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
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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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BOOK REVIEW: Secret by Kindle Alexander

Tristan Wilder, self-made millionaire and devastatingly handsome CEO of Wilder-Nation is on the verge of a very lucrative buyout. With tough negotiations ahead, he’s armed with his acquisition pitch, ready to launch the deal of a lifetime. There’s just one glitch. The last thing he expects is to fall for the hot business owner he’s trying to sway.

Dylan Reeves, computer science engineer and founder of the very successful social media site, Secret, is faced with a life-altering decision. A devoted family man with three kids and a wife, Dylan has been living a secret for years. Fiercely loyal to his convictions, his boundaries blur after meeting the striking owner of the corporation interested in acquiring his company. For the first time in his life, reckless desire consumes him when the gorgeous computer mogul makes an offer he can’t refuse.

review

“Love’s hard to find, and when you do, you don’t throw it away.”

Ever since I finished this book, I haven’t stopped smiling. Smiling because stories like these fill me with an indescribable sense of hope and positivity. Smiling because some stories are just so wonderful in every single way—inspiring, brave, honest, relevant—that they fill my heart to bursting. Smiling because some love stories touch us so deeply that we never want them to end. And this is a book I wanted to grow old reading.

“…he was a gay man buried so deep in the closet he questioned if he would ever find his way out.”

Dylan Reeves is a married man in his late thirties—a man married to the same wonderful woman for the past nineteen years, a father to three well-adjusted kids, a successful businessman on the verge of the greatest professional accomplishment of his career—and yet he has been living a lie all his life. Dylan’s marriage, as supportive and loving as it is, has been a sham from the start, an arrangement between two best friends who agreed on living separate lives while raising together the three people they love the most in the world. But while his wife has given herself permission to find true love outside their marriage, Dylan has denied himself the same, putting his children’s happiness before his own, and living by a strict moral code of always doing the right thing, at all costs.

“…they didn’t ask to be born. It wasn’t their fault I didn’t have the balls to be me.”

While on a weekend business trip, as part of his company’s merger negotiations with one of the most successful technology companies in the world, the last thing Dylan expects to find on the other side of the negotiating table is a man who suddenly makes him forget all he’s pretended to be for so long, awakening all his suppressed yearnings, and igniting the very sexual man he was born to be.

“I’m in trouble…”
“That you are. I think we both are.”

Tristan Wilder is a man at the top of his professional game, a self-made computer mogul who has the world at his fingertips, but his success has also cost him his personal life, rarely finding the time to engage in anything more than commitment-free trysts with men who never ask more of him. Until a closeted man walks into his life, and ends up turning it upside down. Never one to have to pursue his conquests, Tristan finds himself in uncharted territory as he romances a man struggling to let his desires consume him. But the more time they spend in each other’s arms, exploring each other’s bodies and stealing each other’s hearts, the more it becomes apparent to them both that their weekend together would end up changing their lives forever.

“There’s no way this will end well for me, but not taking the few moments you’re willing to give me seems like a far worse fate.”

And this is all I will tell you about the storyline because even a peep about what comes next would deprive you of the very special way this story unfolds and eventually comes together, of the way these characters react in certain pivotal moments in the story, of the way their unique bonds are attested, because it is those unexpected actions and reactions that make this book so extraordinary in its approach. This is not a story that trivialises the vows of marriage, or validates infidelity—this is a truly inspiring story about living one’s truth, about the kind of selfless love and devotion that puts most of us to shame, about finding the courage to show’s one’s most vulnerable side to those we love the most. Love does not always mean an easy road ahead, but stories like these make us believe that there might be a happily-ever-after for us all. There is something truly uplifting about tales like these, tales that show us how life should be, the life we should all have the right to live, and I am always astonished by the sheer beauty of these authors’ stories, consistently inspiring but inexorably sexy. Whether a seasoned m/m reader or new to the genre, this story should be on top of your reading list.

“I’ll wait for you, however long it takes. I don’t care. I’ll wait.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW & EXCERPT: Moonlight on Nightingale Way by Samantha Young

MOONLIGHT ON NIGHTINGALE WAYLogan spent two years paying for the mistakes he made. Now, he’s ready to start over. He has a great apartment, a good job, and plenty of women to distract him from his past. And one woman who is driving him to distraction…

Grace escaped her manipulative family by moving to a new city. Her new life, made to suit her own needs, is almost perfect. All she needs to do is find her Mr. Right—or at least figure out a way to ignore her irresistible yet annoying womanizer of a neighbor.

Grace is determined to have nothing to do with Logan until a life-changing surprise slowly begins turning the wild heartbreaker into exactly the kind of strong, stable man she’s been searching for. Only just when she begins to give into his charms, her own messy past threatens to derail everything they’ve worked to build…

review

“I can’t walk away from you even if I wanted to. And I don’t want to. You are reality and sweet oblivion wrapped up in one annoyingly argumentative, always-bloody-right, classy, gorgeous-as-f*ck package.”

Six full length novels, six couples I loved from the get-go, six unforgettable love stories that will forever remain some of my favourite books of all time, and we now say goodbye to the wonderful world of the On Dublin Street series with this unputdownable finale—a touching friends-to-lovers tale that had me either squirming in my seat from the unrelenting chemistry between the characters, or clenching my chest from all the angsty emotions it stirred in me page after page. I loved this book, loved it so much I couldn’t help but re-read parts of it right after I first finished it, leaving me with a bittersweet smile on my face knowing I was saying farewell to a ‘reality’ I learned to depend on whenever I was in need of a true romance to warm my heart.

“I’d worked hard to become my own person and not a shadow of the girl lost in the manipulations, cruelty, and neglect of her family.”

Grace Farquhar is a young woman who left her privileged past and the person she once was behind to embrace the woman she always hoped to become. Having grown up in an disparaging environment that left her with serious self-esteem issues—raised by parents who either ignored her or belittled her continually with demeaning comments and self-serving expectations—she was forced to sever all contact with her family in order to heal and become her own person. But years of feeling inadequate and never speaking out her mind have left her fearful of confrontation, constantly craving the approval of others. So when a very loud new neighbour moves into the apartment next door, his late night sex antics keeping her awake night after night and leaving her too tired to work during the day, she reacts uncharacteristically, having no qualms about expressing her distress and frustration at his behaviour. Even when her words seem to fall on deaf ears and her new neighbour’s mocking stance only serves to aggravate her even more.

“Logan MacLeod is the least likely candidate for boyfriendhood of any man in the entire world.”

Logan MacLeod is not the man the world believes him to be. One mistake in his life, one act of fierce protectiveness towards a beloved sister, has cost him two years of his life and a lifetime of shame, but behind the bad boy façade hides a man looking for forgiveness, self-fulfilment, and a fresh start in life. When the cute spitfire next door confronts him about his late night shenanigans, he is instantly drawn to her, but the more life pulls them closer to one another, and the more he gets to know her, the more he believes that she deserves someone better than him, someone worthier, someone whose past is not weighing heavily on his shoulders, making him wish he were a better man for her. Even though in Grace’s eyes he is all she’s ever dreamed of finding in life.

“Although I was actively looking for the man I wanted to spend my life with, I wasn’t looking for a fantasy man. I was looking for someone understanding, protective, and funny. I didn’t expect perfection. I just wanted to like the person I was dating, and I wanted him to be kind.”

When Logan’s past comes unexpectedly knocking at his door, changing his future forever, Grace becomes the person he learns to lean on the most in life, her kindness and generosity helping him face a reality he never believed possible. But as their lives become more and more intertwined, their attraction grows as well, leading to a climax of epic proportions. One which only one of them doesn’t regret in the end.

“I’d fallen in love for the first time. And he didn’t love me back.”

This is a very emotional but also downright scorching tale of a love born suddenly, unexpectedly, a love free from judgement and prejudice, whose sheer magnitude heals both young lovers from the ugly scars from their respective pasts. It’s also a story that shows the true definition of a family, of the incomparable power of friendships, and how much the two can sometimes become one in life. Grace and Logan break the cycle they were born into by becoming the kind of people they always wished their parents would have been—two people who love selflessly and unconditionally, and whose love and devotion to those closest to them becomes the one thing they are most proud of in life.

It is with a heavy heart that I let these characters and all the wonderful couples who came before them go, certain of many a re-read in the future. Ms Young has given us the perfect kind of closure for all six storylines, and even though there will never be another Jocelyn and Braden, Johanna and Cameron, Olivia and Nate, Hannah and Marco, Shannon and Cole, or Grace and Logan, I am certain the best is yet to come from this truly extraordinary author whose words never fail to blow my mind.

“I never thought you’d light up for the likes of me… I’m going to f*ck you until you see stars.”

5stars

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excerpt

“I’m right here.” I slowed to a stop in front of the blue door to my building. “Thank you for dinner.”

John did a little skip back to me. “I could come up for coffee.” He grinned down at me hopefully.

I gave him an apologetic smile. “I’ve got work to do.”

“Oh, come on.” He edged closer to me, and I stumbled back against the wall. “Ask me up, Grace. You know you want to.” He fingered the collar of my light coat, and I instinctively slapped his hand away.

“I’m going inside. You should leave.”

He held his hands up in a surrender gesture but took another step toward me.

My stomach flipped, and I glanced right and then left. The dark street was empty. “Really, John. I’d just like to go inside. Good night.”

“You’re nervous,” he said softly. “I get it. I had to have a few glasses of wine to loosen up tonight I was so nervous about meeting you, but we don’t have to be nervous, Grace.” He brushed his fingers across my cheek, and I flinched away. “We’re two adults just looking for company.”

“No. You’re drunk, and I want you to leave. Now, please step back.”

The door to the building opened before John could react. A large figure stepped outside, and when he shut the door behind him and turned his face, the moonlight revealed Logan. He stopped a moment at the sight of me and gave me a nod before turning his back. He was dressed for work. And he was leaving.

Fear forced my mouth open, and I was just about to call out Logan’s name when he halted and turned around. He looked at me, expressionless, and then he looked at John. Despite the blank look on his face, I knew right away he’d deduced the situation when, without a word, Logan pulled his keys out and opened the door. He pushed the door open and stepped toward me. “Grace,” he said.

Relief flooded me, and I knew I couldn’t hide it just as I hadn’t been able to keep the panic from my face when I thought he was leaving. I darted past him and inside, glancing over my shoulder to see John take a step toward the door. Logan blocked the doorway, and I watched, fascinated, as he intimidated John into retreating without saying one bloody word.

John ran a shaky hand through his hair, suddenly looking anywhere but at Logan, and then he spun on his heel and started striding a little unsteadily down our street.

Logan entered the building and closed the door. We just stared at each other for a second before he gestured for me to move.

I started down the hall, hearing him fall into step behind me. He followed me all the way up the stairs until we reached my flat, and he watched as I fumbled for my keys in my purse. When I managed to get ahold of them, they rattled in my trembling hands.

Logan’s warm hand curled around mine, and he gently eased the keys from my grip. He opened my door for me. “You all right?”

“Yes, thanks.” I gave him a small, grateful smile. “I just feel like I’ve been stuck in episodes of Sex and the City on my last few dates. There are some bizarre men out there.” He didn’t reply, and I shifted uncomfortably. “Well, thanks again.” I moved to go inside, and he said my name. “Yes?”

Logan was no longer expressionless. There was a tautness to his features and a shadow of dark purple in his eyes. I recognized that look. He was angry. “Never let a drunk man walk you home again.”

Flummoxed that his anger seemed to be born from concern, I could only nod, tongue-tied.

He stared at me pointedly, and I stared dumbly back at him.

Logan sighed impatiently. “Close your door, Grace. I’m not leaving for work until I hear the sound of your lock turning.”

“Oh.” I flushed at my silliness and eased the door shut. I turned my lock and put the chain in place. “Good night!” I called through the door.

“Good night, Miss Farquhar,” he returned, and I heard the rumble of dry amusement in his voice before the sounds of his footsteps faded into the distance.

Excerpt 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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On Dublin Street – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
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beforejamaicalane fallfromindiaplace echoesofscotlandstreet MOONLIGHT ON NIGHTINGALE WAY

On Dublin Street: My Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Until Fountain Bridge (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Down London Road: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Castle Hill (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Before Jamaica Lane: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Fall from India Place: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Echoes of Scotland Street: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Moonlight on Nightingale WayAmazon US | Amazon UKAmazon CA | Paperback
One King’s Way (novella): Amazon US | Amazon CA

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BOOK REVIEW: The Friend Zone by Kristen Callihan

Gray doesn’t make friends with women. He has sex with them. Until Ivy.

The last thing star tight-end Gray Grayson wants to do is drive his agent’s daughter’s bubblegum pink car. But he needs the wheels and she’s studying abroad. Something he explains when she sends him an irate text to let him know exactly how much pain she’ll put him in if he crashes her beloved ride. Before he knows it, Ivy Mackenzie has become his best texting bud. But then Ivy comes home and everything goes haywire. Because the only thing Gray can think of is being with Ivy.

Ivy doesn’t have sex with friends. Especially not with a certain football player. No matter how hot he makes her…

Gray drives Ivy crazy. He’s irreverent, sex on a stick, and completely off limits. Because, Ivy has one golden rule: never get involved with one of her father’s clients. A rule that’s proving harder to keep now that Gray is doing his best to seduce her. Her best friend is fast becoming the most irresistible guy she’s ever met.

Which means Gray is going to have to use all his skills to get himself out of the friend zone and into Ivy’s heart. Game on.

review

IvyMac: I’m…prickly. I don’t mean to be.
GrayG: Prickly? Naw. You’re…saucy. Like that sauce on a Big Mac.
IvyMac: If you call me special sauce, you lose a nut.
GrayG: I knew it, you’re talking dirty to me! Shenanigans!
IvyMac: Lol. Dork
GrayG: That’s Cupcake to you, Special Sauce.

I am officially a New Adult genre addict…again. And it comes as no surprise given the phenomenal writing style that makes this author’s books so impossible to put down, placing them into a category all of their own, somewhere between ‘when-I-grow-up-I-want-to-write-like-this’ and ‘how-many-times-can-I-reread-a-book-before-it-becomes-unhealthy’. After The Hook Up, I didn’t really think I could enjoy a college romance more than Drew and Anna’s captivating love story, but I was wrong. Gray and Ivy are two characters that we fall in love with on the very first page, their playful banter making us grin like lunatics, and as their story progresses, their every facet makes us love them more and more. This is the type of read I will always be in the mood for and cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone seeking a feel-good, confidently written, sweet but achingly sexy friends-to-lovers tale that makes you want to read it in a single sitting.

“I just like her. I really like her. She’s the first person I want to talk to. Every day.”

They might have bonded over a bubblegum-pink Fiat 500 and the shenanigans that may and may not take place inside this powder-puff car, but it was clear from the very beginning that Gray Grayson and Ivy Mackenzie would become best friends. Their friendship started before they ever even met, their endless text messaging and ability to open up to one another unreservedly thus weaving a rare thread of affection and trust between them that had been missing from both of their lives. So, when they finally meet, the awkwardness their expected to encounter between them immediately dissipates, leaving in its wake a heart-warming feeling akin to coming back home.

“I’ve just officially met Ivy Mackenzie, and I realize I’ve missed her for what seems like years.”

But being best friends with the only person in your life who has ever made you wish of things you never thought you would want, proves to be a constant challenge for both of them. The world might see him as a popular jock, the larger-than-life star player on a championship-winning football team, but there are so many sides to Gray Grayson that no one but those closest to him ever get to see. Highly intelligent and innately talented in much more than just playing football, Gray is determined to live life to the fullest by pursuing a career in a sport he truly loves, his motto of working hard and playing hard allowing him to always live in the moment and never needing to look forward to anything in his life…until Ivy.

“Am I really living for the moment? Or am I running away from reality?”

Ivy grew up surrounded by sports legends, her lack of ‘fan-girling’ tendencies making her a rare sort of female in Gray’s life. Her no-nonsense attitude and ability to see through his macho act make her the first girl to see the real Gray. Her hidden vulnerability awakens the natural protector and carer in him, his need to look after her as strong as his aching desire to be taken care of by her. Their unique bond grows exponentially each day, their easy communication making them utterly addicted to one another and to each other’s opinions, but when that addiction starts blurring the lines of friendship they so carefully drew between them, it becomes apparent that those self-imposed boundaries might have been nothing more than ‘lines in the sand’ they were destined to cross from the very beginning.

“…all I wanted to do was kiss her, explore the gentle curve of her lower lip before sucking on it. And Ivy would have flipped out. Because friends do not maul other friend’s mouths.”

I am a sucker for friends-to-lovers romances, and this one might just be one of my all-time favourites now because I loved these characters as friends even before I wished for them to become more. No aspect of their friendship is sacrificed in order to feed the romance storyline, and it is that loving, selfless, honest connection between them that won me over in the first place. The way their friendship is put first, before everything else, and the way they fight to safeguard it, often even against themselves, was a fresh and truly touching angle that I didn’t see coming. When their friendship is finally allowed to evolve into a love affair, my heart was already bursting at the seams, and it is through heart-shaped lenses that we then ‘live’ their romance, regardless of how steamy and utterly mouth-watering it gets.

“Jay-sus, he’s hot. And freaking huge. A veritable mountain of sexy. Seriously, Iv…You could climb him like Everest, make base camp at his cock, and tackle the rest in the morning.”

The faultless character development and the quirky dialogues are what sets this book, as well as its prequel, apart from many books of this type. The greedy reader in me would have wished even more insight into Gray’s problematic family background and the way those relationships then changed, but we were given enough knowledge of those events in order to form a realistic and credible picture of that facet of his personality, and anything more would have just been icing on the cake. I cannot believe I am saying this, but I loved this book even more than The Hook Up, which I adored, and that is all you need to know.

“You’ve owned me from ‘Shenanigans,’ Ivy Mac.”

5stars

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Game On – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
(standalone stories with interconnected characters)
thehookup_new

The Hook Up: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
The Friend Zone
: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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BOOK REVIEW: Sweet by Tammara Webber

He’s the love of her life, but he doesn’t know it.

She’s his one moment of sacrifice in a lifetime of survival.

He was damaged and wild, but resilient.

She’s always been obedient; now she’s restless.

Home for the summer between college and med school, Pearl Torres Frank knows two things: Boyce Wynn is the embodiment of everything she should run from, and everything she wants to run to. Rebellious and loud. Unconcerned with society’s opinion of him. Passionate. Strong. Dangerous.

And one more trait he hides from everyone but her:

Sweet.

review

“It’s just me, Boyce. You don’t have to do anything to impress me.”
“Because you already think I’m awesome, or because you never will?”
“You saved my life. I’ve been impressed with you since I was five years old.”

I feel like my heart is glowing like a Christmas tree from the sheer exquisiteness of this beautiful, oh-so romantic and yet very tantalizing story, a story that sneaks up on you unhurriedly, pulling you in deeper and deeper, as you lose yourself in a swirl of emotions and truly superb prose. A tale of second chances, of finding the courage to give one’s heart what it desires the most, this is a love story that spans over fifteen years, showing that even some of our most painful memories can become our most treasured ones. This book left me beaming, bursting at the seams with child-like delight, knowing I’d found a story I would never ever want to forget.

“When are you going to stop being afraid to love your life, Pearl?”

Pearl and Boyce’s lives have been gently intertwined since they were children, when a seven-year-old boy saved a little girl from drowning. But growing up in two very different families, from opposite sides of town, meant that their everyday lives had very little in common, their unlikely friendship born over the years as a secret they both guarded fiercely, rather than nurtured openly. As their story is given to us in snippets—their past and present intermingling continuously to slowly but purposefully paint the picture of their shared history before their future can truly be understood—we unravel their past through both their eyes, both their hearts.

“Boyce Wynn—my guardian angel, the imaginary best friend of my childhood, my unprofessed adolescent crush, my dirty little secret.”

We watch a young girl from a privileged upbringing fall desperately in love for the bad boy at school, because while everyone else only ever sees her façade, he sees the person she hides from the world. He understands her like no one else ever has, his bluntly honest and often cantankerous attitude spurring her to open up to him and express all her doubts, fears, and wildest dreams. He makes her feel safe to be herself, to take chances in life, and to follow her heart, their secret friendship evolving over the years into a young romance that never quite takes flight, never gets a chance to blossom. And eventually, Pearl’s education takes her far away from Boyce, leaving them both full of regrets over the many missed opportunities they had.

“In four years, nothing had erased or even dimmed my memories of Boyce. His kiss. His touch. The disorienting intensity of his gaze.”

When Pearl returns to her home town after college to pursue a childhood dream, thus giving up the one she was always expected to blindly follow, she finds herself seeking the help of the only man who has always only protected her—Boyce. As their lives become once again entwined, this time more than ever before and in ways they never even dreamed possible, every new step forward in their budding relationship stems out of a shared memory from the past. They remember it all, every kiss, every stolen smile, every moment spent in each other’s arms, as they gather the courage to finally open up their hearts to one another and confess what they’ve been hiding for so long.

“I’m gonna kiss you. Unless you tell me not to good and loud right now. I’m gonna kiss you, and I’m not gonna be sorry.”

But old insecurities and fears lurking behind them never stop making them question everything they mean to one another, everything they’ve always meant to one another, forcing them to fight, for once, for their place in the other’s life.

“I’d rather her be happy the rest of her life without me than be the thing that made her sad.”

Ms Webber is a very unique storyteller, her narrative structured in a way that not only felt new and different to me, but also utterly gripping. Through frequent flashbacks of sorts, generously dispersed all throughout the storyline, she marries her characters’ past with their future, each sliver of their shared story fitting perfectly together to form a heart-warming picture like no other. She gives us both their voices, a window into both their hearts and minds, and she makes us love them both, equally, unequivocally, leaving no gaps in their emotional growth and character development in general. I cannot believe that this is my first novel by this extraordinary author, a real shame I waited so long to experience her astonishing writing style, but it will not be my last.

“I was a man who’d loved this girl from the moment she’d come back to life and saw no one but me.”

5stars

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Contours of the Heart – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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BOOK REVIEW: The Mistake by Elle Kennedy

TheMistakeHe’s a player in more ways than one…

College junior John Logan can get any girl he wants. For this hockey star, life is a parade of parties and hook-ups, but behind his killer grins and easygoing charm, he hides growing despair about the dead-end road he’ll be forced to walk after graduation. A sexy encounter with freshman Grace Ivers is just the distraction he needs, but when a thoughtless mistake pushes her away, Logan plans to spend his final year proving to her that he’s worth a second chance.

Now he’s going to need to up his game…

After a less than stellar freshman year, Grace is back at Briar University, older, wiser, and so over the arrogant hockey player she nearly handed her V-card to. She’s not a charity case, and she’s not the quiet butterfly she was when they first hooked up. If Logan expects her to roll over and beg like all his other puck bunnies, he can think again. He wants her back? He’ll have to work for it. This time around, she’ll be the one in the driver’s seat…and she plans on driving him wild.

review

“Are you trying to buy your way into my good graces?”
“Yup. And excellent pun, by the way.”
“I wasn’t punning. My name just happens to be a homonym.”
“I love it when you talk homonyms to me.”

There are books you read in a week, there are books that you might even finish over a couple of days, and then there are those addictive little gems that you inhale all at once, reading non-stop, often in the wee hours of the morning, showing complete disregard for your real life responsibilities, and loving every blissful moment of it. Flawlessly written—as I’ve now come to expect from this terrific author after the pleasant surprise that was The Deal—this is a story that had me grinning cover to cover, and while it had the perfect combination of engaging plotline and fulfilling character development, this was first and foremost a fun, heart-warming read. One I will definitely want to re-read very soon, whenever the fussy reader in me starts aching for a book to make me smile.

“He’s John f*cking Logan, one of the most popular guys at Briar. And I’m Grace f*cking Ivers, one of thousands of girls who are crushing on him.”

Grace Ivers is a good girl—cautious, responsible, always in control, a freshman in college…and a virgin. She is the girl no one notices because she does nothing to attract attention, even though she would give anything to be seen by her one and only college crush, the star defenseman of the hockey team. But good girls like Grace are not even on John Logan’s radar these days, his relentless pursuit of ‘easy lays’ whose name he is not even expected to know being the only kind of ‘relationship’ he appears to be interested in. Secretly, however, Logan craves the kind of intimacy and emotional bond his best friend and teammate, Garrett Graham, has found in his life, to the point of convincing himself of being in love with his best friend’s girl.

When Logan and Grace accidentally meet, they are both pleasantly surprised by how effortless and enjoyable it is to spend time in each other’s company, their flickering attraction gaining momentum quickly and irresistibly, and while one kiss is all it takes for it to ignite, one confession is all it takes to destroy their budding relationship. As quickly as it started, it all ends in an instant, leaving them both heartbroken and full of regrets.

“I was your distraction?”

Not a man to give up easily on what he wants the most in life, Logan then commences his stubborn and utterly entertaining pursuit of the woman who has captured his heart like no other before her, determined to make her forgive him and give them one more chance. He woos her unashamedly, becoming his teammates’ running joke, but Logan is a man on a mission and he refuses to give up until the one who has stolen his heart is his once again.

“Give me another chance. Let me prove to you that I’m not an egocentric ass.”

There are so many fabulous layers to this story, all working perfectly together to deliver an engaging, uplifting, unputdownable tale of opposites attracting, of two people being exactly what the other needs, in good times and in bad, and never giving up on each other. Ms Kennedy has given us two characters who steal our hearts from the get-go—a popular jock, reformed womaniser whose loyalty and selflessness make him impossible not to adore, and a strong, independent, kind-hearted heroine who loves fiercely, but respects herself the same way. The hilarious banter, the heart-warming romance, the skin-tingling sex scenes, the colourful array of secondary characters—this book excelled in every aspect, keeping me enthralled for hours, and it again left me craving for more from the irresistible Briar boys and their kickass leading ladies.

“I don’t want anyone else. All I want is another chance.”

5stars

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Off-Campus – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
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BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Secret by Christina Lauren

BeautifulSecret 322When Ruby Miller’s boss announces he’s sending her on an extended business trip to New York City, she’s shocked. As one of the best and brightest young engineers in London, she knows she’s professionally up to the task. The part that’s throwing her is where she’ll be spending a month up close and personal working alongside—and staying in a hotel with—Niall Stella, her firm’s top urban planning executive and The Hottest Man Alive. Despite her ongoing crush, Ruby is certain Niall barely knows she’s alive…until their flirty overnight flight makes him sit up and take notice.

Not one for letting loose and breaking rules, recently divorced Niall would describe himself as hopeless when it comes to women. But even he knows outgoing California-girl Ruby is a breath of fresh air. Once she makes it her mission to help the sexy Brit loosen his tie, there’s no turning back. Thousands of miles from London, it’s easy for the lovers to play pretend. But when the trip is over, will the relationship they’ve built up fall down?

review

“It’s yours, you know.”
“What is?”
“My heart, of course, but also my body. My hands, my lips, my cock. I trust you with all of it more than I even trust myself.”

My mind is still reeling because this book was my complete and utter undoing. I am writing this review while literally still hugging my now beloved paperback copy, secretly hoping that the beautiful words in it would somehow escape and infuse themselves into me forever. With one of the most phenomenal writing styles of our generation and flawless, iron-clad character development, this talented writing duo has given us once again an unforgettable, emotionally engaging storyline to become addicted to, this time with two incredibly intricate characters and a perfectly paced, meticulously crafted relationship that is never rushed, never even hurried, and solely driven forward by the characters’ emotional growth and self-awareness. I gobbled up every word, immersing myself into a story that had my attention from the get-go, and I fear I will never be able to fully express how much I truly adored this book.

“I’d been wrestling with my Niall Stella crush for six months, and I was pretty sure he still didn’t know that I was an employee at the firm rather than a regular takeout delivery girl.”

Ruby Miller is a twenty-three-year-old American intern at one of the largest and most successful engineering firms in Europe, now living in London. Attractive, smart, witty—Ruby’s open and honest personality shines through her every action, but is regularly stilted by her ongoing and downright distracting infatuation with her office crush—the very handsome but unreachable, Niall Stella. Fully aware that the object of her affections might not even be aware of her existence, she is happy to appreciate him from afar, relishing every moment spent in his presence, every stolen glimpse of the man who feeds her most intimate fantasies, but still secretly hoping that one day he’d notice her.

“What was it you said about repressed sexual energy?”
“Enough to power the whole bloody city, if you ask me. That’s where his real urban planning skill would come in—hooking himself up to the grid .”

Niall Stella is distinguished, reserved, his every step measured and poised, but behind that firm façade lies a man who is stuck in a rut of self-imposed boundaries and expectations, a man who struggles daily with regret and self-deprecation, his failed marriage having left a deep emotional scar that makes him question whether he could ever make a woman truly happy. His old-fashioned view on relationships and love in general is shaken from the moment Ruby enters his life, her vivacious and unrestrained personality, coupled with the kind of openness and honesty that is foreign to him, drawing him out of his shell and forcing him to push his own limits.

“Do you think I’m weird?”
“Yes, weird in the sense that you are unexpected and I am rarely surprised by people. I think you rather exquisite.”

When they find themselves together on a month-long business trip to New York City working alongside each other every single day, they quickly discover that their greatest difference lies in the way they perceive relationships and the way they each process the growing emotions they feel for one another. An extrovert by nature, Ruby’s honest and communicative disposition shakes the very foundations of Niall’s introverted, quiet reserve, making him feel adventurous, interesting, fun for once—sides of himself he never got to see during his decade-long marriage to a woman he barely knew. Everything he feels for Ruby is new to him, part of the uncharted territory of his inexpressive personality, thus forcing them to commence a carefully paced, open and honest exploration of what a sexual relationship between two such opposites might entail. And what it would take to overcome all the emotional hurdles standing in their way.

“If I wanted to make love to her tonight, I could. If I wanted to feel myself deep in her throat, I could. If I wanted limits, I would need to be the one to set them. But did I truly want limits, or did I think I should want them?”

What starts as a sexy, rather flirty storyline, quickly morphs into an even sexier but deeply emotional romance that is truly remarkable in its approach to the way these characters learn to discover one another, and themselves in the process. We hear both their voices throughout the story, that precious insight into both of these characters making us appreciate their deepest fears and hang-ups a lot more intimately.

I laughed, I cried, I felt my body burn from the sheer sexiness of too many scenes in this book to count, never knowing a guy merely touching a woman’s calf could make me literally combust in my own skin like that. And I felt every single emotion these extraordinary authors had expertly woven into this story. Their signature climax in the end carries that sweet punch of angst that we’ve become helplessly addicted to, perhaps even pricklier this time around as it left me a sobbing mess in its wake, only standing to show that there is no emotion these authors are unable to stir in their readers. A beautiful read, an astonishing love story, a couple whose journey I understood and felt from beginning to end—this is a book I would recommend with all my heart.

“And what if after the rush of conquest wears off, you’ll realize that I’m not what you’ve built me up to be?”

5stars

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Wild Seasons – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
(standalone stories with interconnected characters)
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Beautiful Stranger
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Beautiful Bombshell 
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Beautiful Player
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Beautiful Beloved
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