Life-Changing Love, by Theresa Linden

Theresa Linden weaves three story lines throughout this second volume of her West Brothers trilogy. At the conclusion of volume one—Roland West, Loner—Roland finds a measure of happiness with his new friends, especially Caitlyn. He and she enjoy hanging out without the pressures of a “relationship.” When Roland tells Caitlyn that he’s not ready to be her boyfriend, Caitlyn thinks that his feelings for her have cooled. Can Ronald and Caitlyn find what they have lost?

Caitlyn’s friend, Zoe, the most popular girl at school, begins to show Caitlyn “how to become popular.” To demonstrate, Zoe attracts the attention of Jarret, Roland’s brother. She sees Jarret as handsome, confident and hot.  The real Jarret lives to dominate and control everyone in his life. Can Zoe find happiness with Jarret or has she stepped into emotional quicksand?

Because Jarret had made Roland’s life miserable, as a punishment, their father takes Jarret’s twin, Keefe, to Italy, instead of his other sons. Once out of Jarret’s reach, Keefe’s worldview amplifies. Can Keefe become his own person and find life-changing love?

Of all of Theresa Linden’s characters, Jarret West represents the ultimate Machiavellian as he schemes to bend the lives of Roland, Caitlyn, Keefe and especially Zoe so that he gets what he wants, regardless of the cost or damage. Jarret is an “evil genius” with an innate ability to interpret behaviors and engineer emotional responses that favor his devious ploys. Can love change the direction of Jarret’s life?

Caitlyn shows tremendous depth and strength, especially when Jarret attempts to manipulate and embarrass her. She comes to know her parents and the reasons for their concerns and the limitations they place on her.

Readers of volume one will welcome the return of Peter and Toby, the clear-sighted brothers who have Jarret’s number and give him all the grief they can.

As usual, Theresa Linden’s lively plots and palpable characters make for a compelling read. She shows imagination, intrigue, and originality in yet another novel. Volume three is on the way.

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Roland West, Loner, by Theresa Linden

Theresa Linden excels as a storyteller. She assembles her characters from complex webs of conflict and mystery. Her penchant for plot shifts and action commands the reader’s attention. Her proclivity toward trilogies reflects her dedication to the writing craft and her desire to please her readers with a magnificent literary landscape.

Roland West, Loner, the first volume in her West Brothers trilogy, introduces the pageant’s cast. Roland, the loner has two special reasons to avoid company, his older brothers. Jarret, handsome, intelligent and powerful, but also narcissistic, manipulative and amoral. Keefe, Jarret’s twin and puppet, collaborates as Jarret bullies Roland. Jarret believes that Roland is his father’s favorite. He mercilessly schemes to destroy Roland’s reputation in their father’s eyes so that he and not Roland would accompany Mr. West on a business trip to Italy. Although adult caretakers run the West’s mansion in absence of the boys’ traveling father, Jarret controls the lives of his brothers, easily circumventing and even subverting the authority of the adults. Roland remains hopelessly trapped in the West’s castle of a house.

Roland’s freedom comes from the most unlikely of liberators. Once on the loose he hides out with a classmate, Peter Brandt, whose bedroom is so messy, he could easily conceal Roland in the clutter. Roland’s existence as a loner has not prepared him for life on the run. He’s not sure if he can trust Peter. He meets and is attracted to the red-headed, emerald-eyed Caitlyn Summer, who causes him to rethink his loner status.

The struggle rages between the dominant Jarret who will use violence, intimidation and lies to compromise his brother, and Roland, the innocent and vulnerable who hopes that their father detects Jarret’s ploys. The melee plays out to the last sentence of the novel and vibrates through the subsequent volumes of the trilogy.

Although a young-adult novel, Roland West, Loner offers a compelling read to a wide audience.