30 January 2014

Review: Forgiven But Not Forgotten? by Abby Green

   He’d spent five years haunted by her. He had to have her—had to have this closure once and for all. And he despised himself for his weakness.

   She was stunned again at Andreas’s world now, and stunned anew to see him in his open-shirted tuxedo and realise that only hours before Andreas Xenakis had still been firmly in her shameful guilt-ridden past, not her tumultuous present.
 High stakes. Satisfying payback.

Photo - Forgiven But Not Forgotten? by Abby Green jacket coverForgiven But Not Forgotten by Abby Green is the first romance I ever read from the author and it's one of those rare, evocative finds. 

The emotional underpinnings of this romance wrung tears so much that Hubby caught me sniffling at a critical moment. He was alarmed, thinking I had bad news from home. When he learned why I was bawling, he shook his head and left me alone in our room, probably disgusted heh.

First lines

Forgiven But Not Forgotten comes with a Prologue, giving us an insight into the "why" of Siena's choices. Her luxurious lifestyle isn't all that it seemed.
Siena DePiero held her older sister’s hand tightly as they left their palazzo. Even though she was twelve and Serena was fourteen they still instinctively sought each other for support. Their father was in an even more mercurial mood than usual today. Their car was waiting by the kerb, a uniformed driver standing by the open door. Siena knew that her father’s bodyguards were nearby.
I like me some nice, intriguing intros to my romance reads. Gives me a frame to my reading experience.

The first lines of Chapter One plunge us right into the conflict, too...
Andreas Xenakis didn’t like the strength of the thrill of triumph that moved through him. It signified that this moment held more importance for him than he’d care to admit. Bitterly, he had to concede that perhaps it did. After all, practically within touching distance now was the woman who had all but cried rape for her own amusement, to protect her untarnished image in her father’s eyes. She’d merited him a savage beating, losing his job, being blacklisted from every hotel in Europe and having to start over again on the other side of the world. Far away from anyone he’d known or who had known him.
A man spurned, world turned upside down by one indiscreet moment.  A woman's betrayal, and Hero's on the warpath. Game, set and match!

First lines rating: 5.0

Main characters: Siena DePiero and Andreas Xenakis

Photo - Andreas Xenakis, Siena DePiero
Siena DePiero's everyday life five years ago is the stuff that makes The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous happy. Grand palazzos, bodyguards, designer wardrobes, and the inability to tell which part of an oven is the working end (let alone, which is the oven in the first place).

But that's so five years ago, baby, because today Siena is penniless. She works two jobs and she lives in a dingy flat that's one cockroach shy of crumbling. Hands that were once soft and delicate are now callused. She's going nowhere, and she knows it.

On top of that, she has to provide for her older sister Serena's expensive rehab for booze and drug use. She's so far removed from what Ms. Green describes as “her champagne lifestyle” that all her necessities can fit into an overnight bag. (How pathetic is that?)

 Andreas Xenakis, on the other hand, is on top of his game. Just thirty and he's one of the world's “most prominent hoteliers”. He's light years away from being the duty manager with big dreams working in a Paris hotel; from the man who took one look at Siena and he fell—hook, line and sinker...and the whole ship besides. Poor guy.

But Andreas' instant, undeniable attraction to Siena proved to be his downfall. Her father caught them in flagrante delicto and Siena cried rape, knowing the consequences to Serena if she admitted to the truth of their tryst. Andreas had to escape across the Atlantic. He was finished in the European hospitality industry as far as Daddy dearest was concerned.

Siena never got over her guilt at bailing out on Andreas, and Andreas never forgot his goal of paying Siena back for what she did.

Despite how Andreas sees her, she is kind and considerate—her father's wealth had only brought her misery. That's why she sees her father's misfortune as her ticket to freedom from years of living under his (sick, cruel) thumb. And she puts premium on family. There's nothing she won't do for Serena.

She doesn't gloss over her responsibility in the Andreas caper either. She's ready to make amends, and she does it with courage. I mean, how difficult is it to put yourself at the mercy of someone you know is out to get you? I absolutely loved her unblinking strength in doing so. This is one time that I loved the heroine more than the hero!

Andreas, oh Andreas... How the mighty falls!

I absolutely fell in love with you despite your vengeful agenda against a hapless female. Of course, you really felt you were justified. Anger drove you, but haven't you realized yet that often anger is the negative expression of love? Couldn't you admit that you were one push away from falling head over heels for Siena? That the rage that you harbor against her is just a heart broken by the absolute rejection from the object of your desires?

Characters rating: 5.0

Romance arc

So we know that it's not cushy at all in Siena's world. And Andreas, the man with an agenda against her, is on top of the world. Extremely wealthy. Powerful. Respected. Ruthless. And he's been tracking Siena's whereabouts for half a year for her just desserts.

There's just one problem. One look and he's hooked.
   She turned then, to face towards him and that low simmering anger was eclipsed when blood rushed to his head and to his groin, making him simultaneously dizzy and hard.
   He couldn't escape the impact of those huge, glittering bright blue eyes ringed...Andreas had to consciously will down the intense desire. He was fast being reduced to the instincts of an animal, and he hated her for having this effect on him. Still. For ever, mocked the small voice in his head.
Poor Hero. Sweet revenge is just false advertising, huh?

Siena's vulnerability helps Andreas to “finish what she started.” Within hours of meeting her again, he installs her as his mistress. Siena agrees on her own terms. Money, lots of 'em...enough to pay for her sister's rehabilitation.

Andreas of course, doesn't know. He's outraged that he's ready to “prostitute” herself. He's never paid for sex and he wasn't going to. He'll just give her gifts. Expensive jewelry—diamonds, sapphires, emeralds, rubies, pearls... Me thinks that's still payment. In cash or in kind, still one and the same, hee.

He even brings her home. Something which he checks but doesn't do anything about. He knows he should get her a flat, but doesn't.

They agree to a week together, but for Siena the stakes are higher. She knows there's no such thing as casual sex. But she's not deluding herself. She refuses to forget that Andreas is in it just for the sex. Though she falls in love with him, she's prepared for the worst.

Little does she know that a simple necklace of a bird flying away from its cage gives him the willies.

Photo - Birdcage necklace
Then Hero dear develops cold feet. He refuses to call what he feels for Siena L-O-V-E. Nope. Instead, he bolts, as quickly as he can say “Au revoir!” when he starts feeling so much more. (Ha! Scaredy cat!)

But, like they said, wherever you go, you are. What you felt in one place will still feel the same in the next.

So you can run, but you can't escape, Andreas baby. I hated what you did to Siena but well, you had to learn your lessons the hard way, boy. She's lodged deep in your mind, huh?

Andreas finally resolving his inner conflict was extremely satisfying, hee. And I gotta give kudos to Abby Green for crafting it so well.

Here's a man, who hasn't gotten over a woman, and he's scared she'll reject him once again. That in her eyes, he's still nothing. His journey from anger at her betrayal, to fear for himself at the potential for heartache, through to love, is a credit to Ms. Green's seamless storytelling. No deus ex machina. Siena has secrets to tell but it, too, is organic to the story.

Once Andreas stops running, his proposal was the sweetest. At once, he brings closure to their bitter past and redeems it by finally confronting and accepting the things he was running away from even before he met Siena—love and family.

Romance arc rating: 5.0

What worked, what didn't

What can I say? I'm in lurv! Personally, Ms. Green has a winner with Forgiven But not Forgotten.

I hated Andreas' cruelty against Siena, but the high stakes brinkmanship also upped the payback. And the payback was darned satisfying. Not that I wanted Andreas to suffer, mind, but he did hurt Siena. Bringing him to his knees (literally and figuratively) was the only logical conclusion.

This one's a keeper, definitely. I'll probably bring it out again and again to read, especially when I'm not in the mood to understand what goes on in Hubby's mind.

Like scale: 5.0

Favorite lines

He was fast being reduced to the instincts of an animal, and he hated her for having this effect on him. Still. For ever, mocked the small voice in his head.
    No. Andreas rejected it fiercely. Not for ever. Just until he’d had her. Until they’d finished what she’d started when she’d upended his life so cruelly and comprehensively. Because she’d been curious and bored. Because she’d had the power. Because he’d been nothing.

   ‘Feeling sorry for the poor little rich girl, Andreas?'
   ‘Not for a second, Siena DePiero. You forget that I’ve seen you in action. A piranha would be more vulnerable than you.’

   Her head felt tangled and jumbled. She’d somehow na├»vely expected that a physical relationship with Andreas would be something she could ultimately rise above, remain immune to, even if she fell apart slightly. She felt anything but immune now. She felt as if she’d been turned inside out and reconfigured and—terrifyingly—she wasn’t sure if she even knew who she was any more.

   Siena knew she wouldn't be able to take it for much longer. Being with Andreas was tearing her apart. Perhaps Paris was the place where she should end it once and for all if he didn't?

Book details

Title: Forgiven But Not Forgotten
Author: Abby Green
Genre: Category romance, contemporary romance
Original publication date: January 1, 2013 (Harlequin Presents)
Themes: Revenge, child abuse, second chances at love, rags to riches/riches to rags
“Much as I hate to admit it, you might just be worth paying an astronomical amount of money to bed.”

Siena DePiero might have blue blood in her veins, but she's never coveted her family's champagne lifestyle; it's only ever brought her misery. When the family bubble bursts, they are left destitute and Siena's only tradable asset is her virginity.

Andreas Xenakis has waited years to get his revenge and he'll willingly pay to have Siena in his bed and at his mercy. But after just one night together everything Andreas once believed about poor little rich girl Siena is shattered.
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