by Tempest Phan
Publication: December 20, 2020
Series: Art of Sinners #1
**I received a copy of the book from the author. I voluntarily read and reviewed it. All opinions are my own.**
“The course of true love never did run smooth.” The Shakespearean proverb rings true in Damien, Forever (2021) as Bella and Damien’s path to love is hindered by multiple obstacles with the greatest one being Damien himself. Bella and Damien’s friendship begins at a young age and transcends their upbringing and the social classes each belongs to. As much as they tell one another and others they are just friends, they secretly pine for the other. The book spans their high school years to life after college with the recurring theme of pining for the person you love.
Bella is a Pollyanna character who prefers her boys inked. While I initially liked her, there were things she would say or do that made me cringe, such as constantly referring to Damien as “my Damien James.” (I couldn’t help but wonder if it sounded bad in my head but would have sounded better from an audio narrator. This has happened to me before in a few books.) Damien is the brooding bad boy who refuses to give up his friendship with Bella but is also unwilling to offer her more. He’s fiercely protective of her but he’s also constantly lamenting how she deserves better.
The first half of the book focuses on their friendship throughout high school and the second half moves on to college and their lives after. While their high school years firmly establish their connection, it also becomes somewhat repetitive from hanging out to tortured feelings to defying parental rules. I thought this could have been cut down to focus more on life after high school. I enjoyed the second half much more as their self-contained relationship expanded to include new environments and other people. I wish more time had been devoted to life during and after college because this was an opportunity to delve into who Bella and Damien were without the other. Could their feelings for one another withstand changes? Because neither character evolves very much, the emotional torment continues to make them bleed for the other.
Did I enjoy it? Yes. Did the book also make me mad? Yes, so much, but I couldn’t stop reading it. The book straddles being a dark romance, blurring the lines in a few places but never completely embracing all the characteristics of the subgenre. The relationship, while initially a slow burn, started to feel emotionally unhealthy for me as they became adults and other people became caught in their web. I knew that Bella and Damien were endgame, and I might have started out firmly on them getting together, but by the book’s conclusion, I wished Bella and Damien had made different choices. I wanted to yell at them! I look forward to the next book centered on Lukas, who I initially disliked but liked a lot by the end.