Thank you to Jay Crownover and her team for the advance reader copy of Wayward Son, the fourth and final story in The Forever Marked series.
It is bittersweet to be saying a final goodbye (again) to the Marked Men/Saints of Denver/Forever Marked world. I read Rule nearly eight years ago now and it was a book I read very early on in my romance discovery era so I am forever grateful for it being one of the books that made me the reader I am today. So I have adored these second-generation stories, rich with nuance for both old and new characters alike.
I am a Jay Crownover review team member, but I remain honest and genuine in my reviews.
She’s the only girl he’s ever loved.
Zowen Archer has been in love with Aston Wheeler for as long as he can remember.
She’s perfect, except for the glaring fact that she fell in love with his best friend instead of him. For years, he loved her from afar with zero expectation. He told himself that as long as Aston was happy, his feelings for her didn’t matter.
However, Aston isn’t nearly as happy as she seems. And by the time Zowen figures things out, his life takes a drastic turn for the worse.
Now that Aston is single and laser-focused on making up for the lost time between the two of them, Zowen is doing everything in his power to avoid her. He’s convinced that if she never wanted him when he was at his very best, there is no chance in hell she could care about him now that he’s at his absolute worst.
He’s the only boy she’s willing to wait for.
Time has never been on Aston Wheeler’s side.
She spent too long pretending to be someone she was not. She lost herself in a first love that everyone, except her, thought was perfect. She wasted a lot of time trying to convince herself that she should be happy when she was anything but. She watched for years as the one person who made her feel like her true self drifted further and further away.
Finally, when she’s ready to reach out and grab the one-of-a-kind love that Zowen Archer has always silently promised her, it’s too late. Zowen is taken away, and when he reappears in her life, he makes it clear there’s no going back to whatever they might have been.
Good thing for Zowen that Aston is patient and doesn’t mind waiting for him to have a change of heart. It’s the least she can do after all the time he spent waiting for her.
Check out my more detailed thoughts below…
- Characters: Wayward Son’s leads are Zowen and Aston. Zowen is the son of Rome and Cora Archer, while Zowen’s parents are Poppy and Hudson Wheeler. I have been anticipating this story for a while as these characters have been on the sidelines of the other stories. Aston was Ry’s ex-girlfriend in Fortunate Son, so I only viewed her through his lens. Getting in her head is so rewarding, as you get to read the journey of a girl struggling to be her own person and get out from under the thumb of her mother. This is the perfect time to mention how much I commend Jay for how she has written the parents in this second-generation story. The characters we originally fell in love with all those years ago are flawed and so those flaws do not magically go away once they have children. They are not always the best parents, in many cases, they are not always aware of how they pass on their traumas to their children. It was so real to see this though and a risk of Jay’s that makes these stories shine. Zowen is what brings the heaviness to the start of the story, within the first chapter you see his prison sentence delivered after a tragic night of street racing. I also adored two side characters in particular and really hope Jay delivers on something for them!
- Setting: The story is predominately set in Los Angeles, California rather than the Denver we know and love. The space is really good though and we get to go on a very special journey with the couple while they are away from the prying eyes of family and friends. With Daire and Campbell out in California too it started to feel like a second home in the Marked Men universe. But do not worry there is some lovely quality time in Denver and it is there where Jay’s skill of balancing the nostalgia we readers have for the parent characters with their less-than-stellar parental sides.
- Pacing: I flew through this in about a night as from the prologue I was just hooked! It is hard to not devour this as I wanted happiness for both Zowen and Aston and I needed it as fast as humanly possible. I did find that the ending did not enthral me as much, but I was still very happy to have lots of time in the books with the wider cast of characters too.
- Romance: What can I say besides another epic romance from Jay! I loved Zowen and Aston, and as I alluded to before I got really attached to them rather quickly. Their chemistry was electric from the first chapter and I loved all their romantic scenes. This story does fall under a trope I find hit or miss and I was overall happy with how Jay executed it. What a beautiful second chance for Zowen and Aston, and a beautiful ending to the eight-year journey I have been on with the Marked Men characters.
Wayward Son receives 4.5/5 stars.
You can pick up the story here.
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Thank you again to Jay and her team for the review opportunity. Thank you for reading and supporting my blog!