BOOK REVIEW: Dirty Promises by Karina Halle

Blood. Sex. Revenge. Being king comes at a brutal price.

Drug lord Javier Bernal has sliced and diced his way to the top of the Mexican drug trade, presiding over the country’s largest cartel. But his rise to power comes at a ruthless price: the death of his sister, Alana.

Devastated and wracked with guilt, Javier shuns his new wife, Luisa, forcing their marriage into a steady decline. When she’s pushed into the waiting arms of Esteban Mendoza, his right-hand man, it seems Javier has lost everything. Only by piecing together the truth about Alana does he realise just what he has to gain.

Blood will spill. Cities will burn. Heads will roll. Because Javier will stop at nothing until he gets what he wants. And he wants raw, ruthless revenge.


“We were terrible people who did terrible things to each other. We were slaves to hate because hate was strong and we sacrificed love to fuel it.”

O. M. G. There are simply no words to describe this story and do it justice. A dark, gritty read start to finish, I felt like I was having an out-of-body experience for the most part because I found myself enjoying things I most definitely shouldn’t have, and I am now convinced that Karina Halle could make me jump out of an airplane with a handkerchief instead of a parachute, because she makes Quentin Tarantino look like Walt fricking Disney. If you’re not afraid of an unconventional love story, one that won’t just push the boundaries of your comfort zone, but completely incinerate them, and still leave you smiling like a fool, I can’t recommend this trilogy highly enough. But like you’d take your shoes off at the door, walk into this story free from everything you’ve ever come to expect in a romance and allow yourself to enjoy the ride…in all its wicked depravity. Because with superb writing such as this, you won’t even want a seatbelt.

“The wife of a drug king. The queen of corruption.”

The love story between Luisa and Javier Bernal has never been a hearts-and-flowers kind of romance, their turbulent affair forged in the cauldron of the violent Mexican drug cartels, but while they were once partners and confidantes, the past year and a half has created a deep fissure in their marriage, turning them into two strangers living under the same roof. Once a ruthless, cunning, merciless man who was also capable of great tenderness towards his wife and loyalty towards his men, his twisted code of morals dictating his every decision, Javier’s grief over losing his beloved sister Alana has now turned him into a loose cannon. Unpredictable and blood-thirsty, violence has become his only outlet, making him no longer trust himself around his wife. Believing that there is no place for love in his life and that his feelings for her have become his ultimate weakness, the only thing capable of hurting him any further, he pushes Luisa away, seeing emotional distance as the only way of protecting them both.

“She had become my family, my confidante, my lover, my friend. She had become everything to me, in bed and outside of it. But she was a weakness, my weakness. She was what the would go after next, the last thing I could possibly lose. Unless I lost her first.”

Heartbroken and lost, Luisa keeps hoping Javier would find his way back to her, even though the loss of his affections is slowly making her lose herself and her purpose in this new life. She remains willing to forgive him for all his mistakes, to give him all of her, whichever way he needs it, just to have his love back. The distance between them, however, only seems to grow as time passes, driving Luisa to make desperate mistakes of her own.

“Please. Be rough. Hurt me. Make me bleed. Give me something.”

But while they are both busy licking their own wounds, a snake in the grass lies waiting, ready to strike and take all they’ve built together away from them. And once he does, this story explodes into an out-of-control inferno of events, each more shocking than the next, yet each fitting of this story and of these characters. This book is prickly, confronting, brutal more times than not, but it never pretends to be something it’s not, consistently zealous and out-of-the-box, and forever true to its premise. Stories like these are what nightmares are made of, but Ms Halle still manages to add a compelling human dimension even to the scariest of her monsters. And to paint even the most depraved of actions with a romantic brush. Gory, twisted, horrific from the get-go, this is not a fairy tale, each of these characters inherently flawed and damaged, but the beauty of this story lies in their self-awareness, in their ability to adapt to their circumstances, to forgive each other, to constantly push the limits of their own moral codes and keep redefining themselves in the process. Do yourself a favour and immerse yourself in this story with an open mind—you might end up loving it just as much as I have.

“It was only him and it was only me. King and Queen. That’s all that existed in this rusted, bloody space, between these two tortured, filthy souls.”




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Dirty Angels Trilogy – Reading Order and Purchase Links
Dirty Angels dirtydeeds

Dirty AngelsMy review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Dirty DeedsAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Dirty Promises: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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Dirty Angels is a Spin-Off series of The Artists Trilogy
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Sins & NeedlesMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
On Every Street (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Shooting ScarsMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Bold TricksMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: Grayson’s Vow by Mia Sheridan

GraysonsVowKira Dallaire is desperate.

Some challenges in life seem too hard to overcome. With little money, and even fewer options, the quick-witted and vibrant twenty-two-year-old needs to reinvent herself. Known for her generous heart and impulsive personality, she devises a survival plan, possibly her most outrageous idea yet.

Grayson Hawthorn is losing hope.

Some obstacles in life seem too hard to overcome. Betrayal definitely being one of them. With limited capital, and dwindling resources, he is attempting to resurrect his failing family vineyard, a self-imposed vow seemingly destined to fail. That is until a young woman enters his office with an outlandish, unexpected proposition impossible to refuse.

What begins as a temporary business arrangement, soon evolves into more as vivacious, spirited Kira challenges detached, arrogant Grayson to want more from life. To want more for himself. But as their wills clash and fiery passion ignites, they’ll realize that sometimes the past creates walls too difficult to climb, and that lies and deception rarely precede a happily every after.

As Kira and Grayson race toward their destiny, they will discover that some vows are meant to be broken, and others are worth risking everything for . . . even your very own heart.


“Forget the prince and princess. I always imagined the real story was between the witch and the dragon.”

From an author whose every story manages to touch the deepest recesses of our hearts, we are given another extraordinary tale that steals our breaths away and holds us spellbound cover to cover. This is the story of a marriage of convenience between an enchanting little “witch” and a grumpy old “dragon”, a marriage designed to benefit both, but be in name only, until a ‘love spell’ is cast and a game of make-believe turns into a real-life fairy tale. And while there are in fact no real witches or dragons in this book, there’s nonetheless a dreamy, almost fantastical quality to this love story, reminiscent of so many childhood fairy tales, and its message just as inspiring. I was enthralled by these characters, emotionally invested in their every high and low, and utterly smitten by the magic that is woven between them. This is a book I loved loved loved…and then loved some more.

“I have a business arrangement to offer you.”
“A business arrangement?”
“Yes, well, in actuality, Mr. Hawthorn, I’m here to propose marriage.”

Kira Dallaire is twenty-two and broke. Born into a life of privilege and luxury, she has left her old life behind to become her own person and make a difference in the world, determined to be free from the controlling and intimidating influence of her powerful father. But with no college education or any employment prospects in sight, she is driven to concoct a plan born out of sheer despair—to marry a complete stranger for money. With a trust fund that would go to her either when she turns thirty, or when she gets married, Kira makes an offer of marriage to a man she does not know, a man she is inexplicably drawn to from the moment she lays eyes on him, a man who needs that money just as much as she does—proposing to split her inheritance once they are married, and then after one year, simply go their separate ways. But as attractive as her offer is, her soon-to-be husband only unenthusiastically agrees, openly resenting her for becoming a constant reminder of his failures in life.

“He looked like every hero in every fairy tale I’d ever dreamed, come to life. And, God, I wanted to believe in heroes again. But sometimes, I supposed, a girl just had to be her own hero. Especially when the hero in question turned out to be a dragon.”

Grayson Hawthorn has never known what it feels like to be loved, raised by parents who reminded him every single day of how unwanted and unworthy of love he was. When he is left the family winery in his late father’s will, he vows to himself that he would do all he could to bring it back to its former glory, believing the gift to be his father’s way of atoning for a lifetime of unkindness and of making him feel worthy for the very first time in his life by entrusting him with such a great responsibility. Determined to make his father proud, but with the winery teetering on the brink of bankruptcy, Grayson is willing to do all it takes to fulfil his vow, even marry an entitled, selfish, spoiled little princess with fiery hair and bewitching emerald eyes, whose defiant spirit seems to set his temper alight.

“Next time you offer to marry someone, you should try to be a little more meek. A man likes some obedience in a wife.”
“What was that now? I want to make sure I get every single word of wise advice. Meek, was it? Does that have double e or is it ea? I can never remember.”

But first impressions can be deceiving and the longer they live under the same roof, the more they uncover about one another, soon discovering that they have a lot more in common than just their financial predicament. Grayson quickly learns that he might have misjudged his “little witch”, her upbringing not so dissimilar to his own, thus leaving deep scars on her self-esteem and sense of self-worth, while Kira’s regard for her husband grows tenfold when she discovers how little love he’s known in life. They argue, they bicker, never conceding to one another’s will, but their every heated exchange also stirs a deep yearning in them both, slowly blurring the lines of their fake marriage and making them wish it was all a little less ‘pretend’ after all.

“I’d sleep on the floor in this dusty shack if it meant getting the best of Grayson Hawthorn.”

What sets off almost as a Brönte novel in a present-day setting, with a marriage of convenience resulting in a new wife feeling unwelcome in her neglectful husband’s home, the prickly touches of unrequited love quickly turn this story into a moving modern fairy tale that pulls the reader in with its irresistible blend of pleasure and pain. A story that is entirely character-driven and told in both their voices, with frequent dashes of witty dialogues and light-hearted humour, we fall for Kira and Grayson almost immediately, and the more we get to understand them, the more attached we become. With a feisty but kind-hearted heroine whose decision to marry for money weighs heavily on her conscience, longing to be loved and cherished, but forced to forgo all childhood notions of marrying her Prince Charming one day to a loveless connection to a “man-dragon” who can barely stand the sight of her; and an irritable, judgemental hero whose cold, unforgiving façade conceals a man starving to feel worthy of love, respect, and kindness in his life, until a little “witch” shows him what selfless love truly looks like, turning his colourless existence into the life he never dared to dream—this was a winning formula from the start for me.

“Love. Fierce longing rose in my chest. For just once to be cherished.”

There are so many delightful facets to this story, so many puzzle pieces that keep us engrossed in its every word, and for me, it was one of the hardest books to move away from in the end as I desperately wished I could have stayed in their world forever. A breathtaking example of the healing power of love, and of how only pain can sometimes make us recognise true love—I simply adored this wonderful book and would recommend it wholeheartedly to anyone seeking an exquisitely written story they would never forget.

“Love can be piercing. Love means exposing yourself—all of yourself, every tender part—to being hurt. Because true love is not only the flower, true love is also the thorns.”



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A Sign of Love – Standalone Novels

(LeoLeo’s Chance, and Becoming Calder + Finding Eden are stories that unfold over two books, while the others are all standalone novels)

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BecomingCalder findingeden Kyland

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

Connect with author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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BOOK REVIEW: Best Laid Plans by Stylo Fantôme

bestlaidplans3THE PLAN:

* Smuggle diamonds from Liberia to Morocco
* Make the trip in three days
* Don’t get caught
* Don’t kill each other
* Don’t have sex with each other
* Don’t fall for each other

This is the story of what happens when an unlikely bond is formed between enemies, causing tensions to rise, and igniting a chemistry that threatens to burn them both. Together, they’ll learn that sometimes even the best laid plans can fail.


He whispered more words in her ear, words she’d never heard before, in a voice she always wanted to hear. He was gentle with her, in a way he’d never been before, with a touch she could learn to live for. And as he breathed life into her veins and new thoughts into her mind and different feelings into her soul, there was just one phrase repeating itself in her head.
“… we don’t have to be these people anymore …”

While not always in the mood for Romantic Suspense novels, this author’s extraordinary writing in My Time in the Affair made me pick up this book without a second’s hesitation, already certain it would be a thrill-ride of a lifetime. And how right I was! An exhilarating reading experience from the very first page, there was not a moment in this story that adrenaline was not rushing through my veins or my heart was not beating a million miles an hour. Action-packed start to finish, divinely written, raw and gritty but somehow romantic and sexy at the same time—this book was unexpected in its beauty, given the violent backdrop of the story, and I was literally left panting in the end. Panting from excitement because their story was not over, panting from all the emotions I had felt while reading this incredible story, panting because my heart felt like it had run a marathon…barefoot. A truly breathtaking tale of two enemies turning into lovers, battling their way across North Africa, trying to stay alive in order to complete their missions, as long as they don’t kill one another beforehand. A must read!

“The were destined for two very different paths.”

Marcelle “Marc” De Sant and Liliana “Lily” Brewster are mercenaries, hired by the Russian mob for a heist, Marc’s job being to steal blood diamonds from a Liberian gang, and Lily’s to smuggle them out of Africa. On their last night in the same city, as Marc completes his assignment and Lily is about to start hers, they share one night of toe-curling passion, a night meant to be expel a month’s worth of sexual tension and desire between them, knowing that after than night they’d never see one another again.

“…that woman will f*ck your world up. She looks like a pin up, f*cks like a porn star, and fights like Tyson.”

But in a world where trust and trustworthiness are rare commodities, and it’s every man for himself, Lily and Marc soon find themselves facing each other’s gun barrels, fighting to separate lies from the truth, all the while running from the very men who set them off against one another. As we follow their gripping journey from Liberia to Morocco, we watch the two lovers-turned-adversaries learning to rely on one another, even put their lives in each other’s hands, their differing agendas becoming more and more aligned as they become closer.

“Tell me what do, Marc, I’ve been making decisions for too long. Have they all been wrong? Tell me what do.”

The most badass heroine I have ever come across, Lily is no damsel in distress in any given scenario. She holds her own in every fight—punching, kicking, shooting her way out of any peril—determined to fulfill her final mission. Yet Marc’s dominant, protective traits also awaken the vulnerable young woman in her who has been looking after herself for five long years, never trusting anyone to make decisions for her or to have her best interest at heart. She craves to give herself to a man who truly understands her, a man who would take her far away from the life she has chosen for herself, and as they grow closer, their priorities start shifting, bringing them into uncharted waters they are both uncertain how to navigate. Or whether they are even capable of doing so.

“I made promises to yesterday. I can’t start giving away my tomorrows.”

A compelling, fast-paced roller-coaster ride that never tapers off, never loses steam or fails to hold us willing captives every step along the way. With an intriguing, multi-faceted cast of characters and exhilarating action on every page, this is first and foremost a love story, born against all odds, a love story between two people who somehow manage to preserve some of their humanity in the midst of a life where being human is seen as the ultimate weakness. Love made them see a better life, but the journey to believing in that life remains ahead of them as their story continues and concludes in Out of Plans

They were like magnets, fighting against each other one minute, then stuck together the next. Whatever it was, it was tangible, and powerful, and very real, and very present. He was the first person to ever make her question her plan. To ever make her wonder if maybe revenge wasn’t the answer.
“… we don’t have to be these people anymore …”



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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…


“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.”



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Read my favourite excerpt from this book ✦


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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

Connect with author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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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.


“Are there any more?”
“There’s a seven.”
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.”




Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | iBooks | Paperback

Connect with author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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Other Books by This Author
ontheisland2 uncharted2b covet4 Cherish ETITOY

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.


“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.”


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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.


“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.”



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


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Other works by this author…

53 Letters For My LoverAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
From His Lips
(novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

Connect with author: Website | Facebook | TwitterGoodreads

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