BOOK REVIEW: A Stone in the Sea by A.L. Jackson

AStoneintheSea

He wanted nothing at all…

Until he found she had everything to give…

Sunder lead singer and guitarist Sebastian Stone has everything—fans, fame, and fortune. He also has a heart full of bitterness and a reputation for a short-fused temper. But an outward reputation rarely reveals the true man inside. Facing assault charges after trying to protect his younger brother, Sebastian is sent to Savannah, Georgia to lie low until the dust settles in L.A.

Shea Bentley is beautiful, kind, and hiding from the very lifestyle Sebastian has always embraced.

When the mysterious, tattooed stranger begins hanging out at the bar where she works, Shea is quick to recognize he is nothing but trouble, but she’s helpless to the way her body lights up every time his intense gray eyes tangle with hers.

They both soon find themselves drowning in a sea of desire and passion that won’t let them up for air.

Sebastian knows firsthand secrets never die, and he’s not the only one who’s hiding them.

Loving someone always comes with a price. But will it be Shea’s past that costs them everything?

review

“I never needed anyone to love me until I needed you.”

I should have known. I should have known she would wreck me. I should have known she would give us another gut-wrenching story, and then leave only heartbreak in its wake, because this book owned me, cover to cover, every single sentence in it reminding me once again why I love this author’s writing style so dearly, and why her words affect me every single time without fail. An intense, passionate love story that had all the components I am drawn to in a romance of this kind, but coupled with a few personal ‘triggers’ of my own—I was mesmerized from the very first page, and my fascination with these characters only grew as the story unravelled. Two people scarred by life, desperate to put their dark pasts behind them, and viscerally drawn to each other from the moment they meet—this is the story of finding the missing piece to one’s life, of finding the courage to take a chance, to throw all caution aside and risk one’s heart for nothing more than the hope of a happiness like no other. There are so many crucial facets to this story which I will not even mention to you, wishing for you to discover them on your own and thus allow this story to overwhelm you slowly, as intended, because there are so many complex layers to this tale, so many puzzle pieces, and the pace at which we uncover them is as important as the story itself. If you are looking for a phenomenally written, captivating read that you will not be able to put down, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

“I’d never felt anything was missing from my life. Not until the day I met Sebastian Stone.”

Sebastian Stone is a rock star, a man whose life has been under the magnifying glass ever since he found fame, but his road to success has not been an easy one, marred by great loss and bitter mistakes, making him the disillusioned and hot-tempered young man he is now. When faced with the disastrous consequences of his temper’s latest outburst, he finds himself cooped up with his band mates in a small town in Savannah, Georgia, forced to re-evaluate his life altogether. But while seeking anonymity and peace, nothing prepares him for his body’s unexpected reaction to a kind-eyed waitress at a local bar, whose inexplicable pull leaves him baffled and starving for more.

“I knew it then. What I wanted.
To lose control.
Just for a few hours.
And I wanted to lose it with her.”

Shea Bentley is a young woman whose deceivingly simple life hides a painful past full of secrets, a past she hides fiercely from all those around her. Kind, unpretentious, modest—Shea is unlike any other woman Sebastian has ever met, her eyes hiding a darkness he immediately recognises, while her inner light draws him to her like a beacon through a storm. And as much as he tries to stay away from her and not be an unwanted distraction in her life, her siren call keeps pulling him to her night after night.

“What are you doing here?”
“The same thing I’m doing every night, Shea. Thinking about you and wondering why the hell I can’t stop.”

They both fight their attraction, try to find reasons for avoiding an emotional connection of any kind, but when they inevitably succumb to the unwavering spark between them, it is one of the most devastating, explosive, uninhibited, heart-breakingly passionate sights to be seen. Ms Jackson uses every weapon in her writing arsenal to express emotions of such magnitude that we are left quivering messes, totally entranced by her prose and hopelessly addicted to the intensity of the scenes she is weaving before our eyes.

“I fell.
Plunged into his abyss.
Heart first.
Through waves of ecstasy. Deeper. Deeper. To where I touched a sea of stars that blinded my eyes, where I floated in that place that belonged only to us, a place that didn’t belong to this world. Where darkness and light reigned and wrong or right had no bearing.
A brutal ecstasy.”

The connection between these characters takes on a life of its own and it soon becomes a palpable force driving the story forward. Sebastian is a man who never sought anything more than a temporary escape from his life, a chance to forget, until he meets a woman who gives herself to him selflessly and bravely, who takes a risk with her heart by loving a man who would never love her back the same way…or stay. But their greatest battle might end up being one they never even imagined fighting alongside one another.

“I’m going to break you, Shea.”
I knew it.
Felt it in my gut.
“You already have.”

Ms Jackson is a master storyteller, a skilled ‘sadist’ when it comes to affecting her readers’ emotions and making our hearts ache, but her brand of ‘torture’ is quite possibly one of my favourite ‘afflictions’. In this book, her powerful writing style has the added element of an almost lyrical pace to the prose itself, with heightened imagery and emotional associations present in every rhythmic beat of the words themselves. It deepened my connection to the story, to these characters and their emotional journey, leaving me breathless on more than one occasion.

I will not lie to you, there is a nasty cliffhanger at the end of this book, one that was needed given the many puzzle pieces yet to be revealed. It left me a raging mess, but glad that the story had not been cheapened by forcing it into one book. So, if you are not allergic to anticipation and get a kick out of reading phenomenally written, angst-ridden stories that overload your senses start to finish, I urge you to give this beautiful tale a chance.

Sebastian and Shea’s story will continue in Drowning to Breathe in June 2015, and then conclude in Through the Storm, expected in October 2015.

“I was falling further, being sucked beneath the surface.
A stone in his sea.
Completely drowning in this man.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Losers Weepers by Nicole Williams

LosersWeepersIf we didn’t know darkness, we couldn’t fully appreciate the light.

Garth Black’s more familiar with this concept than most people are. He hadn’t just lived in the dark for the majority of his life—he thrived in it. With a mom who’d bailed on him and a dad whose understanding of coddling started and ended with a bottle of whiskey, Garth had never been expected to rise to any sort of occasion other than following down the same dead-end paths.

That changed when he fell in love with Josie Gibson. After years of pulling each other closer before shoving the other way, they finally stopped shoving. Josie’s love is like nothing Garth’s ever experienced. He holds it close. He holds it sacred. He would do anything to preserve it and keep it from pollution, even if that means removing himself from the picture.

Garth might have been allowed a temporary furlough to bask in the light, but that pass has been revoked, and he’s been swallowed again by the dark. Will he revert to his old ways of hurting those he cares for most? Will he go back to the same destructive patterns . . . or will it be worse this time?

We can’t know light without first knowing dark . . . and Garth Black’s about to get acquainted with the dark in a whole new way.

review

“You don’t throw away the love of a lifetime because someone gets injured—that’s when you prove what your love’s really made of.”

Garth Black. This dark, troubled, smart-alecky cowboy stole my heart in Finders Keepers, but I have to admit that getting a continuation of his story was equally thrilling as it was terrifying at first, because every protective bone in my body did not wish any more harm to come to these beloved characters. Garth and Josie’s love story had been a lesson in perseverance, of stubbornly fighting for what we want most in our lives, and of breaking the self-disparaging cycle we might have been born into. But their tale was not over, as blissfully as it had ended, and one more hurdle was needed for Garth to recognise and truly embrace the unconditional love a woman like Josie was offering him. An intensely emotional and thought-provoking story, sugar-coated with light-hearted humour and sarcasm, it never steered away from getting across a very meaningful message of hope and courage, of learning to grab life by the horns instead of fearing it, of living to the fullest regardless of what the future has in store for us, and of seizing every minute of every day like it were our last. I fell in love with these characters all over again, and I still find myself smiling from time to time as certain scenes unexpectedly flash through my mind, because this superb, feel-good story stays with us long after we turn the last page.

“I had nothing to compare to the way she loved me, and that’s what made it so special. No one but her had ever come close to loving me like that. No one had ever believed in me the way she did. Her love was so big and overwhelming that each day with her erased another day of pain and failure from my past. Her love was magic, healing me as it lifted me up, and though she tried convincing me otherwise, I knew I could spend ten lifetimes trying and failing to give her what she’d given me in a year’s time.”

Garth and Josie have found their happy ending in each other’s arms and with a hopeful future before them. But, after a childhood void of affection and approval, and having been told all his life that he was nothing, Garth still struggles with his self-esteem issues, especially when it comes to truly believing that he could ever be worthy of someone as wonderful as Josie. He plans of handing her the world, of making every single one of her dreams come true, thus making her as happy as she makes him, and his career as a bull rider is his means to that very end. But one moment, one flash in time, steals his dreams away and leaves him facing the kind of future he has dreaded all his life.

“My whole life, everything I’d been and everything I’d wanted to become, was spiraling away from me. Fragments of the man I’d been and the man I’d wanted to become were gusting out of reach. My life as I’d known it was over. My life as I’d hoped it would be would never come to fruition.”

As we watch him reverting to his old, sarcastic, self-destructive ways in an attempt to cope emotionally with his own helplessness and inherent pessimism, we also watch him push away those he loves the most in life—his Josie most of all. Convinced that she would be better off without him and determined to give her the life he believes she should want, he becomes his cantankerous old self, the man he knows Josie should not love. But all his plans fall through one by one as he realises that the firecracker he loves more than life itself is not a woman who can be told what to feel or what to do. And that her love comes with no conditions.

“Joze, you and I are more alike than both your mother and father pray every night we’re not.”
“Ah, that’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me. Nothing says romance like implying your woman’s the asshole equivalent of you with boobs.”

Ms Williams has given us a kickass heroine that created the perfect character balance to the hero’s often belligerent and gloomy ways. Josie is Garth’s perfect match in so many ways, defusing his negativity with her sharp tongue and quick wit, disarming him with her bubbliness and playfulness, and mending his broken heart with her endless love and devotion. Even in his darkest hour, she is the beacon that pulls him out of his own misery.

“My God, Joze. You’re the best damn woman God had the audacity to go and create. How did I end up with you?”

There is something so emotionally fulfilling about a story like this one—even the sadder moments leaving us bursting with hope and positivity—but it is the sheer magnitude and beauty of the love present on every single one of these pages that captured my heart irreversibly. This inspiring, uplifting, touching love story was great before, but now it became a sight to behold. I cherished every moment and was only too happy to discover that one way or another, we would not be saying goodbye to these beloved characters just yet, as they would inevitably play a minor role in the final chapter of Jesse and Rowen’s story in Heart and Soul. This is a book for the heart and mine is overflowing right now.

“Nothing’s fine without you, Joze. But with you? Everything’s perfect.”

5stars

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Lost and Found – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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Lost and FoundMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Near and FarMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Finders KeepersMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Losers WeepersMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Heart and Soul: iBooks (16 Jun 2015)

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BOOK REVIEW: To the Max by Elle Aycart

Forensic accountant Annie Griffin has always suspected she’s a bit jinxed, so when she finds herself 35, single, temporarily homeless, and pregnant on a technicality by a gigolo, her fears are confirmed.

Adrenaline junkie and professional stuntman Max Bowen needs a house-sitter to watch after his pets while he’s out of town. Annie needs a place to stay. Standard quid pro quo. No biggie. She can handle that, whatever hellhounds he owns. Until Max, the most sought-after bachelor in the county, comes back ahead of schedule and suddenly she’s roommates with a 27-year old sex God who turns out to be so much more than what she expected.

Max might have had the attention span of a humming bird on crack when it comes to women, but that was before Annie. Her quirkiness and sweet contradictions soon captivate him, not that she’s inclined to give him the time of the day. With his reputation preceding him, he knows the odds are badly stacked against him, but he will do his best to prove her that he’s what she needs, stuck-up socialite grandmothers, doomsday preppers, groupies, pregnancy hormones, and repentant biological dads be damned.

review

“What are you thinking?”
“How young you look.”
“Were you thinking that yesterday while I was between your legs, eating your pussy after I’d f*cked you hard against the wall?”
“I wasn’t thinking.”
“Good. That’s how we’ll keep it, then.”

A love story penned by Elle Aycart never disappoints, something about her trademark style of romance making me ache in anticipation every single time I am about to start reading one of her books because there’s not a doubt in my mind that she’d overload my senses and leave me squiggling in my seat from the sheer sexiness of her words. I have been waiting for a long time to read Max’s story and all good things definitely come to those who wait because this book was everything I hoped it’d be…and so much more. The perfect fusion of sweet and racy, with well-timed injections of humour and suspense, I loved every word in it. And I am now desperately besotted with another Bowen brother, another incorrigible dirty-mouthed alpha male—this one just happens to look like a mouth-watering Viking.

“I’ve been in the dating arena long enough to know that when your date starts talking about themselves in the third person, it’s time to hide.”

Annie Griffin is a single woman in her mid-thirties who dreams of settling down and marrying the man of her dreams, even though her dating history has amounted to one disappointment after another. But she remains an optimist, an ‘active dater’ who is willing to persevere in her search for the love of her life, even if to find him she’d have to kiss many a frog. Annie’s life comes to a standstill when she finds herself pregnant, compliments of an impetuous one night stand…with an escort.

“I somehow envisioned embracing motherhood differently. Not at thirty-five, without a partner, and knocked up by a gigolo who might or might not be named Luigi.”

Max is the youngest Bowen brother, and the last bachelor in this family of genetically blessed men. A professional stuntman, a daredevil, an irrepressible heartbreaker who loves playing the field, he wears his singlehood like a badge of honour, envisioning commitment and long-term relationships only somewhere very far on the horizon. When he runs into Annie at his brother’s wedding, any spark that might have ignited otherwise between them is quickly doused by an unexpected bout of morning sickness, coupled with the frustration from finding herself on another failed date to add to her already lengthy list. But their connection is immediate from the start, even with the wrong bodily fluids exchanged between them, both surprised by how easy it is to talk to one another and how effortless it is to be in each other’s company.

“… he was such a shameless flirt. Gorgeous, charming, easygoing. Pity when it came to women, he has the attention span of a hummingbird on crack.”

When Annie finds herself temporarily without a place to stay, Max offers her his home, a housesitting arrangement suiting them both while he’s away working on location and while she adjusts to her new condition. But every time he comes back home, he finds new reasons for liking the witty, down-to-earth, funny woman sleeping under his roof. And for wanting more with her.

“I’ve watched you come apart in my arms. I’ve held you while you slept. I’ve felt your baby kick. No, I haven’t f*cked you. My dick hasn’t been inside you. But don’t be mistaken; we do have an intimate relationship.”

As they start tiptoeing in the lukewarm waters of a friends-with-benefits arrangement, Annie struggles with the eight-year age difference between them most of all, fully aware that their priorities in life are nowhere near being aligned to one another, not to mention her impending single motherhood never letting her forget that she would soon be responsible for more than just herself. And yet, their attraction and affection for one another keep taking root, making Max more and more aware each day that that some things in life cannot be planned and that when the right woman comes along, you sweep her off her feet and never let her go.

“I’ll erase them.”
“What?”
“Your reservations. I will blast them out of the sky. Every single one of them.”

I will be honest with you, this story had me at ‘pregnant by a gigolo’, knowing that the element of an unexpected and possible single parenthood would pull at my heartstrings from the get-go, but this story is so much more than just a formulaic scenario of an incorrigible bachelor falling for the single mum. This is a story of two people becoming friends first, of loving each other platonically well before their attraction kicks in, of a man finally finding someone he could no longer imagine living without and who makes him want to be the man she deserves to have in her life, and of a woman who blossoms emotionally the day she allows herself to fall head-over-heels in love with a sexy, over-protective ‘Viking’, age differences and self-imposed inhibitions be damned. I loved the slow-burning pace of this love story, the way we get to witness the gradual evolution of their relationship—from friends to lovers, from lovers to each other’s forevers—and I couldn’t get enough of the sizzling chemistry between them, not to mention the explosive sex scenes that were simply perfect start to finish.

“I noticed when I went to your bedroom … that you have a yoga swing hanging from your ceiling. I didn’t know you practiced yoga.”
“I don’t. That’s a sex swing.”

I cannot recommend this book highly enough, every aspect of it pleasing immensely the romance junkie in me, while making my heart race for all the ‘right’ reasons. If a well-written, sexy, feel-good love story is your thing, look no further.

“Love me? I’m a simple man, Ace. I don’t ask for much.”

5stars

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Bowen – Reading Order and Purchase Links
(standalone stories with interconnected characters)
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More than Meets the InkAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Heavy Issues: My Mini-ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
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BOOK REVIEW & EXCERPT: The Deal by Elle Kennedy

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She’s about to make a deal with the college bad boy…

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice…even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date.

…and it’s going to be oh so good

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he’s worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn’t take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn’t going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.

review

“I never expected her. Sometimes people sneak up on you and suddenly you don’t know how you ever lived with them. How you went about your day and hung out with your friends and f*cked other people without having this one important person in your life.”

Time and time again, my reading history has proved to me that all I need for a book to make me pay attention is a confident, articulate writing style and multifaceted characters who take shape in my mind, regardless of how distant their reality is from my own. But for a book to truly make me fall in love with its story, there needs to be a certain synergy of all its elements, an undeniable spark flickering between the characters that arouses my interest immediately and makes me unable to step away. And this book had it all. I can honestly say that very few stories end up truly satisfying the picky reader in me to such an extent that I see no faults, but this heartwarming, funny, unexpectedly profound little gem took me by surprise and ended up rocking my world. Deceivingly nothing more than a cliché college scenario at first glance—a jock falling for the ‘invisible’ girl—this is a story of courage, inner strength, of paving one’s own way in life, and of love…unplanned, unequivocal, impassioned love that you feel all the way to your toes. I read this book in one day, sporting a permanent smile on my face because everything about this story made me happy, and at the end, I so desperately wanted to re-read it all over again.

“You’re not talking.”
“I don’t want to scare you off.”
“Dude, you’re standing there naked in front of me with your dick in your hand. If that doesn’t scare me, I doubt anything you say will.”

Hannah Wells is not a popular girl. A college junior and music major, she has spent the last five years of her young life battling the emotional remnants of one single night from her childhood, a night her innocence was stolen from her and her family’s lives changed forever. And yet, Hannah does not hide from the world or shy away from attention, never letting the past steal her future away from her or prevent her from giving her heart to someone. But when her latest crush happens to be the star wide receiver of the football team, she is clueless as to how to make him notice her. Until another jock makes her an offer she wishes she could refuse.

“For the love of God, I’m not tutoring you.”
“Sure you are.” I shrug. “I just need to figure out what you want in return.”
“I want to not tutor you. That’s what I want.”

Garrett Graham is a star athlete, the captain of the hockey team, a cocky flirt used to women throwing themselves at him and never refusing him anything…until he meets Hannah, the only girl on campus who doesn’t go gaga over his every move. Or any of his moves for that matter. Desperate for her help in order to pass a course he is suddenly failing, and thus putting his sporting career in jeopardy, he strikes a deal with her that would benefit them both, but in two very different ways—her tutoring services for his help in getting her crush to finally see her. But the closer they get to his goal, the further they both want to be from hers, their banter and bickering soon replaced by mutual attraction, protectiveness and affection. And then one kiss changes it all…

“Yes, Hannah and I are friends. In fact, she’s the only female friend I’ve ever had. And yes, I want to keep being Hannah’s friend. But…I also want to sleep with her.”

It might appear like a typical college romance formula, but nothing about this story felt predictable or overdone. The leading characters, as stereotypical as they might seem within the New Adult framework, are well rounded and dynamic, fresh and unique in every way. The smug and gregarious hockey star hides a world of hurt under his confident façade, and the one thing that the sassy, outspoken geek wants the most in her life is to feel safe and whole again, and these unexpected layers to their personalities are what endears them to us. They are opposites, but what attracts them to each other are not those differences—it is the way they empower one another, and the way their hearts are capable of loving, regardless of their painful pasts. There are so many heartbreaking layers to this story, so many themes to ponder on, but even more reasons to smile and walk away with a spring in our step. If you’re looking for a flawlessly written book with the perfect blend of light-hearted humour, heart-warming romance and a convincing storyline, I cannot recommend this story highly enough. And no matter what you hear, Garrett is mine.

“Living well and being happy is how we get over the shit in our past.”

5stars

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excerpt

Thirty minutes before my shift ends, I find Garrett Graham in one of my booths.

Seriously.

Does this guy ever give up?

I have no desire to go over there and serve him, but I don’t have much of a choice. Lisa, the other waitress on duty, is busy tending to a group of faculty members at a table across the room, and my boss Della is behind the baby-blue Formica counter dishing out slices of pecan pie to three freshman girls sitting on the tall swivel stools.

I set my jaw and march up to Garrett, making my displeasure obvious as I meet his twinkling gray eyes. He runs a hand through his cropped dark hair and flashes a lopsided grin.

“Hey there, Hannah. Fancy meeting you here.”

“Yeah, fancy,” I mutter, yanking my order pad out of my apron pocket. “What can I get you?”

“A tutor.”

“Sorry, that’s not on the menu.” I smile sweetly. “We serve really good pecan pie, though.”

“You know what I did last night?” he says without acknowledging the sarcasm.

“Yep. You were text stalking me.”

He rolls his eyes. “Before that, I mean.”

I pretend to think it over. “Um…you hooked up with a cheerleader? No, you hooked up with the girls’ hockey team. No, wait, they’re probably not ditzy enough for you. I stick with my original guess—cheerleader.”

“Sorority sister, actually,” he says smugly. “But I’m talking about what I did before that.” He raises one dark eyebrow. “But I’m very intrigued by your interest in my sex life. I can give you details about that another time if you want.”

“I don’t.”

“Another time,” he echoes in a dismissive tone, folding his hands on the blue-and-white-checkered tablecloth.

He’s got big hands with long fingers, short nails, and knuckles that are slightly red and cracked. I wonder if he’s been in a fight recently, but then I realize the busted-up knuckles are probably a hockey player thing.

“I was at study group yesterday,” he informs me. “There were eight other people there, and you know what the highest mark in the group was?” He blurts out the answer before I can hazard a guess. “C-plus. And our combined average was a D. How am I supposed to pass this makeup if I’m studying with people who are as dumb as I am? I need you, Wellsy.”

Wellsy? Is that a nickname? And how on earth does he know that my last name is Wells?

I never told—argh. Damn sign-up sheet.

Garrett notices my surprised look and cocks his brows again. “I learned a lot about you in study group. Got your number, your full name, even found out where you work.”

“Congratulations, you really are a stalker.”

“Nope, just thorough. I like to know what I’m up against.”

“Jesus Harold Christ! I’m not tutoring you, okay? Go bug somebody else.” I point at the menu in front of him. “Are you ordering? Because if not, then please go away and let me do my job in peace.”

“Jesus Harold Christ?” Garrett snickers before picking up the laminated menu and giving it a cursory glance. “I’ll have a turkey club.” He sets the menu down, then reaches for it again. “And a bacon double cheeseburger. Just the burger, no fries. Actually, I changed my mind—yes to the fries. Oh, and a side order of onion rings.”

My jaw almost hits the floor. “You’re seriously going to eat all that?”

He grins. “Of course. I’m a growing boy.”

Boy? Nuh-uh. I’m only noticing it now—probably because I’ve been too distracted by how insufferable he is—but Garrett Graham is all man. There’s nothing boyish about him, not his chiseled good looks or his tall frame or that ripped chest of his, which suddenly flashes to mind as I remember the picture he sent me.

“I’ll also take a slice of that pecan pie and a Dr. Pepper to drink. Oh, and some tutoring.”

“Not on the menu,” I say cheerfully. “But the rest is coming right up.”

Before he can argue, I abandon his booth and head to the back counter to place his order with Julio, our night cook. A nanosecond later, Lisa rushes over and addresses me in a hushed voice.

“Oh my God. You know who that is, right?”

“Yep.”

“It’s Garrett Graham.”

“I know,” I answer dryly. “That’s why I said yep.”

Lisa looks outraged. “What is wrong with you? Why aren’t you freaking out right now?

Garrett Graham is sitting in your booth. He talked to you.”

“Holy shit, he did? I mean, his lips were moving, but I didn’t realize he was talking.”

I roll my eyes and walk over to the drink station to pour Garrett’s drink. I don’t look his way, but I can feel those smoky gray eyes following my every movement. He’s probably sending telepathic orders for me to tutor him. Well, too bad for him. There’s no way I’m wasting the little spare time I have on a college hockey player who thinks he’s a rock star.

Lisa trails after me, oblivious to my sarcasm and still gushing about Graham. “He’s so gorgeous. Like unbelievably gorgeous.” Her voice lowers to a whisper. “And I hear he’s amazing in bed.”

I snort. “He probably started that rumor himself.”

“No, Samantha Richardson told me. She hooked up with him last year at the Theta kegger. Said it was the best sex of her life.”

I have no response, because I couldn’t care less about the sex life of some girl I don’t even know. Instead, I shrug and hold out the Dr. Pepper. “You know what? Why don’t you take his booth?”

The way Lisa gasps, you’d think I just handed her a check for five million dollars. “Are you sure?”

“Yep. He’s all yours.”

“Oh my God.” She takes a step forward as if she’s going to hug me, but then her gaze darts to Garrett and she appears to have second thoughts about broadcasting her terribly unwarranted joy. “I owe you so big for this, Han.”

I want to tell her that she’s actually doing me the favor, but she’s already dashing toward the booth to wait on her prince. I watch in amusement as Garrett’s expression clouds over at Lisa’s approach. He picks up the glass she sets in front of him, then meets my gaze and slants his head.

As if to say, you’re not getting rid of me that easily.

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BOOK REVIEW & EXCERPT: Hero by Samantha Young

Hero_youngAlexa Holland’s father was her hero—until her shocking discovery that she and her mother weren’t his only family. Ever since, Alexa has worked to turn her life in a different direction and forge her own identity outside of his terrible secrets,. But when she meets a man who’s as damaged by her father’s mistakes as she is, Alexa must help him.

Caine Carraway wants nothing to do with Alexa’s efforts at redemption, but it’s not so easy to push her away. Determined to make her hate him, he brings her to the edge of her patience and waits for her to walk away. But his actions only draw them together and, despite the odds, they begin an intense and explosive affair.

Only Caine knows he can never be the white knight that Alexa has always longed for. And when they’re on the precipice of danger, he finds he’ll do anything to protect either one of them from being hurt again…

review

“I fantasize about f*cking you in this office a hundred times a day.”

You know you’ve really liked a book when you find yourself re-reading it four times in the span of a month! At first glance, the premise of this book might appear to be just another billionaire-falls-for-the-girl-next-door scenario, and you might walk into this story expecting nothing more than some good ol’ smutty fluff with great chemistry between the characters and a few blazing sex scenes. But you would be wrong. Because when Samantha Young tells a story, she injects it with so much heart-clenching angst, you find yourself gripping your chest because your heart won’t stop hurting, thus turning any cliché into a phenomenal and truly unforgettable reading experience. I adored this book, from the stubborn, feisty, but inherently vulnerable heroine, to the brooding, arrogant, but essentially tortured hero. I loved their banter, I loved the energy between them, whether they were fighting or getting tangled between the sheets, every scene they shared being a delectable delight start to finish.

Caine Carraway and Alexa Holland are apparent strangers to one another, but their lives have been tragically connected from a very young age. Now a self-made billionaire and one of Boston’s most eligible bachelors, Caine has overcame family tragedies and betrayals to become the man he is now—a man who does not trust easily or let many people into his inner circle. So when a reminder of the most painful event in his past walks into his life unannounced, he lashes out and cuts the ground from under her feet by getting her fired. But even jobless and with no professional prospects in sight, Alexa is determined to put aside her pride and heal the breach between them, even if it only means he sees that they are more alike than he realises.

“I’m not here to fall for him. I’m just trying to be there for him somehow. I get him, even if he doesn’t realize it, I really do get him. I would like to be his friend if he’ll have me.”

As the estranged daughter of a disowned diamond heir, Alexa feels deep shame for the sins of her father, but her own family history has made her even more sympathetic to the pain that Caine carries in him. Desperate for him to see that she is nothing like her father, she accepts an offer that is obviously intended to make her life hell—she agrees to be his personal assistant.

“I need a PA who will fulfill all my wishes and demands immediately. That’s not easy to find—most people have social lives. You, however, are desperate and the way I see it, you owe me.”

Their reasons for such an arrangement might vary drastically, but Alexa is no pushover, and while she has made herself an easy mark for Caine’s relentless contempt, her snarky and at times insolent personality shines at every turn. The more they fight, the stronger the attraction between them becomes, and very soon their chemistry moves to the bedroom.

“I’ll come by your place when I’m finished up here.”
“My place?”
“Mmm. I’ll text you when I’m on my way.”
“Shouldn’t you wait to be invited first?”
“Lexie, may I come to your apartment tonight so I can f*ck your brains out?”

But from the very beginning, their intentions towards one another have not been the same, and not even a sizzling affair changes that. While Alexa sees how great they truly are together and wishes for more, Caine remains an impenetrable fortress of emotions, his past making him blind to what is right in front of him. Until he risks to lose it all forever.

“I’m not the guy you’re looking for, Lexie. I’m never going to be that guy.”

This story truly has it all—an emotionally charged romance, two multifaceted characters whose actions are as unpredictable as they make sense, a suspenseful background storyline to keep us wondering until the very end, and the kind of romantic angst that sets our hearts racing and where mere words start hurting like daggers. Alexa is a heroine I connected with from the start, her persistence, her courage, and her generosity with her heart making me very protective of her. So much so that I felt every one of her emotions, her pain in particular. This is just one of those stories that got to me, Ms Young’s exceptional writing style playing a vital role in that, and it left me with a goofy grin on my face, even though I felt like my heart had gone through the wringer. A truly great contemporary romance to sink our teeth in and lose ourselves in unabashedly. Over and over again.

“I’m not looking for a hero. I never asked for that. I just wanted you…”

5stars

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excerpt

Ethan led me into Caine’s office the next afternoon and I was surprised to find Caine not behind his desk but standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows staring out over High Street and Atlantic Avenue to the harbor beyond.

With his back to me, I stole that moment to fully appreciate Caine Carraway without him knowing it. So yeah, I couldn’t see his face, which was the best part, but with him standing with his hands in his trouser pockets, legs braced, shoulders relaxed, the view was delicious enough for me. His height, those broad shoulders, and let’s not forget that ass.

That was a mighty fine ass.

When the seconds ticked by without a response from him, I began to feel like a high school nerd waiting for the captain of the football team to pay attention to her.

I didn’t like that nearly as much as the view of his ass. “You rang?” Caine turned his head slightly in profile. “I did.”

“And I assume there was a reason?”

He faced me and I felt that flush of attraction as his eyes swept over me. “You would assume right.” He sighed and strolled over to his desk, his gaze raking over me speculatively as he did so. “Do you own a suit, heels?” His scrutiny moved to my face. “Makeup?”

I looked down at my clothes. I was wearing jeans and a sweater, and no, I wasn’t wearing makeup. I had good skin. I’d inherited my olive skin from my mother and despite those darn freckles sprinkled across the crest of my nose, it was blemish free. I rarely wore foundation or blush, and because my eyes were so light and my lashes so dark I only wore mascara when dressing up for an occasion.

I knew I wasn’t glamorous, but I looked like my mom—I had her apple cheekbones, blue-green eyes, and dark hair— and my mom had been very pretty. No one had ever looked me over and considered my lack of makeup with disdain before.

I frowned. “Weird question.”

Caine relaxed against his desk in much the same pose as he had used the last time he pinched his lips at me in his office. And he was pinching his lips and inspecting me. I felt like I was being judged and found wanting, which was insulting normally but somehow even worse coming from a guy who looked as put together as he did.

Sexy jackass.

“I couldn’t change Benito’s mind,” Caine informed me. “That little bastard can hold a grudge.”

If I weren’t so deflated by his news I would have laughed. “Bu—”

“So I thought about it,” he said, cutting me off, “and you can try working for me. You’ll need to invest in some appropriate clothing, however.”

Um . . . what? Did he just . . . ? “I’m sorry. What?”

“Benito informed me that it kills him but he just can’t take you back after your behavior with a client lost him such big accounts. You’re the biggest disappointment of his thirties and before you went insane you were the best PA he ever had. The disappointment of your behavior on set, and I quote, Broke. His. Heart.”

“Oh yeah, he sounds devastated.”

“Despite his flair for the melodramatic, it seems he has high standards and he has led me to believe that before you acted like an insane person you were intelligent, efficient, and hardworking.”

“Insane person?” That word had been used as an adjective to describe me twice now.

He ignored me. “I need a PA. Ethan is a temp and my previous PA has decided not to return from maternity leave. I have a job opening and I’m offering it to you.”

Dumbfounded.

There was no other word for how I was feeling.

How could this man go from never wanting to see me again to offering me a job that meant I was going to be in his face? A lot.

“But . . . I thought you didn’t want me around.”

Caine narrowed his eyes. “I need a PA who will fulfill all my wishes and demands immediately. That’s not easy to find—most people have social lives. You, however, are desperate and the way I see it, you owe me.”

I sobered at his reminder of the past. “So what . . . you get to act out some kind of vengeance by working me into an early grave?”

“Something like that.” He smirked. “It’ll be a comfortable grave, though.” He told me the salary and I almost passed out.

My mouth parted on a gasp. “For a PA job? Are you serious?”

I’d get to keep my apartment. I’d get to keep my car. Screw that . . . I’d be able to save enough money to afford a deposit on my apartment.

Caine’s eyes glittered triumphantly at my obvious excitement. “As I said, it comes with a price.” His grin was wicked and I suddenly felt a little breathless.

Posted by arrangement with New American Library, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company.
Copyright © Samantha Young, 2015.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Traveling Man by Jane Harvey-Berrick

thetravelingman

“I was ordinary. Nice. 

He was extraordinary. And he wasn’t always nice.

Moody and difficult, brilliant and beautiful, Kes scared me and he protected me. He could be incredibly hurtful and incredibly thoughtful. He wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect for me. He challenged me, he took me out of my safe little box and showed me the world could be magnificent. He was everything I wasn’t.”

Aimee Anderson is ten when the traveling carnival first comes to her nice little town. She doesn’t expect her world to change so completely. But meeting Kestrel Donohue puts her life on a different path.

Even though she only sees him for the two weeks of the year when he passes through her home town, his friendship is the most important of her life. As a child’s friendship grows to adult love, the choices become harder, and both Kes and Aimee realize that two weeks a year will never be enough…

 

review

“He could breathe fire, he could eat flames, but the word ‘love’ burned on his lips.”

I have such a soft spot for Jane Harvey-Berrick’s brand of make-believe, the allure of her remarkable writing style pulling me in and holding me captive time and time again, and this book was no exception. A setting that was completely foreign and somewhat uninviting to me, she once again succeeded in mesmerizing me from the very beginning, until I realised I was highlighting entire pages, in awe of every word, every emotionally-charged description, every thrilling detail about a story that was as addictive as it was startling.

“I couldn’t tell you why the carnival lured me with its sticky fingers and bright, whirling colors, except to say that it was different, and that excited me. I’d only read about ‘different’ in books, never experienced it for myself. Perhaps it was a case of be careful what you wish for.”

Aimee Anderson has always been fascinated by carnivals. So when, on her tenth birthday, her wish to visit the newly arrived carnival in town is granted by her stringent parents, Aimee feels like all her hopes and dreams have suddenly come true. But even though in her young eyes carnivals are the closest thing to a world of magic, she expects nothing more than Ferris wheel rides, cotton candy, and thrill acts to tickle her vibrant imagination. Until a boy with silvery eyes and a challenging smirk on his lips steals her away from the crowds and shows her his world the way only a ‘carnie’ gets to see it. From the moment she lays eyes on him, she sees the wonder that is him, utterly blind to the prejudices swirling around them and only seeing him with the beauty of her heart.

“You have a gift, Kes, an amazing wonderful gift. It’s special, just like you.”

Kestrel “Kes” Donohue has never known any other life but that of a ‘carnie’. Coming from a long line of traveling men, Kes was born into this life and has never wished to be part of another, his wild and unrestrained personality having found the perfect outlet in that nomadic lifestyle and in the thrill of the stunt shows he’s found himself starring in from an early age. A showman by nature, Kes has never wanted any part of the world outside the carnivals. Until a young girl with glittering eyes, tugging at her mum’s hand from glee, catches his eye. And steals his heart.

“You’re my girl, Aimee. No one else.”

Year after year, they meet up for two weeks each summer when the carnival arrives in town, and year after year, they fall deeper and deeper for one another. We watch their budding romance through the eyes of a young girl falling in love for the very first time in her life, as she waits all year long for those short weeks when she’d be free to be herself and in the company of the only boy who has ever owned her heart.

“I don’t want us to be an illusion. I think about you all the time—do you ever think about me?”

But loving Kes is no small task. Temperamental, unpredictable, even cruel at times, Kes is like warm sunshine and stormy skies on the same day, being simultaneously capable of great attentiveness and careless indifference with equal likelihood of it happening. In public, he is naturally cocky and confident, but his heart and self-esteem are not as untouchable as he wishes others to believe. When the time comes for the young couple to look into the future and decide what they want the most, they encounter violent opposition from those closest to them and time is suddenly stolen from them, ruthlessly and deceptively, leaving them to nurse their shattered hearts for eight long years.

“He wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect for me.”

Fifteen years after their first encounter, Aimee might no longer be the bright-eyed girl whose heart did not know the sting of heartbreak, but the lure of carnivals still pulls her in, and a small part of her still believes that magic lives there. When she meets Kes again, the memory of those teenage years spent loving one another still burns fiercely between them, even though their worlds remain unconnected, just as before and now more than ever.

A young love turning into a second chance at happiness, this is a story of two people who fell for each other against all odds, even when they knew that loving one another would inevitably end in heartbreak. Against a brilliant backdrop of colourful characters and bewitching imageries, we get a front seat in this delightful coming-of-age tale that then transitions into an adult romance to make our toes curl and our hearts stutter. With impeccable prose, meticulous character development and a distinctive gift for pulling readers into her storylines until we are so deeply invested, we never want them to end—we are once again given such a unique, profoundly heart-warming and undeniably sexy story that stays with us long after it ends. I lived this book cover to cover, could not get enough of every beautiful word it, and cannot recommend it highly enough.

Kes and Aimee’s tale will conclude in The Traveling Woman.

“You’ve been sprinkled with fairy dust, missy. The carnival is in your blood now.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Kyland by Mia Sheridan

Kyland

Dirt poor. Hillbilly. Backwoods hick. Mountain folk.

Tenleigh Falyn struggles each day to survive in a small, poverty-stricken, coal mining town where she lives with her sister and mentally ill mother. Her dream of winning the college scholarship given to one student by the local coal company and escaping the harshness of her life, keeps her going.

Kyland Barrett lives in the hills, too, and has worked tirelessly—through near starvation, through deep loneliness, against all odds—to win the Tyton Coal Scholarship and leave the town that is full of so much pain.

They’re both determined not to form any attachments, but one moment changes everything. What happens when only one person gets to win? When only one person gets to leave? And what happens to the one left behind?

Kyland is a story of desperation and hope, loss and sacrifice, pain and forgiveness, but ultimately, a story of deep and unending love.

 

review

“I do go to hell. Every day. For you.”

Every Mia Sheridan novel I have ever read has left a small part of itself deeply impressed onto my heart, the memory of each story leaving a permanent footprint of the bouquet of emotions it stirred in me. With an uncanny talent for making readers feel so much no matter what scenario she gifts us with, I have learned to submit my mind wholeheartedly to this author’s extraordinary prose, expecting it to affect me and pierce through my composure effortlessly and without fail. But even knowing all that, nothing could have prepared me for the devastating effect that this book would have on me and my poor heart. This is a story I cannot and never want to forget. It is one of the most beautiful tales of selfless love and resilience of the human spirit I have ever come across, and it is a book I’d urge anyone to read as soon as possible.

“You had to appreciate the small things in life when the big things made you want to curl up in a corner in the fetal position and give up.”

In a small town in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, enfolded by nature’s breathtaking beauty and its perfect landscapes, lies a community marred by poverty and misfortune, a community wanting for everything—from food to warm clothing, from education to basic health care—and yet, this community survives, one way or another, their shared social condition reminding them each day that there is always someone who is worse off than they are, and that even a little bit of kindness goes a long way. And it is in the heart of these mountains that we find a young woman who dreams of seeing the ocean, of owning more than one pair of shoes, of living in a house with her own bed in it, of becoming a teacher and inspire others to love books as much as she does. And a young man who dreams of becoming an engineer, of never going to bed hungry, of doing something in his life that would make a difference.

“All my life I was a nothing, a nobody. My life was small and worthless. And it hurt so badly.”

Tenleigh and Kyland grew up dirt poor and both desperately determined to escape the lives they were born into, their only beacon of hope being a college scholarship that could change their futures. But while Tenleigh dreams of not only improving her own life, but also of those closest to her, Kyland’s tragic reality is very different to hers. Having lost everything he holds dear, he plans on leaving everything behind, all the pain, all the memories, all the despair, and on never looking back, at anything or anyone, especially a green-eyed girl whose smile makes him want to be a better person.

“A beautiful girl with a spirit so bright I wanted to squint when I looked at her was not going to derail me now.”

But they fall for one another, completely and irreversibly, and even though they both know their love would be short-lived and doomed from the beginning, they cannot help but seize the only happiness that life has ever granted them, losing themselves in each other, and for once, daring to want something just for themselves.

“…it was so hard not to dream that somewhere out there, there was someone strong and gallant who would dance with me under a starlit sky and call me his beloved—and mean it.”

When the time comes to make a choice, the love they both feel for one another is so overwhelming and pure, that a choice becomes not a choice at all, and their love manifests itself in the most heartbreakingly spectacular way there is—with a selfless sacrifice—because when you have nothing in life, the greatest thing you can give to a loved one is the future they would never otherwise have.

“Tenleigh, don’t love me. Please don’t love me. I can’t stay here. Don’t love me.”

I cannot tell you how deeply this story has touched me and how much it still hurts even just recalling some aspects of it. This is a book that drowns you in its heartache as much as it blinds you with it beauty. The inner strength and the dynamic nature of these characters is what drives this story forward, the ‘glue’ that holds a story like this together, and we can’t help but fall swiftly in love with them from the get-go and travel this journey with them willingly and wholeheartedly. Nothing in this story is rushed, or skimmed over, every aspect of the bond that slowly forms between Tenleigh and Kyland is given equal care, giving readers, in turn, the opportunity to get to know them, understand them, feel a myriad of emotions for them, the early scenes of them oh-so reluctantly falling for one another being as vital to our connection with them as are some of the later more dramatic ones.

Framed by a juxtaposition of nature’s beauty and human tragedy, we are given an unexpected story of a selfless and never-ending love, a story designed to churn emotions in us and make us ponder on our own lives. I swooned, I cringed, I smiled through my tears and I bowed from the pain, and every word of this extraordinary tale is sheer magic.

“Half agony, half hope. Half pain, half ecstasy. Half grief, half joy. Half my downfall, half my savior.”

5stars

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A Sign of Love – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links

(LeoLeo’s Chance, and Becoming Calder + Finding Eden are stories that unfold over two books, while Stinger, Archer’s Voice and Kyland are standalone novels)

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stinger
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BecomingCalder
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Kyland

LeoAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Leo’s ChanceAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
StingerAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Archer’s Voice: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Becoming CalderMy ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Finding EdenMy ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Kyland: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: The Law of Moses by Amy Harmon

thelawofmoses644If I tell you right up front, right in the beginning that I lost him, it will be easier for you to bear. You will know it’s coming, and it will hurt. But you’ll be able to prepare.

Someone found him in a laundry basket at the Quick Wash, wrapped in a towel, a few hours old and close to death. They called him Baby Moses when they shared his story on the ten o’clock news – the little baby left in a basket at a dingy Laundromat, born to a crack addict and expected to have all sorts of problems. I imagined the crack baby, Moses, having a giant crack that ran down his body, like he’d been broken at birth. I knew that wasn’t what the term meant, but the image stuck in my mind. Maybe the fact that he was broken drew me to him from the start.

It all happened before I was born, and by the time I met Moses and my mom told me all about him, the story was old news and nobody wanted anything to do with him. People love babies, even sick babies. Even crack babies. But babies grow up to be kids, and kids grow up to be teenagers. Nobody wants a messed up teenager.

And Moses was messed up. Moses was a law unto himself. But he was also strange and exotic and beautiful. To be with him would change my life in ways I could never have imagined. Maybe I should have stayed away. Maybe I should have listened. My mother warned me. Even Moses warned me. But I didn’t stay away.

And so begins a story of pain and promise, of heartache and healing, of life and death. A story of before and after, of new beginnings and never-endings. But most of all…a love story.

review

“If I were to paint you, I would use every color.”

You know you’re going to experience a myriad of emotions just by opening an Amy Harmon book, having personally welcomed many a sunrise curled up in bed sobbing like a baby while not getting a wink of sleep, simply unable to put her beautiful words down. But nothing could have prepared me for the sheer exquisiteness of this story, and for the marvellous characters Ms Harmon has once again gifted us with. Every part of this book surprised me, thrilled me, made my heart burst at the seams, and the biggest gift I’m going to give you, my fellow readers, is by not telling you what this story is really all about.

“This is the story of love with no end . . . though it took me a while to get there.”

We meet Georgia Shepherd at the tender age of seventeen—a simple girl from a small country town, a tomboy, a loving daughter. Georgia’s love of horses and her unique talent at taming them have always meant that her future would never be uncertain, but Georgia’s rather sheltered small town upbringing has also made her hungry to leave home for a while, seek the unknown and experience freedom for the first time in her life. Yet everything changes when a young man with an unusual life story moves into the house next door.

“… when Moses came to Levan, he was like water—cold, deep, unpredictable, and, like the pond up the canyon, dangerous, because you could never see what was beneath the surface.”

Moses Wright was born a ‘crack baby’, and found abandoned in a laundry basket when he was only a few hours old. Moses has always been different from other little boys of his age, his unusual looks only overshadowed by his peculiar behaviour, his unpredictable temperament and his determination not to let anyone get close to him. Constantly tossed from one relative to another, never wanted by any, repeatedly dismissed as a ‘messed up kid’ who could not be fixed, his life never became easy. However, everything changes for Moses the day his great-grandmother decides to take him in on a permanent basis, despite being advised against it by her entire family, her love for him making her confident she could pull him out of his self-imposed solitude. But Moses is not an ordinary young man. He holds a secret that has shaped his entire existence, every human contact, everything he sees around him, and that very secret has made him afraid of loving anyone in his life. His incredible but highly unusual art is a visual representation of everything he keeps to himself, his only escape from the images he cannot hide from.

“If you don’t love, then nobody gets hurt. It’s easy to leave. It’s easy to lose. It’s easy to let go.”

The last thing Moses expects to find in life is someone like Georgia Shepherd. She is open, unpretentious and her every failed attempt at making Moses warm up to her and let her be his friend only seem to make her even more determined to sneak through the cracks of Moses’ brooding disposition. Georgia is the kind of girl who loves freely, generously, and her pride never gets in the way of her honesty, regardless of how many times he rejects her or mistreats her with harsh words. She speaks without thinking, says everything and anything that is on her mind, gives her heart unreservedly, and eventually, a bit of Georgia’s light manages to shine through the dark cracks that Moses so desperately tries to hide.

“She was a small town girl with a simple way of speaking and thinking, a frank way of being that turned me on and turned me off at the same time. I wanted to run from her. But at the same time, I spent all my time thinking about her.”

As their budding romance progresses very slowly, and Georgia grows more and more attached to Moses, heart-shattering loss strikes this young man’s life again, and his future suddenly changes forever. When faced with returning to a place that only holds sorrow for him or taking off to never return to that place again, Moses decides to flee, leaving behind a heartbroken girl whose only sin was loving him without restraint.

“I’m a very ordinary girl, Moses. I know that I am. And I always will be. I can’t paint. I don’t know who Vermeer is, or Manet for that matter. But if you think ordinary can be beautiful, that gives me hope. And maybe sometime you’ll think about me when you need an escape from the hurt in your head.”

Seven years later, their paths suddenly cross again, but neither of them are the same as they once were. Life has changed them both deeply, taken away their innocence and altered their perception of what they once shared. However, some loves never fade, some loves survive all hurt, and some loves never stop reminding you of everything you should be grateful for.

“Georgia’s eyes, Georgia’s hair, Georgia’s mouth, Georgia’s love, Georgia’s long, long legs.”

As always, there is a subtle but very powerful message woven into every word, every single heart-warming scene. By letting us hear both the main characters’ voices, we are given the opportunity to bond with them equally, to understand them, empathise with them, share their hopes. Moses’ ‘secret’ is a crucial part of the story itself, an angle I never expected to find or adore so much, and because of the way it astonished me, I wish for you to uncover it on your own too. This is a book about gratitude, about never forgetting that there is always something to be thankful for in life, even in the grimmest of moments, and that it is never too late to seize happiness and never let go of it again. It’s a story that does not shield us in any way from soul-crushing heartbreak, a few scenes being so intensely distressing that I could not breathe from the sheer heaviness of them, but the beauty of the moments of joy we are given throughout this book is what we walk away with, smiling through our tears and babbling our own ‘five greats’ to ourselves.

There are no words that would ever do justice to a story like this one. Ms Harmon has once again given us an inspiring tale to cherish forever, a story written so elegantly, at times even poetically, that breathes itself into our hearts and, hopefully, even leaves a small part of itself behind. An absolute delight to read, as always.

“If you would just let me in, if you would just love me back, we could have a beautiful life.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Captivated by You by Sylvia Day

captivatedbyyou

Gideon calls me his angel, but he’s the miracle in my life. My gorgeous, wounded warrior, so determined to slay my demons while refusing to face his own.

The vows we’d exchanged should have bound us tighter than blood and flesh. Instead they opened up old wounds, exposed pain and insecurities, and lured bitter enemies out of the shadows. I felt him slipping from my grasp; my greatest fears becoming my reality; my love tested in ways I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to bear.

At the brightest time in our lives, the darkness of his past encroached and threatened everything we’d worked so hard for. We faced a terrible choice: the familiar safety of the lives we’d had before each other or the fight for a future that suddenly seemed an impossible and hopeless dream . . .

review

“You okay, angel mine?”
“I’m in your arms. Life doesn’t get better than this.”

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me as a reader that the Crossfire series is my own personal kryptonite. No other series has kept me as emotionally invested for such a long time as these books have, having re-read each one of them countless times and always discovering new layers to the story, new details that I might have missed or skimmed over on that first…or tenth…or twentieth re-read. This is one of the most powerful, passionate love stories that I know of, Gideon and Eva being two such meticulously developed characters that we cannot help but want to talk about them over and over again, psychoanalysing their every action, their every word, their every breath, because they feel that real to us. This fourth instalment in the series is possibly my favourite of the lot, encompassing every single element I hoped to find in it, in particular the careful attention that is paid to these characters’ emotional growth and change. There was not a moment that I did not understand the motivation behind their actions and reactions, and there was not one scene that did not make my heart race or skip a beat. Every word in it counts, every emotionally charged scene plays a vital role in the overall storyline, and every part of the puzzle is fundamental to our deeper understanding of the key players in it. This book was everything I wished it would be, and so much more, my mind still reeling from the mere brilliance of the way these characters are brought to life. Bravo, Ms Day!

“Are you in love, Mr. Cross?”
“Irrevocably.”

They may have known each other for just a few months, but Eva and Gideon’s tumultuous relationship has survived through enough trials to last them a lifetime. But even after exchanging vows in secret and promising their forevers to one another, they know that there are still many obstacles before them, most of them stemming from Gideon’s past and the painful memories he refuses to address. Their unique connection is their biggest strength—their almost visceral bond and need for each other being their greatest weapon against the world that questions their commitment to one another and tries to pull them apart—but that connection is also their greatest weakness as it isolates them from others, making them codependent and essential for each other’s happiness. As we finally hear Gideon’s voice in this book, we get to see firsthand the depth of his love for Eva and how her presence in his life has changed him. Her unwavering devotion, her protectiveness of him, and her every touch silence the demons that devastate him through his dreams and affect his every human connection.

“You’re the reason I breathe, I can’t turn it off. I think of nothing but you. All day. Every day. Everything I do, I do with you in mind. There’s no room for anyone else.”

As the limelight is put on the their young relationship, their private moments in each other’s arms are what drives that relationship forward, their intimacy with one another growing with each sexual encounter, every kiss, every embrace. Behind closed doors, they are one, both physically as well as mentally, completely in sync and vulnerable only to one another. They understand the other person’s needs and addictions better than anyone else in their lives, their frequent and very intense lovemaking sessions sustaining and temporarily satiating their hunger for one another. No part of themselves is hidden, no sexual act is off limits, and their physical as well as emotional addiction to each other only grows. And within their unique dynamic, sex still remains their primary mode of communication.

“She was every promise, every hope, every fantasy a man could have. And she was mine.”

But as they work on improving themselves in order to have a functional and healthy relationship with each other, old foes from Gideon’s past keep resurfacing, relentlessly set on destroying him and making him pay for his past sins. For the first time in his adult life, he has shown the world his only weakness—Eva—and they are willing to hurt her in order to get to him.

“She’s the chink in your armor, you heartless piece of shit. You’ve got ice in your veins, but she bleeds … It’s time to pay, and your billions won’t cover the debt.”

We watch our fearless hero battle his past, fight for a future with the woman he loves, all along navigating through marital waters he never imagined himself embarking upon. Nothing in their marriage is left to chance, their every energy dedicated to honouring their commitment to one another, to being what the other needs, craves, wants, and to shouldering each other’s burdens. But every step comes with a hurdle, every achievement with a mistake, and every lesson learned with a hefty price attached to it.

“I would set the world on fire to clear a path for her, if that’s what it took.”

There is an extraordinary self-awareness present in these characters that makes them incredibly fascinating to watch, overcoming their personal hang-ups being their greatest challenge both personally as well as a couple. I was enthralled start to finish, reading slowly in order to absorb every emotion, swallow every word. Ms Day’s writing style is unmatched, her confident and sophisticated prose pulling us in and making us feel every emotion she wishes us to feel. I walked away emotionally drained, with the biggest smile on my face, thrilled for everything that my two favourite characters achieved in such a short time span, but more than happy to wait for their grand finale as their story concludes in the next book.

“I’m hanging on by a thread, Eva.”
“You don’t have to hang on. Let go. I’ll catch you.”

5stars

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Bared to You: My review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAHardcover
Reflected in YouMy review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Entwined with You: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Captivated by You: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
One with You: TBA

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BOOK REVIEW: Love, in Spanish by Karina Halle

LoveInSpanish“She sat beside me on the bus – and she changed my whole life.”

Successful, wealthy and absurdly handsome – Spanish ex-football player Mateo Casalles seemed like he had it all. A high-society wife, an adorable little girl, and flashy apartments in Madrid and Barcelona only sweetened the deal. But there was more to Mateo than met the eye – a life of uncertainty and regret that colored his black and white world.

That was until Vera Miles came into his life like a shooting star. Tattooed, wild and young, Vera seemed like Mateo’s polar opposite at first. But you can’t choose who you fall in love with and the two lost souls did everything they could to be together, all while suffering the grave consequences.

Now with Mateo divorced and living in Madrid with Vera, there is a whole new set of challenges and setbacks facing the couple and rocking the foundation of their star-crossed relationship.

Unfortunately for them, the brighter the star, the faster they burn.

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“I’ll forever keep searching for you. I will look up to the sky and let it point me your way. I will not let you go, Vera. I will never let you go.”

For a self-proclaimed seeker of fairy-tale endings, I have an uncanny penchant for stories that feel particularly ‘real’ to me, stories that refuse to be sugar-coated or bubble-wrapped in forced imaginary scenarios, stories that are so honest and raw that even the sweetest of happily-ever-afters often comes with a healthy and sobering dose of truth. They put your heart through the wringer, they jerk it around like their favourite toy, but the most satisfying thing about them is the way they colour the lenses through which you see your own life, the lives of those around you, and the way they expand your view on things you would have never considered otherwise. Love, in English will forever remain one of my most beloved books. It is not a love story with a big red bow on top—it is a love story born when it perhaps never should have been, a love story that has been scrutinized, dismissed, judged, attacked, and yet it remains alive because two people met on a bus in Spain and ended up falling for one another so deeply and so irreversibly that every hurdle before them pales in comparison. Mateo and Vera’s relationship has never been easy—it is not that kind of love story—but their love for each other has never been in question. It shows us that some things in life are worth fighting for until our very last breath, and that it is never too late to find oneself, to embrace the person one is born to be, to capture happiness, even when knowing that no gift in life comes without a sacrifice to pay.

“Our journey has never been easy. The only thing easy in all of this is my love for her. It is pure, it is simple, and it is true.”

We saw them meet, we saw them fall in love, we saw them fight that love, we saw them give in, and we saw them become one. But for Vera and Mateo, the road ahead was never meant to be simple, and it was always going to be marred by prejudice and opposition.

“Through it all we have each other, two exiled souls. We pay for our sins with each kiss, we feel our mistakes with each touch.”

Mateo Casalles has finally found the love of his life, a woman who has changed him and given him purpose, and when faced with having all his dreams come true as professional fulfillment is once again within his reach, he is suddenly reluctant to accept more change in his life, fearing it might cost him the one he loves the most. Being in the public eye brings its own set of challenges for their young relationship, their every public move now dissected and twisted around even more, but Mateo never stops putting Vera’s needs first, her happiness being his key concern, knowing how heavily her role in the break-up of his marriage weighs upon her.

“I see her as my star, one she thinks has burned too much for the both of us.”

By hearing Mateo’s every thought and every fear, we are faced with a very different man than the one we met in the first book. A better man. His every action is now seen in a different light, his every word now speaking volumes about the gentle-hearted, selfless, loving man that he is. His love for Vera is a sight to behold. The raw intensity of their every touch is only outmatched by how much her happiness means to him, and how much of himself he is willing to give to her.

“I follow every part of you, everywhere. You go before me, Vera. You always will.”

As they embark on the next chapter in their lives, the odds playing against them only keep multiplying, from scorned ex-spouses to meddling paparazzi, but through it all, Vera remains his constant, his own guiding star, and Mateo is not a man who ever forgets how dark his life had been without her. Or would once again return to be.

“You are my star, my light, my love. And it doesn’t matter if you believe in it or not because it is the truth and the truth always finds a way to shine.”

I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book so thoroughly and so ardently as I have this one. I found myself constantly stopping, re-reading entire paragraphs, desperately trying to absorb the beauty of every single line in it. Karina Halle has a very unique talent for weaving words almost poetically, the sheer elegance of her writing style only outshone by her meticulous character development and the annihilating power of the notions behind her stunning words. And ‘meeting’ the real Mateo Casalles this way has been quite a treat in itself. A complex man, an intelligent man, a passionate man, a caring man—Mateo’s only ‘sin’ is to have fallen in love with someone whom society deems inappropriate for his social standing and reputation, but it is his relentless devotion to the woman he loves and his emotional vulnerability and honesty before her that make us weak at the knees as readers. And utterly enchanted with him.

“Just a man in love. Just a hero. Just a coward. Just me.”

Karina Halle does not just give us heroes and heroines, she gives us real, tangible people for us to identify with, learn from, and she gives us stories to talk about for many moons to come. I know that a lot of people often dismiss these books because of the ‘cheating’ theme in the story, but it is my personal and humble opinion that this story is not about a cheating spouse or a homewrecker. It is about what happens when people fall out of love, or have never experienced true love before, and then they are given the unexpected gift of finding someone who suddenly lights up everything in their life, including the person they are but never got a chance to be. These are not reckless human beings, they are not driven by hormones or lust—they are fallible individuals who feel deeply the sting of every single consequence of their actions and who never forget what their happiness has cost them.

This novella only completes an already perfect story in my eyes, a story that might not be your traditional idea of a fairytale, but whose brutal honesty makes it that much more unforgettable.

“We were worth every sacrifice, every burnt bridge.”

6stars

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Love in English – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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Love, in English: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Love, in Spanish (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Where Sea Meets Sky (spin-off): Amazon US | Amazon UKAmazon CA | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: Burying Water by K.A. Tucker

BuryingWaterLeft for dead in the fields of rural Oregon, a young woman defies all odds and survives—but she awakens with no idea who she is, or what happened to her. Refusing to answer to “Jane Doe” for another day, the woman renames herself “Water” for the tiny, hidden marking on her body—the only clue to her past. Taken in by old Ginny Fitzgerald, a crotchety but kind lady living on a nearby horse farm, Water slowly begins building a new life. But as she attempts to piece together the fleeting slivers of her memory, more questions emerge: Who is the next-door neighbor, quietly toiling under the hood of his Barracuda? Why won’t Ginny let him step foot on her property? And why does Water feel she recognizes him?

Twenty-four-year-old Jesse Welles doesn’t know how long it will be before Water gets her memory back. For her sake, Jesse hopes the answer is never. He knows that she’ll stay so much safer—and happier—that way. And that’s why, as hard as it is, he needs to keep his distance. Because getting too close could flood her with realities better left buried.

The trouble is, water always seems to find its way to the surface.

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“The mind, it can be a deceitful thing. But it is no match for the heart.”

It is such a thrill to a zealous reader like me to not only realise that one of my favourite authors never fails to blow my mind with her stories, but that she also remains capable of surprising me, time after time, as I never quite know what kind of ‘journey’ she would take me on, always somehow managing to leave me utterly stunned in the aftermath of her extraordinary tales. This book was like no other that I have ever read, its unique structure and pace designed to make our hearts race, skip beats, melt and crush from one moment to another, never knowing what to expect next. Meticulously assembled to ‘feed’ us only little snippets of the story at a time while our minds are frantically tiling the puzzle pieces to form the picture we are so desperate to complete—this is an impeccably written story, infused with suspense and cloaked in mystery, showing us the hefty price of a second chance at happiness in life.

“You get to be whoever you want to be, without the burden of your past.”

A young woman is found beaten, raped, and left for dead in the middle of a forest, her young body desperately clinging onto its last thread of life. We don’t know much about the man who rescues her except that he is in love with her, and that no one can know that she was found. After a myriad of life saving procedures and a long hospital recovery, the young woman wakes up with no recollection of her past or any of the events that caused her injuries. Confused, scared, ashamed of her scars, her battered body is a constant reminder of everything that has happened to her, and of everything she has no memory of, her mind having locked itself in a desperate act of self-preservation.

“Why can’t I seem to recall a single scrap of my life? Not a face, not a name, not a childhood pet. Nothing.”

And then we suddenly flip into the past, where we meet a young trophy wife to a cruel man several decades her senior, whose life is nothing like she hoped it would be. Physically and mentally abused on a daily basis, Alexandria Petrova is alone in the world but for the man who had promised to hand it to her on a silver platter, trapped in a loveless marriage and in a life that requires her to abide by her husband’s every whim. When a young man’s unexpected act of kindness stirs something inside her, Alexandria begins to question her decisions in life, and wishing for more. The more time they spend together, and the more his every action shows her the way she always dreamed of being loved, the more she blossoms before his eyes, becoming the vivacious but gentle young woman she was born to be. But some mistakes in life are not easy to erase, Alexandria’s newfound happiness making her oblivious to the dangers lurking within her own marital bed.

“I’d never leave you alone in the dark.”

Jesse has loved Alexandria from the moment her lips touched his on a stormy night on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. He felt her unhappiness in her every breath, but her passionate kiss marked his soul, making him unable to forget her even though he never even saw her face. When he recognises her in the young wife of the ostentatious brute who hires him to restore his car, he is unable to look away. Or walk away until she is his.

“In your life. Are you happy? Or do you ever wish you could just start over?”

We are given two timelines to follow simultaneously, constantly flipping from past to present, but in both we see two people falling in love, slowly, cautiously, irreversibly. In the past, a young woman is afraid of her own future, incapable of walking away from the only happiness she has ever experienced in her adult life regardless of what it might cost her to pursue it, while in the present, that same young woman is terrified of her past, her scars an incessant reminder of what her mind won’t let her recall.

“Someone must be missing me. Even just one person, right?”

What I loved the most about this story is the fallible nature of all the characters in it, especially the two leading ones. Jesse and Alexandria are imperfect people, people who make mistakes, act impulsively, fail to consider the consequences of their own actions until it becomes too late, but they are only following the paths their hearts have drawn before them, which is even more evident when they are given a second chance at happiness. Their love story is not about an all-consuming passion burning between them and making them blind to the world around them—it is a story of two souls being drawn to one another, finding more joy in the few fleeting moments spent in each other’s company than in anything else in their lives. It felt to me as if we were intentionally left craving that emotional intensity that was implied in their every word, in their every glance directed towards one another, putting all emphasis on the irresistible pull between them and the unique connection that brought them to each other time after time. This is not a love story born out of carnal pleasure. This is a story about love, first and foremost, a selfless love, a genuine love, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of love.

“If she doesn’t remember me, if she didn’t feel trapped and utterly alone, would a girl like her fall for me a second time?”

I never wanted this book to end. It was such an enjoyable reading experience beginning to end, with an incredible cast of secondary characters that made the story even more colourful and hard to let go of. Every single aspect of this story is unique, unexpected, riveting, and every moment spent reading it has been outright unforgettable. A must-read.

“If you wait long enough, the truth always finds its way.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Echoes of Scotland Street by Samantha Young

echoesofscotlandstreetShannon MacLeod has always gone for the wrong type of man. After she drifted from one toxic relationship to the next, her last boyfriend gave her a wake-up call in the worst possible way. With her world shattered, she’s sworn off men—especially those of the bad-boy variety.

Cole Walker is exactly the sort that Shannon wants to avoid—gorgeous, tattooed, charming, and cocky. But his rough exterior hides a good man who’s ready to find “the one.” He’s determined to pull Shannon from her self-imposed solitude to win her heart.

As Shannon opens up in the face of Cole’s steady devotion, the passion between them ignites to blazing levels. But when Shannon’s past comes back to haunt her, her fears may destroy the trust Cole has built between them—and tear them apart for good.…

review

“You’re worth every bad thing that’s ever happened to me, because going through them led me to you.”

It’s rare to find a series that book after book never disappoints, never fails to capture my attention and make me fall head over heels in love with the characters, but On Dublin Street is not only one of these extraordinary instances, it is also a series that never stopped getting better and better. Two characters oh-so easy to love, an emotional storyline that kept me glued to my seat for hours on end, literally gasping for the next page—this is a book I adored and could not walk away from even days after I first finished it, needing to re-read parts of it over and over again. I have never not loved a Samantha Young book, but this one just might be my new favourite.

“Are you a hero, Cole Walker?”
“What is a hero, really?”
“I suppose it’s someone that saves people.”
“Yeah, I supposed it is.”
“So, do you save people?”
“I’m only fifteen. Give me a chance.”

Shannon and Cole met as teenagers, for a brief but unforgettable moment in time, and while their lives have led them onto very different paths, they both ended up becoming survivors of the cruel hands that fate has dealt them. While Cole’s childhood has been marred by neglect, and physical and psychological abuse at the hands of his only parent, he has grown into a kind-hearted and protective young man, whose ‘tatted-up’ bad boy appearance stands in stark contrast to his true character. Shannon’s emotional scars, on the other hand, come from a different but no less traumatic place. Every single relationship that she has been in has left a bad taste in her mouth, her last one leaving her battered both physically as well as emotionally. Moving to a new town might seem like the only way to escape her painful past, but she soon realises that no matter where she goes, her memories would inevitably follow.

“…somehow, hopefully, along the way I was going to find the girl I’d lost because of him.”

When Shannon steps into Edinburgh’s most revered tattoo studio looking for a job, she has no idea that her new boss would be the same boy she walked away from nine years before, the vivid memory of him still very much alive in her mind. But Cole’s tattoos and cocky demeanour remind her also of every bad boyfriend she has ever had, making her misjudge him at first sight. And no matter how charming or friendly he is towards her, she rejects both his friendship as well as his not-so-subtle advances, making it crystal clear what she thinks of “his type”.

“…Cole Walker represented everything wrong with my life and the choices I’d made thus far.”

But appearances can be deceiving and, soon, Shannon realises that she might have made the biggest mistake of her life by pushing Cole away. And that her own prejudices could cost her the affections of the best person she has ever met.

“You really are the biggest disappointment, Shannon MacLeod.”

While this is a truly heartfelt romance between two people you cannot help but fall madly in love with from the moment you meet them, this is also a story about knowing when to put the past behind you, learning from it but not letting it affect your future happiness. Shannon’s unfortunate past has the power to either define her or make her even stronger than she is. Having loved someone who constantly belittled her, made her believe she was talentless and stupid, and unworthy of someone like him, has not only damaged her self-esteem and confidence, but it also made her distrustful of her own ability to judge a person correctly and not to make the same mistakes again. Having someone like Cole Walker in one’s life, however, is all the motivation a girl needs to put her big girl panties on and take a chance.

“That wasn’t my voice in my head. That was someone else’s and he did not get to win like that.”

This is an inspiring tale of courage and resilience, framed by a beautiful and truly touching love story, and I ate up every hypnotic word of it. Ms Young never lets me down, always blows me away, and rarely leaves me in a state where I’m quite ready to enjoy another book. It’s been two days… maybe it’s time for a re-read!

“I’m going to f*ck every bad memory of those unworthy gits out of you, even if it takes me a lifetime. Starting tonight.”

5stars

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On Dublin Street – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
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On Dublin Street: My Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Until Fountain Bridge (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
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BOOK REVIEW: Finding Eden by Mia Sheridan

findingeden

When the world as you know it has ended, when all that you love has been washed away, where do you find strength?

When the new world you’ve stepped into is as isolating as the last, when your heart is broken, and your future is unclear, where do you find hope?

Finding Eden is a story of strength, discovery, forgiveness, and undying love. It is about believing in your destiny and following the path that leads to peace.

This is the continuation, and conclusion, to Becoming Calder

review

“I’ll be waiting for you, by a spring. Come find me, I’ll be there.”

I rarely ache for a book. I might be curious about a story to the point of completely pausing reality and forgetting everything around me, but it doesn’t happen very often that my heart needs it, craves it, wants it so much that I cannot enjoy another in its stead. Becoming Calder pushed me out of my comfort zone by immersing me into a world that I like to pretend it doesn’t exist, and it made me fall in love with two of the most amiable, kind hearted characters I have ever come across. It made me see the world through different eyes, aware of how much of my own life I tend to take for granted, but it also left me utterly desperate for the sequel, willing to beg, steal and bribe for a mere peek at it. In this heart-stopping conclusion to a most extraordinary tale, after unthinkable loss and sorrow, we finally see life balancing itself out to make up for all that it has taken. While the first part of this story celebrated human resilience and our innate capacity to find love even under the direst of circumstances, in the second part, we get to see what happens to the human spirit once it is set free—free to grow at last, free to flourish, free to spread its wings, and free to love without restraint.

“Anything you want. If it exists in this world, it’s yours.”

The tragedy that our young heroine survived has changed her, made her afraid of the world around her, but all it takes is one random act of kindness from a complete stranger to give her hope and a reason to go on. Eden might have walked out of Acadia physically unscathed, but her heart is shattered. Her love for Calder is the only thing she knows, the only thing she has ever known, and it is still the only thing she clings onto. Now truly alone in the world, Eden has to find the strength to be her own person, to decide for herself what she wants to believe in, who she wants to be. But even when life finally offers her what she has always craved to have, the constant void inside her never stops reminding her of all that she has lost.

“I was still loved. I belonged to someone again.”

And yet, this is not a story about loss. This is a story about new beginnings, about the type of love that conquers all, about the endurance of the human spirit and its ability to heal itself even when weighed down by memories of a harrowing past. In a feat of sheer brilliance, we are also given the kind of story that tells us that there are two sides to every coin, showing us that the human spirit can sometimes break from mere powerlessness and despair. This is a story that challenges the assumptions we make about people, about their lives and their motivations, and it shows us that every demon has its own demons keeping it awake at night.

“I swear to you, my beautiful, sweet love, everyone deserves a love story that doesn’t hurt.”
“Even us?”
“Yes. I promise. Even us.”

There are so many moments in these two books that ripped my heart right out of my chest, made me forget how to breathe, but there is an unwavering current of hope and positivity driving this story forward, and it is that very message that we take away from it in the end—life can change a person, steer them off course, make them lose their way, but it is one’s heart that is the true measure of a person, each one of us deciding what defines us in the end. These characters are perfect examples of the kind of beauty that can come out of darkness, their strength and determination showing us that no matter how many times you strike down a wildflower, try to exterminate it or hinder its growth, it somehow always finds a way to live and bloom.

Every facet of this inspiring tale left me breathless, astonished, overwhelmed and overflowing with emotions, and I believe a tiny part of it will forever live inside me, reminding me to appreciate even the smallest moments of beauty in life. And one day when I grow old and wrinkly, the mere thought of a morning glory will still make my heart smile.

“As pretty as a flower . . . as strong as a weed.”

6stars

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Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
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A Sign of Love – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links

(LeoLeo’s Chance, and Becoming Calder + Finding Eden are stories that unfold over two books, while Stinger and Archer’s Voice are standalone novels)

leo_322x500
leoschance_322x500
stinger
archersvoice
BecomingCalder
findingeden

LeoAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Leo’s ChanceAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
StingerAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Archer’s Voice: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Becoming CalderAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Finding EdenAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

✤ ✤ ✤
The Author

Mia is an avid reader, and now writer of romance and erotic novels. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband who is a police officer and her biggest fan (not necessarily in that order). They have four children here on earth and one in heaven. When she is not sitting on her couch with her head buried in her Kindle, Mia can be found writing or doing anything creative from building a patio, to sewing pillows.

Connect with Mia: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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Other books in the series or related posts:

BOOK REVIEW: Becoming Calder by Mia Sheridan

BecomingCalderThere is a place in modern day America with no electricity, no plumbing, and no modern conveniences. In this place, there is no room for dreams, no space for self-expression, and no tolerance for ambition.

In this place, there is a boy with the body of a God and the heart of a warrior. He is strong and faithful and serves his family honorably. But he dares to dream of more.

In this place, there is a girl with the face of an angel and a heart full of courage. To her family, she is the vision of obedient perfection. But she dares to want that which she has been told can never be hers.

Becoming Calder is the story of good versus evil, fear versus bravery, and the truth that the light of love has always found its way into even the darkest of places… From the beginning of time, to the end of the world.

review

“Where do you find your strength, Morning Glory?”
“From you.”

I believe a small wonder is coming. A love story so epic and unique that will wreck us all and leave us in a blissful haze of ‘book hangovers’ for months to come. I believe I would have never read this book had it not been written by this particular author. Would have not even glimpsed at it twice. I believe Mia Sheridan has just written one of the most stunning, unpretentious romances of our age, and this book is going to change us all. I walked into this story completely blind, refusing even to read the blurb, confident in this author’s superb storytelling talents and in the unquestionable beauty of every single one of her previous works, but after only a few pages, I knew I had hit a hard limit with the setting of this book. My brain was screaming at me, telling me I couldn’t possibly enjoy anything of this sort, but my heart never even entertained the possibility of stopping because I knew that Ms Sheridan would blow my mind, as she always does, and that this was going to be one of those life-altering reading experiences that stays with you, changes you, makes you look at the world in a different way. I trusted my heart. And my heart was right.

“A storm is coming.”

This story is set in modern day America, but far away from the comforts of the society we know and live in. Acadia is a close-knit community of small families renouncing modern technology and living a sheltered life, an uncomplicated life, a focused life, in the middle of the Arizona desert. Except that every aspect of their way of life finds its source in the teachings of one man, a self-proclaimed Prophet, promising to lead his people to eternal life after a great flood erases life on Earth as we know it. We meet Calder as a ten-year-old boy living in Acadia with his family, on the very day he sees the “blessed one” for the very first time. An orphan and younger than Calder, Eden is brought into Acadia as the future bride of the Prophet who would stand by his side on doomsday. But at nine years of age, Eden is just an innocent little girl who is curious about the world around her and who dreams of a normal life where she is allowed to play with other kids, where she is loved, and where she is not one scary man’s object of affection.

“You’re mine, Eden. You always have been, from the very first second I saw you.”

From the moment Calder and Eden lay eyes on each other, their connection is immediate and irreversible. We watch them grow up, become young adults, but their mutual adoration never falters, never fades, and it only becomes stronger as they somehow manage to weave a secret friendship without ever even exchanging a word between them. And then one day everything changes when their one place of escape becomes the very place where they fall in love with one another.

“If I were just a boy, and you were just a girl, I wouldn’t kiss you once like you asked. Eden, I’d kiss you long, and I’d kiss you often.”

Everything they were taught to believe tells them that loving each other is wrong, sinful, forbidden, but the more stolen moments of pure joy they share in each other’s company, the more it becomes impossible to deny their hearts. And the more they are told they should not love each other, the more they start doubting the very beliefs that are meant to keep them apart.

How could this be a sin when my heart was bursting with love for this strong, kind, incredible boy—the one who had taught me all things brave and beautiful? How could this be a sin when it was the most joyful moment of my whole life? Could it be wrong to be so happy?

We watch them fall in love, hesitantly at first, discovering those emotions and each other’s bodies as any two teenagers would, and we feel it all with them—the exhilaration, the joy, the curiosity, the lack of control, the certainty that they were made to belong to one another. And our hearts grow tenfold. But as Eden’s eighteenth birthday draws near, the malice that tries to keep them apart only grows stronger and more determined, challenging everything they once believed to be true.

“All I know for sure is that you belong to me and I’m going to protect you. I’m going to make a life for us. Somehow.”

There is a stunning contrast between the world that Calder and Eden secretly build for themselves, between them, and the one they are told to live in. The beauty and purity of their bond throws an even darker shadow on the life they were taught to accept and never question, and each shift from one ‘reality’ to another only intensifies the angst we feel as readers. As much as I enjoyed every second of this truly extraordinary tale, I have to admit that my heart was in my throat from beginning to end, constantly on guard, fearful for the characters I loved from the get-go, and uncertain how it would all end. A beautiful story of human resilience and strength, a masterpiece in the making, a reading experience that has shattered me in the best possible way—this is a book none of us will ever forget.

This story continues and concludes in Finding Eden.

“As long as we’re under the same moon, we’ll always find a way to each other.”

5stars

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addtogoodreads

Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
✤ ✤ ✤
A Sign of Love – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links

(Leo + Leo’s Chance, and Becoming Calder + Finding Eden are stories that unfold over two books, while Stinger and Archer’s Voice are standalone novels)

leo_322x500
leoschance_322x500
stinger
archersvoice
BecomingCalder
findingeden

LeoAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Leo’s ChanceAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
StingerAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Archer’s Voice: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Becoming CalderAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Finding EdenAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

✤ ✤ ✤
The Author

Mia is an avid reader, and now writer of romance and erotic novels. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband who is a police officer and her biggest fan (not necessarily in that order). They have four children here on earth and one in heaven. When she is not sitting on her couch with her head buried in her Kindle, Mia can be found writing or doing anything creative from building a patio, to sewing pillows.

Connect with Mia: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
✤ ✤ ✤

✦ Don’t want to miss any more posts? Subscribe to this Blog by email… ✦

Other books in the series or related posts:

BOOK REVIEW: The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan

thehookup_new

The rules: no kissing on the mouth, no staying the night, no telling anyone, and above all… No falling in love.

Anna Jones just wants to finish college and figure out her life. Falling for star quarterback Drew Baylor is certainly not on her to do list. Confident and charming, he lives in the limelight and is way too gorgeous for his own good. If only she could ignore his heated stares and stop thinking about doing hot and dirty things with him. Easy, right?

Too bad he’s committed to making her break every rule… 

Football has been good to Drew. It’s given him recognition, two National Championships, and the Heisman. But what he really craves is sexy yet prickly Anna Jones. Her cutting humor and blatant disregard for his fame turns him on like nothing else. But there’s one problem: she’s shut him down. Completely.

That is until a chance encounter leads to the hottest sex of their lives, along with the possibility of something great. Unfortunately, Anna wants it to remain a hook up. Now it’s up to Drew to tempt her with more: more sex, more satisfaction, more time with him. Until she’s truly hooked. It’s a good thing Drew knows all about winning.

All’s fair in love and football…Game on.

review

“I’ve just experienced the hottest, most erotic, life-changing sex of my life, and I don’t think I’m going to get a repeat. Tonight was obviously an ill-advised hook up for her. And I’m so screwed because it was the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

I think I’m too old for college-themed stories. Or at least I like to tell myself that I am. The truth is that they rarely have the emotional complexity and substance that I now, as someone who is no longer of college age, seek in my reads. I do love some trademark elements present in this genre of books—the hesitation of the characters when faced with the inevitable transition from early adulthood to full-grown maturity, their struggle to accept the future before them, and the people they are becoming—but stories like these often do not have the multilayered character development that I, personally, need in order to connect with those characters and to immerse myself fully into their journey. However, once in a while, a book comes along that proves me wrong by showing me that, when flawlessly written, any story, regardless of its main themes or the age of its characters, can pull you in and blow your socks off. This is one of those books. Nothing about this story is predictable, everything is just perfect, and apart from being phenomenally written, it is one of the most refreshing and surprisingly touching tales I have come across. Do yourself a favour and allow this book to rock your world, because mine is still shaking from the aftershocks of reading something truly awesome.

“I loved being one of thousands, not one of a hundred. Because I could start fresh, be myself without being told that being myself wasn’t good enough.”

Anna Jones is the girl no one sees. After years of social isolation in high school where she was made to feel inadequate, ugly, unworthy of attention, she might have blossomed into an attractive, seemingly confident young woman, but the scars from having survived such a childhood still run deep and make her apprehensive of people’s eyes on her. She also grew up watching her unlucky-at-love mother getting her heart broken time after time by men who came and went, vowing never to allow herself to become that vulnerable or let a man become her all. Her new college life has given her a fresh start in life, far away from the misguided reputation she painfully carried all throughout her younger years, and apart from her two best friends, she fiercely guards her anonymity.

“No one knew the old me. I was no longer that weird loner who everyone assumed was smoking up before class.”

Drew Baylor is the popular jock, the football superstar that everyone wants to know or be, but under his perfect exterior hides a lonely young man, the untimely death of his parents having left him alone in the world and craving a true connection with someone. When the voluptuous redhead sitting next to him in class catches his eye, one look at her leaves him utterly breathless. She leaves him tongue-tied and uncertain of himself, but with every word they exchange, he knows he wants to know her more.

“I want her. The whole prickly-mouthed, sweetly curved, irresistible package.”

What starts as an irresistible boy-pursues-girl scenario, quickly turns into a sizzling friends-with-benefits arrangement between them, initially simply a casual ‘hook up’ of sorts to appease their bodies, but before they know it, those moments spent in each other’s arms, selflessly giving their bodies to one another and sharing secrets, are their happiest moments on any given day. Unfortunately, their willingness to embrace that happiness differs from the very beginning—while Drew sees what his life would be with someone like Anna in it and wishes to capture it forever, Anna remains emotionally distant, her growing need and feelings for him overwhelming her and making her want to run in the other direction.

“I’m not worth it. I want to shout it to him. I’m not worth his pain. He has the world in his palm. He doesn’t need the burden of me.”

Anna’s reluctance to let Drew in, to give herself permission to love him and entertain the idea of them as a couple, stands in stark contrast to Drew’s ever-growing fondness for the woman who refuses to be seen in public with him. He gives her space, time, bends backwards to make her as comfortable as possible with their little arrangement, but he secretly craves for more. He craves to claim her and let everyone know that she is his.

“Life has more color, more flavor, and heat in the few hours I’m with Anna, than I’ve experienced in all the years I’ve partied… With Anna, I feel like I’ve landed right where I want to be.”

This story might appear predictable at this point, cliché in a way from this deceivingly simple storyline, but it is the unique character development, the precious opportunity we are given as readers to hear both our characters’ inner voices, their innermost fears and doubts, that make this story so different. Our heroine is a young woman who is so terrified of being judged by others by living in the limelight with Drew, that she would rather break her own heart than come out of the shadows in which she hides. She cannot help but feel the disapproving eyes of everyone around them, watching them, wondering what Drew sees in someone like her, and that awareness cripples her.

“It’s happening already. The disbelief. The questioning. Why would Baylor pick me?”

This might have started as a captivating little college romance, but it became quite clear to me from very early on that this book did not follow any given formula. This story is incredibly multi-layered, so flawlessly written that I found myself re-reading passages just so that I would fully absorb the beauty of the prose, and it moved me deeply. The inherent vulnerability of both these characters, the powerful connection they share, the way they express with their bodies what they won’t or can’t in words, their humbling self-awareness—this story had everything that makes a true must-read for me, and then some. Ms Callihan has also given us a rare type of hero in a young man like Drew Baylor—he is unafraid to express his feelings, to become emotionally exposed before the woman he loves, and his kind of love is awe-inspiring. As much as I loved and understood the heroine, Drew was definitely the highlight of the book for me. I never expected to like a story like this, but some books are written so well, you cannot help but break away from your own preconceptions. A superb read.

“Don’t you understand? I felt like an impostor. I kept waiting for you to realize that you’d got it wrong. That I was the girl you were never supposed to see.”

5stars

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Connect with Kristen: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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