A gripping, enthralling and consuming series that’ll embed itself in your heart and soul…
Right, I’ve been meaning to write this review for a while now. I’d like to say it was procrastination that caused my delay, but the truth is that I really was left speechless. When I was sent this series to review I was told that Natexus wasn’t exactly what I would usually pick up. It’s really sad that that is true, but it’s actually even more depressing that I could’ve missed out on not just this fabulous series, but also learning of a fantastic author… and when I say fantastic, I really do mean it. Victoria L. James is really just beautiful. Her writing is nothing short of flawless, gritty, and awing. Within the first few pages of book #1, Natexus, she had me in rivulets of tears. Proper ugly girl crying, whilst already beginning to love Alex something crazy. I’m not going to say that this was the lightest read of my life— it isn’t that by a long shot, however, it’s also not this complete dark tale. Quite frankly, Victoria has got the perfect balance between the two.
When I went into Natexus I thought that this was going to be more of a YA story— tame and restrained. PC even. I was wrong. Period. Yes, it’s not about raving, wild sex and the romance in this series is something different to most other Contemporary New Adult books around. In a brilliant way.This isn’t a series that goes out of it’s way to make you wet and horny, normally I would probably be a bit put off, but there’s something about this book that goes beyond physicality. This story is all about the angst and turmoil of young love. First, everlasting, love. Here’s the crazy thing, I’m writing this review and my heart is racing and my eyes are tearing up thinking of this story. Maybe that makes me soft, but I think that only proves how amazing and gripping Natexus really is.
So, book #1 (Natexus) is split into two parts. The first being where Natalie and Alex cross paths. This happens in the first chapter and they are pretty quick to establish their roles. The beautiful thing about Victoria’s writing is that whilst telling Nat’s and Alex’s love story, she is also telling their individual stories in the background. From the off you’re faced with grief and loss, and this is something that has a significant impact to their story. I have to be honest, the first quarter of this book I was in LOVE with Alex. He really was nothing short of a perfect male specimen. For a 16 year old boy, he is incredible and the way in which he cares for Natalie leaves your heart smiling. He’s a bit of an enigma, you know him, but it’s not intimate. The second quarter of the book, that changes dramatically. The more you get to know Alex – fully – the more he becomes a dick. There are obvious reasons for it (you’ll have to read the book to find out), but I felt so disappointed by him. I really hoped that he would step-up to the plate and take the reins… I wanted him to keep swimming, but he drowned. It really devastated me, and I have to admit that really made it difficult for me to warm to Marcus.
Marcus is the transition between the young adult and the adult part of the story. Don’t get me wrong, I did grow to love him and that left me really torn up inside because I felt like I was being disloyal to Alex… don’t judge me, these characters feel absolutely and completely real. The second part of Natexus is when the love drama really hits. I think it becomes more serious because they are adults, but also because this is where the demons really come out to play. This is where the proverbial shit hits the freaking fan… boy do things get messed up. God, I sound like such a bitch for enjoying their angst— but, if I was already hooked based on the first part, screw me sideways, the second part left me begging for more even when I got to The End.
All The Way, the novella, I have to say follows in the greatness of Natexus. You get more of Suzie and Paul (Nat and Alex’s best mates), they are still secondary characters, but they also continue to be comedy gold. There weren’t many times that this series had me laughing BUT when I did laugh (and it was a proper L.O.L) it was pretty much because of these two. I’d actually really love a book on just Paul and Suzie. I don’t know why, but in my mind they’re like this 60s couple… yes, I may be a little cuckoo, but in my head it just makes sense. Anywho, back to Alex and Natalie. I thought that All The Way was going to be their happily ever after, but actually it’s really them getting to know each other again and putting their demons to bed. I think that’s what I loved about it. You don’t have this walking off into everybody’s dream sunset where problems magically disappear. I’m not a cynic. I’m not a downer. Not a party-pooper either… I’m a realist. Shit doesn’t just go poof. Even unicorns have crappy black and grey days. Yup, it’s true, they really do!
So, Marcus. Can I just say that I though he was a right idiot. To think that he could just sweep in and save the girl from her demons. But, more the fool me for thinking that of him. He is the man with the plan…ish. I wasn’t sure whether I was going to love this book as much as the previous two, but actually, I was just as enthralled by it. He is just a big cuddly bear that puts everyone before himself. That’s not to say that he hasn’t got his own issues to deal with, but he is very much a closed book in that respect. This guy is just so delectable that he makes this book almost a little facile to read. If that makes sense? Don’t get me wrong, there are some very uncanny similarities with him and Alex and Alex is just as yummy, but essentially Marcus has this aura that entrances you.
I’m so glad that I took a chance on this series. There wasn’t a single character that was a spare part, there wasn’t a single bit that didn’t add to the bigger picture, because there is a bigger picture. It’s funny but everything happens for a reason, even if it isn’t pretty and perfect to begin with— it’s the end that matters. I think that it’s so easy to get lost in the ideals of where we should be, what we should do, who we should be, that we forget that essentially this is a transient journey and that the pieces will fall where they are meant to. You know, fate will do as she pleases. I think that sums up the plot of this series. I really cannot recommend Natexus enough. It will grab you, rip you apart and somehow put you back together.
Alex was beautiful. A beautiful artwork of tanned skin, brown and copper hair, finished off with those perfect eyes. He was a whole new bubble entirely.
I could barely breathe being so close to him.
I definitely couldn’t move.
“What?” I said suddenly, snapping my head to look back at Sammy, who was now staring at me with a look of amusement on her face.
“I said what do you think?” She grinned.
My heartbeat got faster as the panic set in. I didn’t want to look like a moron in front of anyone, let alone him, but I hadn’t a clue what she was asking my opinion of.
Alex took a step closer, standing taller as he breathed down on me and gifted me with that soft smile of his. “I wasn’t listening to her either.”
“You’re not alone.”
“Glad it wasn’t just me,” I answered quietly as I inhaled and looked up at him, certain there was a dual meaning to what he’d just said. “She talks too much.”
“Is that a common occurrence?”
“All the time.” I smiled genuinely, lost in a cloud of our faint voices and close proximity. Had I been a normal kind of girl, I’d have panicked about all the little things I probably should have been concerned over. I’d have worried if my hair was a mess, or if I had last night’s mascara still smudged beneath my eyes. I’d have been obsessing over the food I’d eaten for lunch still lingering on my breath or if I’d used the nice deodorant that morning. I’d have cared about the clothes I was wearing, or the way I looked like I wanted to be anywhere but there, when in fact, right there was suddenly the only place I’d ever wanted to be. But I wasn’t obsessing about anything. I was just being, feeling, and enjoying the way the pressure in my mind seemed to ease whenever he was nearby. “You get used to it after a while.”
“Is that why you don’t talk so much? Because you can’t get a word in?”
“I guess it would make sense for that to be the case.”
“Something tells me it isn’t, though.”
I frowned, even though I wasn’t annoyed at all. The hint of my last smile was still there on my face. I could feel it. “What do you mean?”
“Nothing.”He shrugged. “Everything.”
“Do you always talk in a way that’s impossible to understand?”
“We’ve only spoken three times in twelve months. I’ve just not had the chance to make you really listen yet.”
“You kept count?” I asked, raising both brows as I tugged on one strap of my bag a little harder than the other. My fingers curled around the material to try to stop my body from responding to him at all.
“I have a good memory for nice moments, Natalie.” Alex tilted his head to one side and smirked as he narrowed his eyes.
He said my name like he cherished it. I’d never heard it spoken that way before.
My chest was tight now, a new fire burning and spreading through it until the smoke of anxiety and uncertainty took my throat hostage again, but I was still smiling. My emotions and my reactions were not in line at all. Twisting my head up and squinting against the harsh lights of the corridor, I gave him a paralysed grin and held his gaze.
“Why do you speak to me that way?” I asked without any thought at all.
“How do I speak to you?”
“Like we’ve known each other our whole lives.” I paused, a thought hitting me all at once as the memory of him in the doorway, watching over Elizabeth, flashed through my mind. For one moment, I was back in that room. I could smell the medicine. I could smell the impending death.
“Why do you look at me every day, Alex? Do you feel you have to? Is it because of…?”
He shook his head, almost violently, all humour draining from his face before he eventually spoke. “Natalie.” He swallowed, the huge Adam’s apple in his neck protruding as it sank down while he regained some composure.
This time, my name on his lips didn’t sound so good. Regret tinged his voice, and a soft wave of sadness washed over me at the realisation that he probably pitied me. I turned to face Sammy. I thought that maybe she could show me something without having to speak again. I wanted to see reassurance in her eyes, a sign that I was being too cynical or sensitive –one of those looks she wore that could make me cower like a beta wolf to the alpha. But when I searched for her, she had gone. Vanished. No longer there. She’d left me and I hadn’t even noticed.
“Natalie,” he whispered again. The school bell rang out loudly, causing my shoulders to flinch in surprise, bringing me back down to earth with a bump.
“I should go,” I muttered.
Alex’s hand flew out to reach for my arm, grabbing hold of my bicep in much the same way Sammy had done earlier, only somehow with much more tenderness, while keeping me exactly where he wanted me to be. I was rooted to the floor as I looked back up at him through cautious eyes.
“What are you doing?” I frowned.
“Listen to me. I know we don’t know each other. I know there isn’t much to tell anyone about us, either. We don’t speak. We don’t have a need to. I get it. I’ve been at this school for just under a year now. That’s all. I’m already on every sports team you can imagine. I’m passing all my classes. I’m so far ahead I could take the rest of this year off and still not fall behind. I know almost everything there is to know about every guy in our year, and almost all the girls…besides you. I don’t have to get on that bus every morning at the time I do, because half of my timetable doesn’t even begin until the afternoon.”
His eyes searched mine intently, looking in every corner, at every fleck of white, blue and black that I owned. I was being stripped naked without shedding a single item of clothing. The feeling made my insides tighten and my knees begin to shake. I wasn’t scared –far from it. I was embarrassed. I was ashamed. I was also speechless, so I remained quiet, only creasing my brows together just a little more to emphasise my confusion.
“I don’t talk to you because I know what I saw that night. I can see how you see yourself in my eyes now. I know what moment I intruded on.”
“Please, let me finish. I don’t know if I’m ever going to get a chance to say this again because I don’t know if we’ll ever get to talk. I just wanted you to know…I’ve wanted you to know since the day after it happened…” He paused, parting his lips to suck in a long breath before he spoke out through his exhale. “I don’t pity you. I don’t think you’re weak. I don’t have anything but respect for you and what I saw that night. What I witnessed –I won’t ever forget it. I had no right to be there, but I was. How that came to be, I will never really know. I shouldn’t have stepped through that door, but I did and now I’m the one who should be embarrassed. I’m the one who doesn’t know what to say, but, that doesn’t stop me from feeling some weird kind of gratitude. I felt privileged to have been there, you know? To witness what you two had, to be in those moments with you and your family. It was the kind of thing you only read about. I couldn’t turn away no matter how hard I tried. I’d never seen two people being so open with each other before. I saw your pain, Natalie. I saw it and I guess it’s why I get on the bus each morning. I look at you every day because I want to… because I need to. Something happened to me that night that I can’t explain. I don’t need to hear you speak. I’m not hot on conversation myself. I just need to get on that bus every day, see you and make sure you’re alright.”
My lips barely moved when I pushed out a dry whisper. “I’m alright, Alex.”
He studied me for a moment, his grip on my arm turning loose before he let his hand fall away completely. “I know.” He smiled, raising a brow. “I know.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I see you’ve started smiling more lately.”
My head dipped without warning and the blush rose to my cheeks like a tidal wave. I’d always known we were aware of each other. There was something between us that couldn’t be described, but I’d never, not in all of my daydreams, imagined that he had taken so much notice for the sake of my sister.
“You’re being charming again,” I said through a muted laugh, skimming my trainer over the surface of the school’s shiny floor just for something to do before I looked back up at him again.
“I do that a lot.” He grinned.
I chuckled, raising both brows and nodding slowly. “Thank you.”
“For giving me something to look forward to in life, when, for the last year, I’ve not really seen much to live for at all.”
“And what do you have to live for now?” he asked, his eyes bright as he tilted his head to the other side.
The hall bell rang out again, the high-pitched shrill loud enough to call a flock of seagulls back from the other side of the world. Yet we both stayed there, completely still, lost in our moment and the twisted smirks.
When I eventually released my smile’s full potential, I huffed out yet another small laugh and took a single step closer.
“The bus journey to school every morning.”Then I walked away, past Alex, our arms brushing against one another as I tried to sidestep, only to misjudge the distance completely. At that moment, I didn’t feel peace. There was only adrenaline, and a really weird tightening going on in the very depths of my stomach, like a thousand butterflies had just been set free after almost seventeen years of darkness and imprisonment.
They felt good, really good. I may have even kept that smile on my face until the moment my head hit the pillow later that evening when, for the first time in a long while, I dreamed that I was somewhere else –somewhere a world away from dirt and desperation, somewhere peaceful. Somewhere warm. Somewhere the sky was the colour of caramel, and the clouds were outlined with bright, twinkling hazel borders.
And it was beautiful.
About the Author
Victoria L. James is a teenage girl stuck inside a thirty-something-year-old’s body. A Corona and nacho appreciator with a ridiculous obsession for all things Rocky Balboa, she currently lives in Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two baby boys. Having had a strong passion for words and stories going as far back as she can remember, she credits her love of literature to her Grandma Bess who taught her that you don’t need a lot of money to travel to different worlds, experience new places, and live a thousand lives. And so Victoria’s unexpected journey to writing began, one impressionable Sweet Valley High book and tragic diary entry at a time.
Wearing her heart on her sleeve and trying to lighten life with naff, and more often than not badly-timed, nineties jokes, she has yet to learn the art of knowing when to shut up. A firm believer in never quitting and a champion of every underdog that exists, she dreams of being able to write forever, hoping her stories will inspire at least one person out there to keep on pushing against the tide of their own struggles. Reading is always the ultimate escape.