Early Book Review: Being Emerald (New Atlanta #3) by Sylvia Ryan
*** This review is SPOILER-FREE! Read on with confidence! ***
* Being Emerald is part of a continuing series and should not be read as a standalone. If you must, you must, but I think you’d be cheating yourself. =) *
Being Emerald is as different from the first two books in this series as they were from each other. Rock is… ‘intense’ is not nearly extreme enough a descriptor for this man. He is complex, unpredictable, overwhelming, stubborn as hell, and addictive. The sex scenes between Rock and Laila are, whew, smokin’! I appreciated each new evolution of their relationship and rebelled against Rock’s immovable authority right along with Laila. Sometimes it takes more courage to submit than to fight, and the way Ms. Ryan threads all Rock’s “lessons” through to the final plot sequence—transforming the private, personal experiences into life-saving survival skills—weaves a beautiful tapestry of shared trust and determination to succeed at all costs.
Being Amber flirted with BDSM—Xander used it as a tool to help Jaci cope—and Being Sapphire introduced it as a lifestyle choice for Jordan and Shane, but Being Emerald dives right off into the deep water of pair-bonding. Anyone who has read the series so far knows about the gruff, domineering armor Rock wears like a shield, but it’s not just a shell; those alpha traits are a compulsion and control is a requirement for his happiness. The relationship Rock and Laila build is hard won, and I don’t think either one of them would like it any other way. He needs—truly craves and relishes—her dependency and total submission to his will, and she loves him so much that she can’t keep from giving him everything, yet she’s independent and spunky enough to need to hold back and (sometimes unintentionally) brat a little. All the main personalities so far in the series have been very strong, vastly different from one another and particularly memorable. Most of them haven’t changed much from when we first met them in Being Amber, but Journey is one you can see slowly growing throughout the books. I’m curious to see where her path wanders in her own story, and I imagine she is aptly named. *wink*
Overall, I enjoyed this story a lot. After blazing through the first two very emotional installments, however, I was left wanting just a little with Being Emerald. In comparison to other books and series in this genre, it still stands out as a “must read”, but lined up next to Ms. Ryan’s stellar work on its predecessors, I felt there were fragments missing—little details which could have better tied up plot lines and filled in story pieces. General Morgan, for all his bluster and evil, still really hasn’t lived up to the monster he’s been built up to be, not in his personal scenes anyway. There were story segments where I didn’t have any sense of how fast time was progressing, and the characters would do or say something that made me have to stop and think “wait, when did they do that?” I’m also not sure I believe Rock would have truly made the decision he ultimately did in order to keep Laila “safe”. It felt like a plot device for the author to maneuver Laila into a position that would allow the delivery of a key piece of intel for the continuation of the overall series’ story arc. All that said, the book still packs emotional punch and is definitely worth the read for fans of the series.
So far in the New Atlanta series, the end of each story has brought about a wholly different emotion in me. Amber was cultural shock and a warm feeling of unity, Sapphire was respect and a sense of sisterly pride, but at the end of Emerald, I realized something that wasn’t a surprise but did make me profoundly sad anyway. I won’t talk about that here, to keep from giving inadvertent spoilers, but I will say that those of you who wondered about the differences in the epilogues for Amber and Sapphire will gain a little insight at the close of Emerald. Check out all the epilogues on her website!
She peered up at him. His eyes were closed. He was content tonight, almost light. She felt the same. Playfully, she opened and closed her eyes in rapid succession, fluttering her eyelashes against his pectoral, trying to tickle him. He chuckled.
She did it again.
“Laila.” This time, there was a clear warning in his tone. He pulled her in tight so her eyelashes smooshed against his chest.
“What’s the matter? Afraid if you have fun I won’t think you’re Superman?”
“I’m fun,” he muttered.
Rock loosened his bear hug and tilted his head to meet her gaze. “What?”
“Rock Rodgers. Sorta sounds like the name of a super hero.”
He flashed a wry expression. “Okay, Laila Lewis.”
“You don’t see the similarity between Laila Lewis and Lois Lane?”
“Who’s Lois Lane?”
Laila flashed her brightest smile at him. “I’m teasing you, Superman.”
Her years in Sapphire had taught her to keep her mouth shut. Any poorly chosen word could be used against her, or twisted by changing the inflection, altering the tone. It was a short jump from prejudice to hatred and too easy for anybody to whisper her name in a Guard’s ear.
That’s how Sapphire and Emerald operated. They were a society of sycophants, robots scared to be who they truly were for fear of rubbing someone the wrong way. The consequences could be deadly. They all were so incredibly tense and scared, it altered the way humans interacted with each other. There, a room full of people was still an isolated place. It was sad how they’d evolved through some kind of warped version of survival of the fittest, where the fittest were those who conformed. What once was a species that felt free to express themselves, love one another, and had the courage to fight for what was right had boiled down to this society of terrified souls trapped in a shell of conformity.
Fear paled every experience, muted joy, impeded love. How could a person love when they were too afraid to show themselves to someone else? Her distance was instinctual. It was self-preservation.
Being Emerald is…