BOOK REVIEW: The Fable of Us by Nicole Williams

Her heart can’t be destroyed by the same person twice. At least that’s what Clara Abbot finds herself hoping when she runs into Boone Cavanaugh less than an hour after returning to Charleston.

As kids, Clara and Boone had been each other’s firsts, and no one or nothing could stand in the way of their forever. But all kids have to grow up sometime. The troubled son of the town drunk winding up with the firstborn daughter of the local royalty was a happy ending even the most imaginative of fairy tales couldn’t make believable.

Their fable came to an end as most do: tragically. Boone might have done the leaving, but it was Clara who got away and made a new life for herself in California. But after seven years of dodging her hometown, she’s only back in Charleston for seven days to celebrate her sister’s wedding. She won’t let her overbearing family or her run-in with Boone rattle her—though rattling her is obviously Boone’s primary objective.

Boone is her past and her past is behind her, a mere speck in the rearview. So why does she feel it coming back every time she looks at him? Why does she see it every time he looks back?

Just when Clara’s life can’t possibly get more complicated, the ground shifts, and she discovers just how far her family was willing to go to keep the wrong boy out of her life. Was it really Boone who left her? Or was it Clara who left him?

The truth will be hard to face. Especially when she discovers most of her life has been built on lies.

review

“What had we been thinking as kids pretending we could chase forever? Stupid. That’s what we’d been.”

There’s something very special about an author whose every new book makes you feel like a kid on Christmas morning, and Nicole Williams is one of those authors for me. Never one for depicting human nature or matters of the heart in broad strokes, Ms Williams’ stories tend to focus on the small things in life, the everyday and the often unnoticed, weaving them into breathtaking, hopeful, tender romances that never fail to inspire. And with each new book, she leaves us brimming with positivity and faith in mankind, showing us that often the simplest of stories contain the most profound truths. The mere premise of a second chance romance between two teenage sweethearts from opposite sides of the tracks had all the makings of a compelling read in my eyes, but in Nicole Williams’ hands, it was guaranteed to become an epic one.

“It was only a week. Seven days. I’d endured eighteen years; what was one week?”

As the eldest daughter of an affluent Southern family, Clara Abbott was always expected to follow a set script in life. But ever since she was a child, Clara has felt at odds with her highbrow family, rebelling against everything they stood for and everything that was required of her as an Abbott. Seven years after leaving her old life behind and making a new one far enough from the reaches of her overbearing family, Clara is called back to her hometown for the wedding of her younger sister. But with every breath she takes in a city she hoped to never see again, she finds herself drowning in memories she’s desperately tried to erase. And all of a sudden, facing the very object of them all.

“This woman’s taken enough from me for this lifetime and my next ten. I’m not giving her anything else…”

Clara might have put a whole country between herself and her memories of Boone Cavanaugh, but one look at the only man she’s ever loved stirs in her all she’s worked hard to forget. Yet when faced with the prospect of facing her family on her own, she puts her heartbreak aside and makes him an offer he is unable to refuse—to pose as her ‘plus one’ for one week.

“All I need from you is for you to pose as my plus one for the week. Nothing more. One week, ten grand.”

But Boone is no longer the vulnerable young man Clara left behind, and even at one of the lowest points in his life, he refuses to be her dirty little secret again. He does not hesitate to accept Clara’s offer, but from the moment they walk through the doors of her childhood home, Boone is set on playing the role his seventeen-year-old self never had the courage to own. And rubbing it in her family’s faces any chance he gets. Bringing home a ghost from her past, however, one they had never accepted or welcomed into the family fold, sets off a series of small chain reactions intended to collectively derail Clara from making the same mistakes again.

“It will be okay, Clara. They can’t ruin your life twice.”
“That won’t stop them from trying.”
“Well, I won’t let them ruin my life twice.”
“It won’t stop them from trying.”

As the wedding nears and Clara’s family obstinately plots to pull them apart by drawing attention to their very obvious class differences, Clara and Boone remain determined to present a united front against their schemes, this reminding them of another time they depended on each other for strength, and of all the reasons why they once loved one another dearly. But each good memory brings a bad one to the surface too, and soon they are forced to confront a past they both hoped to forget, as well as acknowledge their own roles in the demise of it all.

“I don’t just stop loving someone because they make a mistake, or the same mistake every other night. When you love someone, do it right and love them forever. Don’t leave them wondering the whole time when it’s going to run out or expire.”

With a truly thought-provoking perspective on second chances in life, Ms Williams gifts us with a touching tale of a love that survived against all odds and of a family whose actions often hurt the ones they loved the most, whose good intentions often turned into mistakes, but whose ties to one another never wavered. Clara and Boone might have been star-crossed lovers in their youth, but life has taught them never to give up on those who matter the most or throw away a chance to correct the past. And the power of their connection never fails to make our hearts beat a little faster.

“I’ve only ever had one someone special, Clara, and she turned me off to the whole idea of ever having another.”

I loved every single word of this splendid tale, genuinely connecting and understanding these characters even when their actions would not have been my own, and letting go of them in the end was sweet agony. Nicole Williams’ stories always offer a refreshing change of pace, their slow-building tempo and the empathetic quality to her character development continuing to be the key feature of this author’s extraordinary voice. I always walk away from her stories with a heavy heart, because once you’ve lived in one of her realities, you always want more.

“It doesn’t seem to matter how far away I go or how many years go by. I’m starting to accept that there will always be some part of me that is going to hold on to some part of you.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Appealed by Emma Chase

When Brent Mason looks at Kennedy Randolph, he doesn’t see the awkward, sweet girl who grew up next door. He sees a self-assured, stunning woman…who wants to crush the most intimate—and prized—parts of his anatomy beneath the heels of her Louboutins.

When Kennedy looks at Brent, all she sees is the selfish, Abercrombie & Fitch catalogue–worthy teenager who humiliated her in high school in order to join the popular crowd. A crowd that made those years a living hell for her.

But she’s not a lovesick social outcast anymore—she’s a Washington, DC, prosecutor with a long winning streak. Brent is the opposing attorney in her next case, and Kennedy thinks it’s time to put him through a little hell of his own.

But things aren’t exactly working out the way she planned. Brent has his sights set on Kennedy, and every fiery exchange only makes him want her more—and makes her wonder if he’s as passionate in the bedroom as he is in the courtroom. In the end, they may just find themselves in love…or in contempt of court.

review

“Once upon a time she was my best friend. For a hot minute she was more. After that, she hated me. And then she was just . . . gone.”

I simply adored this book! This sexy second chance romance was an absolute delight to read, with two characters I couldn’t get enough of and so many unforgettable scenes that made me giggle and swoon all at the same time, I was smitten cover to cover. The story of two estranged childhood best friends who suddenly find themselves on opposite sides of a courtroom, this book was the perfect blend of sizzling sexual tension and heartwarming romance, and with a charming brand of nerdy humor lacing every single page, it was positively one of the most uplifting stories I’ve read of late. A great conclusion to a fantastic series, and a top recommendation from me.

“What’d you do to your face?” she asks, folding her arms.
I touch my chin. “I grew a beard.”
“Well ungrow it. It looks like a vagina from a 1970s porn film.”

Brent Mason might have been born with a silver spoon in his mouth and with a family name that could have opened any door for him in life, but he has worked hard to step out of the shadow of all those who came before him and to make a name for himself in his chosen profession. At thirty-two, Brent is at the top of his game—a partner in a thriving law firm and a successful defense attorney—but, much to his mother’s despair, a confirmed bachelor. He likes to live life in the moment and avoids long-term romantic attachments by keeping an emotional distance from the women he dates, until a striking blonde in a ravishing red dress walks into one of his parents’ parties and gets his undivided attention.

“I’ve never forgotten you, sweetheart. Not even close.”

Kennedy Randolph is a ferocious public prosecutor with a long winning streak and a reputation for being ruthless and unbending, but her stoic façade is shaken from the moment she meets the appraising eyes of the man who broke her heart fourteen years before. As a child, Kennedy used to believe her best friend hung the moon and the stars, but all she sees in him now is the very reason she no longer trusts men or allows herself to care for one. And his every cocky attempt at flirting with her only strengthens her resolve to best him in every possible way.

Over the last fourteen years I’ve thought a lot about what it’d be like to see Kennedy Randolph again—but I never thought it’d be on the opposite side of a courtroom.
“You realize this makes us mortal enemies? You’re now the Lex Luthor to my Superman, the Magneto to my Professor Xavier.”
“With your comic book obsession obviously still in full effect, I’d say I’m more the Wendy to your Peter Pan complex.”

But so much of their past together has shaped both the people they have become, and when every memory has two sides, it soon becomes clear to them both that they might have lost fourteen years of new memories made together due to a simple misunderstanding.

“We’re soul mates. Destined to be together, written in the stars, Bogie-and-Bacall perfect. Kennedy doesn’t see it yet—but that’s all right. Because I’m patient. And relentless.”

As opposing counsels on a case, Brent and Kennedy are now forced to remain adversaries in court, but each private moment spent together brings them one step closer to the carefree kids they once were—free to be themselves, free to be each other’s pillar of support, and feeling safe for the first time in their adult lives to love freely. But a decade of misplaced anger and heartbreak has turned Kennedy from a cheery, funny, socially oblivious teenager into a hard-hearted young woman who struggles to trust her own heart not to get broken again. Luckily for her, she’s met her match in and out of the courtroom, and nothing can stop a man in love, not even a fourteen-year-old case of cold feet.

As the elevator starts to rise, I feel his eyes on me. “My supervisor called, told me to get you upstairs straight away.”
I nod. “Yeah.”
“He said the director called him personally.”
“That sounds about right.” 
He pauses for a beat and then asks, “Who the hell are you?” 
There’s only one way I can answer. I lower my voice and look him in the eyes. “I’m Batman.”

Books like these can pull you out of any dreaded ‘reading funk’ that comes your way, and every second spent reading this enchanting enemies-to-lovers romance ‘fed’ the desperate seeker of feel-good stories in me. Ms Chase’s remarkable ability to paint even the most dramatic of scenes with dry humour and wit only heightened my enjoyment of this story, setting it apart from many in its genre and making it an instant favourite for me.

“It’s one thing if I want to screw Kennedy ten different ways. But to think of my mother cheering us on—sitting on the sidelines with a flag in one hand and a foam cock in the other—is just wrong.”

5stars

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OverruledAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Sustained: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
AppealedAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: Sebring by Kristen Ashley

sebring

Nick Sebring has issues. Born feeling like an outsider in his own family, growing up under the shadow of a brother who could do anything, Nick isn’t that great of a guy. But when this culminates with Nick lashing out to hurt his brother through the woman he loves, Nick turns inward and makes some decisions about the man he intends to be.

And as he does this, he falls in love and truly learns the man that he’s grown to be.

When his love is murdered right before Nick’s eyes, Nick knows he has to avenge her. He knows how he’s going to avenge her. And he has no qualms using Olivia Shade to exact that vengeance.

Olivia Shade has grown up on the outside of her family too. Her problem is that they don’t want her outside. They want her all the way in, right under their thumbs. She pays the price for seeking escape and learns her lesson—she’ll never see a dawn where she wakes up free.

Then she meets Nick Sebring, and even as she fights it, the hope that died years ago starts to blossom. She can find love. She can have a man of her own. She can be happy. She can be free.

Olivia hopes while Nick schemes.

However, as Nick peels back the layers of all that is Olivia Shade, he finds something surprising. He understands its fragility. He falls in love with its beauty. He seeks to protect it.

But he forgets to protect his Livvie from one thing: Nick Sebring.

review

“I live in dark. Dawn never comes for me. There will be no new day where I wake up complete. Happy. Loved. There is no other side to make my way to. There is no believe. It just isn’t for me.”

It only seems fitting that a series about ‘antiheroes’ should come to a close with the story of the darkest horse of them all—a man we distrusted, feared, even hated at times, but whose every conflicting action up to this moment has also led us to believe there was more to his story, more to the man he could be. A splendid conclusion to the series, quite unexpected in its twists and turns, this is a story about redemption, hope, trust, resilience of the human spirit, and the healing power of love. Kristen Ashley brings out the big guns this time around, gifting us with a story that is as bold as it is shocking at times, immersing us into a dark underworld that keeps us on our toes page after page, and making us connect with two characters whose flaws are their most compelling features. I did not expect this story, I didn’t even hope for a story like this, but we were given everything this story needed to be…and more.

“Back in the day, Nick Sebring had been known as the incompetent, unprincipled wastrel younger brother of a successful man. Nick also was known to have a fondness for cocaine and a mind filled with nothing but getting laid and living large off his brother’s back. He was no longer any of that.”

Nick Sebring’s ill-spent youth might be behind him, but there’s a whole new set of demons tormenting his dreams and deciding his every move. His past mistakes have forced him to work on re-building the family bonds his careless actions put into jeopardy and to do all in his power to make his loved ones proud. But the agony and helplessness he felt while being forced to watch the brutal killing of his girlfriend have also shaped the past two years of his life, turning him into a man single-mindedly focused on revenging her and completing the mission that ultimately cost her her life. And that mission has led him to a woman whose blood makes her an ideal target in Nick’s quest for retribution.

“I breathe. I’m here. I take up space. I eat. I drive. But I have no brain. No will. No strength. No opinions. I do not matter to the point I do not exist.”
“You exist for me.”

Olivia Shade is a prisoner of her birthright. Born into a life of crime and violence, she’s never had any other choice but to join it, all freedom to make decisions taken away from her and any disobedience on her part punished severely. She is a woman profoundly unhappy with her life, but she has learned to keep all her emotions tightly locked inside her and to accept the hand that life her served her in silence and with no objections. Olivia’s only sanctuary, the only safe place she can just be her in a world where she can be everything but herself, is a very private and discrete sex club that no one in her family knows about—the perfect place for a man seeking revenge to gain access to a woman like Olivia.

“He had no idea. No f*cking clue. No f*cking clue that before dawn hit the sky on a new day, he wouldn’t be in over his head with Olivia Shade. He’d be drowning.”

With the setting just right and the perfect opening in place, it is Olivia who takes the first step, but from the moment they bodies converge, from the moment their eyes lock while panting against each other’s lips, they both know they are over their heads. And that they want more. They keep meeting and with each new encounter, their connection deepens. Under Olivia’s emotionless façade, Nick discovers a woman who yearns to feel safe and loved, a woman who never smiles because she believes emotions to be her greatest weakness, a woman who needs to exert control in the bedroom because she has none in her daily life. In Nick’s arms, however, Olivia blossoms, and as her walls start crumbling, she allows herself to believe in a better life.

“I believed. For one magnificent second, connected to Nick Sebring, I believed. I believed in a better world. I believed I could feel complete. I believed I could have someone by my side. I believed I could feel safe. I believed I could be happy. I believed I could be loved. I believed in a dawn coming where I would open my eyes and have all of this only for it to lead to another day dawning where I’d have it and then another day… And another… And another… And another…”

But with secrets on both sides, and Nick’s ulterior motives threatening everything they’ve slowly built between them, their worlds inevitably collide, putting into question every moment, every touch, every word, and pulling the two lovers apart.

A heart-wrenching story of finding hope even when darkness is all one has ever known, and of letting go of the past in order to embrace a brighter future—this is a book that put my poor heart through the wringer, and then left it brimming with glee. It is the perfect conclusion to an unconventional series that never stopped challenging the very definition of an ‘antihero’, giving us characters who don’t always follow the rules of society, yet live their lives by their own strict, albeit more cynical moral codes. Tales of redemption and second chances in life are my personal weakness, and Olivia and Nick’s story was beyond anything I could have hoped it would be.

“Dawn is coming, honey. Open your eyes.”

4halfstars

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Unfinished Hero – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
(standalone stories with interconnected characters
knight2 creed2 raid2 deacon sebring

KnightAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
CreedMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
RaidMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
DeaconMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
SebringAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: The Score by Elle Kennedy

He knows how to score, on and off the ice…

Allie Hayes is in crisis mode. With graduation looming, she still doesn’t have the first clue about what she’s going to do after college. To make matters worse, she’s nursing a broken heart thanks to the end of her longtime relationship. Wild rebound sex is definitely not the solution to her problems, but gorgeous hockey star Dean Di-Laurentis is impossible to resist. Just once, though, because even if her future is uncertain, it sure as heck won’t include the king of one-night stands.

It’ll take more than flashy moves to win her over…

Dean always gets what he wants. Girls, grades, girls, recognition, girls…he’s a ladies man, all right, and he’s yet to meet a woman who’s immune to his charms. Until Allie. For one night, the feisty blonde rocked his entire world—and now she wants to be friends? Nope. It’s not over until he says it’s over. Dean is in full-on pursuit, but when life-rocking changes strike, he starts to wonder if maybe it’s time to stop focusing on scoring…and shoot for love.

review

“You’re going about this the wrong way, you know. The best way to get over someone is to hook up with someone else. ASAP.”
“I’m not ready to be with anyone else yet.”
“Sure you are. Seriously, just find yourself a rebound.” Dean whips up his arm. “I volunteer as tribute.”

Just when I thought this series could not get any better, we are given another delectable instalment in this witty, sexy, flawlessly written series about opposites attracting. We saw the cocky team captain fall for a sassy geek in The Deal, the star defenseman fight for a second chance in The Mistake, and now we get to properly meet another star of the Briar hockey team—the team’s resident party animal and the biggest player on the planet—and the spirited blonde who ends up rocking his world. These stories are such guilty pleasures of mine, a fun and utterly addictive reading experience beginning to end, and Dean and Allie’s story did not disappoint in the slightest.

“So I’m…what, your relationship sponsor? I’m the one who makes sure you don’t fall off the wagon?”
“Yep. Congratulations, you finally get to do something worthwhile with your time,” I say sarcastically.
He tips his head. “What do I get in return?”
“The satisfaction of knowing you’re helping someone other than yourself?”
“Naah. How about a BJ? I’ll do it for a BJ.”
I give him the finger. “You wish.”
“Fine, an HJ.”

An incorrigible ladies’ man who always gets whatever he wants, whenever he wants it, Dean Hayward-Di Laurentis’ lighthearted attitude gives the impression that he doesn’t have a worry in the world, but behind the team’s star defenseman’s confident swagger lies a man who has not found his true direction in life. Born to privilege and expected to follow in his parents’ footsteps, Dean passes his college days focusing on hockey, random hook-ups, and spending time with his friends, his innate intelligence hidden behind a careless, live-in-the-moment stance on life. But when an unexpected one-night stand turns into the greatest sexual experience of his life, Dean finds himself in uncharted territory, unable to stop thinking about the first woman in his life who’s left him craving for more.

“The memories come crashing back in vivid Technicolor. The terrible movie. The tequila shots. The…rest. I slept with Dean last night. Twice. My heart beats faster as I stare up at the ceiling. I’m in Dean’s room. There’s an empty condom wrapper on the end table. And…yep, I’m naked. Maybe it was a bad dream, a voice in my head tries to assure me. I draw another deep breath and find the courage to turn my head. What I encounter seizes my lungs again. A very naked Dean is stretched out on his stomach. His bare ass taunts me, not just with its sheer perfection, but because of the red scratches on his tight butt cheeks. My nails had left those scratches. I lift a weak hand and notice the fingernail on my index finger is broken. I broke a nail while clawing at Dean’s ass.”

Allie Hayes cannot believe she let the biggest flirt on the planet seduce her, but a night of wild, drunken monkey sex is exactly what her heart needed to get over a painful breakup. She might feel disgusted with herself the morning after, and determined to never let it happen again, but Allie is not a woman who lingers on regrets, and moving on is exactly what she plans on doing from the moment she flees the ‘scene of the crime’. Unfortunately, the man in question does not happen to be on the same page.

“Hey. What’s up?”
I let out a ragged breath. “I want to f*ck you again.”
“Is this a thing now? You’re going to call me every night and say that?”
“Maybe?” Shit. I’m cranky and horny and as confused as she is. “Say yes, baby doll. Just say yes and put me out of my misery.”

So a tantalising game of cat-and-mouse begins between two people who have very little in common at first, but the more they get to know about one another, the more they realise that appearances can be deceiving. Allie’s feisty personality and blind ambition are no match for her selfless heart, and she soon discovers that Dean’s confident, well-adjusted façade hides a vulnerable young man whose unconditional love can also become his greatest downfall.

As always, this story was the perfect blend of heart-warming romance and amusing, engaging dialogues, woven through a well-balanced plotline that entertains and touches our hearts in equal measure. I loved these characters, I loved how multi-layered they got as their story unfolded, and I never wanted to part with them. The premise of a notorious womanizer falling for the first woman to resist his charms might appear cliché at first, but there is nothing cliché about this story, there is nothing cliché about the way these characters are brought to life, and there is nothing cliché about this author’s extraordinary ability to deliver a story that always feels fresh, unique, and exciting. A great addition to the series and a top recommendation from me.

“A blond Adonis with his golden chest and sculpted muscles and perfectly chiseled face. If the hockey thing doesn’t work out for him, he ought to consider going into modeling. Dean Di Laurentis oozes sexuality. He could slap his face on a laxative label and every woman in the world would be praying for constipation just to have an excuse to buy it.”

5stars

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Off-Campus – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
(standalone stories with interconnected characters)

The Deal: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
The Mistake
: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | iBooks
The Score: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | iBooks | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: Built by Jay Crownover

builtSayer Cole and Zeb Fuller couldn’t be more different. She’s country club and fine-dining, he’s cell-block and sawdust. Sayer spends her days in litigation, while Zeb spends his working with his hands. She’s French silk, he’s all denim and flannel.

Zeb’s wanted the stunning blonde since the moment he laid eyes on her. It doesn’t matter how many smooth moves he makes, the reserved lawyer seems determinedly oblivious to his interest—either that or she doesn’t return it. Sayer is certain the rough, hard, hot-as-hell Zeb could never want someone as closed off and restrained as she is, which is a shame because something tells her he might be the guy to finally melt her icy exterior.

But just as things start to heat up, Zeb is blindsided by a life altering moment from his past. He needs Sayer’s professional help to right a wrong and to save more than himself. He can’t risk what’s at stake just because his attraction to Sayer feels all consuming. But as these opposites dig in for the fight of their lives, battling together to save a family, the steam created when fire and ice collide can no longer be ignored.

review

“Now you have two choices: we can sit down and eat this awesome spaghetti I just made . . . clothing optional, or we can go to bed . . . clothing not optional.” His eyebrows snapped low over his mesmerizing eyes and a muscle twitched in his cheek under his beard. “I’m good with either one as long as you realize the second option is happening regardless.”

What a truly spectacular read this was! A new author to me, a new fictional world to now obsess over—this was a story that hooked me in from the very first page, and I never wanted it to end. From the impeccable characterisation of its key players—fascinating, realistic, and perfectly imperfect—to a heart-warming, multi-layered storyline that tugs at every last one of our heartstrings, I rarely find myself enjoying a book so completely, so fervently, and with such abandon, but everything about this story ‘got to me’, and made me fall in love with this author’s competent writing style. A great start to a new reading year, an automatic addition to my all-time favourites.

“When you’re made to feel like the worst sort of idiot, the biggest kind of failure, for showing any time of emotion—even tears at your mother’s funeral—you learn pretty quickly that if you don’t have feelings, then they can’t be destroyed.”

Raised by an emotionally abusive tyrant of a father and an absent mother, and conditioned to believe she would never be worth time or effort from anyone, Sayer Cole has had a lifetime of being made to feel lacking in every aspect of her personality. Being taught from birth that showing emotions was the ultimate sign of weakness has left Sayer entrapped in a carefully crafted shell of self-control and perfection that serves to distance her from everyone around her. But when she learns of the existence of a long-lost brother, she does not hesitate to uproot her entire life in order to find him, leaving behind a structured and predictable existence in favour of the mere possibility of finding someone who has the power to make her feel a little less alone in the world.

“Control was everything to me, and Zeb Fuller made me want to lose it even when he was sound asleep in his own bed all the way across Denver.”

But nothing prepares Sayer for Zebulon “Zeb” Fuller, her brother’s lifelong friend, their immediate attraction leaving her flustered and unable to stop fantasising about him. The owner of a successful construction business, Zeb is a ‘fixer’ by nature and a firm believer in second chances—both in relation to old buildings that without his restoration skills would be left to decay, as well as giving people a chance to correct past mistakes—and he has spent the past seven years trying to prove to himself and to others that his own past does not define him. Until that very past suddenly comes knocking at his door and changing his life forever.

“I would craft her, mold her into something that was made up of nothing more than desire, want, need, and satisfaction if she gave me the opportunity.”

Now forced to work together and spend more and more time in each other’s company, it remains as clear as day that they are each other’s opposite in every single way, yet their attraction never dims or becomes anything less than visceral on both sides. But while Sayer fights that attraction by locking her feelings in and hiding them under a façade of cold professionalism and emotional distance, Zeb is a man used to knocking down old walls, and Sayer might very well be the greatest and most rewarding project of his life.

“She was like the best treasure, the greatest gift I had ever been handed, and I absolutely planned on appreciating every single part of her.”

A stunning love story, complex and emotionally satisfying cover to cover, this book is the full package. The perfect balance of steamy romance and engaging plotline, I never stopped feeling while reading this book, and could not put it down even for a second. The author excelled in giving these characters life, their every trait jumping off the page and instilling itself into our hearts. Their every vulnerability, their every hang-up and flaw serves to make them even more ‘real’ and compelling in our eyes, and we never stop feeling invested in their story. I adored this book, absolutely loved every word in it, and would recommend it unreservedly.

“You are more than one thing to me and I want all of them.”

5stars

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Saints of Denver – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
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Levelled (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
BuiltAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
ChargedAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: F*ck Love by Tarryn Fisher

Helena Conway has fallen in love.

Unwillingly.

Unwittingly.

But not unprovoked. Kit Isley is everything she’s not—unstructured, untethered, and not even a little bit careful.

It could all be so beautiful…if he wasn’t dating her best friend. Helena must defy her heart, do the right thing, and think of others.

Until she doesn’t.

review

“Timing is everything when you’re about to tell someone you dreamed him into your heart.”

This is one of those reviews I prefer not writing, but because I know I will be asked time and time again what my thoughts were on this book, I will offer my very personal and entirely subjective impression of this story, reminding you that the opinions of one reviewer in no way define a book, and should always be taken with a grain of salt. I also premise this review by saying that I am an emotional reader who needs to connect with her fictional characters, as flawed as they may be, in order to appreciate their journey. And this was my greatest obstacle while reading this book.

“The day I fell in love with you was the first day you found yourself. You weren’t even mine yet.”

Helena Conway is a young woman in her early twenties, on the cusp of true adulthood. She comes from a loving and supportive family, she is outgoing, caring towards her friends, firmly on a path she thought she always wanted. But one dream changes everything. In this dream, she sees her ten-year-older self, in a home she does not recognize, in a part of the country she’s never even visited, the mother of two beautiful babies, in love with a man she knows, but who has never been hers. The man in her dream happens to be her best friend’s boyfriend. So, this one dream, this one glimpse at true happiness that she never knew she wanted, changes Helena’s outlook on life. She starts questioning her career choice, her friends, herself, and she convinces herself she is in love with her friend’s boyfriend, Kit.

“To fall in love with a boy is one thing, but to fall in love with your best friend’s boy because of a dream is … well, I’m f*cked.”

Naturally, Helena’s friend senses early on the growing attachment between Helena and Kit, and their friendship suffers as a result. Irreparably. Helena moves away, rearranges her entire life in order to find a small piece of happiness somewhere else if she cannot have what and whom she really wants, but every choice she makes stems from her obsession with Kit and the life she dreamed of having with him. And even though her heart eventually gets what it wants the most, fleetingly at times, this is not a ‘hearts and flowers’ kind of love story, and it remains peppery until the very end. Each moment of happiness is counterweighed by an act of emotional sacrifice, every small victory comes at a dire price, and the longer we remain in the heroine’s mind, the more we realise she would never be truly happy with all we might wish for her.

“F*ck fear, and f*ck Kit, and f*ck love. I don’t need any of that muggle shit.”

My greatest concern while reading this book was that I could not pinpoint the personalities of any of the characters in this story, their erratic and often inconsistent actions constantly changing my perception of them as a whole. Helena, in particular, is a complex character whose cynical inner voice does not always match the person she lets everyone see, or her behaviour at times, so much so that it feels foreign to her more often than not. She is a dichotomy of traits— self-indulgent to the core but selfless without fail, vain but continually self-deprecating, a cynical romantic but a hopeful one too—and while this opposition of character qualities and resulting behaviours kept me glued to the pages, it also prevented me from truly connecting with her from the start. She is an amalgam of disparities, and it is that incongruent quality to her character that eventually made me disconnect from her altogether. The hero, on the other hand, remained a question mark to me until the very end, a curious blend of wise one-liners and all-knowing smirks, but the substance of his personality stayed unexplored. Their connection thus felt somewhat impenetrable, and relied too heavily on the heroine’s obsessive personality and the meant-to-be scenario at the core of this story, rather than all the reasons why these two people were made for one another.

“In his mind, I’m just some possibility that could have been, but in my mind, he’s the only possibility.”

I do not need to like a character in order to enjoy their story. But I need to understand it. And in Helena’s case, I never did. The only character I actually did understand was Helena’s best friend, Della, whom we are not supposed to like or empathise with in this instance. But I did, and that created an even greater disconnection from the character I was meant to understand more.

“I’m trying to find myself.”
“That, my dear, is the scariest thing you’re ever going to do.”
“Why is that?”
“Because you might not like what you find.”

I have no doubts whatsoever that most readers will find this story fascinating, compelling, so perfectly different from every single ‘traditional romance’ out there, but I suspect I was not a good fit for it from the start. This story made me feel like I was floating in a sea of overwhelming glumness and melancholy, with no real highs or lows, just a doleful half way point, with the occasional ripple. I live and breathe for those moments of skin-tingling angst in a book that make me catch my breath and skip a heartbeat, and I never experienced them while reading this story. I also suspect that was due to my complete detachment from the characters.

There was always a good chance a hopeless romantic like me would not enjoy a book whose very title gave love the middle finger, but my morbid curiosity eventually won over caution, and I will not lie to you—after only two pages, I was hooked. The interesting premise, the quirky heroine so reminiscent of Olivia from The Opportunist, the drama galore from the get-go were all winning aspects of this story in my eyes at first, but unfortunately, as the story progressed, my connection to the characters and the story itself slowly started losing momentum. I have pondered on this book much longer than it took me to read it, and I am no closer to deciding whether this story is even a romance in my mind. In many ways, it is a reflective journey of a young woman trying to find herself, and learning along the way how very pricky true love can be. Relying heavily on the life lessons aspect of the story and all its philosophical assertions, I see this book more as a lesson in accepting life as it comes, never expecting it to be a fairy-tale. I did not hate it, I did not ever feel tempted to stop reading it, and I loved how different it is from the books I usually tend to pick, but it was not the kind of ‘fictional reality’ I enjoy reading, nor did it have the kind of characters I am personally able to connect with. I respect this author’s talent immensely, I admire her for her stance on writing non-traditional romances, and every iota of me hoped I’d love this book in the end. But as I said before, even though I was not overwhelmed by it, I am certain this story will find its willing audience and mean a great deal to a lot of readers.

“Life is but a carousel of four seasons. Unpredictable for the most part. Happy. Unhappy. Content. Searching. Mess up the order, and they still rebound at one point or another. I’ve learned that revolution can be inward or outward. A move across the country to gain perspective. A change of heart and mind to gain sanity. But the point is to revolt when the season changes. If only to quench your thirst, revolt.”

3stars

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BOOK REVIEW: First Touch by Laurelin Paige

Emily Wayborn is finally her own woman.

After a string of shameful relationships and reckless partying with her best friend Amber, she’s now a successful voiceover actress, her wild past and everyone in it firmly behind her. Until she receives a cryptic voicemail from her former friend that sends her spiraling into the darkness she thought she had outrun. One thing is clear from the message, Amber is in trouble.

Determined to track down her friend, Emily follows a chain of clues that leads her to Reeve Sallis, a gorgeous and equally dangerous hotelier known for his power games and shady dealings. Now, in order to find Amber, Emily must return to her playgirl ways to uncover his secrets and track down her friend. But as she becomes more entangled with him, she finds she’s drawn to Reeve and his depravity despite her growing conviction that he may be the one responsible for Amber’ s disappearance.

 

review

“What do you want?”
“Whatever you let me have of you.”
“What if it’s everything?”
“Then I’ll take everything.”

A deliciously titillating read, this was by far one of the most addictive and riveting stories I’ve read this year, with the added bonus of introducing me to the flawless mastery that is Laurelin Paige’s writing. The perfect blend of mystery and skin-tingling erotica, this is the story of a young woman searching for her former best friend, but while trying to shed light on the months leading up to her friend’s disappearance and to gather any clues that could help her find her, she falls under the spell of the very man who might be responsible for her vanishing. A tightly woven web of secrets and lies, with a captivating romance at its core, this is a story that unravels slowly, unhurriedly, and where each missing piece of the mystery serves only to expose another, thus creating the perfect page-turner. I became obsessed with these characters from the get-go, never anticipating the many gripping ways the plot would thicken time and time again, and loving every single minute of it. An absolute must-read!

“Men were my drug. Staying away from them had been the only way I knew to stay clean. The only way to reinvent myself.”

Emily Wayborn’s life changed at seventeen years of age when a vibrant, daring young woman taught her to grab life by the horns and bravely ride it regardless of how many times she gets thrown off. And even after their friendship eventually dissolved and they went on to live very different lives, Emily never forgot her friend Amber and the many ways her life changed forever because of her. So when she suddenly receives a cryptic call for help from Amber, Emily does not hesitate to revert to her old ways in order to find her, even if that means seducing the last man her friend is known to have dated—an infamous billionaire whose bad boy reputation precedes him. But nothing prepares her for her visceral attraction to him from the moment she lays eyes on him, or her uncontrollable desire to please him.

“I’d met that type of man before. I knew what they liked. They were the men who liked to f*ck, but on their terms. They were the men who liked giving gifts and praise almost as much as they liked taking them away. They were the men who liked to hurt. To humiliate. Manipulate. They left bruises. They left scars. They were the men that induced fear. The men who debased and defiled. They were the reason I’d left that life in the first place. And this was why, where Reeve Sallis was concerned, I was f*cked. Because these were the men that I could never stop craving.”

As Emily enters the dangerous world of Reeve Sallis and slowly succumbs to his sexual demands of her, she learns that keeping an emotional distance from him is an impossible task when everything about him awakens the woman she was born to be, and the more she submits to him, the harder it becomes to pretend that being his is not what she craves the most in life. Emily’s loyalties are soon called into question, and she is forced to decide whether finding out what happened to her missing friend is more important than her own heart’s happiness.

“You really do belong to me, don’t you?”
“Yes. I really do.”

The entire story is told from the heroine’s perspective, offering us a compelling insight into the mind of a young woman who is strong and independent in her everyday life, but a natural submissive in bed—a woman who likes to be demeaned, used, and ordered around—but who believes her most primal urges are something she cannot trust in herself. In Reeve, she finds a sexual partner willing and capable of giving her all she’s dreamed of in a man—a man who thrills her, scares her, challenges her, fulfils her, understands her—a man who can give her exactly what she needs and be trusted not to abuse his absolute power over her. He re-awakens all the deepest desires she’s worked hard to suppress, as well as the confidence to unleash them.

“I liked it rough and dirty. I liked to be debased and humiliated and commanded. Liked to be manhandled like a doll with no apology for how the sharp wood edge of the desk dug into my back or how the unbridled thrusts of his cock felt like they were ripping me apart. How could someone do those things to me and still gaze at me with appreciation? With something akin to affection? How could I let someone do those things to me and feel better about myself than I ever had? Feel more for him than I had for anyone I could remember?”

But trusting Reeve in bed proves easier than trusting him out of it, each new clue to Amber’s disappearance painting a scary picture of a man capable of great and terrible things, and her only guide in this tangled web of secrets and deceptions remains her heart’s refusal to believe the worst of him.

We are kept on our toes until the very end, never quite sure which turn the story would take, and as expected, the ending leaves us gasping for more. I wished at times to have understood the hero a bit better, to have heard his thoughts as well on occasion, but I know that that lack of insight into his character is part of the overall mystery, and a necessary missing puzzle piece at this juncture in the story. In her characterisation of the heroine, Ms Paige skilfully balanced Emily’s struggle with the submissive side of her personality with her gradual acceptance of it, utilising the dominant/submissive element as a core component of the story, a building block of sorts in the connection between the main characters, rather than ‘just for kicks’. Even by exploring Emily’s submissive nature, the author never fails to deliver a strong, opinionated heroine who is no-one’s doormat, no shrinking violet in or out of the bedroom, and whose steadfast self-awareness remains the backbone of the story.

An absolute thrill to read cover to cover, and I am already drooling for the sequel.

“I wasn’t supposed to want to keep you, Emily.”

5stars

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First and Last Duet – Reading Order and Purchase Links
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First TouchAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Last Kiss: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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