Living Out Loud (Austen #3) by Staci Hart


Living Out Loud, an all-new emotional standalone from Staci Hart is now live!

Now available on
Amazon.com * Amazon.de *  Goodreads

Synopsis:

When Annie Daschel arrives in New York City, the only thing she can control is her list.

Not her father’s death or the loss of her home. Not the hole in her heart or the defective valve that’s dictated so much of her life. But she can put pen to paper to make a list of all the ways she can live out loud, just like her dad would have wanted.

See the city from the top of the Empire State Building: Check.
Eat hot dogs on the steps of The Met: Check.
Stand in the middle of Times Square: Check.
Get a job at Wasted Words: Check.

Two things not on her list: Greg Brandon and Will Bailey. And just like that, she finds herself caught in the middle of something she can’t find her way out of, with no clear answers and no rules.

List or no list, she realizes she can’t control anything at all, not even her heart.

Not the decisions it makes, and not the moment it stops.

Inspired by Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility.


Review:

Living Out Loud was a wonderful read. I loved Annie so much and Greg was absolutely wonderful. Oh, I loved this story.

Annie is a super sweet, naive girl who is new to New York City. She comes from a small town in Texas and has a heart condition that makes it so she hasn't been able to experience life quite like everyone else. She has to be a bit more careful in the things she does, can't run and play with the other kids growing up. She and her family have been trying to start living again after the loss of her father and she is determined to do it in a big way. She has a list. A list of things she has never done that she wants to do. Not all of them are big necessarily. Like eat a hot dog on the steps of the Met. It's a simple thing that Annie has never done, but that she wants to. I loved watching her explore the world and everything it has to offer. She may be naive, but she is also outgoing and strong. Courageous and doesn't back down. She was so much fun.

One of the things she wants to accomplish is having a real job for once. She is eighteen and definitely ready to be a bit independent. When she heads to Wasted Words to see if they are hiring she literally runs into Greg first thing. Oh, it was cute. Greg is such an amazing guy. A bit older than Annie, and kind of her boss, but oh, he was wonderful. He is one of those people that will put your thoughts and feelings above his own. He knows he shouldn't like Annie like that, she is too young, but he can't help but fall for her. He is not one to fall for someone easily, he hasn't dated in a while, he is just usually not that person. But how can he not fall for sweet, kind, caring Annie? She is so full of life and is so amazing how could he not love her? All he wants is for her to be happy, even if that means he is not. Even if that means letting her figure things out for herself. Because that is all he wants. Her to be happy. Even if it is not with him. Oh, he is one of my favorite book guys! So selfless and kind and all kinds of wonderful.

Things with Annie and Greg were super cute in the beginning, but of course, there are a few bumps along the way. Especially since Annie is naive and has never really dated or fallen in love with anyone so she doesn't really know what it is supposed to feel like. She thinks that she will instantly know the second she meets her one because that is how it is in all of her romance books she reads. Only real life doesn't work out that way. Sometimes real life is even better than that fantasy life you always imagined, even if it takes time to get there. Greg and Annie were wonderful characters on their own, but together they were even better. I loved this story so much. From the first words I was drawn in and didn't want to put it down.

*Note: I received a free copy of this book for voluntary review consideration

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★1/2



Excerpt:

GREG

We chatted as we walked down Fifth to the bike rental station and unlocked one of the blue bicycles. And a little while and one park bench later, we were walking through the park in search of a grassy stretch off the beaten path.

We found what we had been looking for—a space lined with trees, somewhat shielded from the rolling, open knoll by boulders jutting up out of the grass.

“This looks good,” I said, lowering the kickstand before taking off my backpack.

She pulled off her bag, looking nervously at the bike as she took a seat in the grass. A thin sheen of sweat glistened on her cheeks and forehead, her face a little pale.

“You sure you’re okay?” I asked, eyeing her.

She smiled—her favorite way to answer. “It looks worse than it is. Promise.”

I frowned. “Really, maybe the bike is too much. Maybe we can do this after your surgery.”

“Greg, I’m fine. Come sit by me for a minute.”

I kept my arguments to myself and sat next to her.

“The cool air feels so nice,” she said, gathering up her hair and pulling it over one shoulder, exposing her neck.

“When they fix your heart, will you still feel like this?”

“No. I should be able to do anything physical I want within a few weeks of the surgery.”

My brows drew together. “Really? After open-heart surgery?”

“Really. It’s not like a heart transplant or anything. The hardest part of my recovery will be the incision and the fusing of my sternum back together.”

A shudder tickled its way down my spine at the thought of a bone saw opening her rib cage. “What all will they do to your heart?”

“Close the hole, repair my valve. I’ve had open-heart surgery before, but I was too little to remember anything about it. The scar is the only proof that it happened. Well, that and my mother’s stories. But this shouldn’t be too hard on the muscle itself, just some sutures when it’s all said and done. My body will work a lot more efficiently once the surgery is complete—like, immediately. I just have to get through the whole split-ribs thing,” she said with a little smirk. “All right, I feel better. Are you ready?”

She looked better. Her cheeks and lips were tinged with color, and the waxy quality her skin had taken on was gone.

“Ready when you are.”

We got to our feet, and I stepped to the bike to lower the seat. Once it was down, I waved her over.

“Come here and see if this works.”

She climbed on cautiously, her feet on the ground and her hands gripping the handlebars. The seat was probably too low, but I figured it’d be better for her center of gravity—plus she could stop herself easier if she tipped.

“Okay,” I started, one hand on the back seat and my other on the handlebar next to her hand, “I’m gonna hang on and hold you steady while you pedal.”

She shot me a worried glance. “And if I fall?”

“You get up and try again.”

She laughed, not looking convinced.

“Don’t worry; you’re not going to hurt yourself on the grass, but I’m not going to let you fall. I’ve got you, okay?”

With a deep breath, she nodded once. “Okay.”

“All right. Put your feet on the pedals.” My grip tightened when the balance was all on me. “Ready?”

“Ready,” she echoed with determination.

“Now, pedal.”

She did, moving us both forward, the bike only wobbling a little bit under her.

“Good, let’s go to that tree. Just keep it slow like this.”

Her tongue poked out of her lips, her hands white-knuckled on the handlebars until she got to the tree. And when she smiled, it was with more confidence.

“I did it!”

I laughed. “You did. Come on, let’s go back. Ready?”

She nodded, and we took off again. This time, she wobbled a little less, speeding up until I had to trot next to her to keep up.

When we stopped at our backpacks, she cheered. “Again!”

“All right,” I said on a chuckle. “I’m just gonna hang on to the back this time. And…go.”

I did just that, my hands on the back of the seat, the handlebars swerving a little but nothing she couldn’t correct. And then I let go.

She didn’t notice, wholly focused on staying upright, and I kept jogging, pulling up beside her. When she glanced over, I held my hands up in the air and wiggled my fingers.

Her face opened up with joy, and a whoop passed her lips—just before she swerved into me.

A string of expletives hissed out of me as I tried to grab her, but it was too late. She tumbled into me, bike and all, taking us down to the cold grass.

Annie was lying on top of me, her hair tossed across her face. The ground was cold and damp under me, and the handlebar of the bike was jammed into my ribs, but I barely even noticed. Not with Annie sprawled out across my body, her green eyes sparkling and her laughter ringing in my ears.

My own laughter met hers like an old friend.

“Are you okay?” I asked, sweeping her hair out of her face to tuck it behind her ear.

She flushed but made no move to pull away from me. “I’m fine. Are you okay?”

“I’ll live.”

We watched each other for a moment through the rise and fall of my chest, the movement carrying her like a rocking ship. And then she giggled again, climbing off me before reaching for the bike.

It was then that I began to fully comprehend the depth of the trouble I’d found myself in.

About the Author:


Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life -- a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can't forget that. She's also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She's been a wife, though she's certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She's also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she's been drinking whiskey. From roots in Houston to a seven year stint in Southern California, Staci and her family ended up settling somewhere in between and equally north, in Denver. They are new enough that snow is still magical. When she's not writing, she's reading, sleeping, gaming, or designing graphics.

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