My review contains spoilers and they're mostly my thoughts as I went with the book...
Jessica Wilde’s Vivid was a perfect little surprise for me. I started it out solely reading the blurb, without any expectations (author being a new-to-me) and ended up loving it. It had all the elements I love; a wounded, disabled hero, a strong yet sensitive heroine and a sweet, heartwarming storyline that’d leave you laughing and crying at the same time.
Grace hasn’t had a great last year. She’d just moved in with her parents after having her heart broken by a cheating a$$hole of a boyfriend who never treated her right and did everything to solidify her self-esteem issues. If that wasn’t enough, she’d also lost her baby, a stillborn. The piece of junk left her right after this painful incident before she was even out of the hospital! It took her months to get out of the sorrow and depression. Even though she hasn’t quite healed psychologically, Grace’s mother became so concerned for her that she rather made her move in with them.
Being an only child could be lonely but Grace had a wonderful childhood nonetheless. She’d also always harbored this notion that she wasn’t attractive enough with her freckled face and a body which has generous curves, to say the least. I could see she had issues but it was never exactly explained why she had the issues to begin with. When her a$$hole boyfriend came along, her issues were already rather established in her mind. No matter her insecurities about her looks, Grace had a great personality and a soft heart. She’s quite sensitive and maybe that’s how she felt she was somehow lacking... she certainly never was able to get the attentions of the biggest crush of her life Merrick Thatcher, their next door neighbor’s eldest son.
Merrick had to have been the epitome of everything you can call a ‘dreamy piece of man meat’. He’s one of those guys, you just know. He was not only gorgeous, he was also good to everyone. Very popular, he dated the popular girls and hanged out with the same crowd. Grace was never a part of that crowd. He played soccer though that venture didn’t go on for long. Needless to say, a young Grace was so struck by his... everything that she was floored. She’d wait up every day to hear his voice, to get a glance of him. Unfortunately, Merrick also seemed a bit self-absorbed, who didn’t notice everything and everyone around him. Grace fell into that category, though she herself pretty much knew all she needed to know about him... You can only imagine!
Years have passed since then. Grace had moved on, or tried to. She’d had a few relationships over the years and the last one, as you already know, was a disaster of immense proportion. So much so, Grace knew she can never love another man again cause it hurt so much. But now that she’s back with her parents at the age of 28, she needed something to ground her. She needed a distraction, preferably a job. Something, anything to get her going. Grace is a nurse and she’s wonderful at it too. It should be easy to find a job had it not been for that fact that her mind wasn’t completely into anything. But never did she think that that distraction would soon come in the form of the man who has haunted her dreams since her teenage years. A man still occupies secret recesses of her mind. Merrick Thatcher, who joined the army about a decade ago, just returned from Iraq as a wounded vet. Just not wounded, he’s blind, wheelchair bound, pretty much unable to do anything on his own. And he’s also moved into their old family house, the one right next to her parents’, where no one lived until recently.
Grace’s old room used to be next to Merrick’s. I was a little surprised knowing just how close their windows were that they could talk to one another intimately (I’m guessing they didn’t have to worry about anyone hearing them), yet all those years, Merrick hadn’t noticed her AT ALL? Even Merrick wondered how the hell that happened later in the story. But for now, he’s wounded, angry at what has happened to him and his buddies in Iraq. Guilt ridden that he couldn’t save them all from that explosion that has rendered him pretty much an invalid. That he has to deal with PTSD every single day of his life. To say that his life has taken a complete U turn would be the understatement of the year. The life he knew as a strong, able-bodied man, it seemed was over. He hates that he needs his mother’s help even in the toilet and you can only imagine the embarrassment. He hates it how his mother fusses over him like he’s a child, in return he tries everything to push her away. But we could see that Mrs. Thatcher kept trying to get through to him as a loving mother could, but had been unable so far. When she was about to give up on him, she comes up with a plan that would catch Merrick so completely by surprise that he’d be dumbfounded. You can say his mother would have him where she wanted him! LOL
Merrick needed almost 24/7 care; not only because one of his legs had extensive surgery to get it fixed, mainly because he was blind. One of his eyes which was closer to the explosion, was beyond help. The other one, the doctors weren’t sure about it, so Merrick had given up on ever seeing again. He was also depressed, not knowing how to get on with life like this. He didn’t wanna go on, living the life of an invalid. Even one of his arms was inside cast. The poor guy! :( On a day like any other since his return, he had been quarreling with his mother about something that he refused to do when he hears this someone singing somewhere near to his windows, catching him completely off-guard. He stopped immediately and intently listened to the beautiful voice singing a song... There was no more verbal communication with his mother, just silence. No wonder Mrs. Thatcher knew whom to turn to to get her son back to the world of the living. :)
Merrick’s mom and dad had been good friends with Grace’s parents for a long time. You can say it’s a small community-type area where people knew one-another well. Though Grace is the only child, Merrick has 2 more brothers, Mitch and Micah and an elder sister, Anne. Grace has a good relationship with Micah, same with Mitch though she’d always shied away from Merrick. Even though the last couple of years have created a distance, it seemed when the need arose, the families had qualms about coming together to support each-other in the most fantastic way possible. Mrs. Thatcher offers Grace a job, which you can already guess; to become Merrick’s day nurse. Grace had no other options of earning money so she jumped to the offer. But even if there was no money involved, I think Grace would’ve jumped anyway because she had been hurting with Merrick ever since she’d learned of what happened to him. She’d kept tabs on his situation, heard him quarreling with his mother, felt his desperation... She had seen him the way he has become now. And nothing it seemed lessened his appeal to her. Nothing at all. Not his casts, wheelchair, his blindness (she had always loved his beautiful blue eyes). Not even the burn marks that scarred a part of his face and body. Grace still wanted to be close to him, to see if she can help him somehow.
And that’s how we find Merrick entirely dumbfounded when one day, Mrs. Thatcher brings him his day nurse that she’d talked about earlier; a nurse with that voice he’d know anywhere. After the introduction, he’s again taken aback. He can’t remember Grace from before at all. Not her voice, her face... hell, he even forgotten her name until this moment! And he’s totally embarrassed that she had to see him this way; weak and vulnerable, unshaven and entirely unkempt. Well it was his doing as he wouldn’t let his mother help him shave or shower because it leaves him so completely mortified.
As expected, Merrick starts out by being quite a bit of an a$$ to Grace. Rude and grumpy would be the typical Merrick. But Grace wouldn’t have any of it. She begins to weave her own magic around him in a way there was no space for Merrick to hide. So far, his sole solace was her voice next to his window. Now he has her presence all around him, all day... her voice and her smell, her tentative touches that’d leave him hard and throbbing when he was least expecting him, knowing there was nothing sexual in them. Merrick couldn’t get enough… yet he felt dissatisfied because he couldn’t touch her or see her. At the same time, Grace was trying her best to take care of Merrick but in doing so, she also begins to find herself wanting to get to know him better, to find a way to get through his darkness and bring some semblance of peace in his existence. She didn’t know if she could ever do it, but Grace promised to herself that she’d continue to try...
The story was told for dual first person POV; Grace and Merrick altering their thoughts which is why I was never confused about what one was thinking of another. And it was refreshing. I could see they both wanted each-other and thankfully, their families were supporting this match with much gusto. Another thing about this story that I absolutely adored, the continuous presence and support of both families. It was really lovely to witness the love and friendship all throughout.
When Merrick at last learns of Grace’s own tragedy and just how much she can relate to his pain through her own version of loss, they get even closer. He was already quite mad for her, but if he was reluctant, there was no need for that now. Grace had always wanted to be with Merrick so she couldn’t have said “no” to him either way. With the support of their loved ones and very unsubtle matchmaking from their mamas, Merrick and Grace finally acknowledge their feelings and begin dreaming of a future together. This road for them hadn’t been smooth and I wouldn’t say the road was smoother for them just because they got together. Both had insecurities that caused some issues but ultimately, love won over. Even though I would’ve loved to see Grace around Merrick when he got his corrective eye surgery (the one they thought could be saved), the author saved me by giving this breathtaking scene of Merrick seeing Grace for the first time and recognizing her on his own. Any girl would’ve been green with envy what he did after that in the middle of a room full of people. :p The epilogue was just the cherry on top. I finished it with a big smile on my face.
Overall, Vivid was not only about a broken soul finding his way through the darkness. It was not even a girl on the verge of losing her faith in the living either. It was everything; about family, love and friendship. About learning to let go of the past and live again. To find yourself once again through the eyes of your loved ones. To find love and never let go when you do.
I’d like to see if Mitch and Micah are given their own stories in the future. They deserve it but most of all, I’d really love to revisit Merrick and Grace through their books if possible. I’d recommend Vivid in a heartbeat if you’re looking for a good time without too much of that hair-pulling drama and cringe-worthy “angst”. A solid 4 stars read. I’ll be sure to check out more of Jessica Wilde’s backlist.