Withering Hope by Layla Hagen

After crash landing in the Amazon, Aimee needs to rely on Tristan to survive. As time progresses, she realizes he needs her just as much. A story of survival, mutual reliance, and love.

What’s it About?

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En route to a tropical paradise, overworked and dedicated Aimee Myller is ready to begin her new life. But when the plane defects, the pilot, sexy Tristan Bress, needs to make an emergency landing in the heart of the Amazon rainforest. With no way to reach civilisation, being rescued is their only hope. A slim one that withers away, desperation taking its place. Because death wanders in the jungle under many forms: starvation, disease, and fangs of beasts.

Forced to fend for themselves, Tristan and Aimee begin to forage for food and shelter. As they fight for survival, they grow closer. Despite knowing he’s off limits, Aimee can’t deny her attraction to Tristan. Tristan knows Aimee is the one woman he can’t have. But how can he fight love when she’s slowly becoming everything to him?

First Impressions

In a way, this story is more so one of survival than romance. The whole novel is sort of a slow build to Aimee and Tristan finally giving into their desire for each other, but essentially every scene from the moment they crash land on this hill in the Amazon involves them engaged in tasks of ensuring their survival. While some are intense, such as a face-off battle with a jaguar, for the most part we kind of focus on the monotony of their daily struggles. Light the signal fire, gather more wood, fruit, take a shower, practice weaponry, sleep, and repeat the next day. Pretty repetitive, and not always the most forward moving plot, but in a way you have to appreciate the realism of that scenario. These two are on their own, and they needed to be stranded for some time in order for us to believe, and more importantly support, the development of their relationship. The longer they spend in the jungle, the more their hope for rescue withers away, in addition to their hope of keeping their hands off of each other.

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A Slow Burning Flame

As Aimee and Tristan struggle to survive, we see their relationship slowly build into something more significant. This slow progression was something which I particularly appreciated. Tristan has always had a bit of a thing for Aimee, and while she’s always treated him cordially, they were far from friends. Upon first landing, he’s pretty quiet and tries to keep to himself, whereas Aimee seeks solace in talking so as not to go crazy at being so far removed from civilization. Only as time passes do they start to open up to each other. They slowly start to discuss their favorite foods, colors, flowers, etc. but eventually they get to some more emotional details of their pasts. Tristan eventually opens up about the horrors he experienced as a solider in Afghanistan, and Aimee discusses the untimely death of her parents who were absent, yet loving, for most of her life.

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Throughout this time she forces herself to stop thinking of her fiancé, because the thought of him searching and waiting for her is too hard to bare. Only when a few months have passed, and Aimee starts sleeping next to Tristan to calm his night terrors, does she start to feel something stirring within her. Surprisingly, it’s not really passion or even lust, but rather guilt. Guilt over the fact she’s starting to feel something for this man which goes beyond friendship. She feels it’s a betrayal to her fiancé. Aimee may have forced herself not to think of her fiancé, but now she can’t help but remember him in those moments where Tristan’s touch makes her feel alive. This inner quandary she’s fighting with, in addition to the fact she and Tristan didn’t immediately fall in love, makes us sympathize with her difficult emotional struggle.

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From Monotony to Bursts of Suspense

While the first half or so of the novel deals with Aimee and Tristan struggling to survive, the bulk of the suspense to the plot doesn’t really come around until the end of the book, and it’s just jam-packed with calamity after calamity. It had me holding my breath in anticipation more than once, and near tears with the desperation our characters display when presented with the very legitimate possibility of losing the other person. You really do question if either of these characters will make it out of the jungle alive, and if they do whether their love will survive the transition back into the real world.

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Series: Stand-Alone

Final Impressions: Overall this is a pretty good read. It’s a story of survival and love in the jungle. The progression of Tristan and Aimee’s relationship from acquaintances to friends to family is an intriguing one that is built upon openness and emotional trust. There were parts of the story that lagged with the repetitive monotony of survival in the jungle, though I definitely think I learned some good survival skills along the way. Although, the bugs, snakes and jaguars of the Amazon would still probably kill me in the end! There was a heartbreaking epilogue that I actually probably could have done without, as it seemed like a last minute attempt to pull some tears outta ya, but overall an entertaining read.

Smut Level: It takes quite some time for anything physical to develop between Aimee and Tristan, which was an aspect I certainly appreciated. Any other way and it would have seemed forced, and it probably would have been more difficult to sympathize with Aimee’s decision to sleep with someone who wasn’t her fiancé. Nothing toooooo graphic when all is said and done.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Self-Published. 262 Pages.

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