Of The Leaves book series, this book is my absolute favorite! Yes, I love Anika- she's a talented, amazing survivor. Yes, I love Cole- he broke my heart hearing his story and restored it with how fiercely he loves Anika. But, Nico... Nico will leave you speechless. He carries the weight of the world, or at least his Birds, on his shoulders, all the time. He's so strong, so fierce and independent but everyone needs someone. Everyone needs that person that can hold them when they break and throughout this book, we get to observe Nico realizing more and more how badly he needs that someone in his life.
Let's rewind back to the beginning though, shall we? Nico was just a little boy. He led a pretty happy childhood, blessed with two sweet, wonderful parents. Dad was a hard worker and devoted to his wife. Mom spent most of her life trying to help others. She was working at a battered women's shelter at the time. That day, she took Nicolas to work with her. There, he had an experience that would forever shape his world. He met a little dishwater-blonde haired girl and they soothed each other during the most traumatic day either of them had ever experienced. They held onto each other, she took Nico's nightmares away, and he gave her his magic bear.
Back to present day, Nico has spent his life trying to take away a little bit of hurt from women who are struggling and have experienced something that's really wounded them. He can see their sadness and he tries to offer his help by giving them a kiss, a hug, and a beautiful tattoo. He offers them a safe place to go and tries to take some of the pain away.
Nico spends so much time worrying about his birds and taking on that burden, he doesn't really take notice of what it's doing to him. Those stories start to weigh heavily on his heart. Nico starts drinking and having sex anytime, anywhere as a way to cope with all that's bottled up inside of him. He gets into trouble in a couple of situations, after trying to help one of his birds and also during one of his drunken nights. Those instances really help him realize he needs to start getting serious and finding a partner in life. In walks Lark. She takes his breath away. It's an instant attraction, but he's hesitant because he doesn't want to screw it up. Even so, he approaches Lark and they start a beautiful relationship. Nico restores Lark's faith in men, after being hurt badly by first her father, and then her ex-fiance. Lark calms the storm in Nico's heart and she's the person who brings him that peace he desperately needs.
Then, enter Dee. UGH. For most of the parts of the book Dee is in, this is my general feeling towards her:
She's so harsh, condescending and seems like she just doesn't want Lark to be happy. It's like she's trying to sabotage this beautiful partnership that Nico and Lark have created together.
Not too long after that, we find out why...
Why do Nico and Lark have to be the last to know?! That was so infuriating! Although, I kinda called this story from the beginning. However, it was still beautiful to read, even if I wasn't that surprised at the ending.
Anyway, I'm skipping ahead a little bit and I did that, purposefully. I want you to be intrigued. I want you to feel Nico's pain and the peace Lark can give him. I want you to understand how much I LOVE a man who can be so sensitive and empathetic, who can be so self-sacrificing trying to help others. Agh, Nico- be still, my heart.
Y'all just need to read it. Such a good story-- hope to hear what your feedback on the book is! Job well done, J.B. Hartnett!