Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
“Above all else, Aria was the endgame.”
Devney Perry has this special way about her romances. She takes these seemingly simple stories, romances, and she makes you feel the gravity of their messages. Her Runaway series ties together characters who grew up together in a junkyard as teens, enduring various trials, and their journeys toward finding a place. Each book, told through various tropes, underscores their early traumas and their internal struggle to find a place to call their own. Even in the simplicity of their telling, each of them pulls at your heart, causing you to gobble them in one sitting.
Perry’s newest book, Forsaken Trail, is more of the beauty of this message. In this story, Aria leaves the comfort of Oregon to visit her twin sister, Clara, for a vacation and belated celebration of her nephew, August’s birthday. Two issues of this vacation are its locale: Arizona, a desert which is contrary to verdant Oregon and her sister’s boss, Brody, a man who has taken care of her sister but also monopolizes her time. On arriving in Arizona, Aria finds her sister, Clara, ill. Brody, who was supposed to be away during Aria’s visit, is actually in Arizona, compelled there by his manipulative grandmother for his brother’s wedding. Clara is supposed to attend the wedding with Brody, acting as his buffer; however, her illness is too severe, and she asks her sister to go in her stead. The problem: Brody and Aria do not like each other. Underlying that dislike, however, is an unacknowledged attraction. Eventually, Aria and Brody agree and attend the wedding where they imbibe a large quantity of champagne. Without the protection of their faculties, Brody and Aria consummate their attraction to each other in a one-night stand. Unfortunately, each retreats to their “own corners” the next day, and they move on with life until Aria finds out she’s pregnant. From there, Brody and Aria must negotiate their future together as parents of this child. Is there more to them than a one-night stand?
So underlying the surprise baby and hate-to-love romance tropes is this idea that a life half-lived is simply not enough. Perry writes Brody and Aria as these two characters who are seemingly different in that Brody comes from wealth and power while Aria’s background is fraught with tragedy and the challenges of providing for one’s self. However, Perry deftly shows her readers in Forsaken Trail that they are actually more alike than they realize. Aria and Brody care deeply for people they love in ways that are transcendent. Their hate is created in their envy over the other’s care of Clara, and you know that once they recognize the other person loves from their toes, their love will be wild and deep. In the journey towards this realization, Perry crafts moments that feel emotional and heavy. There were times when my heart hurt for either Brody or Aria, and usually, it wasn’t in the treatment of one to the other. It comes through the realization that each of them is lonely and finds a connection in the other. Their pasts are the emotional gravitas of this story, and Perry compels you forward, out of the emotional wreckage of their hurts, into the place where they find happiness and completion in the other. It seems so simple; yet, Perry shows her capability at underpinning the simplicity of their journey with the truth that finding love is necessary to live a happy, profound life, not money. Perry isn’t “reinventing the wheel” with Aria’s story in Forsaken Trail, but she’s once again showing us how well she invests us in the emotional rendering of her characters’ stories. I believe them. My heart hurts with their hurts, and I hope for their happy ending as they encounter it. Each book from Devney Perry cements for me the reason I will read any story she writes. Through the grace and ease of her writing, I feel emotionally connected to her characters and their stories, and Aria and Brody are no different.
In Forsaken Trail, there is transformation, transition, and tenderness. Brody is my favorite type of hero: the misunderstood protagonist whose wealth and privilege are easy to judge even though they hide a lonely, hurt man. Pairing that type of hero with a heroine who seems opposite simply in her background and holds a soul of moxie, and you feel the fireworks from the first chapter. That is Forsaken Trail, and that is more of what we love about Devney Perry’s stories. Like the other books in the Runaway series, this is a perfect afternoon to evening read, and you will find yourself fully at its whim. By the end, your heart will be full, and you’ll have a sigh on your lips, remembering everything you love about Perry’s storytelling.
“He’d held me and I’d realized that the soul-deep loneliness I’d felt for years had truly vanished.”
In love and romance,