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Falling Under [Paperback]

Gwen Hayes
4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
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Book Description

March 1 2011
Theia Alderson has always led a sheltered life in the small California town of Serendipity Falls. But when a devastatingly handsome boy appears in the halls of her school, Theia knows she's seen Haden before- not around town, but in her dreams.

As the Haden of both the night and the day beckons her closer one moment and pushes her away the next, the only thing Theia knows for sure is that the incredible pull she feels towards him is stronger than her fear.

And when she discovers what Haden truly is, Theia's not sure if she wants to resist him, even if the cost is her soul.

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About the Author

Gwen Hayes lives in the Pacific Northwest with her real life hero and a pack of wild beasts (two of whom she gave birth to). She is a reader, writer, and lover of pop culture (which, other than yogurt, is the only culture she gets).

Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.


Everything changed the night I saw the burning man fall from the sky.

I'd been reading well past a reasonable hour, the white eyelet quilt tented over my iPhone to block any escaping light even though my father was already tucked away in bed dreaming of new ways to make me safer.

The cell phone was a compromise—I added extra music lessons to my scarce free time in exchange for a phone. It was win-win for Father; the few hours a day I wasn't with him or sheltered in the safety of my pink and ivory room, decorated by a prestigious designer to gild my cage, I was now instantly accessible. In addition, there were now even fewer hours in which I might find trouble. He didn't know I could read e-books on the phone; he didn't even know what e-books were. Father just thought he'd finally broken me of reading by flashlight.

It would never have occurred to him that I hadn't been broken—I'd graduated. Every night I went somewhere new and pretended to be someone else—someone interesting—on the device he'd purchased to control me more than he already did. A priceless freedom to a girl with a strange British accent living in the small town of Serendipity Falls, California, under her watchful father's thumb.

But the burning man falling from the sky pulled me from my faraway world. My gaze wandered to the window an instant before he appeared. And then, slowly, like a feather caught on a light breeze, he willowed past my window, turning his grotesque head towards me, his mouth open in a silent scream. He was more than on fire. He was fire.

Orange and red flames braided together in the shape of a man, but it was his eyes that caused me to suck in my breath and hold it as I ran to the window. His eyes, scared and imploring, told of a darkness and agony I couldn't begin to understand.

I leaned farther into the window, the glass surprisingly warm from his brush past it. Like I touched a trace of him. As he completed his unhurried, torturous descent to the lawn, he kept his gaze locked on mine. Beseeching me for something I couldn't give as the flames consumed him. So many things I should have felt, wondered, or worried about, yet I just watched, fascinated and compelled to see him to the end.

He landed in the yard, still burning alive. My father's pristine lawn would be scorched.

He'd be so disappointed.

Afraid to leave my perch, I was unsure what to do next. Surely what I was seeing was a figment of my overactive imagination. A dream caused by too much reading and not enough sleeping. But what if he suffered while I did nothing?

I turned and ran, as quietly as I could, through my room, down the stairs, and finally out the back door. The dew-covered grass beneath my feet reminded me of my state of undress. The nightgown felt thinner and more revealing than what my father had intended when he approved its purchase.

I shivered, not with cold but with nerves. The flames of the burning man sputtered and cooled, revealing charred bones and hunks of flesh. Yet he moved and groaned.

I sank to my knees, horrified that God would be so merciless as to let this poor human being endure such misery. The scent of cooked meat triggered my gag reflex. Strips of bumpy, burned flesh covered his bones here and there, but—his eyes—his eyes remained whole and lucid, giving him the garish appearance of a Halloween corpse.

The smell of sulfur stung my nose, making it hard to breathe. Yet the burning man continued to rasp and sputter.

How could he? His lungs had been incinerated.

For the first time, I noticed I still held the phone. Stupid girl. I should have dialed 911 a long time ago. I'd just pressed the 9 when he spoke.

"Don't bother."

I whimpered at the sound of his raspy, inhuman voice. "You need an ambulance."

The skeleton gurgled a bit, the sound grating and raw. "Too late. I don't have much time."

He shouldn't have had any time. I looked to the sky, but there was no sign of smoke or anything else falling. He groaned again.

"I…; I'm sorry." Lame, stupid girl. "I don't know what to do. I…; wish I could make you more comfortable."

"You must be so frightened." He whispered now, slowly yet with a carefully measured cadence. "I'm sorry you had to see this."

How could he worry about my comfort right now? "Do you want to…; um…; pray or something?"


His answer came too quickly, too vehemently.

"You'll stay?" he asked—no, implored. "I have no right to ask it of you, but…; I'm afraid to be alone right now. Will you stay…; until…;"

"Of course."

Moisture from the cold, wet grass seeped into the material of my nightgown, promising ugly stains in the virginal white shroud. I already felt the weight of yet another of Father's disappointments.

"Do you want me to ring anyone for you? To say good-bye?"

"There…; is…; no…; one." His whisper weakened with each word.

No one to mourn him? I forced myself to look him, death, in the eyes, and leaned closer, blocking out the revulsion of his grotesque appearance. His last vision should be of someone caring that he died. Someone mourning him. He raised his bony fingers as if to touch me and I steeled myself not to flinch as his hand, still smoldering, neared my face.

He rattled and spoke his last words. "Worth…; the…; fall."

His hand dropped, and the grass sizzled beneath it.

Then his body turned to dust, leaving only a blackened scorch mark on my father's lawn.

I rolled away from the sunlight streaming through my lace curtains and burrowed my head under the pillow. It was a dream. It must have been. Burning men don't fall from the sky. Skeletons don't speak one minute and turn to dust the next.

I rubbed the sleep from my eyes and stared at the ceiling. I was going to have to look. Resigned, I walked the distance from my bed to the window, and it seemed to stretch farther and farther away, the way things do in nightmares. I touched the glass first—it was cool, of course. My fingers splayed on the window and I leaned into it, looking down, hoping to find the perfectly manicured lawn I'd known just yesterday. But the perfection was marred and the grass seared where he'd lain. The burning man.

My heartbeat sputtered and restarted, thumping wildly and faltering with its own rhythm. My mind raced to find an explanation that didn't include a fiery cadaver with scary eyes and a lonely soul.

What kind of…; people…; fell from the sky? Aliens? Fallen angels? Skydivers?

Maybe his plane crashed. But none of that explained his ability to talk with no lungs…; or skin, or organs, or…; No. I must have dreamt it. There was no other explanation. Best to put it out of my mind. Nightmares had no control over me and there was nothing to fear.

Besides, nothing happens in sleepy towns like Serendipity Falls. That's why Father bought a house here. His commute to the city wasn't bad, a half hour unless the fog blanketed us in. He did whatever it was barristers do in their offices all day and made it home for supper almost every evening.

He'd chosen this town precisely for its lack of drama, I reassured myself as I grabbed my pink robe off the hook. What devilry ever befell a girl in a counterfeitly cheerful Victorian house? Surely the heavy cornices and gingerbread trim were wards against all things evil.

It wasn't until I turned on the bathroom light that I remembered what day it was.

The familiar numbness that got me through this day every year painted itself over me. One foot in front of the other, one routine, then the next, lather, rinse, repeat. I'd go downstairs, drink my orange juice, take a vitamin, walk to school. It was just a day, after all.

Father would already be gone to his San Francisco office. It was easier that way, at least in the morning. Not having to face each other meant not having to acknowledge the significance of the day, this day.

The anniversary of my mother's death.

I struggled with my hair. The wild curls preferred to be loose and resisted the taming of elastic bands or clips. The wildness of my mane—a curse, according to my father, who'd tried unsuccessfully to convince me that I should style it shorter and sleeker—was a gift from my mother. The wildness of my heart was yet another unwanted motherly inheritance. Father tried to convince me that I should live carefully, and the struggle to rein in my spirit, as well as my hair, kept me battle—weary day after day.

Wanting to please Father, I always pushed back my impulses. He needed me. Sure, he could be gruff and impossibly strict, but I was all he had. Things would have been different if my mother hadn't died, but there was no sense going down that road. Especially today.

I sprinted down the stairs and then chastised myself for the recklessness since Father wasn't there to do it for me. I took the vitamin he'd left out, drank the juice he'd poured, and ate the biscuit—I mean cookie—only after I'd first double-checked that he'd actually left, and then made sure no stray crumbs would give me away. I avoided the greeting card left on the center of the polished table for as long as I could.

My hands shook as I opened our one exception to completely ignoring that this day existed. Happy 17th Birthday, Theia.

Love, Father

I put the card in my pack, grabbed a sweater, and walked to school.

Nobody at Serendipity High extended me birthday wishes because that was the way I wanted it. My friends, now that I had them, shot surreptitious glances at m...

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Most helpful customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Good but a bit boring at times Aug. 25 2013
By Donna
The romance did get a bit cheesy and things were a bit slow, but if you really like stories about angels and demons then it's worth it.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Courtesy of Teens Read Too Aug. 5 2011
When Theia Alderson encounters the bizarre sight of a burning man falling from the sky and dying in her yard, her whole life begins to change. Seriously, that`s how FALLING UNDER begins - and it never lets up!

Theia is a transplanted Brit in a California high school. Her mother died when she was born, and her father moved them back to England. But his job relocated the two back to the States, where Theia has always been the odd girl out with her accent and unruly curls.

After the burning man incident, things get even more bizarre. Theia has a dream that is so real she's not surprised to find that the new boy who arrives at school is the same boy she has just dreamed about. Haden keeps appearing to Theia. She's both repelled and confused by him. Just when she thinks they've formed a connection, he does something to push her away. Backed by two very different but just as interesting friends, Theia tries to discover the mystery of Haden Black.

FALLING UNDER has so many amazing characters that it's hard to pinpoint just a single one that I enjoyed. The most entertaining by far is Varnie, the cross-dressing, young surfing psychic who the girls visit for a reading. When the tarot cards turn over three death cards for Theia, Varnie gets concerned and does a runner from town. But don't fret; he's not gone for long.

The other character that caught my attention is Gabe, the popular boy who is smitten with Theia's friend, Donny (Donnatella.) Donny has no idea why someone like Gabe, who is a sneetch (aka popular boy, and you HAVE to love the Dr. Seuss reference!) would be interested in her. Gabe sticks around through all the paranormal stuff, and isn't quite as clueless as one would expect from a sneetch.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 3.9 out of 5 stars  139 reviews
33 of 35 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Serendipity Falls March 2 2011
By Dark Faerie Tales - Published on Amazon.com
Quick & Dirty: A wonderful plot and engaging characters mixed with mayhem and a fascinating Under realm make this a delicious and highly entertaining read.

Opening Sentence: Everything changed the night I saw the burning man fall from the sky.

The Review:

In the small town of Serendipity Falls, Theia Alderson lives a sheltered life. In her dreams, Theia is pursued by a dangerous yet seductive stranger. The surroundings are unfamiliar because Theia has fallen Under. In the Under realm, her irresistible suitor shows her things that Theia can hardly fathom. Theia's dreams soon become reality when her dark suitor, Haden Black, shows up as the new student in her school. As their connection grows stronger, Theia has trouble resisting Haden and the horrifying world of Under. Now that she has fallen under his spell, will she be able to save her soul?

I didn't know what I expected when I set out to read Falling Under. I never read reviews for books that I'm interested in because I hate spoilers. I was intrigued by the synopsis. In any case, I would have read the book based solely on its beautiful cover. Even though things start slowly, the story still managed to hold my attention. I'm pleased to say that Falling Under ended up being one of the best YA novels that I've read this year. Falling Under is an edgy and layered world filled with danger and despair. This darkly riveting story is intense and certainly stands on its own in the YA paranormal genre. Ms. Hayes exposes the reader to a macabre world and all its dangers. The world-building is truly inventive and the characters are intriguing. The powerful sexual and emotional undertones give this story an edge that you rarely see in a YA novel.

One of the many exciting elements of the story is Theia's forbidden relationship with Haden. Theia knows that she's placing herself in grave danger, both emotionally and physically, but the connection that she shares with Haden is undeniable. Theia and Haden exchange some pretty risqué dialogue. The attraction, teasing and wordplay between these two is completely enthralling. Without a doubt, Haden is the strongest character in the book. The unbeatable combination of the dark, twisted, sexual and dangerous makes for a wonderfully complex male lead. Ms. Hayes delivers richly detailed characterizations, pulling the reader "under" with ease.

Theia has realistic flaws, which makes her interesting, but there's nothing to really set her apart from other protagonists in the crowded YA paranormal genre. I was left with just a so-so impression of Theia. I liked her character, but I didn't love her character. I do sympathize with her struggles to shape her own identity and break free from her father's death grip. Theia was raised by her father in a very regimented, sterile and structured environment. Her "Father" is very cold and Type A, bordering on sociopathic. For the most part, I like the fact that Theia was a very mature and practical young adult. She did have a few moments of girl weaknesses and became obsessed about being with Haden a la Bella's feelings toward Edward in New Moon. Needless to say, at this point I wanted to slit my own wrists. I think the "obsession" trope in YA novels is often heavy-handed, misplaced and unnecessarily overwrought. Generally speaking, it can only be resolved one or two ways. The heroine has a ridiculous epiphany that leads her to conclude that she is an individual with her own personality and life goals before she met her otherworldly hottie, and that life will go on and aforementioned otherworldly hottie will not objectify her and define her self-worth. Alternatively, she will forsake everything to get her dangerous, worthless, and good-for-nothing otherworldly hottie who turns out to be the good guy in disguise. Don't let this plot point deter you because there are many other good elements to this story and the ending will surprise you.

Falling Under is a fantastic debut novel. The story is beautifully written and there's plenty of suspense and intrigue. Falling Under is a highly addictive entry in the YA paranormal genre. I can hardly wait to fall Under the spell of the next installment.

Notable Scene:

And I hungered for something elusive, yet the air was thick with the promise of it.

It surprised me, the new potent feeling. And it was the surprise that frightened me more than the actual rush of hormones. I couldn't control feelings that came out of nowhere.

I leaned against the rail and my heart stopped.

Haden watched me from below as he led a nimble blonde onto the floor of gyrating teenagers. She stared at him, awestruck like he was some kind of rock star. God, I thought she might be right. He murmured something into her ear, but he smiled at me -the kind of smile that signals the demise of the canary to the whims of the cat.

He hooked one arm around her waist and raised a brow to me. I wanted to hate him; the burn seared my heart. When he turned her to face me, my breath caught in my throat. She had no idea he was using her as a pawn to assert his control over me, but I'm not sure she would have minded even if she had known. I doubt, had the tables been turned, I would have cared. To be enveloped in his arms, surrounded by his scent, guided through a dance by his steady hands...No, I would gladly have played marionette to his puppet master too.

She ground against him, not unlike Donny but without Donny's finesse. Or charm, for that matter. But I suppose charm wasn't what that kind of dancing was really about. I tightened my grip on the rail if not my emotions, but nothing could make me look away. He'd trapped me in his sinful gaze designed to weaken my will, to raise the stakes in the battle for my heart. Maybe my soul. He wanted me to know what I was missing even as he made it clear I couldn't have it. And I was depraved enough to let him.

Haden gripped the blonde's hips, holding her firmly against his pelvis. She let her head fall to the side, exposing the long white column of her neck. He sent me one more evil grin and kissed her neck.

My knees buckled. I felt the sensation of his lips on my skin. The kiss felt like a shock that started on my neck and traveled on my nerve endings all the way down to my toes. His hand skimmed slowly from her hip to her stomach...my stomach. As the sensation crept slowly towards my breasts, my breath hitched.

The Falling Under Series:

1. Falling Under

FTC Advisory: Penguin Group provided me with a copy of Falling Under. No goody bags, sponsorships, "material connections," or bribes were exchanged for my review. In addition, I don't receive affiliate fees for anything purchased via links from my site.
34 of 37 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Surprisingly dark and delightful. Part gothic romance, part paranormal mystery, and part coming of age story. March 1 2011
By AJ - Published on Amazon.com
When I think of the BIG titles that broke out a specific trend in Paranormal YA, I think of TWILIGHT and vampires, SHIVER and werewolves, HUSH HUSH and angels, WICKED LOVELY and faeries, and now I think we're about to add FALLING UNDER to that list. You'll have to read the book to find out what new trend it's breaking.

In the tradition of those aforementioned titles, FALLING UNDER is part gothic romance, part paranormal mystery, and part coming of age story. It's breathtakingly written in a way that I think will elevate it above most of it's peers (excepting maybe SHIVER). The characters, even the secondary ones, are all given dimension and distinct motivations. I didn't necessarily like every character, but I believed they were real.

Specifically, FALLING UNDER is like a mash-up of HUSH HUSH and WICKED LOVEY. Like, Patch, the romantic lead is dark and dangerous and his motives are rarely pure. You'll hate and love him a dozen times before the book is over. And like the unseen Faerie realm, Theia's `visits' to Under are fractured and macabre. It frighteningly easy to lose herself there and revel in the dance even while knowing it's destroying her.

The entire book is surprisingly dark and delightful. Even readers who are growing jaded by this genre should find something to enjoy here. The ending is less of an ending and more of a setup for the next book, but it's so provocative that I don't even care that it's a cliffhanger. All I care about is finding out when I can tumble back down this rabbit hole and fall back Under.

Sexual Content:
Kissing. References to sex. Some coarse sexual dialog
26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great love interest! March 9 2011
By Cari - Published on Amazon.com
Falling Under was nothing like I expected. I thought it would be a story about fey but I was wrong Gwen Hayes gives you a new dark creature to be taken by. In Falling Under Theia's life is very normal and even a little boring until she finds a burning man on her lawn. Theia isn't sure if she's dreaming but from that moment her life is thrown into the supernatural. Theia also realizes if it was a dream she was sleepwalking because her clothes show signs of being out in the yard. She soon starts dreaming about a Victorian gothic gorgeous guy who she has never met. The next day Haden starts school and as soon as Theia sees him she knows he is the guy from her dreams. Only he isn't goth but Abercrombie gorgeous! I would never have dreamed that a guy could be both emo goth and dream guy but Haden is hotness. Haden and Theia have one of those the earth stops kind of moment without even speaking but tries his best to avoid her. Haden reminds me a little of Patch from Hush, Hush because he's hot and dark but has his jerk moments. Regardless of the jerk moments Haden does redeem himself.

Theia and Haden spend plenty of time in the dark dream world but Theia isn't convinced if Haden knows or if it's simply her dream. In Theia's dreams she finds out who Haden is and why he suddenly shows up in her world. Haden's reasons for showing up will only bring misery. The world where Theia dreams is dark and twisted and yet there is a beauty in the details.

Falling Under is told in two worlds where Theia and Haden will learn what it means to walk in each other's footsteps. Haden's infatuation with Theia brings her a world of danger but her loved ones will stop at nothing to save her. Falling Under had a definite ending but with room for more books. Also if you are wondering Falling Under feels a bit like Twilight but Gwen Hayes acknowledges that in the novel and I found it amusing. I can really see fans of Fallen by Lauren Kate really enjoying this one. Falling Under is Gwen Hayes debut novel and I am impressed and look forward to more novels from her.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Good Supporting Characters May 8 2011
By Mary A. Arnold - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This book caught my interest with its description and beautiful cover, but I was disappointed. I found Theia boring yet the supporting cast were such solid, strong characters that they overshadowed her. Donny and Amelia were much more interesting, even their back-burner romances, and made me wish there was less Theia. I feel like Theia pines the first half of the book then whines the second half of the book . . . Haden annoys me because really, he's the typical jerk guy who still gets the girl. In the second half of the book, he goes from annoying to whiny. Varnie was probably my favorite character, along with Gabe because really. . . the're just down-to-Earth, slightly weird guys who I would love to meet. Frankly, the main romance is boring and feels too forced, plus he's so scared to touch her yet they can suddenly touch halfway through with no consequences. This could have been such a better book if the lead character wasn't so depressingly mousy described then suddenly, she goes to this other world and she's so gorgeous? Still whiny, though. I will not be picking up the sequel if there is one.
17 of 21 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars serioulsy ? July 24 2011
By astrid - Published on Amazon.com
just to get something off my chest, how many books are gonna start the exact same way? the girl and guy get paired together for a project. they lock eyes. his eyes are dark. and then ofcourse they are in love now. seriously? hey authors, write your own dang beginning to a book and stop copying every one else! what i particularly hated about this books first half was when theia, having ONE conversation with haden says, haden spellbound me and my life changed to technicolor. really? from one short conversation? then when he leaves the room with another girl she cries!!!!!!! wtf? i hate the swift romance thing and iam becoming increasingly disapointed with author, after author over this. its like on valentines day when you get a large box of chocolates you don't just cram then all in your face at one time. you eat slow and savor every one. that's how i want to experience a story like this. give us time to at least get to know the people in the story before we are forced to believe they are madly in love. the male character does nothing to win the girls affection. he just shows up and bam. its more fun when he had to work a litte bit. iam i right? o.k. there i've vented. thanks.
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