BOOK REVIEW: Begging for It by Lilah Pace

beggingforitSome secrets should only be shared in the dark.

Jonah and Vivienne’s erotic bond—living out raw scenarios of captivity and force—began as no-strings sex between strangers who shared the same desires. Now the intimacy between them is turning into love, but it’s a love built on fantasies so extreme that exploring them makes guilt inescapable. But the risks they’re taking are far more dangerous than they’d imagined.

A stalker is terrorizing the city, and one of Jonah’s ex-lovers names him as a potential suspect to the police. Standing by a man under suspicion could cost Vivienne everything. But when Jonah’s stepfather takes advantage of the scandal to seize control of the Marks family fortune, Vivienne is drawn into her lover’s broken family and twisted past. Only then will she learn how dark the truth really is…

review

“We’ve dealt with the dark desires spun from our worst secrets and found ultimate pleasure in them, together.”

One of the most fascinating, well-written, carefully thought-out stories I have ever come across, the Asking For It duet is nothing short of electrifying, and it owned my breath cover to cover. While its key theme might deter some readers from tipping their toes into this story, I remain in awe of the author’s ability to handle a rather problematic topic in such meticulous detail, intelligently and responsibly, never glorifying any vile acts, but rather giving her characters a chance to express themselves in all their damaged glory, free from judgment and condemnation, and even find some self-acceptance in the end. If you’re not afraid of the taboo, if you are able to perceive some themes in fiction as just that, without giving them the unnecessary dimension of reality, if you enjoy exploring on occasion a darker but not any less titillating brand of erotic romance, I urge you with all my heart to give this crazy-wonderful story a chance. You might find yourself loving it just as much as I did!

“The hands that caress me hold me down; the moan of satisfaction I imagine turns into screams for help, screams no one hears. As the fantasy becomes more savage, more brutal, I glory in it more and more.”

Vivienne and Jonah’s relationship had reached an impasse at the end of their first book, leaving us with the lingering question whether the darkness that brought them together and forever tied to one another—the fantasy that they both hate but cannot seem to escape—would ultimately tear them apart too. As we remain in the heroine’s head, we continue witnessing the inner struggle that has been Vivienne’s constant companion in her adult life. Even though she has slowly come to terms with her body’s response to her sexual fetish, to the violent aspect of it, and its intoxicating effect on her mind, she continues berating herself for needing that fantasy every single time in order to achieve sexual gratification. She struggles to reconcile her sexual desires with the kind of independent, emancipated woman she is outside the bedroom, that dichotomy tearing at her self-esteem and leaving her powerless.

“Jonah understood what I needed and how to give it to me. He let me become a victim; I let him become a monster.”

We also get to finally peel off more and more layers of Jonah’s complex personality, even glimpsing his greatest demons first hand and the source of all the relentless anger and pain churning inside him, but once we discover what hides within his darkness, that knowledge only serves to leave us even more uncertain of the fate of their relationship.

“Jonah is like one of the dormant volcanoes he studies—solid as stone, proud as a mountain, seemingly implacable but with a fire deep within that could erupt at any time.”

With each step they take forward as a couple, letting one another deeper and deeper into each other’s secrets, and loving each other unabashedly, it becomes clear that their connection goes far beyond their mutual desires and the ability to please and understand one another’s needs as no one else could. But they also become increasingly aware that while their sexual attraction and compatibility could never be questioned, the fire blazing between them could end up swallowing them whole.

“We are bound together and yet parted. Two halves that can’t be glued into a whole. Maybe that’s how it is when you find someone whose wounds are the same as your own.”

This is an outstandingly conceived story of self-acceptance, of embracing our own wounds, scars, flaws, and finding comfort in the knowledge that being damaged does not make any of us ‘abnormal’ or unworthy of love. No matter how deep their wounds are and how permanent their effect is on their psychological make-up, characters like these show us that they can become more than just the sum of their weaknesses, that their love can transcend it all, empowering them to become functional individuals in every sense of the word, rather than crippling them and pushing them even deeper into their demons’ arms. A daring tale that was truly impossible to put down, showcasing not only Ms Pace’s impressive storytelling skills, but also her ability to frame a person’s most startling shortcomings as sources of strength and power—I am afraid I could never fully express how much this story has amazed me with its honesty, fearlessness and insight into a dark theme I never expected to quite enjoy so much. Stories like these give us hope that no matter how much harm is inflicted upon us, we are never truly broken. And only we can put the pieces back together. Bravo!

“My power over him comes from my powerlessness in his arms. The paradox intoxicates us both.”

5stars

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Series Reading Order and Purchase Links

Asking for It: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | iBooks | Paperback
Begging for It
: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | iBooks | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: Heart-Shaped Hack by Tracey Garvis Graves

HeartShapedHackWhen Kate Watts abandoned her law career to open a food pantry in Northeast Minneapolis, she never dreamed it would be this difficult. Facing the heartbreaking prospect of turning hungry people away, she is grateful for the anonymous donations that begin appearing at the end of each month. Determined to identify and thank her secret benefactor, she launches a plan and catches Ian —a charismatic hacker with a Robin Hood complex—in the act.

Ian intrigues Kate in a way no man ever has. But after learning he’s snooped around on her personal computer, she demands retribution. Impressed with her tolerance and captivated by her spirit, he complies and begins to slowly charm his way past her defenses. Time spent with Ian is never boring, and Kate soon finds herself falling for the mysterious hacker.

But Ian has enemies and they’re growing restless. In the hacking world, exploiting a target’s weakness is paramount, and no price is too high to stop an attack. And when Kate learns exactly how much Ian has paid, she’ll discover just how strong her love is for the man who has hacked his way into her heart.

review

“Are there any more?”
“There’s a seven.”
“And?”
She smiled as if she were picturing it in her mind.
“Oh, Katie.” His voice sounded like a purr. “It must be really good.”
“The number seven is when you kiss me when you’re inside me. It feels incredible.”
“Do you know what sounds really good for dinner?” he asked, nibbling her ear.
“A number seven with a side of let’s order in?”
“You’re so quick,” he said, easing her off his lap and pulling her toward the bedroom. “I really like that about you.”

Shame on me for almost forgetting how much I loved this author’s writing style in On the Island, because she never stops surprising me with the freshness of her ever-evolving prose, the way her characters embed themselves into our hearts so effortlessly, and the uplifting quality of her stories that always make us wish they never ended. This story surprised me at every turn, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone looking for a beautifully written book to make their hearts smile. And skip a few beats on occasion too.

Kate Watts’ future might have been paved for her since she was a child, expected to follow her father’s footsteps all the way to the Supreme Court, but her thrill-seeking heart was never one to settle for a job that would not inspire her every single day of her life, so she leaves a promising career as a corporate attorney behind to open a food pantry for the underprivileged. However, hard work, dedication and personal sacrifices are not enough to keep this venture afloat and fulfil the needs of all those who’ve learned to rely on Kate’s organisation to keep their families fed and clothed, bringing the food pantry to the brink of having to turn people away. Until an anonymous donation saves the day. And then does it again the following month.

“Who are you?”
“Just a man with a mission.”
“Independently wealthy, or does the money grow on a tree in your backyard?”
“I steal from the rich to give to the poor.”

Determined to find out the identity of her mysterious benefactor, Kate sets to catch him in the act of dropping his next donation, only to find herself facing a man who knows a lot more about her than she would have ever expected him to. And resolved to know even more. Yet all she gets to know about him is his first name—Ian—and the fact that he is a computer hacker. As they spend more and more time in each other’s company, we get to witness a truly heartwarming romance slowly take shape, entirely driven forward by their witty dialogues, their undeniable chemistry, and the hero’s charming persistence that leaves us swooning at his every word.

“Get out of my computer immediately. I’m willing to move past the fact that you hacked me, but it ends now.”
“No more backdoor?”
“No more backdoor.”
He appeared crestfallen. “Ever?”
“Never,” Kate said firmly.
“Not even on my birthday or like a special occasion?”
“Are we still talking about my computer?” she asked.
“You probably are.”

But the more she falls for him, the more Kate remains aware of not knowing anything about her new boyfriend beyond his incorrigible charm, his playful and very demonstrative disposition, and his generosity of heart. His true identity and the nature of his work remain under a veil of secrecy at all times, making her question the longevity of their attachment. And whether she could ever truly trust a man whose life would forever be laced with mystery.

“Always chose love. Always choose the adventure. You’ll never regret it.”

As Kate and Ian’s budding romance becomes the most important relationship in both their lives, the reasons behind our hero’s insistence on secrecy become even more justified as his foes start closing in on his activities, putting everything they’ve built between them into jeopardy.

A truly beautiful, heartfelt story that left me once again smitten by this author’s brand of storytelling, this was one of the most delightful reads of the year for me, with also some of the wittiest and most engaging dialogues I’ve ever had a chance to enjoy. Ms Garvis Graves knows how to perfectly pace her stories, giving a romance time to grow organically before our eyes, never rushing them or cornering them into unrealistic scenarios. By the time she is finished, we believe in the characters’ unbreakable connection, we understand them, empathise with them, cheer for them no matter what happens. And the love she wove between Ian and Kate is entrenched in their every action. This is a story that shows the unwavering trust that is built between two people whose love rises above all, making them willing to pay any price for the happiness of the other. I was completely besotted by this story, my heart beaming from the very first page, and I found myself wanting to do a heel-click Mary-Poppins-style when I realized their tale would continue in White-Hot Hack (no release date yet), regardless of how satisfying the ending was.

“Someday you’ll sit beside me and know you can trust me no matter how fast we’re going.”

5stars

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Other Books by This Author
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On the IslandAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Uncharted (an On the Island novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
CovetAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Cherish (a Covet novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Every Time I Think of YouAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: Before We Were Strangers by Renée Carlino

During their senior year of college, in an NYU dorm tucked into the heart of the East Village, Grace and Matt struck up a friendship over Jeff Buckley, Pearl Jam, and the Ramones. She was going to be a world-class cellist and he was going to be a famous photographer, their paths destined to diverge after graduation.

Even after an afternoon pub crawl ended in their drunken, spontaneous wedding, their visions for the future never overlapped enough for them to be together. The summer after college, he left his “ex-wife” on good terms and went to Brazil to work for National Geographic. They vowed to stay in touch and see each other soon.

They never did.

Fifteen years later, back in New York City, Matt sees Grace as she boards the J train. They’re both different in a hundred ways, and yet they’re still the same. But just as they recognize each other, just as he understands what he left behind all those years ago, the train pulls away. His only recourse is to send a missed connections letter out in the world, and hope she remembers where to look.

review

“You were always with me, Grace. I never found a way to let you go.”

It only takes one visit to New York City to understand why so many timeless works of fiction happen to take place here, why so many unforgettable love stories are inspired by this city, and just how many recognizable icons of this great metropolis are now reminders of some of the greatest books we’ve ever read. And we can now add another one to that list of greats. A love story spanning over more than a decade, this is the tale of two young people who simply met too soon in life to truly appreciate what they had found in one another, whose lives take off in different directions, but eventually bring them back to each other again, where they belonged all along, because their hearts would and could never love another. It’s a story that shows us that some loves have no expiry date, that some people are meant to be with one another no matter what, even when time is stolen from them, even when they are robbed of memories that could never be replaced, even when nothing could ever make them forget the bitter taste of regret from losing one another for so long. This was one of the most heartwarming romances I have ever read, a story I adored, and it made me miss the bustling streets of New York City even more, but knowing that next time I’m there, I’d be seeing it through these characters’ eyes too.

“You can’t re-create the first time you promise to love someone or the first time you feel loved by another. You cannot relive the sensation of fear, admiration, self-consciousness, passion, and desire all mixed into one because it never happens twice. You chase it like the first high for the rest of your life. It doesn’t mean you can’t love another or move on; it just means that the one spontaneous moment, the split second that you took the leap, when your heart was racing and your mind was muddled with What ifs?—that moment—will never happen the same way again. It will never feel as intense as the first time.”

Matt Shore and Grace Starr met on their first day of senior year at college, and from the moment they laid eyes on one another, they became inseparable. Both creative, strong-willed and independent, their shared quirkiness makes them perfect partners in crime, always encouraging each other’s artistic affinities and ambitions, and becoming each other’s muses and greatest fans, until the connection between them inevitably outgrows the bounds of their friendship and transforms into a romantic one. But as their final year of college comes to an end, their relationship all too quickly falls apart, leaving them heartbroken and mournful of all they had lost, forever wondering if they’d ever find such happiness again as the one they had found in each other’s arms.

“We were victims of bad timing. But here we are again.”

Fifteen years later and now both in their mid thirties, they see one another again for just a moment in time, and suddenly nothing can stop the memories of their time together from invading their every thought. But when they finally find each other and all the lingering questions about those missing years are answered at last, they are left with even more resentment and regret, their love having survived it all, but once again put to the test as their hearts struggle to forgive for all that was stolen from them.

“I missed everything, Gracie. I missed everything.”

A heart-wrenching, truly unforgettable tale of second chances at love, of two people whose love never died, never even dimmed, even though what was taken from them could never be given back. I rarely connect with two characters this way—I loved their every quirk, their every imperfection, their every insecurity, but I loved loved loved the way their hearts loved each other the most. Ms Carlino has a flair for dreamy, passionate love stories that warm our hearts and feed every romantic bone in our bodies, but this time around, she has given us a true gem, a timeless tale of a never-ending love set against the backdrop of a magical city she captured oh-so perfectly, a tale that I suspect will become a favourite for many.

“New York has an energy that takes root inside of you. Even a transplant like me gets to know the different boroughs, like they’re living, breathing organisms. There’s nowhere else like it. The city becomes a character in your life, a love you can’t take out of you. The mysteriously human element about this place can make you fall in love and break your heart at the same time. When you hear her sound, when you breathe in her scent, you share it with all the people walking beside you on the street, in the subway, or gazing from a tall building across Central Park. You know at once that you are alive, and that life is beautiful, precious, and fleeting.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW: The Paper Swan by Leylah Attar

They say it takes 21 days to form a habit.

They lie.

For 21 days she held on.

But on Day 22, she would have given anything for the sweet slumber of death.

Because on Day 22, she realizes that her only way out means certain death for one of the two men she loves.

review

“We are a question that hasn’t been answered yet, a hiding place that hasn’t been found yet, a battle that hasn’t been fought yet.”

Holy cow! What a spectacular book this was! Gripping and unexpected, this story literally took my breath away, and I not only found myself reading until dawn, but also incapable of moving on and picking up another book for days to come. Within an exhilarating scenario that is as unique as it is astounding, I never expected to find so many surprises, so many twists and turns at every corner, and I felt like I was on a joyride of a lifetime. But fear not because I will not spoil any of it for you, as each small discovery, each staggering revelation, each ‘sucker punch’ in the story has made this one of the most riveting, compelling, and truly unforgettable reads of my life. Not to mention, one of the most divinely written ones too.

“This was a murder-turned-into-abduction. This was a screwed-up moment of weakness. This was a personal, targeted attack against my father.”

There is no slow introduction into the storyline, no gradual easing into it for the reader—the story takes off ‘mid race’, as we find the heroine with a gun pointed at her head, abducted and facing death at the hands of a man she doesn’t know. Skye Sedgewick has lived a privileged life since birth, her only living parent showering her with love and attention, and never making her want for anything. And yet, at the mercy of her captor, powerless and facing imminent death, her mind draws comfort from recalling a time when she was just a child, when the sound of her nanny’s lullaby could erase all hurts, when her childhood best friend’s intrepid heart made her feel safe and protected, and when all it took to put a smile on her face was a pink-frosted cake and a paper giraffe. But even those happy memories do little to dissolve the utter gloom of her reality—held hostage on a boat by a man who shows her no compassion or empathy, whose mind games and bouts of cruelty slowly strip her of all hope and dignity, while they sail towards an unknown destination and an uncertain fate for Skye.

“I felt like all the bits that held me together were slowly coming unglued, falling off, piece by piece. I was disappearing, disintegrating like the rocks that get eaten by the sea.”

But as their journey continues, an unexpected attachment forms between captor and captive, and the more Skye’s childhood memories keep returning and offsetting her harsh reality, the more of the truth behind her abduction is revealed. Until the past and the present suddenly collide and our heroine and her captor, Damian, find themselves torn between what has been and all that their hearts tell them should be.

“There are no good guys or bad guys. Everyone has a reason.”

And that is when this story takes off on an unforeseen adventure of soul-searching, friendship, redemption and survival, an adventure where love is the ultimate prize and the past is the bitterest foe. As Skye and Damian succumb to their feelings, recognising a love that was written in the stars for them, they soon realise that that very love is the only thing holding vengeance back by a thread, a thread that can snap at any moment, and take it all away from them in one sweep.

“… there is no space too dark or too vast or too irredeemable that can’t be filled with love.”

There is so much more I could tell you about this story as I find myself here bursting to talk about it, but I have to remain vague so that you can discover and truly appreciate every facet of this beautiful tale the same way as I did—slowly and without warning. I will tell you, though, that no amount of imagination could have prepared me for any jaw-dropping moment of this passionate, thrilling, at times even gritty story of two people who have come full circle in life, only to find themselves torn between all they have gained and all they have lost.

“You can either choose love or you can choose hate, because where one lives, the other will die.”

I feel no amount of praise will ever do a book of this calibre justice. With its exquisite prose, almost poetic at times, the phenomenally framed characters, vulnerable and strong at the same time, the passionate, turbulent love story that pulls on every one of our heartstrings like a fine concerto, the richness of a storyline that is never predictable and consistently enthralling, this is a book I wish I could make everyone read. Because books like these are few and far between, and are nothing less than life-changing.

“It’s not over, you know, it never has been … you will always be my forever.”

6stars

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Other works by this author…
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53 Letters For My LoverAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
From His Lips
(novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: The Bourbon Kings by J.R. Ward

thebourbonkingsFor generations, the Bradford family has worn the mantle of kings of the bourbon capital of the world. Their sustained wealth has afforded them prestige and privilege—as well as a hard-won division of class on their sprawling estate, Easterly. Upstairs, a dynasty that by all appearances plays by the rules of good fortune and good taste. Downstairs, the staff who work tirelessly to maintain the impeccable Bradford facade. And never the twain shall meet.

For Lizzie King, Easterly’s head gardener, crossing that divide nearly ruined her life. Falling in love with Tulane, the prodigal son of the bourbon dynasty, was nothing that she intended or wanted—and their bitter breakup only served to prove her instincts were right. Now, after two years of staying away, Tulane is finally coming home again, and he is bringing the past with him. No one will be left unmarked: not Tulane’s beautiful and ruthless wife; not his older brother, whose bitterness and bad blood know no bounds; and especially not the ironfisted Bradford patriarch, a man with few morals, fewer scruples, and many, many terrible secrets.

As family tensions—professional and intimately private—ignite, Easterly and all its inhabitants are thrown into the grips of an irrevocable transformation, and only the cunning will survive.

review

“You’re the love of my life, whether you’re with me or not.”

I have the biggest book hangover ever. I am literally struggling to find things to occupy my mind with just so I wouldn’t go back to re-read this fabulous, oh-so addictive, sinfully moreish book, because at the end of the day, no matter how many times I flip those last few pages, no new ones are going to appear. The first instalment in The Bourbon Kings saga, this is the devastatingly compelling story of a very prestigious Southern family from Kentucky—the Bradfords—and it follows the four Bradford siblings and all the scandals and heartbreak entailed upon them by being born into such wealth and privilege. The best way I can describe the feeling of reading a book such as this would be to say that if Dynasty and Downton Abbey had a baby, this would be it! I am telling you, this book will ruin you, break you, steal your breath away so many times, you’ll be breathing into a paper bag by the end of it, and once you recover, you’ll be begging for more more more!!

“I was almost over you, Lane. I was getting my breath back, my life back.”

While the story as a whole is comprised of a number of intertwined subplots as we get to hear several distinct voices belonging to each Bradford son or daughter, as well as their romantic interests, this book in a way belongs to the youngest Bradford child—Jonathan “Lane” Tulane Baldwine—and the woman he lost two years before but never got over—Lizzie King. Lane has been wasting his life away for two long years, hiding from the world in New York City and spending his days either drinking or playing poker, but the ill health of the only quasi-parent he’s ever loved suddenly brings the prodigal son back home, to a house he never wanted to see again, forcing him to face the woman he cannot stop thinking about.

“The one man she never wanted to see again . . . was going to come home.”

Lizzie has been working at the Bradford Family Estate for ten years, working her way up to become one of their most valuable employees. Independent, diligent, proud of her hard work and determined to make it on her own in life—nothing prepares her for the return of the youngest Bradford son, her body betraying her from the moment they lay eyes on each other again, but two years of separation have not even dimmed her heartbreak or the sting of his betrayal. Lane, however, is a changed man, unwilling to let the love of his life slip through his fingers once again, and prepared to do whatever it takes to convince her to trust him again.

“I’m prepared to be a very patient man when it comes to you. I will seduce you for however long it takes—give you space if you need it or follow you tight as sunshine on your shoulder if you’ll let me. I lost my chance with you once, Lizzie King—that is not going to happen again.”

Lane is not the only Bradford we get to fall in love with in this book, his sister Gin’s and older brother Edward’s storylines being even more captivating and intense at times. Virginia “Gin” Baldwine, is a woman who lost her self-respect a long time ago, a woman who feels deeply and hates herself for all her downfalls, and yet for all those around her she maintains an air of pride, perfection, superiority, and complete emotional detachment. Spoiled by a lifetime of depraved luxury and blessed with good genes, Gin is used to getting her way in everything, especially the men she sleeps with, but ever since she was a teenager, she has loved one man and one man alone—the only man she can never have. For almost two decades, she has played a torturous and unhealthy cat-and-mouse game with Samuel Theodore Lodge III—Samuel T. to his friends—a successful attorney and old family friend, always one-upping each other with their sexual conquests while maintaining a very casual friends-with-benefits arrangement between them. But when two very headstrong people play a cruel game with each other for too long, they eventually end up forgetting why they started playing it in the first place, possibly losing the only chance they get at finding their happily-ever-after.

“To sacrifice her body at the altar of money? Fine. She would do what she had to.”

And then there is Edward Baldwine, the eldest son and heir apparent to the Bradford ‘throne’, a man whose broken body coupled with a lifetime of physical and emotional abuse at the hands of his father have forced him to leave his old life behind, and become a recluse who spends his days training horses and his nights drowning himself in self-pity and alcohol. But even as a shadow of his old self, his heart continues to ache for Sutton Smythe, the daughter of the Bradfords’ biggest competitor and Edward’s best friend since childhood, a woman he never claimed when he had a chance to but secretly loved all his life.

“You must know that I fell in love with you a long time ago. You must know it. How could you not? I’ve been following you around for years— is that why you hate me?”

While he fall head over heels with each Bradford sibling and the people they are destined to love forever, we also see them facing one common problem, a monumental setback that would change all their lives collectively and would require them to either join forces…or watch reality as they know it disappear in a puff of smoke.

A sinfully addictive telenovela-esque collection of jaw-dropping twists and turns, secrets and lies, set against a very enthralling backdrop of Southern wealth and privilege, I never wanted this book to end. Ever. I loved all the main characters, felt heartbroken over all their storylines, and cannot wait to see where the series takes us. In the meantime, I’ll be the one rocking in a corner, begging the universe to make the wait for the next book as short as possible.

“This is . . . your time, Lane. God has provided you with a sacred duty to keep this family together. You are the only one who can do it. This is all falling into place because it is your destiny to bind the blood once again. It happens every couple of generations. It’s happening now. This is your time.”

6stars

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BOOK REVIEW: King of Hearts by L.H. Cosway

Welcome to the City, London’s most prestigious square mile, where finance reigns and Oliver King is a rising prince.

I used to rule the world.

There might be wolves on Wall Street, but there were crocodiles in Canary Wharf. Some of us craved money. Some of us craved power.

I liked money, and power had its advantages, but what I really wanted was to excel, to surpass the men who came before me. I never cared much for love and romance until I met Alexis.

I could feel it the very moment she walked into the interview, with her outspoken charm and vivacious personality. She cast all the others in shadow, made me laugh when life held no humour. Our friendship should have remained professional, but it wasn’t long before the lines started to blur.

You know what they say about the best laid plans of mice and men? Well, I never foresaw where my plans would lead, and only in my darkest hour did I finally see the light…

You can have all the money and prestige in the world and still be the poorest man alive. And love, well, I hate to use a tired old cliché, but love can be the thing that truly sets you free.

review

“I could lose the run of myself inside a woman like you, Alexis. And I fear if I made you my queen, I could no longer be a king.”

I’m going to be totally honest with you—I picked this book up on a whim based solely on its eye-catching cover. I had no idea nor did I wish to know what it was about as I was looking for a book to surprise me, to make me fall in love with its story and its characters, a story to woo me somehow after so many had left me unfulfilled and aching for a truly superb read. And after just one paragraph I was almost certain I had found a gem, but the more I read, the more I adored every single thing about this book—from its quirky and utterly addictive writing style, to two of the most loveable, compelling and downright delightful characters I had come across in a very long time, not to mention a storyline that I never saw coming, its twists and turns keeping me on the edge of my seat start to finish, and making me turn those pages faster than a speeding bullet. This is quite possibly one of the best books I have read in a while, so incredibly uplifting and engaging, a startling story that is nothing short of amazing in its uniqueness, and it made me want to read every single thing ever written by this terrific author.

“Sometimes we see someone and they just suit us. They’re beautiful to us in every way. You’re that person to me.”

Alexis Clark is a bright young woman in her late twenties who’s spent her life selling herself short despite her innate intelligence and ability to do whatever she sets her mind to, so when she applies for a job as executive assistant at one of the top investment banks in the country, she holds little hope of actually getting the job. But from the moment she opens her mouth, it becomes apparent to her soon-to-be new employer that she might be the perfect candidate for the position.

“You’ll have to get up a lot earlier in the morning to offend me, Mr King.”

Oliver King might be a self-made powerhouse in the banking world, a confident and successful executive in his early thirties, but he never expected someone like Alexis to walk into his office looking for a job, and even less to find himself giving it to her. Her directness and honesty feel like a breath of fresh air in an industry built on pretences and insincerity, and from their very first interaction she not only succeeds in demonstrating her quick wit and cleverness, but also in doing something very few people in his life ever could—to make him laugh. And so it takes no time for the lines of their professional relationship to start blurring more and more each day, a very unique camaraderie forming between them, and their daily interactions becoming something they both look forward to with anticipation.

“Having you around makes the day that little bit more interesting. I enjoy the spontaneity of never quite knowing what you’re going to come out with next.”

However, when an underlying attraction between them starts blurring those lines even further, putting into jeopardy both their working relationship as well as their friendship, Alexis blurts out the first thing that comes to her mind, hoping this would curtail any further inappropriateness from her new boss, thus convincing him that she bats for the other team. And while this little white lie buys their friendship the time it needs to grow without them succumbing to the raging sexual attraction between them, their feelings for one another grow too, so once the truth is uncovered, nothing can stop the bedroom fireworks from happening. Or for their hearts to become irrevocably entwined.

“I want to f*ck you so hard, Alexis, so hard you’re still feeling me inside you tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow….”
Okay, did he just hit me with a side of Shakespeare in his dirty talk?
I died.
I died dead.

But do not think for one second that this is just another predictable office romance scenario, because everything that happens up to this point only sets the stage for the ‘real’ story to take place. The plotline is divided into two distinct time frames and I cannot even hint at the events in the second one without giving too much away and depriving you of all the ‘feels’. The character evolution alone is fascinating in its extensiveness and complexity, both Oliver and Alexis having very trying journeys to travel emotionally, as individuals as well as a couple.

“Do you ever wish, Alexis, that your heart was just that little bit smaller, so that you didn’t have to care quite so much?”

This is so much more than just a love story—this is a story of the staying power of true love, a story of human endurance, of courage, or patience, and of love’s ability to survive a human spirit’s darkest hour. The connection between Alexis and Oliver is sheer magic, its strength palpable in the smallest details, and its beauty leaving us breathless even through occasional giggles and tears. I love a story that makes me genuinely invested in the wellbeing and happiness of the characters, and there is so much to love about Alexis and Oliver, so much to connect with and so much to be inspired by. From every angle, this was the perfect story for me, flawless in its delivery and impossible to put down. I was looking for a superb read, and somehow I stumbled across an epic one.

“I never stopped loving you, not even in my darkest hour.”

5stars

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Hearts – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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Six of Hearts: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Hearts of Fire: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
King of HeartsAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: Ride Steady by Kristen Ashley

The ride of her life . . .

Once upon a time, Carissa Teodoro believed in happy endings. Money, marriage, motherhood: everything came easy—until she woke up to the ugly truth about her Prince Charming. Now a struggling, single mom and stranded by a flat tire, Carissa’s pondering her mistakes when a vaguely familiar knight rides to her rescue on a ton of horsepower.

Climb on and hold tight . . .

In high school, Carson Steele was a bad boy loner who put Carissa on a pedestal where she stayed far beyond his reach. Today, he’s the hard-bodied biker known only as Joker, and from the way Carissa’s acting, it’s clear she’s falling fast. While catching her is irresistible, knowing what to do with her is a different story. A good girl like Carissa is the least likely fit with the Chaos Motorcycle Club. Too bad holding back is so damned hard. Now, as Joker’s secrets are revealed and an outside threat endangers the club, Joker must decide whether to ride steady with Carissa—or ride away forever . . .

review

“Jesus, you do it for me.”
“I do…what for you?”
“Everything.”

I always say it—there’s nothing like a Kristen Ashley book, my heart skipping a beat at the mere act of turning that very first page, but a love story set within the realm of the Chaos Motorcycle Club is a reading experience like no other, a thrill ride that leaves our hearts blazing in its wake from the sheer emotion present in every single word. A story of second chances in life, of two people who find all they’ve ever dreamed of having in each other, but also a story of families, of people who might not share the same blood but who would do anything for one another—this is in many ways the ‘quintessential’ Kristen Ashley novel, her unmistakable style and tone of storytelling present in every word, letter, and comma, and yet there was something quite unique about this story, and its powerful message of never losing hope, and the true meaning of family. I’ve loved every book in this series, but I lost my heart to Joker and Carissa’s story, and no amount of re-reading would give it back.

“It’s you. It’s always been you. It’ll always be you. F*ckin’ always.”

Carson “Joker” Steele’s childhood was not an easy one, raised in an abusive home by a drunken single father, but he eventually found his path in life by becoming a patched member of the Chaos Motorcycle Club, a brotherhood of men whose unbreakable bond and loyalty make them family. And even though he worked hard at leaving his painful past behind and only forging forward, he never forgot those who showed him kindness when his life had been a living nightmare, cherishing in particular the memory of a beautiful cheerleader who was never his but whose smile could light up even the darkest of his days.

“One day, Carson Steele, you’re going to be a magnificent man… And one day, you’ll see past what you’ve been taught and you’ll believe it too.”

All Carissa Teodoro ever wanted in life was a family of her own, to be a good wife and a great mother, and while she once believed she could have it all, her life steadily moving in that direction since her high school days, she finds herself divorced in her twenties, with a baby, no friends, no family, no money, a dead-end job, and her self-confidence in smithereens. The only bright light in her otherwise glum life is her little baby boy, a child she would do anything for, and whose happiness and wellbeing remain her only objectives in life.

“I hadn’t been about me. Not for a long time. Maybe never. I had been coasting in life for so long. I actually didn’t know who me was.”

When Carissa finds herself stranded on the side of the road with a flat tire, the last person she expects to come to her rescue is a man from her past who never knew all that she had felt for him before he up and left. And although Joker’s feelings for her have not changed in the eight years since he last saw her, he is now convinced more than ever that a woman like Carissa deserves a better man than him, so he fights her pull at every turn, prepared to protect her and her child, but unwilling to claim her as his own.

“She doesn’t need dark. She never shoulda had it and she’s had a lifetime of it. What I got in me gets loose, it’ll engulf her.”

As Carissa’s troubles only intensify, Carson finds himself falling even more in love with the young mother whose selflessness and determination never waver, never lose focus, and eventually giving himself permission to do so too. Her honesty and compassion start melting his frosty disposition, revealing a man who has waited all his life to love unconditionally, and to become someone important to a woman like Carissa. They fill each other’s lives with the kind of happiness they both dreamed of finding in life, supporting one another and feeling something they had long forgotten how to feel—hope.

“It was always you. Only you. I was into you back then, Carissa, in a big fuckin’ way. And that hasn’t changed.”

But as their past and present start colliding, Joker and Carissa’s bond is put to the test, showing us how unfaltering true love can be and how much the support of those we love the most can empower a person to cope with any curveball life throws our way. Against her trademark backdrop of charismatic secondary characters we already know and love, Kristen Ashley has given us another ‘badass’ alpha male who wastes little time to claim his leading lady, and a ‘kickass’ heroine who might have always dreamt of a knight in shining armour riding in to save the day, but whose strength and resilience make her pick herself up and then fight never to be brought down again. This was the kind of story that I had a hard time letting go of, certain scenes replaying in my mind over and over again, and filling me with an overwhelming sense of hope and positivity. It’s a story that tells us never to throw in the towel in life, to keep fighting for happiness, and when we find it, to never let go of it. A true Kristen Ashley classic, perfect beginning to end.

“I’ve loved her since high school, man. She means everything to me. You gotta drag her down, that’ll suck, but I’ll pick her back up. You gotta rip her apart, I’ll f*ckin’ hate watchin’ it, but I’ll put her back together. Do what you gotta do to make you feel like you got the bigger dick. But know this, in the end, it’s gonna be her and me.”

5stars

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Chaos – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
ownthewind fireinside2 ridesteady copy

Own the WindMy review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Fire InsideMy review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Ride Steady: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Walk Through FireAmazon US | Amazon CA | Paperback

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