BOOK REVIEW: A Stone in the Sea by A.L. Jackson

AStoneintheSea

He wanted nothing at all…

Until he found she had everything to give…

Sunder lead singer and guitarist Sebastian Stone has everything—fans, fame, and fortune. He also has a heart full of bitterness and a reputation for a short-fused temper. But an outward reputation rarely reveals the true man inside. Facing assault charges after trying to protect his younger brother, Sebastian is sent to Savannah, Georgia to lie low until the dust settles in L.A.

Shea Bentley is beautiful, kind, and hiding from the very lifestyle Sebastian has always embraced.

When the mysterious, tattooed stranger begins hanging out at the bar where she works, Shea is quick to recognize he is nothing but trouble, but she’s helpless to the way her body lights up every time his intense gray eyes tangle with hers.

They both soon find themselves drowning in a sea of desire and passion that won’t let them up for air.

Sebastian knows firsthand secrets never die, and he’s not the only one who’s hiding them.

Loving someone always comes with a price. But will it be Shea’s past that costs them everything?

review

“I never needed anyone to love me until I needed you.”

I should have known. I should have known she would wreck me. I should have known she would give us another gut-wrenching story, and then leave only heartbreak in its wake, because this book owned me, cover to cover, every single sentence in it reminding me once again why I love this author’s writing style so dearly, and why her words affect me every single time without fail. An intense, passionate love story that had all the components I am drawn to in a romance of this kind, but coupled with a few personal ‘triggers’ of my own—I was mesmerized from the very first page, and my fascination with these characters only grew as the story unravelled. Two people scarred by life, desperate to put their dark pasts behind them, and viscerally drawn to each other from the moment they meet—this is the story of finding the missing piece to one’s life, of finding the courage to take a chance, to throw all caution aside and risk one’s heart for nothing more than the hope of a happiness like no other. There are so many crucial facets to this story which I will not even mention to you, wishing for you to discover them on your own and thus allow this story to overwhelm you slowly, as intended, because there are so many complex layers to this tale, so many puzzle pieces, and the pace at which we uncover them is as important as the story itself. If you are looking for a phenomenally written, captivating read that you will not be able to put down, I cannot recommend this book highly enough.

“I’d never felt anything was missing from my life. Not until the day I met Sebastian Stone.”

Sebastian Stone is a rock star, a man whose life has been under the magnifying glass ever since he found fame, but his road to success has not been an easy one, marred by great loss and bitter mistakes, making him the disillusioned and hot-tempered young man he is now. When faced with the disastrous consequences of his temper’s latest outburst, he finds himself cooped up with his band mates in a small town in Savannah, Georgia, forced to re-evaluate his life altogether. But while seeking anonymity and peace, nothing prepares him for his body’s unexpected reaction to a kind-eyed waitress at a local bar, whose inexplicable pull leaves him baffled and starving for more.

“I knew it then. What I wanted.
To lose control.
Just for a few hours.
And I wanted to lose it with her.”

Shea Bentley is a young woman whose deceivingly simple life hides a painful past full of secrets, a past she hides fiercely from all those around her. Kind, unpretentious, modest—Shea is unlike any other woman Sebastian has ever met, her eyes hiding a darkness he immediately recognises, while her inner light draws him to her like a beacon through a storm. And as much as he tries to stay away from her and not be an unwanted distraction in her life, her siren call keeps pulling him to her night after night.

“What are you doing here?”
“The same thing I’m doing every night, Shea. Thinking about you and wondering why the hell I can’t stop.”

They both fight their attraction, try to find reasons for avoiding an emotional connection of any kind, but when they inevitably succumb to the unwavering spark between them, it is one of the most devastating, explosive, uninhibited, heart-breakingly passionate sights to be seen. Ms Jackson uses every weapon in her writing arsenal to express emotions of such magnitude that we are left quivering messes, totally entranced by her prose and hopelessly addicted to the intensity of the scenes she is weaving before our eyes.

“I fell.
Plunged into his abyss.
Heart first.
Through waves of ecstasy. Deeper. Deeper. To where I touched a sea of stars that blinded my eyes, where I floated in that place that belonged only to us, a place that didn’t belong to this world. Where darkness and light reigned and wrong or right had no bearing.
A brutal ecstasy.”

The connection between these characters takes on a life of its own and it soon becomes a palpable force driving the story forward. Sebastian is a man who never sought anything more than a temporary escape from his life, a chance to forget, until he meets a woman who gives herself to him selflessly and bravely, who takes a risk with her heart by loving a man who would never love her back the same way…or stay. But their greatest battle might end up being one they never even imagined fighting alongside one another.

“I’m going to break you, Shea.”
I knew it.
Felt it in my gut.
“You already have.”

Ms Jackson is a master storyteller, a skilled ‘sadist’ when it comes to affecting her readers’ emotions and making our hearts ache, but her brand of ‘torture’ is quite possibly one of my favourite ‘afflictions’. In this book, her powerful writing style has the added element of an almost lyrical pace to the prose itself, with heightened imagery and emotional associations present in every rhythmic beat of the words themselves. It deepened my connection to the story, to these characters and their emotional journey, leaving me breathless on more than one occasion.

I will not lie to you, there is a nasty cliffhanger at the end of this book, one that was needed given the many puzzle pieces yet to be revealed. It left me a raging mess, but glad that the story had not been cheapened by forcing it into one book. So, if you are not allergic to anticipation and get a kick out of reading phenomenally written, angst-ridden stories that overload your senses start to finish, I urge you to give this beautiful tale a chance.

Sebastian and Shea’s story will continue in Drowning to Breathe in June 2015, and then conclude in Through the Storm, expected in October 2015.

“I was falling further, being sucked beneath the surface.
A stone in his sea.
Completely drowning in this man.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Losers Weepers by Nicole Williams

LosersWeepersIf we didn’t know darkness, we couldn’t fully appreciate the light.

Garth Black’s more familiar with this concept than most people are. He hadn’t just lived in the dark for the majority of his life—he thrived in it. With a mom who’d bailed on him and a dad whose understanding of coddling started and ended with a bottle of whiskey, Garth had never been expected to rise to any sort of occasion other than following down the same dead-end paths.

That changed when he fell in love with Josie Gibson. After years of pulling each other closer before shoving the other way, they finally stopped shoving. Josie’s love is like nothing Garth’s ever experienced. He holds it close. He holds it sacred. He would do anything to preserve it and keep it from pollution, even if that means removing himself from the picture.

Garth might have been allowed a temporary furlough to bask in the light, but that pass has been revoked, and he’s been swallowed again by the dark. Will he revert to his old ways of hurting those he cares for most? Will he go back to the same destructive patterns . . . or will it be worse this time?

We can’t know light without first knowing dark . . . and Garth Black’s about to get acquainted with the dark in a whole new way.

review

“You don’t throw away the love of a lifetime because someone gets injured—that’s when you prove what your love’s really made of.”

Garth Black. This dark, troubled, smart-alecky cowboy stole my heart in Finders Keepers, but I have to admit that getting a continuation of his story was equally thrilling as it was terrifying at first, because every protective bone in my body did not wish any more harm to come to these beloved characters. Garth and Josie’s love story had been a lesson in perseverance, of stubbornly fighting for what we want most in our lives, and of breaking the self-disparaging cycle we might have been born into. But their tale was not over, as blissfully as it had ended, and one more hurdle was needed for Garth to recognise and truly embrace the unconditional love a woman like Josie was offering him. An intensely emotional and thought-provoking story, sugar-coated with light-hearted humour and sarcasm, it never steered away from getting across a very meaningful message of hope and courage, of learning to grab life by the horns instead of fearing it, of living to the fullest regardless of what the future has in store for us, and of seizing every minute of every day like it were our last. I fell in love with these characters all over again, and I still find myself smiling from time to time as certain scenes unexpectedly flash through my mind, because this superb, feel-good story stays with us long after we turn the last page.

“I had nothing to compare to the way she loved me, and that’s what made it so special. No one but her had ever come close to loving me like that. No one had ever believed in me the way she did. Her love was so big and overwhelming that each day with her erased another day of pain and failure from my past. Her love was magic, healing me as it lifted me up, and though she tried convincing me otherwise, I knew I could spend ten lifetimes trying and failing to give her what she’d given me in a year’s time.”

Garth and Josie have found their happy ending in each other’s arms and with a hopeful future before them. But, after a childhood void of affection and approval, and having been told all his life that he was nothing, Garth still struggles with his self-esteem issues, especially when it comes to truly believing that he could ever be worthy of someone as wonderful as Josie. He plans of handing her the world, of making every single one of her dreams come true, thus making her as happy as she makes him, and his career as a bull rider is his means to that very end. But one moment, one flash in time, steals his dreams away and leaves him facing the kind of future he has dreaded all his life.

“My whole life, everything I’d been and everything I’d wanted to become, was spiraling away from me. Fragments of the man I’d been and the man I’d wanted to become were gusting out of reach. My life as I’d known it was over. My life as I’d hoped it would be would never come to fruition.”

As we watch him reverting to his old, sarcastic, self-destructive ways in an attempt to cope emotionally with his own helplessness and inherent pessimism, we also watch him push away those he loves the most in life—his Josie most of all. Convinced that she would be better off without him and determined to give her the life he believes she should want, he becomes his cantankerous old self, the man he knows Josie should not love. But all his plans fall through one by one as he realises that the firecracker he loves more than life itself is not a woman who can be told what to feel or what to do. And that her love comes with no conditions.

“Joze, you and I are more alike than both your mother and father pray every night we’re not.”
“Ah, that’s the sweetest thing you’ve ever said to me. Nothing says romance like implying your woman’s the asshole equivalent of you with boobs.”

Ms Williams has given us a kickass heroine that created the perfect character balance to the hero’s often belligerent and gloomy ways. Josie is Garth’s perfect match in so many ways, defusing his negativity with her sharp tongue and quick wit, disarming him with her bubbliness and playfulness, and mending his broken heart with her endless love and devotion. Even in his darkest hour, she is the beacon that pulls him out of his own misery.

“My God, Joze. You’re the best damn woman God had the audacity to go and create. How did I end up with you?”

There is something so emotionally fulfilling about a story like this one—even the sadder moments leaving us bursting with hope and positivity—but it is the sheer magnitude and beauty of the love present on every single one of these pages that captured my heart irreversibly. This inspiring, uplifting, touching love story was great before, but now it became a sight to behold. I cherished every moment and was only too happy to discover that one way or another, we would not be saying goodbye to these beloved characters just yet, as they would inevitably play a minor role in the final chapter of Jesse and Rowen’s story in Heart and Soul. This is a book for the heart and mine is overflowing right now.

“Nothing’s fine without you, Joze. But with you? Everything’s perfect.”

5stars

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Lost and Found – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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Lost and FoundMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Near and FarMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Finders KeepersMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Losers WeepersMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Heart and Soul: iBooks (16 Jun 2015)

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BOOK REVIEW: To the Max by Elle Aycart

Forensic accountant Annie Griffin has always suspected she’s a bit jinxed, so when she finds herself 35, single, temporarily homeless, and pregnant on a technicality by a gigolo, her fears are confirmed.

Adrenaline junkie and professional stuntman Max Bowen needs a house-sitter to watch after his pets while he’s out of town. Annie needs a place to stay. Standard quid pro quo. No biggie. She can handle that, whatever hellhounds he owns. Until Max, the most sought-after bachelor in the county, comes back ahead of schedule and suddenly she’s roommates with a 27-year old sex God who turns out to be so much more than what she expected.

Max might have had the attention span of a humming bird on crack when it comes to women, but that was before Annie. Her quirkiness and sweet contradictions soon captivate him, not that she’s inclined to give him the time of the day. With his reputation preceding him, he knows the odds are badly stacked against him, but he will do his best to prove her that he’s what she needs, stuck-up socialite grandmothers, doomsday preppers, groupies, pregnancy hormones, and repentant biological dads be damned.

review

“What are you thinking?”
“How young you look.”
“Were you thinking that yesterday while I was between your legs, eating your pussy after I’d f*cked you hard against the wall?”
“I wasn’t thinking.”
“Good. That’s how we’ll keep it, then.”

A love story penned by Elle Aycart never disappoints, something about her trademark style of romance making me ache in anticipation every single time I am about to start reading one of her books because there’s not a doubt in my mind that she’d overload my senses and leave me squiggling in my seat from the sheer sexiness of her words. I have been waiting for a long time to read Max’s story and all good things definitely come to those who wait because this book was everything I hoped it’d be…and so much more. The perfect fusion of sweet and racy, with well-timed injections of humour and suspense, I loved every word in it. And I am now desperately besotted with another Bowen brother, another incorrigible dirty-mouthed alpha male—this one just happens to look like a mouth-watering Viking.

“I’ve been in the dating arena long enough to know that when your date starts talking about themselves in the third person, it’s time to hide.”

Annie Griffin is a single woman in her mid-thirties who dreams of settling down and marrying the man of her dreams, even though her dating history has amounted to one disappointment after another. But she remains an optimist, an ‘active dater’ who is willing to persevere in her search for the love of her life, even if to find him she’d have to kiss many a frog. Annie’s life comes to a standstill when she finds herself pregnant, compliments of an impetuous one night stand…with an escort.

“I somehow envisioned embracing motherhood differently. Not at thirty-five, without a partner, and knocked up by a gigolo who might or might not be named Luigi.”

Max is the youngest Bowen brother, and the last bachelor in this family of genetically blessed men. A professional stuntman, a daredevil, an irrepressible heartbreaker who loves playing the field, he wears his singlehood like a badge of honour, envisioning commitment and long-term relationships only somewhere very far on the horizon. When he runs into Annie at his brother’s wedding, any spark that might have ignited otherwise between them is quickly doused by an unexpected bout of morning sickness, coupled with the frustration from finding herself on another failed date to add to her already lengthy list. But their connection is immediate from the start, even with the wrong bodily fluids exchanged between them, both surprised by how easy it is to talk to one another and how effortless it is to be in each other’s company.

“… he was such a shameless flirt. Gorgeous, charming, easygoing. Pity when it came to women, he has the attention span of a hummingbird on crack.”

When Annie finds herself temporarily without a place to stay, Max offers her his home, a housesitting arrangement suiting them both while he’s away working on location and while she adjusts to her new condition. But every time he comes back home, he finds new reasons for liking the witty, down-to-earth, funny woman sleeping under his roof. And for wanting more with her.

“I’ve watched you come apart in my arms. I’ve held you while you slept. I’ve felt your baby kick. No, I haven’t f*cked you. My dick hasn’t been inside you. But don’t be mistaken; we do have an intimate relationship.”

As they start tiptoeing in the lukewarm waters of a friends-with-benefits arrangement, Annie struggles with the eight-year age difference between them most of all, fully aware that their priorities in life are nowhere near being aligned to one another, not to mention her impending single motherhood never letting her forget that she would soon be responsible for more than just herself. And yet, their attraction and affection for one another keep taking root, making Max more and more aware each day that that some things in life cannot be planned and that when the right woman comes along, you sweep her off her feet and never let her go.

“I’ll erase them.”
“What?”
“Your reservations. I will blast them out of the sky. Every single one of them.”

I will be honest with you, this story had me at ‘pregnant by a gigolo’, knowing that the element of an unexpected and possible single parenthood would pull at my heartstrings from the get-go, but this story is so much more than just a formulaic scenario of an incorrigible bachelor falling for the single mum. This is a story of two people becoming friends first, of loving each other platonically well before their attraction kicks in, of a man finally finding someone he could no longer imagine living without and who makes him want to be the man she deserves to have in her life, and of a woman who blossoms emotionally the day she allows herself to fall head-over-heels in love with a sexy, over-protective ‘Viking’, age differences and self-imposed inhibitions be damned. I loved the slow-burning pace of this love story, the way we get to witness the gradual evolution of their relationship—from friends to lovers, from lovers to each other’s forevers—and I couldn’t get enough of the sizzling chemistry between them, not to mention the explosive sex scenes that were simply perfect start to finish.

“I noticed when I went to your bedroom … that you have a yoga swing hanging from your ceiling. I didn’t know you practiced yoga.”
“I don’t. That’s a sex swing.”

I cannot recommend this book highly enough, every aspect of it pleasing immensely the romance junkie in me, while making my heart race for all the ‘right’ reasons. If a well-written, sexy, feel-good love story is your thing, look no further.

“Love me? I’m a simple man, Ace. I don’t ask for much.”

5stars

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Bowen – Reading Order and Purchase Links
(standalone stories with interconnected characters)
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More than Meets the InkAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Heavy Issues: My Mini-ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
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BOOK REVIEW & EXCERPT: The Deal by Elle Kennedy

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She’s about to make a deal with the college bad boy…

Hannah Wells has finally found someone who turns her on. But while she might be confident in every other area of her life, she’s carting around a full set of baggage when it comes to sex and seduction. If she wants to get her crush’s attention, she’ll have to step out of her comfort zone and make him take notice…even if it means tutoring the annoying, childish, cocky captain of the hockey team in exchange for a pretend date.

…and it’s going to be oh so good

All Garrett Graham has ever wanted is to play professional hockey after graduation, but his plummeting GPA is threatening everything he’s worked so hard for. If helping a sarcastic brunette make another guy jealous will help him secure his position on the team, he’s all for it. But when one unexpected kiss leads to the wildest sex of both their lives, it doesn’t take long for Garrett to realize that pretend isn’t going to cut it. Now he just has to convince Hannah that the man she wants looks a lot like him.

review

“I never expected her. Sometimes people sneak up on you and suddenly you don’t know how you ever lived with them. How you went about your day and hung out with your friends and f*cked other people without having this one important person in your life.”

Time and time again, my reading history has proved to me that all I need for a book to make me pay attention is a confident, articulate writing style and multifaceted characters who take shape in my mind, regardless of how distant their reality is from my own. But for a book to truly make me fall in love with its story, there needs to be a certain synergy of all its elements, an undeniable spark flickering between the characters that arouses my interest immediately and makes me unable to step away. And this book had it all. I can honestly say that very few stories end up truly satisfying the picky reader in me to such an extent that I see no faults, but this heartwarming, funny, unexpectedly profound little gem took me by surprise and ended up rocking my world. Deceivingly nothing more than a cliché college scenario at first glance—a jock falling for the ‘invisible’ girl—this is a story of courage, inner strength, of paving one’s own way in life, and of love…unplanned, unequivocal, impassioned love that you feel all the way to your toes. I read this book in one day, sporting a permanent smile on my face because everything about this story made me happy, and at the end, I so desperately wanted to re-read it all over again.

“You’re not talking.”
“I don’t want to scare you off.”
“Dude, you’re standing there naked in front of me with your dick in your hand. If that doesn’t scare me, I doubt anything you say will.”

Hannah Wells is not a popular girl. A college junior and music major, she has spent the last five years of her young life battling the emotional remnants of one single night from her childhood, a night her innocence was stolen from her and her family’s lives changed forever. And yet, Hannah does not hide from the world or shy away from attention, never letting the past steal her future away from her or prevent her from giving her heart to someone. But when her latest crush happens to be the star wide receiver of the football team, she is clueless as to how to make him notice her. Until another jock makes her an offer she wishes she could refuse.

“For the love of God, I’m not tutoring you.”
“Sure you are.” I shrug. “I just need to figure out what you want in return.”
“I want to not tutor you. That’s what I want.”

Garrett Graham is a star athlete, the captain of the hockey team, a cocky flirt used to women throwing themselves at him and never refusing him anything…until he meets Hannah, the only girl on campus who doesn’t go gaga over his every move. Or any of his moves for that matter. Desperate for her help in order to pass a course he is suddenly failing, and thus putting his sporting career in jeopardy, he strikes a deal with her that would benefit them both, but in two very different ways—her tutoring services for his help in getting her crush to finally see her. But the closer they get to his goal, the further they both want to be from hers, their banter and bickering soon replaced by mutual attraction, protectiveness and affection. And then one kiss changes it all…

“Yes, Hannah and I are friends. In fact, she’s the only female friend I’ve ever had. And yes, I want to keep being Hannah’s friend. But…I also want to sleep with her.”

It might appear like a typical college romance formula, but nothing about this story felt predictable or overdone. The leading characters, as stereotypical as they might seem within the New Adult framework, are well rounded and dynamic, fresh and unique in every way. The smug and gregarious hockey star hides a world of hurt under his confident façade, and the one thing that the sassy, outspoken geek wants the most in her life is to feel safe and whole again, and these unexpected layers to their personalities are what endears them to us. They are opposites, but what attracts them to each other are not those differences—it is the way they empower one another, and the way their hearts are capable of loving, regardless of their painful pasts. There are so many heartbreaking layers to this story, so many themes to ponder on, but even more reasons to smile and walk away with a spring in our step. If you’re looking for a flawlessly written book with the perfect blend of light-hearted humour, heart-warming romance and a convincing storyline, I cannot recommend this story highly enough. And no matter what you hear, Garrett is mine.

“Living well and being happy is how we get over the shit in our past.”

5stars

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excerpt

Thirty minutes before my shift ends, I find Garrett Graham in one of my booths.

Seriously.

Does this guy ever give up?

I have no desire to go over there and serve him, but I don’t have much of a choice. Lisa, the other waitress on duty, is busy tending to a group of faculty members at a table across the room, and my boss Della is behind the baby-blue Formica counter dishing out slices of pecan pie to three freshman girls sitting on the tall swivel stools.

I set my jaw and march up to Garrett, making my displeasure obvious as I meet his twinkling gray eyes. He runs a hand through his cropped dark hair and flashes a lopsided grin.

“Hey there, Hannah. Fancy meeting you here.”

“Yeah, fancy,” I mutter, yanking my order pad out of my apron pocket. “What can I get you?”

“A tutor.”

“Sorry, that’s not on the menu.” I smile sweetly. “We serve really good pecan pie, though.”

“You know what I did last night?” he says without acknowledging the sarcasm.

“Yep. You were text stalking me.”

He rolls his eyes. “Before that, I mean.”

I pretend to think it over. “Um…you hooked up with a cheerleader? No, you hooked up with the girls’ hockey team. No, wait, they’re probably not ditzy enough for you. I stick with my original guess—cheerleader.”

“Sorority sister, actually,” he says smugly. “But I’m talking about what I did before that.” He raises one dark eyebrow. “But I’m very intrigued by your interest in my sex life. I can give you details about that another time if you want.”

“I don’t.”

“Another time,” he echoes in a dismissive tone, folding his hands on the blue-and-white-checkered tablecloth.

He’s got big hands with long fingers, short nails, and knuckles that are slightly red and cracked. I wonder if he’s been in a fight recently, but then I realize the busted-up knuckles are probably a hockey player thing.

“I was at study group yesterday,” he informs me. “There were eight other people there, and you know what the highest mark in the group was?” He blurts out the answer before I can hazard a guess. “C-plus. And our combined average was a D. How am I supposed to pass this makeup if I’m studying with people who are as dumb as I am? I need you, Wellsy.”

Wellsy? Is that a nickname? And how on earth does he know that my last name is Wells?

I never told—argh. Damn sign-up sheet.

Garrett notices my surprised look and cocks his brows again. “I learned a lot about you in study group. Got your number, your full name, even found out where you work.”

“Congratulations, you really are a stalker.”

“Nope, just thorough. I like to know what I’m up against.”

“Jesus Harold Christ! I’m not tutoring you, okay? Go bug somebody else.” I point at the menu in front of him. “Are you ordering? Because if not, then please go away and let me do my job in peace.”

“Jesus Harold Christ?” Garrett snickers before picking up the laminated menu and giving it a cursory glance. “I’ll have a turkey club.” He sets the menu down, then reaches for it again. “And a bacon double cheeseburger. Just the burger, no fries. Actually, I changed my mind—yes to the fries. Oh, and a side order of onion rings.”

My jaw almost hits the floor. “You’re seriously going to eat all that?”

He grins. “Of course. I’m a growing boy.”

Boy? Nuh-uh. I’m only noticing it now—probably because I’ve been too distracted by how insufferable he is—but Garrett Graham is all man. There’s nothing boyish about him, not his chiseled good looks or his tall frame or that ripped chest of his, which suddenly flashes to mind as I remember the picture he sent me.

“I’ll also take a slice of that pecan pie and a Dr. Pepper to drink. Oh, and some tutoring.”

“Not on the menu,” I say cheerfully. “But the rest is coming right up.”

Before he can argue, I abandon his booth and head to the back counter to place his order with Julio, our night cook. A nanosecond later, Lisa rushes over and addresses me in a hushed voice.

“Oh my God. You know who that is, right?”

“Yep.”

“It’s Garrett Graham.”

“I know,” I answer dryly. “That’s why I said yep.”

Lisa looks outraged. “What is wrong with you? Why aren’t you freaking out right now?

Garrett Graham is sitting in your booth. He talked to you.”

“Holy shit, he did? I mean, his lips were moving, but I didn’t realize he was talking.”

I roll my eyes and walk over to the drink station to pour Garrett’s drink. I don’t look his way, but I can feel those smoky gray eyes following my every movement. He’s probably sending telepathic orders for me to tutor him. Well, too bad for him. There’s no way I’m wasting the little spare time I have on a college hockey player who thinks he’s a rock star.

Lisa trails after me, oblivious to my sarcasm and still gushing about Graham. “He’s so gorgeous. Like unbelievably gorgeous.” Her voice lowers to a whisper. “And I hear he’s amazing in bed.”

I snort. “He probably started that rumor himself.”

“No, Samantha Richardson told me. She hooked up with him last year at the Theta kegger. Said it was the best sex of her life.”

I have no response, because I couldn’t care less about the sex life of some girl I don’t even know. Instead, I shrug and hold out the Dr. Pepper. “You know what? Why don’t you take his booth?”

The way Lisa gasps, you’d think I just handed her a check for five million dollars. “Are you sure?”

“Yep. He’s all yours.”

“Oh my God.” She takes a step forward as if she’s going to hug me, but then her gaze darts to Garrett and she appears to have second thoughts about broadcasting her terribly unwarranted joy. “I owe you so big for this, Han.”

I want to tell her that she’s actually doing me the favor, but she’s already dashing toward the booth to wait on her prince. I watch in amusement as Garrett’s expression clouds over at Lisa’s approach. He picks up the glass she sets in front of him, then meets my gaze and slants his head.

As if to say, you’re not getting rid of me that easily.

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A Reader’s Review of Fifty Shades of Grey – The Movie

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Movie reviews are really not my forte because I am a very reactive viewer and tend to experience cinematography through an acutely emotional and subjective lens, even more so than with books, but Fifty Shades of Grey is the story that singlehandedly jump-started my reading passion and it is greatly responsible for the way my reading tastes have evolved over time, thus leaving me a bursting bubble of emotions after seeing its movie adaptation. I will admit that I had a reasonable number of expectations, bracing myself for disappointment because very rarely does a movie outmatch its book, but let me tell you, this movie did not just do the first book in the Trilogy justice—it pulled off the almost impossible task of faithfully bringing these fictional characters to life and making them even more psychologically layered and three-dimensional than they might have been in the first place, turning my overall viewing experience into an absolute thrill start to finish.

After seeing Dakota Johnson’s portrayal of Anastasia Steele, I am convinced that this role was made for her. The Fifty Shades Trilogy always centred around its heroine and her inner voice, making any actress’ portrayal of this role much more important than the one of Christian Grey, but Ms Johnson’s innate comedic timing left me speechless, not to mention all the ways she succeeded in expressing Anastasia’s vulnerability and naiveté, often with nothing more than a facial expression or a look. Her reluctance to just jump into the sexual adventure that Christian was proposing and thus effectively put aside her own romantic ideals was real, palpable, vivid in her every move. Even more so than in the books, I felt her desperate desire to be loved by him for the woman that she is, not the one he wants her to be, and that never changed in her, even when she surrendered to him and gave his lifestyle a taste.

Jamie Dornan was also a pleasant surprise, mainly because I was not always keen on his casting in this role, and even though at times there was a ‘stiffness’ to him that gave me the impression he was not entirely comfortable in Mr Grey’s shoes, he still managed to exceed my expectations and make me confident that he would ‘grow’ into this role even more in subsequent instalments of the Trilogy. His dominant streak didn’t always feel ‘natural’ to me, his words not always matching his body language, but that did not distract me in the slightest from enjoying him as the delicious ‘Fifty’.

The chemistry between the main characters was phenomenal, culminating in some of the most explicit and yet tastefully executed sex scenes I have ever watched on the big screen. There was a lot of nudity, both male as well as female, as it should have been given the storyline, but it was done with just the right level of detail, and it did not leave me feeling cheated out of any imageries that the books so vividly described. Their every sexual encounter was graphic enough to make it appear ‘real’, but elusive enough to allow us to fill the blanks with our own imagination.

Lastly, the music soundtrack needs to be acknowledged because it not only perfectly matched each scene, it enhanced them and played a vital role in our total multisensory experience.

This movie adaptation will undoubtedly meet its champions as well as its harsh critics, some happy to simply enjoy it without any preconceived notions, while others dissecting its every scene and assigning more symbolic meanings to it than it ever wished to convey, but I remain of the opinion that Christian and Ana’s love story was never meant to be a ‘how-to’ guide on relationships. It never set out to teach us any lessons other than what happens behind closed doors between two consulting adults is no one’s business other than their own. It never ‘glorified’ any aspects of itself. And there are no victims in this scenario. It’s a story that started a discourse on sex, liberated women to talk freely about their own sex lives, and it added the missing spark to many bedrooms. It was a catalyst, not a point of reference, and for many readers like yours truly, it will forever remain the seed that started the forest.

I loved this movie, plain and simple. I was emotionally spent by the end of it and immediately desperate for the sequel, and I cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone willing to open-mindedly enjoy some steamy but utterly addictive fiction…with a mouth-watering side of kink.

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BOOK REVIEW & EXCERPT: Hero by Samantha Young

Hero_youngAlexa Holland’s father was her hero—until her shocking discovery that she and her mother weren’t his only family. Ever since, Alexa has worked to turn her life in a different direction and forge her own identity outside of his terrible secrets,. But when she meets a man who’s as damaged by her father’s mistakes as she is, Alexa must help him.

Caine Carraway wants nothing to do with Alexa’s efforts at redemption, but it’s not so easy to push her away. Determined to make her hate him, he brings her to the edge of her patience and waits for her to walk away. But his actions only draw them together and, despite the odds, they begin an intense and explosive affair.

Only Caine knows he can never be the white knight that Alexa has always longed for. And when they’re on the precipice of danger, he finds he’ll do anything to protect either one of them from being hurt again…

review

“I fantasize about f*cking you in this office a hundred times a day.”

You know you’ve really liked a book when you find yourself re-reading it four times in the span of a month! At first glance, the premise of this book might appear to be just another billionaire-falls-for-the-girl-next-door scenario, and you might walk into this story expecting nothing more than some good ol’ smutty fluff with great chemistry between the characters and a few blazing sex scenes. But you would be wrong. Because when Samantha Young tells a story, she injects it with so much heart-clenching angst, you find yourself gripping your chest because your heart won’t stop hurting, thus turning any cliché into a phenomenal and truly unforgettable reading experience. I adored this book, from the stubborn, feisty, but inherently vulnerable heroine, to the brooding, arrogant, but essentially tortured hero. I loved their banter, I loved the energy between them, whether they were fighting or getting tangled between the sheets, every scene they shared being a delectable delight start to finish.

Caine Carraway and Alexa Holland are apparent strangers to one another, but their lives have been tragically connected from a very young age. Now a self-made billionaire and one of Boston’s most eligible bachelors, Caine has overcame family tragedies and betrayals to become the man he is now—a man who does not trust easily or let many people into his inner circle. So when a reminder of the most painful event in his past walks into his life unannounced, he lashes out and cuts the ground from under her feet by getting her fired. But even jobless and with no professional prospects in sight, Alexa is determined to put aside her pride and heal the breach between them, even if it only means he sees that they are more alike than he realises.

“I’m not here to fall for him. I’m just trying to be there for him somehow. I get him, even if he doesn’t realize it, I really do get him. I would like to be his friend if he’ll have me.”

As the estranged daughter of a disowned diamond heir, Alexa feels deep shame for the sins of her father, but her own family history has made her even more sympathetic to the pain that Caine carries in him. Desperate for him to see that she is nothing like her father, she accepts an offer that is obviously intended to make her life hell—she agrees to be his personal assistant.

“I need a PA who will fulfill all my wishes and demands immediately. That’s not easy to find—most people have social lives. You, however, are desperate and the way I see it, you owe me.”

Their reasons for such an arrangement might vary drastically, but Alexa is no pushover, and while she has made herself an easy mark for Caine’s relentless contempt, her snarky and at times insolent personality shines at every turn. The more they fight, the stronger the attraction between them becomes, and very soon their chemistry moves to the bedroom.

“I’ll come by your place when I’m finished up here.”
“My place?”
“Mmm. I’ll text you when I’m on my way.”
“Shouldn’t you wait to be invited first?”
“Lexie, may I come to your apartment tonight so I can f*ck your brains out?”

But from the very beginning, their intentions towards one another have not been the same, and not even a sizzling affair changes that. While Alexa sees how great they truly are together and wishes for more, Caine remains an impenetrable fortress of emotions, his past making him blind to what is right in front of him. Until he risks to lose it all forever.

“I’m not the guy you’re looking for, Lexie. I’m never going to be that guy.”

This story truly has it all—an emotionally charged romance, two multifaceted characters whose actions are as unpredictable as they make sense, a suspenseful background storyline to keep us wondering until the very end, and the kind of romantic angst that sets our hearts racing and where mere words start hurting like daggers. Alexa is a heroine I connected with from the start, her persistence, her courage, and her generosity with her heart making me very protective of her. So much so that I felt every one of her emotions, her pain in particular. This is just one of those stories that got to me, Ms Young’s exceptional writing style playing a vital role in that, and it left me with a goofy grin on my face, even though I felt like my heart had gone through the wringer. A truly great contemporary romance to sink our teeth in and lose ourselves in unabashedly. Over and over again.

“I’m not looking for a hero. I never asked for that. I just wanted you…”

5stars

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excerpt

Ethan led me into Caine’s office the next afternoon and I was surprised to find Caine not behind his desk but standing in front of the floor-to-ceiling windows staring out over High Street and Atlantic Avenue to the harbor beyond.

With his back to me, I stole that moment to fully appreciate Caine Carraway without him knowing it. So yeah, I couldn’t see his face, which was the best part, but with him standing with his hands in his trouser pockets, legs braced, shoulders relaxed, the view was delicious enough for me. His height, those broad shoulders, and let’s not forget that ass.

That was a mighty fine ass.

When the seconds ticked by without a response from him, I began to feel like a high school nerd waiting for the captain of the football team to pay attention to her.

I didn’t like that nearly as much as the view of his ass. “You rang?” Caine turned his head slightly in profile. “I did.”

“And I assume there was a reason?”

He faced me and I felt that flush of attraction as his eyes swept over me. “You would assume right.” He sighed and strolled over to his desk, his gaze raking over me speculatively as he did so. “Do you own a suit, heels?” His scrutiny moved to my face. “Makeup?”

I looked down at my clothes. I was wearing jeans and a sweater, and no, I wasn’t wearing makeup. I had good skin. I’d inherited my olive skin from my mother and despite those darn freckles sprinkled across the crest of my nose, it was blemish free. I rarely wore foundation or blush, and because my eyes were so light and my lashes so dark I only wore mascara when dressing up for an occasion.

I knew I wasn’t glamorous, but I looked like my mom—I had her apple cheekbones, blue-green eyes, and dark hair— and my mom had been very pretty. No one had ever looked me over and considered my lack of makeup with disdain before.

I frowned. “Weird question.”

Caine relaxed against his desk in much the same pose as he had used the last time he pinched his lips at me in his office. And he was pinching his lips and inspecting me. I felt like I was being judged and found wanting, which was insulting normally but somehow even worse coming from a guy who looked as put together as he did.

Sexy jackass.

“I couldn’t change Benito’s mind,” Caine informed me. “That little bastard can hold a grudge.”

If I weren’t so deflated by his news I would have laughed. “Bu—”

“So I thought about it,” he said, cutting me off, “and you can try working for me. You’ll need to invest in some appropriate clothing, however.”

Um . . . what? Did he just . . . ? “I’m sorry. What?”

“Benito informed me that it kills him but he just can’t take you back after your behavior with a client lost him such big accounts. You’re the biggest disappointment of his thirties and before you went insane you were the best PA he ever had. The disappointment of your behavior on set, and I quote, Broke. His. Heart.”

“Oh yeah, he sounds devastated.”

“Despite his flair for the melodramatic, it seems he has high standards and he has led me to believe that before you acted like an insane person you were intelligent, efficient, and hardworking.”

“Insane person?” That word had been used as an adjective to describe me twice now.

He ignored me. “I need a PA. Ethan is a temp and my previous PA has decided not to return from maternity leave. I have a job opening and I’m offering it to you.”

Dumbfounded.

There was no other word for how I was feeling.

How could this man go from never wanting to see me again to offering me a job that meant I was going to be in his face? A lot.

“But . . . I thought you didn’t want me around.”

Caine narrowed his eyes. “I need a PA who will fulfill all my wishes and demands immediately. That’s not easy to find—most people have social lives. You, however, are desperate and the way I see it, you owe me.”

I sobered at his reminder of the past. “So what . . . you get to act out some kind of vengeance by working me into an early grave?”

“Something like that.” He smirked. “It’ll be a comfortable grave, though.” He told me the salary and I almost passed out.

My mouth parted on a gasp. “For a PA job? Are you serious?”

I’d get to keep my apartment. I’d get to keep my car. Screw that . . . I’d be able to save enough money to afford a deposit on my apartment.

Caine’s eyes glittered triumphantly at my obvious excitement. “As I said, it comes with a price.” His grin was wicked and I suddenly felt a little breathless.

Posted by arrangement with New American Library, a member of Penguin Group (USA) LLC, A Penguin Random House Company.
Copyright © Samantha Young, 2015.

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BOOK REVIEW: The Traveling Man by Jane Harvey-Berrick

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“I was ordinary. Nice. 

He was extraordinary. And he wasn’t always nice.

Moody and difficult, brilliant and beautiful, Kes scared me and he protected me. He could be incredibly hurtful and incredibly thoughtful. He wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect for me. He challenged me, he took me out of my safe little box and showed me the world could be magnificent. He was everything I wasn’t.”

Aimee Anderson is ten when the traveling carnival first comes to her nice little town. She doesn’t expect her world to change so completely. But meeting Kestrel Donohue puts her life on a different path.

Even though she only sees him for the two weeks of the year when he passes through her home town, his friendship is the most important of her life. As a child’s friendship grows to adult love, the choices become harder, and both Kes and Aimee realize that two weeks a year will never be enough…

 

review

“He could breathe fire, he could eat flames, but the word ‘love’ burned on his lips.”

I have such a soft spot for Jane Harvey-Berrick’s brand of make-believe, the allure of her remarkable writing style pulling me in and holding me captive time and time again, and this book was no exception. A setting that was completely foreign and somewhat uninviting to me, she once again succeeded in mesmerizing me from the very beginning, until I realised I was highlighting entire pages, in awe of every word, every emotionally-charged description, every thrilling detail about a story that was as addictive as it was startling.

“I couldn’t tell you why the carnival lured me with its sticky fingers and bright, whirling colors, except to say that it was different, and that excited me. I’d only read about ‘different’ in books, never experienced it for myself. Perhaps it was a case of be careful what you wish for.”

Aimee Anderson has always been fascinated by carnivals. So when, on her tenth birthday, her wish to visit the newly arrived carnival in town is granted by her stringent parents, Aimee feels like all her hopes and dreams have suddenly come true. But even though in her young eyes carnivals are the closest thing to a world of magic, she expects nothing more than Ferris wheel rides, cotton candy, and thrill acts to tickle her vibrant imagination. Until a boy with silvery eyes and a challenging smirk on his lips steals her away from the crowds and shows her his world the way only a ‘carnie’ gets to see it. From the moment she lays eyes on him, she sees the wonder that is him, utterly blind to the prejudices swirling around them and only seeing him with the beauty of her heart.

“You have a gift, Kes, an amazing wonderful gift. It’s special, just like you.”

Kestrel “Kes” Donohue has never known any other life but that of a ‘carnie’. Coming from a long line of traveling men, Kes was born into this life and has never wished to be part of another, his wild and unrestrained personality having found the perfect outlet in that nomadic lifestyle and in the thrill of the stunt shows he’s found himself starring in from an early age. A showman by nature, Kes has never wanted any part of the world outside the carnivals. Until a young girl with glittering eyes, tugging at her mum’s hand from glee, catches his eye. And steals his heart.

“You’re my girl, Aimee. No one else.”

Year after year, they meet up for two weeks each summer when the carnival arrives in town, and year after year, they fall deeper and deeper for one another. We watch their budding romance through the eyes of a young girl falling in love for the very first time in her life, as she waits all year long for those short weeks when she’d be free to be herself and in the company of the only boy who has ever owned her heart.

“I don’t want us to be an illusion. I think about you all the time—do you ever think about me?”

But loving Kes is no small task. Temperamental, unpredictable, even cruel at times, Kes is like warm sunshine and stormy skies on the same day, being simultaneously capable of great attentiveness and careless indifference with equal likelihood of it happening. In public, he is naturally cocky and confident, but his heart and self-esteem are not as untouchable as he wishes others to believe. When the time comes for the young couple to look into the future and decide what they want the most, they encounter violent opposition from those closest to them and time is suddenly stolen from them, ruthlessly and deceptively, leaving them to nurse their shattered hearts for eight long years.

“He wasn’t perfect, but he was perfect for me.”

Fifteen years after their first encounter, Aimee might no longer be the bright-eyed girl whose heart did not know the sting of heartbreak, but the lure of carnivals still pulls her in, and a small part of her still believes that magic lives there. When she meets Kes again, the memory of those teenage years spent loving one another still burns fiercely between them, even though their worlds remain unconnected, just as before and now more than ever.

A young love turning into a second chance at happiness, this is a story of two people who fell for each other against all odds, even when they knew that loving one another would inevitably end in heartbreak. Against a brilliant backdrop of colourful characters and bewitching imageries, we get a front seat in this delightful coming-of-age tale that then transitions into an adult romance to make our toes curl and our hearts stutter. With impeccable prose, meticulous character development and a distinctive gift for pulling readers into her storylines until we are so deeply invested, we never want them to end—we are once again given such a unique, profoundly heart-warming and undeniably sexy story that stays with us long after it ends. I lived this book cover to cover, could not get enough of every beautiful word it, and cannot recommend it highly enough.

Kes and Aimee’s tale will conclude in The Traveling Woman.

“You’ve been sprinkled with fairy dust, missy. The carnival is in your blood now.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW & EXCERPT: Verum by Courtney Cole

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The truth shall set you free.

My name is Calla Price and I’m drowning.

My new world is a dark, dark ocean and I’m being pulled under by secrets.

Can I trust anyone? I don’t know anymore.

The lies are spirals. They twist and turn, binding me with their thorns and serpentine tongues. And just when I think I have it figured out, everything is pulled out from under me.

I’m entangled in the darkness.

But the truth will set me free.

It’s just ahead of me, so close I can touch it. But even though it shines and glimmers, it has glistening fangs and I know it will shred me.

Are you scared?

I am.

 

review

“Run, little mouse. The hawk is coming, and you’re going to get eaten.”

What did I just read? Its prequel stunned me with a law-dropping finale that I never saw coming, but this book kept me clueless and concocting a million different scenarios in my head until the very last page. And I still have no idea how to process all that has been unveiled and all that is yet to come. Ms Cole did not write just a sequel to an already brilliant storyline. No. She wrote a perfectly executed mind game to keep us glued to our seats, breathless, baffled, frustrated, intrigued, and utterly addicted to a story like no other, a story that stays with us, plays out in our heads over and over again, trying to untangle itself, only to leave us even more knotted up and mind-wrecked. I have to admit that I never saw any of it coming and I already cannot wait for more more more.

“I’ve failed you. I’ve failed you. But I’ll fix it.”

We left our heroine, Calla, facing a heart-shattering realisation, one that is still capable of pulling her mind into a whirlpool of hallucinations and delusions. Now more than ever, she is desperate for answers and hungry for the truth. However, no longer certain of her own memories or the intentions of those around her, she feels emotionally stranded and distrustful of everyone, especially of the man she still deeply loves, Dare. The more questions she asks him, the more unforthcoming and aloof he becomes, his constant hot-cold manner confusing her and making her feel even lonelier than she is.

“Secrets are the same as lies, and I must uncover his truth.”

When told that all the answers would be found at Whitley, her maternal family’s estate in England, she agrees to follow Dare back to his homeland, even though a strong sense of foreboding overcomes her every time she tries untangling her memories. Her love for Dare is her only anchor in a sea of uncertainty and pain ravaging her young mind, that love giving her the strength to face a reality that terrifies her, haunts her, and only adds even more unanswered questions to an already overwhelming pile.

“…your mind is closed. You don’t see things for what they are, you see things for what you think they should be.”

Her stay at Whitley proves to be even more mystifying than she ever thought possible, the unwelcoming air of the centuries-old estate and Dare’s increasing standoffishness further blurring her mind and weakening her grasp on reality. She is left to her own devices, free to roam the property and follow clues, each day uncovering more and more minute pieces of a puzzle that appears harder and harder to decipher, the picture slowly forming before her eyes terrifying her to her core. With the introduction of colourful new characters in this book, the story continually assumes new layers, offering answers that only throw us off course even further.

Once more, the journey into our heroine’s mind is as exhilarating as it is chilling. We flip those pages frantically, fuelled by curiosity and parched for answers, but nothing is what it seems and, in the end, I felt like my own mind needed a torch to find its way out of the delicious web of secrets that this story weaved so faultlessly. The chilly seaside setting has been replaced by the misty moors of the English countryside, but the atmosphere of these books remains the same, Calla’s sombre surroundings playing as important a role in the story as her own inner battle. From beginning to end, I could not put this book down, absolutely hypnotised by its poetic prose and inconceivable twists and turns, and I am still dwelling on it all.

“Why are you suddenly being so nice?”
“Because you’re mine, Calla. You just need to remember it.”

5stars
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excerpt

“What are you doing?” I struggle with words, but finally manage.

“Swimming.”

He turns and heads into the water without flinching from its cold temperature. I suck in a breath because he’s got that freaking tattoo on his back, spanning across his shoulder blades. Black words that read: LIVE FREE.

I’m a goner. A freaking goner.

“There’s a pool at Whitley,” I call out to him. “And I think it’s heated.”

Dare laughs and dives under the water, coming right back up, shaking droplets out of his hair.

“It’s not as fun.”

“Why is this fun?” I have to ask. Because the water is cold, there’s bugs, there’s mud.

Dare stares at me drolly. “Because we’re trespassing. This isn’t our property.”

This surprises me and gives me pause.

“The owners don’t know you’re here?”

“Nope,” Dare answers, unconcerned, back-pedaling away from me, without taking his eyes off my face. “Does that scare you, my little rule-follower?”

His little rule-follower.

“Again, I ask you,” my voice wavers a bit. “Why are you suddenly being so nice?”

He shrugs, his shoulder bare and glinting in the light. “Because you’re mine, Calla. You just need to remember it. Now come swimming.”

“I don’t have a suit.”

“You don’t need one.”

I counter and he parries.

My whole life, I’ve been a rule-follower. I’ve done what it is expected, I’ve taken care of my brother. Maybe… just maybe….

Before I can change my mind, I’m pulling my shirt over my head and shoving my pants down. Without looking at Dare, and with my face exploding into tomato red flame, I follow him into the water in my bra and panties.

It’s cold enough to take my breath away, or that might just be my exhilaration at breaking the rules. I can’t be sure.

“Have you come here before?” I suck in a breath around chattering teeth as I paddle in Dare’s direction.

He nods. “Plenty of times.” I don’t want to ask who else he’s brought with him.

“And the owners have never caught you?”

He grins. “Oh, they’ve caught me. But I can’t be tamed.”

I giggle at that, at the matter-of-fact way he said it.

I start to grow accustomed to the cold temperature and my teeth stop chattering.

Dare swims back and forth a few times, then treads water while he observes me. Oddly enough, and probably because the water keeps my body hidden, I don’t feel self-conscious.

“I think you’re a closet rebel,” Dare announces. I have to laugh at that.

“Not hardly,” I admit. “I’m terrified right now that the owners of this property are going to find us and call the police.”

“First, we call them coppers here,” Dare explains with a snicker. “And second, you don’t seem to understand the power of your name yet. Savages can do anything they like around here.”

“But you don’t consider yourself a Savage,” I remind him as I tread water. Something akin to warmth floods his eyes, and his mouth tilts up in the crooked grin that I am beginning to love. When he’s not smiling, I wait for it to appear, like an addict waiting for a fix.

“I fall under the same umbrella, though,” he tells me. “At least, for outsiders looking in.”

“Did you know that you speak in riddles?” I ask him in annoyance. He dives under water without answering, and within two seconds, he’s grabbed my ankle, pulling me under with him.

I struggle and twist, but he pulls me down, down, down, and then I’m against his wet hard body and suddenly, I don’t want to struggle anymore. I don’t want to push him away.

Not by a long shot.

His body is both strong and lean, cold and warm. It’s very hard, and I’m held against it, reveling in it, soaking it in. He’s angles and muscle, strength and grace.

He’s moving against me, his hips, his hands.

His fingers glide fluidly against my skin, creating friction even beneath the water.

I’m on fire.

The warmth spreads from my arms to my legs to my belly.

It’s a wild-fire, and suddenly I’m quite sure that he’s the only thing that can put me out.

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The Nocte Trilogy – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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Nocte: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback | iBooks
VerumAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | iBooks
Lux: iBooks (27 Apr 2015)

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BOOK REVIEW: Kyland by Mia Sheridan

Kyland

Dirt poor. Hillbilly. Backwoods hick. Mountain folk.

Tenleigh Falyn struggles each day to survive in a small, poverty-stricken, coal mining town where she lives with her sister and mentally ill mother. Her dream of winning the college scholarship given to one student by the local coal company and escaping the harshness of her life, keeps her going.

Kyland Barrett lives in the hills, too, and has worked tirelessly—through near starvation, through deep loneliness, against all odds—to win the Tyton Coal Scholarship and leave the town that is full of so much pain.

They’re both determined not to form any attachments, but one moment changes everything. What happens when only one person gets to win? When only one person gets to leave? And what happens to the one left behind?

Kyland is a story of desperation and hope, loss and sacrifice, pain and forgiveness, but ultimately, a story of deep and unending love.

 

review

“I do go to hell. Every day. For you.”

Every Mia Sheridan novel I have ever read has left a small part of itself deeply impressed onto my heart, the memory of each story leaving a permanent footprint of the bouquet of emotions it stirred in me. With an uncanny talent for making readers feel so much no matter what scenario she gifts us with, I have learned to submit my mind wholeheartedly to this author’s extraordinary prose, expecting it to affect me and pierce through my composure effortlessly and without fail. But even knowing all that, nothing could have prepared me for the devastating effect that this book would have on me and my poor heart. This is a story I cannot and never want to forget. It is one of the most beautiful tales of selfless love and resilience of the human spirit I have ever come across, and it is a book I’d urge anyone to read as soon as possible.

“You had to appreciate the small things in life when the big things made you want to curl up in a corner in the fetal position and give up.”

In a small town in the middle of the Appalachian Mountains of Kentucky, enfolded by nature’s breathtaking beauty and its perfect landscapes, lies a community marred by poverty and misfortune, a community wanting for everything—from food to warm clothing, from education to basic health care—and yet, this community survives, one way or another, their shared social condition reminding them each day that there is always someone who is worse off than they are, and that even a little bit of kindness goes a long way. And it is in the heart of these mountains that we find a young woman who dreams of seeing the ocean, of owning more than one pair of shoes, of living in a house with her own bed in it, of becoming a teacher and inspire others to love books as much as she does. And a young man who dreams of becoming an engineer, of never going to bed hungry, of doing something in his life that would make a difference.

“All my life I was a nothing, a nobody. My life was small and worthless. And it hurt so badly.”

Tenleigh and Kyland grew up dirt poor and both desperately determined to escape the lives they were born into, their only beacon of hope being a college scholarship that could change their futures. But while Tenleigh dreams of not only improving her own life, but also of those closest to her, Kyland’s tragic reality is very different to hers. Having lost everything he holds dear, he plans on leaving everything behind, all the pain, all the memories, all the despair, and on never looking back, at anything or anyone, especially a green-eyed girl whose smile makes him want to be a better person.

“A beautiful girl with a spirit so bright I wanted to squint when I looked at her was not going to derail me now.”

But they fall for one another, completely and irreversibly, and even though they both know their love would be short-lived and doomed from the beginning, they cannot help but seize the only happiness that life has ever granted them, losing themselves in each other, and for once, daring to want something just for themselves.

“…it was so hard not to dream that somewhere out there, there was someone strong and gallant who would dance with me under a starlit sky and call me his beloved—and mean it.”

When the time comes to make a choice, the love they both feel for one another is so overwhelming and pure, that a choice becomes not a choice at all, and their love manifests itself in the most heartbreakingly spectacular way there is—with a selfless sacrifice—because when you have nothing in life, the greatest thing you can give to a loved one is the future they would never otherwise have.

“Tenleigh, don’t love me. Please don’t love me. I can’t stay here. Don’t love me.”

I cannot tell you how deeply this story has touched me and how much it still hurts even just recalling some aspects of it. This is a book that drowns you in its heartache as much as it blinds you with it beauty. The inner strength and the dynamic nature of these characters is what drives this story forward, the ‘glue’ that holds a story like this together, and we can’t help but fall swiftly in love with them from the get-go and travel this journey with them willingly and wholeheartedly. Nothing in this story is rushed, or skimmed over, every aspect of the bond that slowly forms between Tenleigh and Kyland is given equal care, giving readers, in turn, the opportunity to get to know them, understand them, feel a myriad of emotions for them, the early scenes of them oh-so reluctantly falling for one another being as vital to our connection with them as are some of the later more dramatic ones.

Framed by a juxtaposition of nature’s beauty and human tragedy, we are given an unexpected story of a selfless and never-ending love, a story designed to churn emotions in us and make us ponder on our own lives. I swooned, I cringed, I smiled through my tears and I bowed from the pain, and every word of this extraordinary tale is sheer magic.

“Half agony, half hope. Half pain, half ecstasy. Half grief, half joy. Half my downfall, half my savior.”

5stars

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A Sign of Love – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links

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

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BecomingCalder
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Kyland

LeoAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Leo’s ChanceAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
StingerAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Archer’s Voice: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Becoming CalderMy ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Finding EdenMy ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Kyland: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

Connect with Mia: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads
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BOOK REVIEW: Three Brothers by Nicole Williams

threebrothers

I grew up with three brothers. They weren’t tied to me by blood, but our connection went beyond genetics or bearing the same last name. Our connection was forged the summer I turned thirteen, the summer my mom ended her life and left me in the custody of John Armstrong, a man I’d never met. Packing all I owned in a couple of boxes, I left the familiarity of the big city and headed west to Red Mountain Ranch, set in a lonely valley outside of Jackson Hole.

Nothing was as it seemed at Red Mountain—it didn’t take long for me to figure that out. John was kind to me but distant, as if he was afraid to let anyone get too close. His three teenage sons had their own devices for keeping love as far away as they could. The eldest distracted himself with cheap relationships that had a shelf-life of one night. The middle son threw himself into the rigor of running a ranch, and the third wielded cruelty and mind-games in his quest to keep people from getting close.

Time has gone by, and I’ve spent those years trying to forget the brother I’d fallen for—the biggest mistake of my life.

Finally, I’ve moved on. Finally, I’m back. But what I didn’t realize was that running away from the wrong brother meant I’d also run away from the right one. The one who’d been there for me all along, waiting in his brother’s shadow for the day I either would or could move on.

But a decade is a long time to wait. Has the brother I should have chosen all of those years ago moved on too? Am I about to discover that my biggest mistake wasn’t falling in love with the wrong brother, but failing to return the love of the right one sooner?

Does unrequited love have an expiration date?

I’m about to find out.

review

“There is no one better for me than you. There never has been, and there never will be.”

As someone who reads so avidly and is constantly seeking that next great story, that next unforgettable journey to hold me captive and overwhelm me emotionally, I am getting pickier and pickier the more books I read, and it takes more now than it used to for a story to rock my world and make me swoon over every word in it. But there are some authors who never fail to do just that, time and time again, their powerful prose never disappointing, and their stories always making me feel so much, and always in such different ways. This is one of those extraordinary books. A timeless tale, a tale in which powerful themes are approached with subtlety and sensitivity, a tale in which even the most understated of scenes has the ability to fill us to the brim with emotions, and while the deliberately unhurried pace of this story might not be everyone’s cup of tea, I personally needed it to be just as it is because it ensured that every message took root, that every life lesson got heard, and that every single deeper meaning was conveyed just right. I fell in love with these characters, so much that I never wanted to part with them, but even more than that, I fell in love with a touching story of love, loss, courage and forgiveness, a story that made my heart smile cover to cover.

“I’d spent more time away from that place than I’d spent there, but I’d learned that some places and people leave a deeper impression than others, regardless of time.”

Scout is a young woman in her mid twenties who has spent seven years of her young life running away from a place that made her the person she is today. A place filled with memories, both good and bad, she has allowed her heartbreak to keep her away from the only place she calls home, and from the only people in her life that she considers family. But when a tragic turn of events takes her back to that very place, Scout is forced to confront old demons while rekindling bonds that never should have been severed in the first place.

“I’d let one person and the memories of him keep me from this place for seven years. I’d never make that mistake again.”

Scout grew up with the three Armstrong brothers by having spent five of her most impressionable teen years living under the same roof, raised by the same man and treated as one of them, but she forged very different ties with each of the brothers, their differing personalities reflecting the type of relationship she formed with them—a loving best friend, a playful older brother, and an unrequited teenage crush. But when she returns to Red Mountain Ranch after seven years of absence, nothing is as it once was. And where once there was life and joy, now there is only despair and bereavement haunting the halls of her old childhood home.

“Life was heightened on those thousands on acres, and no one who entered its boundaries was exempt. The highs of life were higher, but the lows followed the same pattern, and in my experience, the lows outweighed the highs at Red Mountain.”

Taken aback by all the changes, Scout is forced to confront all that she has left behind, and the very reasons that drove her away from a place she loves so dearly. She is no longer the vulnerable young girl whose heart led her astray, and the Armstrong brother whose past actions have troubled her for so long no longer has the same power over her. Amidst past and present heartache, Scout has to finally recognise her unhealthy obsession for what it once was and allow her heart to see what had been in front of her all along.

“What I wanted to give and wanted to feel wasn’t hiding in the darkness… it had been in plain sight the whole time.”

But love is the very thing that the Armstrong men fear the most, and sometimes finding the love of your life does not necessarily mean you are allowed to keep it too. Especially when old family secrets are thrown into the mix.

A beautiful and at times heart-shattering story about learning to live life to the fullest, fearing nothing, not even death, and living it with no regrets, the entire story is akin to a nostalgic trip down memory lane, evocative of an old-fashioned world where life was simpler, more predictable, and where human bonds and their connection to the land they lived on formed the essence of a person’s life. With great finesse and unquestionable sophistication, Ms Williams has gifted us with a tale to make us reflect, to stop us in our tracks and make us evaluate our own life’s journey. This is not a story about the highs and lows of one’s life—this is the story about the space in between, the simple joys, the important joys, the daily joys, and about learning to appreciate and celebrate every last one of them.

“You make life fun, not matter what we’re doing. I wake up with a smile, even if the first thing on my list is scouring through a pile of cow crap to see why one of them’s sick, because I know you’re here. I know I’ll get to see you when you show up and chore the say away with me.”

4halfstars

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BOOK REVIEW: Bully by Penelope Douglas

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My name is Tate.

He doesn’t call me that, though. He’ll barely refer to me at all, and he’ll hardly ever speak to me.

But he still won’t leave me alone.

We were best friends once. Then he turned on me and made it his mission to ruin my life. I’ve been humiliated, shut out, and gossiped about all through high school. His pranks and rumors got worse as time wore on. I even went to Europe for a year, just to avoid him.

But I’m done hiding from him now, and there’s no way I’ll allow him to ruin another year. He might not have changed, but I have.

It’s time to fight back.

When one brave young woman stands up to her best friend Jared, now tormenter, the consequences go beyond anything either of them ever would have imagined…

review

“You were my tempest, my thunder cloud, my tree in the downpour. I loved all of those things, and I loved you. But now? You’re a f*cking drought. I thought that all the assholes drove German cars, but it turns out that pricks in Mustangs can still leave scars.”

For someone who likes to think that she has somewhat ‘outgrown’ the New Adult genre, once in a blue moon, there comes an author who makes me question that self-proclamation and fall in love with it all over again. In one of my spur-of-the-moment dips into my endless reading list, I picked this book by sheer chance, only to find myself three days later in the midst of a ‘reading marathon’ of the entire series, hooked to these characters, these stories, these addictive and utterly fabulous exemplars of a genre that draws you in and reminds you of a time when being yourself was the hardest thing to do, when it felt like the sun would not rise in the morning if a certain person was not holding your hand, loving you as you secretly loved them, and when just one wicked look aimed your way could crush your entire world. A splendid coming-of-age tale of a young woman finding her inner strength and of a boy whose own pain made him the tormentor of the only person in his life he ever truly loved, this is a book I would recommend wholeheartedly.

“What did I ever do to you?!”

Tate and Jared grew up living next door to each other. They were as thick as thieves all throughout childhood, but the sweet, generous and loveable boy Tate once called her best friend disappeared overnight, leaving in his stead a guy who made it his daily job to intimidate her, to make her feel insignificant and unwanted, and to isolate her from her peers. No explanation was ever offered, leaving her confused and hurt, and even after countless rumours, pranks, cruel jokes that made the last two years of her life hell, she never stopped missing her best friend. By not understanding his behaviour, she never stopped searching for that kid she once loved in his eyes somewhere, reluctantly hanging on to a memory of him that no longer existed, regardless of all the tears and pain he had willingly caused her.

“Jared indulged in my misery like it was candy. He had fed me to the wolves time and again, reveling in the unhappiness he caused. Jared, my friend, was completely gone, leaving a cold monster in his place.”

After a year of studying abroad, she returns to her hometown for the last year of high school, with a new attitude in tow, telling herself that she would not let Jared’s actions affect her again, but her bully is as determined as ever to toy with her. And to make her feel every bit of hatred he feels for her. Until Tate finally fights back.

“Isn’t it time you fought back?”

Two years of torment have shaped Tate into the kind of person she most probably would have never become had she not endured such emotional suffering for so long. Her patience has worn thin, she has developed a short fuse when it comes to people putting her down or mistreating her, and when it comes to Jared, she has simply had enough. And so the tables are turned and she goes out of her way to make him feel as insignificant as he has made her feel for so long. And knowing exactly which buttons to press to make him hurt the most ends up turning her into a cruel adversary.

“You wanted to hurt me? Did you get off on it? It felt good, didn’t it?”

But when Tate finally gets to Jared, his walls start crumbling down and what is left behind them is an angry little boy who is so blinded by his own pain that he hurts the one who represents his greatest weakness in life, the only person he has ever loved, allowing him to fool himself into believing that her pain would take away the pain that is ravaging him from the inside out. And what Tate discovers ends up putting a whole different light on the last three years of her young life.

This book might have started as a very vivid example of the kind of issues many teens unfortunately go through nowadays, our hearts breaking for our heroine and all she has had to endure, but it ultimately turns into a heart-warming romance that was always at the core of these characters’ connection. They could hurt each other so deeply because they knew each other so well, and every action had a reason, a source, a trigger, even though it was difficult for me, as a reader, to swallow some of those reasons at times and find in them a valid justification for such cruel and continued emotional and verbal abuse. As much as I understood the hero, there were times I wished I understood him even more, and for his triggers to have been explained in a more thorough fashion.

“He was cold to most people, but he was downright cruel to me. Why me?”

This is a story about the kind of scars we are left with after years of maltreatment, the kind of emotional baggage we carry well after things are said and done, affecting our relationships, our ability to trust those around us, and ourselves. It’s a book that moved me, angered me, made me do the occasional fist pump here and there, and it owned me cover to cover. With a refreshing and captivating writing style, Ms Douglas has pulled me into a world I never wanted to escape, becoming hopelessly invested in these characters, in their stories, and after turning that last page, only too eager to jump immediately onto the next book in the series.

“I love you more than myself, more than my own family, for Christ’s sake. I don’t want to take another step in this world without you next to me.”

4halfstars

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Fall Away – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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untilyou_new
rival
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BullyAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Until YouAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
RivalAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CAPaperback
Falling AwayAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Aflame (novella): Amazon US | Amazon CA

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BOOK REVIEW & EXCERPT: Wild and Free by Kristen Ashley

wildandfree

Abel Jin and Delilah Johnson have lived their lives with a hole in their soul, yearning for something they don’t understand.

Until one night Delilah is in mortal danger and a man who’s otherworldly strong and supernaturally fast saves her. Delilah is then cast into a world where fiction comes to life in the form of Abel, her destined mate, a vampire/werewolf hybrid who claims her at first breath as his.

But Abel knows the danger isn’t done. He’s dreamed for centuries that his mate will perish and he will stop at nothing to keep her safe.

For Delilah, she’s not only coping with fantasy come to life, but a mingling of very different families. Not to mention, she has on her hands a man who doesn’t understand his true nature and has lived his long life thinking he’s a monster.

Abel and Delilah together fills the hole that has been clawing at them for decades. But finally finding each other, it also tips their destinies as the last of The Three. They must unite with the other destined lovers, who with Abel and Delilah, are fated to save the world.

Or die trying.

review

“This was it. This was us. This was what we’d be. Wild and free.”

I am always in awe of authors who can traverse genres flawlessly and effortlessly, continually gifting us with their signature style in everything they write, that being sexy, alpha mountain men, bikers, boxing champions, kings of fictional lands, or supernatural beings. Regardless of the label put on their works, their stories have the power to transport us into a reality that is as tangible or as imaginary as it gets, holding us captive and making us wish we never left, because with every word, with every delectable moment of make-believe we are given an escape that we can trust, seek, depend on. Kristen Ashley is one of those authors for me, a safe haven I frequently run to when the hopeless romantic in me is in need of some special care, and the mere idea of reading about vampires and werewolves with her unique stamp on them has been an utterly thrilling experience. In this third book of The Three series, the final Prophesy is fulfilled, where the werewolf/vampire hybrid, Abel, finds his lifemate, Delilah, finally bringing this fantastical world to an eternity of peace between species.

“I’m two hundred and five years old and I’ve been raised with love. I’ve been blessed with family. I’ve shown and been gifted with loyalty. I’ve known joy. But I’ve never felt complete until I had Delilah.”

Abel and Delilah are the last of the chosen three couples whom the fates have given extraordinary abilities and powers, in preparation for the battle that is said to determine the future of all races. An orphan raised by generations of the same loving adoptive family, Abel has lived for over two centuries knowing that no matter how much love and devotion he is given by those around him, a crucial part of him would be missing until the day he meets the one and only mate who would fill the hole in his soul. When he finally finds Delilah, a twenty-nine-year-old ball of sass and attitude, his every instinct tells him that she is his.

“I’ve waited three lifetimes for you, and now that I’ve got you, I’m keepin’ you.”

It takes a little longer for Delilah to accept the idea of Abel as her fated mate, having to come to terms with the existence of a supernatural world around her as well, but once she gives in to their scorching chemistry, we get nothing less than fireworks. And they are s-p-e-c-t-a-c-u-l-a-r. As they grow closer to one another and learn everything about each other, they are all too soon faced with the very danger that wishes to destroy them. And a world they never even imagined existed.

“Found the man I’ve been waiting for all my life and he’s an overprotective werewolf vampire who drinks bagged blood for breakfast, has the strength of ten men, the speed of a superhero, not to mention we have people who want us dead. This is not something a girl takes in stride. At least give me to lunch.”

In this book, we are also reunited with all the main characters we already fell in love with in previous instalments in this series, as well as a few of the secondary ones, all their stories being wrapped up in light of the impending doom facing them all.

As much as I have truly enjoyed this story and the way my mind so eagerly travelled to such an enthralling imaginary world, I did feel that it somewhat fell short of the very elements that would make it a compelling paranormal read. It felt to me like this story was only set in a paranormal reality, these characters quite comfortably being capable of ‘existing’ in and drawing similarities from many of this author’s contemporary works. I loved that and, at the same time, I did not like that at all. I hoped for a deeper feeling of immersion into a fantastical world of this kind, with more attention on the supernatural other-worldly elements and a bit less on the everyday ones such as the characters’ fashion sense or their random musings about everything and anything around them, not to mention the numerous sex scenes (and I will have to wash my mouth with soap for saying this) that often served no other purpose than to entice our senses over and over again. My biggest obstacle in connecting with this story was the actual heroine, Delilah. After two books in this series where the lead female characters perfectly complemented their respective male counterparts and ‘fit the bill’ quite seamlessly, I couldn’t shake the feeling that the heroine in this book did not belong in it at all. Her personality was over-the-top, too much of the storyline centred around her ‘biker chick sass’ and inner reflections, significantly more so than on her mate, even though we are offered both of their points of view, and her interactions with the other characters in the story did not sit well with me. In addition to that, I felt that the background storyline kept building up to a huge climax that never really eventuated, the ending seeming rushed, wrapped up too quickly and almost skimmed over. I wished for that one single occurrence of epic proportions that we were bracing ourselves for which would have represented the culmination of all three books at once, but the event we got did not end up being satisfying enough. We were, however, given the chance to revisit characters from previous instalments and even hear their inner voices once more, which added an enjoyable level of familiarity to the overall storyline.

It does not happen very often, if ever, that I do not connect quite viscerally with a Kristen Ashley novel. This book had all the right components, all the ‘winning’ elements that would make it an instant hit with me, but I simply did not connect with this story as much as I hoped for. This did not take away from the sheer beauty of the romance between Abel and Delilah, but it was enough for it not to become another favourite of mine.

“Thank you for making a lifetime of longing worth every second, Abel.”

3halfstars

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excerpt

“I’m a monster, Lilah.”

“What?” I whispered.

“I’m a werewolf vampire. I exist on human blood. I can tear a man’s head off and I have. I’m a monster.”

“You—”

“I am,” he stated flatly. “And the first chance I’ve had in all my years to understand why I am as I am is to go to that f*ckin’ hotel.”

I stared at him, then straightened my body so I was fully facing him. This caused his jaw to get hard again, but I ignored that and stated, “Okay, let’s break this down.”

“Nothin’ to break down.”

“Humor me,” I snapped, his head jerked, and his lips curved up.

“Carry on,” he muttered.

“Thanks,” I bit out. “First, how many men’s heads have you torn off?”

“Four, and two wolves.”

“That’s it?” I asked.

“Yeah.”

“These being the night we met,” I stated.

“Yeah,” he repeated.

“The night some of them were trying to kill me and the others were trying to kill you.”

To that he said nothing.

I kept going, “So you haven’t torn off unsuspecting citizens’ heads willy-nilly, for the f*ck of it, or on a psychotic rampage?”

He pressed his lips together and I knew it was to hide his humor because his eyes lit with it before he unpressed them to say, “No.”

“Right,” I said sharply. “Have you ever had a psychotic rampage?”

He shook his head.

“So let’s get to the human blood part,” I suggested. “When you were,” I paused, “drawing from one of your ex-bitches, did you ever kill one of them?”

“F*ck no.”

“Take too much and make them sick?”

“No.”

“Do it against anyone’s will?”

His eyes went guarded, but he said, “No.”

I threw up a hand. “Okay, so what’s the problem?”

He blinked, straightening in his chair, but again said nothing.

“I mean, seriously,” I went on, “I’ve seen lots of vampire movies and TV shows and even the good vamps screw up and overindulge. Hell, Jessica killed three fairies in a ravenous attack. She might have had her issues as a young vampire, but by that time, she was full-on good.”

His brows shot together. “Fairies?”

“Fairies.”

“What the f*ck are you talking about?”

I threw up both hands and cried in exasperation, “True Blood!

“Jesus, Lilah,” he muttered.

“No, seriously, Jessica is very sweet.”

“For f*ck’s sake,” he growled, sounding like he was losing patience, which I didn’t figure was a good thing.

“Okay, back on track,” I began. “Tell me. Tell me one instance in your life where you actually behaved like a monster.”

“I wanna f*ck you,” he snarled.

I stared.

“Yeah,” he ground out. “I wanna f*ck you, Delilah. Consumed with the need and I have no idea why, but I can guess, seein’ as it’s like you’re a bitch in heat, I’m a dog that catches the scent and his mind is wiped…wiped of anything…but the need to mount you and”—he leaned forward—“rut.

“Holy f*ck,” I breathed.

“Yeah,” he said again. “That make you feel safe?”

“Abel—”

“I can smell your fear.”

I swallowed.

“It turns me on,” he kept going. “Makes me wanna tear into your throat and f*ck you and feed from you. Now, does that make you feel safe?”

“No,” I whispered, because it really f*cking didn’t.

“Right. No,” he bit off. “So I’m not a monster?”

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The Three – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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Until the Sun Falls from the SkyMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
With Everything I AmMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Wild and FreeMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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Other books in the series or related posts:

BOOK REVIEW: The Pact by Karina Halle

ThePact

It all started with a pinky swear…

Linden McGregor is tall, rugged, and gunslinger handsome; a helicopter pilot with a Scottish brogue and charm to spare. He’s also one of Stephanie Robson’s best friends and has fit into that box for as long as she’s known him.

Beautiful, funny and an ambitious businesswoman (with one hell of an ass), Stephanie Robson is one of Linden McGregor’s best friends and has fit into that box for as long as he’s known her.

But some relationships can’t be boxed, can’t be classified, can’t be tamed.

Back in their mid-twenties and tired of the competitive hit-or-miss dating scene of San Francisco, Steph and Linden made a pact to marry each other if neither one of them were in a serious relationship by the time they hit thirty.

It sounded like fun and games at the time but as the years to thirty tick past and lovers come and go out of their lives, the pact becomes larger than life.

Sex is inevitable. Friendships are tested. Hearts are on the line.

The pact is about to change everything.

review

“The two of you in a marriage? World’s pickiest woman with the world’s biggest manwhore? Yeah, have fun with that.”

In a sea of stories about young lovers sharing their firsts—first loves, first heartbreaks, one and only forevers—there finally comes a story about single people in their early thirties desperately searching for that rare, almost illusive connection with someone that would make them feel a little less lonely in the world, a little less stranded, all the while trying to reconcile the scars from their pasts with the uncertainty of their futures. This is a story about friendships, about two best friends falling in love with each other, about the sacrifices we make in the name of those friendships, and about learning to finally see what counts the most in life. The perfect balance of sensual anticipation and character introspection, I could not put this book down for more than a few minutes at a time, these characters driving me insane and making me utterly addicted to them all at the same time. It might have all started with a premise we’ve all seen before, a scenario that is neither groundbreaking nor complex, but Ms Halle managed to put her inimitable stamp on it by giving us two imperfect characters dealing with everything that life throws their way, inevitably messing up along the way, while searching for their slice of happiness.

“I wanted Steph. My best friend. She was my baby blue and I was her cowboy. So a pact, a foolish, naïve pact, was born.”

A sexy Scottish pilot and a small clothing business owner, Linden and Stephanie have been best friends since their early twenties, their bond and affection for one another being the only constant they’ve had in their adult lives. After numerous failed relationships and dating disillusionments, they make a drunken pact with each other, sealed with a pinky swear, that if neither of them are in a serious relationship by the time they are both thirty, they would marry each other. But while they both pretend to box it all as a joke, deep down, neither of them see it that way. Or ever forget their pact.

“How do you ensure someone feels the same about you without telling them how you feel?”

Over the next five years, as they both approach their thirtieth birthdays, we get quick glimpses of the ways their lives change year after year, witnessing failed relationships and career changes, the memory of their pact ever-present on their minds. But as much as they both secretly pine after one another, neither of them is willing to admit their feelings or make the first move, fearing that such a drastic change in their relationship would eventually destroy their friendship. Until one kiss takes all their self-control away and they end up discovering that they were meant to be more than friends all along.

“You’re it, you’re it, you’re it. All this time you’ve been it.”

The long anticipation leading up to the moment they finally let go of their fears and wholeheartedly embrace their feelings for one another is paid off in spades, as we are given a truly satisfying romantic climax to make up for all the will-they-won’t-they moments leading up to it. It is racy, it is all-consuming, and it is utterly delicious, the whole element of best friends turning into lovers, of two people who already know each other so intimately crossing that ultimate line, adding an even more exciting angle to this pulse-quickening scenario.

“I’m going to relish every inch of your body until you’re begging for release. Then, I’m going to f*ck you so hard, so good, that you’ll still feel me inside you days later.”

But Linden and Stephanie have been unsuccessfully searching for love for so long that when they finally have it in their grasps, they are unable to recognize its unique beauty and thus hold onto it, allowing life to interfere and make them question themselves. This is a story about making mistakes in life and finding the courage to correct those mistakes, as much as it is a story about finding true love and never settling for anything less.

“Nine years. I’ve been waiting nine years for this. Nine years to finally have you the way I’ve always needed you. And now that I’ve had you, I want nothing else.”

Even though this author is not known for giving us fairytales wrapped up in neat little bows, this story is a slight departure from her previous style of storytelling, with a few more ‘bows’ present than usual, with a slightly ‘broader brush’ used to define these characters, and fewer moments designed to make our hearts clench, but her signature prose never disappoints and it holds us captive cover to cover. I have to admit that I missed the angst, I missed the raw emotions normally driving all of Karina Halle’s stories forward, but that is only because her extraordinary writing has made me greedy and always hungry for more. At times, I failed to truly understand these characters’ actions and what made them tick one way or another, I did not connect with any of the secondary characters in the story as they lacked clarity in my eyes and felt more as supporting acts whose actions justified those of the main characters, but none of this impacted in any significant way on my overall enjoyment of this fun, relatable, sexy tale that I devoured in one single day.

“He is my rock. He is my Linden. Always has been. Always will be.”

4stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Ripped by Katy Evans

RIPPED

A ripped rock star with attitude.
An ex-girlfriend with a reckless plan.

Pandora assumed getting her heart broken by her bad boy ex could only happen once–until Mackenna Jones comes back to town for the biggest concert of his career. They say girls are getting pregnant just thinking about the Crack Bikini tour and it’s destined to be a huge hit.

Oh, it’ll be a hit alright–when Pandora comes out swinging. She and her friend Melanie are determined to humiliate him onstage. But when they’re caught by security and her ex is
summoned, Mackenna decides not to press charges if she’ll join him on tour and follow certain conditions–rules designed to give him the upper hand and keep her in close contact with him once again. Soon, the passion they once shared is reignited, and no matter how much Pandora wants to hate him, her hard exterior starts to crack.

And worse: Mackenna knows it, too. But he hasn’t uncovered all her secrets…

review

“We’ve hurt each other too much. Our past runs too deep. We can’t suddenly just be . . . happy.”

I am so distressed over this book, I could cry. After reading and loving its prequel in the series, I was positive that this story would undoubtedly end up becoming another instant favourite of mine, especially since it centred around my so-called ‘golden trifecta’—a second chance at love story, a bad boy rock star, a sassy heroine—but nothing about the end product made me weak at the knees, and everything about it left a bland taste in my mouth. I had huge expectations of this book, even bigger of the scenario in question, and yet I somehow ended up walking away baffled by all the ways this novel fell short of all I hoped to find between its pages. A teenage romance ending in two broken hearts who never got over each other, this is a story of second chances, of stolen meant-to-bes, of forgiveness, and of healing, and while I was disappointed with the overall picture, I did finish this book, I never was tempted to give up on it, and it did not in any way deter me from picking up any subsequent works by this author.

“He was my first love and my first everything, including my first heartbreak.”

The pain from having your heart broken at seventeen by the one and only love of your life is something Pandora Stone has had to live with for six long years, her heart only breaking even further every time she heard a song by the ever-popular band Crack Bikini. But when the band comes to perform in her home town, Pandora decides to finally unleash her wrath and show its lead singer exactly what she thinks of him and the lyrics he wrote about her. Armed with tomatoes.

“Hating him is all that keeps me sane. Hating him means what he did to me doesn’t matter.”

Mackenna Jones never expected to lock eyes with the woman he never got over in the middle of a sold-out concert while at the receiving end of tomatoes being thrown his way. His reluctant muse and the inspiration behind some of his greatest hits, Pandora has been his only love and his greatest regret. They never saw each other after he disappeared from her life and left her without even a goodbye, but he never forgot her or stopped loving her. So nothing could have prepared him for the blatant hatred in her eyes, or her unrepentant desire to humiliate him in public. Let alone her willingness to agree to go on tour with the band in an effort to humiliate him even further and keep giving him hell.

“Pandora. My nightmare, my dreams, my walking, talking fantasy.”

What starts as an act of vengeance and a desperate attempt to get closure, slowly becomes something neither of them are able to stop or deny—a sizzling battle of wills that always ends up with them tangled around each other, making up for all they lost, missed, and could not wait to get back. They quarrel, they hurt one another, but each night, their succumb to their bodies and the memories of a time when all they wanted out of life was to be each other’s everything.

“You’ll never have me again.”
“Your lips say one thing but the rest of you screams the opposite.”

But six years have changed them both, deeply and painfully, and while happiness might appear to be finally with their reach, embracing that happiness is not an easy feat, especially when one of them is convinced that her sins have erased any trace of the girl she once used to be, leaving behind an empty shell with nothing more to give, and the other still carries the burden of the reasons he once walked away from his girl in the first place.

“I want your mind, your dreams, your hopes, your f*cking soul. I want it all.”
“You can’t have it all. You already took it. You took it, and now I have nothing left to give to anyone.”

I have to say that I truly loved these characters from the get-go, but I simply never got an opportunity to fully understand them and thus connect with them. They were full of contradictions and the holes in their character development stopped me from enjoying their story. Or often make sense of it. And even returning characters from previous books acted oddly and did not seem themselves at all. The flow of the entire book is splintered by rough transitions, awkward random monologues that felt repetitive and unnecessary, and by obvious gaps in the story itself, greatly affecting the smooth pace and progression of the storyline. Personally, it felt to me like this particular scenario had all the foundations for a great, unforgettable story, and it kept building itself up, more and more, but continuously failing to capitalise on everything it built up, and eventually crashing down like a house of cards without even offering the reader a true climax. I wanted to love this book, I would have been happy even just liking this book, but I found myself unable to do so because this story could have been so much more. And it simply wasn’t.

“Once, her mother told me I wasn’t good enough for her. I vowed to her that in a few years I was going to be good enough for any woman’s daughter . . . especially hers.”

2halfstars

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Real – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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BOOK REVIEW: You Were Mine by Abbi Glines

youweremine

Gossip is the ultimate currency in Rosemary Beach, but Bethy and Tripp have managed to keep one big secret to themselves.

Eight years ago, Tripp Newark was dating a rich girl he didn’t like and was on his way to Yale—and a future he didn’t want. The only way he could escape his predictable life would be to give up the money and power that came with his family’s name. And that’s exactly what he planned to do. At the end of the summer, he was going to ride off on his Harley and never look back.

That was before he met Beth Lowry.

It was only supposed to be a summer fling. She was a sixteen-year-old trailer-park girl who served drinks to his friends at Kerrington Country Club. They didn’t run in the same social circles. No one even knew they were friends, let alone lovers. Yet, for one summer, Bethy became his entire world.

But he couldn’t give up on his plan. He needed to leave Rosemary Beach, but he vowed he would come back for her.

Problem was, by the time he came back—years later than promised—it was too late. His cousin, Jace, had already claimed the woman he loved…

review

“This is mine. It always was. You were mine then, and you’re mine now.”

She broke our hearts, she took him away from us and made us all blubbering messes in the wake of one of the most startling events in the entire Rosemary Beach series, but we knew along she would make it up to us, and when Abbi Glines decides she is going to make us feel, she takes no prisoners. In another brilliant instalment in a most-beloved series, we are back in the world of the Rosemary Beach crew, and this time around, two of their own need to find their way back to each other. This is a story of second chances, of putting back the pieces of one’s broken heart, and of healing in the arms of the one who never gave up on their love. It’s an emotional book, one that might or might not make us cry, but it will make amends for everything that its prequel has taken from us. And then some.

“I’m done running, and there’s nothing for me out there. What I want is in Rosemary Beach.”

When Tripp Newark left his childhood home in search of himself and to escape his controlling family, he left his girl behind. Three years her senior, Tripp never expected to fall for the brown-eyed beauty raised in a world so different from his own, but one look at her and he was lost. One summer together is all they ever got, but that is all it took them to fall in love and become inseparable. She gave him her innocence, he stole her heart and promised her a forever, but then one day he just took off and left her behind to pick up the pieces of her broken heart and to fend for herself. Eight years later, Tripp returns to Rosemary Beach, tired of running away and determined to fight back for the girl he still loves. But that girl is not the same girl any longer, the pain from losing two great loves in her life having changed her, made her numb to the pain and anger that ravished her gentle soul.

“You want that girl you left behind. I’m not her! Don’t you get it? She’s gone. I’ve lost her. I made choices that made me an awful person. I’m not worth all this time and energy you’re wasting.”

Once an naïve and impressionable young woman, Bethy Lowry’s life has never gone as she hoped, loss and grief hardening her heart and teaching her to shut her emotions off in order not to drown in them. She wallows in her pain, becoming emotionally catatonic and self-destructive, and when her first love suddenly returns to town, her already fragile defenses start crumbling down, his very presence in her everyday life being a constant reminder of everything she has lost and would never get back. The more Tripp pushes her to admit her feelings for him, the more she shuts him out, the memory of their time together only digging an even deeper hole in her own pit of guilt and despair.

“I’m afraid I won’t be able to get over you.”

However, some things are worth fighting for, patiently, sensibly, lovingly, and Tripp is a man who is willing to do all that he can to make sure that the love of his life gets better, that she is happy again, that she forgives him for his mistakes, even if she never ends up becoming his again. He is gentle with her, gives her all the time and space that she asks of him, but he never makes her question his devotion to her or what he is willing to do to make her love him again.

“We may have been kids, but what I felt for you was real. It never changed or faded. Not once.”

In true Abbi Glines fashion, we are given a beautiful story of redemption, of second chance at love, life, happiness, and these characters unsurprisingly embed themselves into our hearts from the very start. The whole story focuses on the emotional journey of these leading characters, but all the other characters are also offered closure over the very event that broke them all collectively. It is a story that is born out of tragedy, heartbreak, an incident that affected each person differently, but all of them permanently, and it paves the road for them all to get rid of the burden of that pain and guilt, and finally heal. I could not help but sigh at the end of this book, my heart clapping in my chest like a happy seal. I loved every word, every sliver of pain, every ray of hope, and I loved loved loved that what we are given in the end balances out what was taken from us in the first place.

“Things worth having don’t come easy. You have to fight for it until you’re tired of fighting, and then you take a breather and fight some more.”

5stars

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Rosemary Beach – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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Fallen Too Far: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Rush Too Far: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Never Too FarMy reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Twisted PerfectionMy reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Forever Too FarMy reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Simple PerfectionMy reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Take A Chance: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
One More Chance: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
You Were Mine: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Kiro’s Emily (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
When I’m Gone: Amazon US | Amazon UKAmazon CA | Paperback
When You’re BackAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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