by Pepper Winters
Book 1 in the Luna Duet
“Is it true…that you pulled a lion from the ocean and fell in love with him?”
The sixteen-year-old boy named after a lion.
A boy with his entire life ahead of him.
A boy running from a terrible secret.
All it takes is one awful night to change everything.
One secret, one smuggler, one boat, one storm.
And he wakes in an entirely different existence.
Staring into the ocean-blue eyes of his twelve- year-old rescuer.
The twelve-year-old girl named after a sea nymph.
A girl with lofty dreams and absolute faith that she’ll achieve them.
All it takes is a bright, sunny morning to change everything.
One boy clinging to wreckage, one sea cradling him close, one chance at keeping him safe.
He’s illegal and unwanted.
She’s stubborn and so sure.
He’s lost absolutely everything.
And she’s found the only thing she ever wanted.
They begin as rescued and rescuer.
Slowly growing from twelve and sixteen.
He’s not allowed to touch her.
She’s convinced he is the one.
But as each day dawns on his illegal existence, Aslans’s secrets creep ever closer, the death he ran from hunts ever faster, and the darkness that he can’t get free of finally finds him.
And it costs him…
Rape (not by MC), explicit sex, graphic violence, torture, death, murder
This book. THIS FREAKING BOOK!
Before I officially begin, I would like to thank Valentine PR, and Pepper Winters, for sending me an arc of Lunamare in exchange for a fair and honest review.
This book is the first book I've ever read by Pepper Winters.
Lunamare has me RUNNING to her other books and added her other work to my tbr.
Because again. Holy shit.
I wasn't sure if I was going to love this book going in. I was afraid it was going to be too dark, when I was already having a bad day. That wasn't the case.
First of all, how it begins gives me major Titanic (the movie) vibes. How we get an elderly Rose telling the story of her voyage on the ship and her love story with Jack, we get an elderly Nerida in Lunamare, who is being interviewed by two journalists for a huge life changing achievement. Questions lead her to going to the very beginning of her own love story.
Now, I will admit, Titanic was my first big romance obsession. I was probably too young for it - ten years old, and that handprint on the car window is still ingrained in my brain - but I sat in my grandmothers basement every weekend with my cousin and we watched that movie on repeat. So when I realized Pepper Winters had Nerida narrating her own epic love story - the good, and the bad of it - it brought me back to being young, and in love with love.
My favorite chapters were Aslan and Nerida's in the past, but Pepper Winters made a smart choice by breaking up the past and having an older, and wiser Nerida remind us that despite the terrible things that happened, there is a happy ending.
Well, I'm guessing there is. This is after all, a duology, and we haven't gotten there yet.
Those breaks of present day Nerida served a purpose other than giving a taste of comfort. They also added to the tension. Because while it's comforting to know that these two characters end up together, Nerida's character doesn't hide that terrible things happened to these two.
I won't lie. I cried in chapter two. CHAPTER TWO, people.
I cried a few times actually.
I cried at the end, which is a cliffhanger, but luckily Pepper Winters has mercy and the release of the second book is a week after the first. To which I'm thankful because the undercurrent of anxiety I've been left in is driving me crazy.
The story is superb, incredibly unique, and definitely the best contemporary/dark romance I've read this year. I can actually say it's probably in my top ten of all time, despite the very dark nature it turns to towards the end. I'm not going to lie to you. There are a couple of chapters that are very difficult to read. Pepper Winters doesn't hold back. Sometimes, in books like these, I think the author adds it for shock value, and it doesn't work. It doesn't feel like that in Lunamare. The chapters are essential for the story. Hard to read, but without them, the turn in the story would not be as impactful.
It's not just the story, though. It's the characters.
I adore Nerida, even when she is young and naïve. Her joy, her faith in the sea and humanity, her belief in soulmates ... even when you the reader know that she is wrong and has much to learn, you love her. I cared for her, rooted for her, and honestly, her character brings light to a heavy and dark story. Even when things get dark for her, you just want to go through the pages and gives her a hug. Despite being too optimistic and trusting for her own good, which usually grates on me due to my pessimistic nature, I couldn't help but love her, and see why Aslan loves her as well.
And Aslan. Most definitely the most unique male MC I've ever read. Not just his circumstances, but his personality. His honor and values. His loyalty, and what he is willing to do for those he loves - especially Nerida. And I believe there is much more to learn of him in the next book, because while Lunamare covers six years of him being in Nerida's life, much like Nerida and her family, you also feel like you only know the tip of the ice burg of who he is. I'm hooked, and I must know the rest of the story.
Aslan and Nerida together? Chef's kiss. The years of friendship, with that undercurrent of fate, adds a level of angst and tension, making the build up to romance so worth the wait. For those of you who want steam - Lunamare has lots of it in the last half of the book, and It. Is. Intense.
Lunamare blew me away. I was not expecting it. It was a single line in the first chapter that gave me shivers up my spine that gave me that nudge - this is going to be something special.
"Is it true ... that you pulled a lion from the ocean and fell in love with him?"
And it is. Pepper Winters writing is seriously one of the best I've encountered. From her beautiful way with words, and stylistic choices in her writing, this story hits you hard, and you won't be able to go back. Pepper Winters will become one of your favorite authors.
Lunamare releases on June 27th.
Coming soon after publication!
#agegap #alpha #chosenfamily #firstlove #forbiddenlove #friendstolovers #grump #distress #loveatfirstsight #mates #new #oppositesattract #secretidentity #slowburn #touchheranddie #trauma #unrequited #virgin #whodidit #notme