Early in her life, Josephine Malone learned the hard way that there was only one person she could love and trust: her grandmother, Lydia Malone. Out of necessity, unconsciously and very successfully, Josephine donned a disguise to keep all others at bay. She led a globetrotting lifestyle on the fringes of the fashion and music elite, but she kept herself distant.
While Josephine was trotting the globe, retired boxer Jake Spear was living in the same small town as Lydia. There was nothing disguised about Jake. Including the fact he made a habit of making very bad decisions about who to give his love.
But for Josephine and Jake, there was one person who adored them. One person who knew how to lead them to happiness. And one person who was intent on doing it.
Even if she had to do it as her final wish on this earth.
“It’s never too late to reach for happiness and no matter what life has done to you, it’s never too late to find it.”
I will start this review with the promise that reading it will not affect your enjoyment of this book in any possible way. One of the most striking qualities of this story is the sheer number of unexpected emotional reactions it evokes in the reader, page after page, scene after scene, and nothing in this review will rob you of any of those skin-tingling moments. But it might just give you an idea of why this was the KA book for me.
Starting a new Kristen Ashley book is always an emotional experience for me, her stories forever touching my heart and making my wildest fantasises run rampant. Each new book by this author seems to set a new benchmark for all the books I read after that, but never has it happened before that a story won’t let me write its review for several weeks after I’ve finished reading it because every time the story crosses my mind, I am overwhelmed by ‘book nostalgia’, wishing stories like that never had to end. I have loved and lived every single Kristen Ashley book I have ever read, but this was the most epic one of them all for me, the one that completely took my breath away and the one that will always represent ‘vintage KA style’ in my eyes.
“She wanted me for you.”
We meet Josephine ‘Josie’ Malone at one of the most trying moments in her life – at her beloved grandmother’s funeral. Josie has just lost the only family she had left, the woman who saved her from an abusive childhood by giving her a loving home, a place to belong to, a safe harbour, and by exemplifying the kind of woman Josie had always strived to become. At this moment of complete emotional loss and vulnerability, a man and his children standing near her grandmother’s casket catch Josie’s eye, their identity unknown to her but the intense pain in their eyes acting as a beacon to her own broken heart. The following day, her grandmother’s will is read and Josie’s world is suddenly turned inside out, its startling content leaving Josie torn between wanting to please her grandmother one last time and perplexed by the nature of her wishes.
“My most precious possession, the thing I treasure above anything else in this world … I hereby bequeath to …”
By all accounts, Jake Spear is a complete stranger to Josie but someone her grandmother not only seemed to hold in the highest regard, as her will shows, but also cared for deeply. A local entrepreneur and business owner, Jake’s business ventures vary greatly from one another, but his every action demonstrates that he is willing to do whatever it takes to provide for the three most important people in his life – his children. A former boxing champion and three-time divorcee, Jake is the very opposite of the type of man Josie has been pining for over the last two decades, his small-town lifestyle standing in stark contrast to the jet setting one that Josie has become accustomed to in her career, but she is strangely drawn to him. Having left home in her early twenties, determined to escape the memory of her past and reinvent herself, she has spent the last twenty years distancing herself from her emotions and looking after someone else’s needs before her own. But one look at Jake and his family, coupled with her recent loss and newly acquired responsibilities, and Josie cannot help but start questioning her choices in life and finding new definitions for happiness.
“…although it feels lovely you wish for me to have all kinds of beauty, I’m perfectly happy without it.”
After suppressing her own dreams for so long, and quashing every inborn instinct she has ever had to form a family, Josie is confronted for the very first time with the very real possibility of having everything she has always wished for, if only she is brave enough to grab it by the horns and never let it go.
“I’m fine with being alone. I want it to be that way. Honestly, I do.”
These characters might be slightly older and hence dealing with very different issues from the younger ones we typically encounter in KA books, but the intensity of their connection, the chemistry, and the passion between them are just as off-the-charts as always. If anything, their need for each other and desire to connect on all levels feels even more urgent and eager. There are moments that will have your heart racing, there are others that will make you melt from glee, and there will be moments when you will struggle to catch your breath.
“Every inch of you, outside and any way you can get inside, baby, physically or emotionally, is mine.”
This is essentially a tale of second chances at love, or first chances at love when deprived of true happiness until later on in life, and it tells the story of two people whose lives have taught them to recognise beauty once it comes along and to allow themselves to hold onto it, regardless of how undeserving of it they believe themselves to be. Every element of a KA book is present – her inimitable prose, her intense dialogues, her unmatched character development and ability to make the reader feel such a wide spectrum of emotions – but this story went beyond that for me, the honesty with which it was told touching me on a very personal level, and making me connect with the characters like never before.
“I’d give him anything. I’d give him everything. If I had the power, I’d give him the world.”
By the time you reach the end of this book, you’ll realise what a wonderful ‘full circle’ the author has weaved for us, showing us that every story, even the most ‘real’ and close-to-home ones, can become breathtaking fairy-tales. KA books should really have a separate rating scale as they truly stand in a book universe of their own, but if I had to pick an absolute favourite among them all, this book would be that book for me. I promise you, this story will mark you in the best possible way and if you’re anything like me, you’ll never fully walk away from it. Six Stars of Excellence and then some.
“I wanted you before I even knew you… You’re everything I ever wanted, darling.”
This is the first book in a series of standalone stories with interconnected characters.
Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon AU | Amazon CA | Smashwords
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.
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