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REVIEW BLITZ: “Complicated Love” Series by Neeny Boucher

Title: The Complicated Love Series
Author: Neeny Boucher
Genre: contemporary, humor, and romance
Blurb:
Dina Martin and Nicholas Riley are total opposites.  She’s the good girl with the perfect grades and he’s the bad boy with the reputation.  Growing up together with close family ties, they have been at war for as long as they can remember. When the unthinkable happens, neither of them wants it.

Set in a small town at the turn of the millennium, this story is about family and friendship, the love of music and how sometimes who you don’t want, is exactly who you need. 

Do you remember that quirky couple from high school? The one people wondered why ‘they’ got together? Well, Neeny Boucher introduces us to one such couple, Dina and Riley, in Back of Beyond.

Boucher’s novel, a first read for me, is a poignant tale of truth, love, and friendship. It’s a modern rendition of “Romeo and Juliet” crossed with S.E. Hinton’s The Outsiders. There’s plenty of drama and even some laugh out loud moments.

Back of Beyond is well-written with complex characters. Dina and Riley are two teens who march to their own drumbeat. Their friends and siblings belong to a group known as The Outcast Crew. They are hated by two sets of rivals—the Anys (the It girls) and the jocks (the football team). Think of the Socs and the Greasers from The Outsiders. In Boucher’s tale, it’s money and social ranking which drives their rivals.

Boucher handles some relevant teenage issues with finesse. Dina and Riley’s story includes problems with bullies, jealousy, betrayal, and lying. The kids live in a Podunk town somewhere in America with little opportunity according to them. For a long time, Dina was the source of everyone’s entertainment. Make fun of the misfit girl. Toss things at her. Humiliate her. Make her life worthless. One day, life turns and the girl who lived on the outside sparks interest in the town’s bad boy. This blip on the radar starts a chain of events like an infamous house of cards, destined to fall.

No matter what their struggles may be (self-confidence, self-acceptance, self-empowerment) there’s an underlying theme: Be true to yourself and face your fears. When you stand up to adversity, good things can and will happen.

Back of Beyond was a refreshing love story about a couple who defied the norms. They managed to find each other despite the numerous obstacles in their way. I highly recommend reading this wonderful novel.

Blurb:

*Recommended for audiences over the age of 18*
If you like your characters quirky, socially awkward, and badly behaved, this is the book for you. What if you got another chance with the love of your life, even when you didn’t want one? Would you grab the opportunity, or run as fast as you could in the opposite direction?
Christina Martin, lawyer, ex high school grunge queen, teenage bride, divorcee, and once a suspected killer, is confronted by a past that she has spent the last eight years carefully avoiding. Drawn back to her hated hometown, with her family under the worst of circumstances, matters are complicated when she finds the love of her life, ex-husband and nemesis, Nicholas Riley, also in residence.
Riley, a man with secrets, who has a penchant for psychological games, made wary by life and with one weakness, his ex-wife. Christina is the woman that brings out all his protective instincts and others less noble. All it takes is one fateful night, where these two collide, opening a door both thought slammed shut and locked forever.
From the past to the present, Christina and Riley show that true love doesn’t always run smoothly, it might not conquer all, and most importantly, love is complicated.
Lost in Flight is book two in the Complicated Love Series.

Neeny Boucher’s Lost in Flight is a laugh out loud, cringe-worthy read with a little heartbeat and joy.

A lot has happened with Dina and Riley (Back of Beyond). They became adults but managed to bypass maturity. Their story is realistic. Their path to happiness isn’t straight nor narrow. There are boulders and potholes paving the way.

Back of Beyond was about truth, love, and friendship. Lost in Flight gives us a glimpse of how sins of omission, grief, and immaturity can affect love and friendship. Our actions can, and will, compound poor decisions when we fear facing our mistakes. Deep.

Dina has embraced her given name, Christina, and a real career as a lawyer. Riley is… well, Riley. He’s had a lot of varied career paths, but it’s worked for him. Remember, they didn’t have a great love story. They had a real story. Boucher reminds readers that sometimes love goes sideways. It takes bravery to put the wheels back on the car (love) and restore it (like Riley’s grandfather’s truck).

I still love the characters Boucher created, but I LOVE Riley so much more. He’s not blameless in this debacle of a relationship. He just responded the only way he knew how. When you learn how he’s coped, it will touch your heart. Christina is still the same girl who lived in her head and jumps to conclusions. As a lawyer she uses rational thought processes. In reality, she can’t think her way to the front door when it comes to Riley. She also has problems seeing clearly with her family.

The surprise character turns out to be Gabi, Dina’s little sister. She’s a spitfire and the fountain of strength and maturity in the Martin clan.

Don’t believe that this is a heavy hitting tome that will leave you drained. Boucher’s raw, snarky humor rings throughout the story. She has a way with words that leave you blushing along with the characters. Priceless.

I can’t say enough good things about Lost in Flight, a story about soul searching and facing hard truths. I highly recommend it.

Blurb:
Forced to return to her hated hometown to work, Christina Martin, lawyer and ex resident bad girl, finds herself questioning her life choices. Reunited with her former husband, Nicholas Riley, their tenuous and complicated relationship is tested when secrets from the past and present are revealed.
Riley, a man with explosive secrets and penchant for psychological games, faces the dilemma of keeping the woman he loves through lies by omission or potentially losing her with the truth. This isn’t just their second chance for happiness, it’s their last chance and there may be some things that love can’t conquer at all.
Equal parts helped and hindered by a colorful cast of supporting characters, Ties that Bind, book three in the Complicated Love series, continues the dysfunctional relationship of Riley and Dina.

Neeny Boucher’s Ties That Bind offered a serious plot twist that I never saw coming. A warning without giving away the story—it’s heart wrenching and thought provoking.I’ve been a fan of Riley ever since book one in the trilogy. My opinion of him doesn’t change even after the big reveal. If anything my heart goes out to him. I understand this character more. He put people in his life he trusted. Instead of helping him when he needed them most, they enabled his behavior and subsequent reactions. They were more concerned with what Riley could do for them and their bank accounts.

The big reveal helped Dina finally understand the man she loved. Although it hurt, she needed the information in order to truly reconcile their relationship and her issues with him.

Ties That Bind was indirectly a story about group dynamics. There’s always a leader in charge of the group. The followers are those who don’t think for themselves. Whatever the leader believes, the group believes. Boucher gives readers the ultimate leader, Riley’s mother. People in town behaved according to her standards. If she believed someone worthy, they received all the benefits and accolades. Those who didn’t measure up—Dina—got the worse treatment. Sometimes there’s some instability underneath the surface. This holds true in Ties That Bind.

What I appreciated about Boucher’s tale is the fact Riley wasn’t the town’s bad boy. He was merely a kid who didn’t want to be like his family. In trying so hard not to be like them, he became a terrible person. Riley was an intelligent person who could do whatever he wanted in life. Unfortunately, he was running from himself and the truth.

Dina, likewise, was not the town’s bad girl. Hers was guilt by association. She was intelligent and destined to do more than what her small town had to offer, in her mother’s eyes. Dina wanted to please her mother and chose to shrug off her bad persona. The only thing she succeeded at was making herself miserable trying to live in someone else’s image.

Ella, Dina’s mother, was the key to her daughter’s misery. The same can be said about Riley’s parents who enabled their son’s problems. They knew the family history, but did nothing to help him out. A lot of the drama surrounding Riley and Dina could have been avoided had issues been addressed.

I loved Dina more after Ties That Bind. She matured but still had some growth left to do. She embraced her given name, Christina, but she didn’t accept all of her own quirks and idiosyncrasies. Until she did that, she couldn’t fully give herself to Riley nor could she fully love him.

I highly recommend Ties That Bind. The entire series is a wonderful examination of a ‘complicated love’. Nowadays, too many people hide behind the statement “I’m in a relationship, but it’s complicated.” In my humble opinion, Dina and Riley’s relationship should be the poster image of complication.

 

Overall Rating: 5-hands-up5-hands-up5-hands-up5-hands-up5-hands-up (5 Hands=Excellent, 4 Hands=Pretty Good, 3 Hands=Good)

Neeny Boucher is a nom de plume because my real name sounds like a 19th Century suffragette. Originally from New Zealand, I’m a long-time supporter of the All Blacks. Currently, I live in Europe and am trailing spouse, following my husband all over the world for his work. This not only gives me the opportunity to write, but also, experience the world and indulge in one of my favorite past-times: people watching.
My own employment history is varied and ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous. All of those experiences and encounters, however, have allowed me to collect amazing stories, which now form the basis of my writings.
I have always loved the weird, the outcast and those on the margins of society because they see the world in a different way. These are the people my characters are based around.
I have a BA, BA Honors, and a PhD in Sociology/Indigenous Studies.

Author Links:


Buy Links:
Back of Beyond: http://amzn.to/22xbydo
Lost in Flight: http://amzn.to/29w7B8t
Ties that Bind: http://amzn.to/29r5xcJ
Excerpt from Lost in Flight:
Christina, Shanwick, The Present, 2012
Skin meets skin, trailing promises and desire. Feathery breaths whisper on Christina’s shoulders. Her eyes snap open, squinting at the morning sun. The dull throb in her head gives notice, as does fierce thirst.
Her tongue seeks moisture on her lips, but there’s none. Christina’s stomach roils. Her breath is radioactive. She makes her own self feel sick.
Blue walls, a dresser, and a familiar door: recognition tugs at her consciousness. Christina knows this room, but hasn’t been here in a long, long time. She’s also naked and not alone.
Wrapped around her is her ex-husband, ex-love of her life, and persona non grata, Nicholas Riley. Riley’s fast asleep, breathing heavily, and his hands are wandering up her body. One lands on her boob, clutching, groping.
Christina jerks forward, shrugging him off. She opens and closes her eyes, counting to ten. Nothing changes and he is still here.
The gory details of last night are behind the ominous, pulsating fog in her head. The man, the lack of clothing, and the rumpled bedding indicate what it involved. Adrenaline responds to her internal alarm.
If he wakes… A myriad of awkward scenarios run free-flow through her head. This will be the fastest exit of shame in the history of exits of shame.
Extracting herself finger by finger from Riley’s death grip, Christina slips over the side of the bed. The room sways, rocking back and forth. She lurches forward on wobbly legs.
Christina’s bladder aches. She needs to do things, desperate things… human things. She just can’t do them naked.
Her little blue dress is at the end of the bed. Hunching down, she crawls to retrieve it. A quick search for her other belongings throws up further questions. Draped at an odd angle on the mirror are her panties. It looks like someone slingshot them.
Cringe lands on Christina’s face in big, red, heat spots. What did she do? Scratch that. Willful ignorance is sometimes a kindness.
Her bra, shoes, and handbag are nowhere to be seen. The bras and shoes are manageable, but the handbag is a problem. Her life is in there.
Hauling on her dress, Christina slinks over to her panties, pulling them on with a hop and a bump. She recoils at the woman in the mirror. Smeared mascara accentuates dark brown eyes and then there’s the lipstick. It’s everywhere: face, teeth, chin, and neck.
But, the makeup is nothing in comparison to the hair. Her after-sex hair is an 80’s rock video. Dragging her fingers through it, she winces. Taming it is a lost cause and also, she doesn’t want to anger it.
Years ago, this wouldn’t have bothered her. She was “Dina,” high school Queen of the Outcast Crew, and a true believer in grunge. By today’s standards, Christina Martin, lawyer, she is a complete mess.
Wiping as much of last night’s makeup off as she can, Christina creeps to the door. Riley hasn’t moved, just rolled over onto his back and settled in the space she vacated. Taking a deep breath, she blows it out of her mouth quietly.
I can do this. I can get out of here and if anything comes of it, I can use the old lawyer’s trick of: deny, avoid, defer, and engage. There is also “settlement,” but that is the last resort.
Christina’s hand is on the bedroom door handle. She freezes at the crunching sound it makes. Every nerve ending is on high alert, but the silence from him allows her to relax.
She pulls the door toward her, but it sticks. She pushes and pulls, but it will not budge. Horror sweats break out.
“Good morning.” Riley’s raspy, amused voice hits her senses like an old lover’s caress. Intimate, knowing. It sends chills up her spine.



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