BOOK REVIEW: Captivated by You by Sylvia Day

captivatedbyyou

Gideon calls me his angel, but he’s the miracle in my life. My gorgeous, wounded warrior, so determined to slay my demons while refusing to face his own.

The vows we’d exchanged should have bound us tighter than blood and flesh. Instead they opened up old wounds, exposed pain and insecurities, and lured bitter enemies out of the shadows. I felt him slipping from my grasp; my greatest fears becoming my reality; my love tested in ways I wasn’t sure I was strong enough to bear.

At the brightest time in our lives, the darkness of his past encroached and threatened everything we’d worked so hard for. We faced a terrible choice: the familiar safety of the lives we’d had before each other or the fight for a future that suddenly seemed an impossible and hopeless dream . . .

review

“You okay, angel mine?”
“I’m in your arms. Life doesn’t get better than this.”

It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me as a reader that the Crossfire series is my own personal kryptonite. No other series has kept me as emotionally invested for such a long time as these books have, having re-read each one of them countless times and always discovering new layers to the story, new details that I might have missed or skimmed over on that first…or tenth…or twentieth re-read. This is one of the most powerful, passionate love stories that I know of, Gideon and Eva being two such meticulously developed characters that we cannot help but want to talk about them over and over again, psychoanalysing their every action, their every word, their every breath, because they feel that real to us. This fourth instalment in the series is possibly my favourite of the lot, encompassing every single element I hoped to find in it, in particular the careful attention that is paid to these characters’ emotional growth and change. There was not a moment that I did not understand the motivation behind their actions and reactions, and there was not one scene that did not make my heart race or skip a beat. Every word in it counts, every emotionally charged scene plays a vital role in the overall storyline, and every part of the puzzle is fundamental to our deeper understanding of the key players in it. This book was everything I wished it would be, and so much more, my mind still reeling from the mere brilliance of the way these characters are brought to life. Bravo, Ms Day!

“Are you in love, Mr. Cross?”
“Irrevocably.”

They may have known each other for just a few months, but Eva and Gideon’s tumultuous relationship has survived through enough trials to last them a lifetime. But even after exchanging vows in secret and promising their forevers to one another, they know that there are still many obstacles before them, most of them stemming from Gideon’s past and the painful memories he refuses to address. Their unique connection is their biggest strength—their almost visceral bond and need for each other being their greatest weapon against the world that questions their commitment to one another and tries to pull them apart—but that connection is also their greatest weakness as it isolates them from others, making them codependent and essential for each other’s happiness. As we finally hear Gideon’s voice in this book, we get to see firsthand the depth of his love for Eva and how her presence in his life has changed him. Her unwavering devotion, her protectiveness of him, and her every touch silence the demons that devastate him through his dreams and affect his every human connection.

“You’re the reason I breathe, I can’t turn it off. I think of nothing but you. All day. Every day. Everything I do, I do with you in mind. There’s no room for anyone else.”

As the limelight is put on the their young relationship, their private moments in each other’s arms are what drives that relationship forward, their intimacy with one another growing with each sexual encounter, every kiss, every embrace. Behind closed doors, they are one, both physically as well as mentally, completely in sync and vulnerable only to one another. They understand the other person’s needs and addictions better than anyone else in their lives, their frequent and very intense lovemaking sessions sustaining and temporarily satiating their hunger for one another. No part of themselves is hidden, no sexual act is off limits, and their physical as well as emotional addiction to each other only grows. And within their unique dynamic, sex still remains their primary mode of communication.

“She was every promise, every hope, every fantasy a man could have. And she was mine.”

But as they work on improving themselves in order to have a functional and healthy relationship with each other, old foes from Gideon’s past keep resurfacing, relentlessly set on destroying him and making him pay for his past sins. For the first time in his adult life, he has shown the world his only weakness—Eva—and they are willing to hurt her in order to get to him.

“She’s the chink in your armor, you heartless piece of shit. You’ve got ice in your veins, but she bleeds … It’s time to pay, and your billions won’t cover the debt.”

We watch our fearless hero battle his past, fight for a future with the woman he loves, all along navigating through marital waters he never imagined himself embarking upon. Nothing in their marriage is left to chance, their every energy dedicated to honouring their commitment to one another, to being what the other needs, craves, wants, and to shouldering each other’s burdens. But every step comes with a hurdle, every achievement with a mistake, and every lesson learned with a hefty price attached to it.

“I would set the world on fire to clear a path for her, if that’s what it took.”

There is an extraordinary self-awareness present in these characters that makes them incredibly fascinating to watch, overcoming their personal hang-ups being their greatest challenge both personally as well as a couple. I was enthralled start to finish, reading slowly in order to absorb every emotion, swallow every word. Ms Day’s writing style is unmatched, her confident and sophisticated prose pulling us in and making us feel every emotion she wishes us to feel. I walked away emotionally drained, with the biggest smile on my face, thrilled for everything that my two favourite characters achieved in such a short time span, but more than happy to wait for their grand finale as their story concludes in the next book.

“I’m hanging on by a thread, Eva.”
“You don’t have to hang on. Let go. I’ll catch you.”

5stars

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Crossfire – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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Bared to You: My review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAHardcover
Reflected in YouMy review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Entwined with You: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Captivated by You: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
One with You: TBA

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BOOK REVIEW: Eight Days a Week by Amber L. Johnson

eightdaysaweek

Andrew Lyons has been running from responsibility his entire life. Returning home after a couple of years abroad, he finds himself jobless and living in close quarters with a sister he can barely tolerate. At her request, he searches for a job on Craigslist, but finds a room for rent instead. Or so he thinks.

Gwen Stone is in a lurch. With a new promotion at work and two young children at home, she’s in dire need of a caretaker. When Andrew shows up on her doorstep, she thinks he may be exactly what she’s looking for. When she offers him the job, he’s more than interested and she’s confident she’s made the right choice.

It shouldn’t be awkward at all.

But Andrew isn’t exactly forthcoming about his intentions, and Gwen has some secrets she’s unwilling to share. When the mom and the “manny” don’t have a clue what they’re doing, things are bound to get messy.

What do you get with two kids who don’t know how to be kids, a man who never grew up, Beatles Rock Band, and hundreds of hours of kids’ TV? A very interesting job, indeed. But when emotions get in the way, there’s more at stake than just an occupation.

Because life doesn’t have clock-out button. And neither does love.

review

“WTF? I am so tired I can’t see straight. Kids have no bedtime in the summer? Screw that shit. I’ll enforce it—if not for them, then for me. I want to pass out by eight now , which is uncool because the sun is still out. Can you give children melatonin? Or is Benadryl still the go-to?”

A true surprise, a book I could not put down, and truly did not want it to end—this is the kind of story that stays with you and pops into your head every time a Hyundai hatchback drives by, or a children’s show is on TV, or someone shouts, “Kowalski,” and you know they have a certain penguin in mind. It was an absolute joy to read, every single scene laced with the type of light-hearted humour that makes you gigglesnort. But it is your heart that is the ultimate winner because it grows tenfold by the end of this delightful book.

A young man in his mid-twenties but a big kid at heart, Andrew Lyons has never found his true calling in life. Constantly drifting from one interest to another, he never commits to any endeavour long-term because he knows that no achievement of his would ever make his father proud. After two years spent travelling through Europe and squandering his inheritance, he returns home, only to find that no place feels like ‘home’ anymore. Desperate to get away from his overachieving sister’s judgemental eye and to stop depending on her for a roof over his head, Andrew manages to find the perfect place to rent. And somehow between drooling over his new landlady and fantasising about having sex with her, he ends up agreeing to become a live-in ‘manny’ as well.

“I have no idea what I’m supposed to do with this kid.”
“He’s a child and you’re immature. Play with him.”

Completely out of his depth, with no prior experience in childcare, he has no idea what he is doing, making it up as he goes along and following his instincts, and as a result, all his attempts at being a responsible adult and role models to the two small children in his care never stop being downright hilarious. But the more time he spends looking after them, the more he realises that something in their young lives has marked them deeply and that for the first time in his adult life not only might someone truly need him. But he might also be the best person for the job.

“Be cool. What did they do on television? What would Tony Danza do? He’d sleep with his boss, Angela. Shit. Sitcoms were no help at all.”

Unfortunately, his growing affection for the kids is not the only unplanned complication to his seemingly simple life plan of having a job and satisfying his libido, his attraction to the ‘lady of the house’—Gwen—slowly morphing into something he has never felt before. But when the wellbeing of two innocent souls starts depending entirely on Andrew’s selflessness and his ability to put them first, even before himself, every decision he makes becomes a wake-up call for a big kid who never wanted to grow up. And not even an overly eager “Don” can sway him from listening to his newly found conscience.

“Don wants to know what he did to make Gwen want to hang out with other dicks.

As Andrew stumbles through the never-ending challenges of quasi-parenthood, his head is desperate to catch up on what his heart already knows. We watch him embrace every new responsibility, every new promise, every new emotion unreservedly and wholeheartedly, to become the kind of man his parents can be proud of.

“Please be real.”

A story that is both heart-warmingly sweet and laugh-out-loud funny, I was besotted from the very beginning, giggling at Andrew’s hilarious inner banter as much as I choked up every time he interacted with the kids. I felt somewhat detached from the heroine though, which is unusual for me, wishing at times to hear her thoughts too as her actions did not always depict a clear picture of her state of mind, but this story is written entirely from Andrew’s point of view and as such, it is a male viewpoint through and through. The intimate scenes between Andrew and Gwen, from mere sexually charged exchanges to sizzling make out sessions, are phenomenally written, and at times, even too well written, in my opinion. I felt a slight imbalance between the sweet family moments and the intense and quite graphic sex scenes, making me wish for less of the graphic in favour of more of the sweet. But I did not look away and I enjoyed every mind-blowing moment of it.

“Her eyes flicked to the opening in the towel, and her eyebrows rose an inch. Oh, hello, Gwen. Meet Don. You two will be great friends.

This is one of those books you cannot help but want to re-read at some point, so many memorable lines staying with us long after turning that last page. I caught myself chuckling too many times to count, Andrew’s shenanigans never failing to amuse me, and yet this is a story that is deceivingly light-hearted, tackling some very serious issues and life lessons, all under the guise of humour and entertainment. A beautiful read, one I genuinely recommend to anyone looking for a book to warm their heart.

“I want to be better… I want to be a better man.”

4stars

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BOOK REVIEW: The Duet by R.S. Grey

theduet

When 27-year-old pop sensation Brooklyn Heart steps in front of a microphone, her love songs enchant audiences worldwide. But when it comes to her own love life, the only spell she’s under is a dry one.

So when her label slots her for a Grammy performance with the sexy and soulful Jason Monroe, she can’t help but entertain certain fantasies…those in which her G-string gets more play than her guitars’.

Only one problem. Jason is a lyrical lone wolf that isn’t happy about sharing the stage—nor his ranch—with the sassy singer. But while it may seem like a song entitled ‘Jason Monroe is an Arrogant Ho’ basically writes itself, their label and their millions of fans are expecting recording gold…

They’re expecting The Duet.

review

“He must be a kicker when he slept…or maybe he slept spread eagle. In the nude. With whipped cream.”

There is nothing quite like a book that makes you smile so many times your jaw literally starts hurting! I went into this story somewhat blindly, drawn to the ‘opposites attracting’ type of scenario, but I never expected to become so easily captivated by the characters, or that the mere thought of them even a week after finishing this book would still be putting a smile on my face. An upbeat, utterly delightful read, the perfect balance of light-hearted comedy and sizzling romance, I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it and would recommend it to anyone looking for a delicious escape from the mundanity of everyday life.

“Oh good, apparently when you have sex with Brooklyn Heart, you leave with a fruit basket. What a lovely experience.”

To millions of her fans worldwide, pop princess Brooklyn Heart appears to have it all—money, fame, a successful music career—but apart from a sister she adores and would do anything for, and a whole team of people in charge of every aspect of her professional life, Brooklyn is alone in the world. Orphaned at a young age and left in charge of raising her younger sister on her own, she has never had the time or inclination to pursue long-term relationships with the opposite sex, a string of meaningless hook-ups being all she can account for in her personal life. Good looking and self-assured, Brooklyn has never had a shortage of interested parties, but she secretly keeps hoping for more than just a one night stand. With an occasional earth-shattering orgasm on the side.

“Have you ever had sex with a Brazilian underwear model and thought, ‘Seriously, I thought this would be better’?”

When forced by her record label to co-write and perform a duet with one of the most reclusive musicians of the day, the sexy and very talented folk singer Jason Monroe, the last thing Brooklyn expects is to find herself a few days later on a ranch in Montana, far away from the glitz and glamour of the big city, at the mercy of the very man who does not hide his very obvious disdain of her. Or the stereotype he believes she represents.

“Wow. You are probably the assholiest person I’ve ever met.”

So, what starts as a daily battle of wills, with snarky exchanges between a man who sees himself exclusively as a solo act, and a woman determined to change his opinion of her, very slowly moves into the warmer waters of friendship and ultimately romance, the gradual progression of their relationship setting the pace of the very song they are trying to write together. The more time they spend in each other’s company, the more their opinion of one another changes, their mutual attraction only adding spice to the mix. But while their hearts might be aching for more, sex with no strings attached could be all their bodies are willing to offer to one another, especially when old skeletons come out to stir the pot and manage to rattle an already shaky relationship.

“We were over from the start… You never said you’d give your heart…”

A truly heart-warming and satisfying read, even though I did not connect with some of the comedy at times and would have loved an even deeper insight into the characters themselves, this is a book that I loved reading and this author’s engaging prose will definitely make me come back for more.

“Jason Monroe was getting buried where I kept all my other cravings: deep, deep, deep down below. Right next to mint chocolate chip ice cream.”

4stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Love, in Spanish by Karina Halle

LoveInSpanish“She sat beside me on the bus – and she changed my whole life.”

Successful, wealthy and absurdly handsome – Spanish ex-football player Mateo Casalles seemed like he had it all. A high-society wife, an adorable little girl, and flashy apartments in Madrid and Barcelona only sweetened the deal. But there was more to Mateo than met the eye – a life of uncertainty and regret that colored his black and white world.

That was until Vera Miles came into his life like a shooting star. Tattooed, wild and young, Vera seemed like Mateo’s polar opposite at first. But you can’t choose who you fall in love with and the two lost souls did everything they could to be together, all while suffering the grave consequences.

Now with Mateo divorced and living in Madrid with Vera, there is a whole new set of challenges and setbacks facing the couple and rocking the foundation of their star-crossed relationship.

Unfortunately for them, the brighter the star, the faster they burn.

review

“I’ll forever keep searching for you. I will look up to the sky and let it point me your way. I will not let you go, Vera. I will never let you go.”

For a self-proclaimed seeker of fairy-tale endings, I have an uncanny penchant for stories that feel particularly ‘real’ to me, stories that refuse to be sugar-coated or bubble-wrapped in forced imaginary scenarios, stories that are so honest and raw that even the sweetest of happily-ever-afters often comes with a healthy and sobering dose of truth. They put your heart through the wringer, they jerk it around like their favourite toy, but the most satisfying thing about them is the way they colour the lenses through which you see your own life, the lives of those around you, and the way they expand your view on things you would have never considered otherwise. Love, in English will forever remain one of my most beloved books. It is not a love story with a big red bow on top—it is a love story born when it perhaps never should have been, a love story that has been scrutinized, dismissed, judged, attacked, and yet it remains alive because two people met on a bus in Spain and ended up falling for one another so deeply and so irreversibly that every hurdle before them pales in comparison. Mateo and Vera’s relationship has never been easy—it is not that kind of love story—but their love for each other has never been in question. It shows us that some things in life are worth fighting for until our very last breath, and that it is never too late to find oneself, to embrace the person one is born to be, to capture happiness, even when knowing that no gift in life comes without a sacrifice to pay.

“Our journey has never been easy. The only thing easy in all of this is my love for her. It is pure, it is simple, and it is true.”

We saw them meet, we saw them fall in love, we saw them fight that love, we saw them give in, and we saw them become one. But for Vera and Mateo, the road ahead was never meant to be simple, and it was always going to be marred by prejudice and opposition.

“Through it all we have each other, two exiled souls. We pay for our sins with each kiss, we feel our mistakes with each touch.”

Mateo Casalles has finally found the love of his life, a woman who has changed him and given him purpose, and when faced with having all his dreams come true as professional fulfillment is once again within his reach, he is suddenly reluctant to accept more change in his life, fearing it might cost him the one he loves the most. Being in the public eye brings its own set of challenges for their young relationship, their every public move now dissected and twisted around even more, but Mateo never stops putting Vera’s needs first, her happiness being his key concern, knowing how heavily her role in the break-up of his marriage weighs upon her.

“I see her as my star, one she thinks has burned too much for the both of us.”

By hearing Mateo’s every thought and every fear, we are faced with a very different man than the one we met in the first book. A better man. His every action is now seen in a different light, his every word now speaking volumes about the gentle-hearted, selfless, loving man that he is. His love for Vera is a sight to behold. The raw intensity of their every touch is only outmatched by how much her happiness means to him, and how much of himself he is willing to give to her.

“I follow every part of you, everywhere. You go before me, Vera. You always will.”

As they embark on the next chapter in their lives, the odds playing against them only keep multiplying, from scorned ex-spouses to meddling paparazzi, but through it all, Vera remains his constant, his own guiding star, and Mateo is not a man who ever forgets how dark his life had been without her. Or would once again return to be.

“You are my star, my light, my love. And it doesn’t matter if you believe in it or not because it is the truth and the truth always finds a way to shine.”

I don’t remember the last time I enjoyed a book so thoroughly and so ardently as I have this one. I found myself constantly stopping, re-reading entire paragraphs, desperately trying to absorb the beauty of every single line in it. Karina Halle has a very unique talent for weaving words almost poetically, the sheer elegance of her writing style only outshone by her meticulous character development and the annihilating power of the notions behind her stunning words. And ‘meeting’ the real Mateo Casalles this way has been quite a treat in itself. A complex man, an intelligent man, a passionate man, a caring man—Mateo’s only ‘sin’ is to have fallen in love with someone whom society deems inappropriate for his social standing and reputation, but it is his relentless devotion to the woman he loves and his emotional vulnerability and honesty before her that make us weak at the knees as readers. And utterly enchanted with him.

“Just a man in love. Just a hero. Just a coward. Just me.”

Karina Halle does not just give us heroes and heroines, she gives us real, tangible people for us to identify with, learn from, and she gives us stories to talk about for many moons to come. I know that a lot of people often dismiss these books because of the ‘cheating’ theme in the story, but it is my personal and humble opinion that this story is not about a cheating spouse or a homewrecker. It is about what happens when people fall out of love, or have never experienced true love before, and then they are given the unexpected gift of finding someone who suddenly lights up everything in their life, including the person they are but never got a chance to be. These are not reckless human beings, they are not driven by hormones or lust—they are fallible individuals who feel deeply the sting of every single consequence of their actions and who never forget what their happiness has cost them.

This novella only completes an already perfect story in my eyes, a story that might not be your traditional idea of a fairytale, but whose brutal honesty makes it that much more unforgettable.

“We were worth every sacrifice, every burnt bridge.”

6stars

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Love in English – Reading Order and Purchase Links
loveinenglish
LoveInSpanish
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Love, in English: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Love, in Spanish (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Where Sea Meets Sky (spin-off): Amazon US | Amazon UKAmazon CA | Paperback (31 Mar 2015)

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BOOK REVIEW: Nocte by Courtney Cole

NOCTE2Save me and I’ll save you…

My name is Calla Price. I’m eighteen years old, and I’m one half of a whole.
My other half—my twin brother, my Finn—is crazy.

I love him. More than life, more than anything. And even though I’m terrified he’ll suck me down with him, no one can save him but me.

I’m doing all I can to stay afloat in a sea of insanity, but I’m drowning more and more each day. So I reach out for a lifeline.

Dare DuBray.

He’s my savior and my anti-Christ. His arms are where I feel safe, where I’m afraid, where I belong, where I’m lost. He will heal me, break me, love me and hate me.
He has the power to destroy me.

Maybe that’s ok. Because I can’t seem to save Finn and love Dare without everyone getting hurt.

Why? Because of a secret.

A secret I’m so busy trying to figure out, that I never see it coming.

You won’t either.

review

“Do you know what it’s like to not be able to change something?”

How do you even beginning reviewing a book that left you utterly speechless? This fascinating, astonishing, gripping story completely mesmerised me, stealing my mind away from the very first sentence and bewitching it with a reality that kept me questioning everything in it. Including my own mind. Unlike anything I have ever read before—from its atmospheric setting and the level of detail in every single scene, to the meticulous pace and unexpected points of view—this phenomenal book quite literally consumed me cover to cover. I felt mentally ‘stranded’ at the end of it, unable to return to normal life and stop thinking about all that unfolded, and you know what? I absolutely adored every mind-wrecking moment of it.

“…it should’ve been me in the first place. Finn is a better person than I am… Finn really is better. He’s funny and witty and smart, and his soul is as gentle as they come. He’s the one who deserved to be healthy. Not me. I’m the snarky, sarcastic one.”

Calla Price is an eighteen-year-old girl from a small coastal town, whose unusual childhood of being raised in a funeral home has made her the target of constant mockery and ostracism by other kids of her age. But nothing in her young life has touched her as deeply and as permanently as growing up with a twin brother whose mental disorder has forced her to act as his protector ever since he first started hearing violent voices in his head as a small child. She has often felt unworthy of her own mental stability, wishing it had been her born ill rather than her kind, beloved brother—the brother who has always run to her to quiet the demons in his head and seek comfort from her—but she has embraced her role as his guardian with no regrets, putting his wellbeing before anything and anyone else.

“I’m the one he comes to when he’s afraid.”

But it is her mother’s sudden death that changes Calla’s life forever, leaving the family under a heavy cloud of grief, disconnected and adrift, and leaving Calla drowning in her own heartache and guilt for the hand she believes she played in that tragedy. Facing her last summer at home before she goes to college, Calla’s life sees its first ray of hope when she meets Dair, a handsome but mysterious young traveller, whose mere presence in her life starts awakening something in Calla that she’s never felt before—optimism. However, the more time she spends with Dair and the more happiness she feels while in his company, the more her guilt grows. And that guilt is only exacerbated by the evident deterioration of Finn’s mental state. By hearing her brother’s voice as well, we see the true extent of his illness, we get to witness it firsthand, and it is a frightening sight. But we also see his unconditional love for his sister and his inner struggle to stay as sane as he can be for her sake. And we see the way her growing closeness to Dair affects him, how much he needs things to stay the same, and how guilty he feels for feeling that way.

Dare, however, is not just a handsome Englishman who gallops in and steals Calla from the reality of her own life—his own secrets weigh heavily upon him, affecting his every interaction with her, and setting the pace for the way their relationship develops.

“You’re going to be the death of me.”
“Why?”
“Because you’re so much better than I deserve.”

A slow building, carefully plotted scenario, a psychological thriller of sorts, which then culminates in a jaw-dropping finale which sends our minds racing in a million different directions. I am not sure a review could ever truly capture the mood of this book, the unique way it plays with our minds, because every single word in it serves a multitude of purposes, manipulating our thoughts being just one of them. I was so totally immersed in it all that I felt every icy raindrop, every chilly breeze, every lazy sea wave. I absolutely adored this story and even though it leaves us in a happy-for-now place, I am already hungry for more. But also very happy to wait a little while I put my poor heart back together stitch by stitch…

“You make me feel guilty… Because you make me forget that I’m sad.”

5stars

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The Nocte Trilogy – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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Nocte: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
VerumAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA (2 Feb 2015)

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BOOK REVIEW: Burying Water by K.A. Tucker

BuryingWaterLeft for dead in the fields of rural Oregon, a young woman defies all odds and survives—but she awakens with no idea who she is, or what happened to her. Refusing to answer to “Jane Doe” for another day, the woman renames herself “Water” for the tiny, hidden marking on her body—the only clue to her past. Taken in by old Ginny Fitzgerald, a crotchety but kind lady living on a nearby horse farm, Water slowly begins building a new life. But as she attempts to piece together the fleeting slivers of her memory, more questions emerge: Who is the next-door neighbor, quietly toiling under the hood of his Barracuda? Why won’t Ginny let him step foot on her property? And why does Water feel she recognizes him?

Twenty-four-year-old Jesse Welles doesn’t know how long it will be before Water gets her memory back. For her sake, Jesse hopes the answer is never. He knows that she’ll stay so much safer—and happier—that way. And that’s why, as hard as it is, he needs to keep his distance. Because getting too close could flood her with realities better left buried.

The trouble is, water always seems to find its way to the surface.

review

“The mind, it can be a deceitful thing. But it is no match for the heart.”

It is such a thrill to a zealous reader like me to not only realise that one of my favourite authors never fails to blow my mind with her stories, but that she also remains capable of surprising me, time after time, as I never quite know what kind of ‘journey’ she would take me on, always somehow managing to leave me utterly stunned in the aftermath of her extraordinary tales. This book was like no other that I have ever read, its unique structure and pace designed to make our hearts race, skip beats, melt and crush from one moment to another, never knowing what to expect next. Meticulously assembled to ‘feed’ us only little snippets of the story at a time while our minds are frantically tiling the puzzle pieces to form the picture we are so desperate to complete—this is an impeccably written story, infused with suspense and cloaked in mystery, showing us the hefty price of a second chance at happiness in life.

“You get to be whoever you want to be, without the burden of your past.”

A young woman is found beaten, raped, and left for dead in the middle of a forest, her young body desperately clinging onto its last thread of life. We don’t know much about the man who rescues her except that he is in love with her, and that no one can know that she was found. After a myriad of life saving procedures and a long hospital recovery, the young woman wakes up with no recollection of her past or any of the events that caused her injuries. Confused, scared, ashamed of her scars, her battered body is a constant reminder of everything that has happened to her, and of everything she has no memory of, her mind having locked itself in a desperate act of self-preservation.

“Why can’t I seem to recall a single scrap of my life? Not a face, not a name, not a childhood pet. Nothing.”

And then we suddenly flip into the past, where we meet a young trophy wife to a cruel man several decades her senior, whose life is nothing like she hoped it would be. Physically and mentally abused on a daily basis, Alexandria Petrova is alone in the world but for the man who had promised to hand it to her on a silver platter, trapped in a loveless marriage and in a life that requires her to abide by her husband’s every whim. When a young man’s unexpected act of kindness stirs something inside her, Alexandria begins to question her decisions in life, and wishing for more. The more time they spend together, and the more his every action shows her the way she always dreamed of being loved, the more she blossoms before his eyes, becoming the vivacious but gentle young woman she was born to be. But some mistakes in life are not easy to erase, Alexandria’s newfound happiness making her oblivious to the dangers lurking within her own marital bed.

“I’d never leave you alone in the dark.”

Jesse has loved Alexandria from the moment her lips touched his on a stormy night on the side of the road in the middle of nowhere. He felt her unhappiness in her every breath, but her passionate kiss marked his soul, making him unable to forget her even though he never even saw her face. When he recognises her in the young wife of the ostentatious brute who hires him to restore his car, he is unable to look away. Or walk away until she is his.

“In your life. Are you happy? Or do you ever wish you could just start over?”

We are given two timelines to follow simultaneously, constantly flipping from past to present, but in both we see two people falling in love, slowly, cautiously, irreversibly. In the past, a young woman is afraid of her own future, incapable of walking away from the only happiness she has ever experienced in her adult life regardless of what it might cost her to pursue it, while in the present, that same young woman is terrified of her past, her scars an incessant reminder of what her mind won’t let her recall.

“Someone must be missing me. Even just one person, right?”

What I loved the most about this story is the fallible nature of all the characters in it, especially the two leading ones. Jesse and Alexandria are imperfect people, people who make mistakes, act impulsively, fail to consider the consequences of their own actions until it becomes too late, but they are only following the paths their hearts have drawn before them, which is even more evident when they are given a second chance at happiness. Their love story is not about an all-consuming passion burning between them and making them blind to the world around them—it is a story of two souls being drawn to one another, finding more joy in the few fleeting moments spent in each other’s company than in anything else in their lives. It felt to me as if we were intentionally left craving that emotional intensity that was implied in their every word, in their every glance directed towards one another, putting all emphasis on the irresistible pull between them and the unique connection that brought them to each other time after time. This is not a love story born out of carnal pleasure. This is a story about love, first and foremost, a selfless love, a genuine love, a once-in-a-lifetime kind of love.

“If she doesn’t remember me, if she didn’t feel trapped and utterly alone, would a girl like her fall for me a second time?”

I never wanted this book to end. It was such an enjoyable reading experience beginning to end, with an incredible cast of secondary characters that made the story even more colourful and hard to let go of. Every single aspect of this story is unique, unexpected, riveting, and every moment spent reading it has been outright unforgettable. A must-read.

“If you wait long enough, the truth always finds its way.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Echoes of Scotland Street by Samantha Young

echoesofscotlandstreetShannon MacLeod has always gone for the wrong type of man. After she drifted from one toxic relationship to the next, her last boyfriend gave her a wake-up call in the worst possible way. With her world shattered, she’s sworn off men—especially those of the bad-boy variety.

Cole Walker is exactly the sort that Shannon wants to avoid—gorgeous, tattooed, charming, and cocky. But his rough exterior hides a good man who’s ready to find “the one.” He’s determined to pull Shannon from her self-imposed solitude to win her heart.

As Shannon opens up in the face of Cole’s steady devotion, the passion between them ignites to blazing levels. But when Shannon’s past comes back to haunt her, her fears may destroy the trust Cole has built between them—and tear them apart for good.…

review

“You’re worth every bad thing that’s ever happened to me, because going through them led me to you.”

It’s rare to find a series that book after book never disappoints, never fails to capture my attention and make me fall head over heels in love with the characters, but On Dublin Street is not only one of these extraordinary instances, it is also a series that never stopped getting better and better. Two characters oh-so easy to love, an emotional storyline that kept me glued to my seat for hours on end, literally gasping for the next page—this is a book I adored and could not walk away from even days after I first finished it, needing to re-read parts of it over and over again. I have never not loved a Samantha Young book, but this one just might be my new favourite.

“Are you a hero, Cole Walker?”
“What is a hero, really?”
“I suppose it’s someone that saves people.”
“Yeah, I supposed it is.”
“So, do you save people?”
“I’m only fifteen. Give me a chance.”

Shannon and Cole met as teenagers, for a brief but unforgettable moment in time, and while their lives have led them onto very different paths, they both ended up becoming survivors of the cruel hands that fate has dealt them. While Cole’s childhood has been marred by neglect, and physical and psychological abuse at the hands of his only parent, he has grown into a kind-hearted and protective young man, whose ‘tatted-up’ bad boy appearance stands in stark contrast to his true character. Shannon’s emotional scars, on the other hand, come from a different but no less traumatic place. Every single relationship that she has been in has left a bad taste in her mouth, her last one leaving her battered both physically as well as emotionally. Moving to a new town might seem like the only way to escape her painful past, but she soon realises that no matter where she goes, her memories would inevitably follow.

“…somehow, hopefully, along the way I was going to find the girl I’d lost because of him.”

When Shannon steps into Edinburgh’s most revered tattoo studio looking for a job, she has no idea that her new boss would be the same boy she walked away from nine years before, the vivid memory of him still very much alive in her mind. But Cole’s tattoos and cocky demeanour remind her also of every bad boyfriend she has ever had, making her misjudge him at first sight. And no matter how charming or friendly he is towards her, she rejects both his friendship as well as his not-so-subtle advances, making it crystal clear what she thinks of “his type”.

“…Cole Walker represented everything wrong with my life and the choices I’d made thus far.”

But appearances can be deceiving and, soon, Shannon realises that she might have made the biggest mistake of her life by pushing Cole away. And that her own prejudices could cost her the affections of the best person she has ever met.

“You really are the biggest disappointment, Shannon MacLeod.”

While this is a truly heartfelt romance between two people you cannot help but fall madly in love with from the moment you meet them, this is also a story about knowing when to put the past behind you, learning from it but not letting it affect your future happiness. Shannon’s unfortunate past has the power to either define her or make her even stronger than she is. Having loved someone who constantly belittled her, made her believe she was talentless and stupid, and unworthy of someone like him, has not only damaged her self-esteem and confidence, but it also made her distrustful of her own ability to judge a person correctly and not to make the same mistakes again. Having someone like Cole Walker in one’s life, however, is all the motivation a girl needs to put her big girl panties on and take a chance.

“That wasn’t my voice in my head. That was someone else’s and he did not get to win like that.”

This is an inspiring tale of courage and resilience, framed by a beautiful and truly touching love story, and I ate up every hypnotic word of it. Ms Young never lets me down, always blows me away, and rarely leaves me in a state where I’m quite ready to enjoy another book. It’s been two days… maybe it’s time for a re-read!

“I’m going to f*ck every bad memory of those unworthy gits out of you, even if it takes me a lifetime. Starting tonight.”

5stars

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On Dublin Street – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
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On Dublin Street: My Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Until Fountain Bridge (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Down London Road: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Castle Hill (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Before Jamaica Lane: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Fall from India Place: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Echoes of Scotland Street: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: Finding Eden by Mia Sheridan

findingeden

When the world as you know it has ended, when all that you love has been washed away, where do you find strength?

When the new world you’ve stepped into is as isolating as the last, when your heart is broken, and your future is unclear, where do you find hope?

Finding Eden is a story of strength, discovery, forgiveness, and undying love. It is about believing in your destiny and following the path that leads to peace.

This is the continuation, and conclusion, to Becoming Calder

review

“I’ll be waiting for you, by a spring. Come find me, I’ll be there.”

I rarely ache for a book. I might be curious about a story to the point of completely pausing reality and forgetting everything around me, but it doesn’t happen very often that my heart needs it, craves it, wants it so much that I cannot enjoy another in its stead. Becoming Calder pushed me out of my comfort zone by immersing me into a world that I like to pretend it doesn’t exist, and it made me fall in love with two of the most amiable, kind hearted characters I have ever come across. It made me see the world through different eyes, aware of how much of my own life I tend to take for granted, but it also left me utterly desperate for the sequel, willing to beg, steal and bribe for a mere peek at it. In this heart-stopping conclusion to a most extraordinary tale, after unthinkable loss and sorrow, we finally see life balancing itself out to make up for all that it has taken. While the first part of this story celebrated human resilience and our innate capacity to find love even under the direst of circumstances, in the second part, we get to see what happens to the human spirit once it is set free—free to grow at last, free to flourish, free to spread its wings, and free to love without restraint.

“Anything you want. If it exists in this world, it’s yours.”

The tragedy that our young heroine survived has changed her, made her afraid of the world around her, but all it takes is one random act of kindness from a complete stranger to give her hope and a reason to go on. Eden might have walked out of Acadia physically unscathed, but her heart is shattered. Her love for Calder is the only thing she knows, the only thing she has ever known, and it is still the only thing she clings onto. Now truly alone in the world, Eden has to find the strength to be her own person, to decide for herself what she wants to believe in, who she wants to be. But even when life finally offers her what she has always craved to have, the constant void inside her never stops reminding her of all that she has lost.

“I was still loved. I belonged to someone again.”

And yet, this is not a story about loss. This is a story about new beginnings, about the type of love that conquers all, about the endurance of the human spirit and its ability to heal itself even when weighed down by memories of a harrowing past. In a feat of sheer brilliance, we are also given the kind of story that tells us that there are two sides to every coin, showing us that the human spirit can sometimes break from mere powerlessness and despair. This is a story that challenges the assumptions we make about people, about their lives and their motivations, and it shows us that every demon has its own demons keeping it awake at night.

“I swear to you, my beautiful, sweet love, everyone deserves a love story that doesn’t hurt.”
“Even us?”
“Yes. I promise. Even us.”

There are so many moments in these two books that ripped my heart right out of my chest, made me forget how to breathe, but there is an unwavering current of hope and positivity driving this story forward, and it is that very message that we take away from it in the end—life can change a person, steer them off course, make them lose their way, but it is one’s heart that is the true measure of a person, each one of us deciding what defines us in the end. These characters are perfect examples of the kind of beauty that can come out of darkness, their strength and determination showing us that no matter how many times you strike down a wildflower, try to exterminate it or hinder its growth, it somehow always finds a way to live and bloom.

Every facet of this inspiring tale left me breathless, astonished, overwhelmed and overflowing with emotions, and I believe a tiny part of it will forever live inside me, reminding me to appreciate even the smallest moments of beauty in life. And one day when I grow old and wrinkly, the mere thought of a morning glory will still make my heart smile.

“As pretty as a flower . . . as strong as a weed.”

6stars

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A Sign of Love – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links

(LeoLeo’s Chance, and Becoming Calder + Finding Eden are stories that unfold over two books, while Stinger and Archer’s Voice are standalone novels)

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LeoAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Leo’s ChanceAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
StingerAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Archer’s Voice: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Becoming CalderAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Finding EdenAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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The Author

Mia is an avid reader, and now writer of romance and erotic novels. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband who is a police officer and her biggest fan (not necessarily in that order). They have four children here on earth and one in heaven. When she is not sitting on her couch with her head buried in her Kindle, Mia can be found writing or doing anything creative from building a patio, to sewing pillows.

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BOOK REVIEW: Chasing Abby by Cassia Leo

chasingabbyFive years, six months, eight days….

It’s been eighteen years since Abigail was born with a hole in her heart. Five years since she collapsed on the soccer field. Five years, six months, eight days since she found out she was adopted.

Abby has spent five years wondering about the family she never knew and waiting for her eighteenth birthday. When Abby shows up on the doorstep of Chris and Claire Knight, her birth parents are overjoyed to see the little girl they lost eighteen years ago.

One summer is all they have to make up for the years they lost. But a summer of love soon turns into a summer of heartache.

review

“Hope: The biggest four-letter word in the English language. It’s bigger than despair. Bigger than resentment. Bigger than scepticism. Four letters that, when combined, can hold a broken heart together for eighteen years.”

A devoted fan of the Shattered Hearts series since its very beginning, I have to admit that I have always been a little anxious about finally getting to hear Abby’s story, knowing that its very premise would have the power to annihilate me emotionally. The tale of an adopted young woman’s journey into adulthood as she discovers and learns to embrace her origins—this is a story about family, about grabbing life by its horns and never giving up, and it is a story about the true meaning of unconditional love. I was ready for the heartbreak, I was ready for the ugly tears, but nothing in my wildest dreams could have prepared me for the sheer beauty of every single facet of this story. A perfect ending to a truly outstanding series, this was the ‘icing on the cake’ that made the entire cake for me.

“I don’t want to be fragile anymore.”

This is a story told from many sides, all essential to understanding the heroine in this book and to fully grasp the endless love that has surrounded her since birth. Abby is the biological child of Chris and Claire Knight, a couple we have seen fight for their happy ending and thankfully find it, but giving up Abby, their firstborn, has always remained a painful stain in their blissful happily-ever-after. Raised by Brian and Lynette, a childless but loving middle-class couple, Abby has grown into a happy and kind young woman, but her congenital heart defect has also prevented her from living a normal life, the life of a careless child who does not have to fear her heart giving up on her.

“This heart is a ticking bomb inside my chest.”

Abby has known of her adoption ever since she was thirteen years old, but it is on her eighteenth birthday that she discovers the identity of her birth parents through the contents of a safety deposit box created for her by the very people who have never stopped loving her or thinking of her as their own.

“These are my parents… This is the family I never knew I had.”

Even though Chris and Claire have always wished for an open adoption, Abby’s adoptive parents have never stopped struggling with their own feelings of inadequacy given the other couple’s celebrity lifestyle, any comparison to the Knights only further feeding their insecurities and fears of losing her. When Abby discovers all that their apprehension has kept her away from, this only drives a deeper wedge between them, making an already troubled relationship even more strained.

“It’s like… like you’ve always belonged here.”

Faced with a whole new family, a lifetime of love she was not even aware of, Abby leaps at the opportunity to experience being part of that family, as short-lived as it may be, discovering that regardless of her absence, her very existence has shaped the lives of everyone in it. Through the constancy of their love, she discovers herself, her purpose in life, the courage she never thought she possessed, and she learns that what she wishes the most out of life is to… live. And to be worthy of all the love surrounding her.

Now, I am intentionally omitting any mention of one of the most important characters in this book, the person who teaches Abby the true meaning of love, as his role in this story is something every reader should discover on their own. It is one of the most moving aspects of this story, one I still cannot find words to do it justice, and it is also what sets this story apart for me because it pushes the reader to see the true significance of every emotion it forces us to feel.

“I love you, my little blackbird. You should know by now that I’ll never say no to you.”

Even days after finishing this stunning tale, I am still incapable of handling the intensity of some of those emotions, but I am grateful for every single one of them. A flawlessly woven storyline connecting several interrelated but distinct voices into one unified human experience, this is a story that will never leave me and its beautiful message of hope and courage is one I wish for every reader to capture.

“You can be anything you want to be… Chase your dreams, Abby.”

5stars

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Shattered Hearts – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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Forever OursAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
RelentlessMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Pieces of YouMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Bring Me HomeMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Abandon (spin-off): My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Chasing AbbyAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: Stepbrother Dearest by Penelope Ward

stepbrotherdearest

You’re not supposed to want the one who torments you.

When my stepbrother, Elec, came to live with us my senior year, I wasn’t prepared for how much of a jerk he’d be.

I hated that he took it out on me because he didn’t want to be here. I hated that he brought girls from our high school back to his room. But what I hated the most was the unwanted way my body reacted to him.

At first, I thought all he had going for him were his rock-hard tattooed abs and chiseled face. Then, things started changing between us, and it all came to a head one night.

Just as quickly as he’d come into my life, he was gone back to California.

It had been years since I’d seen Elec.

When tragedy struck our family, I’d have to face him again.

And holy hell, the teenager who made me crazy was now a man that drove me insane.

I had a feeling my heart was about to get broken again.

review

“You were the best thing that ever happened to me. I hope someday I can say you were one of the best, but for now, it’s only you.”

You know those books that pull you in like a riptide, taking over all your senses and making you completely oblivious to the fact that there is a real life outside those pages waiting for you to live it? Well, this is one of those books. From the moment I read the title, something inside me started screaming, I want, the mere idea of a forbidden romance of this type making my skin tingle. However, nothing about this story is what I expected to find, and everything about it has been a wonderful surprise—from the confident prose, to the dynamic characters, this is a love story that I immersed myself into fully and wholeheartedly, and loved every single minute of it.

“Physically, he was my dream and in every other way, my nightmare.”

We meet Greta and Elec as teenagers on the very day they first meet, when Elec comes to live temporarily with his estranged dad and his new family. Even though they have technically been stepsiblings for a few years at that stage, they are complete strangers to one another, and while we see Greta looking forward to getting to know her new stepbrother, from the first moment Elec enters his new home, he does so with an air of disapproval and rebellion. And his main target seems to be the very person who is most enthusiastic about his arrival—Greta. The more young Greta tries to make him feel welcome in his new home, the more scorn and rejection she suffers at the hands of her new stepbrother. And yet, she never gives up, her innate kind-heartedness successfully bringing down Elec’s defensive walls, one brick at a time.

“The meaner he was to me, the more I wanted to make him like me.”

Elec is a contradiction at first. Smug, defiant, even apathetic at times, he is the kind of teenager you want to dislike. And yet his every cantankerous and hurtful action indicates a deeper, more serious cause at the root of it all. We see snippets of his problematic relationship with his father, leaving us suspecting that everything about Elec’s negative attitude is a protective shield, and nothing about him is as he wishes the world around him to think. He is complicated, difficult to warm up to, but his faults make him a truly three-dimensional character in our eyes.

“… nothing felt worse than when you stopped looking at me, Greta.”

Greta is his antithesis—innocent and somewhat naïve, she is the kind of girl who feels freely, openly, unreservedly because that is the way she has been loved all her life, and she is also the kind of heroine we cannot help but love from the start. As much as she fights it, her body’s reaction to Elec and his bad-boy appearance is something she is unable to hide, leaving her open to his mockery and fickle behaviour. He irks her, winds her up, embarrasses her, but she remains incapable of controlling his effect on her.

“Holy hell… his tip was pierced. What a way to be introduced to my first live one.”

As Greta’s quiet persistence eventually pays off and they start building a shaky friendship, her growing protectiveness and unwavering kindness towards him become the foundations of his first true human connection. But the closer they get, the harder it becomes to fight their mutual attraction, and they keep slipping, failing at every turn, their bodies desperately craving one another, while their hearts ache to connect on a deeper level. One night in each other’s arms, however, is all they get, one night of uninhibited passion, indulging their every secret fantasy and heart’s desire, and then it all suddenly ends. They part ways. And they don’t see each other again for seven long years during which Greta’s heartbreak never subsides.

“I’d rather have one night with you than nothing at all.”

When life finally forces their paths to cross again, they are no longer the same people they once were. Greta has grown into a confident, strong young woman whose heart might have never recovered from losing the only man she has ever truly loved, but she has moved on from her heartbreak, adjusted, learned to live with it. Seeing Elec after all those years, and given the tragic circumstances of their unexpected meeting, brings a lot of her childhood insecurities to the surface, one look at him alone reminding her of what they once shared and everything she has desperately tried to forget over the years. But she remains strong, bottling up her feelings the best she can.

“He was hers. I was his. It. Was. F*cked. Up.”

And this is where this story turns from heartbreakingly angsty to outright agonising. Greta’s silent pain from seeing that Elec has moved on with his life and perhaps never shared the same feelings as hers is as acute as it is compelling. Hearing her every thought, seeing her every vulnerability being tested, watching her heart break before our eyes all over again is something that made every protective bone in my body come to life. I was enraged, inconsolable, almost hysterical in my reactions to Greta’s inner turmoil, her every emotion becoming my own.

“The “one that got away” was supposed to stay away, not come back and leave you all over again.”

But, as it happens so often in life, there is another side to every story. And this story is no exception. Ms Ward stuns us into silence with a unique twist, a rare chance to hear what we were only left speculating about, and what we get to discover went beyond my wildest dreams. I adored that aspect of the story, even when I felt it was given in too much detail and could have been offered to the reader in broader strokes with fewer repetitions. It added so much colour to the story, so many extra layers for us to ponder upon, making Greta and Elec two well-rounded, almost real characters popping out from these pages. This is a story that made me feel beginning to end—from heartbroken to hot and bothered, from angry to utterly elated—and it was one of those reading experiences that only got better the more time I spent analysing the characters. I most certainly did not expect to find this many layers in a story of this type, but every last one of them has left me gobsmacked. This was an addictive ‘angst-fest’ cover to cover, sexy and emotional all at the same time, and one I highly recommend.

“We just have tonight. Please…don’t hold back.”

4halfstars

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GeminiAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Jake UndoneAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
My SkylarAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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The Author

Penelope Ward is a USA Today Bestselling author. She grew up in Boston with five older brothers. She spent most of her twenties as a television news anchor, before switching to a more family friendly career. Penelope lives for reading books in the new adult genre, coffee and hanging out with her friends and family on weekends. She is the proud mother of a beautiful 9-year-old girl with autism (the inspiration for the character Callie in Gemini) and a 7-year-old boy, both of whom are the lights of her life. Penelope, her husband and kids reside in Rhode Island.

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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
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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: Becoming Calder by Mia Sheridan

BecomingCalderThere is a place in modern day America with no electricity, no plumbing, and no modern conveniences. In this place, there is no room for dreams, no space for self-expression, and no tolerance for ambition.

In this place, there is a boy with the body of a God and the heart of a warrior. He is strong and faithful and serves his family honorably. But he dares to dream of more.

In this place, there is a girl with the face of an angel and a heart full of courage. To her family, she is the vision of obedient perfection. But she dares to want that which she has been told can never be hers.

Becoming Calder is the story of good versus evil, fear versus bravery, and the truth that the light of love has always found its way into even the darkest of places… From the beginning of time, to the end of the world.

review

“Where do you find your strength, Morning Glory?”
“From you.”

I believe a small wonder is coming. A love story so epic and unique that will wreck us all and leave us in a blissful haze of ‘book hangovers’ for months to come. I believe I would have never read this book had it not been written by this particular author. Would have not even glimpsed at it twice. I believe Mia Sheridan has just written one of the most stunning, unpretentious romances of our age, and this book is going to change us all. I walked into this story completely blind, refusing even to read the blurb, confident in this author’s superb storytelling talents and in the unquestionable beauty of every single one of her previous works, but after only a few pages, I knew I had hit a hard limit with the setting of this book. My brain was screaming at me, telling me I couldn’t possibly enjoy anything of this sort, but my heart never even entertained the possibility of stopping because I knew that Ms Sheridan would blow my mind, as she always does, and that this was going to be one of those life-altering reading experiences that stays with you, changes you, makes you look at the world in a different way. I trusted my heart. And my heart was right.

“A storm is coming.”

This story is set in modern day America, but far away from the comforts of the society we know and live in. Acadia is a close-knit community of small families renouncing modern technology and living a sheltered life, an uncomplicated life, a focused life, in the middle of the Arizona desert. Except that every aspect of their way of life finds its source in the teachings of one man, a self-proclaimed Prophet, promising to lead his people to eternal life after a great flood erases life on Earth as we know it. We meet Calder as a ten-year-old boy living in Acadia with his family, on the very day he sees the “blessed one” for the very first time. An orphan and younger than Calder, Eden is brought into Acadia as the future bride of the Prophet who would stand by his side on doomsday. But at nine years of age, Eden is just an innocent little girl who is curious about the world around her and who dreams of a normal life where she is allowed to play with other kids, where she is loved, and where she is not one scary man’s object of affection.

“You’re mine, Eden. You always have been, from the very first second I saw you.”

From the moment Calder and Eden lay eyes on each other, their connection is immediate and irreversible. We watch them grow up, become young adults, but their mutual adoration never falters, never fades, and it only becomes stronger as they somehow manage to weave a secret friendship without ever even exchanging a word between them. And then one day everything changes when their one place of escape becomes the very place where they fall in love with one another.

“If I were just a boy, and you were just a girl, I wouldn’t kiss you once like you asked. Eden, I’d kiss you long, and I’d kiss you often.”

Everything they were taught to believe tells them that loving each other is wrong, sinful, forbidden, but the more stolen moments of pure joy they share in each other’s company, the more it becomes impossible to deny their hearts. And the more they are told they should not love each other, the more they start doubting the very beliefs that are meant to keep them apart.

How could this be a sin when my heart was bursting with love for this strong, kind, incredible boy—the one who had taught me all things brave and beautiful? How could this be a sin when it was the most joyful moment of my whole life? Could it be wrong to be so happy?

We watch them fall in love, hesitantly at first, discovering those emotions and each other’s bodies as any two teenagers would, and we feel it all with them—the exhilaration, the joy, the curiosity, the lack of control, the certainty that they were made to belong to one another. And our hearts grow tenfold. But as Eden’s eighteenth birthday draws near, the malice that tries to keep them apart only grows stronger and more determined, challenging everything they once believed to be true.

“All I know for sure is that you belong to me and I’m going to protect you. I’m going to make a life for us. Somehow.”

There is a stunning contrast between the world that Calder and Eden secretly build for themselves, between them, and the one they are told to live in. The beauty and purity of their bond throws an even darker shadow on the life they were taught to accept and never question, and each shift from one ‘reality’ to another only intensifies the angst we feel as readers. As much as I enjoyed every second of this truly extraordinary tale, I have to admit that my heart was in my throat from beginning to end, constantly on guard, fearful for the characters I loved from the get-go, and uncertain how it would all end. A beautiful story of human resilience and strength, a masterpiece in the making, a reading experience that has shattered me in the best possible way—this is a book none of us will ever forget.

This story continues and concludes in Finding Eden.

“As long as we’re under the same moon, we’ll always find a way to each other.”

5stars

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A Sign of Love – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links

(Leo + Leo’s Chance, and Becoming Calder + Finding Eden are stories that unfold over two books, while Stinger and Archer’s Voice are standalone novels)

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LeoAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Leo’s ChanceAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
StingerAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Archer’s Voice: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Becoming CalderAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Finding EdenAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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The Author

Mia is an avid reader, and now writer of romance and erotic novels. She lives in Cincinnati, Ohio with her husband who is a police officer and her biggest fan (not necessarily in that order). They have four children here on earth and one in heaven. When she is not sitting on her couch with her head buried in her Kindle, Mia can be found writing or doing anything creative from building a patio, to sewing pillows.

Connect with Mia: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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BOOK REVIEW: The Hook Up by Kristen Callihan

thehookup

The rules: no kissing on the mouth, no staying the night, no telling anyone, and above all… No falling in love.

Anna Jones just wants to finish college and figure out her life. Falling for star quarterback Drew Baylor is certainly not on her to do list. Confident and charming, he lives in the limelight and is way too gorgeous for his own good. If only she could ignore his heated stares and stop thinking about doing hot and dirty things with him. Easy, right?

Too bad he’s committed to making her break every rule… 

Football has been good to Drew. It’s given him recognition, two National Championships, and the Heisman. But what he really craves is sexy yet prickly Anna Jones. Her cutting humor and blatant disregard for his fame turns him on like nothing else. But there’s one problem: she’s shut him down. Completely.

That is until a chance encounter leads to the hottest sex of their lives, along with the possibility of something great. Unfortunately, Anna wants it to remain a hook up. Now it’s up to Drew to tempt her with more: more sex, more satisfaction, more time with him. Until she’s truly hooked. It’s a good thing Drew knows all about winning.

All’s fair in love and football…Game on.

review

“I’ve just experienced the hottest, most erotic, life-changing sex of my life, and I don’t think I’m going to get a repeat. Tonight was obviously an ill-advised hook up for her. And I’m so screwed because it was the best thing that has ever happened to me.”

I think I’m too old for college-themed stories. Or at least I like to tell myself that I am. The truth is that they rarely have the emotional complexity and substance that I now, as someone who is no longer of college age, seek in my reads. I do love some trademark elements present in this genre of books—the hesitation of the characters when faced with the inevitable transition from early adulthood to full-grown maturity, their struggle to accept the future before them, and the people they are becoming—but stories like these often do not have the multilayered character development that I, personally, need in order to connect with those characters and to immerse myself fully into their journey. However, once in a while, a book comes along that proves me wrong by showing me that, when flawlessly written, any story, regardless of its main themes or the age of its characters, can pull you in and blow your socks off. This is one of those books. Nothing about this story is predictable, everything is just perfect, and apart from being phenomenally written, it is one of the most refreshing and surprisingly touching tales I have come across. Do yourself a favour and allow this book to rock your world, because mine is still shaking from the aftershocks of reading something truly awesome.

“I loved being one of thousands, not one of a hundred. Because I could start fresh, be myself without being told that being myself wasn’t good enough.”

Anna Jones is the girl no one sees. After years of social isolation in high school where she was made to feel inadequate, ugly, unworthy of attention, she might have blossomed into an attractive, seemingly confident young woman, but the scars from having survived such a childhood still run deep and make her apprehensive of people’s eyes on her. She also grew up watching her unlucky-at-love mother getting her heart broken time after time by men who came and went, vowing never to allow herself to become that vulnerable or let a man become her all. Her new college life has given her a fresh start in life, far away from the misguided reputation she painfully carried all throughout her younger years, and apart from her two best friends, she fiercely guards her anonymity.

“No one knew the old me. I was no longer that weird loner who everyone assumed was smoking up before class.”

Drew Baylor is the popular jock, the football superstar that everyone wants to know or be, but under his perfect exterior hides a lonely young man, the untimely death of his parents having left him alone in the world and craving a true connection with someone. When the voluptuous redhead sitting next to him in class catches his eye, one look at her leaves him utterly breathless. She leaves him tongue-tied and uncertain of himself, but with every word they exchange, he knows he wants to know her more.

“I want her. The whole prickly-mouthed, sweetly curved, irresistible package.”

What starts as an irresistible boy-pursues-girl scenario, quickly turns into a sizzling friends-with-benefits arrangement between them, initially simply a casual ‘hook up’ of sorts to appease their bodies, but before they know it, those moments spent in each other’s arms, selflessly giving their bodies to one another and sharing secrets, are their happiest moments on any given day. Unfortunately, their willingness to embrace that happiness differs from the very beginning—while Drew sees what his life would be with someone like Anna in it and wishes to capture it forever, Anna remains emotionally distant, her growing need and feelings for him overwhelming her and making her want to run in the other direction.

“I’m not worth it. I want to shout it to him. I’m not worth his pain. He has the world in his palm. He doesn’t need the burden of me.”

Anna’s reluctance to let Drew in, to give herself permission to love him and entertain the idea of them as a couple, stands in stark contrast to Drew’s ever-growing fondness for the woman who refuses to be seen in public with him. He gives her space, time, bends backwards to make her as comfortable as possible with their little arrangement, but he secretly craves for more. He craves to claim her and let everyone know that she is his.

“Life has more color, more flavor, and heat in the few hours I’m with Anna, than I’ve experienced in all the years I’ve partied… With Anna, I feel like I’ve landed right where I want to be.”

This story might appear predictable at this point, cliché in a way from this deceivingly simple storyline, but it is the unique character development, the precious opportunity we are given as readers to hear both our characters’ inner voices, their innermost fears and doubts, that make this story so different. Our heroine is a young woman who is so terrified of being judged by others by living in the limelight with Drew, that she would rather break her own heart than come out of the shadows in which she hides. She cannot help but feel the disapproving eyes of everyone around them, watching them, wondering what Drew sees in someone like her, and that awareness cripples her.

“It’s happening already. The disbelief. The questioning. Why would Baylor pick me?”

This might have started as a captivating little college romance, but it became quite clear to me from very early on that this book did not follow any given formula. This story is incredibly multi-layered, so flawlessly written that I found myself re-reading passages just so that I would fully absorb the beauty of the prose, and it moved me deeply. The inherent vulnerability of both these characters, the powerful connection they share, the way they express with their bodies what they won’t or can’t in words, their humbling self-awareness—this story had everything that makes a true must-read for me, and then some. Ms Callihan has also given us a rare type of hero in a young man like Drew Baylor—he is unafraid to express his feelings, to become emotionally exposed before the woman he loves, and his kind of love is awe-inspiring. As much as I loved and understood the heroine, Drew was definitely the highlight of the book for me. I never expected to like a story like this, but some books are written so well, you cannot help but break away from your own preconceptions. A superb read.

“Don’t you understand? I felt like an impostor. I kept waiting for you to realize that you’d got it wrong. That I was the girl you were never supposed to see.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW: One More Chance by Abbi Glines + A Little Surprise

OneMoreChanceShe was it. His one. His only. Then he made the mistake of letting her go.

After fighting his way into Harlow Manning’s heart—and revealing a side of himself no one had ever seen before—Grant Carter destroyed his own heart by giving in to his greatest fears and doubts. Months later, he’s stuck in a miserable routine. Work relentlessly. Beg his best friend Rush for news about Harlow. Avoid all other friends. Leave nightly voicemails for Harlow, pleading with her to come back to Rosemary Beach. Fall asleep alone. Repeat.

Miles away, on her brother’s Texas ranch, Harlow can’t bring herself to listen to Grant’s voicemails. Though she wants to be with him, and knows he regrets letting her go, she doesn’t know if she can trust him. When he discovered the truth behind her sheltered upbringing, it shattered their relationship, but the secret she carries now has far greater consequences. Can she risk giving Grant one more chance, or will the gamble ultimately destroy her?

review

“All my life, I’ve dreamed of having someone love me like you do.”

Loving every single book an author has ever written is daunting at times because you are always dreading that no story could ever match the quality of the last one. But book after book, Ms Glines keeps delivering such distinctive love stories, her trademark style recognisable from a mile, but each time injecting something new, something unexpected, something utterly addictive into these stories to keep us glued to our chairs and totally oblivious to the world around us. Apart from this being one of the most beautiful romances she has ever written, this book is also her most heart-wrenching one. Every part of this story touches your heart, confronts you with your worst fears as a woman, and then leaves you in a daze of blissful optimism and irrepressible cluckiness.

“I was a bastard, a heartless bastard. I didn’t deserve her, but I wanted her more than I wanted to breathe.”

Grant Carter is a broken man. His actions have driven the love of his life to flee from him and seek solace at her brother’s farm in Texas. But a broken heart is not all that Harlow is suddenly faced with, her passionate but short-lived affair with Grant having opened the one door she never even hoped of peeking through. And she has no intention of closing it, whatever the cost.

“I loved Grant Carter. I loved him so much. But I loved someone else just as fiercely.”

We watch the young lovers suffer acutely from the separation, desperately missing each other, wishing they never parted ways, but Harlow’s priorities have shifted now and she remains determined to stay hidden from the man she still loves and the media that is still hounding her. Grant, on the other hand, would give anything to find her—he leaves her daily messages, professing his love, apologising, begging her to call him, hating himself for allowing his fears to push her away, all in the hopes she would give him one more chance at showing her what she means to him.

“If I could hear your voice tonight, Harlow, if I could just hear you tell me you’re OK . .  . I would be better. I would be able to take a deep breath. Then I’d beg. I would beg you to love me. I would beg you to forgive me.”

When they finally reunite, their love is the only thing they can both count on as everything else unexpectedly hangs in the balance, and their future together remains uncertain. As we witness their struggle to stay positive, to believe that fate wouldn’t have brought them into each other’s lives only to take it all away, we also get to feel their every fear, their every doubt, their every heartbreak. And this book will most certainly make you feel. There are parts of it that made me cry like a baby, there are others that are so emotionally intense that they made my chest tighten in pain, and then there are moments in the story whose sheer beauty left me utterly speechless.

“… I don’t accept that I won’t get forever with you.”

This book is quite the departure from its relatively light-hearted prequel. While in the beginning of their relationship the focus stayed on the chemistry between these characters and the irresistible attraction that wouldn’t allow them to be apart, this part of their story is all about the emotions, the sacrifices, the dreams, the hopes. Grant started off as an ‘acquired taste’ type of hero, one who acted on impulse and made a million mistakes in the process, but in this book we get to see a different side of him. His remorse and fear of losing the woman he loves change him, set his priorities straight and show him what his life would look like without her. Harlow, on the other hand, has always been a fearless heroine, a young woman used to looking after herself, and that aspect of her personality gets only amplified once she is forced to make some difficult, life-altering decisions. But we also get to see a softer side of her, a more vulnerable one, making her one of the most commendable female leads I have ever come across.

This story truly caught me off guard, I never expected it to take the turn it eventually ventured on, and every single second of it was a thrill to read. So, dive in, brace yourselves for your hearts to be stretched to their limits, but know that you’ll be alright in the end, because there is no greater romantic among us than Ms Glines herself.

“If we have a lifetime or only a few moments together, you will be the most important thing that ever happens to me in this life.”

5stars

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Rosemary Beach – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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Fallen Too Far: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Rush Too Far: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Never Too FarMy reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Twisted PerfectionMy reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Forever Too FarMy reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Simple PerfectionMy reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Take A Chance: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
One More ChanceAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
You Were MineAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA (2 Dec 2014)
Kiro’s Emily (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA (25 Dec 2014)
When I’m Gone: Amazon US | Amazon CA (7 Apr 2015)

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Now… are you ready for that surprise? Well, there is a novella coming about the epic love story between Harlow’s parents, Kiro and Emily, to be released on Christmas Day, and it will be FREE. It will be Abbi’s Christmas Gift to her readers! Feast your eyes on the beautiful cover of Kiro’s Emily!!!!

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The year is 1992, and no one on the rock music scene is hotter than Kiro Manning, the lead singer of Slacker Demon. With a multi-platinum record, total ownership of the Billboard charts, sold-out concerts, and sinful amounts of money, Kiro can have anything—and anyone—he wants.

So when a dark-haired, conservative beauty rebuffs him at a concert after-party, his first thought is, “Who the hell does she think she is?” His second thought: “How do I make her mine?” Kiro has always loved a good challenge, but not every girl wants to get involved with a rock god. Especially this girl.

He let her go that night, but he never forgot her. And when they met again, he vowed not to give up again so easily.

As the world worshipped Kiro, he came to worship the girl, who became everything he never knew he needed. The only girl he would ever love. His Emily.

Pre-order novella: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
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The Author

Abbi Glines is the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal bestselling author of the Rosemary Beach, Sea Breeze, Vincent Boys, and Existence series. A devoted booklover, Abbi lives with her family in Alabama. She can often be found hiding in her office pretending to write while actually watching episodes of Buffy on Netflix. If she’s not in a Vampire Slayer mood she can be found watching Friday Night Lights. But please do not tell her husband. He has no idea she isn’t always hard at work.

Connect with Abbi: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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BOOK REVIEW: Black Lies by Alessandra Torre

blackliesBrant: Became a tech billionaire by his twentieth birthday. Has been in a relationship with me for three years. Has proposed four times. Been rejected four times.

Lee: Cuts grass when he’s not banging housewives. Good with his hands, his mouth, and his cock. Has been pursued relentlessly by me for almost two years, whether he knows it or not.

I love two men. I want two men.

If you think you’ve heard this story before, trust me – you haven’t.

review

“I have lied for this man, stolen for him, cheated on him… and sold my soul to his with our first kiss.”

The moment I opened this book and read the first few pages, I felt that tingling sensation in the back of my neck that usually alerts me of something great about to happen, and I knew, just knew that I had come across something truly rare. And the more of it I read, the more I knew I was right—this was the most perfect piece of writing I had read this year, and quite possibly ever. Every part of this unique story is sheer genius, ever facet of it truly unexpected and utterly mind-blowing. By the end of it, I felt like my mind had been stretched so far, I needed a map to navigate back to the mundanities of regular life. Without giving anything away, I will tell you that this book is not to be taken at face value. This story is so brilliantly woven together, so meticulously assembled that nothing is accidental, everything is intentional, and your preconceptions and assumptions as a reader need to be left at the door because apart from being a phenomenal storyteller, when Alessandra Torre decides to write an epic love story, she ‘recalibrates’ the entire genre. Remember that.

“When you really love someone, you cannot walk away. No matter what they do. No matter the lies from their mouth, or the actions from their bodies, you tie yourself tightly to their sail and vow to be there through thick and thin. Let the wind blow you where it may. Even if that place is a crash. Even if that place tears you apart and kills anything good.”

We meet Layana Fairmont on her twenty-fifth birthday as she comes into possession of a large trust fund designed to provide her with the same affluent lifestyle she grew up accustomed to, while she follows in her mother’s footsteps and seeks a wealthy husband whose name she would carry and whose arm she would adorn. But Layana is nothing like her own mother. Passionate, opinionated, generous with her heart—she hopes of finding an equal in the man she marries one day, someone who would share the same goals in life, someone to forge a future with, free from secrets and deceptions, someone to love her completely and unconditionally. Someone to ignite her body and stimulate her soul.

“I wanted the happily-ever-after of movies. Where my family would share their day while eating at a round table. Wanted to visit life in a world where mothers hugged daughters with bruises and consoled them after their first dates went awry.”

When Layana meets Brant Sharp, one of the country’s most eligible bachelors, a self-made billionaire, philanthropist and computer genius extraordinaire, she falls for his quiet charms and unassuming good looks, but what draws her to him the most is his intense interest in her, his focus on her pleasure and her happiness, something no man has ever given her before. However, she soon discovers that as perfect as their connection has been from the moment they laid eyes on each other, being the girlfriend of an inherently reclusive man presents its challenges, especially when those closest to him are willing to offer obscene amounts of money just to keep her away from him. But the more people try to discourage her from dating him, the more Layana sticks around, her feelings for him only growing stronger each day.

“It didn’t make sense. He was too perfect. How was I the first woman to tie him down?”

Layana’s fairy tale romance becomes her own personal nightmare when she discovers that the love of her life is not as perfect as she always believed him to be, his one hidden flaw having the power of tearing them apart, and yet she stays, her heart quietly hurting, but her determination to love him forever never wavering, not even for one single flicker in time. And that is the moment Layana meets Lee.

“We did not feel like strangers; our mouths instinctively knew each other.”

Lee is everything Brant is not—cocky, arrogant, sexually dominant and emotionally vulnerable all at the same time, a man who acts on instinct in all aspects of his life, showing no care for the consequences of his actions. And one look at him is all it takes to make Layana want him body and soul, her relentless pursuit of him knowing no limits. His passionate touches, his unapologetic use of her body for his own pleasure, his desire to claim her as his but thinking himself unworthy of a woman like her, make Layana’s addiction to him as true as her love for the man whose heart she risks breaking with her deceit. But her own heart won’t let her stop.

“Why does she cheat on me? What do I not provide for her? What part of me is not good enough?”

And this is where I must stop and let you unveil the rest of this story at your own pace, navigate through your own conclusions and ‘ah’ moments, to discover one of the most heart-stopping and heart-breaking love stories I have ever read. Never have I been so tempted to cheat and fast-forward to the end of a book like I have while reading this story. I was desperate to see the finishing line, to assure myself that my heart would remain in one piece because it did not stop racing beginning to end. But I didn’t—I inhaled every word, absorbed every scene, and let this story slowly reveal itself to me as intended.

“I couldn’t even tell you where I’ve been. Everything… everything fades unless I’m with you.”

Brace yourselves for one of the most astonishing tales you will ever read, and then want to re-read immediately after to make sure you did not miss a single thing. Faultlessly written, impeccably mapped out, this story shows us how far a person is prepared to go for true love, how many sacrifices they are willing to make, and how far they would derail from their own moral compass just to make sure they never lose that love. This story had everything I always hope of finding in a book, and I still cannot stop thinking about it. I was enthralled, I was stunned, and I was left speechless by the end of it. And then I went back and re-read it.

“I will fight for this love. Lie for it. Steal for it. It is worthy of that… I love her completely. She returns the love wildly. This love is worth the unsaid truths. The hidden lies.”

6stars

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