BIRTHDAY TEASING: I Love You, Always by Natalie Ward

iloveyoualways♪♫ Love is in the air… ♫

HAPPY VALENTINE’S DAY, book junkies!!

What book celebrates the enduring and healing power of love better than the poignantly beautiful I Love You to Death by an author I feel proud to call my friend, Natalie Ward? This story gave us chills, it made us sob, scream, hope, and it gave us… Luke. I cannot tell you how much I adore this book without using a ridiculous amount of superlatives!

Read my review of I Love You to Death
Read my interview with Natalie Ward

So you can only imagine how excited I was when the lovely Natalie agreed to help us celebrate LOVE here at Natasha is a Book Junkie by announcing the title of her next book, the sequel to our beloved I Love You to Death, and by giving us a heart-melting and très romantique teaser from … *drumroll* … I Love You, Always

Expected release date: 2013

I walk into the room and see Ash in bed reading, music playing softly from the stereo. “Hey my beautiful girl,” I say, dumping my guitar as I walk towards the bed where she is tucked naked underneath the covers like a Christmas present just waiting to be unwrapped.

“Hey,” she answers, throwing her book on the side table and leaning over to me.

I bend down to kiss her as I kick off my boots and sit on the bed, asking her how the movie was.

Smiling she answers, “Um, we never got there. Talking too much and we missed the start.”

I grab her hand and kiss her again. God, she is so damn beautiful and the most amazing thing to come home to each night, to wake up next to every morning. I love having her here, actually living with me now. I just love her, so much.

And right now, I am itching to peel my clothes off and join her under these covers, so I can show her exactly how much I do love her. But Ash is suddenly looking like she wants to tell me something.

“You okay, Ash?”

I’m right, because the next words out of her mouth are, “Yes. But I want to tell you something, something important.”

I focus on her eyes now, she seems nervous almost. I stroke my fingers gently against her wrist where I can feel the pulse of her heart underneath my thumb. A steady rhythm, that’s beating faster than usual tonight.

“Anything.” Always, Asha.

“Luke…”

“Yeah?”

She swallows, her eyes never leaving mine as she takes a long, deep breath and finally says those three words back to me. Those three tiny words that I’ve longed to hear her say. Those three tiny words I have said only once to her, but have wanted to repeat every single day since. Those three tiny words that change everything.

Because they aren’t just three tiny words at all, they are three huge words, and they are three words which Completely. Blow. My. Fucking. Mind.

 “… I love you.”

My heart literally explodes, right inside my chest. I have absolutely no idea what else is going on around us anymore, the building could fall down and I wouldn’t even notice. I cannot tear my eyes away from her and before I know it she is in my arms and I am kissing her. Hard.

“Please say that again,” I whisper, needing to hear the words fall from her lips once more. The words I used to tell myself I didn’t think I needed to hear, but now realize, I desperately wanted to.

She opens her eyes and we stare at each other, our mouths only inches apart as she says it again. “I love you, I really love you.”

The groan falls from my mouth and I push her back onto the bed. “Asha, I love you. I love you, so much.”

“You do?” she asks me, like it could possibly be anything but true.

I lift my head and meet her stare. My hand holds her face as I tell her what I’ve been holding back for so long now. The three words that describe how I truly feel about her, how I’ve always felt about her. “Yeah Asha, I really do. I love you, I’ve always loved you.”

She smiles back at me and then I’m kissing her again, softer this time as her arms wrap themselves around me and pull the shirt from my jeans. I need to get these clothes off, I need to touch her, feel her, remove every single barrier that’s between us so I can feel her skin against mine. But she reads my mind and does it for me, her fingers yanking the bottom of my shirt up and over my head now. With my mouth still on hers, I reach down and undo my belt and jeans, push everything off, letting it all fall into a pile on the floor. And then I slide into bed next to her, pulling her into my arms as I roll her on top of me.

She smiles at me now as she leans in and kisses me again, soft and slow this time, slowing everything down as she whispers those magic words to me between each of her kisses.

“I,” kiss, “love,” kiss, “you,” kiss, “Luke.”

My fingers brush across her cheek as I stare deep into her eyes, where I see the truth in these words she’s telling me. My words come out as a whisper, but she hears them.

“I love you Asha, always.”

She smiles and I kiss her this time, rolling us over so she lies beneath me now. My body is completely covering hers; every inch of our skin is touching. She exhales, slow and sexy as my hand brushes the hair back from her face, and then slides down her neck to her heart. I can feel it beneath my fingers, beating hard inside her chest and I know it mirrors exactly what’s going on with mine right now. That the enormity of what has finally been said, out loud and to each other, is affecting us both, in exactly the same way.

She smiles up at me as I hold my hand against her heart. I watch as she lifts her hand, puts it against mine and feels the same hard beat of what I feel for her. My eyes hold hers and we just watch each other, seeing everything.

I lean down to kiss her again and feel her leg slide slowly up the side of my body. I fall into her so easily, it’s perfect. We both groan, and mine only gets louder as she gently tugs on my bottom lip, pulling it between her teeth.

“Tell me again Asha,” I whisper.

She laughs now, but it’s breathless, throaty and sexy as hell.

“I love you Luke,” she moans, her head pressing back into the pillow as I push slowly into her as the words fall from her lips. She looks incredible, she feels unbelievable. I press a soft kiss to her neck now and she moans again and it turns me on, so fucking much.

We move together, slowly, gently as I kiss my way back up her neck to her lips. It feels perfect, so unbelievably perfect, like we were made for each other and in this single moment right now, I know, I have never felt anything like this before.

Never felt anything like what I feel for her, right now.

I love her.

Deeply, completely, always.

And she loves me.

She. Loves. Me.

✤ ✤ ✤
I Love You – Reading Order and Purchase Links
iloveyoutodeath2
stubbornlove
iloveyoualways
I Love You To Death: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Stubborn Love: Amazon US | Amazon UK
I Love You, Always: Amazon US | Amazon UK
✤ ✤ ✤
The Author

Natalie is an avid reader and chronic insomniac with a crazy imagination, who thinks writing down all the ideas that swirl around in her head, is a good idea. She is known for staying up all night, forgoing sleep, just to finish a book. She likes reading stories that are outside the norm, that make you think and don’t always end the way you expect them to. She tries to write like that as well. She longs to be able to give up her day job and write full time.

Connect with Natalie: Website | Facebook | Goodreads
The Giveaway

To win a signed paperback of I Love You to Death, please enter below. By entering, you accept the following Giveaway Conditions (contest open internationally).

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Other books in the series or related posts:

AUTHOR INTERVIEW: I Love You to Death by Natalie Ward

Once upon a time, I came across this magnificent cover for a soon-to-be-published book. I read the blurb.

“… the deaths of everyone she has ever loved … refusing to let anyone in for fear of losing them … until she meets Luke …”

It sounded intense. It sounded different from everything I’ve read so far. I was hooked. The author, Natalie Ward, then very kindly allowed me to read it before its release date and, as they say, the rest is history.

I. LOVED. THIS. BOOK. I loved everything about it. It carries a beautiful message of hope and love in the midst of such unthinkable sadness – it’s a story that will touch your heart and make you appreciate what you have just a little bit more.

Read my review HERE …
Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Smashwords | Book Depository | B&N
The Story

When Ash loses her boyfriend, she is consumed by grief, loneliness and an overwhelming sense of guilt for her role in not only his death, but the deaths of everyone she has ever loved. Refusing to let anyone in for fear of losing them too, she becomes withdrawn, spending her days reliving the nightmares from her past.

Until she meets Luke.

Initially scared by his intensity and interest in her, Ash tries to push him away. But as Luke slowly starts to chip away at the walls she’s built, Ash finds herself doing the one thing she swore she’d never do again – falling in love.

When the familiar feelings Ash had hoped were long buried with her past begin to resurface, she is forced to ask herself if falling in love again is really worth the risk.

 

The Interview
NATASHA | Thank you so much, Natalie, for this interview! After all the correspondence we’ve exchanged before and after I read your AMAZING book, I feel like I know you a little bit. Let me start by saying this – WOW! I knew from the title and cover of the book this story wasn’t going to be chick-lit but, damn girl, you took my poor heart on a roller-coaster ride and I never got the snapshot to prove it! … If I’m not mistaken, this is your first (published) book. Was writing always part of the “master plan” or did it happen by accident?

NATALIE | Oh sorry about that, but I am really glad you enjoyed the book so much!! Yes, it’s definitely my first published book! It’s also the first piece of writing I have seriously committed to and actually finished! I have a heap of crazy ideas swirling around in my head and this is probably the main reason I don’t get a lot of sleep at night, but writing them down seemed like a good way of getting them out. Starting a story was never a problem, it’s the finishing part I struggled with. Lots of “just finish something” being thrown at me helped me to finally accomplish that. Of course when I actually started writing I Love You to Death with a goal to finishing it, then the characters, the plot, the deaths (!!), they all kept waking me up instead. It’s safe to say that book gave me a lot of sleep deprivation.

On the flip side, I have always been a huge reader too, and have been known to go without sleep because I want to finish a book. I get very invested in stories and the characters, probably too invested, so when my own started appearing in my head, it felt like a natural progression to try and write about them. I guess I’ve always liked to write and most of friends can tell you about the long-winded emails I used to send when me and hubby lived in the US. But writing fiction, for the most part, I kept that a secret from everyone, pretty much because I assumed it wasn’t going to go anywhere. It took me a really long time to show this story to people.

NATASHA | I applaud you for ‘taking the plunge’! I can’t even imagine what it would be like being woken up by parts of this story just coming to you in the middle of the night. I would have cried like a baby! And then I would have devoured my body weight in chocolate. Taking about hot messes, Ash is a very sad young woman and she has every right to be. Her story is a heavy one to read, let alone to write. My first thought was to put myself in her shoes, imagine losing what she lost and think how I would have coped afterwards. Let me tell you, it made me respect her choices even more. Was it hard writing those snippets from her past?

NATALIE | Thanks, it certainly taught me a lot about myself and overcoming my own fears! Being woken up was interesting….for a long time I had no idea how to actually end the story. I knew there was one thing that was definitely not going to happen, but apart from that I had no idea. So when that part finally woke me at 3am it was almost a relief, even if in the end it was the obvious path to take. But all the deaths, the things Ash had to go through, thinking about those, yeah it wasn’t always “a happy place” and writing about all of that was a strange process. There were times I surprised myself with tears as I typed the words out. But it was strange too, because the book never came to me in chronological order. The very first thing was Sam’s letter and I literally wrote it down as it appears in the book and then came their first meeting, at a funeral. That got me thinking about death and the five stages of grief and what it would be like to go through that over and over again and think you were responsible for it all. Then I had to come up with all the people she could lose and how they would die. That was tough, making it happen in ways that could be interpreted differently depending on who witnessed it – Ash or someone else. I’d say the most difficult parts to write were the stories of her Grandparents (and I still don’t know why that is) and pretty much all of chapter 5 – her interaction with Liam, the story of her Dad dying and the fight with Sam. I hated what was happening to Ash, I wanted her in a happy place too!

But then of course along came Luke and he changed EVERYTHING! All of a sudden I was writing about him and Ash and their relationship and all the wonderful stages of love and let me tell you, that was easy! That fell on to the page and became the first part of the story I finished. It even got to the point that I had to tell Luke to shut up just so I could go back and finish the stories of Sam and her past. He didn’t like that and made me write a lot of the book from his POV too, which is still sitting on my computer.

NATASHA | What do you think made Ash move forward and not want to just give up on life, happiness, love?

NATALIE | Something had to change for her because there was no way she could continue to live like that, who could!? Luke being the way he was, choosing to live his life how he wanted, fighting for what he believed in, possibly being a little stubborn about it all, was a huge part of her realising she could also try this. I think in the past she had always just accepted and allowed everything that had happened to her, but meeting him showed her that there were other ways to live and that it was always worth fighting for. When she finally realised that, she grew a lot stronger. It also let her step in and finally make a choice about what was going to happen. Plus, in her past she had been surrounded by so many amazing people, who all loved her unconditionally. She never wanted to give that up, she only thought she had to.

NATASHA | Let’s go back to… LUKE. Ahem, I know you mentioned to me once that he wasn’t based on a real-life person (I still don’t believe you, just so you know, and I believe you are selfishly keeping us apart!). He is just as complex a character as Ash is. Tell us more about Luke and what he represents in the story.

NATALIE | Ah Luke, yes I really do wish he was a real life person, although I know I’d be fighting a few people for him! There were definitely several parts to Luke, the most obvious one being that he was the change that was going to drive Asha to start living again. Making him a chef was kind of a cheeky way of doing that, because he feeds her – with cupcakes, the lunches, the breakfast menu etc. – I wanted it to be as though he was nourishing her, literally bringing her back to life. But I also wanted him to have a reason for doing this, I wanted him to recognise all the pain he saw in Ash, which is why he got the crappy family background, it drove his personality. At the same time, Luke needed to be someone Asha could feel comfortable with and so something I tried to do, although I didn’t want to make it too obvious, was have Luke have something in common with each of the people Ash had lost from her life. If you look for it, when you read the story of a death in a particular chapter and relate it to what is happening with Luke in the present, you’ll see both stories have commonalities. He essentially becomes the epitome of everyone Ash has lost, all of their good traits, but especially the ones that related to her – the protecting her, the standing up for her, someone for her to talk to, etc etc. By the end, Ash herself even gets one of his traits and that’s the final step in her growth/change. Plus I mean come on, he’s a sexy freaking rock star… there had to be something good in it for her!

NATASHA | Music is a huge component of this story. Each chapter starts with a small playlist. If you know the songs in there, you can pretty much guess the tone of the chapter to come. Let me first thank you now, in case I forget in the future, for all the 30 Seconds to Mars songs and hence visuals of Jared Leto. Thank you! … Why was music so important in this story? Why did you decide to make it an almost-character of the story itself?

NATALIE | The music most definitely is an important part of the story! In fact the whole reason Luke came to life, is because of music. It was all around the time of Adele and Christina Perri and their amazing power ballads about having your heart ripped out by some guy. A friend of mine was saying how it’s a shame no songs sung by men are like that. I begged to differ and set about making her a “mixed tape” to prove it. Oh boy….in walks Luke! Like I said, that boy is stubborn and when he came along with the music he pretty much dictated what was going to happen in his part of the story – in fact one of his songs woke me up one night! Then I just thought, why not include a playlist for each chapter. I listen to so much music when I write anyway and the music is a huge part of the story, being an escape for Ash and a form of expression for Luke as well as a big part of how and why they connected, that giving each chapter a set of songs to set the tone could actually work. And yes, both the title and the lyrics to that song tell you so much about what is to come, although I will say, they only relate to the present and what is going on with Ash and Luke. So I guess in the end, by doing that, it just naturally became its own character in the story and to be honest, I kinda liked that after it helped me out so much.

And speaking of 30 Seconds to Mars and Jared Leto – you’re welcome! I may as well admit it now, I have a HUGE crush on them, both the band and their gorgeous lead singer. Man, the number of times I listened to Alibi as I was writing certain scenes in Chapter 10…..ahhh, that man has a voice that causes your knickers to spontaneously fall off, and look, I may as well just keep going and say he is exactly how I imagine Luke to sound….a voice like liquid sex…..

NATASHA | I even say his name “L-eu-k” in my head to make it sound even sexier (just picture Meg Ryan in French Kiss trying to pronounce ‘Luc’ in French) … This is one of those books that I think people shouldn’t know in advance whether it has a HEA or not. I felt that not knowing that enhanced the story for me. How many endings did you initially have in mind and why did you choose the one that ended up in the book?

NATALIE | Ha ha – I like that! He is a sexy man, definitely fun to have inside my head. Yeah the ending….like I said, initially I didn’t know how to end it, I just knew for certain there was the one thing I definitely wouldn’t do. When I finally worked out how to end it, then it became a matter of doing it in a way that wasn’t too shocking and would turn readers off, but at the same time wasn’t too nicely tied up in a bow. In the end I had three different endings. The first was too much, the second was too neat and the third is the one that’s in the book. I hope it’s the right one, but based on what early readers have said, I think so and I’m happy with it. Either way, what I definitely wanted to do was create tension in the journey to the ending, so you were never really sure about what had happened to Sam and what was going to happen to Luke or Ash.

NATASHA | About Sam, I have to ask one tiny detail that has been bugging me ever since I read this book and I promise I am not spoiling the story for anyone as this is something that happens very early on in the book and you’ve already mentioned it before – How did Sam, Ash’s previous boyfriend, know to write that letter for her if he never believed her?

NATALIE | Yeah, it’s true, Sam didn’t believe her, he never did and you learn that very early on in the book, the first few pages. But he also knew how Ash felt about it all, how she honestly believed she thought this was all because of her and because he loved her as much as he did, he wanted to do something in the event that he did die. So he wrote her a letter, leaving it where he knew she’d find it if the inevitable happened and also knowing it was a tiny little thing he could do to make her feel better if he was in fact gone. But no, he never believed her, he simply loved her.

NATASHA | What are you plans for the future as an author? What are you currently writing? Is there going to be a sequel? Say yes! (Does Luke have a single brother? SAY YES!)

NATALIE | Ultimately I’d love to keep writing and to be honest, it feels like I have to at times, I just have to get the stuff out. My initial thought for the next book was more of a companion novel, not strictly a sequel as it would probably cover some of the same timeline and feature two side characters from this book – Jared and Mia. But a few people have already asked me about telling Luke’s story and as I already have a heap of stuff written on him, that’s a tempting idea too!

NATASHA | One last question, book junkie to book junkie, what are some of your favourite books?

NATALIE | Oh definite fellow book junkie! There are so many fantastic authors out there and I read loads of different stuff, but to name a couple of books that have really resonated with me would be:

  • Before I Die by Jenny Downham – un-put-downable, will absolutely break your heart.
  • Come Back to Me by Sara Foster – read it in a day, ending affected me so badly I actually wrote to Sara begging her to change it! We’ve since become friends!
  • Slammed and Point of Retreat by Colleen Hoover – quite honestly some of the most beautifully written books out there, the slam poetry is AMAZING!
  • The Fifty Shades Trilogy by EL James – because it’s Fifty and it’s frikkin HOT!
  • Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn – because it’s dark, it’s naughty and it’s fantastically disturbing!
  • What Remains by Denise Leith
  • The Gargoyle by Andrew Davidson – two of the most amazing pieces of writing I’ve ever read.

Of course there are a heap more… I could go on and on and on.

NATASHA | THANK YOU, Natalie, I hope everyone LOVES this book as much as I did. It is so rare to come across such a different story and such an original ‘voice’. I enjoyed every moment of this incredibly touching tale and I hope to read many more from you in the future. Thank you for allowing me to be one of your first readers. ♥

NATALIE | THANK YOU Natasha for loving it as much as you did! It kinda scared me at first, putting it out there because it was so different, not your main stream “love story” – but it was in my head begging to be told, so I just went for it. I’m glad it’s found an audience! x

Connect with Natalie: Website | Facebook | Goodreads
✤ ✤ ✤
I Love You – Reading Order and Purchase Links
iloveyoutodeath2
stubbornlove
iloveyoualways
I Love You To Death: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Stubborn Love: Amazon US | Amazon UK
I Love You, Always: Amazon US | Amazon UK
✤ ✤ ✤

✦ Don’t want to miss any more posts? Subscribe to this Blog by email… ✦

Other books in the series or related posts:

BOOK REVIEW: I Love You to Death by Natalie Ward

When Ash loses her boyfriend, she is consumed by grief, loneliness and an overwhelming sense of guilt for her role in not only his death, but the deaths of everyone she has ever loved. Refusing to let anyone in for fear of losing them too, she becomes withdrawn, spending her days reliving the nightmares from her past.

Until she meets Luke.

Initially scared by his intensity and interest in her, Ash tries to push him away. But as Luke slowly starts to chip away at the walls she’s built, Ash finds herself doing the one thing she swore she’d never do again – falling in love.

When the familiar feelings Ash had hoped were long buried with her past begin to resurface, she is forced to ask herself if falling in love again is really worth the risk.

 

review

“… life is too short to live without the things you want, to not fight for the things you love.”

How much can a human soul endure before it shatters, how many times can a heart be broken before it loses its capacity to love again?

This is the story of a troubled young woman, Asha, whose life has been everything but rosy. She has survived more loss and heartbreak than any person should ever have to in their entire lifetime, having lost all the people that have ever mattered to her, one by one. Asha has reached the end of her rope, she is angry, depressed, pessimistic and has resigned herself to the idea that everyone she allows to get close to her would eventually die. By seeing herself as the cause of every single one of those deaths, her guilt and pain torment her day and night.

“Can good things really last forever or is it all just destined to end? … I’ve lived my life in a constant state of fear. That time is running out, that anything good is going to be taken away from me.”

Asha’s voice is the only one we hear. We hear her thoughts, fears, hopes, we navigate through her memories, constantly jumping from past to present, and become intimately acquainted with every single heart-shattering loss that she has had to bear. We witness her downward spiral into the oblivion of depression, we grieve with her but we also never stop hoping for her happiness. Asha’s fear of further loss has made her reluctant to connect with people again. She has no family left, no friends and she only fosters superficial relationships with the people around her, keeping them constantly at an arm’s length. But having grown up surrounded by unconditional love, she naturally craves for it as an adult, she craves human contact, affection both received as well as given, she is torn between her dread of loss and her longing to be close to someone again.

“… now I’ve been forced into some kind of exile, I wish for the opposite. I crave human interaction and I crave human touch … I’m so completely alone and I feel so incredibly lonely, all the time. I wish I had the courage to end it, to give up and find a way out of all this sh*t. I really wish I could just make this all stop.”

And then she meets Luke. Luke ‘sees’ Asha. He sees her pain, her struggle with herself, and he patiently sneaks into her life and into her broken heart. His love is relentless, comforting, healing – he gives her a shred of hope that she could be happy once more. But Asha’s fear is deeply ingrained into her soul, it is as debilitating as it is justified, making her reluctant to love again.

“I don’t want to get attached and then lose him, have him ripped away from me. Not again, because it hurts so much when it happens. … But another selfish part of me is also saying: I don’t want to think of my own world without him in it.”

Asha is a heroine you’ll feel incredibly protective of. She is loving, caring, much more resilient than she gives herself credit for, she is a survivor that does not see herself that way. She wants to be distant with people but her compassionate personality won’t allow it – her mind says one thing but her mouth says another. Her story will break your heart, make you feel like a bulldozer ran over it, but it will also fill you with so much hope. This is a book about choosing love, life, happiness over fear of the unknown, it is about fighting for the things that make us happy and complete. This is also not your ordinary ‘Disney-variety’ love story with villains and heroes. The enemy here is intangible and it lives deep inside the human spirit. Hopelessness. Desperation. Misery.

“He walked into my life and slowly, gently he showed me how to smile again, how to start living again. He gave me a reason to breathe again. Showed me that living was worth it and it was worth fighting for. That it was worth taking a risk and making the choices you wanted to make. That he was choosing me, fighting for me and he wanted me to fight for him, for us.”

Ms Ward’s voice is unique, different, her every word matters, every word is like a little dagger that never misses its target. By only hearing Asha’s point of view and her rawest and most private thoughts, we experience her entire life story only through her eyes and we do so at her own pace. She ‘holds our hand’ as she tells us of her most painful ordeals, making us invested participants in her tale. This touching love story is incredibly sensual without being graphic, it is extremely romantic without being sappy. Every touch, every look, every word counts. Love acts as a catalyst for change in our heroine’s life – it empowers her to take the future into her own hands and find the one thing that she believed to have lost along the way. Hope.

A stunning debut novel by a talented new author, a delightfully original writing style – one that I anticipate will become a quick favourite for many.

5stars

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✦ INTERVIEW with Natalie Ward! ✦
Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Smashwords | Book Depository | B&N
✤ ✤ ✤
I Love You – Reading Order and Purchase Links
iloveyoutodeath2
stubbornlove
iloveyoualways
I Love You To Death: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Stubborn Love: Amazon US | Amazon UK
I Love You, Always: Amazon US | Amazon UK
✤ ✤ ✤

✦ Don’t want to miss any more posts? Subscribe to this Blog by email… ✦

Other books in the series or related posts:
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