Overall Rating: ⭐⭐⭐⭐
“So, I fell in love. What a tragedy.”
(TW: depression, drug addiction, mentions of suicide, suicide attempt.)
What an intense and emotional journey this book has been! Road To Dawn cleverly explores the highs and lows of life and love, from drug addiction and heartbreak, to strong, solid relationships between friends and lovers, and finding exactly where you’re meant to be in life. It’s been hard not to give too much away, but please enjoy my review of this impactful book and do support the author by sharing or buying your own copy if you like the sound of it!
About the book
Claire Saint, haunted by her past, yearns for happiness but can’t seem to shake the shadow resting on her soul. With a new job and friends by her side, she attempts to get her life together. Then, she meets Lee—a seemingly carefree man with an aura that fascinates her. Lee shows Claire his self-intoxicating way to find contentment. Will she succumb to the darkness? Or find the light she is so desperately searching for?
The opening to this book was really clever! On that very first page, the author lures us into the story and introduces us to the main character in such a creative way. We can instantly tell the kind of person Claire Saint is and exactly what pain she’s been through in her life from such beautifully crafted sentences. It had me feeling hooked within the first few minutes! I just love it when a book affects you this way from the very start, and I had such high hopes for a memorable story. I instantly warmed to Claire and loved following her journey as she joins a local tattoo parlour; she’s a keen artist and it seemed that this was the break she’d been after for such a long time. I was already asking myself questions about her future, what she’d experience, whether she’d get the happiness she deserved, or whether she’d ever be able to get over her past. Such a complex character, but one I was so keen to get to know on a much deeper level.
The pacing of the book was fast so far, but it worked. I found Claire’s relationship with her new colleagues to be so interesting to follow; it seemed spending time with them was really good for her, and the more I read, the clearer it was that she was genuinely in her happy place, something that warmed my heart! However, we soon meet Lee, a character that Claire is instantly smitten by, something unexpected for her, but something she welcomed and embraced all the same. Lee was a fascinating character that really interested me. Just how would his presence change Claire’s life? And would it be for the better or worse? I liked hearing the pair’s conversations and how Lee made Claire feel, but the ending sentence of one chapter really got me thinking about the real Lee and what he was up to. I was obviously about to change my mind about Lee at some point, and I just hoped and prayed he’d not hurt Claire after we’d already heard about her thoughts of suicide in the past.
“We all had longing in our eyes – the longing for freedom, love and immortality. There was hope in us and that alone was worth celebrating.”
As time went on, the pacing of the book got better and better which I was glad about, and I genuinely felt so involved in Claire’s life and her thoughts and emotions. The author subtly tackles so many issues, from mental health to gender equality and sexuality, and we learn just how important Claire’s job and passing her exams is to her. You easily find yourself rooting for this character, and I really couldn’t help but want her to succeed in each and every task. Small details about the kind of person Lee is come to light, but nothing that set huge alarm bells ringing in my head just yet. I kept a very close eye on him though and was desperate to know his secrets! All the characters so far were so well created and developed, definitely one of the author’s strong points. After a swift disappearance from Lee when Claire last saw him, he reaches out to meet again, with Claire’s colleague and friend, Rick, watching out for her – you can see that all he wants is to protect Claire from whatever it is Lee is up to, even though they were friends.
I felt a weird sense of pride as Claire got her first tattoo job as a newly qualified tattoo artist, and the detail the author goes into about the process of the job really worked well. I thought the descriptions and attention to the smaller details was fantastic, and it always felt a joy to jump into a new chapter. Nothing seemed rushed, and we have such a deep understanding of not only the characters in the book, but the plot and where it could go from here. As Claire and Lee meet again, we see Claire make a dark decision, one that would change her life, something that could potentially send her backwards after all the progress she’d made and make her become someone she really doesn’t want to be. I enjoyed the feeling of not knowing what could happen next and was so desperate to follow Claire’s story from here onwards. I hoped some of my questions would be answered soon! A really great start to the book, and things were certainly getting interesting…
Drug addiction consumes Claire’s life and Lee turns into quite a bad influence on her, something which I desperately wanted to fix. Claire seemed so involved with this guy, but I suppose aside from the drugs, he seemed like someone who would fix her and just someone who adored her. Adding drugs into the mix just made me feel like bad things would happen – I predicted Lee would change his ways, but maybe I’d be proven wrong. The story gets deep and complex as Claire’s world is completely transformed, and the author does a really impressive job of writing all this. It can’t have been easy! As Claire’s guard is let down, she tells Lee about her past, something that I was very intrigued about from the start and the kinds of things she’d been through were so upsetting. Her story brings them both even closer, with Lee being such a crucial component in how she lives each and every day. The author’s words were just so powerful and had such an impact on me. I couldn’t get enough at this point!
The balance between the joyous side of tattooing for Claire, and the darkness of the drug taking created such an amazing contrast in the book, and the effect this had on my reading experience was just so overwhelming. In a good way! I became so transfixed on Claire’s life with Lee by her side that I regularly lost track of time, just in awe by how things had changed for her and reading chapter after chapter with urgency. I’m always desperate for the author of a book to give me that hook, something difficult to get out of your head, even when you aren’t reading the book, and the author has well and truly nailed that aspect. The book does have a few too many sex scenes for my liking (I’d want a bit of breathing space, at least some of the time!) but I’m well aware romance lovers will enjoy all the book has to offer on that front, and they’re not actually as vulgar as some other scenes I’ve read in my time. I’m just super picky! Saying this, I was still keen to see how Claire and Lee’s relationship developed in the second half of the story.
“Instead of walking on the path of light, the two of us fell into darkness – and we let it happen with a clear conscience. The things we did to ourselves we did with the purest of intentions.”
I sensed a bit of jealousy from Claire as other characters get close with Lee. At this point, I couldn’t tell whether Claire was imagining things or whether there was genuinely something for her to worry about. Little details like this made me think that the drugs she and Lee were taking on a regular basis were affecting her in more ways than one, that she was slowly losing the person she was was and being replaced by someone unfamiliar to her. The description of her withdrawal symptoms from the drugs was so brilliantly written, so intense and so terrifying that you could almost feel her pain and discomfort. The story quickly took an unexpected turn, making me feel so much rage and sadness for Claire as her world comes crashing down once again. The author has well and truly shown what she can do as a writer in these scenes of chaos, and has approached them with care, attention to detail and a huge dollop of passion. I couldn’t even begin to imagine how Claire could build herself back up after this. Would Lee ever be back in her life after such a traumatic event?
Claire falls into a depression, something I desperately didn’t want to happen for her, but something that felt inevitable after everything she’d gone through in her life in the past, and everything she’s experiencing in the present. I’m trying so hard to not give away any spoilers, but the powerful paragraphs of feeling just explode off the page, and I genuinely feel like these paragraphs were some of the best I’ve ever read. I felt everything the author needed to get across here and I feel like I’m repeating myself, but the talent here is just so so clear to me. There are some upsetting scenes (TW: suicide attempt) but I didn’t feel like the author went too over the top with this. It felt so raw and real and to be honest, I feel things like this should be covered in fiction more, to some extent. The author has approached this perfectly and created a prime example of the right way to write this. I had no idea where Claire’s life could go from here, but I was desperate for the end of the book to see just how the author works her magic to round off Claire’s story.
After losing a friend to suicide in June, reading Claire’s thoughts about ending her life hit home for me. Even though it was upsetting, I’m so thankful the author has covered this in such a way that brings hope to others. I feel like so many people in a certain frame of mind can read Claire’s story and understand that there is help available, and people do care for them. Rick and Dillon were incredible characters and really saved Claire’s life. Absolute heroes. Gosh, I can feel myself tearing up just writing this! I loved how we temporarily move away from Claire’s story in one chapter to focus on Lee – even though I despised this character at this point, I was still curious about where he went and what he was doing, so a really great addition! Even after feeling this way about Lee, the author manages to make us feel kind of sorry for him as he loses everything he ever had. Time soon speeds up, and as a year passes since he last saw Claire, it had me wondering whether the two had to cross paths again at some point, and whether they could ever rekindle what they once had.
To try and improve her mood and prove that she was so important to the world, Claire’s friends plan a birthday night out for her, with Dillon planning one big surprise; an appearance from Lee, even after what he did. There was a method behind his madness though, and that was to try and talk some sense into her, to try and stop this addiction and to make her realise the effects of what she was doing to herself. To SAVE her. As much as I admired Dillion’s attempt, his plans backfire as soon as Claire sees Lee, something which I expected to happen. I did wonder if, after the initial shock and anger subsided, she’d rethink and want to see him. The author keeps us on our toes, and there’s always something to think about and something you want to explore further. The more we read, the more we want to save Claire, and if that means she has to have a conversation with the guy who broke her heart, then so be it! I felt so much suspense as we got closer and closer to the end, and it was a great experience. I just hoped and prayed Claire would change her ways and work to save herself.
“Neither of us knew what the future would hold. How unfortunate we didn’t share the same dream.”
After giving Lee a second chance and the pair of them agreeing to leave the junk alone to get healthy and live a life they both wanted, things go wrong. Again. However, this time, Claire shows just how strong she’s become, how desperate and determined she is for a better future, and how much she’s willing to let go to become the person she needs to be. I LOVED how she’d changed from the beginning of the book, and this change is something so many people could learn from. It was so incredibly refreshing, and joining her on this journey was such a memorable experience that I’d always keep close to me. I felt Claire’s emotions so deeply and the author has flawlessly portrayed every single detail of this character’s life with such clarity. I feel like I know Claire on a personal level, and it’s such a strange feeling! I knew I’d be satisfied with the book’s ending, and that Claire would thrive in everything she did. However, would anything else stand in her way before she settled down?
The ending scenes whizzed by (almost too quickly!) and were filled with new beginnings, positive futures and a love I was desperate to see blossom since early on! As well as Claire’s point of view, we also read one of the final chapters from Rick’s point of view, a character who I’d loved dearly from the very beginning. It was the perfect ending, and this chapter seemed to be filled with knowledge and wisdom, something really memorable to take away from the book and to get you thinking about the bigger picture. It was interesting hearing Rick’s viewpoint about certain events we’d seen along the way, and even hearing the smaller details of his and Claire’s journey we hadn’t yet heard was nice to experience. Those final words just made it clear that even though Claire’s journey was far from easy, it was all worth it to get to where she ended up. It was the heartwarming ending I’d been dying to read and I don’t think there was a better way to write this finale! I finished the book feeling so great in myself and for that I really do have the author to thank – thank you for sharing Claire’s story with us!
If you’re a lover of romance in all its forms, are impartial to reading about the darkness and intense emotions some relationships can bring and even love a bit of drama, then stop what you’re doing right now and go and buy this book! I’m still in awe of its beauty, and the author has put her heart and soul into every one of her characters, especially Claire, the main character. Character development is certainly one of the author’s many strengths, and I found the book to be so deep and so unforgettable because of this, with the story line only adding to that memorable experience. I became stupidly attached to Claire and her life, I felt her every emotion as if it was my own, and I was constantly excited to jump back into this story each day. This author certainly deserves a place on any romance lover’s radar, and I’m so thrilled with the end result of this book. An amazing achievement! I’m looking forward to reading more of this author’s work in future 😊
Huge thanks to the author, Mia Zephyr, for my copy of this book to read and review! You can purchase your own copy of Road To Dawn over on Amazon, available on Kindle or in paperback. Make sure you’re following the author over on Twitter and Instagram to keep up to date!