Wow – Get Ready For A Real Tearjerker! Brooklyn Is A Woman Of Her Word, So ...
Commenté aux États-Unis 🇺🇸 le 10 mars 2022
When Matthew Seems To Break His Promises To Her, She Has To Look Deep To Find The Pathway To Happiness. Brooklyn’s 16-Year Absence Has Beautiful Highs & Devastating Lows. A Great Addition To The Series.
Empire High Runaway is the emotional fifth book in the Empire High series. The first three books in the series take place while the Untouchables are in high school, and book three’s ending is devastating. The series is Matt’s story, but it had been almost entirely told from Brooklyn’s POV through book three. Book four, Matchmaker, picks sixteen years later in Matt’s POV. This book takes the reader back to Brooklyn’s POV and explains her sixteen-year disappearance.
Chronologically, the characters in Empire High have gone on to other series in the interim, prior to the time Empire High’s book four takes place. Keeping with the basics, though, the following books take place and advance the overall story following book three of this series:
1. Temptation (James Hunter and Penny Taylor’s story, part 1)
2. Addiction (James Hunter and Penny Taylor’s story, part 2)
3. City of Sin (Mason Caldwell and Bridget Cowen’s story)
4. Eruption (James Hunter and Penny Taylor’s story, part 3)
5. Third Chances (Rob Hunter and Daphne Hughes’s story)
6. Devotion (James Hunter and Penny Taylor’s story, part 4)
7. Missing Pieces (Tyler Stevens and Hailey Shaw’s story)
8. The Light to my Darkness (James and Penny Hunter, part 1)
9. A Whirlwind of Color (James and Penny Hunter, part 2)
10. This Is Love (James and Penny Hunter, part 3)
As you can see, a lot has happened in the lives of the Untouchables during the sixteen-year interval. James Hunter has an epic romance with Penny Taylor; Rob and Mason find love as well. Matt is the only remaining bachelor of the Hunter and Caldwell brothers. You will get the most of this and all of the above books by reading them all, but it is certainly possible to skip straight to Empire High Matchmaker.
Unless the series is read back to back it can be a little hard to follow. Below is a quick review to date, followed by the review for this book.
FROM EMPIRE HIGH UNTOUCHABLES, BOOK ONE:
Empire High is the best private high school in New York City and an institution dominated by the elite. Even within its privileged walls, cliques are alive and well. At the top of the chain is the old money crowd, most of which have legacy preference. Students from new money rank next, their longevity amongst the elite not yet proven. These students may feel like they aren’t fully accepted, but the difference is negligible in comparison to the next group on the list. Scholarship kids face unique obstacles and challenges. Those students are invisible. Money talks, even when it comes to the faculty. Finally, a very small number of students qualify as the bottom feeders. As the family of employees, they qualify for legacy preference. Scholarship students get in based upon achievement, so they outrank these lowly students.
There is one group, however, that stands above them all: the Untouchables. The Hunter and Caldwell brothers exude wealth. Old money. James, Robert, Mason, and Matthew are the Untouchables of Empire High. They are all beautiful at first glance, but upon closer scrutiny, there is evidence of cracks in their façades.
Brooklyn Sanders, sixteen, was numb after the death of her mother weeks ago. She had never known who her father was, so after the funeral, she left her Delaware home and went to stay with her Uncle Jim – her only remaining relative. He lived in New York and worked as a janitor at Empire High, where he had enrolled Brooklyn for classes. By the end of the first week of school, she had made one friend, Kennedy Alcaraz, who was on a scholarship and was friendless herself. Kennedy also happened to live down the hall, so the two easily became good friends.
Brooklyn still felt like she was drowning without her mother. There was one thing, though, that made her forget about all she lost. Matthew Caldwell. An Untouchable. She lost herself in his presence, and her insecurities were replaced by a feeling of peace. She didn’t know why, but seeing him kept her going. He was the only thing to bring a smile to her face. Unfortunately, when mean girl extraordinaire Isabella Pruitt caught her looking at Matthew, she set her target on Brooklyn.
Brooklyn began her school year with the belief that she was invisible, but she soon became entwined in lies and deceit that put her in the hot seat. Matthew Caldwell was a would-be knight in shining armor that came to her rescue only to ignore her the next moment. His apparent mood changes had her spinning, and his excuses began to dry up. Isabella seemed to own him at times. Matthew’s devotion to his lifelong friends illustrated his sense of loyalty, but despite his promises, Brooklyn was left on the outside looking in. In her grief and loneliness, she craved love and friendship – but Matt failed to live up to his promises.
As the story closed, Matthew and Brooklyn had begun a secret relationship of sorts. He tried not to trigger Isabella’s wrath, but the facts were still unclear. Brooklyn did not know what Isabella was using to blackmail Matt nor what the consequence might be if the truth got out, but Matthew assured her that the truth would hurt someone close to him. Matthew’s cold shoulder at Empire High was sometimes so cutting that it drove her to consider Felix’s attentions, who courted her as well. But Uncle Jim’s unexpected death threw life as Brooklyn now knew it into turmoil once again.
FROM EMPIRE HIGH ELITE, BOOK TWO:
This book opens roughly one month into the school year – roughly ten days in advance of Homecoming. It seamlessly picks up where book one left off.
Brooklyn is whisked away from her old life and immersed in the world of the elite. Mr. Pruitt – her father - had never wanted her before, and introducing an illegitimate daughter to his wife and Isabella could not be expected to go well. Brooklyn doesn’t accept the new status quo and quietly plots to escape the opulent and haunted halls of the Pruitt apartment. One major obstacle stands in her way, however. The guard assigned to watch over her is under the strictest of orders.
Emotions are raw and pressure mounts until the secret Isabella holds over Matt’s head comes out. The news comes with disastrous results for Brooklyn and the Untouchables. Felix Green is not out of the picture yet. The void left by Matthew Caldwell’s devotion to his friends leaves an opening as Brooklyn grieves alone. But when she doesn’t find the comfort of Matthew’s arms at night, yet another steps into the fray. The drama is on full blast as Brooklyn tries to find her bearings in the Pruitt home. Matthew, Felix, and Miller compete for her attention – and all manage to fail her in one way or another. Everything culminates in one confusing and consequential evening on Homecoming that ends in a devastating cliffhanger.
FROM EMPIRE HIGH BETRAYAL, BOOK THREE:
The story picks up in the middle of October following the Homecoming dance. Fearful of her own safety and that of those she loves, Brooklyn faces a difficult decision. Isabella will commit murder should Brooklyn not disappear, but running away no longer seems like the right choice. It is a wake-up call. Brooklyn had been building a life at Empire High and she was determined to stand up against her evil half-sister Isabella to defend it. All became clear as she stood naked and alone. Matt, Felix, Miller, even James. They were all dear to her in one way or another, but there was only one that calmed and mended her broken heart. She wouldn’t let Isabella take that from her. But everything changes after Isabella’s latest attempt to get rid of her, and even Brooklyn’s father admits there is only so much he can do to protect her. She eventually makes her way to the Caldwell house where she and Matt try again to mend their relationship. Meanwhile, an epic Halloween party approaches.
In this book, Brooklyn begins to take responsibility for her actions as she settles into a new normal. After moving forward with Matt, reuniting the Untouchables becomes her mission. If not for her, Isabella might not have revealed Matt’s secret, sending their friendships into a free fall. But facilitating reconciliation is complicated when the Hunters and the Caldwells are not on speaking terms.
As the author has made clear: this is Matt’s story. His fellow Untouchables already have their own HEA’s written. A free bonus short story from Matthew Caldwell’s POV, Matthew Caldwell – The Untouchable, is available by following the link at the back of books one and two by signing up for the newsletter. It gives his version of their first meeting. But thus far Matt’s story has been told from Brooklyn’s POV. Food for thought! I have my own theory on where this goes next….
FROM EMPIRE HIGH MATCHMAKER, BOOK FOUR:
This book opens sixteen years later in the fall.
Matthew Caldwell, thirty-two, has to keep busy. Like the other Untouchables, after graduating from Empire High he went on to attend Harvard where he studied finance. He took over for his father as CEO of MAC International, a job that had originally been intended for his older brother Mason. He enjoys throwing himself into his work. In his off-hours, he works out, improves his home, and for the last several years he has been the volunteer assistant football coach at Empire High. With Coach Carter’s retirement, Matthew has now taken over as head coach. Empire has a winning team under his direction, and the pressure is on to score points. Still, Matt takes a stand this year when he takes Henry Jefferson under his wing. Jefferson is the only freshman on the varsity team, and it isn’t clear why Matt keeps him on as their kicker. The kid always misses. But Matt has a soft spot for Jefferson because he is a scholarship kid like Brooklyn had been. Matt hopes that by making him into a winner, the other kids at school will embrace him.
When he goes home at the end of the day, Matt works on improving his house. The problem is that he is almost done and it is a perfect home for a family. He had dreamed of having that one day with Brooklyn. Matt made a promise to her that he intends to keep, and in keeping his commitment to her, a wife and family will never be in the cards for him. He never invites anyone to his home, where he keeps a room devoted to Brooklyn’s memory. He hangs out with Mason, James, and his best friend Rob, but there has been a lot of change in recent years. They have all found a happy ending, something that was taken from him. It is a bitter pill to swallow at times. He loves Penny, who reminds him most of Brooklyn’s personality, and the animosity he sometimes feels towards James has him occasionally acting rather recklessly.
Therapy didn’t do Matthew much good over the years, and per Matt’s request, the guys still don’t talk about Brooklyn. He found a friend who also lost someone he loved. Tanner Rhodes is also Matt’s best friend. Neither Tanner nor Rob likes sharing Matt, which leads to a lot of crazy drama. Tanner’s role in Matt’s life is important because he needs someone to talk to about Brooklyn. Tanner is a safe outlet for Matt’s hidden feelings. Tanner encourages Matt to take up Penny’s offer to play matchmaker, but he just wants the excuse to spend time with her. But Tanner wants to be matchmaker, too. He wants control over the process. Soon word gets out and everyone wants to help Matt get matched – but only Tanner knows Matt’s true intentions, and Matt himself has a difficult time knowing his true feelings.
Things get complicated when Poppy Cannavaro shows up at Matt’s office one day. Isabella’s cousin not only resembles her in her looks but also in her craziness. Poppy delivers a letter from her uncle, Richard Pruitt, who was Brooklyn’s father. Apparently, Richard has been asking to meet with Matt for years, and Matt consistently ignores his requests, blaming him for what happened years ago. Matt has been wondering if it has something to do with the mountain of paperwork he signed when he was with Brooklyn – and wonders what kind of obligations he might be on the hook for yet. While there are still outstanding questions, Poppy makes one thing very clear before she leaves: if he doesn’t cooperate, something might happen to Penny’s daughter Scarlett.
As Matt struggles with the idea of moving on, he suddenly finds himself caught up in the past. Richard Pruitt is impossible to read and not at all to be trusted, and the same goes for his niece, Poppy. Matt is being pulled in different directions. Scarlett’s safety could depend upon him, but there is a lot that remains unresolved between him and James which further complicates matters. And when Kennedy returns to town, she brings with her a flood of old memories that threaten to distract him. Matt’s life of hotels and one-night stands wasn’t a life he fully embraced but a life that helped him get by. Indulging Penny’s desire to play matchmaker opens him up to a whirlwind of mixed feelings and risk-taking, which leave him off his game when Richard Pruitt finally gets serious about getting Matt’s attention. Kennedy’s entrance brings back all the memories of Brooklyn and Empire High that Matt has tried to get past. His memories of Kennedy are so closely linked with his memories of Brooklyn that Kennedy feels like home to him. As Matt warms to the idea of a second chance at love after Brooklyn, Kennedy might just be the next best thing. This book ends with a twist that changes everything!
IN THIS BOOK:
This book opens the day after the disastrous Thanksgiving dinner at the Pruitt home sixteen years ago – the day Brooklyn had supposedly died.
Brooklyn Sanders, sixteen, has a bad habit of losing the people she loves. She had lost her mother to cancer and then her uncle died as well, but her loss would not end there. Brooklyn had lost her best judgment perhaps, but her heart had been in the right place when she conspired with the Hunter brothers in hopes of reconciling them and Matthew. The joke was on Isabella, though, and the blame was all placed on Brooklyn. It had cost her Matthew’s love and Kennedy’s friendship. With Felix arrested, Brooklyn had nobody. And when she awoke to discover that her father had stolen her kidney, there was nobody to ask about her well-being. And when her father further decided to kidnap her and hold her indefinitely against her will – for her own safety – nobody came to her rescue. Brooklyn was utterly alone, and according to her father, everyone was happier now that she was gone.
She did have Miller, though. Her former bodyguard had been secreted away as well to ensure Brooklyn’s safety in her new fancy prison. Aside from an occasional visit from her father and her online classes, Brooklyn’s life had been reduced to a small bubble. She planned her escape and dreamed of returning to Matthew, but she couldn’t safely walk away without endangering others, including Miller. She couldn’t live with that on her conscience, so she cooperated while plotting. But as time went on, and as her father gave her updates, the real risk was that she would return to Matthew too late. He thought she was dead, so she could hardly blame him for seeking out comfort – she had done the same with Miller. Miller had made his feelings for Brooklyn clear in the fall, but she had chosen Matthew. She made promises to Matthew that she intended to keep. But as Matthew seemed to recover his happiness, Brooklyn had to struggle with the idea that he might indeed be better off without her. His last words to her had stung, after all.
Brooklyn must seek out her own happiness in this book, and the journey is not easy. She had been a Sanders, then was thrust against her will into the Pruitt family. She had been about to become a Caldwell. And now she is nobody. Her journey to understand her own heart and mind is sometimes rocky. Her feelings are rather unstable and hard to follow at times, but it eventually evens out, so be patient. Brooklyn carves out a life for herself despite the danger that lingers, but as is hinted at near the end of book four, things get explosive in the Pruitt family, and her story ends in another devastating cliffhanger that syncs her story with Matthew’s.
Book six should bring Matthew and Brooklyn face to face again in the present day, age thirty-two.
Wow! Brooklyn’s story is emotional and raw. It is a beautiful love story, one that you get to witness change over time. It is richly described in a way that puts you right in the middle of the life Brooklyn made for herself. It might feel wrong at first, but it feels wrong to Brooklyn as well. She grows and evolves, and the Brooklyn that shows up in New York is a woman that didn’t just hide for sixteen years. She lived a beautiful life during that time. But Brooklyn knows luck is not on her side, and she eventually must return to New York, even if it is the last place she wants to be. Her relationship with her father remains confusing – and how that plays out in book six is certain to be interesting.
This book covers half of Brooklyn’s lifetime – from age sixteen until age thirty-two It is a real tearjerker. Her love for Matthew causes her considerable pain and hardship, and her struggle to keep her promise to him is raw. As her reality settles in, though, she is faced with the love of a wonderful man who never deserted her. Miller has remained a gentleman, a few rather inappropriate kisses aside. I will also note that she is underage. Yes, with her hardship she might have been mature for her age, but she is nevertheless too young. If those stolen kisses had taken place when she wasn’t underage, I would have been happier about it. It shows a flaw in judgment, especially on Miller’s part, who is otherwise pretty reliable.
Get ready for a tearjerker! This is a great addition to the series. Brooklyn is a woman of her word, so when Matthew seems to break his promises to her, she has to look deep to find the pathway to happiness. Brooklyn’s sixteen-year absence has beautiful highs and devastating lows. As she struggles to gain a semblance of control, she ends up finding that happiness is sometimes right in front of you if you only give it chance.
The story is well-written. The plot is quite complex and layered. The characters are carefully crafted and three-dimensional. The book is written in first person in Brooklyn’s POV. I rate this book 4.5 stars.
I received an advance copy of this book and am voluntarily leaving a review.
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