I Am Free Author:
New Adult, Contemporary RomanceSeries or Standalone:
After reading 15 Years to Life, I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt that I needed to get my hands on whatever Regina Bartley put out next. And just like with that book, she did not disappoint.
I think what I enjoy most about her writing is that her characters are beautiful despite not being perfect and more than that, they’re incredibly real. I know that people use fiction as a means to escape, at least I know that I do, but when I enter into a book, I’m hoping for that real connection with the characters I’m reading about. It can be something small and insignificant, but I need to connect and I did that here, multiple times.
Gracie’s life isn’t easy. In fact, it’s brutal. She’s living an existence that I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. So, what does she do? She makes a plan to get out. A plan to start over, but more than that a plan to be free. Given a place to be by her aunt and saving every bit of the money that had been given to her over the years on birthday’s etc, she sets out on this plan to be free.
And she succeeds, but not without gaining a few things along the way that deep down I don’t believe she ever thought she was worthy of having based on the way her own family had treated her over the years and how their treatment had engrained itself into not only her mind but her heart as well.
Gracie gained a family. A true family. She gained her freedom. Ability to make her own choices and become the person that I just know deep down she was always meant to become and last, but not least, she gained Jackson.
She also wasn’t your typical heroine and I think that may have been what I loved most about her apart from everything else. She honestly didn’t care what people thought of the way she dressed, the simple way she was. She was just happy to be able to finally be her and from the moment she got out to the moment she was finally free, I was pretty damn happy that she was able to be her too.
Jackson in a lot of ways could be explained away as typical college playboy. He’s got his basketball, he’s got access to girls and parties, a good home life and money. He’s even got the typical piece of work girlfriend. But much like Gracie when we meet her, he doesn’t have what he truly deserves or what he’s actually worthy of.
Jackson, like Gracie is so much more than what he looks like on paper. So much more than the details and even though it took quite a bit of time here for him to screw his head on straight on what he did deserve, the type of guy he really was (the one that Gracie could see easily) and what the right thing to do is, when he did realize it, it was a beautiful thing to witness.
I enjoyed seeing them both come into their own almost as much as I did watching the two of them fall in love. It was gradual, not forced on the reader, but spun in such a way that you weren’t driven crazy by the wait. I would venture to say that the amount of time that it took for them to work through their own things and get together in the way I wanted them too was masterfully paced and done.
But I can’t review this story without mentioning the parts that aside from the romance really stood out to me. And there were a lot.
First, Jackson’s family. They weren’t typical at all in terms of the way that people from wealth are depicted. This was a home where love was more paramount than money and each family member brought their own unique part to it, but I have to admit that while I did enjoy Kennedy and Jackson’s mother Claire, it was Nick and Tucker that stood out the most. They made me laugh, they made me cry but more than that, both of them in certain instances made me feel, just as much if not more at times than Jackson himself did.
Aunt Darcy. What an incredible character. What she did for her niece and continued to do even after she’d gotten Grace away from the abuse was inspiring and amazing. Every child in the world deserves to have at least one family member like her, and I enjoyed learning in the end that just like everyone else seemed to end happily, so did she.
Grace coming into her own was by far the most moving experience for me though, apart from the romance. I saw this girl start out buried in this shell and the more time that went on, little by little she really did break free. Making the title of this book perfect for the story within its pages. It was a beautiful thing to witness and something I am so glad I got to witness.
Regina Bartley, you have outdone yourself with this book, in a million different ways and it was such a pleasure to experience not only Grace’s story, but Jackson and the rest of the gang’s as well. You wrote one hell of a set of characters and it’s my hope that somewhere down the line we can see more of them in the future.
An incredibly moving, emotional and sometimes downright funny and real story and one that I’m so overjoyed that I took the chance on. It hit every mark, every time. I Am Free is a must read for everyone.