Read with: Kindle Paperwhite
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Hero: Jack Warden
Heroine: Rodel Harris Emerson
Date of Publication: January 31, 2017
Started On: April 20, 2020
Finished On: April 21, 2020
“Have you ever sat across from someone, fully clothed, and felt them slowly unbutton your heart?”
The quote above sums up perfectly what this entire book did for me, my heart, and my soul. Mists of the Serengeti by Leylah Attar is a book unlike any other. From start to finish, this book wraps around you, cocoons you within the folds of its pages, devastates you, makes you smile through the tears that are always on the verge of spilling from your eyes, and by the end, you feel like you have experienced something you possibly never could have by reading a book. Inspired by true events and released in 2017, this is one book that will continue to transcend time and age beautifully.
Leylah Attar is a new to me author, but she has definitely carved a place for herself in my favorite go-to authors list with just this novel, which speaks for itself. Ms. Attar writes with the kind of prose that is gut wrenching, because you can tell that they aren’t just merely words lining up to make up a sentence. There is more to it than that, there is life to those words and they make you feel in a way no book has made me feel in a long, long, long time.
24 year old Rodel Harris Emerson’s life entwines with that of Jack Warden’s through tragedy, a senseless one that takes away Rodel’s sister and Jack’s beautiful daughter. When Rodel turns up in Tanzania a month later, trying to piece together the life her sister had lived across the world from her, Rodel finds out there are things about her sister’s life that she would like to know more about, which is how she ends up seeking the help of the one man who could help her, i.e. Jack.
Jack is a man waiting for death in the wake of the loss that mars his life. Lily had been everything to him, and I do not say that lightly. In Jack’s words, he would die a thousand deaths to save her; over and over and over again. Jack’s mind and heart are riddled with survivor’s guilt, and he is unable to look beyond that in order to emerge from the haze of deep abiding sorrow that cripples his world and narrows it down to just that alone.
Jack’s antagonism towards Rodel is a palpable thing at first, but as Jack’s kinder nature fights its way back through the thick fog that surrounds him, there is a connection between the two that breaks through everything that holds Jack back from rejoining the living. Albeit reluctantly, Jack is drawn into helping Rodel carry out the last of her sister’s mission in assisting those in need; the relocation of albino kids to a safe sanctuary.
As Jack and Rodel’s love explodes amidst the exotic setting of Tanzania which Ms. Attar describes and depicts as vividly as she does their love, there was no part of me that remained disengaged from the story. I cried my way through some of the most poetic and tragic of the scenes, where Jack, who believes his heart is no longer capable of loving, expresses how he feels about Rodel in ways that I think has ruined me for other book boyfriends. I don’t say this lightly either. There is just something about Jack in the way he commands every single scene which he is in, so effortlessly.
There is no way to write this review without it sounding extremely gushy, because if I had to change one thing about the book, there is nothing that I would. This book was sheer perfection from start to finish, and I dare you to not cry your way through some of the scenes in the book.
One of the most fabulous aspects of the book was the epilogue itself; it had me reminiscing about the book long after I was done. To be honest, I still am. I was pretty sure that no other book would live up to what Mists of the Serengeti had taken me through, and my prediction has proved me right thus far this year.
There are books that take a piece of you with them when you are done. Mists of the Serengeti fits that bill because of so many reasons. There is Jack of course, who owned my heart from the first chapter onward. The way he cares for his daughter, the relationship he has with her, the pain that is palpable when it comes to his loss; all of that and more are reasons I loved and loved his character and more.
Jack’s pain is a living being which made me miss Lily dearly throughout the story. And there is the way he resists and yet finds himself spellbound by the connection that forges to life between him and Rodel. The fact that he is honest about what he can offer, and yet finds it excruciating to let go when the time comes; those were the aspects that added the angst factor needed when it came right down to it.
Rodel is an extraordinary heroine and I loved her to bits, just as much as I did Jack. There is a gentleness to her that is hard not to fall in love with and the way she is determined to live her life and get as much as possible out of the time she has with Jack and what he is willing to offer won points with me. The strength of her character lies in the fact that she loves herself enough to walk away when all is said and done, because there is no point in pining for someone who is not ready to move on from what holds them back.
The period of separation between the two, the healing that both characters undergo, each in a different way, Jack more so than Rodel; all of that was so realistically done that I could not have asked for a better ending.
If ever there is a book that romance readers should read (that is if you haven’t already), this is it. Grab a copy and indulge. I guarantee that you would not walk away unchanged from the experience.
Final Verdict: Mists of the Serengeti is that book which casts a magic spell and holds you spellbound throughout. It is that book which you will hug close to your soul and walk away a changed person from the sheer experience of it all.
Kissing Jack was like kissing a slumbering lion. He barely moved, but I could sense the raw power behind his restraint. And deeper still, lurked something wild and dangerous, something that could obliterate me if unleashed. But I wanted it, because it was magnificent, because it swirled over the loss and pain running through his veins, because it was the part of him that was alive. It made me want to thread my fingers through his thick, tawny hair even though I knew it was a bad, bad idea.
Once in Africa, I kissed a king . . .
I got up, smoothed my dress, and walked away, leaving Jack kneeling by the calf.
“Rodel,” he said, just as I was about to step outside.
Rodelle. Another thing I would always remember—the way he said my name, elle-vating it beyond the ordinary.
He was between me and the exit before I could turn around. He swung me into the circle of his arms and kissed me—not softly or tentatively, like I had kissed him, but hungry and demanding, crushing my body to his. His mouth moved wildly over mine, his tongue exploring the recesses of my mouth, as if I had stolen a piece of him, and he wanted it back. I tasted the whole universe in Jack’s kiss—the blue heat of spinning stars, the birth of distant suns, atoms buzzing and colliding and fusing.
He clasped my hand under the blanket and threaded his fingers through mine. He’d held my hand once before, but this felt different, possessive—like he was staking his claim. A curious swooping pulled at my insides. We both knew there was a line we couldn’t cross, but it didn’t stop Jack’s arm from going around me or my head from leaning on his shoulder.
For a few hours that night, Jack and I sat out on the porch, with the scent of wild jasmine in the air, and nothing but the squeaking of the swing, and the buzzing of night insects breaking up the silence.
“If you dig your nails into the mattress any harder, you’re going to rip a hole through it.”
“I . . . I’m not—”
“Let go.” He propped himself up on his elbow and loosened my grip. “What are you so afraid of?” His eyes searched mine. “This?” He swept me into his arms and held me snugly. “See? It’s not so bad,” he said, as his warmth seeped into my body—so male, so bracing.
“They’re just arms.” His fingers trailed slowly up and down my arm. “And legs.” He traced the curve of my thigh. “And this spot right here, that I’ve been dying to taste since I washed your hair.” He kissed a spot under my ear lobe. “I crave you, Rodel. In the most innocent ways. I lie awake in my bed at night, thinking of you down the hallway, wanting nothing more than to hold you. I want to stroke your hair until you fall asleep. I want to give you forehead kisses when you’re down. That’s all I allow myself. I don’t go any further.”
Everything shattered as he took my mouth with savage intensity. One large hand gripped my waist, drawing me to him as if he couldn’t stand the distance anymore. Blood pounded in my brain as his hand glided under my top and fondled my breast, turning its pink tip marble hard. His body was rough and insistent on top of mine, our breaths uneven, limbs entwined.
“Touch me.” He pulled his T-shirt over his head, heat rippling off his skin. My pulse raced to my fingertips, as I traced the corded muscles on his chest, the light mat of hair in the groove between his pecs. When I slipped my hands into his boxers, he reclaimed my mouth, surging into my palms with a groan.
“Tell me you want this.” He slid down my stomach, to the swell of my hips. “Show me.”
“I’m going to make you come, Rodel.” He said that part in my ear, partially covering my body with his because I was shivering. “I want to know what you sound like when you orgasm.”
“Jack . . .” I half-turned to face him.
He knew what I wanted before I said it. He crushed my mouth hungrily, his tongue seeking mine, demanding it. My lips parted on a ragged sigh as he buried his face in the hollow of my neck, intensifying the rhythm of his fingers. Pleasure radiated outward, like jolts of liquid fire. I clutched the tendons in the back of Jack’s neck. He was a biter, grazing my neck with just enough force to command all of my attention, and then letting go, like a lion playing with his prey. I slid my fingers through the thick tufts of his hair, pulling him back, and then we were kissing again, leaving soul sonnets deep inside each other’s mouths. That was when he sent me over the edge, sliding his thigh between my legs, shifting his lean, hard frame over me. It was a simple act, but I shattered into a million glowing stars.
“I want you, Jack.” My body rose instinctively to meet his. The thick, hard length of him on my thigh was both electrifying and intimidating. “But you should know . . . I . . . I haven’t done this before. You’re my first.”
He stilled and sucked in a long, ragged breath. “This . . .” He took in another soul-deep breath. “You haven’t—”
“It’s okay,” I whispered. “Look at me. Look at me, Jack. I want you to be my first.”
And my last. And all the times in between. But I can’t have that. So I’ll take this. What we have right here. Right now.
I thought his touch was the only cure for my crazy, heated senses, but I found myself being pulled beyond the circle of his arms, to a place where souls go to kiss—lipless and formless and free. I knew that whenever I thought of love, it would have a face, a name, a voice. And I would hear its heart beating from inside a tent in the wilds of Africa.
“I was talking about a trip to the crater, not—”
“Not this?” I tossed off my wet top in a passionate challenge.
My invitation pushed him over the edge. Something intense flared through him—instant, electric, as if I had just unleashed him.
Shit. I’m in for it now. My pulse pounded with a dizzy cocktail of desire, rimmed in gritty bits of trepidation. He gazed at me intently, cranking up the anticipation until it was almost unbearable.
“Take it off,” he said, his command thick with longing.
My fingers faltered as I slid off one strap, and then the other. He didn’t wait for me to unclasp my bra. He was done waiting. His tongue flicked my nipple through the wet fabric before he latched on, sucking it into his mouth, rasping the edges with his teeth.
It had been different in the dark, but in the gray, muted daylight, my insecurities kicked in. It wasn’t as if I’d been naked in front of many men before. A hand under my blouse, a feel up my skirt, but never so exposed. And certainly not with someone who looked like Jack. My hands moved instinctively across my breasts and stomach.
“Don’t.” He clamped my wrists above me as his hooded eyes roved over my naked body. My flesh trembled, my toes curled, but when I opened my eyes and caught the expression on his face, everything melted. He was looking at me like I was stardust and light.
“Jesus.” His eyes darkened with stark sensuality. “You are so fucking beautiful.”
Jack was not a quiet lover. He voiced his pleasure with thick, throaty sounds. He threw my leg over his shoulder and nipped my inner thigh before plunging his tongue into me. I held onto his wild, thick hair as involuntary tremors of arousal shot through me. He seemed to sense the awakening flames because his movements intensified, carrying me to the peaks of pleasure.
“Yes.” He lifted my hips off the floor, bringing me in full, carnal contact with his mouth. “Fuck, yes.”
“Kiss me,” he said, smoky and raw.
I touched my lips to his, my focus still on the point where our bodies were melded.
“A real kiss,” he growled, grazing my bottom lip with his teeth. “Like this.” His mouth swooped down to capture mine until my senses were spinning. My breath escaped through softly parted lips. “Give me your tongue.” His words were a spell I had fallen under. I shivered as the velvet warmth of his tongue tangled with mine, losing myself to the mastery of his kiss.
That was when he thrust deep into me—one hard, firm push that made me gasp and break free of his lips. I clutched his shoulders, my nails leaving crescent shaped indents as the pain tore through me.
“Remember this.” He brushed the hair off my neck and breathed a kiss there. “When you’re curled up with your books on a rainy afternoon in England, remember how you painted my world with your colors. Remember your rainbow halo.”
“I will.” A hot ache grew in my throat. He was already saying goodbye. “I’ll remember. For the rest of my life.”
“My date ditched me,” he replied, taking the kiddie stool across from me, and sitting the doll on his lap. He was saying one thing, but his eyes were saying another.
You made it.
God, let me just look at you.
And so we sat there, staring at each other across an upside-down cardboard box, as the kids milled about around us. He unclasped my fingers from the little teapot I was holding and pretended to fill two miniature cups with it. I picked up mine, he picked up his, and we clinked them in a silent toast.
We pretend-ate and pretend-drank. The air thrummed between us, heavy with words we couldn’t wrap our tongues around.
“Kiss me hard, then let me go,” I said, when the touch of his hand became suddenly unbearable in its tenderness.
I felt the movement of his breath before our lips touched. My heart throbbed at the sweet, savage sensation of his mouth. It was like running without air—breathless and beautiful. I clung to him for a soul-bursting moment, before wrenching myself away and stumbling toward the building. I paused for a beat as the sliding doors opened.
Turn around, Rodel, a part of me screamed.
Don’t look back, the other part countered.
I turned. Because I couldn’t help it. Because Jack honked.
God. The feel of her body opening up to me, molding around me like a warm, wet glove. Her tongue in my mouth. The way her hands clutched me. The way her leg wrapped around my hip. I bit her shoulder as the animal in me rose. And then it was all primal passion, nothing but the sound of her soft moans. My release should have been quick, but I held on, not wanting it to end. Being inside of her was like a drug. Being inside of her was pure euphoria. I captured the gasp that escaped her as her body stiffened. She was coming again.
“Yes,” I growled as she writhed under me. “Fuck, yes.” And then I gave in to the explosion of fiery sensations that overtook me, rocking me to the core.
“You’re so hot when you go all book-nerd on me.” Her nightshirt was riding high on her thighs, her lips were pouty, and she was cradling the book as if it were a hurt child. “Do you know—” I flipped her over so she was on all fours, her nose lodged in the folds of the novel “—I have sex with you a lot. In my head. Just like this.” I squeezed her sweet ass and rubbed my throbbing shaft over her panties. “Read to me, Rodel. Read to me while I ride you.” I pushed the fabric of her panties aside and slipped my finger inside of her. She let out a muffled groan.