BOOK REVIEW & EXCERPT: Hold On by Kristen Ashley

Since she was young, Cher Rivers knew she was not the kind of girl who got what she wanted. A girl who could hope. A girl who could dream. She knew a happily ever after just wasn’t in the cards for her.

In love for years with the last bastion of the ‘burg’s eligible bachelors, Garrett Merrick, Cher worked hard at making him laugh. Being one of the guys. Having him in her life the only way she could. All this knowing he was in love with another woman.

The Merrick Family is known for loving deep. So when Cecelia Merrick was murdered, it marked the Merricks in a way none of them recovered. Both Cecelia’s children found love. Both turned their backs on it. But Garrett “Merry” Merrick knew in his soul the woman he divorced years ago was the one for him.

Until the night when Cher took Garrett’s back and things changed. The Merrick family loves deep. They also protect fiercely. And with his eyes finally open, Garrett sees the woman who truly is for him and he goes after her.

review

“Hold on tight, Cherie… Don’t let go.”

When you open a new book and you find yourself gasping for air, your chest clenching only a few pages into the story, you know you’ve hit the mother lode of great reads. Once again, in true Kristen Ashley style, we are given a story that owns us from the start, our hearts fluttering to the rhythm of the powerful emotions driving every scene, every sentence, every word exemplifying this author’s distinctive and truly remarkable prose. I always take my time reading a KA book, but I gave myself even more time to savour this particular story, to absorb every hidden layer, to fully appreciate every facet of these two characters that are so unlike any of her others, because I knew she had saved some of her best work for last. A truly splendid conclusion to a phenomenal series, if you haven’t ventured into it yet, it is time you pay The ‘Burg a visit.

“I was the kind of girl who’d never dreamed because, even when I was little, I always knew I was the kind of girl who’d be stupid to dream.”

Cherie “Cher” Rivers stopped dreaming of a knight in shining armour a long time ago, learning very early in life that the only person she could ever truly depend on was herself. A single mum in her mid thirties, a hard worker, a loving parent, a woman confident in all that she is and all that she would ever be, she lives her life unapologetically and true to herself, knowing that all the sacrifices she has ever made were done in good conscience and for the good of one person and one person alone—her beloved ten-year-old son Ethan. Having pushed all her dreams of finding a good man and being loved by such a man aside, all Cherie now dreams of is giving her son a good life, teaching him how to be a decent man, and making him feel loved every single day of his life. But as closed off as Cherie’s heart might appear to be, it secretly pines for a man who’s only ever seen her as a friend—a good man, a loyal man, a trustworthy man, the kind of man she would fight with all her might to keep in her life. Just not a man who’s ever showed any signs of loving her back.

“A man who liked me. A man who laughed at my jokes. A man who smiled at me regularly. Who teased me often. Who shot the shit with me. A man who liked me a lot. A man who was my friend. A man who thought of me as a friend. The man I loved more than breath.”

Lieutenant Garrett “Merry” Merrick has only ever loved one woman in his life, but he’s never believed in happy endings. Losing their mother as young children has marked the Merrick siblings deeply, leaving them both terrified of loss, and thus prone to self-sabotaging their own happiness while in pursuit of emotional numbness. But while his sister conquered her demons and got her second chance at finding happiness, Merry’s hang-ups have led him to watching the love of his life getting engaged to another man and not wanting to do anything to stop it. Except drowning his sorrows in an expensive bottle of whisky with a friend, and opening his eyes to the possibility that the one who’s been in front of him all along might be exactly the kind of woman he didn’t even know he was looking for.

“You got good, you don’t let it go. It lets you go, you hold on. It slips through your fingers, you pull out all the stops to get it back. You got somethin’ worth fighting for, you fight for it. You do not sit on your ass waitin’ for it to come back to you. You show whoever that is they mean something and you go all out on that, and the only way you go down is doin’ that shit swinging.”

With their inhibitions lowered and their bodies aching to seek comfort in one another, Merry and Cherie share one night of unrivalled passion, a small taste of the bliss to be found in each other’s arms that neither of them can deny, but a new day brings them two very different outlooks on the night they’d shared—one of them daring to dream of more, and the other dismissing it as a one-night stand that should have never happened.

“It wasn’t walking out of a house into a taxi or your car in your clothes from the night before that was the walk of shame. You wanted what you wanted, you went after it, you got it, then you left it and went on with your life. There was no shame in that. None. The shame was lying naked in your own bed listening to a man be quiet while dressing because he woke up next to you not wanting one thing to do with you.”

Cherie’s pain from allowing herself for one fleeting moment to hope a man would want to look after her, share her load, love her and her son, and then seeing that dream vanish even before it took shape, leaves a deep scar in both her pride as well as her fragile heart, only strengthening her conviction that she is just one of those girls who would never find that kind of happiness in life, even though she would give anything to have it.

“… he’d never give me what I wanted. I forgot. I forgot I wasn’t the kind of girl who got what she wanted. Not once. Not in my whole f*cking life. Yeah, I’d forgotten that.”

But the moment Cherie’s heart closes off again, Merry’s suddenly becomes wide open to falling for a woman who now spends equal time fighting her attraction towards him and plotting his murder for making her feel everything she refuses to feel for him. And when a Kristen Ashley alpha male sets his eyes on a woman, get the popcorn ready and make yourself comfortable, because resistance is futile from the get-go and it’s going to be a ride like no other.

“What I want is more good times with you, Cher. I wanna f*ck wild and I wanna laugh hard, and while we’re doin’ that, I’m gonna look out for you. More, I can’t promise.”

A woman scared of any more heartbreak in her life, reluctant to let a man see her vulnerable side and trust him not to hurt her, and a man who didn’t even know that all he ever needed in life in order to let go of his past was a woman who would stick by him through thick and thin—Merry and Cherie are two damaged, lonely people who find everything they’ve ever dreamed of in each other, if only they can see past their fears and embrace the rare beauty they’ve uncovered in each other’s arms.

“That’s life. You have no clue what you’ll get along the journey. But you won’t get dick you stay in one place, spinning your wheels.”

I have loved all the stories in this epic series by an author who never fails to rock my world, and this was not just another great addition to the series—it was the perfect finale, the perfect conclusion, the perfect send-off to a remarkable group of characters whose stories have become some of my favourite re-reads. The epilogue alone acknowledging all the other couples in the series was far more than just the proverbial icing on the cake, the closure gained from seeing their lives fast-forwarded before our eyes leaving me in a happy daze of nostalgia laced with bittersweet tears. Each one of these stories touched me deeply in its own right and in its own way, and the beauty of Merry and Cherie’s story did not disappoint. Not by a long shot.

“God, did he know? Did he know that he was the dream come true a girl like me would never dare to dream?”

5stars

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excerpt

Through this, my leg hit an end table and I adjusted. We cleared the couch, I shifted again too soon, both my calves hit the coffee table, and my ass went down on it.

I looked up. Cell flat to the table, I braced my hands to push up, but Merry was there, chin in his throat, eyes on me, and when he spoke again, his mind was clearly on my location.

“Tried to get your mouth on me more than once when we tore at each other up last Friday, but I was in the mood to use mine. Lookin’ forward to learnin’ what you can do with yours, but like I said, baby, right now, don’t got the time.”

My only response that he couldn’t twist was to glare at him, which was what I did.

“But got time before I go for a kiss,” Merry informed me.

“Only kiss I’ll give you is tellin’ you to kiss off,” I informed him.

“Who knew warm brown eyes like the ones you got could spark that kind of fire,” he muttered as if he wasn’t even talking to me.

“Step back,” I demanded.

“No,” he denied.

I continued to glare up at him, then I realized I was not the kind of woman who sat on her ass, glaring up at a man towering over her and pinning her in. So I stood, which put me smack in Merry’s space, my breasts brushing against his abs and up his chest on my way.

They kept brushing when he didn’t move back, but I didn’t attempt escape, even to get away from the shafts of electricity this all caused at my nipples, shafts that headed south.

I glared at him from closer.

He stared into my eyes, his gaze moving down to my mouth then back up as one side of his lips curved.

He was getting off on this.

I didn’t get that and I didn’t want to get that.

I wanted this done.

“In the mood to play, Officer?” I whispered.

“Told you, sweetheart, don’t got the time.”

I shook my head but held his gaze. “Not what I mean. Single mom, all alone. Switch out her storms. Offer info to help her out of a jam. Been a while since I was in the know about these things, so tell me, what’s the price for all that? You mentioned a blowjob. You got stamina, but I got talent. Balance that out, I’m thinkin’ it’ll take more than the usual ten, fifteen minutes. We’ll give it twenty. So I can manage my time, is there more?”

I wasn’t even done talking before I learned his eyes could spark fire too.

I also learned he was in the mood to play, that being, playing me at my own game.

And doing it better.

He dipped his face close, his voice low. “Storms get me the blowjob, brown eyes. I get the intel you need, that buys me sinkin’ deep in wet pussy.”

I felt my nipples get harder at the same time something else happened to me that, if he was of a mind to take his payoff right then, he’d get what he wanted.

I hid this reaction and asked, “You want this all in one go, or you wanna spread payback out for a while?”

“Keep plenty of time open, Cher. I intend to earn a fuckuva lot more and draw it out collecting.”

I nodded, still keeping a lock on his eyes. “I get it. Girl like me, only payback expected for me to be able to give.”

That didn’t get me fire.

That got me ice.

“I hear you talk down about yourself one more time, Cher, shit will get extreme.”

That made me ice over.

“Do not hand me that crap, Merry. You come into my home and got no problem talkin’ about wet pussy right to my face tells me the woman you know me to be.”

He dipped his face even closer, to the point it felt like if I blinked, my lashes would sweep his in a butterfly kiss.

“Do not hand me your shit, Cher,” he growled. “That hang-up is yours, not mine. And how I know that is I made you come just finger fuckin’ you and talkin’ dirty in your ear, and it was the talk and not what my fingers were doin’ that took you there. I like that, a woman who can let go and let me give her that without gettin’ uptight and closin’ down on me. You liked it too, a fuckuva lot more than me. So don’t stand there handin’ me your shit when I know you’re wet for me now and I haven’t fuckin’ touched you.”

I refused to reply to that because he was right and I had no intention of confirming that information.

But it was then he hit me with a verbal blow, the intensity of which, not in my whole shitty-ass life I’d ever received.

“Christ, if I didn’t know you were worth it, I’d walk out the door and this would be done—all we got, over.”

I could stand.

I could stare.

But I couldn’t breathe.

Merry could.

He could also speak.

“Hope like fuck no one takes off with those storms while I’m gone. You think they will, move ’em into garage and leave the key under the mat. I’m switchin’ ’em out, Cher. I come back tonight and they’re done, I’ll find you, and I won’t be collectin’. I’ll be dishin’ it out, but you won’t get it until you beg for it and do that shit for a really long time.”

His words were lost on me.

I continued to stand.

I continued to stare.

But my lungs had started burning.

If I didn’t know you were worth it…

“When’s Ethan’s next sleepover?” Merry bit out.

“Friday,” I whispered. “But his friend’s comin’ here.”

“Fuck,” Merry clipped. “Find a time, babe. You don’t, payback’ll stack up and I’ll have to take personal days and hole up in a hotel with you for a week. And there’s not a doubt that stick-up-her-ass church lady your ex tied his shit to won’t appreciate you bein’ gone from your kid for a weeklong fuckathon.”

That was kind of funny as well as hot.

I still said nothing.

Merry fell silent and stared at me.

Then he dealt the second biggest verbal blow I’d ever received in my life.

“Christ, you’re pretty, even standin’ there plotting my murder.”

After that, he lifted a hand, grabbed me gentle but firm at my neck, yanked me up so my mouth hit his hard but brief, then he let me go.

“Later, babe,” he said, strolling to my door. He stopped in it, turned to me, and bid his farewell by saying, “You touch those storms only to put them in the garage.”

He closed the door on that.

I stood where he left me.

If I didn’t know you were worth it…

What was I worth?

What was I worth to Merry?

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The ‘Burg
(standalone stories with interconnected characters)
ForYou_new atpeace_new GoldenTrail_new
gamesoftheheart_new ThePromise_new holdon_ashley

For YouAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
At PeaceAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Golden TrailAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Games of the HeartAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
The PromiseMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Hold OnAmazon 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
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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 & EXCERPT: Soaring by Kristen Ashley

soaring

American heiress Amelia Hathaway needs to start anew.

Her husband cheated on her, and when everything she wanted in life slipped through her fingers, she fell apart. When she did, she took another heart wrenching hit as she lost the respect of her children.

When her ex took her family from California to live in the small town of Magdalene in Maine, Amelia decided it was time to sort herself out. In order to do that and win her children back, she moves to Cliff Blue, an architectural masterpiece on the rocky coast of Magdalene.

Her boxes aren’t even unpacked when she meets Mickey Donovan, a man who lives across the street, a man so beautiful Amelia takes one look at Mickey and knows she wants it all from him.

The problem is, she finds out swiftly that he’s friendly, he’s kind, but he doesn’t want everything back.

Amelia struggles to right past wrongs in her life at the same time find out who she wants to be. She also struggles with her attraction to the handsome firefighter who lives across the street.

But Amelia will face a surprise when her friendly neighbor becomes not-so-friendly. As Amelia and Mickey go head to head, Amelia must focus on winning back the hearts of her children.

She soon discovers she also must focus on winning the heart of a handsome firefighter who understands down to his soul the beautiful heiress who lives across the street is used to a life he cannot provide.

review

“All my life, I was the girl who everyone thought had everything or could get it. But the only thing I ever wanted was a man like you.”

To encapsulate all the feelings that a Kristen Ashley novel stirs up in me is always an ambitious feat in itself, her stories being an extraordinary emotional journey beginning to end, and this book did not disappoint. Mickey and Amelia’s story moved me deeply, just as I expected it would, but the sheer beauty of their romance caught me by surprise. I never expected to relate so completely to two characters representative of this particular point on the age spectrum, and while their sizzling chemistry is truly something to behold, the emotional aspect of their connection, specked with just the right amount of heart-pricking angst, took my breath away on more than one occasion. This is a story about life, about the unexpected journeys that life takes us on, about the curveballs, about the direct hits and the pain they bring, but it is first and foremost a story about second chances at finding happiness, about finding the strength to be whole again and fighting for what matters the most in life. A truly splendid example of this author’s inimitable style of storytelling—I walked in these characters’ shoes, I felt all they felt, my heart roared every time they ‘soared’, and in the end, I did not want to say goodbye to them.

“There is nothing guaranteed in life. But the only leaps worth taking are leaps of faith on love. So look where you leap, beautiful, and happy landing.”

Amelia Hathaway is a woman in her late forties, an heiress, a mother, a scorned wife. The unexpected demise of her marriage made her lose herself in her anger and pain, turning her into the kind of vindictive individual her privileged upbringing taught her she should be, but while reeling in self-pity and fury, Amelia lost herself along the way, the ultimate cost being the affections and respect of her two beloved children. In a desperate attempt to start anew, to beat back the anger and bitterness that poisoned her mind for too long, and to give her children the kind of mother they could not only love again, but also be proud of and learn from, she moves to Magdalene, the small coastal town her ex-husband and their children made their new home.

“No matter what it took, no matter how much time, no matter that it made me bleed, no matter what it cost me, no matter that it would take everything I had and force me to find more, I had to do what I’d come to Maine to do.”

But a new house, new friends, a new purpose in life mean little when one’s confidence has hit rock bottom, and Amelia’s wake-up call arrives in the form of a handsome firefighter neighbour, whose striking looks and protective demeanour make her wish he’d see her the way a man sees a woman he wants in his life. But she soon realises that before anyone can see her that way, she needs to like what she sees in the mirror.

“He didn’t need me in his life. I didn’t even like me in my life. Alas, I couldn’t escape me.”

Mickey Donovan is a single dad, a natural provider, a man who works two jobs in order to give his kids the life they deserve, even when doing what he loves means living a more modest life than the one he was born into. The slow downfall of his marriage has made him question all he can offer a woman, especially a woman like Amelia Hathaway, knowing he could never give her all that she has been accustomed to having in her life. But Amelia’s insecurities put a different spin on Mickey’s reluctant behaviour.

“He didn’t want me, plain and simple. I was just his…‘attractive’ neighbor.”

When they finally take a leap and give in to their attraction, they inevitably connect on every level, but they don’t rush—they take their time, they show consideration for the people in their lives such a union would affect the most, and they give themselves time to get to know one another. The true beauty of these characters is that they are two formed, adult individuals who know what they’d gain by taking a chance on such a love, what they risk missing out on if they don’t, and who are now prepared to work their hardest to hold onto the rare magic they found in each other. The slow evolution of their relationship is as it should be, gradual and organic, each emotional milestone sinking deeply into our hearts and making us smile in delight. And there is so much to smile about in this story!

“… there is no safer place than in my arms and when you’re here, Amy, you can give me anything.”

This is the tale of a woman who always had a lot in life, and yet all she ever wanted was a loving family and a man to stand by her and accept her for all that she is. And it is the tale of a hard-working man coming to terms with the fact that some women are not looking for glitz and gold in life, but the simple joy of loving and of being loved by a man who understands them and provides for them in ways no money could ever buy. With so many aspects of this story designed to tug at our heartstrings, this was not a book I was able to read in one sitting, taking my time to fully absorb the magnitude of some particularly emotional scenes in the story. While this might be in essence a love story, this is also a tale of broken families, of healing families, of new families. And it is a story of redemption, showing that we are not defined by the mistakes we make, but by the steps we take to correct them.

“I am who I am. I have what I have. And one of the things I got that I wanna keep is you.”

5stars

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excerpt

“Hello, Boston Stone,” I greeted because I had no idea what else to say.

“You are?” he asked as I put the bags to the ground and touched the button on the trunk that would open it keyless.

As it glided open, I opened my mouth, doing it uncertain if I’d share my name or continue to try to brush him off, but I didn’t have the chance to decide.

I heard the word, “Babe,” growled from behind me.

I turned and saw Mickey stalking our way.

Not sauntering.

Not simply walking.

Stalking.

And he didn’t look happy.

“Mickey,” I called tentatively as a greeting, uncertain at his demeanor.

I hadn’t seen him since he hadn’t seen me (I hoped) at the movies.

He was in his firefighter-not-fighting-a-fire uniform of blue khakis and tee. His eyes were moving up and down my body. He still was unbelievably beautiful (that uniform…seriously).

He didn’t greet me back.

When he stopped, his gaze cut to Boston Stone and it went flinty.

“You need somethin’?” he asked incomprehensibly inhospitably.

“I was just helping this lovely lady with her groceries,” Stone responded.

“I got it,” Mickey stated flatly and then he got it. As in, he carefully pulled me back, grabbed the bags I was perfectly capable of picking up myself and placed them in my trunk.

He then went for the bag Stone was carrying, caught hold, but Stone didn’t let go.

“I can put it in the trunk myself, Donovan,” Stone clipped.

So they knew each other.

“As I said, I got it, Stone,” Mickey clipped back.

Yes, they knew each other.

The handles flattened as they both kept hold and pulled.

“Please!” I exclaimed. “We already had a wine incident. The sidewalk of Magdalene has been anointed with one red, let’s not anoint Cross Street with four.”

Mickey instantly let go and stepped back, running into me but he didn’t apologize or move away.

He stayed close, the back of his left side touching the front of my right.

It was at that point I noticed Mickey gave off a lot of heat.

Stone put the bag in my trunk, shut it and turned slowly to Mickey and me.

But he had eyes on Mickey.

“Are you two seeing each other?”

“That’s your business how?” Mickey asked as reply.

“It’s my business because, if you’re not, I’d like to request you leave so I can ask her to dinner,” Stone returned.

My head jerked as my body locked in shock.

“That’s not gonna happen,” Mickey growled.

My body stayed locked in shock but that didn’t mean my eyes didn’t fly to Mickey’s stony-faced profile in more shock.

“So you are seeing each other,” Stone remarked.

“Again, not your business,” Mickey bit out.

Stone’s expression turned shrewd. “And that’s something that would lead me to believe that the beautiful woman standing behind you is free to go to dinner with me.”

“You forget English?” Mickey asked. “I already answered that too.”

I butted in, “I think I can speak for myself, Mickey.”

He moved nothing but his head (though his torso shifted an inch) so he could look down at me.

His eyes were communicating again.

This time they were communicating the fact that he really didn’t like Boston Stone.

Considering what I knew of Mickey, this would be something that, along with my own natural aversion to Mr. Stone, would have made me decline the man’s invitation.

Unfortunately, Mickey added words to his look so this didn’t happen.

“You’re not goin’ out with this guy.”

Was he being serious?

He couldn’t tell me what to do. He wasn’t my father, my brother or my lover.

Heck, he barely knew me!

All he knew about me was that he didn’t want me. I was his…“attractive” neighbor who he now did not even walk over to beg recipes from (okay, so Aisling didn’t know of any other recipes I had, but whatever).

He didn’t even return my email!

And he was off with beautiful, statuesque redheads, smiling at them, taking them to movies.

He couldn’t tell me who I could and could not see.

“I’m not?” I snapped.

“No,” he turned fully to me, an ominous fully. “You are not,” he enunciated each word clearly.

“Sorry?” I asked sarcastically. “When did you become my big brother?”

He was still enunciating clearly, and dangerously, when he stated, “I absolutely am not your big brother.”

“No, you’re not,” I retorted, tossing my hair, which I hoped was shining in the sun. And with my hair toss, I further hoped my fabulous highlights caught the rays and gleamed. “You’re my neighbor. And if I want to go out with someone, you can’t say boo to the contrary.”

“This guy is an asshole,” he bit off, jerking his thumb at Boston Stone.

I felt my eyes get big and I got up on my toes, leaning into him, hissing, “That’s insufferably rude, Mickey Donovan.”

“It isn’t rude if it’s the truth.”

“You may think so but you don’t say it in front of the man in question.”

“You do if he’s as big of an asshole as this asshole is,” Mickey shot back.

My eyes got wider and I leaned closer. “Stop being nasty!” I demanded.

“You been in town, what?” he asked then answered with another question he didn’t expect a reply to. “A coupla months? I lived here my whole life and trust me, I’m savin’ you from a load of misery, this guy gets interested in you,” he returned.

I rocked down to my stilettos. “I am a big girl, Mickey. All grown up and everything. I do think I can make such decisions for myself.”

“You do, and they’re not what I’m tellin’ you to do, you’d be wrong.”

I glared at him.

Then I pushed right past him, hand lifted and got in the space of Boston Stone.

“Boston,” I said as he took my hand, grinning arrogantly and more than a little obnoxiously at me. “A belated nice to meet you. I’m Amelia Hathaway.”

His hand tightened in mine as he murmured, “Amelia.”

I pulled my hand from his, asking, “Do you know Cliff Blue?”

“Of course,” he replied, inclining his head in a pompous way that actually was kind of creepy.

“I live there,” I announced, doing another hair toss and powering beyond the creepy. “And I have plans this evening but I’m free tomorrow. Are you?”

“I wasn’t,” he replied. “But I’ll be making a phone call and I will be.”

“Excellent,” I decreed. “Seven?” I went on to ask.

“I’d be delighted,” he said softly, his eyes dancing with humor and I could see that too was relatively malicious.

I didn’t care.

I’d go out with him once, just to stick it to Mickey.

Then I’d be done with Boston Stone.

And anyway, I had about seven new outfits that would be perfect for a date and I knew this even though I hadn’t been on a date in two decades.

“I’ll see you then,” I said.

“You will, Amelia.” He dipped his chin to me. “Looking forward to it.”

“And me,” I replied.

He gave me another arrogant grin then transferred it to Mickey.

“Donovan,” he murmured.

Mickey didn’t reply.

Stone looked back to me. “Until tomorrow, Amelia.”

“Yes, Boston. And please, feel free to call me Amy.”

Mickey grunted.

Boston smiled before he turned and sauntered away.

I whirled on Mickey and tipped my head to the side. “See? All grown up and able to make decisions for myself.”

“What I see is a pattern here,” he retorted unpleasantly.

“Oh?” I asked with mock interest. “Do tell.”

Then Mickey told.

“First time I laid eyes on you, your ex was up in your face, cursing at you, threatening you, shouting right at you and acting like a total f*cking dick. It’s obvious he’s rich and up his own ass and didn’t give a shit you were alone, and because of that, you probably felt unsafe. It was just as obvious you were lettin’ him use you as his punching bag. Even if no woman deserves the way he was speakin’ to you, he just kept right on punching. Now, you know that guy you just made a date with is a total asshole and you made that date anyway. So that’s your pattern. You open yourself up for assholes to shit all over you. And if that’s the way you like it, baby, then no way in f*ck I’m gonna get in there to show you there’s another way.”

Before I could retort, he turned on his boot and prowled away.

Read another excerpt

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EXCLUSIVE EXCERPT: Soaring by Kristen Ashley

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The 2015 Birthday Teasers Event continues, and today, I am sharing with you a never seen before excerpt from a book I loved in every possible way—Soaring by the magnificent Kristen Ashley—to be released on 16 March 2015. Mickey and Amelia’s story moved me deeply, just as I expected it would, but the sheer beauty of their romance caught me by surprise. And while this might be in essence a love story, this is also a tale of broken families, of healing families, of new families. And it is a story of redemption, showing that we are not defined by the mistakes we make, but by the steps we take to correct them. The excerpt I picked for you is not random, however, as it matches in a way the one I shared with you last year from The Will, both excerpts describing the kind of men these heroines are looking for in their lives. I hope you love it as much as I do and trust me when I say that Soaring will leave you speechless. I’ll have my review posted for you closer to the book’s release date… ♥

Pre-order book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | iBooks

American heiress Amelia Hathaway needs to start anew.

Her husband cheated on her, and when everything she wanted in life slipped through her fingers, she fell apart. When she did, she took another heart wrenching hit as she lost the respect of her children.

When her ex took her family from California to live in the small town of Magdalene in Maine, Amelia decided it was time to sort herself out. In order to do that and win her children back, she moves to Cliff Blue, an architectural masterpiece on the rocky coast of Magdalene.

Her boxes aren’t even unpacked when she meets Mickey Donovan, a man who lives across the street, a man so beautiful Amelia takes one look at Mickey and knows she wants it all from him.

The problem is, she finds out swiftly that he’s friendly, he’s kind, but he doesn’t want everything back.

Amelia struggles to right past wrongs in her life at the same time find out who she wants to be. She also struggles with her attraction to the handsome firefighter who lives across the street.

But Amelia will face a surprise when her friendly neighbor becomes not-so-friendly. As Amelia and Mickey go head to head, Amelia must focus on winning back the hearts of her children.

She soon discovers she also must focus on winning the heart of a handsome firefighter who understands down to his soul the beautiful heiress who lives across the street is used to a life he cannot provide.

excerpt

“From the gentleman down the bar…for you,” the bartender said.

I looked from him down to the fresh cosmopolitan he put in front of me then down the bar at an attractive man with blond hair, a little gray at the temples, his smiling blue eyes on me.

“Holy shit,” Alyssa said, sitting on a stool at a nice restaurant with a respectable bar one town over called Breeze Point.

“Lovely,” Josie, sitting on my other side, murmured.

We were out “trolling” as Alyssa put it, or “having girl time with the possibility of something happening” as Josie put it.

I decided to think of it as the latter as well as an opportunity to wear another of my going out outfits.

But at that moment, when the possibility of something happening happened, I didn’t know what to do. I hadn’t had a man buy me a drink in so long that I forgot what I’d done when they did.

Since my current drink was running low, I lifted it to my lips, finished it and put my fingers to the stem of the glass of the new, shifting my eyes back to the man.

I smiled.

He smiled back again.

“Pure cool,” Alyssa approved.

“Well done,” Josie did the same.

I looked to Josie and noted, “He’s only sent this because you both have huge rocks on your fingers.”

They did. Although Josie’s was a fair sight bigger than Alyssa’s, neither ring failed to state the giver’s intention that these two women were t-a-k-e-n, taken.

And they were far more attractive than me, both tall, both blonde and both stunning.

“You say shit like that again, I’m bitch slappin’ some sense into you and don’t you doubt it,” Alyssa muttered.

I looked to her to see her eyes squinty on me, but I did doubt it.

Alyssa would never do that. She’d threaten it repeatedly (if needed), but she’d never do it.

“You’re hot,” she went on to declare.

“I’m not a tall, built blonde,” I pointed out.

“No, you’re a petite, beautiful brunette with big knockers, awesome gams and a great ass even though you pushed out a coupla kids and the rest of you is still too skinny,” she retorted. “Now shut up or I’ll bring a catfight to Breeze Point, I don’t care how ritzy this place is.”

“She’s right, you know,” Josie said and I looked her way. “There are many varieties of…hot.”

Josie using a slang word, something she rarely did, made me giggle.

“Now grab that drink, sister, and get that great ass over to that hot guy,” Alyssa ordered.

I looked to her in surprise.

“Me go to him?” I asked.

“He laid it out,” she said by way of answer. “You got your bitches with you. Don’t make him come over here and lay it out in front of your bitches. It’s already hard enough to put himself out there, buyin’ a drink for a beautiful woman, settin’ himself up for a crash and burn seein’ as he’s cute but you’re all that’s you. Don’t make it harder.”

I saw her point (though I might not have entirely agreed about “all that’s me”) but I didn’t like this.

And it struck me that I didn’t like this because I was me.

I was greedy.

I wanted it all.

I wanted a man who had confidence enough in himself not to lay it out but to lay it out. I wanted a man who looked at me and was so drawn to me he’d put himself out there for me. He took the chance to walk over to me with my friends and show me how much he wanted me. I wanted a man who would demonstrate he wanted me so much, he’d do anything to have a shot with me.

He’d buy me a drink.

He’d walk over and speak to me.

He wouldn’t give one thought to “shitting where he lived” because he was my neighbor. Instead, he’d want me so badly he’d throw caution to the wind just for a chance to be with me.

That’s what I wanted.

And that was what I would get or I’d take nothing.

Shock of shocks, I was okay being alone in my big house with mostly me as my company. I wasn’t going to settle for just anybody so I’d be less lonely because I was no longer lonely.

I was just alone.

And I was fine with that.

“If he wants me,” I mumbled, lifting the drink he bought me to my lips and before taking a sip I finished, “He can come and get me.”

“Well, batten down the hatches, babe, ’cause here he comes,” Alyssa stage-whispered loudly.

My body locked.

“Ladies,” a smooth male voice said.

I took my sip, luckily not choking, and swiveled on my stool.

He was right there, smiling at me then he looked beyond me. “If you’ll get these other ladies a drink and put them on my tab.” He looked from the bartender to me. “I’d like a moment with you to introduce myself privately.”

He lifted his hand to me.

I looked into his blue eyes that were not as beautiful as Mickey’s but they were still handsome.

Then I looked to his hand, which was not as strong as Mickey’s, and not rough at all, but it was a nice hand.

And of its own accord, my hand lifted and my fingers curled around his.

He gripped them and helped me off my stool.

I took my drink with me as he kept hold of my hand and walked me back to where he had been sitting.

As I walked, I glanced over my shoulder to see Josie beaming and Alyssa mouthing, “Go get him, tiger.”

I grinned at them and allowed myself to be led away.

His name was Bradley.

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SoaringAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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Have you missed any exclusive excerpts posted so far during my 2015 Birthday Teasers Event? Just click on the book cover to reads that excerpt…

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BOOK REVIEW & EXCERPT: Wild and Free by Kristen Ashley

wildandfree

Abel Jin and Delilah Johnson have lived their lives with a hole in their soul, yearning for something they don’t understand.

Until one night Delilah is in mortal danger and a man who’s otherworldly strong and supernaturally fast saves her. Delilah is then cast into a world where fiction comes to life in the form of Abel, her destined mate, a vampire/werewolf hybrid who claims her at first breath as his.

But Abel knows the danger isn’t done. He’s dreamed for centuries that his mate will perish and he will stop at nothing to keep her safe.

For Delilah, she’s not only coping with fantasy come to life, but a mingling of very different families. Not to mention, she has on her hands a man who doesn’t understand his true nature and has lived his long life thinking he’s a monster.

Abel and Delilah together fills the hole that has been clawing at them for decades. But finally finding each other, it also tips their destinies as the last of The Three. They must unite with the other destined lovers, who with Abel and Delilah, are fated to save the world.

Or die trying.

review

“This was it. This was us. This was what we’d be. Wild and free.”

I am always in awe of authors who can traverse genres flawlessly and effortlessly, continually gifting us with their signature style in everything they write, that being sexy, alpha mountain men, bikers, boxing champions, kings of fictional lands, or supernatural beings. Regardless of the label put on their works, their stories have the power to transport us into a reality that is as tangible or as imaginary as it gets, holding us captive and making us wish we never left, because with every word, with every delectable moment of make-believe we are given an escape that we can trust, seek, depend on. Kristen Ashley is one of those authors for me, a safe haven I frequently run to when the hopeless romantic in me is in need of some special care, and the mere idea of reading about vampires and werewolves with her unique stamp on them has been an utterly thrilling experience. In this third book of The Three series, the final Prophesy is fulfilled, where the werewolf/vampire hybrid, Abel, finds his lifemate, Delilah, finally bringing this fantastical world to an eternity of peace between species.

“I’m two hundred and five years old and I’ve been raised with love. I’ve been blessed with family. I’ve shown and been gifted with loyalty. I’ve known joy. But I’ve never felt complete until I had Delilah.”

Abel and Delilah are the last of the chosen three couples whom the fates have given extraordinary abilities and powers, in preparation for the battle that is said to determine the future of all races. An orphan raised by generations of the same loving adoptive family, Abel has lived for over two centuries knowing that no matter how much love and devotion he is given by those around him, a crucial part of him would be missing until the day he meets the one and only mate who would fill the hole in his soul. When he finally finds Delilah, a twenty-nine-year-old ball of sass and attitude, his every instinct tells him that she is his.

“I’ve waited three lifetimes for you, and now that I’ve got you, I’m keepin’ you.”

It takes a little longer for Delilah to accept the idea of Abel as her fated mate, having to come to terms with the existence of a supernatural world around her as well, but once she gives in to their scorching chemistry, we get nothing less than fireworks. And they are s-p-e-c-t-a-c-u-l-a-r. As they grow closer to one another and learn everything about each other, they are all too soon faced with the very danger that wishes to destroy them. And a world they never even imagined existed.

“Found the man I’ve been waiting for all my life and he’s an overprotective werewolf vampire who drinks bagged blood for breakfast, has the strength of ten men, the speed of a superhero, not to mention we have people who want us dead. This is not something a girl takes in stride. At least give me to lunch.”

In this book, we are also reunited with all the main characters we already fell in love with in previous instalments in this series, as well as a few of the secondary ones, all their stories being wrapped up in light of the impending doom facing them all.

As much as I have truly enjoyed this story and the way my mind so eagerly travelled to such an enthralling imaginary world, I did feel that it somewhat fell short of the very elements that would make it a compelling paranormal read. It felt to me like this story was only set in a paranormal reality, these characters quite comfortably being capable of ‘existing’ in and drawing similarities from many of this author’s contemporary works. I loved that and, at the same time, I did not like that at all. I hoped for a deeper feeling of immersion into a fantastical world of this kind, with more attention on the supernatural other-worldly elements and a bit less on the everyday ones such as the characters’ fashion sense or their random musings about everything and anything around them, not to mention the numerous sex scenes (and I will have to wash my mouth with soap for saying this) that often served no other purpose than to entice our senses over and over again. My biggest obstacle in connecting with this story was the actual heroine, Delilah. After two books in this series where the lead female characters perfectly complemented their respective male counterparts and ‘fit the bill’ quite seamlessly, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the heroine in this book did not belong in it at all. Her personality was over-the-top, too much of the storyline centred around her ‘biker chick sass’ and inner reflections, significantly more so than on her mate, even though we are offered both of their points of view, and her interactions with the other characters in the story did not sit well with me. In addition to that, I felt that the background storyline kept building up to a huge climax that never really eventuated, the ending seeming rushed, wrapped up too quickly and almost skimmed over. I wished for that one single occurrence of epic proportions that we were bracing ourselves for which would have represented the culmination of all three books at once, but the event we got did not end up being satisfying enough. We were, however, given the chance to revisit characters from previous instalments and even hear their inner voices once more, which added an enjoyable level of familiarity to the overall storyline.

It does not happen very often, if ever, that I do not connect quite viscerally with a Kristen Ashley novel. This book had all the right components, all the ‘winning’ elements that would make it an instant hit with me, but I simply did not connect with this story as much as I hoped for. This did not take away from the sheer beauty of the romance between Abel and Delilah, but it was enough for it not to become another favourite of mine.

“Thank you for making a lifetime of longing worth every second, Abel.”

3halfstars

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excerpt

“I’m a monster, Lilah.”

“What?” I whispered.

“I’m a werewolf vampire. I exist on human blood. I can tear a man’s head off and I have. I’m a monster.”

“You—”

“I am,” he stated flatly. “And the first chance I’ve had in all my years to understand why I am as I am is to go to that f*ckin’ hotel.”

I stared at him, then straightened my body so I was fully facing him. This caused his jaw to get hard again, but I ignored that and stated, “Okay, let’s break this down.”

“Nothin’ to break down.”

“Humor me,” I snapped, his head jerked, and his lips curved up.

“Carry on,” he muttered.

“Thanks,” I bit out. “First, how many men’s heads have you torn off?”

“Four, and two wolves.”

“That’s it?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“These being the night we met,” I stated.

“Yeah,” he repeated.

“The night some of them were trying to kill me and the others were trying to kill you.”

To that he said nothing.

I kept going, “So you haven’t torn off unsuspecting citizens’ heads willy-nilly, for the f*ck of it, or on a psychotic rampage?”

He pressed his lips together and I knew it was to hide his humor because his eyes lit with it before he unpressed them to say, “No.”

“Right,” I said sharply. “Have you ever had a psychotic rampage?”

He shook his head.

“So let’s get to the human blood part,” I suggested. “When you were,” I paused, “drawing from one of your ex-bitches, did you ever kill one of them?”

“F*ck no.”

“Take too much and make them sick?”

“No.”

“Do it against anyone’s will?”

His eyes went guarded, but he said, “No.”

I threw up a hand. “Okay, so what’s the problem?”

He blinked, straightening in his chair, but again said nothing.

“I mean, seriously,” I went on, “I’ve seen lots of vampire movies and TV shows and even the good vamps screw up and overindulge. Hell, Jessica killed three fairies in a ravenous attack. She might have had her issues as a young vampire, but by that time, she was full-on good.”

His brows shot together. “Fairies?”

“Fairies.”

“What the f*ck are you talking about?”

I threw up both hands and cried in exasperation, “True Blood!

“Jesus, Lilah,” he muttered.

“No, seriously, Jessica is very sweet.”

“For f*ck’s sake,” he growled, sounding like he was losing patience, which I didn’t figure was a good thing.

“Okay, back on track,” I began. “Tell me. Tell me one instance in your life where you actually behaved like a monster.”

“I wanna f*ck you,” he snarled.

I stared.

“Yeah,” he ground out. “I wanna f*ck you, Delilah. Consumed with the need and I have no idea why, but I can guess, seein’ as it’s like you’re a bitch in heat, I’m a dog that catches the scent and his mind is wiped…wiped of anything…but the need to mount you and”—he leaned forward—“rut.

“Holy f*ck,” I breathed.

“Yeah,” he said again. “That make you feel safe?”

“Abel—”

“I can smell your fear.”

I swallowed.

“It turns me on,” he kept going. “Makes me wanna tear into your throat and f*ck you and feed from you. Now, does that make you feel safe?”

“No,” I whispered, because it really f*cking didn’t.

“Right. No,” he bit off. “So I’m not a monster?”

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The Three – Reading Order and Purchase Links
untilthesunfallsfromthesky_new
witheverythingiam_new
wildandfree

Until the Sun Falls from the SkyMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
With Everything I AmMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Wild and FreeMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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BOOK REVIEW: Deacon by Kristen Ashley

deacon

Deacon has an ugly history, a history that broke him, leaving him a ghost of a man. Out of necessity, he left the normal world to descend into the criminal world and found he fit. So he stayed. Cold as ice and living off the grid, Deacon has no intention to connect, not with anyone.

Then he returns to some remote cabins in the Colorado Mountains and finds they have new owners. One of them is Cassidy Swallow, a young woman willing to work hard to live her quiet dream in a house by a river surrounded by aspen and pine.

Suddenly, Deacon finds he’s at war. Cassidy’s pull for him to connect is strong. He fights it, but he loses, always coming back for more. But when he does, he gives her nothing.

From the first time she sees him, Cassidy knows Deacon is dead inside. She knows he’s the kind of man who could destroy a woman. But one night when Deacon’s control slips, Cassidy takes a chance.

He might break her. He also might be her dream come true.

review

“Not easy, fightin’ your pull. Wantin’ to be right here. Knowin’ I was no good for you. Prayin’ you’d get a man so when I’d come back I’d have a reason to stay away.”

Some fires don’t ignite at first contact, it might take some time and patience to get that first spark and see it turn into a bright flame, but once it starts burning, you feel its heat all the way down to your bones, seeping in, infusing you with its warmth, and making you wish it’d never lose its glow. That is the way I see the story of Cassidy and Deacon. A slow burning romance igniting over almost a decade in time, this is a love story that is not designed to set your pulse racing, or make you feel like your heart has gone through a spin cycle. This is a story to warm your heart, soothe it, give it hope, and it stands to show that the old saying “out of sight, out of mind” is not always correct.

“… cabin eleven was home to me for a few days every year, the only home I had, ‘cause you were there.”

We meet Cassidy in her early twenties—a young woman fresh out of college whose dream of living a quiet life and running a small group of cabins for hire in the midst of the Colorado wilderness has taken her away from her family in Oklahoma and made her invest all of herself into making her vision a reality. The cabins are run down, her live-in boyfriend is no help at all and a constant financial liability, her daily life revolves entirely around fixing the cabins up, improving them, caring for them and her patrons, leaving little time to do much else, and yet Cassidy never loses motivation. Her little business remains a constant source of pride and fulfilment because in the middle of “rock, pine, aspen, columbine, fireweed, wild iris, and glacier lily” is exactly where she has dreamed of living ever since her parents took her there on a skiing trip when she was thirteen years old.

“I had a near-overwhelming urge to go to him and wrap my arms around him. Tight. And maybe never let go. For eternity.”

Shortly after buying the cabins, she meets John Priest, her first visitor—a man whose emotionless face and rugged looks scare her at first, but also seem to draw her inexplicably to him. Five months pass before she sees him again, and when he returns, Cassidy is single and living alone in the middle of the Colorado mountains, her heart a little bit more lonely than the last time they saw each other, but her dream still driving her forward and her business slowly thriving as a result. And so for the next four years they maintain a routine—John Priest always showing up unannounced, always renting the same cabin, and his sporadic visits never lasting more than a few days—but as much as Cassidy tries to get closer to him, to break though the ice with small acts of kindness and friendliness, he remains an impenetrable, unmovable mystery.

“We don’t change. You’re a good woman, Cassidy. But we don’t change.”

Until one night changes everything. Changes them both. And Cassidy finally meets Deacon, the man behind the ghost that is John Priest. They do not get to know one another by probing each other with endless questions, instead allowing their bodies and their hearts to lead the way. Cassidy still knows very little about the man now sharing her bed every night, or how long he would eventually stick around, but her every instinct tells her to trust him with her heart. To risk it all even for a fleeting chance of being happy in his arms.

“I knew down to my bones I couldn’t bear a life of longing for him, wondering how it could have been if he gave me what he was offering me right now at that moment. The chance to get in.”

And this is where this story becomes quite a departure from any previous Kristen Ashley romances. The slow pace, coupled with a very unique balance between the main characters, is what makes this story so realistic and relatable on so many levels. The physical aspect of their relationship is what moves the entire relationship forward, deepening their intimacy, strengthening the trust between them. Deacon’s job still frequently takes him away for prolonged periods of time, testing that trust, but he always returns to Cassidy, and she always welcomes him back.

“In this bed, out of it. Naked or not. No boundaries. All in. Nothin’ held back.”

As Deacon slowly disengages himself from his old life, there are demons from his past that he cannot let go of, thus risking everything he has built with Cassidy. This is a story about trust as much as it is about love—a man learning to trust himself with a woman again, a man needing time to become ready to accept what is right in front of him, and a woman who gave him just that—time—guiding him out of his own darkness simply by loving him no matter what and trusting her own heart with him. Cassidy’s patience and persistence made her one of the strongest heroines I have ever had the pleasure of finding, the true measure of her character being her ability to forgive, to risk her own heart time after time because she recognized something rare in Deacon, and she held onto that dream until the very end. I greedily wished we could have delved even more into her pain at times, as those moments of sorrow would have added a further facet onto a truly magnificent female lead.

“… there would always be a part of me that would long for him. There would always be thoughts in the back of my mind plaguing me, haunting me, making me wonder, if he let me in, even just a little, how it could have been.”

It seems that Kristen Ashley can do no wrong in my eyes because I keep falling in love with her stories book after book, connecting with the characters heart and soul. I love stories that focus on less-than-perfect heroes, good men who have made mistakes in their lives, who do not trust or give their hearts easily, and I especially love when these stories also explore the connection between love and trust in a relationship, specifically relating to the sexual aspect of that relationship. I read this book in one sitting, and it felt like I took one breath and didn’t exhale until the very last page.

And I probably should have mentioned that the characters are into bondage… Can these stories get any better?!

“Love is trust, Cassie, you taught me that.”

4halfstars

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Unfinished Hero – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
(standalone stories with interconnected characters
knight2 creed2 raid2 deacon

KnightAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Creed: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
RaidMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Deacon: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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The Author

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

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

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

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

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

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

Benny has decided differently.

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

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

review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5stars

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The ‘Burg
(standalone stories with interconnected characters
ForYou_new atpeace_new GoldenTrail_new
gamesoftheheart_new ThePromise_new holdon_ashley

For YouAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
At PeaceAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Golden TrailAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Games of the HeartAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
The PromiseMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Hold OnAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

Connect with author: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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