Welcome to our stop on the Rotten blog tour.
J.L. Brooks has done it again with this wonderful story.
Growing up on the outskirts of Las Vegas as the daughter of notorious strip club owner, Stephen Knox, and a mother who abandoned her at birth, life was less than kind to a young Antoinette.
After a failed teenage suicide attempt, Toni hit the road in search of a life free of undeserved cruelty and any resemblance to her past.
Years later, Toni is lost in a dead end marriage and makes a painful confession that sends her back to the one place she always wanted to escape. But can she really right the wrongs that haunt her? Toni soon finds that the only place where things stay the same is in your mind.
When her path crosses with David Stark, childhood playmate turned one night stand, she cannot deny the spike in temperature she feels every time he's near or the scorching dreams that flood her at night.
Digging through the years of heartache, Toni soon finds herself torn between the man she is committed to and the one who has always held her heart. As each layer unfolds before her, she discovers the root cause of her pain. Always believing the source was external, nothing could prepare her for the truth.
*This book contains sexual content and adult language. Intended for readers 17+
As I cracked the old bathroom door open, steam rushed out in vapor clouds before me. David looked up as I approached him in nothing but a towel. Still not saying anything, I used my ankle to kick his knees apart. He looked at me oddly until the towel dropped to the floor in a large heap of cotton. Crawling up onto his lap, I used the palm of my hand to push his forehead back into the fabric of the sofa and pressed my naked body into his chest.
“Are you going to run away again?” I whispered.
His hands tentatively caressed the damp skin on the back of my thighs while licking his lips. “No ma’am.”
J.L. Brooks captivated me with Distractions and she has again given me the unexpected in Rotten. This story had so many elements to love, its characters were unorthodox and engaging, there were twists that kept me turning pages and an ending that was incredibly satisfying.
Antoinette (Toni) Knox is the daughter of the owner of a strip club. While she has a loving relationship with her father, Stephen, she is burdened by the judgement of those in her home town and the taunts and exclusion from kids at school because of who her father is. David Stark is the one exception, he is her friend, perhaps slightly more, and takes his role as protector of Toni very seriously.
I loved Toni. She was intelligent, ballsy and prepared to admit her mistakes. She grappled with her internal demons and faced the things that sent her from her home with a strength that was hard not to admire. There were a number of times where I chuckled at her determination, her quick thinking and the outcomes she was able to achieve. David was also a fabulous character. His commitment to those he loved was unwavering.
While I finished Rotten in a relatively upbeat mood there were a number of elements that were quite heartbreaking. Overwhelmingly, the many things that Toni missed out on because of her flawed decision making as a child/teenager. Her assumptions of peoples intentions meant that she lived a life that lacked the intensity of emotion she deserved.
Interestingly the people she thought she couldn't trust turned out to be the very ones she could rely on while others weren't so trustworthy. As Toni came to terms with her past, her choices and her options for the future she blossomed into the person she was truly meant to be. While she had always known her father loved her, she developed a true understanding of the man that he was, and reading that as it happened was just beautiful.
Rotten was a relatively quick read and if I'd had the chance I would have finished it in one sitting. The writing style was completely engaging and I loved the way Brooks wove Toni's Catholic beliefs into the story in way that was meaningful and easy to understand. Rotten has confirmed for me that picking up a J.L. Brooks novel is a decision that will never disappoint.
4 out of 5 stars
Previous works: Distractions, Stories for Amanda (Contributing Author)