The Tornado by Missy Blue
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I have to start by admitting that I struggle with the New Adult genre. It seems to me that books in this genre are so filled with angst, melodrama, and stupid characters that I just don’t want to bother reading them. I like my romance novels with their Happily Ever Afters firmly in place (but I’ll also accept a Happy For Now). I don’t want to suffer through ridiculous, outlandish drama to get there, though. Thankfully, The Tornado by Missy Blue is an example of a really well done New Adult novel.
The Tornado features Jewel, a ballerina with an extremely traumatic past. When the story begins, she’s working three jobs in hopes of opening her own dance studio one day. In her spare time, she frequents a local gym and practices boxing by herself. Here, she meets the co-owner of the gym, Asher “The Tornado” Prince, a former Marine turned MMA fighter (and rising celebrity).
At first, I wasn’t sure what to make of Asher. He’s this strange dichotomy: exceedingly violent in the ring–which makes him one of the best at what he does–yet also extraordinarily kind to Jewel, even when she turns out to be someone different from the person she originally portrays herself to be. (I’m being purposely vague here. The book opens with a case of mistaken identity, of sorts, that I wasn’t expecting and I think it’s more enjoyable if it’s a surprise.)
As Jewel and Asher get to know each other over time, they become good friends. But even as Jewel allows Asher into her life, he is fully aware that she’s holding him at arm’s length. It’s obvious that Jewel is hiding some kind of secret, some kind of pain from her past that she isn’t ready to share. Asher sees this and respects it. He grew up in an abusive home and knows that Jewel will open up to him when she is ready.
There was an oppressive heaviness that clung to her. Somewhere in the depths of her brown eyes was a sadness, almost a hopelessness. I could see it, but I couldn’t understand it. And Christ, I wanted to understand it.
That’s another thing about Asher: he’s extraordinarily patient with and respectful of Jewel. I have to say that Asher is probably one of my favorite romance heroes that I’ve read in a while. It’s not that he’s perfect; it’s more that he knows who he is as a person and it’s not who the media portrays him to be. He’s also not a typical damaged/tortured NA hero. He’s disciplined, both in his work and as a person. His upbringing had a lot to do with this because he didn’t want to end up like his alcoholic father. Also, his military training only reinforced that structured, regimented aspect of his personality. But above all this, he is so sweet with Jewel. There are so many sigh-worthy moments in this book.
They called him The Tornado. But he was proving to be the shelter to my storm.
Which brings me to the really tough parts of the story.
Spoiler alert and trigger warning:
This book deals with themes of rape and various forms of sexual assault. I had a feeling that this was part of Jewel’s secret, but when it’s revealed, it’s much more brutal than I expected. The narrative is handled well–it doesn’t feel gratuitous in any way–but I think it’s really important to mention.
As Jewel and Asher’s relationship deepens, Jewel really starts to evolve as a person. In the beginning of the book, she still sees herself as a victim and deals with constant anxiety over what happened to her. But throughout the course of the story, she becomes stronger, to the point where she’s no longer the victim; she’s a survivor and a fighter. Asher is part of that growth. He instills confidence in her, encourages her, and is there for her when she needs him to be.
One of my only complaints about the book requires another spoiler alert and trigger warning:
Initially, Jewel deals with her trauma through cutting. Asher learns about this and discusses it with her, but other than those few mentions, it’s not really explored that closely for the rest of the book. It’s mentioned that she stops after Asher discovers it, but I think that the issue could have been dealt with in more detail. As a plot device, its inclusion feels more like an afterthought rather than an important aspect of the plot. That being said, the overall examination of Jewel’s rape and its aftermath are handled really well, so again, this complaint is a small one but something I thought I’d mention anyway.
The book is written in dual point of view, which doesn’t always work effectively but does in this case. Jewel’s voice is very distinct from Asher’s. When Jewel is narrating, I understand that uncertainty and shame that she initially feels. As the book goes on, I feel the strength and playfulness that’s evident in her personality. When Asher is narrating, the voice is rougher, more crass at times, but believably so. The author did a great job of creating distinct voices for each of the main characters, as well as the supporting characters such as family members and friends.
So if, like me, you’re a little skittish about the New Adult genre and tend to avoid it, I can’t recommend The Tornado highly enough. If you like angst, it’s got some of that, but not to the point where I wanted to smack the characters. There are some frustrating moments brought on by other characters, but Jewel and Asher are not stupid people; they’re just trying to figure things out together in a messed-up world. There’s also romance galore–I don’t think it’s much of a spoiler to say that my constant demand for a Happily Ever After was pleased. And the romance was my favorite part, obviously, largely because of the fact that both the hero and heroine are characters you like and truly want to root for. So when the end comes, it’s a genuinely satisfying one.