Thursday, August 4, 2016

Counting Daisies by Nicola Haken

Title: Counting Daisies
Author: Nicola Haken
Genre: MM Romance
Release Date: August 1, 2016
Dylan Roberts and Cameron O’Neil were good kids. Growing up together, they shared everything. By the age of fourteen they were more than best friends – they were in love. They dreamt of their future, of success, marriage…happiness. They were going to grow old by each other’s side. But… “Kids are stupid.” When tragic circumstances forced them apart, Dylan discovered that life wasn’t the fairytale he dreamed of; it was dark, difficult, saturated with pain and shame. Life wasn’t meant to be enjoyed, merely survived, but even that became a challenge. Damaged, worthless, and disgusting, he saw no point to his pitiful existence… Until he came face to face with the boy he used to love. Successful, honourable, and happy, Cameron had achieved the future they planned. He was good, positive, popular…everything Dylan would never be. What would happen if Dylan let him back into his world? Would he destroy Cameron too? Would his poison push him away like everyone else? “Everybody leaves.” “They leave or they die.” But what if…what if Cameron didn’t?

My Rating: A-
My Review:
*happy sigh* This is a really fantastic book, but be takes a while for the MC's to reach their happy place and it takes a lot of unhappy angst to get there...but that is what makes this book such a fantastic read. (I do love some good angst in my romance.)

The story starts when Cam and Dylan were 14 and totally in love...they were young and just experimenting with kissing...nothing serious, not yet, although they had plans for eventually. But then Dylan's grandmother died unexpectedly and social services moved him to another city. They didn't see one another again and Cameron never knew what happened to the boy he loved. 

Now, Cameron is grown and has achieved all of his goals that he had at that young age...minus Dylan. He owns a highly recommended and successful restaurant. The only think in his life not so great is his love life...after his fiance cheated on him last year.

But that all changes one night when Dylan shows up outside the restaurant...beaten and needing help. Cameron takes him in, only to have him disappear in the middle of the night. 

Needless to say, Dylan's life has not gone according to plan. He's hooked on heroine and works as a rentboy to make enough money to score his next hit. His life has been one bad thing after another, leaving him to believe that he'll have nothing else. So he seeks out the numbness that the drugs give him. He simply doesn't want to feel anymore. 

Dylan's situation killed me. While I hated where he was at mentally, it broke my heart that I could see exactly how he got there. There's only so much loss one person can take, and he had way too much at way too young of an age. But being around Cameron gives him hope, at the same time, he doesn't feel he deserves hope anymore. He's done some really, really awful things. 

The way this story unfolded was perfection. It wasn't all, but it felt so realistic because of that. These two men are on a really rough road, but everything could be so good if they can manage to make it through. 

I started reading and simply did not want to put the book down. It was riveting. It was heartbreaking. And in the end, it was about two men who loved each other more than and despite anything else. I loved Cam and Dylan and am so thankful to Nicola Haken for sharing their journey with us.

I received a complimentary copy of this book in return for an honest review.

“This is a deep and powerful book with the main theme which is refreshing less about the path of a relationship and way more about the real life gritty obstacles that come on the way of their HEA.” - Reader Review

“This book was phenomenal. I cried so many tears. Story was heart breaking and heartwarming all at the same time.” - SiKReviews

“This was a beautifully crafted story of friendship, love, bonds, addictive behaviour and heartache. It was hugely emotional in parts, and Nicola doesn't hold back.” - 2 Girls & Their Kindles

He clung to my shirt, his knuckles turning white. “Make it s-stop.” 

“I…I don’t know how.”

Fuck this. Fuck heroin. Why the hell would someone do this to themselves? I’d never seen this level of pain before that hadn’t resulted in death, and even that was only on TV. 

Dylan sobbed into my chest and I held him while he did. My arms were all I had to offer. He remained so cold despite my palms rubbing up and down his back, and he was dirty, too - dried up vomit sticking to his skin and hair. I’d never felt so helpless in all my life.

Needing to do something, anything, I climbed to my feet, lifting his body with me. “Come on,” I encouraged, struggling to take his weight on my own. “Try and walk for me.”

He whimpered and mumbled but made little effort to move. So, sliding one arm behind his thighs, I scooped him up like a baby, carrying him towards the bath. He clung to my neck, his grip weak, while I turned on the water. I turned the temperature down to barely warm, worried the heat might burn his shivering skin, before lowering him into the bathtub, under the fine spray of the shower. 

His muscles twitched and his eyes closed as he hugged his knees to his scrawny chest. Taking a sponge and some shower-gel, I scrubbed softly up and down his trembling body, gently manoeuvring his arms and legs when needed so I could clean every inch of him.

“I’m tired, Cam,” he barely whispered, dropping his head to the side.

My heart ached, like it was trapped inside a vice that was trying to crush its ability to beat, as I lathered some shampoo into his fair hair. “You can sleep soon. Nearly done.” 

I tried not to cry as I massaged his scalp. I wanted to be strong, but I’d never felt more vulnerable. Removing the showerhead from the hook on the wall, I hovered it over his head, rinsing away the tea-tree scented suds, before doing the same to the rest of his skin. After shutting the water off, I grabbed a large towel from the heated rail next to the toilet and rubbed it over his skin in the bathtub before lifting him out and doing the same to his back.

“I-I can’t d-do it anymore,” Dylan cried as I wound my arm around his waist, urging him to take a step.

“You are doing it. It’s almost over.” I had no idea if my words were the truth, but I had to hope they were for both of our sakes. Honestly, I felt like I couldn’t do it anymore either.
Nicola lives in Rochdale, England with her husband and four children (six if you include the dog and cat!) She is the author the author of the m/m romance Souls of the Knight series, and is currently working on a standalone with new boys, James and Theo, due for release early 2016. When she is not busy playing with her imaginary book friends (or talking about them with real life friends!) she can usually be found carrying out her ordinary mum/housewife/all round slave duties. Oh, and if the kids ever ask, she moonlights as the Pink Power Ranger while they're sleeping...

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