Just when I thought that Zack Love had written his most impressive novel to date when he wrote "The Syrian Virgin", he pleasantly surprises me with “Anissa’s Redemption!” I had such a book hangover afterward that it took awhile for me to come out of my literary fog.
Many times when a book I really love ends with a cliffhanger, I find myself hanging onto those last few words and images in hopes that the sequel will be written soon after so that I won’t forget all of its excitement and the feelings the writer has evoked. I worry, too, that with all the anticipation and expectation leading up to the sequel, in the end, it will fall short and leave me disappointed with the series.
This was DEFINITELY not the case with Zack Love’s sequel to “The Syrian Virgin” called “Anissa’s Redemption.” In fact, it was so much better than I ever imagined it would be and it did NOT disappoint!
In “Anissa’s Redemption”, I loved how (seemingly) effortless it was for Zack to pick up where he ended in “The Syrian Virgin” and how from the very beginning, the plot and all his characters continued to evolve and develop throughout. Zack’s intelligent writing and extensive research also continued to paint an accurate and compelling portrayal of the religious struggles caused by Syrian Civil War. But what I loved most about “Anissa’s Redemption was his brilliant ability to peel away more and more of Anissa, Michael and Julien’s "layers" to reveal their true selves and their darkest secrets before the readers’ eyes and not only make them appear more human, but more endearing as well.
In writing "Anissa’s Redemption", Zack created an exciting and quite an emotional roller coaster ride and with every twist and turn of events, he takes his readers through many surprising developments and defining moments!
Definitely a must read!
USA TODAY'S HAPPY EVER AFTER BLOG FEATURES AN EXCERPT OF ZACK LOVE'S "ANISSA'S REDEMPTION"
Zack Love joins HEA to explore the key role that trust plays in every romance and share an excerpt from his latest, Anissa's Redemption.Zack: Love is probably the most simple yet complex phenomenon in the human experience. Perhaps that's why this mysterious (and powerful) emotion has inspired so many stories, paintings, songs and even epic monuments (like India's Taj Mahal) and conflicts (such as the Trojan War, in which the Greeks attacked Troy after Paris took Helen from her husband, king of Sparta).For all of its varied causes and consequences, love always depends on that indispensable ingredient that can make or break any relationship: trust. That element necessarily invites risk, since confidence in another is required precisely when there are no guarantees. But embracing that peril, especially in a mutual way, usually creates intimacy — perhaps because accepting vulnerability in order to get closer to someone involves a greater commitment to that person. Indeed, behind every romance shines an intimacy that would be impossible without trust.In my latest novel, Anissa's Redemption, two indelibly wounded souls have always chosen to face their traumatic pasts alone, unable to open up about their most painful secrets — making these individuals far more alike than first impressions might suggest. Anissa Toma is a Christian refugee from the Syrian Civil War, trying to restart her shattered life in New York. Julien Morales, a Latino finance billionaire, is her Columbia University psychology professor who privately struggles with a dark past that even his skilled (and sexy) therapist can't get him to reveal. As Anissa and Julien become more acquainted, in and out of the classroom, their irresistible chemistry eventually compels them to break the student-professor taboo, but anxieties about trust prove to be daunting roadblocks in their forbidden romance. Both recognize that their best chance at healing their emotional traumas probably lies in a shared — rather than a solitary — journey, if they can just overcome their fears and trust each other enough to achieve true intimacy.Fear of trusting someone is often rational, because of prior betrayals or the disastrous consequences that would result from putting faith in the wrong person, as Julien knows all too well. For Anissa, the impulse to avoid self-exposure stems from the need to protect herself after enduring so much trauma, and from the fact that she's never before allowed anyone to get so close to her.In this scene, Julien tries to prepare Anissa for greater intimacy by challenging her comfort zone when it comes to trust.—"I love your perceptiveness. It makes me worry less about the rest of your performance in my class.""Why would you worry about it, after my midterm?" I could feel a confident smirk on my face."Well, becoming romantically involved with you becomes a lot riskier if there's any controversy surrounding your final grade in the class. But if you receive and legitimately deserve an A, then there's no problem."I looked confidently into his eyes and declared with a playful smile, "Well, as you just pointed out, there's no trust without risk. But I'll do my best to ensure that my problem sets and final exam leave you with no choice but to give me an A, so that there can be no issues for you around my grade."He chuckled and replied, "Thanks for looking out for me too in this relationship."I took another sip of my wine glass, in preparation for the potentially awkward question that I now had to ask. "So, why do you think I don't trust you?""Because of certain things you've told me.""About what?" I asked, hoping that he was thinking of something where I actually was truthful with him but he had just misread me. My shoulders moved towards each other a little, as if that could help to hide the private facts that this conversation might expose."About what happened to you and your family in Syria," he replied, looking into my eyes for a moment, and then out at the view, to minimize the discomfort he must have sensed in me.I exhaled heavily, and there was a moment of silence as I gathered my thoughts. "There are some things about my time in Syria that only my therapist knows. And there are a few details that even she doesn't know. It's something I'm still working through."He put his hand on mine. "It's OK, Anissa. I'm not trying to pressure you into sharing things that you're still dealing with privately." His fingers began to caress my palm and wrist. "But I would like to earn more of your trust."I felt nervous about potentially exposing myself more, but excited at the possibility of getting even closer to Julien. "And I would like to become more trusting of you."He smiled playfully and looked straight into my eyes. "So can you trust me enough to let me help you trust me more?""I'll try," I replied with a simper.After dessert, I discovered the enthralling — and sometimes scary — trust-building techniques that Julien wanted us to try. The easiest — and most sensual — one involved trusting him while I was seated and blindfolded, as he did various things that produced small pleasures or pains, and in an unpredictable sequence that drove me crazy, as I tried to guess what might come next. As I sat in the chair, without the benefit of sight, the very first thing he did was to feed me some delicious raspberries. Then, he asked me to outstretch my hand, and he put what felt like some flower petals in it. After that, a slight warmth spread below the back of my hand, but — within about ten seconds — became too hot for me to keep still. He had placed a candle far under my hand holding the petals, while gradually moving the flame closer until I moved my hand away from the intensifying heat. Then he fed me some delicious chocolates. And just as I was lost in the heavenly taste still in my mouth, he pushed the hem of my skirt up and I felt hot wax from the candle drop onto my upper thigh, making me sink my teeth into my lower lip. He asked me to stick my tongue out, and — as I was bracing for him to put some kind of sadistic clamp on it — he sprayed deliciously fluffy and sweet whipped cream onto it. I must admit, this game was surprisingly fun and even arousing at times.The next confidence-building exercise actually seemed much easier after the blindfolded one, and I had actually read about it before. Julien had me simply stretch my arms out to the side and fall straight backwards, trusting him to catch me before I hit the ground. The first three times, he caught me well before my body hit a forty-five degree angle. But the last three times he progressively tested the limits of my trust a little bit more each time, such that the very last time, he caught me only as I was just about to hit the floor.