Release Day Launch, Reviews, & Giveaway: Within These Walls: J.L. Berg

J.L. Berg

Within these walls, he became my solace, my sanctuary and my strength. 

I am not strong. I am just a survivor of circumstance. 
Isn’t that what we all do? Survive? 

Each of us has our own set of circumstances to muddle through. Mine are just more…complicated. 

Born with a severe heart defect, I’ve seen the inside of a hospital room more than my own bedroom. 

I was drowning, a prisoner to the illness that owned me, until he appeared. He thinks he’s blocked out the world with his tattoos and hard exterior, but I see the real Jude, the one he so desperately wants to forget. 

But is he the answer to my prayers or will he break my already damaged heart forever? 

My name is Lailah Buchanan, and this is our story of hope, redemption and sacrificing it all for the one you love.
“What is your deal, Jude?” she yelled, taking several strides toward me.

“My deal?”

“Yeah, you’re sweet and endearing one minute and then brushing me off the next. I don’t get it. What do you want from me? Am I a charity case? Do you get off on hanging out with the poor sick girl but then tire of me easily?”

Closing the last few inches between us, I got in her face. “You have no idea what you’re talking about,” I hissed.

“No,” she answered, “I really don’t. You don’t tell me anything. You are this big, giant mystery that I know nothing about. Why is that, Jude?”

“It’s too much,” I simply said.

“You mean, I can’t handle it,” she inferred.

“That’s not what I said, Lailah.”

“No, but that’s what you meant. You’re just like everyone else. I’m too fragile. I’m too weak. Let’s sugarcoat the truth, so it doesn’t upset Lailah. God forbid that we upset her,” she said in a mocking tone. “Well, I’m neither weak nor fragile. I’ve endured more pain than most people see in a lifetime, so don’t think for one single second that I can’t handle anything you can.”

“I know you can.”

“Then, why put me through all this? Do you even care a little about me?” Her voice was quiet and timid.

“I care too fucking much, Lailah.”

Without a second thought, I grabbed the nape of her neck and pulled her body to mine before fusing our mouths together. She gasped in surprise, pulling back slightly, but then she surrendered, melting into me completely. My hands tightened around her waist as I deepened our kiss. I knew this had to be her first kiss, and I intended to make sure it was well worth the wait.

Lailah is a twenty-two year old that does not take freedom for granted. A heart condition causes her to be stuck within the hospital walls way too often and keeps her sheltered even when she is at home. She does not really have a social life and has missed out on so many things that other young women have been able to enjoy.

"You're like Rapunzel, stuck away in that high stone tower just waiting for your handsome prince to come and steal your heart away." ...Usually so hopeful about my condition, I didn't know why, but my first thought had been that whoever the prince imight be, he'd better hurry. I wasn't sure how long this heart of mine would last. 

Jude has suffered a loss that changed his whole life. He now finds solace working diligently within the walls of the hospital. It allows him to be close to his ghosts and avoid life. But he's a loner. He's broken, still grieving, and has put up thick walls to avoid his past pain. 

Lailah has faced life positively despite her challenges. In contrast, Jude retreated, ran away, and became negative because of his past. But for the first time in years, Lailah shows him  a little light and humanity in the world. But when faced with more things he can blame himself for, it threatens to send him back into the isolation of his self inflicted prison.

It was if I'd  been underground for years, locked away in a dungeon of my own making and unable to break free. After meeting Lailah, I felt as if my chains had melted away, and I had finally crawled up to the surface to catch my first blinding glimpse of the sun. Lailah was the sun, and I was dazzled by her soothing, pure presence.

He needs to learn to let go, forgive himself and move on. She needs to keep hope and experience life.  

He was broken and drowning in guilt he had not been able to move past, but he slowly found new purpose and hope. But at times his feelings were still too much for him to handle. I loved seeing his softer side....his protectiveness and tenderness with her.  His attempts to help her achieve some of her dreams were totally endearing. I totally fell for Jude. My heart broke for him at times.  And even though Lailah had so much to deal with, she was still so strong and spunky. She was innocent, but also wanted to be more daring. She was shy, but also had a good sense of humor and really was just such a delightful person despite her baggage. 

“We all have scars, Lailah. Some are just more visible than others.”

I loved them together. There was a sweetness about them, but they also had passion. There was acceptance and understanding. He just wanted to make her life better and help her live more fully. And she could see under his barriers and  wanted to help him come back out of his shell. Jude might have opened himself back up to the possibility of love, but it was still an unstable situation with no guarantees.

But there were fears, setbacks and issues that could not be denied. And some challenges may be to hard to face.  It was a story of sacrifice, redemption, love, and hope.

"Everything. I'll give her everything."

I enjoyed the unique story line. I liked the dual point of view and the characters. They were likable, had depth, a strong connection, and were not perfect. There were complications, challenges, and surprises. I will admit that there were a few things that were a bit questionable based on his job and her status as a patient (but I work in heath care so might be more sensitive to it). And I was so engrossed in the story that I let that go.

But overall, I felt it was a heartfelt, emotional, unique, memorable read. Every time I pick up a book by J.L. Berg I am immediately sucked in and become attached to the characters and their stories. There are always twists and turns that keep me fully invested. The background stories with their families added some drama and tension in this one. I enjoyed some of the side characters like her very positive friend, Grace,  loving Dr. Marcus, and even Jude's brother, Roman (who I am not sure I was supposed to really like but he grew on me). I was invested from the prologue and read it in one sitting. And when I was done, I felt like I went on an emotional journey with the characters. 

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

“We all have scars, Lailah. Some are just more visible than others.”

Within These Walls has so much to love, and so much that made me ache. I almost passed this book up because it hit a little close to home after a friend’s sister recently passed away due to complications during a heart transplant. So even after I decided to give this book a go, things were a little raw very early on.

Lailah has spent more time in a hospital than she has anywhere outside her house. Her mother has protected her fiercely: homeschooling, limiting activity, and keeping her sheltered. But Lailah knows she’s missing out and dreams of living a normal life and the things she would do if given the chance. 

For all her health challenges and the limitations placed on her by her weakened heart, Lailah knew there was more to life, and knew she just had to wait to experience it. Her “Someday List” offered a glimpse of a life lived without living, a life spent between the walls of a hospital. One of the nurses compares Lailah to Rapunzel, stuck away in a tower, and that is a perfect analogy. Lailah is just waiting for that time when she can leave her shelter and life the life she dreams of.

Jude has been in a holding pattern since his fiance died suddenly. He turned into a recluse after her death, refusing to return home, refusing to move on. A late night encounter leaves Jude intrigued by the angelic patient in the cardiac ward. 

I owed this woman standing in front of me a debt. She might no understand or realize that, but I did, and I was going to do everything in my power to make sure that her life was better from now on.

Jude’s transformation away from his reclusive state happened fast. In fact, there were several transition during the story that happened a lot faster than I was prepared for. But I was hooked into this story early. By 15% I knew this was going to be one of those books I couldn’t put down, and after that point I only set it down for short bursts when absolutely necessary. 

As Jude came out of his shell, I loved the care he took with Lailah. He recognized early on that she was special and that she deserved a life different than she had been dealt. He was such a dichotomy. Protective but gentle, worried over Lailah’s health and abilities but not willing to let her miss out because of them.

A story of pain, healing, and tough choices, there was a constant thread of hope through each scene, as Lailah had such a positive outlook through much of her struggles. Jude’s struggle to come to terms with the choices he made three years before kept me on edge wondering when the truth would come out and how he would reconcile what he wanted now with what he wanted then. 

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

J.L. Berg

J.L. Berg is the USA Today bestselling author of the Ready Series. She is a California native living in the beautiful state of historic Virginia. Married to her high school sweetheart, they have two beautiful girls that drive them batty on a daily basis. When she's not writing, you will find her with her nose stuck in a romance novel, in a yoga studio or devouring anything chocolate. J.L. Berg is represented by Jill Marsal of Marsal Lyon Literary Agency, LLC. 

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