Review Tour: Release: Aly Martinez

by - Tuesday, January 07, 2020

Aly Martinez 
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Release Date January 5, 2020
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From USA Today Bestselling Author Aly Martinez comes an all new standalone.

Growing up, Ramsey Stewart branded my soul in ways time could never heal.

At twelve, he asked me to be his girlfriend.
At thirteen, he gave me my first kiss.
By sixteen, we’d fallen in love, planned a future together, and had our eyes set on the horizon.

Love never fails, right?
But for Ramsey, it did.
Love failed him.
I failed him.
The entire world failed him.

At seventeen, Ramsey was convicted of killing the boy who assaulted me.

Move on, he wrote in his first and only letter from prison.
Start a new life, he urged.
I don’t love you anymore, he lied.

There was no such thing as giving up on Ramsey. Love may have been our curse, but he was mine—then, now, and forever.

So here I am, twelve long years later, waiting for a man I don't even know to emerge from between the chain link gates.
Cover Designed by: Hang Le
Photographer: Wander Aguiar Photography Model: Zack Salaun
Graphics from author's Facebook page
These characters. This story. The good, the bad, and the ugly. The laughter, love, pain, surprises, and tears. What a freakin' journey! 

Thea Hull and Ramsey Stewart met as kids...just when they needed each other most, even if they did not know it at the time. From antagonism to friendship and love...they were the other's everything. Ramsey was Thea and his little sister's self-appointed protector. And Thea fought as strongly for them. Until one night changed the course of their lives. 

Now over twelve years later, he is coming his sister and to Thea. But he gave up on his own happiness long ago. And he told her to move on as well. They are all stubborn, opinionated, and think they are right. But secrets can fester, masks can hide real feelings, and guilt and lack of self-worth can destroy. It will not be just an easy transition.

When they were kids he pushed her into being his friend, and now she is pushing her way back into his life. But it is precarious and they are both unsure of how to deal with the past and live in the present and are afraid to hope for the future. And sometimes the truth and secrets can also wound. And their lives might be shaken up again and not in the good way they hoped. 

These poor characters go through so much...lost so much time. Their lives were ruined over one person's actions and subsequent choices. There is no way to go back and it is hard to move forward.  But eventually, they will have to lay it all out there and figure out what they can and cannot live without.

All along I believed that they were soulmates and family. There are so many layers and so much change and growth from the characters over the course of this story. Relationships are built, destroyed, and repaired. Dreams are made, taken away, and reimagined. But nothing can take away the guilt, pain, regret, bitterness, and heartbreak they endured. My heart was so invested in them. I both adored and got frustrated by these complex, dynamic characters. I wanted to shake sense into them at times, and other times hug them. Sometimes my heart was just shattered. Other times I was laughing at their witty rapport and taunting. But they felt real and their story was tragic, heartfelt, poignant, raw, and beautiful.

I started to think I was broken as I was having a hard time paying attention and have not been reading as much, but this book demanded my attention and I devoured every word. My emotions were all over the place. I love it when authors throw in twists that surprise me, and Aly Martinez is a master at that. I have a first five star read of 2020!
Twelve years is a long time to hold on to love with no communication, but Thea knows Ramsey is her one and only even if the only contact she has had from him is a short letter telling her to move on.

The depth of emotion between these characters was palpable. Even after 12 years and Ramsey’s attempts to push Thea away, both feel strongly for the other. As Ramsey works to assimilate back into normal life, he still doesn’t feel he is good enough for Thea even as he has to fight his own feelings to make her see the same. Thea’s own feelings are just as strong and she is determined to get back what was lost after 12 years.

I thought I was going to be rolling my eyes that she waited 12 years for him, but as their story unfolded I completely understood her actions. From a very young age, they had a connection that started as a wary friendship and developed into more as they moved through high school. The intensity of their feelings was exactly what I needed to make that 12 year gap believable. Add in the fact that Thea’s roommate was Ramsey’s little sister, and the family thread between these three was complete.

I loved watching this pair work through everything keeping them apart, though most were conflicts of their own making, 12 years in lockup is also a lot to overcome. There were a lot of roller coaster emotions as Ramsey tried to find his footing without the routines of prison life and Thea processed her own guilt for the reasons Ramsey found himself locked up in the first place.

I had been struggling to focus on anything I read until I opened this book. I was pulled in immediately and devoured every word of this story. My track record with Aly’s books should have had me expecting this outcome, as her last few books have ranked among my favorites. Release pulled me into a place where I felt the heartache and healing right along with the characters. This was a fantastic book to boost my reading mood and is my first 5 star read of 2020!
5 HUGE Stars.
This book wrecked me. Aly never disappoints and Release was no exception. I loved the fuck out of Ramsey and Thea. If you are looking for an emotional, moving read than I highly suggest this one.

It was funny. I’d spent almost half my life surrounded by the biggest, baddest criminals the state of Georgia had been able to capture. Yet, I was terrified of a five-foot-five woman who for some asinine reason was still in love with me. 
I couldn’t be around her. Not if I wanted to keep my head straight and my eye on the prize. I had three years before I got off parole. I needed to get a job, tuck away some cash, and, the second I was allowed to leave Georgia, get the hell out of there. Maybe, if I was lucky, I’d be able to convince my sister to come with me. We didn’t have to go far. We could stay in the south if she wanted. South Carolina, North Carolina, Alabama, Tennessee—there were schools everywhere. Nora wouldn’t have trouble finding a job. The hardest part would be convincing her to leave Thea. 
However, maybe if she did, Thea would finally move on with her life and stop obsessing about me. 
I’d known they lived together for a while. I didn’t want anything to do with Thea while I was locked up, but I was happy as hell Nora had someone to lean on. I had been under the impression that Nora had gotten her own place when she found out about my release. I had been under that impression because Nora had straight-up told me she was getting her own place after I’d declared there was no way I was living with Thea. 
Now, I was hiding in my room, waiting for Nora to wake up, open my door, and escort me to breakfast like a damn bodyguard so I could avoid confrontation. 
Next up in my efforts to kill time was a workout. Sit ups, push-ups, planks, running in place. This was when I realized Nora hadn’t bought me any deodorant.
Another shower. 
Another naked lap around the bedroom, and this time, I managed to keep my hands off my cock. 
Finally, I got dressed. This required me to pick through a bunch of preppy shit Nora had bought for me to find tattered jeans and a fitted green tee that clung to my chest like a damn glove. In my closet, I found a belt and a pair of distressed brown lace-up boots that maybe could have doubled as combat boots if the war was taking place on a runway. But what the hell did I know about style? I’d been wearing orange or puke beige for almost half my life. 
When I was done with all of that and there was still no sign of Nora, I sat on the edge of the bed and decided to give the phone thing a try. I wasn’t totally out of the technology loop. We had computers at the library and we were allowed to use them if we earned the privileges. But they might as well have been dinosaurs compared to the phone she’d bought me. I couldn’t even get it to read my face with the fancy secret laser thing. I gave up trying pretty quickly. 
So there I was, bored out of my mind, starving, and poking at my newfound wrinkles in the bathroom mirror, when I heard a knock at my door. 
I froze, my eyes locked on the mirror, panic staring back at me.  
Jesus. I needed to find somewhere else to live. 
Leaning out of the bathroom, I stared at the door. If I was super quiet, maybe she’d think I was still asleep and go the hell away. 
When I didn’t reply, she knocked again. Her voice was timid and sweet, not at all like the fearless girl I’d grown up with. I hated it. 
“Ramsey? You hungry? I’m making breakfast? I was wondering if you wanted something?” Everything from my name to the fact that she was making breakfast was a question, as if maybe she was asking permission to cook in her own house. 
My stomach was currently feasting on my backbone. Still, I said nothing.
She sighed. “Okay. Well, if you change your—” There were several seconds of silence. 
I quirked my eyebrow at the door, trying to figure out why she’d abruptly stopped talking, and then cursed my inability to develop x-ray vision.
I held my breath, hoping to hear her footsteps as she walked away. 
No. Such. Fucking. Luck.  
The door swung open and she came walking inside with her hands stacked over her eyes. “Look, I know you’re awake. I heard you running earlier. I also heard you take at least three showers. Sorry, but the house isn’t that big. Neither is the hot water heater. Are you at least dressed so I can open my eyes?”
Brave. Unapologetic. And completely oblivious to boundaries. Now that was the Thea I knew. 
“Get out,” I barked. 
“Dressed? Not dressed? Help me out here?”
“Get. Out.” 
She kept her eyes closed. “You gotta eat, Ramsey. You can’t stay locked up in this room forever.”
I wanted to tell her to get the hell out again. Honestly, it was on the tip of my tongue. But it never made it past my lips because my traitorous eyes stole a head-to-toe of her lithe body. She was barefoot, wearing jeans—tight ones that tapered at her ankle. They looked like mine in the sense that they had a rip in the knee. They didn’t look like mine in the sense that they hugged the curve of her hips and more than likely her ass too. A pink tank top stretched across her chest, and I swear on my life, fuck x-ray vision because I could see the pebble of her nipples beneath the fabric. 
It wasn’t a ridiculous dress. 
It wasn’t stupid fucking heels. 
She wasn’t wearing a face full of clown makeup. 
She was just Thea.  
The nostalgia pumped through my veins like acid even as my cock stirred. Fuck, I should have jerked off again in the shower. 
“I’m dressed,” I bit out, desperate for her to put her damn hands down and maybe use them to cover her tits instead.  
Her long, brown lashes fluttered as she opened her eyes. Those fucking eyes had once owned me. As a huge smile lit her face, I felt the claim all over again.
“Oh, look, you chose one of the outfits I picked out for you.” 
Of course I had. Of fucking course. As soon as I got her out of my room, I was going to take the outfit off and light it on fire.

Originally from Savannah, Georgia, USA Today bestselling author Aly Martinez now lives in South Carolina with her four young children. 

Never one to take herself too seriously, she enjoys cheap wine, mystery leggings, and baked feta. It should be known, however, that she hates pizza and ice cream, almost as much as writing her bio in the third person. 

She passes what little free time she has reading anything and everything she can get her hands on, preferably with a super-sized tumbler of wine by her side.

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