds, you end up a privileged place for tiny (and not so tiny) eeky creatures to make a home of. So let’s just say that my skin crawled a few times during Tristan and Aimee’s time in the forest.

“There are many things you can hide in the rainforest. But not lies. Or love.”

I love this kind of setting because it sort of forces closeness and attachment between the characters. I loved how Aimee’s feelings for Tristan slowly but surely grew from appreciation to attraction and love. I liked how she handled her feelings too. Considering her situation, (to go from loving a man to falling for another), she could’ve easily annoyed me with her conflicted feelings. But Layla Hagen really did a good job balancing Aimee’s feelings of guilt and acceptance of her situation and feelings for Tristan, and made it so that I got why she was feeling guilty and conflicted and also that I wasn’t shocked that she accepted her dwindling feelings for Chris and growing feelings for Tristan.

“Tristan slipped into my soul the way mist travels in the forest after the rain: unseen, unstoppable and ubiquitous.”

I really enjoyed how Layla Hagen wrote her story and characters even though I would have enjoyed more of Tristan’s POV chapters. I liked the pace of the story too even if I thought it was dragging a little at the begging. I also enjoyed the fact that there wasn’t too much drama in this book be it between Tristan and Aimee or with the “triangle” between them and Chris.

“From the plethora of feelings striking me in this moment – heat, guilt, confusion – most powerful is the feeling that I belong here in his arms. I feel at home in them (…) The guilt isn’t from the tingling I feel at his touch. It’s from craving it.”

Tristan’s character is hard to describe. Part of that is because there isn’t many chapters from his POV. But I liked him and how deeply he felt and loved Aimee. The connection between those two is really strong and powerful and intense and part of it is of course because of the setting but also because Tristan himself is quite intense in the way he feels. I liked getting to know him, but I would have enjoyed more of his perspective and voice in the book.

“My peace carries her smell and sounds like her voice. It feels like her touch.”

The last four chapters are full of “action” and I was flipping the pages frantically to know what would happen next. To be honest. The two part epilogue left me with a sort of bittersweet taste. It was really sweet and romantic but I felt the same way I had when I read (and saw) The Notebook. You see it’s for the best and that it’s romantic and true love and all that but you’re still somewhat feeling…not sad but not quite happy either. But to be fair, I don’t think many ending would have worked with this story and the one at the end of Withering Hope was actually well thought of and fitting for this novel and its overall mood but at the same time it left me feeling like this wasn’t quite right either.

“You don’t need me to survive,” he says. “You’re right. I don’t need you to survive. I need you to live.”

So to sum it up, I really enjoyed this book and its characters. I loved how Tristan and Aimee couldn’t help but fall for and l love each other and I would recommend this book for anyone who likes a good stranded-on-an-island story.

“You’re more than I’ve ever had, and more than I’ll ever wish for.”


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