From the fanfic phenom whose debut A Pound of Flesh had over 4.5 million reads, this sequel, An Ounce of Hope, tells the passionate love story of Carter’s best friend, Max.
Max O’Hare can’t seem to let go of his past: his drug habit, the end of his relationship with Lizzie Jordan, the woman he knows he’ll never get over, and the loss of their unborn son.
After successfully completing rehab and learning to explore his deepest fears and dreams through painting, Max meets Grace Brooks. With her innate optimism, and her love of art and photography, Grace appears to be the perfect girl. Yet no one knows where she came from, or why she keeps her past so closely guarded. Over time, Max and Grace gradually allow each other in—but will he ever be able to fully let go of his past? Or will his heart remain closed forever?
About the Author
Sophie Jackson writes fanfiction under the online handle Jaxon22. She is the author of the award-winning A Pound of Flesh series, including the e-novellas Love and Always and Fate and Forever. Follow her on Twitter: @SophieJax
Read an Excerpt
An Ounce of Hope
The first time Max O’Hare thought about taking his life was the day of his father’s funeral. It was a bleak mid-October morning, the kind where wind whips at your face, and rain doesn’t fall, but pours in torrents and makes even the most happy-go-lucky of assholes consider what the hell they were cheerful about in the first place.
Max had watched them lower his father’s casket into the ground, right next to Hazel O’Hare’s, Max’s mother. The beautiful headstone above her plot, which showed in stunning gold lettering how she was only twenty-six when she was killed in a head-on collision on her way to her son’s second birthday party, now had a neighbor. After a courageous eighteen-month battle with pancreatic cancer, Connor O’Hare had finally succumbed to the cruel disease at the age of forty-five, leaving Max an orphan.
An orphan who couldn’t help but wonder just what the fuck he was meant to do with his life.
Sure, there was the family business, a specialist auto body shop where Max had learned his father’s trade as a mechanic with an enthusiastic eye and a hero-worshipping ear, but that shit became superfluous when Connor was no longer able to work. The fuck hot muscle cars and the roaring engines; none of it mattered. All that mattered was when the next round of chemo was, and what ridiculous figure the medical bills were amounting to.
Not that Max’s father ever complained or worried about that. He’d smile when Max started to stress about appointments and money, and tell him life was too damned short to sweat the small stuff. But that was the way Connor O’Hare was. Maybe that’s why he never lost his shit when, as a teenager, Max was brought home numerous times in a police cruiser, or when he was arrested for dope possession and car boosting. You’ll find your way, his father would say with a disappointed shrug that made Max’s teeth grind in guilt; these are just bumps in the road, son.
Max wasn’t so sure, but similarly, he didn’t know why he got into the shit he did. Boredom maybe? Hell, he couldn’t even use having a shitty home life as an excuse. His father was a good man who did his best raising his son alone. No. Max was a law unto himself, his own worst enemy. He wished to be strong like his dad, noble and dedicated, but he failed every damned time.
True to form, Max’s father’s battle against his illness was valiant, and he stayed brave to the very end, but his death wasn’t that of a warrior. It wasn’t romantic. There were no whispered words of love or declarations of life lessons and regret, what with him being unable to speak—the cancer had affected his lungs and throat by then. Max simply watched his father become more and more ravaged by an illness, which stole away the tough vibrancy he’d known and respected. All that was left was an aged shell of a man who slipped away in his sleep while Max held his hand from his permanent vigil at the side of the hospital bed.
Such was the grief that gripped Max, that he didn’t even cry. His eyes stayed resolutely dry, as though sorrow blocked every part of him, every tear duct, vein, and artery. Yeah, that shit was grim.
He had friends around him, of course. Friends—who were more like family—and were prepared to bend over backward for him. Anything we can do. I’m here if you want to talk. Jesus, he could barely get out of bed in the morning and they were expecting him to talk. He appreciated it, sure, but their words were breaths on a breeze that, as time passed, continued to guide Max into a dark depression. That darkness culminated in his downing a bottle of vodka and snorting a dozen lines of coke, while staring passively at a bottle of pills he’d found among his father’s things.
It’d be so easy, he’d thought.
So fucking easy.
That’s what he wanted above all other things: a pain-free existence.
But he hadn’t gone through with it. Cowardice was not something Max was proud of, but, like his best friend, Carter, had explained: he was twenty years old and had his whole life to live. And live it he did. He got shitfaced, fucked women, dealt in shit he had no business getting involved in, became a regular dealer, got shot at, got arrested, got bailed . . . rinse and repeat.
Not a life so much as an extended hangover, punctuated with pockets of deliriousness. He kept the body shop afloat with the money he made from dealing, paid his employees, and partied from sunset to sunrise. And as the months passed, the pain Max had felt the day of the funeral slowly ebbed, leaving a numbness in which he freely basked. He didn’t feel pain. Christ, he didn’t feel anything. And that was just fine.
He doubted he’d ever feel again. He wasn’t sure he even wanted to.
Until she tumbled into his life . . .
Max lifted his eyes from the sumptuous cream carpet under his feet, settling them on the man sitting opposite him. Elliot waited patiently for Max to say something else, but Max knew he was done. He’d said more than he’d wanted to already. He hadn’t spoken about his father for a long time and scratching at that particular scab was as agonizing as it had been on the day of the funeral eight years before.
He reached for the glass of water on the small wooden table at the side of his chair and took a long sip. The silence was suffocating in its expectancy, causing Max to fidget and shift in his seat.
“From your quiet, I assume we’re done for the day.” Elliot smiled and wrote quickly on the legal pad resting, as it always did, on his knee. Max didn’t answer, but took a deep breath, knowing he’d been let off the hook. Max had learned quickly that Dr. Elliot Watts was a persistent bastard. Yeah, he was a therapist and that shit was his job, but he’d been relentless from the get-go. Nevertheless, Max had to admit he liked him, no matter what dark paths of the past the doc asked him to travel.
“You made some good progress here today, Max,” Elliot continued with a small nod. “I know talking about your father isn’t easy.”
Yeah, no shit.
Scribble, scribble. “So, you’re fifteen days in. How are you finding the medication?”
Max shrugged. He was on a plethora of funky-looking pills, which he had to take each morning: antidepressants, Ritalin, amantadine. Each one had a very specific purpose in helping with the aching despair, sleepless nights, and the cravings. And they did. For the most part. Hell, drugs were drugs.
They weren’t the drugs he wanted, the drugs he knew would kick his anxiety’s ass, the drugs that would stop his dick from being a flaccid waste of time, the drugs that would supress the monstrous appetite that was adding to his waistline, the drugs that beckoned like a fucking siren’s call every time he tried to close his eyes at night.
But drugs were drugs.
With every half-assed beat of his heart, his blood moved sluggishly around his body. It was desperate for the fire of a line, the life, the euphoric detachment. Jesus, he needed a hit. Just one fucking hit.
Elliot sat up a little straighter, as if sensing the hunger that practically crippled Max from the inside out. “How are the night terrors?”
Dread seized Max’s bones. He swallowed and rubbed his hands together. His discomfort spoke volumes. The night terrors were just that: terrifying. Nightmares so vivid and distressing the mere thought of sleep left Max cold. They’d started just days off the powder, just days after he’d been admitted, and, despite Elliot’s prescribed medication, they weren’t abating. The bags under his eyes could attest to that shit.
“We can increase the dose if you need it, Max,” Elliot said softly. “You need your rest.”
Max sighed and gave an imperceptible dip of his chin, his pride unable to outweigh the fear of what waited for him when he slept.
“Okay. I’ll get that changed for you.”
“Thank you.” Max’s voice was quiet, but his gratitude was immeasurable.
“Do you want to talk about the terrors?”
“No.” Max rubbed at his temples, where the grotesque images that accosted him at night threatened to claw out.
Elliot’s silence made Max lift his head. “That bad.”
Max pulled the hood of his sweatshirt farther around his face, burying himself in an attempt to hide. He wore his hood up for both his individual and the group sessions, and weirdly, Elliot didn’t seem to mind. Max wasn’t entirely sure why he did it, but it helped take the edge off the stress he felt at the thought of talking to strangers about shit that had happened years ago. It was a cocoon, a wall that made his stay in rehab a little bit easier.
“Maybe you could write about the terrors in the notebook I gave you last week. I know it’s still empty.” Elliot smiled wryly at the derisive look Max shot him.
Writing in a fucking notebook? No, thanks.
“Fine, look,” Elliot said, sitting forward, “you know where I am if you want to talk more. We’re all here to help you through this. You’re not alone, okay?”
Max scoffed inwardly, holding his eye roll. Sure, he was surrounded by people who had his “very best interests at heart,” people who wanted to “help him get clean,” wanted to “talk it all out together,” wanted to make sure that he was “comfortable,” “at ease,” and not frantic with the need to bust out of the fucking place and find the nearest junkie stash.
Yeah, he was well and truly surrounded by well-meaning folk.
And he’d never felt more alone.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
(4.25 stars) I originally assumed this book was going to be about Max and Lizzie, but I quickly realized that wouldn’t be the case and I was more than ok with that. It’s funny how you can hate a character only because of one action especially when that action crushes another. I immediately liked Grace and the type of woman she was. They both had been through so much and their relationship helped heal them both. An Ounce of Hope will surely be added to my Slow Burn list. OMG! I know because of Grace’s past that things would go slow but the burn was killing me!! The only thing that let me down a bit was the ending. After all the growth and obstacles these characters went through and overcame to be together I thought the ending was too abrupt. I am enjoying the series and love that I enjoy each new book more than the last.
I love all books by Sophie Jackson, she is a definitely a one-click author for me. This book is another part of the Pound of Flesh masterpiece. I have enjoyed this story for a few years now, and love it still. Give it a go and it won't let you stop.
Such a beautiful story! Hope, redemption, healing. It was so wonderful. There was this perfectly paced, incredible build throughout that had me drawn in, I couldn't stop reading. I swear sometimes I even held my breath because there was so much emotion and intensity. Just incredible! Max and Graced were these flawed and scarred characters and I loved, loved, LOVED their growth throughout. Great character development. Learning the details of their stories was really emotional, it was like I was right there with them. Sophie Jackson did this truly incredible job making me feel it all. I loved them meeting and their interactions. The building of a friendship and trust. There were so many nice moments of intimacy as they become closer, it was heartbreakingly beautiful. This build between the two of them was awesome. They have a very passionate and sensual connection, when it uncoils, I could feel it. The story itself was well crafted with excellent writing. The build, oh man, I thought the build and the progression was perfect. Their friendship building, the chemistry between the two growing, the details learned, the timing was just right. It was emotional and heartbreaking, the perfect amount of tension and drama. I was so pulled in with every word. Every secret revealed, every development. Such a wonderful story full of hope. The bond that Max has with Carter and Riley plus the new relationships formed are also pretty fantastic. I love real man bonding in a book, the kind that makes your gut twist because there is so much meaning behind it. It really was awesome. I'm totally curious about Riley and his story. So excited to read his book next in A Measure of Love. Amazing story. I feel like I'm repeating myself but it was excellent. All the details came to light at just the right time, it was steady, giving me just what I needed, when I need it. I cannot say enough positive things. A must read! Complimentary copy received for honest review.
I really enjoyed this book. I loved the characters, their struggles and how they were able to overcome them. It also doesnt hurt that the Max and Grace had HOT HOT romance! I look forward to reading more from Sophie Jackson.
*ARC received in exchange for an honest review* Sophie Jackson has done I again. She has created an emotional and gut wrenching story that is both beautiful and haunting. The story of Max's recovery from drug addiction is a long road of recovery but it is the story of letting himself love again that An Once of Hope focuses on. Max and Grace both have reasons to stay away from commitment and intimacy. Both need someone to finish their journey of recovery, but neither is ready to ask for the help or let someone in. For whatever reason, life works out in a way that allows Max to be that person for Grace. While Max won't be first to admit it, Grace has become that person for Max as well. Each taking a new perspective on life through each other's eyes. Both of them wanting to help the other and developing a respect and personal understanding of the other. This is a story of letting the past go so that they can have a future, whether it is together or apart. I loved taking this journey with Max and I loved meeting Grace. She became everything Max didn't know he needed. The ending was a bit of an emotional mess and I so badly just wanted their HEA but I am glad Sophie Jackson made me wait an extra chapter or two because the best HEA are never the easy ones. It's the ones that are fought for and never given up on. Max never thought he would fight for love again. He never thought he could open his heart or be able to risk the crippling risk of love leaving him once again, but he found love again with Grace and he held on. Max transformed from beginning to end and became a stronger version of himself in many ways.