Wow. What a book. I honestly had no idea how intense and dark and gritty Sempre was until I started reading, and immediately I was hooked. Haven and Carmine live in a harsh, cruel world, where death is a constant, and you never know who you can trust. Carmine lives on the privileged side, but he is still part of the Mafia family, where absolute loyalty is a must, or else you die. Haven is born as a slave, living with cruel owners. In the prologue of the book, when Haven is just a young girl, her master forces her to watch as he kills another young girl. What an opening, right?
J.M. Darhower writes the dark world they live in so well that I was immersed in Haven and Carmine’s story, all the while disgusted at the cruelty and desperately hoping for their Happily Ever After. Haven and Carmine meet when Carmine’s father, Vincent, buys Haven from her cruel owner. This is not to say that Vincent is a good man; far from it actually. Vincent is part of the Italian mafia and has done unspeakable things for his ‘family’. It’s a mystery then, why Vincent takes Haven away from her bad owners, though we slowly find out his reasons later in the book.
The instant Haven and Carmine meet, they feel something for each other, though neither of them know what it means. Haven has no clue, being the isolated girl that she is, but she sees something in Carmine no one else does. Plus, it doesn’t hurt that Carmine is incredibly handsome ;). For Carmine, he has a better idea of what he’s feeling, but he pushes those feelings away. He’s never cared about anything or anyone but himself after his mother’s death, and he takes things for granted: his money, his car, and especially the girls. He’s the wham, bam, thank-you-ma’am kind of guy, so why would he ever feel more than the usual for a girl? But slowly, as they spend more time together, Carmine realizes the depth of his feelings. He sees how kind and compassionate Haven is, despite the fact that she has every right to hate everyone and the world for the way she was treated. And this changes Carmine. He wants to be someone who deserves to love Haven, someone who deserves her love.
They fall in love, even though they shouldn’t. They’re star-crossed lovers *dreamy sigh*. They start to imagine themselves having a future together, with blank slates, and Carmine vows to find a way to make this a reality.
“Nothing’s more important to me than you, tesoro. I’d give my life for you.”
Tesoro = treasure. Swoon!
Vincent, Carmine’s father, has a big part of the story as well. His wife meant the world to him, and when she was killed, he lost his heart. My heart went out to Vincent and his story, even though he does act cold and harsh sometimes. But we know that despite his actions towards Haven and Carmine, his number one priority is keeping his children safe, which means keeping them away from the Mafia. He knows that once Carmine goes down that dark path, he can never come out of it.
I liked Carmine and Haven, and yet I felt kind of distanced from them. I couldn’t really connect, but it weirdly didn’t affect much on how I enjoyed the book. It might have been because Sempre is written in the third POV, but the story and narrations were good enough that I didn’t care that I was distanced from the characters.
There are so many secrets and hidden pasts that I nearly couldn’t keep up! The book moved at a slow pace (it’s a bit long), but there was never a dull moment. This was one of the few times where I actually enjoyed reading at a slower pace. I loved that Carmine and Haven didn’t rush their love, and let it run its course naturally. The Mafia was intriguing to read about. We mostly know about them through Vincent’s eyes, and they are bad and dangerous, and utterly fascinating. They live by their own rules, and people die all the time.
I don’t know if it was just me, but every time there were Italian words with no explanation of what they meant in the book, I looked them up online. And (I’m such a sucker) I totally swooned every time Carmine spoke loving words in Italian to Haven. GAH! My heart.
This quote perfectly describes Haven and Carmine, and their situation:
They were two broken kids, desperate to be whole again, struggling to find balance in a world out of their control. What’s black and white and red all over? Carmine was, Haven thought. A soul savagely ripped in half, bleeding out for all to see. The yin and yang, the good and evil, the love and pain all at odds with each other. Two sides, two vastly different worlds, but someday, they would merge as one. They had to.
Plus, another quote that shows how much Haven has changed from a scared, innocent, lonely girl to one who has determination, courage, and strength. Haven finally feels happy, because she has a place in the world, with Carmine.
Home. She got it now. For the first time in her life, something felt like home. It was a place they had come together. It was where they had found love. She finally knew what that world meant.
Overall, I highly enjoyed this book. I couldn’t stop reading, and the plot was so exciting and suspenseful. This is a darker read than a normal contemporary romance, so just beware! There will be violence and death, but if you don’t mind reading about these, then you should definitely go for Sempre!
If you don’t mind reading about whether the book has a cliffhanger/HEA or not, then keep reading! . . . The ending doesn’t have a cliffhanger, but it’s a hugely open ending. I honestly would NOT have been happy if J.M. Darhower wasn’t writing a sequel, but thank god, she is! I can’t wait to read Sempre: Redemption! As for the HEA… I’m a bit worried. They’re still together at the end of Sempre, but I have no idea what will go down in the sequel. *bites nails*
Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.