Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Dylan Allen is quickly becoming the quintessential queen of creating angsty, star-crossed lovers. Thankfully, unlike the master of this, Shakespeare, Allen doesn’t allow her hero and heroine to devolve into a tragic ending. Instead, she walks the tightrope of moments of pleasure, passion, and an abiding love and moments of affliction. Yet, we know, in the end, the hero and heroine will retreat into the most blessed of lives. Her newest book, the second book of the Forever trilogy, Between Now and Heartbreak, is no different.
As the second book of the series, it continues the journey of Beth and Carter while dropping bombs and leaving us suspended until its conclusion in Between Now and Always. Don’t forget that “Prologue” in Between Now and Forever. It’s what will sustain your heart until the end of that third book. Until then, be ready for more of Allen’s beautifully drawn drama and romance.
In this book, the story begins where the first one ended: with Beth and Carter apart but closer in proximity as Carter has moved to Winsome to investigate his parentage. While Carter struggles to find out information about his biological mother and father, Beth struggles to endure the promise she’s made to marry Duke and enact her father’s plan. Living a lie falls heavily on her soul, but her baby sister is her inspiration. One day, Carter and Beth meet in town, and the sparks fly. Both of them are nursing hurts based on a false understanding of prior actions. When they finally lower their defenses, the two reconcile, and they begin a beautiful friendship that eventually ends in delicious passion and ardor. These two are soulmates, made for each other. Yet, Allen, being the queen of angst, doesn’t allow these two much time to build a future. Instead, a major secret is revealed and changes the direction of Beth and Carter’s future. At the end of this book, their future seems an improbability, and much is left undone.
There is so much beauty in Carter and Beth’s turmoil. It causes them to cling to each other in ways that heal some of the hurts of their pasts, and their strife keeps the reader wholly engaged on the page and in their story. You cannot help but root for them because they love each other so dearly. Yet, at the end of this book, all will seem lost. Thankfully, we know that Allen’s genius lies in creating “phoenix out of the ashes” moments for her main characters. And the low moments of Beth and Carter will act as a resolution of their undying love. That “happily ever after” is coming. Just not yet in this book. Instead, this book treats us to some of the following truths about our characters:
1. The evocation of Beth’s strength. She is a woman who has had the worst of luck when it comes to families. As I was reading her this time, I thought of the “republican motherhood” of the early days of America. When women held little to no power in the public sphere, they held great power in their homes. Much like the women of early America, Beth’s power lies in her ability to control her situation at home, even when it seems she has none. Through Dina’s admonition, Beth is reminded that she has the ability to use her wealth to make a better future for her sister, Cameron. Through Carter’s love, this understanding is empowered, and her journey in this book is significant. Even at the end when all seems lost, there is this hidden hope that Beth will exact her revenge and power at the right time. She’s an incredible representation of women: resilient, tenacious, and self-sacrificing. We know that her due is coming, and it’s going to be epic.
2. While Carter acts as an impetus for some of Beth’s growth, I still feel that Carter has more growing to do. More is revealed of his talent in this book, and it’s clear that he will pursue it as we move into the next book. That talent is going to change his life, and I hope his journey will lead to finding a resolution to the issue of the second book. Unlike Beth, though, there is more work for him to do on himself. He needs to heal from his past so that he and Beth can be whole individuals in their future together.
Along with Carter and Beth, there is more dastardly behavior from Beth’s father, her step-mother, and Duke. It can be so painful to read, but that is Allen’s secret power. Through the dark moments she crafts so ably, she’s reminding us that life is meant to be lived even through the dark times. We should not simply exist; instead, we need to use the dark to remind us of the power of the light. There is also the supposition that dear old dad and Duke are going to “get theirs” eventually. Retribution will be found in the future. At least, that’s my hope.
Dylan Allen’s Between Now and Heartbreak’s title tells us only a small part of this book. Hidden in its pages is a romance that is peeled back layer by layer. Together, Carter and Beth exude passion and a spiritual connectedness that seems unexplainable. Allen paints their passion in her story much as Beth paints her love for Carter: richly, colorfully, and distinctly on her canvas. This romance is the one of dreams, even when nightmares shade it. In the end, I know Carter and Beth’s story will end beautifully. Between Now and Heartbreak is simply a marker of time preparing us for the delicious end.
In love and romance,