Love, in English by Karina Halle

loveinenglishHe’s thirty-eight. I’m twenty-three.

He speaks Spanish. I speak English.

He lives in Spain. I live in Canada.

He dresses in thousand-dollar suits. I’m covered in tattoos.

He’s married and has a five-year old daughter.

I’m single and can’t commit to anyone or anything.

Until now.

Because when they say you can’t choose who you fall in love with, boy ain’t that the f*cking truth.

To a restless dreamer like Vera Miles, it sounded like the experience of a lifetime. Instead of spending her summer interning for her astronomy major, she would fly to Spain where she’d spend a few weeks teaching conversational English to businessmen and women, all while enjoying free room and board at an isolated resort. But while Vera expected to get a tan, meet new people and stuff herself with wine and paella, she never expected to fall in love.

Mateo is unlike anyone Vera has ever known, let alone anyone she’s usually attracted to. While Vera is a pierced and tatted free spirit with a love for music and freedom, Mateo Casalles is a successful businessman from Madrid, all sharp suits and cocky Latino charm. Yet, as the weeks go on, the two grow increasingly close and their relationship changes from purely platonic to something…more.

Something that makes Vera feel alive for the first time.

Something that can never, ever be.

Or so she thinks.

review

“You can’t fall in love in a week.”
“You can fall in love in a second. The heart has no regard for time.”

Have you ever found a story that makes you feel as if you’ve always known it, a million different memories from your own life flickering before your eyes as you read it, filling you with overwhelming melancholy and longing, only to recognise it as nothing more than a youthful dream that never happened? I was completely unprepared for this book. Being a massive fan of Karina Halle’s extraordinary brand of storytelling, I knew that loving this book would not be a farfetched possibility, but I never expected to connect with a story so completely, so personally, and so unconditionally, that it felt like I could taste every emotion, every mood, every hope, forcing myself to savour it for as long as I could because I never wanted to part with the characters. The is the story of two lone stars adrift in their own galaxies of unhappiness, whose lives change and gain colour the moment they meet. Against all odds, and even against their own better judgement, they find their home in one another, their story defying our preconceptions of the meant-to-be scenario and showing us how unpredictable and unyielding true love can be. Every part of this atypical fairy tale moved me, my heart swelling from joy one moment and crying from sorrow the very next, making this book one of the most surreally beautiful and yet truly realistic tales I have ever come across.

“Are you afraid that love will clip your wings?”
“No, I’m afraid that losing love will.”

Vera Miles is a young woman in her early twenties, the black sheep in her family and a stranger in her own life. Her relentless pursuit of temporary ‘Band-Aids’ for her loneliness leads her to a month-long stay in the Spanish countryside as part of an English tutoring program for Spanish-speaking residents. But what appears to be nothing more than just another desperate attempt to cure her own apathy in a long string of impulsive and sudden decisions on her part, proves to be the very place where Vera’s heart would finally come to life.

“Just what in the f*ck did I sign up for?”

Mateo Casalles is a man who feels stuck in a life he never truly wanted. A former soccer champion, he has had to put his passions aside to become the man everyone expected him to be, now trapped in a loveless marriage and living a life devoid of true happiness. When he meets Vera, the gentle-natured but heavily tattooed walking contradiction, he is enthralled by every single facet of her colourful personality. She lights up the spark in him that he believed was long gone, every moment spent in her company bringing forth more and more of the man he once used to be.

“You made me stop chasing the days. You made me hold onto them.”

Regardless of their unquestionable mutual attraction, however, the obstacles before them are many and they are impossible to ignore. Vera’s own life has conditioned her to value the sanctity of a family over anything else, ever her own happiness. She resists the pull between them with every fibre of her being, while her heart breaks each day further and further. When they finally succumb to the chemistry between them, all we see is the once-in-a-lifetime quality of their bond and the irrepressible desire that makes them gravitate towards one another. But finding love is not the same as keeping love, and what they both recognise as a life altering connection proves to also be their greatest challenge.

“Love is like a thief, it robs you of all thought and logic and all you have left is a heart that you can only pray is strong enough to survive the rest.”

As we follow Vera and Mateo’s hesitant romance, from a shy and hesitant flicker at first to a blinding supernova of emotions in the end, we are reminded of how much the right kind of love can change a person, even when born under difficult circumstances, and how desperate the human heart is to love freely, completely, selflessly. This is not a traditional love story, there are no heroes or villains in it, no black or white scenarios to cling onto, as every element of this tale is painted with just another shade of grey for us to ponder on and reconcile with our own lessons in life. You may feel inclined to judge these characters’ decisions at some point in time, but remind yourself frequently of how unpredictable life can be and how little control we have over our own hearts.

“Sometimes you are stuck being the person you are and not the person you were. Or could be.”

Love has no regard for time, age, geography, or what others believe we should feel – when it is true, love blooms against all odds and eventually finds a way to survive even when we try to extinguish it. Vera and Mateo found love when they were searching for themselves, and that love is palpable on every single page of this incredible book. Deeply passionate, heartfelt, unpretentious, this story is told with such raw honesty and indisputable skill, that we are able to understand these two characters to the point of feeling every single emotion running through them. We feel their uncertainty, their struggle, their desperate attempt to preserve their own integrity and do no harm to others, but we also feel their undeniable attraction, need for each other, knowledge that they are complete human beings only when in each other’s arms. It is one of the most well-rounded stories I have ever read and it is also one of the most beautiful.

If you have never read a Karina Halle book, let this be your first one. But be warned, everything after it will pale in comparison…

“Love, in English, is love…”
“Love in Spanish is you.”

6stars

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Veiled Innocence by Ella Frank

veiledinnocence

Tick, tick, tock.

Time.

That’s all I have now.

A small room, a photograph, and time.

They want me to trust them and confess my sins.

They told me they wouldn’t judge me—they lied.

I thought we could convince the world that this wasn’t a crime.

We were wrong.

Time doesn’t stand still.

The clock keeps ticking, the world is unconvinced, and now…

Now he is gone.

review

“I never knew that I’d risk everything, even my freedom, just to touch someone. Just to touch you.”

Once in a blue moon, I find myself starting a book with absolutely no prior knowledge of its storyline or the themes in it, excited by the possibilities and lack of expectations, and while it is always a gamble, the mere fact that this particular book was penned by an author who has never let me down, made me feel like it was a safe bet from the very beginning. What I didn’t know was that this story would end up being my undoing from the moment I realised what it was about.

“Addison, it’s natural to form attachments to your teachers.”
“Is it natural to picture them f*cking you?”

Let it be known that nothing spikes my interest like a tale of forbidden romance between a teacher and a student, its inherent illicitness and lack of control being something I am inexplicably drawn to in the books I read, the greatest allure perhaps lying in the fact that, while morally despicable in real life, in fiction, we are allowed to mentally participate in these scenarios, and even root for them. But, as appealing as I find the mere idea of them, I personally also see them as extremely ‘hard sells’ in most cases. I honestly never know whether they would creep me out or make me tingle in all the right places, but I should have known that Ella Frank would have kicked it up a notch and set my skin on fire. This is a story that is so well-rounded, so masterfully assembled, every component fitting perfectly into the overall storyline and giving us one of the most intense, tantalizing, emotionally charged romances to feed our wicked fantasies.

“I looked at her—she looked at me. My ending, staring right at me from the very beginning.”

Grayson McKendrick is a history teacher, in his early thirties, a man whose past remains fairly elusive for the purposes of this story, apart from the fact that he has spent a large portion of his adulthood leading a rather nomadic life, traveling the world, until his father’s frail health brings him back home. He battles with conflicting feelings of anger and helplessness, expecting the worst to happen in the immediate future, but frustrated with himself for being unable to do anything to prevent it. His fairly quiet life comes to a standstill the moment a blue-eyed siren walks into his classroom and mischievously smiles at him, challenging his every resolve, his every belief, and from that moment onwards, Grayson’s life becomes a daily struggle to resist temptation and his body’s primal reactions to someone he knows he cannot and should not have.

“Temptation had come to visit, and her steely determination would likely destroy us both.”

Addison Lancaster is a popular girl, a high school senior whose traumatic past has cut her childhood short and made her into a woman who escapes her grief and overwhelming guilt by pursuing perfection and excellence in the things she can control in her life. But her pursuit of perfection is a race she can never win, her immaculate appearance only camouflaging the broken young woman hiding inside her, one in dire need of love and acceptance, but who only ever receives criticism and blame for the mistakes she never made. The Addison that the world sees is flawless, determined, ambitious, unemotional, a very different woman to the little girl still hiding behind her defensive walls. The only signs of her inner struggle are her little obsessive compulsions such as having to always hear the tick tock of a clock or her mental counting, acts that calm her nerves and warn off her anxiety when memories or external influences unsettle her.

“With him the ticking had stopped.”

When Addison lays eyes on her new history teacher, she is immediately attracted to him and she shamelessly pursues him any chance she gets. In a very rare reverse power dynamic in the context of a forbidden romance, young Addison is the one who sets the pace of their evolving relationship, her relentless determination to seduce him and make him admit his reluctant attraction to her is the element that makes this scenario so unique and addictive. Their age difference quickly disappears before our eyes, all we can see is the temptress rather than a woman half this man’s age, and as a result, their every interaction assumes an aura of delicious illicitness.

“I’ll teach you how to come with a man inside you. Not a boy, Addison, a man.”

But while Addison is the very thing that could destroy Grayson’s entire life, he is the first person in hers who manages to ground her, calm her nerves, make her feel safe and loved. No part of this taboo love affair is glorified or presented as the ‘the right way’ – we are continuously aware of how volatile and morally questionable this scenario is from the very beginning, and ultimately, the ending fits these given characters.

“You’re going to be the death of me.”
Life is full of ironies, because with him, I’d never felt more alive.

Do not be afraid by this book’s enigmatic blurb, do not be afraid to surrender your senses to this strikingly written love story that will ignite your every nerve ending and make you feel a myriad of different emotions. It somehow taps into all the taboos that make our kinks run rampant, and still manages to move us deeply and even shatter our hearts on occasion. I read this book in one sitting, in what felt like one single breath, and I adored every moment spent with Addison and Grayson. It has everything I always dream of finding in a forbidden student/teacher romance, but it is a love story first and foremost, and as such, I cannot recommend it enough to all the hopeless romantics out there.

“It wasn’t wrong. No—it was just misunderstood.”

5stars

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Bad For You by Abbi Glines

badforyouInnocence was never meant for the addictive…

Addiction was something Krit Corbin accepted as part of his nature a long time ago. He decided to embrace it and flip his finger at the rules. Women had always been the number one thing on his list of addictions. He couldn’t get enough. Being the lead singer in a rock band had only made access to his favorite addiction that much easier.

Being alone was the only thing Blythe Denton understood. The small town minister’s family that raised her hadn’t accepted her as their own. The minister’s wife had always made sure Blythe understood just how unworthy she was of love. When Blythe is sent away to college and given a chance to finally be free of living as an unwanted burden, she looks forward to having peace in her life. Being alone isn’t something that bothers her. She escapes reality in the stories she writes.

However, the ridiculously sexy tattooed guy who keeps throwing parties in the apartment above hers is driving her crazy. For starters, he doesn’t treat her like she would expect a guy with a different woman always hanging on his arm to treat someone as uninteresting as her. She looks nothing like the gorgeous women she sees parading in and out of his apartment, but for some strange reason he keeps showing up at her door.

During a party at his apartment, Krit’s new neighbor comes to the door with her long brown hair pulled up in a messy knot and a pair of glasses perched on her cute little nose. She wants him to turn down the music, but he convinces her to stay.

Krit Corbin may have just found his biggest addiction yet. And Blythe Denton realizes too late that she’s finally been claimed.

review

“From the moment you walked into my life, you have never ruined anything. You light up the things you touch.”

I won’t bore you by telling you again about my obsession with Abbi Glines’ books because I am pretty certain that even the camels in Timbuktu know about it by now and can recite my favourite passages, but I will tell you this – the more of her books I read, the more I am certain that we ain’t seen nothin’ yet. Ms Glines has a signature style, an inimitable voice drawing inspiration from a part of the world she knows best, and she is constantly titillating us with meant-to-be romances that we’re never quite certain whether they are designed to make our skin tingle in all the right places or cause our hearts to skip a few beats. But her voice keeps transforming, morphing, the ‘flavour’ of her stories reflecting an impressively prolific repertoire and her ever-changing taste. A master at creating dominant and possessive heroes who treat their leading ladies like princesses, she has once again given us a male character to lose our minds over and a heroine who will make you so protective of her, you might start growling at some point. The seventh book in the Sea Breeze series, this is a story that is so different from the others that it might as well be called a standalone novel. Superbly paced, heartbreakingly emotional, with just the right amount of sizzle and spice, I have loved this book on every single re-read and each time the same scenes managed to move me to tears.

“In my stories I could be beautiful. The prince would love me, and I would know how it felt to belong.”

Blythe is an orphan, raised by a pastor and his wife, in a house where she was never gifted with a kind word, a sign of affection or any positive affirmations. Treated as an unwelcome presence in the disapproving household she lived in, Blythe has grown into a woman who enjoys her own company, the stories she reads and writes, a woman who craves the freedom to be herself and asks for very little of others. She blossoms when even the smaller compliment is aimed her way, but two decades of being told she is an ugly, evil nuisance have conditioned her to believe she has very little to offer to others. Alone in a new city, finding love is the last thing Blythe hopes to find. And yet, her heart desperately aches to be claimed.

“Someone was bound to see the bad in me. They always had before.”

Krit is the lead singer of a local band, a man with a womanising reputation firmly based on facts, and he has no intention of changing his ways. Krit never connects with the women he sleeps with, he never makes false promises, never pretends that pleasure is not the only things he seeks from them. Raised to believe he is unworthy of love, he hides his heart behind a façade of carefree abandon, allowing very few people in his life to see the real him. Until a beautiful girl’s childlike joy catches his attention and then consumes his every thought from that moment on.

“How the f*ck was this girl alone? Where was the man hovering over her and protecting her from every bad thing that came near her?”

A beautiful friendship is born, one without pretences and where they are both unafraid to be themselves around each other, but they both secretly crave for more. Krit sees Blythe’s untouched innocence and kindness of heart and believes himself to be too jaded for a girl like her. As they spend more and more time together, he grows increasingly protective and possessive of her, but he is reluctant to claim her. Blythe’s isolated upbringing has made her utterly inexperienced in all matters of the heart, Krit’s mixed signals deeply wounding her, feeding her insecurities and warped image of herself. But she soaks up every little bit of attention he gives her, never asking for more, never demanding anything from him, cherishing his friendship and being willing to break her own heart in order to keep him as a friend.

“If you were lucky enough to have Krit Corbin in your life, you didn’t push him away. You soaked up every minute and made as many memories as you could.”

But when two people start living for each and every moment they spend together, it soon becomes impossible to keep denying their hearts. As Krit and Blythe’s relationship slowly changes, it becomes the very thing they have both always needed to feel complete. When life suddenly throws their young love curveballs, their worse fears have the power of either breaking them apart or making them stronger than they’ve ever been.

“Blythe made me feel whole inside. I’d never felt whole. There was always this emptiness. I had tried everything to fill that dark ache inside, but nothing had ever worked. Until Blythe smiled at me.”

Every aspect of this story tugs at our heartstrings, making us addicted to its every word and leaving us in a starry-eyed haze, wishing there were more pages to feed our addiction. Whether you’ve never read another Sea Breeze novel in your life or whether you’re a die-hard fan, you will love this book, there is no doubt about it. A beautiful story of friends turning lovers with two characters that we cannot help but adore, Ms Glines has truly outdone herself this time, making my heart, for one, a little terrified of what she has in store for us next.

“You don’t just fit into my world, Blythe. You are my world.”

5stars

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Sea Breeze – Reading Order and Purchase Links
breathe2 because-of-low2 while-it-lasts2 just-for-now3
SometimesItLasts_large misbehaving3 badforyou HOLDONTIGHT 2

Breathe: Amazon US | Amazon UK
Because of LowAmazon US | Amazon UK
While It LastsAmazon US | Amazon UK
Just For NowAmazon US | Amazon UK
Sometimes It Lasts: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK
Misbehaving: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK
Bad For YouAmazon US | Amazon UK
Hold On TightAmazon US | Amazon UK (3 Jun 2014)

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Dear Tabitha by Trudy Stiles

Dear TabithaYou know me. You know who I am. What I am.

Damaged. Confused. Alone.

You feel sorry for me.

You pity me.You know what I’ve done. What I’ve given up. Who I’ve given up.

You try to understand what I’ve been through and how I can possibly go on with my life. But you can’t possibly understand.

I’ve lost too much. Sacrificed too much. Given up everything so that I can find myself.

Well I’m done.

I’m done walking away from everything that matters.

It’s time for me to heal. It’s MY TURN to earn…

Redemption.

Love.

Family.

review

“I’m free. Free of fear. Free of lies. But can I be free to hope?”

Confession time. I was terrified of this book. Literally, breaking out in a cold sweat the moment I decided to read it. Dear Emily was one of the most emotional stories to ever touch my heart and as much as I loved and connected so deeply with the main characters in that book, I have been anxiously waiting for Tabitha’s story ever since. I felt invested in Tabitha from the moment I met this unfortunate young woman, and hoped with all my heart that she would eventually find her happiness. Well, Tabitha finally got her story and even though I sobbed like a baby and almost punched a wall a few times, my heart is so full right now, it’s quite possibly glowing. An awe-inspiring conclusion to a story that changes you, moves you, touches every facet of your soul and leaves a part of itself deeply embedded in your heart, this book was everything I hoped it would be and so much more.

“I’m a terrible cook and I wouldn’t want to run you out the door.”
“I would eat cardboard if it meant I could spend the night with you.”

Tabitha has only experienced loss in her life, everyone she has ever cared for being taken from her one way or another throughout her young life. She has survived rape, sexual abuse, physical violence, and yet, as cruel as fate has always been to her, she remains a kind and compassionate soul, pure at heart, who struggles with insecurities and issues of low self-esteem, and never takes the affection of others for granted. The horrors that she has lived through have not made her bitter or resentful of the happiness of others, but rather appreciative of what little she has and hopeful that a new day would finally bring her own happy ending, gifting her with the one thing she dreams most of having – a family. As baby Emily’s birth mother, we have already watched Tabitha experience sorrow and loss, but in this book, we get to bear witness to the very events in her life that have marked her the most and have led her to become the unsettled woman she is today.

“Why did she do this to us? She ruined us? I trusted her. Loved her.”

Alex is the only man Tabitha has ever loved, but one mistake on her part has caused them two and a half years of separation during which neither of them have moved on romantically, but both have somehow changed for the better. When Alex returns home, his only wish is to find out whether the woman he still loves is as broken without him as he has been without her. But Alex does not know how much has happened in Tabitha’s life since his departure, never expecting to find a much more confident and determined young woman in place of the shy and broken one he left behind.

“I’ve been lost and alone without her for so long.”

By giving us a very intimate insight into Alex’s childhood as well, we find out how similar their young lives have been, marred by loss and violence, making them both terrified of giving their hearts away in fear of having them broken. Their worse fears made them lose the fairy-tale romance they once had, but life finally gives them another chance at happiness and let me tell you, you will need tissues to watch it all unfold.

“I’m … not ready to tell him yet. Because I’m not ready for him to leave me again.”

One huge secret stands between them and their happy ending and in a heart-stopping tale of forgiveness, second chances and hope, we get first row seats at one of the most superb shows of human endurance and obstinate ability to give love. While Dear Emily was such a story of opposites, where one woman was gaining everything she ever dreamed of in life, and the other was losing it all and facing a future where she would forever mourn that loss, this book is in so many ways a story of two people being drawn to one another because of the parallels in their lives and a unique understanding of each other’s deepest demons.

“I won’t inherit his rage. I won’t be like him.”

This is truly a book like no other. This story is told with honesty and heart, making the reader feel so many different emotions page after page, but most of all the author’s reverence for her own characters. I walked away feeling like every half-empty glass in my life was suddenly full to the rim, thankful for this journey and determined to read every word this author ever decides to write.

“Our forever starts now.”

5stars

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Forever Family – Reading Order and Purchase Links
dearemily2
Dear Tabitha

Dear Emily: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | B&N ⬅ $0.99
Dear TabithaAmazon US | Amazon UK | B&N

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Play by Kylie Scott

playMal Ericson, drummer for the world famous rock band Stage Dive, needs to clean up his image fast—at least for a little while. Having a good girl on his arm should do the job just fine. Mal doesn’t plan on this temporary fix becoming permanent, but he didn’t count on finding the one right girl.

Anne Rollins never thought she’d ever meet the rock god who plastered her teenage bedroom walls—especially not under these circumstances. Anne has money problems. Big ones. But being paid to play the pretend girlfriend to a wild life-of-the-party drummer couldn’t end well. No matter how hot he is. Or could it?

review

“Whatever you’re imagining, it’s bigger.”
“I’m not imagining anything.”
“I’m serious. It’s basically a monster. I cannot control it.”
“Malcolm—“
“You’re pretty much going to need a whip and chair to tame it, Anne.”

This book should come with a medical warning because I’m pretty certain that I strained a couple of stomach muscles while reading it! Who would have thought that a sexy rocker romance would also become one of the funniest books I have ever read? A love story first and foremost, this is a book that had me in stitches and made me devour its pages like I was starving for them. A brilliant sequel to an all-time favourite, this book can be summarised in one word – MAL.

“He’s kind of like a puppy on steroids. Doesn’t know his own strength.”

Mal Ericson is the ever-popular Stage Dive drummer, known for his easygoing personality and his filter-free mouth. He is the light of every party, the incorrigible flirt who sleeps with women but never dates them, but he is also the peacekeeper in the band, the one who injects humour into every situation and manages to diffuse tempers even when all they feel like doing is rip each other apart. But behind every did-he-just-say-that type of ‘Mal-inism’ hides a man who is a lot more profound and sensitive than he lets others believe. Mal is a man who allows very few people in his life to see past his comedic façade, until one woman catches his attention and completely throws him out of his element.

“Why does everyone insist on being heavy all the f*cking time? Life’s too short for all this over-sharing. You’re here. I’m here. We can help each other out and have a good time while we’re at it. That’s all that matters.”

Anne is a woman who has put her entire life on hold and her every dream aside to make sure her sister would not suffer the same fate. She is a born giver, someone who rarely says ‘no’ to people and who always puts the needs of those she cares for before her own. Her indiscriminate generosity and willingness to help others has brought her to the point of facing eviction, and yet she remains determined to make it on her own in life and keep caring for the ones she loves. When she meets Mal at one of the band’s many parties, she is starstruck by the object of her every teenage fantasy, but even more surprised by his obvious interest in her. And yet, as ‘crazy eyed’ as she gets around him, she does not fuss over him or indulge his antics, making her the perfect type of woman in Mal’s eyes.

The very next day, Anne finds herself with a new roommate, a pretend-boyfriend and more public attention than she ever bargained for. And that is when the Mal Ericson ‘one man show’ takes off and I seriously suggest warming those stomach muscles beforehand because every word that comes out of his mouth is hilarious.

“I’m not sure I can stick my dick in a woman who doesn’t even know who John Bonham is.”
“Stick your dick in?” … “Did you actually just say that?”
“Make love. I meant make love…of course. I would never just stick my dick in you. I would make mad passionate love to this sweet, sweet body of yours for days, no weeks. It would be beautiful, pumpkin. There’d be little angels, and birdies, and you know… all just hanging around, watching. Perverts.”

They pretend, they tease each other, they play the roles they’ve agreed on, but as their attraction grows and every touch, every kiss becomes more real, soon neither of them is faking their feelings anymore. And as one of them faces one of life’s cruellest heartbreaks, they are forced to learn very quickly what it means to be a couple, and that loving someone means no longer having to suffer alone.

A truly well-rounded and flawlessly written story of two complete opposites attracting and becoming each other’s unexpected happy ending, this is a book that I will want to re-read any chance I get. If I could have asked for one thing to make it even more perfect in my eyes, I would have wished for a heroine who made a man like Mal work a bit more for her affections, made him ‘sweat’ on occasion, and not always forgive his actions so easily, but when it comes to a book like this one, a book that you cannot help but thoroughly enjoy cover to cover, any wishful thinking is a pure act of reader’s greed. This is a splendid marriage of romance and comedy, a possibly even better book than its stellar prequel, and I would recommend it to anyone who likes their love stories with a side of giggles.

“Life’s a song, Anne. Let’s play.”

5stars

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Stage Dive – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
LICK_new play
Lick: My review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | B&N | Paperback
Play: My review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | B&N | Paperback
Lead: Amazon US | Amazon CA | B&N (29 Jul 2014)
Deep: Amazon US | Amazon CA (23 Dec 2014)
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The Author

Kylie is a long time fan of erotic love stories and B-grade horror films. She demands a happy ending and if blood and carnage occur along the way then all the better. Based in Queensland, Australia with her two children and one delightful husband, she reads, writes and never dithers around on the internet.

Connect with Kylie: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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Last Breath by Jen Frederick & Jessica Clare

lastbreath2Regan

I never really knew what misery was until the day I was kidnapped and sold for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Two months later, I’m at a brothel in Rio when I meet Daniel Hays. He says he’s here to save me, but can I trust him? All I know of him are his sarcastic retorts and his tendency to solve every dispute with his gun. He’s also the only safe thing in my world, and I know it’s wrong to fall in love with him, but I can’t seem to help myself. He says he’ll protect me until his last breath but I don’t know if I should believe him or even if I can.

Daniel

For the last eighteen months, I’ve had one goal that has dictated every action I’ve taken. I’ve left the Army, turned paid hit man, and have befriended criminals all across the globe to find my kidnapped sister. In every brothel I raid or every human trafficking truck I stop, I hope the next face I find is my sister’s. In a hidden brothel in Rio, I find Regan Porter, bruised by not broken and still sane despite her weeks in captivity. I should leave her behind or send her home because the last thing either of us needs right now is to get involved. But with every passing minute, I find I can’t let her go.

review

“I’m not here to f*ck you, okay? I’m here to save your ass.”

You know when you start a new book and you straight away get that fuzzy feeling about it and you just know that you’re going to desperately fall in love with it? I was obsessed with this story from the very first line. I had read the prequel, Last Hit, and was blown away by the authors’ ability to create a hero who somehow made me uneasy and gave me heart palpitations all at the same time, but I felt that the story had lacked a fierce heroine to match. Well, in this book, the authors have not only given us one of the most incredible heroines I have ever come across, but also an engaging and multifaceted story that was an absolute thrill start to finish.

“I realized no one would be coming. No Daisy. No Mike. No one. They left me here to rot. I had vanished and no one would find me, ever.”

While each instalment in this series can be read as a standalone story, this book is a continuation of the storyline in Last Hit. Regan is the unlucky roommate who gets kidnapped by the Russian mob and sold into slavery at the end of that book, so we find her in a brothel in Rio de Janeiro, her body brutally used and abused, chained to a wall and with no hope of escape. But as doomed as her life has turned out to be, Regan remains a fighter. She disconnects her mind from what is happening to her body, and while she is deeply traumatised by it all, she never gives her captors or the many men paying to use her for sex the satisfaction of seeing her broken. Her spirit and her will to survive remain intact, but her hope that someone would be coming to her rescue fades with each passing day.

“I did everything I could to distance myself from what was happening to my body… I almost forgot that my ankle was chained to a beam in the wall and that I was a prisoner. I lived inside my head.”

Daniel is a mercenary, a former Special Forces sniper who now kills people for money, and he is the man who has been sent to retrieve Regan. While he has searched for her for two months, he has been in and out of brothels for the last year and a half rescuing girls from the sex trade, all the while looking for his sister who was abducted and sold through the same channels as Regan. When Daniel meets Regan, he is taken aback by her feistiness given the recent violence in her life, her resilience and lack of victim-like behaviour making her the most astonishing woman he has ever come across. Every aspect of her personality calls to him – her courage, her stubbornness, her vulnerability, her smart mouth – and his body reacts to her even though her sees himself as too tainted for someone as perfect as Regan.

“A guy like me would be pretty damn lucky to be permitted to touch you.”

As they navigate the slums of Rio de Janeiro trying to escape the men sent after them and searching for his sister, Daniel and Regan develop a peculiar relationship of co-dependency. Regan refuses to be abandoned again and while human touch now repulses her, Daniel is the only man who does not affect her that way, his presence comforting her, and his tenderness towards her making her crave things she thought would never appeal to her again. Daniel grows more and more protective of her with each moment they spend fighting for their lives, finding himself unable to let her go. He learns quickly what her triggers are, how to soothe her fears when panic takes over her mind, and he soon wants nothing more than to claim her as his own.

“You’re mine, Regan Porter. You don’t get to decide if you die or not. Because if you do, you’re destroying me, too.”

An unlikely romance between two people who were never meant to fall for one another, this story was the perfect blend of exhilarating suspense and breath-taking passion and I cannot recommend it enough to anyone looking for a book that truly does not fit a set mould. It made me laugh, it made me squirm, it made me pant, it made me suck my thumb on occasions and mentally rock in a corner, and it was one of the most elating stories I have ever read. And now I’m drooling for the next book in the series, Vasily and Naomi’s story, which is set to be one of the most unusual romantic scenarios I have ever heard of…

“I’d never hurt her, never break my promise to her. Not in this lifetime or the next.”

5stars

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Hitman – Reading Order and Purchase Links
lasthit lastbreath2

Last HitAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Last BreathAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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The Authors

Jen Frederick is a New Adult writing romances for all ages. Unspoken and Undeclared are available at all your favorite retailers.

Jessica Clare is a pen name for Jill Myles. Jill Myles has been an incurable romantic since childhood. She reads all the ‘naughty parts’ of books first, looks for a dirty joke in just about everything, and thinks to this day that the Little House on the Prairie books should have been steamier. After devouring hundreds of paperback romances, mythology books, and archaeological tomes, she decided to write a few books of her own – stories with a wild adventure, sharp banter, and lots of super-sexy situations. She prefers her heroes alpha and half-dressed, her heroines witty, and she loves nothing more than watching them overcome adversity to fall into bed together.

Connect with Jen: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
Connect with Jessica: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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The Will by Kristen Ashley

thewillEarly in her life, Josephine Malone learned the hard way that there was only one person she could love and trust: her grandmother, Lydia Malone. Out of necessity, unconsciously and very successfully, Josephine donned a disguise to keep all others at bay. She led a globetrotting lifestyle on the fringes of the fashion and music elite, but she kept herself distant.

While Josephine was trotting the globe, retired boxer Jake Spear was living in the same small town as Lydia. There was nothing disguised about Jake. Including the fact he made a habit of making very bad decisions about who to give his love.

But for Josephine and Jake, there was one person who adored them. One person who knew how to lead them to happiness. And one person who was intent on doing it.

Even if she had to do it as her final wish on this earth.

review

“It’s never too late to reach for happiness and no matter what life has done to you, it’s never too late to find it.”

I will start this review with the promise that reading it will not affect your enjoyment of this book in any possible way. One of the most striking qualities of this story is the sheer number of unexpected emotional reactions it evokes in the reader, page after page, scene after scene, and nothing in this review will rob you of any of those skin-tingling moments. But it might just give you an idea of why this was the KA book for me.

Starting a new Kristen Ashley book is always an emotional experience for me, her stories forever touching my heart and making my wildest fantasises run rampant. Each new book by this author seems to set a new benchmark for all the books I read after that, but never has it happened before that a story won’t let me write its review for several weeks after I’ve finished reading it because every time the story crosses my mind, I am overwhelmed by ‘book nostalgia’, wishing stories like that never had to end. I have loved and lived every single Kristen Ashley book I have ever read, but this was the most epic one of them all for me, the one that completely took my breath away and the one that will always represent ‘vintage KA style’ in my eyes.

“She wanted me for you.”

We meet Josephine ‘Josie’ Malone at one of the most trying moments in her life – at her beloved grandmother’s funeral. Josie has just lost the only family she had left, the woman who saved her from an abusive childhood by giving her a loving home, a place to belong to, a safe harbour, and by exemplifying the kind of woman Josie had always strived to become. At this moment of complete emotional loss and vulnerability, a man and his children standing near her grandmother’s casket catch Josie’s eye, their identity unknown to her but the intense pain in their eyes acting as a beacon to her own broken heart. The following day, her grandmother’s will is read and Josie’s world is suddenly turned inside out, its startling content leaving Josie torn between wanting to please her grandmother one last time and perplexed by the nature of her wishes.

“My most precious possession, the thing I treasure above anything else in this world … I hereby bequeath to …”

By all accounts, Jake Spear is a complete stranger to Josie but someone her grandmother not only seemed to hold in the highest regard, as her will shows, but also cared for deeply. A local entrepreneur and business owner, Jake’s business ventures vary greatly from one another, but his every action demonstrates that he is willing to do whatever it takes to provide for the three most important people in his life – his children. A former boxing champion and three-time divorcee, Jake is the very opposite of the type of man Josie has been pining for over the last two decades, his small-town lifestyle standing in stark contrast to the jet setting one that Josie has become accustomed to in her career, but she is strangely drawn to him. Having left home in her early twenties, determined to escape the memory of her past and reinvent herself, she has spent the last twenty years distancing herself from her emotions and looking after someone else’s needs before her own. But one look at Jake and his family, coupled with her recent loss and newly acquired responsibilities, and Josie cannot help but start questioning her choices in life and finding new definitions for happiness.

“…although it feels lovely you wish for me to have all kinds of beauty, I’m perfectly happy without it.”

After suppressing her own dreams for so long, and quashing every inborn instinct she has ever had to form a family, Josie is confronted for the very first time with the very real possibility of having everything she has always wished for, if only she is brave enough to grab it by the horns and never let it go.

“I’m fine with being alone. I want it to be that way. Honestly, I do.”

These characters might be slightly older and hence dealing with very different issues from the younger ones we typically encounter in KA books, but the intensity of their connection, the chemistry, and the passion between them are just as off-the-charts as always. If anything, their need for each other and desire to connect on all levels feels even more urgent and eager. There are moments that will have your heart racing, there are others that will make you melt from glee, and there will be moments when you will struggle to catch your breath.

“Every inch of you, outside and any way you can get inside, baby, physically or emotionally, is mine.”

This is essentially a tale of second chances at love, or first chances at love when deprived of true happiness until later on in life, and it tells the story of two people whose lives have taught them to recognise beauty once it comes along and to allow themselves to hold onto it, regardless of how undeserving of it they believe themselves to be. Every element of a KA book is present – her inimitable prose, her intense dialogues, her unmatched character development and ability to make the reader feel such a wide spectrum of emotions – but this story went beyond that for me, the honesty with which it was told touching me on a very personal level, and making me connect with the characters like never before.

“I’d give him anything. I’d give him everything. If I had the power, I’d give him the world.”

By the time you reach the end of this book, you’ll realise what a wonderful ‘full circle’ the author has weaved for us, showing us that every story, even the most ‘real’ and close-to-home ones, can become breathtaking fairy-tales. KA books should really have a separate rating scale as they truly stand in a book universe of their own, but if I had to pick an absolute favourite among them all, this book would be that book for me. I promise you, this story will mark you in the best possible way and if you’re anything like me, you’ll never fully walk away from it. Six Stars of Excellence and then some.

“I wanted you before I even knew you… You’re everything I ever wanted, darling.”

6stars

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This is the first book in a series of standalone stories with interconnected characters.

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Read a spoiler-free excerpt
The Author

k ashley_picKristen 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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