Sweet Filthy Boy by Christina Lauren

sweetfiltyboyOne-night stands are supposed to be with someone convenient, or wickedly persuasive, or regrettable. They aren’t supposed to be with someone like him.

But after a crazy Vegas weekend celebrating her college graduation—and terrified of the future path she knows is a cop-out—Mia Holland makes the wildest decision of her life: follow Ansel Guillaume—her sweet, filthy fling—to France for the summer and just…play.

When feelings begin to develop behind the provocative roles they take on, and their temporary masquerade adventures begin to feel real, Mia will have to decide if she belongs in the life she left because it was all wrong, or in the strange new one that seems worlds away.

review

“I want to love all of my life as much as I love this night.”

I must say that it stuns me that even after so many books read and loved, a story can still take me by surprise so completely and so unexpectedly, and end up being the very opposite of what I thought I would find. When I picked up this book, I expected light-hearted humour, I expected romance, I expected a fun read. Well, as much as those elements were all present, this book is first and foremost a stunning insight into human nature, into short-term escapism versus the vivid reality of everyday life. It is a stunning testament of how even the rarest of human connections need a mutual commitment in order to work out, and how love is as much a reward after a journey travelled as it is a ‘winning lottery ticket’ of sorts. I devoured this book, even re-read parts in order to fully absorb every layer of this story and not miss a word. From impeccable character development, to a truly stimulating storyline, from sizzling sex scenes that had my skin-tingling and my pulse racing, to an engaging writing style that left me craving for more from this talented writing duo—this was a book I could not put down and even before I finished it, I knew it would forever remain one of my favourite reading escapes.

“We have the rest of our lives to be sophisticated, but only the one weekend in Vegas.”

Mia is a woman in her early twenties, fresh out of college, and at an important crossroad in her life where she is about to pick the road that someone else has set before her and embark on the kind of future she never wished for herself. A former ballerina, her dreams were suddenly cut short due to injury, but the performer in her still craves to be ‘in someone else’s head’ as she has never felt as liberated and as free to be herself as while pretending to be someone else. During her last weekend of reckless abandon, she goes to Las Vegas with her two best friend to celebrate their graduation and be irresponsible for the last time in her young life, never expecting that a one-night-stand could change the rest of her life.

“I want to have a different life tonight.”

From the moment Mia sees Ansel from across a crowded bar, the spark between them is hard to ignore. They meet, they flirt, they have too much to drink, they talk, they flirt some more, they have wild monkey sex all night long on every surface of their hotel suite, and… they get married. A typical night of fun in Vegas and up to this point, this story was exactly what I expected it to be. But once the bright morning light sets on the reality of everything that has happened between them, the more Mia remembers of their night together, of the person she became while in Ansel’s arms, of the freedom and passion she felt while talking and making love to him, the less she feels inclined to have their marriage annulled and erase that way the only act of spontaneity in her adult life.

“I have no idea what to do with you.”

From the bright decadence of Las Vegas to the sophisticated elegance of Paris, France, we follow the young couple into their new life together, as temporary as it may be, and from the moment Mia steps onto the plane taking them back to Ansel’s home town, they are faced with the harsh reality of being married to complete strangers, of knowing very little about each other, of having only one thing still tying them to one another, apart from the gold bands on their fingers—the memory of the spark between them.

“I might not remember every touch, but my body certainly does. I can feel his fingertips tattooed all over my skin. They’re in the bruises I can see and they’re invisible, too: the echo of his fingers in my mouth, dragging along my legs, pumping inside me.”

And this is where this book becomes truly spectacular. Mia and Ansel are faced with the impulsiveness of their decisions, struggling to connect now as spouses rather than each other’s one-night-stands. They have to work on their communication, on facing the secrets that could potentially tear them apart, on setting a pace in their marriage that leaves both of them resentment-free even when constantly making small sacrifices along the way, and they have to rediscover each other, from the very beginning, their sole foundation being the memory of a perfect night together. I had to stop on several occasions simply to absorb the intensity of those scenes, to reflect at times on a single sentence exchanged between Mia and Ansel, because their every exchange is so meaningful, so electrifying, and yet always charged with underlying issues that they are both committed to resolve.

“What we know is dimly lit bars, playful banter, the clean, crisp sheets of hotel rooms. What we know is the unrequited possibility, the temptation of the idea. The make-believe. The adventure. But when you choose the adventure, it becomes real life.”

The absolute highlight of this book for me is the way these characters strive to understand each other’s needs and wants, how much they are willing to do to recapture the magic between them, never attempting to change one another in the process. Even during the most electrifying sexual scenes between them, there is always an undercurrent of unconditional mutual acceptance that deepens the meaning of every single touch, every kiss, every stolen breath. I will not deprive you of the indescribable thrill from discovering how they learn to communicate with one another, but I will tell you that I have never been so moved and yet so aroused all at once.

“I reach for my bag, pulling out gum, but he quickly moves to me, sliding his hands up my neck to cup my face. “Don’t.” He leans close, sucking on my mouth the way he seems to like so much. “You taste like me. I taste like you.” He bends, licking my tongue, my lips, my teeth. “I like this so much. Let it stay, just for a bit.”

A deceivingly predictable scenario which turns into one of the most real and realistically told stories I have ever read, this is a book I adored. I laughed, I sighed, I fanned myself, and I even choked up on occasion—the story of Mia and Ansel is what happens when a modern fantasy is faced with the starkness of everyday reality. Reading this book made me happy and it is a top recommendation from me.

“What you feel, Cerice? I feel it too. F*ck, Mia, I feel everything for you.”

5stars

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Wild Seasons – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
(standalone stories with interconnected characters)
sweetfiltyboy
dirtyrowdything

Sweet Filthy Boy: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Dirty Rowdy ThingAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback (4 Nov 2014)
Dark Wild Nights: coming Sep 2015…
Wicked Sexy Liar: coming Feb 2016…

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Maybe Maby by Willow Aster

maybemaby

I’m having a meltdown. Not the put-her-in-the-loony-bin kind, but the rock-in-the-corner-so-I-can-breathe kind. Maybe they’re one and the same and I really do need to be put away, but I think I just need a little air. I’m bone tired. My eyes look like I haven’t slept in weeks. I’m eating my feelings and developing a pudge that isn’t gonna go anywhere if I keep binging on chocolate, nachos and wine.

I’m 28 and everyone has left me. I have no friends. My boyfriend left. My mom died, so technically she left me too. I hate my job.

I get this overwhelming oh my God, is this what my life is gonna be? feeling and I want to die.

Curl up and die.

And since I don’t feel my heartbeat fading or my breathing getting even slightly faint, I panic that I’m gonna have to live.

review

“Being with you makes me forget who I really am.”

I always say that an outstanding writer can make me fall in love with pretty much any reality they create, as farfetched as their imagination will travel, but only a few can truly capture me with their words to such an extent that I feel the characters, empathise with them, understand their every thought process, and walk in their shoes cover to cover. Willow Aster is an author whose writing I simply adore, her perfect prose enthralling and astounding me every time I open one of her books, so it came as no surprise to me that this story, this quirky, unusual, out-of-the-box story held me so captive and made me love everything about it. A curious tale of self-discovery and learning how to cope with one’s idiosyncrasies, a rare but splendid kind of romance, a bittersweet comedy of sorts—Maybe Maby is a book I’d recommend to anyone seeking a story to warm their heart and add a tinge of hope to their everyday life.

“The only way I find any relief is by counting … everything … repeatedly.”

Maby is a young woman in her late twenties who suffers from an obsessive compulsive disorder, brought about by a particularly stressful event in her adult life and then exacerbated by subsequent traumas. Maby’s everyday compulsions, such as repetitive counting of everything around her, excessive hand-washing, or repeatedly organizing her closets, help to somewhat alleviate her anxieties and neutralise the urges that rule her every thought, but they do not help in any way with the intense sense of shame from having to carry out these persistent compulsions or the occasional bouts of depression caused by her mental condition. Behind all these oddities lies a heartbroken young woman who does not see herself as worthy of the love she dreams of finding, convinced that all that is ‘wrong’ with her would only inevitably end up damaging the people who get close to her.

“I don’t want to do this anymore. I don’t want to be anymore. I pray God will untether whatever is holding me afloat and just let me drift into nothingness.”

Maby lost control of most aspects of her life at the same time when her compulsions started, her love life and her career becoming casualties in the endless struggle that is her almost comical day-to-day existence. A fickle and selfish ex boyfriend, an unreliable best friend, a self-centred boss—Maby’s life is filled with barriers to her happiness and as it keeps getting more and more complicated, her condition also keeps getting worse and worse. One day, however, the right person steps into her life and for the first time since her only parent’s untimely death, Maby experiences the very thing she craved to feel the most—hope.

“There’s something about him that cuts through my hardened heart and makes me believe in more—something more than shattered fragments of a life and the endless emptiness.”

Torn between an all-consuming sense of helplessness and bleakness towards her own future, and the overwhelming joy from being loved, cherished, and never judged for her imperfections for once, Maby’s struggle to accept and feel worthy of the life that is being offered to her brings us to our knees as readers. Her every self-deprecating thought strikes us like a dagger, making us feel protective of this broken young woman who cannot make herself believe anyone could ever love her as completely as she hopes to be loved.

“He makes me believe I can be good. Or at the very least, that my ugly is really not so ugly at all.”

At the core of this quirky tale lies a truly beautiful love story—a story of patience, perseverance, honesty and unwavering affection. It’s a love that makes Maby believe she can have the things she never thought she could, a love that acts as an anchor in the stormy waters of her troubled mind, a love that she can depend on and draw strength from. I lived this story from beginning to end, I felt Maby’s pain in my soul, and I never stopped cheering for her. Ms Aster has also given us an extraordinary hero for our beloved heroine, a man who is almost too good to be true, but who perfectly balances someone as complex as Maby. This is a story that made my heart race, skip a beat, rejoice, shatter on so many occasions, and it never stopped making me love every word in it. A rare gem of a book, one I wholeheartedly recommend.

“This—this is the best night of my life.”
“You always say that.”
“I always mean it.”

5stars

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Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

uglylove2

When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she doesn’t think it’s love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her.

Never ask about the past.
Don’t expect a future.

They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.

Hearts get infiltrated.
Promises get broken.
Rules get shattered.
Love gets ugly.

review

“I didn’t fall in love with you… I flew.”

I am ruined.

I would like to think that after more than half a dozen books read and loved, I could call myself a seasoned Colleen Hoover reader and thus be equipped for all her ‘mind trickery’, and yet nothing, nothing in this world could have prepared me for the emotional avalanche that is Ugly Love. This is a book like no other in this author’s impressive repertoire, a book that gets under your skin from the very first sentence, and then page after page, it just keeps stripping you of every semblance of control you might have thought you had over your own feelings. It’s a book that annihilates you from within, slowly breaks your heart into so many pieces you’ll need tweezers to pick them all up, and then it simply stuns you into silence with one of the most unexpected, soul-shattering book moments in history. Every element of this story is so brilliantly thought out, so cleverly executed, so skilfully assembled into one of the most perfect stories I have ever read. Colleen Hoover is on an emotional rampage this time around, and she will ruin us all in the best possible way.

“Love isn’t always pretty… Sometimes you spend all your time hoping it’ll eventually be something different. Something better. Then, before you know it, you’re back to square one, and you lost your heart somewhere along the way.”

The story is split into two parallel timelines, one in the present and one in the past, and it follows two distinct voices all throughout the book. They are each so vivid and persuasive in their impact on the reader, that it often becomes difficult to reconcile them in our minds and see how one can coexist with the other. In the present, our heroine is a young woman in her early twenties, a student nurse who has just arrived in a new city to pursue a postgraduate degree and find a job. Tate Collins has never put relationships before her professional aspirations, her career always coming first, and she remains determined not to let love distract her from her goals. But on her very first day there, as she is moving into her new home, she meets her neighbour Miles, a young pilot and a close friend of her brother’s, and from that moment onwards, her heart doesn’t stop doing summersaults every time they run into each other. But Miles is not interested in love, now or ever again, and while their attraction is sizzling and at times difficult to rein in, he remains clear on two points…

“Don’t ask about my past. And never expect a future.”

In the past, we meet an eighteen-year-old Miles Archer, at the very moment he meets his first love. Through brief but particularly attention-grabbing little snippets of that past, we get to witness firsthand the heartwarming experience of falling in love for the first time through the eyes of a young Miles and it’s the very innocence of it all, the untainted joy and excitement of those feelings, that stand in stark contrast with the events and the Miles we get to meet six years later.

“It’s not that I don’t like you… I just don’t want to like you. I don’t want to like anyone. I don’t want to date anyone. I don’t want to love anyone.”

While in the past we see our hero free-falling into love, carelessly and enthusiastically, in the present scenario we see him holding back every one of his emotions from the woman who each day reluctantly falls herself deeper and deeper in love with him. As emotions start bleeding through, blurring the lines of the friends-with-benefits arrangement they have agreed on, Miles and Tate’s relationship becomes more and more complicated as time goes by, bringing them each day one step closer to Tate’s inevitable heartbreak and disappointment. Unspoken questions keep piling up, unrequited feelings keep getting suppressed, and eventually all that is left between them is the ugly side of love.

“Make me leave… You don’t need this… I just don’t know how to stop wanting you. Tell me to go, and I’ll go.”

I will stop here and tell you nothing more about this story. This is a book that will keep surprising you, devastating you, leaving you breathless by simply never allowing you to relax or foresee what lies ahead, and I assure you that you will never see the next blow coming. They are all delivered with such precision, I felt like I was on the receiving end of a knife throwing act. It’s a story that shows the resilience of the human spirit, regardless of how terrifying the ghosts of one’s past may be, and the healing power of love. The sheer brilliance of this book also lies in the language used, in the quirky dialogues, in the unique monologues, in the word repetitions, even in the extraordinary visual arrangements of words aimed to imprint the meaning of those words into our souls and leave us shivering in their wake. Nothing is accidental and everything is just right.

“I hope she remembers the moment
she
became
my
everything.”

By the end of this book, my hands were hurting from being balled into fists for so long, my heart was aching and rejoicing at the same time from the countless emotions it had been exposed to, my body was hurting from not having moved an inch for so many hours at a stretch, and I had developed an unhealthy animosity towards italics in general. This is the sexiest, most heart-wrenching Colleen Hoover book to date—a book that shows us a brand new side of this author’s writing genius, and it is in my humble opinion, her best work thus far.

I am so ruined… and I loved every single moment of it.

“If I were capable of loving someone . . . it would be you.”

6stars

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Making Faces by Amy Harmon

Making FacesAmbrose Young was beautiful. He was tall and muscular, with hair that touched his shoulders and eyes that burned right through you. The kind of beautiful that graced the covers of romance novels, and Fern Taylor would know. She’d been reading them since she was thirteen. But maybe because he was so beautiful he was never someone Fern thought she could have… until he wasn’t beautiful anymore.

Making Faces is the story of a small town where five young men go off to war, and only one comes back. It is the story of loss. Collective loss, individual loss, loss of beauty, loss of life, loss of identity. It is the tale of one girl’s love for a broken boy, and a wounded warrior’s love for an unremarkable girl. This is a story of friendship that overcomes heartache, heroism that defies the common definitions, and a modern tale of Beauty and the Beast, where we discover that there is a little beauty and a little beast in all of us.

review

“I loved every word, every thought, and I loved you . . . so much.”

As someone who reads to escape reality and to immerse myself in emotions that are not my own, I am constantly seeking that ‘high’, that rare moment when every sensation running through me is dictated by the characters and the story they are telling. It can be a random burst of laughter, it can be the feeling of having your heart crushed and your breath stolen away from you, or it can be an overwhelming sense of joy for you’ve become one with the characters and their every happiness intrinsically becomes your own. And while those moments are rare and far between, I seek them, fear them as much as I need them, loving how deeply a story can touch us as readers and even alter our perception of our own lives. So when a book comes along that essentially robs you of every figment of control you thought you had over your own emotions and pulls on your heartstrings like a skilled puppeteer, you feel like you’ve just won the jackpot. This book did not just make me cry at times—it made me cry cover to cover. Once it opened up the floodgates, I never knew what would trigger the next tear. Fern, Bailey and Ambrose are characters that I loved with all my heart, their beautiful souls hopefully leaving a permanent mark on my own, as stories like these are rarely told, and even more rarely with such positivity and genuineness. This is a story that will inspire you, overwhelm you, fill you with so much faith in the human spirit, and it will show you that sometimes the most beautiful tales are found where you least expect them to be.

“She’s not pretty. Little, funny Fernie. She’s not pretty. Poor Fernie.”

Fern is the girl whom no one notices at school, the ugly duckling who is still more child than young woman, but whose goodness and kindness shine through in everything she does. From the day she was born, she has been joined at the hip to her cousin Bailey, a boy diagnosed with muscular dystrophy at the age of four. They have grown up as best friends, thick as thieves, but as his ability to look after himself slowly declines with age, Fern naturally becomes his carer, stepping in whenever he is unable to do something, filling his everyday life with all the experiences that he would otherwise miss out on, and helping him live life to the fullest as the day his illness would take him away from her slowly approaches. Fern’s innate positivity fills their days with constant joy and laughter, appreciating even the smallest of blessings in life, her almost childlike matter-of-fact approach to the world around her never allowing her to focus on all that was not given to her, but rather embracing and cherishing all the beauty that was.

“If God makes all our faces, did he laugh when he made me?”

Fern knows she is not pretty. She knows what physical beauty looks like because she has loved one beautiful face in particular all her life, even though the object of her affections has never seen her the same way or returned those feelings. Ambrose Young is the popular jock at school, the captain of the wrestling team, the guy every girl secretly dreams of dating and every guy wishes they could be. And while Fern knows someone as beautiful as Ambrose could never love someone as plain-looking as she is, she never stops dreaming of the day he would finally notice her as a woman and love her the same way.

“I’d just trade faces.”
“But God gave you that face.”
“Well, if I could, I’d make myself another. Then maybe Ambrose Young wouldn’t be too beautiful to even look at me.”

Ambrose is not a superficial young man, but he appreciates and is attracted to beauty as most human beings are. His energy, dedication and loyalty to those around him make him someone others instinctively gravitate towards, his handsome face not even holding a candle to the true beauty inside him. And while he has always noticed little Fern, even felt a subtle protective streak towards her, he has never quite truly seen her.

“Do you think there’s any way someone like Ambrose could fall in love with someone like me?”
“Only if he’s lucky.”

As their high school years draw to an end, the little fearless redheaded pixie becomes harder and harder to ignore, her courage and honesty igniting reactions in him that he never expected to feel. But when Ambrose finally starts noticing Fern, his life takes him far away from her and the only home he has ever known, their childhood innocence forever stolen from them. When he eventually returns home, Ambrose is a broken man, all his physical beauty gone forever and his heart so guilt-ridden, he cannot bear to be seen as anything but the ‘monster’ he has now become. But as someone who has always loved him with her heart, not her eyes, Fern still sees the same beautiful man before her, and never misses an opportunity to show him.

“I would really like it if, just for once, I could be beautiful to you on the outside.”

What follows is perhaps one of the most heart-warming tales of true love, of a love that is so pure and innocent, it brings tears to our eyes. Fern, Ambrose and Bailey are three characters that you end up loving equally, fiercely, protectively. They each have a story to tell, and each one of their stories is so utterly beautiful, it is dazzling at times. I will not lie to you, there are moments that are filled with such sadness that you will probably end up being a blubbering mess by the end of them like I was, but each moment of sadness is also bursting with bittersweet positivity and a message so powerful, it screams off the pages.

“Could you belong to someone who didn’t want you?”

I never in a million years expected to fall in love with a story like this, but I didn’t expect to ever find a story like this in the first place. The writing style is superb, commanding in its sheer simplicity, and every single word has the power to undo you. There is a strong spiritual undercurrent driving the story forward, but it fits perfectly into the story itself, without being heavy-handed or overwhelming. Its beautiful message is so all-encompassing and so powerful that I truly believe everyone should do themselves a favour and read this story at some point in their lives. Everyone.

“You are still beautiful.”
“I think that statement is more a reflection of your beauty than mine.”

6stars

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The Author

Amy Harmon_picAmy Harmon knew at an early age that writing was something she wanted to do, and she divided her time between writing songs and stories as she grew. Having grown up in the middle of wheat fields without a television, with only her books and her siblings to entertain her, she developed a strong sense of what made a good story.

Amy Harmon has been a motivational speaker, a grade school teacher, a junior high teacher, a home school mom, and a member of the Grammy Award winning Saints Unified Voices Choir, directed by Gladys Knight. She released a Christian Blues CD in 2007 called “What I Know” – also available on Amazon and wherever digital music is sold.

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

thepromise

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

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

Benny has decided differently.

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

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

review

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

5stars

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Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
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The ‘Burg – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
(standalone stories with interconnected characters
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For You: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
At Peace: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Golden Trail: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Games of the Heart: Amazon US | Amazon UK
The Promise: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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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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Iris by R.K. Lilley

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Are you ready for a twist?

Who is Iris?

Where did she come from?

Where has she gone?

Alasdair Masters has more questions than answers about his new, too young obsession, and when he finds out she’s been lying to him, from their first meeting to their last one, he’s more confused than ever about her feelings, her intentions.

And what’s just as confusing are his own feelings. Has he turned something purely physical into something emotional in his own head? Is any of it mutual?

The only thing he doesn’t question is whether he’ll keep going back for more.

review

“She was soothing chaos. Like that first taste of anaesthesia, before you lost your senses. Or the venom that numbed you before it killed you. I really couldn’t decide which.”

I have never read a book that left me even more clueless in the end than I was at the beginning of it. Until now. Filled to the brim with clues, hints, even small revelations, and yet I am still as blissfully perplexed as I was at the end of The Wild Side. From the moment we dive back into this story, starving to decipher the plotline and figure out the enigma that is Iris, we cling onto every word, every double meaning, every half-truth, only to realise that no matter how many theories we concoct in out heads, we will only remain privy to what the author allows us to know. Nothing is obvious, nothing is predictable, and every delicious moment of ignorance is outright addictive. I am so in love with this series, I could cry!

“Which one was the real Iris?”

Dair is heartbroken, lost, desperate to find the girl who turned his life upside down and changed him forever. But Iris has been missing for two months and every moment spent with her seems like a dreamlike memory. His body has craved her unquenchably every second she has been gone, but his heart has missed her even more. During the short time they spent together, she has changed him, revived his spirit and awoken the fire he never knew was in him. Before Iris, Dair’s life was a predictable collection of routines, but her passion, tenderness and generosity both with her affections as well as her body have lit up a spark in him that won’t go away, even without her now in his life.

“Me, I was simple. I was order. A very neat, efficient machine that ran on nothing but air… And me plus Iris, that was a monster of a machine, with all gears going at different speeds, some spinning off their hinges, just going mad, but it was a wonderful madness, at full throttle, misfiring in all directions.”

And then she suddenly reappears. And we are once more running at full tilt, Dair and Iris using every stolen moment to lose themselves in each other’s arms, but the weight of every unanswered question and every doubt taints those moments, making Dair more and more desperate for answers. We are finally offered subtle hints of Iris’s life, but they barely paint a picture for us to ponder on, giving us very little insight into her character. All we see is what Dair gets to see—a young woman who shows her love selflessly and freely, a woman who craves affection herself, who has found something beautiful and precious in Dair, and who is not afraid to take risks to have it, as short-lived as it may be. All she asks of Dair, all she has ever asked of him, is to accept her as she is with him, stripped bare from her past or present, and embrace the truth of her feelings for him.

“We aren’t defined by our pasts. We are who we are. You don’t have to know where I grew up, what year I was born, to know the woman in front of you.”

But as their bodies satisfy their thirst for each other, and as their hearts become more and more entwined, Iris’ secrets keep feeding Dair’s insecurities and his fear of losing her again, every fleeting second with her tearing him even more apart. We are left with another heart-stopping ending, one that alludes to a million different possibilities, and makes us none the wiser regarding what is to come. The mystery of this story is simply exhilarating, no other way to put it, the anticipation of what comes next being half the fun in my eyes. I am STARVING already for the final instalment and I love it!

“In a world full of lies, you were my truth. You were my light and my compass.”

5stars

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Buy book: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Connect with Rebecca: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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The Wild Side – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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The Wild Side: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU
Iris: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Amazon AU (27 June 2014)
Dair: coming 25 July 2014…
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Other books in the series or related posts:

Beautiful Oblivion by Jamie McGuire

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Fiercely independent Camille “Cami” Camlin gladly moved on from her childhood before it was over. She has held down a job since before she could drive, and moved into her own apartment after her freshman year of college. Now tending bar at The Red Door, Cami doesn’t have time for much else besides work and classes, until a trip to see her boyfriend is cancelled, leaving her with a first weekend off in almost a year.

Trenton Maddox was the king of Eastern State University, dating co-eds before he even graduated high school. His friends wanted to be him, and women wanted to tame him, but after a tragic accident turned his world upside down, Trenton leaves campus to come to grips with the crushing guilt.

Eighteen months later, Trenton is living at home with his widower father, and works full-time at a local tattoo parlor to help with the bills. Just when he thinks his life is returning to normal, he notices Cami sitting alone at a table at The Red.

As the baby sister of four rowdy brothers, Cami believes she’ll have no problem keeping her new friendship with Trenton Maddox strictly platonic. But when a Maddox boy falls in love, he loves forever—even if she is the only reason their already broken family could fall apart.

In the first installment of the Maddox Brothers books, readers can experience the rush of reading Beautiful Disaster for the first time, all over again.

review

“I’ve had a lifetime of wrong. You’re the only thing that’s right.”

I should probably start this review with a small confession—I was not a Beautiful Disaster groupie when everyone was proclaiming their undying love for Travis “Mad Dog” Maddox and naming their daughters Abby. Not because I did not like it, but simply because I never read it when it was first released, and thus never embraced the craze. As curiosity got the better of me and I finally decided to dive in, while I appreciated why this story was loved so desperately by so many readers out there, I think I was too old to swoon over nineteen-year-old bad boys and obsessive first loves. But I totally got it. I got why this story, this tumultuous type of relationship, appealed to such a wide and varied audience, and how it earned such a loyal cult following by providing the reader with the type of escapism that reminds us all of our first loves, of how impetuous our young hearts once were, and of how crazy and hot-headed that first rush of hormones truly made us. This book, once more, is a reminder of it all, albeit on a more subdued level, but still succeeding in re-awakening the memory of those troublesome years when we were finding ourselves, our place in the world around us, and navigating through life on our own for the very first time, regularly losing ourselves in the oblivion of it all. And all the while adamantly believing that every feeling, every emotion, every mind-blowing ‘first’ was the sum of all we would ever get to experience in life.

“No one has ever wanted someone as much as I want you.”

As we return to the delicious world of the Maddox brothers and the young women who steal their hearts at last, we finally get to know Trenton “Trent” Maddox, Travis’ elder brother and the son their widowed father depends on the most. A bad boy of sorts just like his younger brother, Trent’s heavily tattooed façade and hot temper give the impression of walking through life without feeling deeply or becoming emotionally attached to anyone, but nothing could be further from the truth. Beneath this defiant mask hides a sensitive and heartbroken young man whose fear of experiencing loss again, coupled with never having faced his past traumas, have made him a brewing pit of anger and irritability. But just like every fire has a source, every yin has its yang, and Trent’s ‘antidote’ comes in the form of a brown-haired pixie with curves in all the right places and an outspoken personality to match.

“It’s a small town. You shouldn’t have burned all of your bridges.”
“There’s a few I haven’t lit a fire under. Yet.”

Camille “Cami” Camlin is the girl next door, the oldest child and only girl in a family of all boys, a young woman whose confidence does not stem from the effect she has on the opposite sex, but rather from her self-awareness and determination to be independent in life. And unlike most females of her age, she has remained impervious to the Maddox charm while growing up, and even more so in her early twenties as she has watched them add notch after notch to their headboards. Trent and Cami have known each other all their lives, but were never friends as such. His reputation has always preceded him and thus made him an unwelcome dating candidate in her eyes.

“I’d seen him flirt, seduce, and evade since we were kids. There was absolutely no trick Trenton Maddox could play that I wouldn’t be ready for.”

However, when a Maddox sets his mind on something, he is not to be easily persuaded to change it, and once he enters Cami’s life, Trent is there to stay. Ignoring all her insistent attempts to drive him away and discourage his efforts, he makes himself at home in her daily life, becoming a friend she didn’t know she needed, loyal and protective, all the while not making it secret that he wishes for more. Or that not even Cami’s long distance relationship with a boyfriend she rarely sees would deter him from pursuing her.

“I was just thinking now was as good a time as any to acknowledge that you’re perfect and it wouldn’t suck if you fell madly in love with me anytime soon.”
“I have a boyfriend.”
“Speed bump.”

The more time they spend with one another, and the more he treats her as if the world revolved around her, the more she starts questioning everything else in her life and facing it all one by one. Trent represents the mess, impulsiveness and uncertainty her past has taught her to fear and avoid at all costs, but he is also the mirror of many qualities she has always wished to eradicate in herself, and the more she allows herself to accept him as he is and all that he embodies, the more she starts accepting those traits in herself, no longer perceiving them as flaws. On the other hand, Cami is a grounding force for Trent’s volatile Maddox gene, his desire to make her love him making him want to be the type of man to deserve her affections. They are opposites in so many ways, and yet when they are together, those differences are what makes them so perfect for one another.

“Have you ever wanted something that you knew you shouldn’t have? That it was wrong on every level, but you knew you needed it?”

This is in essence a story of two people becoming each other’s passage into adulthood by giving one another the courage to grow up and face their fears. It’s a story that held me enthralled from the very beginning, happy as a clam to indulge in the simplicity of the fantasy of a ‘bad boy’ falling for the ‘good girl’, of a boy pursuing a girl relentlessly, shamelessly and with all his might. I did feel throughout the entire story, however, like I was missing a vital clue, a key of sorts to unlock the motivation behind the heroine’s actions, and I have to admit that until the very last page, she was a paradox to me. But then everything came together all of a sudden, the puzzle pieces all magically falling into place and I found myself speechless, frantically cataloguing the clues we were given unsuspectingly, and finally understanding her character. A few gaps in the story still left me wishing they had been explored and capitalised on more to make it an even more cohesive and emotionally richer storyline, especially references to past events that clearly affected the characters in a way that they now needed to overcome them. But I am hoping that subsequent instalments in this brand new series will fill those gaps and that as we got a new glimpse into Travis and Abby’s story, we will get a similar one into Trent and Cami’s as well.

This book is an absolute treat for the Beautiful Disaster fans out there, old and new, and one cannot help but fall in love with yet another Maddox brother. It left me greedy for more and with a sudden interest in getting “cashmere comfortable”.

“I’m a f*ckup, but I’m going to get it figured out. I swear. Just . . . don’t give up on me, okay?”

4stars

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Connect with Jamie: Website | Facebook | Twitter
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Maddox Brothers is a spin-off of the Beautiful Disaster series
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Beautiful Disaster: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Walking DisasterAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
A Beautiful Wedding (novella): My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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Follow the Beautiful Oblivion Blog Tour and enter for a chance to win a set of signed limited edition hardcovers by clicking on the image below…

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Other books in the series or related posts:
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