Title: Under the Influence
Author: L.B. Simmons
Series: Chosen Paths #2
Publication Date: May 11, 2015
I loved you once. A love I thought irrevocable. A love I mistakenly believed could transcend both time and circumstance. Under the influence of my dimwitted, naïve, traitorous heart, I became intoxicated with what I now know was simply a figment of my self-indulgent imagination. So drunk on the feeling, I couldn’t see what was right in front of my face. So foolishly enamored, I blindly followed my heart into the depths of an emotion that would ravage me.
Years later, I know now what I wish I knew then. I am stronger. Smarter. Tougher. I will not allow myself to be broken again.
I loved you.
I raged for you.
I wept for you.
And now, I’m letting you go.
Author’s Note: Under the Influence is the journey of two childhood friends that spans the course of five pivotal years in their lives. It is a story about their discovery of true friendship as it blossoms into first love, their experience of crucial sacrifice and ultimate betrayal, and their endurance of agonizing heartbreak on the way to finding lasting redemption.
Under the Influence is undoubtedly one of the best books I’ve read so far this year. L.B. Simmons has an incredible way with words that leaves its mark on you long after you’ve finished reading. Dalton and Spencer’s story was beautiful, tragic, and one of a kind. As L.B. Simmons unraveled their pasts and molded their futures, I found myself lost in this couple’s unexpected journey. The emotional weight of this story is beyond anything I could have expected. Dalton and Spencer’s story tackles serious issues, giving a voice to not only this couple, but also anyone who has experienced their heartache. Each heart wrenching moment of Under the Influence felt like a blow to my soul as I found myself undeniably invested in these broken characters.
“The rage. It’s always there, lying just beneath the surface, waiting for me to open the floodgates.”
L.B. Simmons crafted Dalton and Spencer’s inimitable bond flawlessly. For Dalton and Spencer, their relationship has always been more than friendship, stemming from a need to find a place to call home. The safety they find in one another as children fuels the relationship between these two resulting in a connection that is unbreakable. Dalton and Spencer both attempt to reconcile their growing feelings for one another with the fear of somehow tainting a friendship that is so pivotal to both of their lives. Their shared stubbornness and innate need to protect one another creates several very intense moments between these two. I swear there were times where I could feel the crackle in the air and the impending heat wave that would soon consume the pages.
“I lean in to brush my mouth against hers and as soon as our lips touch, her strength floods me and binds together the fragments my past left behind.”
Both Spencer and Dalton underwent significant transformations over the course of this story. Spencer’s growth was less obvious, changing the assumptions she carries about herself and lighting a fire within her that is fiercely loyal and protective. I loved watching her strength begin to outshine her insecurities. Dalton’s evolution is big and bold as he attempts to turn his life around completely. I was fascinated by the dichotomy that seemed to rule this character. L.B. Simmons presented the individual components of Dalton’s life before allowing them to merge, muddying the water until there was no longer a way to clearly separate the two. The collision of the dark and light in his life results in incredible angst and a certain circumspection that eventually had our character showing impressive growth. Dalton’s inevitably exposed vulnerabilities gave him a genuineness that had me completely enchanted.
“Yes, Spencer Locke is indeed my air.”
I loved where L.B. Simmons took this storyline. It was exciting and surprising, keeping me totally enthralled. Under the Influence is infused with emotion, honesty, and humor, bringing this stunning story to life with an unmatched vibrancy that had me absolutely devouring this book. The writing was exquisite, creating Spencer and Dalton’s entire world with a tangibility that made me reluctant to reach the end of the book. Under the Influence kept a steady and sure pace that allowed the story to flow seamlessly as we switched between the two points of view, and re-lived memories with the characters. L.B. Simmons has written another incredible book with Under the Influence. This story will tug on your heartstrings with its lovable characters and overwhelming emotional pull until you’re simply lost to the world this amazing author has created.
If there is one thing I can always count on, it is that I will become utterly captivated by anything that L.B. Simmons writes. She takes you to these unexpected, dark places where her characters aren’t seeking redemption, yet somehow find themselves desiring it. The storylines are always a journey of ups and downs filled with a rollercoaster of emotions, and Under the Influence was no exception to what I’ve come to find in Simmons’ books.
“No one gets to pick their circumstances, Greer. The choice lies in what you do in response to them. It’s not awarded to you, but it is yours for the taking.”
I’ll be completely honest and say that in the beginning of this novel, I wasn’t sure I was going to like it. I couldn’t see where it was going which made me apprehensive. However, Simmons writes in such a way that you’re enthralled from the beginning, which keeps you turning the pages, and boy am I glad that I did! Spencer is a strong heroine lead, one holding much more of that personality trait than she originally was perceived. She wears a mask of bravery to the world and that facet of her personality really resonated with me. I’ve been her; I am still am her some days. So from the moment of that realization, I was completely endeared to her and wanted more. I had to have every morsel of her story, both of the past and future.
“Well, if you ever find yourself lost, I hope this can help you find your way as it serves to remind you of the importance of family, of love, of laughter, and most importantly, or second chances.”
Dalton was a mountain of mystery wrapped in a delectable piece of fierce protectiveness. The dedication he had to Spencer, once he allowed himself to have her, was beyond breathtaking. I don’t see that a lot in New Adult novels, at least with similar circumstances, so it was a refreshing breath of fresh air. Furthermore, his back story is a reality that I think is seen far too often so I like the awareness it brings to a hot topic issue. Coming from a hard background myself, I know that there are two paths in life you can take so his journey was one that I felt myself relating to on a deeper level than most characters I come across. Much like I could with Spencer, I saw myself through his eyes and it made me want to rage with him and hug him all at the same time.
“It was as though the most deprived parts within each of us sensed the other’s, then reached out and grabbed hold, essentially melding us together and making us whole.”
I do sometimes have an issue when the characters go through periods of not interacting, so I was again nervous when that whole portion of the book began. However, Simmons makes this work and it even acts in favor for these characters. She somehow is still able to deliver such strong feelings that you begin to empathize with and sympathize for them. Spencer and Dalton are two quite unforgettable characters. Much like they’ve left an impression on each other, they somehow made a dent on this reader’s heart. They crawled under my skin and no matter how much I dug through the pages of their story, I was unable to get them out. On the contrary, they spread like wildfire and bled their souls into mine. Simmons is a fantastic writer who I hope continues to produce quality work with unforgettable, meaningful characters!
Cassie maintains her wide smile. “You go on a date and I guarantee what you find regarding Dalton and his feelings will surprise you.”
“Cassie. No one wants to go out on a date with me. Trust me.”
She shakes her head before she busts out laughing. The ridiculous sound of it reverberates around my room. “You really have no idea, do you? Every guy at school has a hard-on for you, you fool. They’re fucking scared to come within even ten feet of you because of Dalton. He let it be known that if they did, he would deal with them.”
“Oh my God! You have no idea what you’re talking about!” I’m laughing outright now. She really has lost her mind.
She shakes her head, the severity of her statement tightening her features. “I’m totally serious, Spence. I swear on my Kindle.”
At this, I take a sharp breath and sober immediately. To Cassie, her Kindle is sacred as the Bible.
She nods slowly, dramatically, as she watches me grasp the meaning of her statement. Right hand raised, she states, “On the over-abundance of trashy romance novels within my possession, I solemnly swear that before Dalton graduated, he straight-up took out a vendetta against any male in our school who dares approach you.”
“He did what?!” I screech, pressing myself off the bed and catapulting into upright position.
Anger ignites and my face heats wildly as realization dawns.
This whole year, in fact, the entire four years of high school, no one has looked at me. No one has asked me to come to parties, to go on dates, to go to prom. Not that I would go, but it would be nice to be asked, you know? Okay, I probably would go. I mean, it’s a rite of passage, right?
Two black painted fingernails make their appearance as they snap directly in front of my face, jolting me out of my inner thoughts.
“Hooker! Pay attention!”
I shake my head and refocus. Still seething, I whisper, “This whole time, I thought it was me. That I wasn’t dating material or pretty enough. Four years, Cass. Four years of feeling like I wasn’t good enough.” My molars grind together. “It all makes sense now.”
She waves her hand dismissively. “We’re getting off track here.”
My eyes bulge as she continues, “I have found someone who, luckily for you, seems to have recently acquired a death wish.”
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Don’t miss the rest of the series:
Into the Light (Chosen Paths #1)
Out of Focus (Chosen Paths #3)
L.B. Simmons is a graduate of Texas A&M University and holds a degree in Biomedical Science. She has been a practicing Chemist for the last 11 years. She lives with her husband and three daughters in Texas and writes every chance she gets.