I hosted this book on July 14th for its blog tour; however, I was only able to post its review today. So I felt it would be better to re-post the original blog adding my opinion about it.
DAMAGE ME by Shana Vanterpool
PUBLISHER: Swoon Romance
Publication Date: July 5, 2016
Ages: New Adult
Category: NA Contemporary
*** AUTHOR’S NOTE and CONTENT WARNING: This story contains triggers for rape victims and soldiers. I did my best to remain respectful to the healing process for both. Hillary’s feelings are hers alone and ONLY represent how she feels about her attack. Dylan’s emotions about his time at war are his ALONE. You are all strong and beautiful, and you will soar again! ***
A broken soldier …
Dylan Meyer lived his life fast and hard, doing anything to keep his emotions masked. In Crystal Gulf, Texas, women, drugs, and alcohol are in abundance. After all, it’s a college town. But eventually, his lifestyle caught up to him. The birth of his daughter, Aubrey, forced him to grow up and take responsibility for his actions. He let his vices go, cleaned up his act, and allowed himself to fall for Harley Evans.
But Dylan is a liar.
He lied to himself. To Harley. To his best friend, Bach. And then he lied himself right into a U.S. Army uniform. When he went to war, he left Harley with his best friend in hopes that he’d look out for her while he was deployed. Not in his darkest nightmares did he think Bach and Harley would fall in love.
A fallen angel …
Hillary Hayes is an eighteen-year-old sophomore in college who understands the importance of rules. She’s followed them her entire life. She gets perfect grades, avoids dating, and won’t stray from the future her mother mapped out. On the outside, she’s perfect. Inside, she’s drowning.
That carefully crafted future disappears when she downs a beer at a party. What’s left of that night is the wreckage of the girl she used to be.
Until she meets Dylan. Her brother’s best friend.
When Dylan returns from war, he can’t move past the betrayal. His daughter’s growing up without him. Flashbacks and PTSD from his time in Afghanistan consume him. He loses himself in a dark depression. There is no light in his darkness …until he meets Hillary. His best friend’s little sister is the only good thing among all the bad.
He’s her safe place.
She’s his light.
Can two damaged souls ever find peace, or is the damage too much to overcome?
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5**** Gritty, realistic, and brilliant
It took me a while to connect with Hillary and Dylan; but not for lack of talent on the writer’s part. On the contrary. Her fair warning that the book contains triggers and sensitive issues must not be taken lightly. For the first third of the book, I cringed and even skipped a few paragraphs because the emotions were too raw for me to process. I wasn’t embarrassed at all. The reason wasn’t sexual content but Dylan’s PTSD and Hillary’s assault. Reading from their perspectives, because the story is told in alternating POVs, made it all too personal and too real. Again, only talented writers are able to pull that off, and Shana Vanterpool does it brilliantly.
Although Damage Me is a standalone, I felt I would have understood the dynamics of the love triangle involving Dylan, Bach, and Harley better if I had read the first book in the series – Destroy me. Shana does fill the reader in on the important aspects of it, but I’m sure I would have had a different perspective on their story. I guess I’ll just have to read it now. LOL
Without giving away spoilers, I can say Damage Me is a great book even though it’s not your everyday kind of sweet romance. It’s raw, it’s gritty, it’s realistic. It’s gut-wrenching and heart-warming. It makes you teary, enraged, elated. The author takes us on a crazy ride from moments like Dylan’s terrifying nightmares to the first kiss with which he pecks Hillary’s cheek. Again, no spoiler so I won’t reveal the circumstances other than it was such a sweet moment! Awnn…
Both main characters are damaged in body and soul. They have the lowest self-esteem you can imagine but with reason. They’ve sustained physical wounds and suffered psychological traumas that are hard to overcome. Their pain is so in our faces; their actions are so visceral; and their struggles so intense, it’s impossible not to care for them. You get sucked in and have no other option than rooting for a happy ending for their trials.
I rarely quote the books I review but I can’t help doing it here. Dylan’s thoughts sum up his inner battle and his self-image so clearly, “So I leaned my head away because the last thing I needed was to inhale her good. The bad in me would rebel.” When you’re talking about damaged souls, it can’t get much better than this war between darkness and light. Damage me brilliantly exemplifies that.
When I walk into a book store I feel at home. When I smell the pages of a brand new book things make sense. When I read I am who I always wanted to be. I read to escape and I write so others can as well. My family, my actress dog Bella, coffee, and a steamy love story are a few of my most precious things. My Sweet Demise is my debut new-adult contemporary romance novel. Keep up to date with future releases by following on Twitter: @shanavauthor