Title: Out Of Focus
Author: L.B. Simmons
Series: Chosen Paths #3
Release Date: February 19, 2016
“Shhhh, Cassandra, it’s our little secret.”
Secrets are stubborn things when they refuse to remain hidden. They tear through your soul, clawing and lashing until the pain becomes so unbearable, you’re left no choice but to silently scream your agony. No one hears you, of course. You smile on the outside and drift through life as though your mind is at peace, but all the while, you remain your own tortured prisoner. Sealed inside the darkened, soundproof room of your conscience, deafening cries echo as you plead for someone to unlock the door and release you from your nightmares. And eventually, when no one comes, you find ways to cope. To dull the suffering the only way you know how.
But what happens when you’ve become so numb, when everything around you has become so blurred, that you begin to lose focus on the saving grace standing directly in front of you? When you’ve anesthetized yourself to the point of losing consciousness, forced to watch as his once solid image fades away, lost to your reach in the haze as it smothers you?
What do you do then?
You fight. You heal. Then you bring him back.
Well, my name is Cassie Cooper, and it’s time.
No more secrets.
This is my story.
Every once in a while, a story comes along that reaches somewhere deep inside you, grasping hold of the broken pieces of yourself you’ve hidden away and reminding you that there is strength to be found in every single shard. Out of Focus is that story. L.B. Simmons has written a striking tale of pain, loss, resilience, hope, and healing that will leave you breathless. Cassie’s story absolutely gutted me as L.B. Simmons exposed her wounds and revealed her heartache with painful honesty and incredible grace. Every emotion was something tangible that easily worked its way through me as I read, allowing me to feel every step of Cassie’s journey. I fell hopelessly in love with Grady. His patience, understanding, and undeniably beautiful soul were breathtaking while his intelligence, humor, and passion for life made me swoon. Together, Cassie and Grady were the perfect match, pushing each other to grow and bringing out the best in one another. L.B. Simmons’ writing is exquisite and all-consuming, effortlessly pulling me under her spell until I was totally lost to her literary world and its unforgettable characters.
“Love. People toss the word around so freely, almost as though it’s merely an afterthought, but the power within that one word can change a life.”
When it comes to character development, L.B. Simmons is an artist and Cassie is a masterpiece. While I’d expect nothing less from L.B. than to see her characters put through the wringer, Cassie’s journey felt somehow heavier. Cassie not only had to learn how to love someone else and let herself be loved in return, but she had to learn to love herself. As the emotional weight of her story pushed down on her, Cassie underwent a transformation that was simply stunning. L.B. Simmons takes this character and pulls on every stray thread, unraveling Cassie and the walls she’s built to protect herself until all that’s left is the raw, insecure, vulnerable, and beautifully flawed girl at the heart of this character. Through her relationships with Spencer and Grady, L.B. Simmons allows us to experience the many facets of Cassie. Each relationship shined a new light on her, revealing pieces of this character she herself cannot see. These glimpses of courage, kindness, and loyalty made it impossible not to love and wholly invest in Cassie and her happily ever after.
“To me, there’s nothing more vindicating than the ability to find the strength necessary to turn the worst experience imaginable into something so beautiful, it eclipses all the ugliness. It helps to find reason, to find purpose, in something so senseless.”
In true L.B. Simmons style, Out of Focus is an emotional rollercoaster. I loved the ups and downs of Cassie’s journey – each breakdown and breakthrough a genuine portrayal of the challenging path to healing and a tribute to the unexpected strength that lies within the darkest parts of our hearts. Amongst the angst and overwhelming feelings was a sparkling lightness brought on by the well-timed infusion of humor throughout the story. Grady and Cassie had a push and pull that was downright addictive. I found myself grinning at their easy banter, adorable flirtations, and shared (although sometimes reluctantly) adventures. Their connection was immediate and heady, pulling me in and holding me captive while their chemistry sizzled across the pages. Together they were charming, entertaining, heart wrenching and hopeful – an electric and inimitable combination. With equal parts triumph and tragedy, L.B. Simmons delivers a sparkling and soulful novel that is unquestionably heartfelt and devastatingly poignant. Out of Focus is an absolute must read for anyone who knows what it means to feel broken and all of us still reaching through the darkness in search of the light.
I am a book blogger, which means that I am an avid reader who chooses to live a thousand lives. However, L.B. Simmons is an author that I continue to return to because of the way she reaches deep into my soul and pulls all these emotions I wasn’t aware I had; those feelings I had long repressed. Her books are not only romances, but journeys that she insists her readers go on. She uses her words as a catharsis for anyone has been through a tragedy, and maybe that is why I find myself relating to her characters so much.
“I suffered in silence, but I will heal vocally.”
Out of Focus, more than anything, is Cassie’s story of forgiveness and letting go. She had been holding on to events of her past and it shaped every relationship formed, every choice made, and every action taken in her life. No matter how much she attempted to bury what happened, Cassie was unable to let it go. Like all of the heroines she writes about, the author made me feel like I was looking through a mirror at times. It was as if Simmons was staring into my eyes, speaking the healing words I have needed to let seep in so many times. She provided the soothing balm that a person needs to hear when they’ve been through hell, and that’s a truly extraordinary gift.
“Because you’re a fighter. You do what you need to do to survive, including throwing those walls up at a moment’s notice to protect yourself. I get that. I understand that. But what you need to understand is that sometimes those walls have to come down, sweetheart, just so you can breathe.”
Furthermore, I loved the insight into the complicated aspects of maintaining different relationships. I have never come across a friendship that mimics the one I have with my best friend as closely as I did in this novel. Cassie and Spencer together are one of a kind, and I was often nodding my head in affirmation to what was described. Then we have the most amazing counterpart hero, Grady. He saw something within Cassie and forced her into facing those demons. However, it was the way he did it that struck a chord with me. It felt beautiful and heartbreaking; but so genuine and natural to the path she had to take. He had been through the storm, but learned to dance in the rain – and he was determined to show Cassie HOW to do the same, not just the action. He was absolute perfection!
“Hear me when I say, I love every single piece of you, broken or not.”
With each new release, I find myself falling more in love with L.B. Simmons’ writing. She is able to make readers laugh, cry, and experience just about everything in between. She weaves stories of grief and loss, but somehow make you feel lighter after you turn that last page. With every fiber of my being, I can honestly say that if you haven’t picked up a novel by this phenomenal author, you are severely missing out. Out of Focus will take you on an emotional roller coaster ride filled with ups and downs, giggles and tears. However, for me, it also slid Simmons easily into one of my top favorite authors.
“You’ve been watching my apartment?”
Grady’s mouth quirks and when my eyes fall directly to his perfect lips, the heat from before resurges between us. I swallow deeply as he slowly inches forward, the warmth of his body searing my skin as he hovers near me. Then those lips pass my own to land on the shell of my ear before he whispers, “My men watch your apartment.”
He chuckles and his heated breaths fan my ear, sending a wave of goosebumps rising along my skin. “For the first time in my career, I was forced to take myself off surveillance. Because while my main objective was to keep an eye on your surroundings, all I could focus on was beautiful, irresistible you. I couldn’t tear my eyes away from you, and because of that, my involvement was compromised.”
By this point, I’m no longer breathing, so as soon as he retracts his presence and is once again relaxing in his chair, a whoosh of air enters my lungs. After drawing a long breath in and releasing it, I do the only thing I can do.
I blink again.
Then I clear my throat and break my one-question rule, again. “Exactly how long have you been watching me?”
Grady leans forward, pressing his forearms on his thighs and lacing his hands so they dangle between his knees. Then he opens his mouth and completely blows my mind.
“I’ve been watching you long enough to know something broke you. Something you keep hidden, something that weighs on your soul. You pretend, but your eyes betray you. There’s pain hidden within them, but when you smile, really smile, the pain is gone and you’re you. Not the person you pretend to be. And like I said earlier, I find that very interesting. I want to know what makes you smile, how to make you smile, and how to keep that smile a permanent fixture on that gorgeous face of yours. And more importantly, I want to know why you feel unworthy of that smile, and how to fix that too.”
He gives me a crooked grin and shakes his head. “I guess what I’m saying, is I would very much like the chance to get to know you, if you’ll let me.”
I blink, then swallow. Because once again, there is nothing I can say that could ever match that.
He laughs silently, gorgeous smile on full display, then extends his hand. “Do you trust me?”
Trust. It’s another one of those small words that carries such profound meaning.
I trusted once.
And it was that trust that broke me.
I dared to trust a second time.
And the evil hands of Silas Kincaid slaughtered that.
I don’t know if I have it in me to trust a third time. I really don’t. Not with someone who makes me laugh, or someone who makes me feel things completely unprecedented. Someone who without a doubt carries the power to completely shatter me.
Right on cue, voices slither through my mind, screaming their protest. Their warnings.
Only Spencer deserves light and sunshine.
Not you, Cassandra. Never for you.
You will always be alone.
As you deserve.
I look away to the empty chairs across the table.
The voices rejoice in their victory while the obvious fact in front of me slices another gash in my chest.
I’m all alone.
Grady’s voice is barely heard about their yelling. But soon, the soothing tenor enters my mind and stifles their screams. “Don’t get lost in that head of yours. I’m right here. Focus on me.”
I tear my gaze away from the chairs to find myself immersed in a beautiful sapphire stare, so earnest and sincere as his outreached hand remains, waiting for me to find the courage to take hold. My chin trembles and moisture coats my eyes. I swallow and allow his stare to fortify me as I attempt to will the voices away.
I’m so tired of pretending.
And maybe it’s the prolonged exhaustion, but as I root myself into those damn eyes, I find myself succumbing to their comfort.
I know I cannot fully grant his request.
Or can I?
As I search deep within myself, I find there’s just not enough courage left in my reserve.
But still, I want.
But you don’t deserve that. You never have.
But you can’t have.
God, do I want.
Inhaling deeply, I hold his gaze and after several heavy seconds, I finally release my breath. My arm reaches forward, and as his hand wraps around mine, I revel in its warmth. It travels through my body and its heat settles in my cheeks. I narrow my eyes, but decide in this moment, I will give him all I can give. “I want to trust you.”
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Don’t miss the rest of the series:
Into the Light (Chosen Paths #1)
Under the Influence (Chosen Paths #2)
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.