Lead by Kylie Scott

Lead

As the lead singer of Stage Dive, Jimmy is used to getting whatever he wants, whenever he wants it, whether it’s booze, drugs, or women. However, when a PR disaster serves as a wake-up call about his life and lands him in rehab, he finds himself with Lena, a new assistant to keep him out of trouble.

Lena’s not willing to take any crap from the sexy rocker and is determined to keep their relationship completely professional, despite their sizzling chemistry.

But when Jimmy pushes her too far and Lena leaves, he realizes that he may just have lost the best thing that ever happened to him.

review

“I don’t know why the f*ck I put up with you.”
I shrugged. “No, me neither. But you keep paying me so I keep hanging around.”

She’s done it again! Kylie Scott has given us another absolutely flawless instalment in the Stage Dive series and this one just might be my new favourite. It’s a story that made me laugh as many times as it made my heart clench, and every part of it, every single word was just perfect. There are scenes I have read so many times, I could recite them by heart, and on every single re-read I experienced a new emotion, saw a new side of the characters’ multifaceted personalities. This is in essence a story of unrequited love, of two people falling for one another very differently—with different perceptions of their own rapidly growing feelings for each other and with different emotional capacities to deal with those feelings. I loved being in these characters’ heads, loved dissecting their strengths and weaknesses, and I absolutely adored how much attention was paid to the natural progression of their relationship. This book is the very best example of the kind of story that leaves me breathless and makes me never want to stop reading.

“Fancy falling for someone you didn’t even particularly like half the damn time. Who did something so stupid?”

Lena Morrissey stopped believing in love when her heart could no longer bear the constant disappointment from always falling for the wrong kind of man. She is sarcastic, strong-willed, and she does not let others walk all over her, even if her stubbornness ends up costing her her job. But when her outspoken, sassy personality is the very reason she is offered to become a live-in assistant for the lead singer of Stage Dive, she is not sure whether this is a joke or the best thing that has ever happened to her. Shortly after meeting the grumpy and yet utterly irresistible rocker, however, she fears she might be in more trouble than she ever bargained for.

“Verbally sparring with Jimmy was fast becoming more fun than I’d had with most other men naked.”

Jimmy Ferris’ perfectly groomed appearance might give him an air of poise and self-control, but behind closed doors Jimmy is moody, hot-tempered, hard to live with on the best of days. His poor emotional coping skills have resulted in addictions that cost him dearly and almost made him lose everything he has ever valued in life. Unable to work with any of his past sobriety companions, he is coerced by his bandmates into hiring Lena into that role, knowing all too well that he has met his match. His dynamic with Lena is one of constant bickering, both personally as well as professionally, but when faced with his first meltdown while in his employ, she proves to be the only person he trusts to see his deepest fears and triggers. He lets his defences down with her, showing her the man very few people in his life get to see, and their bond grows.

“Don’t hate me, Lena,” he whispered. “You want to be mad at me when I do dumb things, that’s fine. But don’t ever hate me. I couldn’t take that, not from you.”

As their relationship changes over time and Jimmy begins to depend on her strength in his darkest moments, so does Lena’s growing infatuation with her boss. She falls in love with him silently, reluctantly, fully aware that she should not be feeling that way, but incapable of fighting it. She knows that he would not return those feelings, so she hides them, pines after him secretly and pretends that nothing has changed between them. But when her secret is no longer that and their working arrangement is at risk of ending, the only solution to their predicament is to find ways to make Lena ‘get over’ her crush… even when the only thing that remains to try is to sleep with one another.

“Lena, focus. What was the frown for?”
I stared at his cock, mesmerized. Even incased in rubber it remained a thing of true beauty. Had I any talent with a pen, I’d have written in poems. A haiku perhaps.
“Lena?”
I was hypnotized, helpless. Cock-struck.

One of the main strengths of this story is the way the author shaped these characters, subtly but impeccably, and the way she made their differences the very thing that makes them so perfect for each other. She gave us a plus-sized heroine whose physical appearance in no way defines her as a sexual woman or diminishes her fearless personality. And then she gave us a hero who is physically flawless, but a complete mess inside, unable to cope with emotional closeness and harbouring unresolved abandonment issues. Their every interaction is explosive, hilarious, unforgettable. As a couple, they clash at every turn and yet they make complete sense. The dialogues in this story, as in all the previous books in the series, are simply fantastic, carrying Ms Scott’s signature humour in almost every character interaction. They are clever, unforced, and always fresh. I simply couldn’t get enough of them.

I rarely find myself loving and connecting with every layer of a given story, but in this case, I truly adored every last word. This series keeps getting better and better, which is rather scary since it was perfect from the very beginning. An absolute, super enjoyable must-read.

“You okay?” I asked.
A nod.
“Feeling a little emotional, huh?” I petted his hair. “That’s okay. It was an emotional blow job.”

5stars

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Stage Dive – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
LICK_new play Lead Deep
Lick: My Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Play: My Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Lead: Amazon US | Amazon UKAmazon CA | Paperback
Deep: Amazon US | Amazon UKAmazon CA | Paperback (6 Jan 2015)
✤ ✤ ✤
The Author

Kylie is a long time fan of erotic love stories and B-grade horror films. She demands a happy ending and if blood and carnage occur along the way then all the better. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and one delightful husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet.

Connect with Kylie: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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Rogue by Katy Evans

rogueGreyson King…

My boyfriend. My friend. My protector. He’s the reason I wake up every morning with a smile on my face, and the reason I fall asleep limp, worn out, and aching for his warm arms around me. When we make love, he says my name like it means something. Like I mean something.

He

Lied.

His name is Greyson King, but his alias is Zero.

There’s zero trace of him, he has zero past, and now I know that with him, I will have zero future.

He may leave no trace of him anywhere, but his imprint is in me, in my very soul–and I hate that a mere look at him commands the beat of my heart. The temperature of my body.

I’ve looked for love my entire life. I’ve waited for the butterflies, the rainbows…

Instead I’m in a free fall of emotions and there’s no one to catch me but the one man I should be running away from. The one man I thought was my prince charming.

Except this prince charming went rogue.

Greyson will stop at nothing to make me be with him. He’ll let no one stand in our way, will allow no one to threaten me, and maybe this is what scares me most of all…

What will my rogue do to keep me?

 

review

“As long as I have breath in me, you’re going to be my princess.”

Whoa. Why was I not told I’d need one of those walk-in freezers while reading this book? Apart from being one of my most scorching reads of the year, the ‘realness’ of the love story took me totally off guard, and held me captive until the very last word. This is a book I expected to like, and found myself obsessively devouring. The level of emotion, the raw chemistry between the characters, the insight into both their personalities—this book was the total package for me and one I’d recommend unreservedly.

“I get up every morning and put on my perfect face and promise myself to have the perfect day and to someday have the perfect family. But I’m failing.”

We met Melanie Meyers in previous instalments of the series as Brooke’s loyal best friend, but it is not until now that we meet the real Melanie and the hopeless dreamer behind the mouthy vixen. Melanie has always been the perfect daughter, the bright hope in her parents’ life, perennially bubbly and optimistic, her appearance and attitude reflecting that positivity and cheerfulness. Deep down, however, Melanie feels like a fraud, unworthy of the life she was given because she keeps failing at the one thing her parents wish the most for her—finding a good man and falling head over heels in love with him. She keeps ‘kissing frogs’ in the hope of finding the man of her dreams, but all she is ever left with is a string of one-night stands and a heart that keeps breaking from the constant sting of disappointment. And yet, Melanie never stops hoping that her perfect man would suddenly walk into her life and love her the way she craves to be loved, the way she sees her friend Brooke being loved by her husband—completely and desperately.

“I am prepared to fall, and fall hard, if only I would just find him.”

Her loneliness and desire to have at least some parts of her life fall into place drive her to make the kind of mistake that puts her entire future in jeopardy, the very mistake that brings a dangerous man like Greyson King into her life.

“F*ck her prince charming. She’s getting me.”

Greyson is the ‘heir apparent’ to an organisation that sets up fighting events all across the country, called the Underground. They are also in charge of all gambling activities related to the fights, and Greyson is their collector, a ruthless man with very particular talents and an unmatched success rate. But Greyson never wanted the life he was forced to live or the future he is now asked to embrace. When his only weakness is used against him, he accepts a job that makes him cross paths with the only woman who has ever made him wish he were someone else.

“She makes me feel like I’m not a robot, like I’m flesh and blood, a man, not a number, not a job . . . not a monster, not a bastard, not a zero.”

What starts as just one night of earth-shattering passion, slowly grows into an emotional connection neither of them can deny. When they are in each other’s arms, nothing else matters, they belong to one another body and soul, but when they are apart, their personal demons try to pull them apart and make them doubt what their hearts have known from the very beginning—they belong to each other. While Greyson is convinced that his hands are too dirty to be worthy of a woman like Melanie, she allows her insecurities to make her believe that a man like Greyson could never love and want to keep someone like her, regardless of how much of her love, of herself she gives to him.

“He is the one. The one who’s going to wreck me. Hurt me. Demolish me. The one who is going to remove every inch of the girl in me. He will be the memory I will never forget, and good or bad, he will be THE one I dream of.”

I’ll be honest, I never expected to find this story, or rather, the intensity of it, when I first started reading this book. The way these characters were developed so flawlessly and so meticulously made me feel like I understood their every move, their every though, their every emotional struggle. I simply got them. And don’t get me started on the chemistry between them because it is electric. Devastating. Epic. The sex scenes between Melanie and Greyson are so powerful, urgent, almost savage in the way these characters part with their inhibitions and self-control while their bodies take over. This author has a very unique talent for transforming even the most explicit of sex scenes into moments of pure emotional vulnerability and demonstrativeness which end up only tying these characters even further to one another. I was overwhelmed, utterly ruined by those scenes, everything about them being just right for my taste.

“I look at him, and he doesn’t scare me. He lures me. He tempts me, exhilarates me. He makes me want to claim him as if I’m claiming back a part of me that was once lost. Makes me want to tame him. Let him tame me.”

There is also something extremely appealing to me about a heroine who is so emotionally unguarded and yet so resilient. Melanie’s strength of character, her unwillingness to let go of her dreams, even after so many disappointments, and her courage to put her heart on the line time after time, are qualities that made me love her from the very first page. Greyson might have been the dominant ‘alpha male’ in this scenario, but it is Melanie’s persistent heart that was the true hero of the story. I loved their romance beginning to end, every component of it fit just right, including the language used by the characters, and I found myself without objections.

“You are so f*cking mine you don’t even know how mine you are.”

A deeply emotional story, a story that caught me by surprise and made me adore every delicious, dirrrty moment of it. I was enthralled, I was moved, I was bewitched, and I never wanted it to end.

“Whoever you end up with, just know you were mine first. A part of you will always be mine. When you find your prince charming, the one who has everything you’re looking for, perfect, you’ll still be my f*cking princess and not any other’s.”

5stars

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Real – Reading Order and Purchase Links
real5
mine2
remy
rogue
RIPPED

RealAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAPaperback
MineAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAPaperback
RemyAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAPaperback
RogueAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAPaperback
RippedAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback (9 Dec 2014)

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Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren

sweetfiltyboyOne-night stands are supposed to be with someone convenient, or wickedly persuasive, or regrettable. They aren’t supposed to be with someone like him.

But after a crazy Vegas weekend celebrating her college graduation—and terrified of the future path she knows is a cop-out—Mia Holland makes the wildest decision of her life: follow Ansel Guillaume—her sweet, filthy fling—to France for the summer and just…play.

When feelings begin to develop behind the provocative roles they take on, and their temporary masquerade adventures begin to feel real, Mia will have to decide if she belongs in the life she left because it was all wrong, or in the strange new one that seems worlds away.

review

“I want to love all of my life as much as I love this night.”

I must say that it stuns me that even after so many books read and loved, a story can still take me by surprise so completely and so unexpectedly, and end up being the very opposite of what I thought I would find. When I picked up this book, I expected light-hearted humour, I expected romance, I expected a fun read. Well, as much as those elements were all present, this book is first and foremost a stunning insight into human nature, into short-term escapism versus the vivid reality of everyday life. It is a stunning testament of how even the rarest of human connections need a mutual commitment in order to work out, and how love is as much a reward after a journey travelled as it is a ‘winning lottery ticket’ of sorts. I devoured this book, even re-read parts in order to fully absorb every layer of this story and not miss a word. From impeccable character development, to a truly stimulating storyline, from sizzling sex scenes that had my skin-tingling and my pulse racing, to an engaging writing style that left me craving for more from this talented writing duo—this was a book I could not put down and even before I finished it, I knew it would forever remain one of my favourite reading escapes.

“We have the rest of our lives to be sophisticated, but only the one weekend in Vegas.”

Mia is a woman in her early twenties, fresh out of college, and at an important crossroad in her life where she is about to pick the road that someone else has set before her and embark on the kind of future she never wished for herself. A former ballerina, her dreams were suddenly cut short due to injury, but the performer in her still craves to be ‘in someone else’s head’ as she has never felt as liberated and as free to be herself as while pretending to be someone else. During her last weekend of reckless abandon, she goes to Las Vegas with her two best friend to celebrate their graduation and be irresponsible for the last time in her young life, never expecting that a one-night-stand could change the rest of her life.

“I want to have a different life tonight.”

From the moment Mia sees Ansel from across a crowded bar, the spark between them is hard to ignore. They meet, they flirt, they have too much to drink, they talk, they flirt some more, they have wild monkey sex all night long on every surface of their hotel suite, and… they get married. A typical night of fun in Vegas and up to this point, this story was exactly what I expected it to be. But once the bright morning light sets on the reality of everything that has happened between them, the more Mia remembers of their night together, of the person she became while in Ansel’s arms, of the freedom and passion she felt while talking and making love to him, the less she feels inclined to have their marriage annulled and erase that way the only act of spontaneity in her adult life.

“I have no idea what to do with you.”

From the bright decadence of Las Vegas to the sophisticated elegance of Paris, France, we follow the young couple into their new life together, as temporary as it may be, and from the moment Mia steps onto the plane taking them back to Ansel’s home town, they are faced with the harsh reality of being married to complete strangers, of knowing very little about each other, of having only one thing still tying them to one another, apart from the gold bands on their fingers—the memory of the spark between them.

“I might not remember every touch, but my body certainly does. I can feel his fingertips tattooed all over my skin. They’re in the bruises I can see and they’re invisible, too: the echo of his fingers in my mouth, dragging along my legs, pumping inside me.”

And this is where this book becomes truly spectacular. Mia and Ansel are faced with the impulsiveness of their decisions, struggling to connect now as spouses rather than each other’s one-night-stands. They have to work on their communication, on facing the secrets that could potentially tear them apart, on setting a pace in their marriage that leaves both of them resentment-free even when constantly making small sacrifices along the way, and they have to rediscover each other, from the very beginning, their sole foundation being the memory of a perfect night together. I had to stop on several occasions simply to absorb the intensity of those scenes, to reflect at times on a single sentence exchanged between Mia and Ansel, because their every exchange is so meaningful, so electrifying, and yet always charged with underlying issues that they are both committed to resolve.

“What we know is dimly lit bars, playful banter, the clean, crisp sheets of hotel rooms. What we know is the unrequited possibility, the temptation of the idea. The make-believe. The adventure. But when you choose the adventure, it becomes real life.”

The absolute highlight of this book for me is the way these characters strive to understand each other’s needs and wants, how much they are willing to do to recapture the magic between them, never attempting to change one another in the process. Even during the most electrifying sexual scenes between them, there is always an undercurrent of unconditional mutual acceptance that deepens the meaning of every single touch, every kiss, every stolen breath. I will not deprive you of the indescribable thrill from discovering how they learn to communicate with one another, but I will tell you that I have never been so moved and yet so aroused all at once.

“I reach for my bag, pulling out gum, but he quickly moves to me, sliding his hands up my neck to cup my face. “Don’t.” He leans close, sucking on my mouth the way he seems to like so much. “You taste like me. I taste like you.” He bends, licking my tongue, my lips, my teeth. “I like this so much. Let it stay, just for a bit.”

A deceivingly predictable scenario which turns into one of the most real and realistically told stories I have ever read, this is a book I adored. I laughed, I sighed, I fanned myself, and I even choked up on occasion—the story of Mia and Ansel is what happens when a modern fantasy is faced with the starkness of everyday reality. Reading this book made me happy and it is a top recommendation from me.

“What you feel, Cerice? I feel it too. F*ck, Mia, I feel everything for you.”

5stars

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Wild Seasons – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
(standalone stories with interconnected characters)
sweetfiltyboy
dirtyrowdything

Sweet Filthy Boy: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Dirty Rowdy ThingAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback (4 Nov 2014)
Dark Wild Nights: coming Sep 2015…
Wicked Sexy Liar: coming Feb 2016…

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Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

uglylove2

When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she doesn’t think it’s love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her.

Never ask about the past.
Don’t expect a future.

They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.

Hearts get infiltrated.
Promises get broken.
Rules get shattered.
Love gets ugly.

review

“I didn’t fall in love with you… I flew.”

I am ruined.

I would like to think that after more than half a dozen books read and loved, I could call myself a seasoned Colleen Hoover reader and thus be equipped for all her ‘mind trickery’, and yet nothing, nothing in this world could have prepared me for the emotional avalanche that is Ugly Love. This is a book like no other in this author’s impressive repertoire, a book that gets under your skin from the very first sentence, and then page after page, it just keeps stripping you of every semblance of control you might have thought you had over your own feelings. It’s a book that annihilates you from within, slowly breaks your heart into so many pieces you’ll need tweezers to pick them all up, and then it simply stuns you into silence with one of the most unexpected, soul-shattering book moments in history. Every element of this story is so brilliantly thought out, so cleverly executed, so skilfully assembled into one of the most perfect stories I have ever read. Colleen Hoover is on an emotional rampage this time around, and she will ruin us all in the best possible way.

“Love isn’t always pretty… Sometimes you spend all your time hoping it’ll eventually be something different. Something better. Then, before you know it, you’re back to square one, and you lost your heart somewhere along the way.”

The story is split into two parallel timelines, one in the present and one in the past, and it follows two distinct voices all throughout the book. They are each so vivid and persuasive in their impact on the reader, that it often becomes difficult to reconcile them in our minds and see how one can coexist with the other. In the present, our heroine is a young woman in her early twenties, a student nurse who has just arrived in a new city to pursue a postgraduate degree and find a job. Tate Collins has never put relationships before her professional aspirations, her career always coming first, and she remains determined not to let love distract her from her goals. But on her very first day there, as she is moving into her new home, she meets her neighbour Miles, a young pilot and a close friend of her brother’s, and from that moment onwards, her heart doesn’t stop doing summersaults every time they run into each other. But Miles is not interested in love, now or ever again, and while their attraction is sizzling and at times difficult to rein in, he remains clear on two points…

“Don’t ask about my past. And never expect a future.”

In the past, we meet an eighteen-year-old Miles Archer, at the very moment he meets his first love. Through brief but particularly attention-grabbing little snippets of that past, we get to witness firsthand the heartwarming experience of falling in love for the first time through the eyes of a young Miles and it’s the very innocence of it all, the untainted joy and excitement of those feelings, that stand in stark contrast with the events and the Miles we get to meet six years later.

“It’s not that I don’t like you… I just don’t want to like you. I don’t want to like anyone. I don’t want to date anyone. I don’t want to love anyone.”

While in the past we see our hero free-falling into love, carelessly and enthusiastically, in the present scenario we see him holding back every one of his emotions from the woman who each day reluctantly falls herself deeper and deeper in love with him. As emotions start bleeding through, blurring the lines of the friends-with-benefits arrangement they have agreed on, Miles and Tate’s relationship becomes more and more complicated as time goes by, bringing them each day one step closer to Tate’s inevitable heartbreak and disappointment. Unspoken questions keep piling up, unrequited feelings keep getting suppressed, and eventually all that is left between them is the ugly side of love.

“Make me leave… You don’t need this… I just don’t know how to stop wanting you. Tell me to go, and I’ll go.”

I will stop here and tell you nothing more about this story. This is a book that will keep surprising you, devastating you, leaving you breathless by simply never allowing you to relax or foresee what lies ahead, and I assure you that you will never see the next blow coming. They are all delivered with such precision, I felt like I was on the receiving end of a knife throwing act. It’s a story that shows the resilience of the human spirit, regardless of how terrifying the ghosts of one’s past may be, and the healing power of love. The sheer brilliance of this book also lies in the language used, in the quirky dialogues, in the unique monologues, in the word repetitions, even in the extraordinary visual arrangements of words aimed to imprint the meaning of those words into our souls and leave us shivering in their wake. Nothing is accidental and everything is just right.

“I hope she remembers the moment
she
became
my
everything.”

By the end of this book, my hands were hurting from being balled into fists for so long, my heart was aching and rejoicing at the same time from the countless emotions it had been exposed to, my body was hurting from not having moved an inch for so many hours at a stretch, and I had developed an unhealthy animosity towards italics in general. This is the sexiest, most heart-wrenching Colleen Hoover book to date—a book that shows us a brand new side of this author’s writing genius, and it is in my humble opinion, her best work thus far.

I am so ruined… and I loved every single moment of it.

“If I were capable of loving someone . . . it would be you.”

6stars

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Making Faces by Amy Harmon

Making FacesAmbrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have… until he wasn’t beautiful anymore.

Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

review

“I loved every word, every thought, and I loved you . . . so much.”

As someone who reads to escape reality and to immerse myself in emotions that are not my own, I am constantly seeking that ‘high’, that rare moment when every sensation running through me is dictated by the characters and the story they are telling. It can be a random burst of laughter, it can be the feeling of having your heart crushed and your breath stolen away from you, or it can be an overwhelming sense of joy for you’ve become one with the characters and their every happiness intrinsically becomes your own. And while those moments are rare and far between, I seek them, fear them as much as I need them, loving how deeply a story can touch us as readers and even alter our perception of our own lives. So when a book comes along that essentially robs you of every figment of control you thought you had over your own emotions and pulls on your heartstrings like a skilled puppeteer, you feel like you’ve just won the jackpot. This book did not just make me cry at times—it made me cry cover to cover. Once it opened up the floodgates, I never knew what would trigger the next tear. Fern, Bailey and Ambrose are characters that I loved with all my heart, their beautiful souls hopefully leaving a permanent mark on my own, as stories like these are rarely told, and even more rarely with such positivity and genuineness. This is a story that will inspire you, overwhelm you, fill you with so much faith in the human spirit, and it will show you that sometimes the most beautiful tales are found where you least expect them to be.

“She’s not pretty. Little, funny Fernie. She’s not pretty. Poor Fernie.”

Fern is the girl whom no one notices at school, the ugly duckling who is still more child than young woman, but whose goodness and kindness shine through in everything she does. From the day she was born, she has been joined at the hip to her cousin Bailey, a boy diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of four. They have grown up as best friends, thick as thieves, but as his ability to look after himself slowly declines with age, Fern naturally becomes his carer, stepping in whenever he is unable to do something, filling his everyday life with all the experiences that he would otherwise miss out on, and helping him live life to the fullest as the day his illness would take him away from her slowly approaches. Fern’s innate positivity fills their days with constant joy and laughter, appreciating even the smallest of blessings in life, her almost childlike matter-of-fact approach to the world around her never allowing her to focus on all that was not given to her, but rather embracing and cherishing all the beauty that was.

“If God makes all our faces, did he laugh when he made me?”

Fern knows she is not pretty. She knows what physical beauty looks like because she has loved one beautiful face in particular all her life, even though the object of her affections has never seen her the same way or returned those feelings. Ambrose Young is the popular jock at school, the captain of the wrestling team, the guy every girl secretly dreams of dating and every guy wishes they could be. And while Fern knows someone as beautiful as Ambrose could never love someone as plain-looking as she is, she never stops dreaming of the day he would finally notice her as a woman and love her the same way.

“I’d just trade faces.”
“But God gave you that face.”
“Well, if I could, I’d make myself another. Then maybe Ambrose Young wouldn’t be too beautiful to even look at me.”

Ambrose is not a superficial young man, but he appreciates and is attracted to beauty as most human beings are. His energy, dedication and loyalty to those around him make him someone others instinctively gravitate towards, his handsome face not even holding a candle to the true beauty inside him. And while he has always noticed little Fern, even felt a subtle protective streak towards her, he has never quite truly seen her.

“Do you think there’s any way someone like Ambrose could fall in love with someone like me?”
“Only if he’s lucky.”

As their high school years draw to an end, the little fearless redheaded pixie becomes harder and harder to ignore, her courage and honesty igniting reactions in him that he never expected to feel. But when Ambrose finally starts noticing Fern, his life takes him far away from her and the only home he has ever known, their childhood innocence forever stolen from them. When he eventually returns home, Ambrose is a broken man, all his physical beauty gone forever and his heart so guilt-ridden, he cannot bear to be seen as anything but the ‘monster’ he has now become. But as someone who has always loved him with her heart, not her eyes, Fern still sees the same beautiful man before her, and never misses an opportunity to show him.

“I would really like it if, just for once, I could be beautiful to you on the outside.”

What follows is perhaps one of the most heart-warming tales of true love, of a love that is so pure and innocent, it brings tears to our eyes. Fern, Ambrose and Bailey are three characters that you end up loving equally, fiercely, protectively. They each have a story to tell, and each one of their stories is so utterly beautiful, it is dazzling at times. I will not lie to you, there are moments that are filled with such sadness that you will probably end up being a blubbering mess by the end of them like I was, but each moment of sadness is also bursting with bittersweet positivity and a message so powerful, it screams off the pages.

“Could you belong to someone who didn’t want you?”

I never in a million years expected to fall in love with a story like this, but I didn’t expect to ever find a story like this in the first place. The writing style is superb, commanding in its sheer simplicity, and every single word has the power to undo you. There is a strong spiritual undercurrent driving the story forward, but it fits perfectly into the story itself, without being heavy-handed or overwhelming. Its beautiful message is so all-encompassing and so powerful that I truly believe everyone should do themselves a favour and read this story at some point in their lives. Everyone.

“You are still beautiful.”
“I think that statement is more a reflection of your beauty than mine.”

6stars

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Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
The Author

Amy Harmon_picAmy Harmon knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story.

Amy Harmon has been a motivational speaker, a grade school teacher, a junior high teacher, a home school mom, and a member of the Grammy Award winning Saints Unified Voices Choir, directed by Gladys Knight. She released a Christian Blues CD in 2007 called “What I Know” – also available on Amazon and wherever digital music is sold.

Connect with Amy: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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The Promise by Kristen Ashley

thepromise

Since his brother’s death, Benny Bianchi has been nursing his grudge against the woman he thinks led to his brother’s downfall. He does this to bury the feelings he has for Francesca Concetti, his brother’s girl. But when Frankie takes a bullet while on the run with Benny’s cousin’s woman, Benny has to face those feelings.

The problem is Frankie has decided she’s paid her penance. Penance she didn’t deserve to pay. She’s done with Benny and the Bianchi family. She’s starting a new life away from Chicago and her heartbreaking history.

Benny has decided differently.

But Frankie has more demons she’s battling. Demons Benny wants to help her face. But life has landed so many hard knocks on Frankie she’s terrified of believing in the promise of Benny Bianchi and the good life he’s offering.

Frankie’s new life leads her to The ‘Burg, where Benny has ties, and she finds she not only hasn’t succeeded in getting away, she’s doesn’t want to.

review

“You were mine, even when you were his.”

Kristen Ashley truly has one of the most recognisable and inimitable voices of today, and while her books carry her signature prose in every single sentence, each one of her series has a different kind of ‘feel’, a different type of ‘undercurrent’ tying the stories together, and creating a unique, addictive reality to immerse and lose ourselves in for as long as we can. I have adored every book I have ever read by this author, but this series gets to me like no other because of its inspiring themes, because of the way it focuses on families, old and new, on what constitutes a family, and on what people are willing to do for the ones they love. A story of second chances, of forgiveness, of seizing the opportunity to correct past mistakes and ‘make it right’, of having the courage to capture one’s happy ending even when you don’t believe you deserve one—this is a story that stole my heart from the get-go and made me incapable of walking away from these characters for weeks after I first read it.

“Benny Bianchi was always going to be a promise at the same time Benny Bianchi was the prize at the end of a crazy life.”

We met Frankie and Benny at the end of At Peace, and have been anxiously waiting for their story to be told ever since. Once the girlfriend of Benny’s late brother Vinnie, Frankie has been shunned by the Bianchi family for seven long years. Wrongly blamed for all of Vinnie’s mistakes shortly before and leading to his death, she has endured and carried her penance in silence, punishing herself for something that was never her fault. She has missed the Bianchis every single day, needed and longed for their love and acceptance since her own family is one she could never depend on, but it is Benny Bianchi’s loathing that has stung the most. Frankie has had a soft spot for the younger Bianchi brother ever since they were kids, but after years of being ignored and hated by him and his family, she has had enough. Once her penance is paid, Frankie is ready to start over, far away from her memories, far away from everyone who has ever made her feel inadequate and unworthy, but that is the very moment when Benny finally realises what has been in front of him all along and what he stands to lose if he lets her go.

“We’re talkin’. You don’t like that, I don’t give a f*ck. Seven years I’ve been f*cking up. Right now, that shit ends.”

Benny is not a man accustomed to women not being receptive to his advances, having successfully ‘played the field’ ever since he was a teenager. But he has also never wanted a woman the way he wants Frankie, nor has he been willing to fight for one the same way. Frankie is unlike any woman Benny has ever met or bedded, her feistiness making her irresistible in his eyes, but the beauty of her heart making her impossible to walk away from. Determined to heal the breach and give her everything she has ever wished for in life, he pursues her relentlessly but patiently.

“Honest to Christ, Frankie, you think I’d wait since high school to get my shot at makin’ you mine and then I’d let a four-hour drive and a f*ckin’ year lease beat me?”

However, as desperately as she’s always wanted the kind of life Benny is now offering her, she is terrified even more of losing him and his family once again. Her feelings for him grow stronger every day, and yet she keeps succumbing to her fears and pushing him away, convinced that she would only end up being a source of heartbreak for the man she always cared for, even if letting him go would mean breaking her own heart.

“Benny should have a good woman. Which meant he had no business being with me.”

Aware of all of Frankie’s misplaced hang-ups due to her family’s emotional fickleness, Benny’s patience has no limits as he remains confident that with the right kind of love and nurturing she would eventually see herself as everyone around her sees her. The unmistakeable pace of the story allows us to get the full effect of Benny’s gentle persistence, the best kind of example of a man in love who is willing to give the woman of his dreams all the time her mind needs to catch up with what her heart has known all along. Their chemistry is explosive, making our skin tingle every time they exchange a simple touch, but it is the everlasting nature of their feelings for another that have our own hearts clenching and bursting at the seams. There are scenes that literally have our pulses racing and our knees weakening from the way they are so deliciously erotic and heart-warmingly sweet all at once. Sometimes it’s an entire scene, sometimes all it takes is a simple word, but even the simplest of moments between the characters can be so emotionally charged, we are constantly fighting to catch a breath.

“Never loved another woman. Not in my life. Waited until I got it right. I got it right.”

The love and support of a good man can be all it takes to erase a lifetime of self-doubts, and Benny and Frankie’s story shows us how much true love can empower a person. And how much beauty can be found when one loves patiently but persistently. By the end of this book, I felt like I knew every facet of these characters’ complex personalities, they felt real to me, familiar. It’s a story that warms your heart from the inside out, and leaves you with a deep sigh of contentment. I kept flipping back the pages, hoping to make that feeling last as long as I could, hopelessly addicted to a high that only a Kristen Ashley book has ever been able to give me. And I’m still flipping’…

“Minute by minute, honey.”
“Minute by minute, baby.”

5stars

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Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
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The ‘Burg – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
(standalone stories with interconnected characters
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For You: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
At Peace: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Golden Trail: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Games of the Heart: Amazon US | Amazon UK
The Promise: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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The Author

k ashley_pic

Kristen Ashley grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana, and has lived in Denver, Colorado, and the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write.

Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multigenerational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland, and Kristen grew up listening to the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon, and Whitesnake.

Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music and love was a good way to grow up. And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.

Connect with Kristen: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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Dirty Angels by Karina Halle

Dirty AngelsFor Luisa Chavez, a twenty-three year old former beauty queen, a better life has always been just out of her reach. Sure, she’s had men at her feet since she was a young teenager but she’s never had the one thing she’s craved – security. Having grown up in near poverty, her waitressing job in Cabo San Lucas can barely let her take care of herself, let alone her ailing parents. Every day is another unwanted advance, every day is a struggle to survive.

When Salvador Reyes, the depraved leader of a major Mexican cartel, takes an interest in her, Luisa is presented with an opportunity she can’t afford to pass up. She’ll become Salvador’s wife and exchange her freedom and body for a life of riches – riches she can bestow upon her deserving parents. But Luisa quickly finds out that even the finest wines and jewels can’t undo the ugliness in her marriage, nor the never-ending violence that threatens her every move.

Soon, Luisa is looking for an escape, a way out of the carefully controlled life she’s leading. She finally gets her wish in the worst way possible.

As it is, being the wife of Salvador makes her an ideal target for rival cartels and there’s one particular man who needs Luisa as part of his cartel’s expansion. One particular man whose quest for power has destroyed lives, slit throats and gotten him out of an American prison. One particular man who will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants.

That man is Javier Bernal. And he wants Luisa. He wants to take her, keep her, ruin her.

Unless she ruins him first.

review

“Her lips soothed me, her heart challenged me, her eyes made me bleed. My bed was where we held our exorcisms. She brought me peace. I brought her fire.”

Javier Bernal. Just that name does funny things to my insides. We met him in The Artists Trilogy, and even though I personally never stopped cheering for the other guy, there has always been something utterly irresistible about this psychotic Mexican and his brand of mischief. He never really showed any redeemable qualities, none that could truly outweigh the wickedness of his ways, and yet I always hoped he would find his happy ending and perhaps even abandon the ‘dark side’ for the right woman. Well… I should have known from the beginning that no story with Javier as the leading character could ever be considered ‘ordinary’ by any stretch of the imagination, and that to truly enjoy his ‘grand finale’, one would need to abandon all hope of redemption and simply enjoy the debauchery of it all. And what a delicious ride it has been! Karina Halle has once again proven that she can make us fall in love with anyone she pleases, regardless of how depraved and morally questionable their character is, and that armed with a pen, she is the truly dangerous one.

“My destiny was constantly being rewritten and it would continue to be until it was fulfilled. Until I was at the top of the world and I had everything I’d ever wanted at my feet. Until I could crush everything with none of the mercy that was bestowed upon me.”

Back in Mexico and now a powerful drug cartel leader in his own right, Javier has put his past behind and focused all his energy on building the empire he has always dreamed of having. Forever hungry for even more power and influence, he kidnaps the wife of Mexico’s largest drug lord, planning to exchange her life for a slice of her husband’s drug trade. But nothing prepares him for Luisa Chavez, former beauty queen, and the first woman in a very long time to challenge him and make him question his ways with her stubborn defiance of him.

“They could try and carve me up, they could rape me, torture me, try and confuse me with hospitality, but they would not get to me. They would not break my soul. They would not see my pain.”

Luisa was born poor, but she has always been surrounded by unconditional love. Now the sole bread-winner in the family, she struggles to make ends meet in order to provide for her elderly parents, but never stops making their wellbeing her number one priority in life, no matter the cost to her dignity or pride. But when her beauty catches the eye of one of the most infamous drug lords in the country, her fate is sealed the moment he decides to make her his wife. By agreeing to marry him, she escapes the squalor of her daily life by entering a living nightmare. And when Javier kidnaps her, she then enters another.

“Perhaps I should have been more afraid. I was just … sad. Sad that my life had to go this way, sad that I could never catch a break. Sad that I’d probably never see my parents again.”

Trapped, tortured and living in constant fear, Luisa is determined not to let her captors break her spirit, never showing her true emotions to any of them, least of all to the most dangerous of them all—the man who slowly awakens her body and forces her to embrace the woman dying to come out and play. Lines gets crossed, walls get cracked, but there inevitably comes a point when difficult choices need to be made, and when they are both forced to make sacrifices in the name of what they believe in the most.

“Love didn’t build empires, it ruined them.”

A superb depiction of the gritty reality of Mexican drug cartels, this is a story that will force you to leave your own morals and beliefs at the door, and simply ‘swim’ in the darkness of a world where it’s every man for himself, where survival is the only priority in life, and where every monster has their own nightmares to keep them awake at night. There is something utterly entertaining, if not confronting, about being able to embrace a reality filled with nothing but depravity and still manage to find something beautiful in it. This is a love story. This is a horror story. And it is so ugly at times, that each rare moment of beauty is nothing less than blinding.

“You were always my captive. I was always the man holding the knife.”

5stars

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Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Connect with Karina: WebsiteFacebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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Dirty Angels is a Spin-Off series of The Artists Trilogy
Reading Order and Purchase Links
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Sins & Needles: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
On Every Street (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Shooting ScarsMy reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Bold TricksMy reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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