Title: If You Leave
Author: Courtney Cole
Series: Beautifully Broken #2
Release Date: August 6, 2013
26-year old Gabriel Vincent is a badass hero. Or he used to be, anyway. As an ex-Army Ranger, Gabe never thought he needed anyone. But after one horrible night in Afghanistan scars him in a way that he can’t get past, he needs someone who can help him heal…even if he doesn’t realize it.
25-year old Madison Hill doesn’t need anybody…or so she thinks. She grew up watching her parents’ messed-up abusive relationship and she knows there’s no way in hell that she’s ever letting that happen to her.
They don’t know it in the beginning, but Gabriel and Madison will soon develop a weakness: Each other.
But Gabriel’s got a secret, a hidden monster that he’s afraid Maddy could never overcome… And Maddy’s got issues that she’s afraid Gabe will never understand. They quickly realize that they need each other to be whole, but at the same time they know that they’ve got demons to fight.
And the problem with demons is that they never die quietly.
If You Leave gripped my heart from the very first page. The moment this story began I was swept into Gabriel’s world. Gabe is an army ranger, home from Afghanistan along with his best friend Brand, trying to forget all of the horrific things that haunt his dreams. Madison has been devastated by loss and left living someone else’s life out of guilt and fear. Now that Pax and her sister, Mila (from If You Stay) are settling into their own lives, she is forced to face the lonely reality that is her life.
“The good news is that fear is a choice. You can stand in front of it, punch it in the face and get on with life.”
The characters in this story are nothing short of breathtaking. Courtney Cole has a way of crafting characters that are absolutely damaged, completely lost and often infuriating in their resolve that they don’t deserve happiness. Somehow, she also makes them incredibly lovable, painfully relatable and the kindest of souls. Her ability to construct such character depth is stunning and I am constantly in awe of the personalities, relationships and stories that come from these complex and vulnerable characters.
“She made everything good. She was warmth and light and understanding and trust. She was all of it. And I’ll never have her again.”
If You Leave emotionally steamrolled me. It hit very close to home and that always leaves me wondering if the author will be able to accurately capture the reality and emotions of the situation. Courtney Cole rises above and beyond the challenge of this storyline. Gabe suffers from PTSD, an illness that affects far too many military personnel and is unfortunately poorly understand among the general population. Every internal battle Gabe was forced to wage with himself, every earth shattering flashback and soul crushing night terror took some of his pain and made it my own. It felt real and raw and honest and unavoidable. Courtney Cole managed to not only paint a clear picture of his suffering, but to make it our own.
“I’ve never retreated in my life. I’ve never backed away from a fight and I’ve never cowered in fear. Ever. That’s not who I am. But I’ve been in combat long enough to know that when something unbeatable chases you, you do the only thing you can do. You run.”
This book built my hopes up and brought me to my knees. It devastated me and filled me with incredible strength and hope. I enjoyed every bright moment of ridiculous flirting right along with every dark minute of fear and doubt. As Madison and Gabe questioned the good and the bad of the world, their conflict swirled in my own head, begging me to examine what I believe about war, loss and the human spirit. If You Leave had me in the clutches of an ugly cry right up until the very last page. Courtney Cole certainly outdid herself with If You Leave. This book is not to be missed!
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Check out the rest of the Beautifully Broken series:
If You Stay (Beautifully Broken #1)
Until We Burn (Beautifully Broken #2.5)
Before We Fall (Beautifully Broken #3)
Until We Fly (Beautifully Broken #4)
My Peace (Beautifully Broken #5)