BOOK REVIEW: Spencer by Kerry Heavens

SPENCER@TheSpencerRyan exudes confidence,
I mean, have you seen him???
His dark good looks and tattooed muscled perfection are too much.
He’s hot. Lickably hot.
And he has a way with words that leaves me breathless.
But cocky doesn’t even cover it,
this guy is so arrogant you have to fight back.
But God he’s so lickable!
The thing is though,
he looks like sex but he’ll taste like jackass.

@OMGJazzyP is a sexy, annoying ball of rage in fuck-me heels
and she hates me.
Although her nipples would tend to disagree.
It’s a deadly combination.
She’s a princess.
And when I say princess, I mean intolerable, spoiled brat with a tiara.
Sure she’s got that curvaceous goddess thing going on,
but that mouth of hers…
God it needs something in it to shut it up.
#GotJustTheThingRightHere

This is not your average British romance.
It’s a tale of high heels, hot tattooed bad boys and
sex oranges, all wrapped up in a coating of chocolate.
It’s ‘love’ in a social media world,
where not everyone is who they seem
and where some people’s bios should carry a warning.
#JustSayin

review

“Spencer Ryan is not a man you fall in love with. He’s a man who can rock your world for as long as you can resist the urge to stab him. And when the urge finally gets too much, you walk away before you get yourself a criminal record.”

When half of our lives seem to be spent interacting with others online, it comes as no surprise that there would eventually come a book about a modern-day romance stemming from social media. But do not be mistaken, this is not your mother’s kind of romance novel—there is no knight in shining armour in this story who professes his undying love to a helpless heroine minutes before they ride off into the sunset. This hero is no gentleman—he flirts, teases and peacocks around, his gigantic ego only overshadowed by the mouth-watering ‘selfies’ of his flawless body that he shares unashamedly with his horde of female followers worshipping his every move. And his heroine is no damsel in distress, her only weakness being her attraction to this exasperating but utterly persuasive ‘anti-hero’, their chemistry setting the pages on fire, and their sexy banter making us feel like voyeurs in this playful, engaging, funny but sexy-as-hell ‘enemies-to-lovers’ romance with a twist—because these characters remain ‘enemies’ until the very end, and their romance never really becomes very romantic…ish.

“Marriage is a fate worse than death as far as I can see. No woman is getting her claws in me anytime soon. But if she’s wearing those heels on the wedding night, I could think of worse ways to go.”

Spencer Ryan is a self-made social media personality, his self-absorbed and flirtatious posts gaining him thousands of female followers to feed his ego and fill his free time. But no one really manages to grab his undivided attention until a mysterious girl with a pair of killer heels as her profile picture starts toying with him online, the cut and thrust of their daily banter being the very thing Spencer loves the most in a woman. Her sexy shoes coming in a close second.

“It’s just a shame you’re not the full package, isn’t it?”
“Babe, you don’t know the first thing about my package.”

His ‘Shoegirl’, however, just so happens not to be a random follower at all. Jasmine ‘Jazz’ Parker is a young woman stuck in the rut of her own fear of change. But when forced to quit a job she always hated anyway, she is presented with the perfect opportunity to finally take a leap and give her dream of owning her own business a chance. With her entire life at a crossroad, she escapes into the harmless fantasy of a man who shows no signs of self-doubt, a man who makes her feel sexy and desired, a man who distracts her from her own reality with his light-hearted teasing and blatant flirting…until fantasy and reality unexpectedly overlap, crushing her fantasy into smithereens.

“I’ve never pretended to be anything I’m not.”
“Other than a nice person, you mean?”

With only one of them aware of their online friendship too, they begin a very sexy game of cat and mouse, where their undeniable attraction ends their every encounter with them against a wall… or a mirror…or a kitchen counter…or in a shower together…but their animosity towards each other only seems to worsen as their attraction grows, feeding the spiteful hashtags exchanged between them online as much as the passion that makes them unable to keep their hands off one another.

“This girl is amazing though; curvy, beautiful and she hates me. The deadliest of combinations… If she wasn’t such a bitch, she’d be in big trouble.”

They play, they fight, they screw each other’s brains out every chance they get leaving no surface safe to their sexy romps, but there is a fine line between love and hate, and eventually there is nothing left of it apart from a whole lot of unspoken feelings and old demons making them fearful of opening their hearts to one another.

“I thought you were better than this, Spencer.”
“I knew I wasn’t…”

I so loved this racy ‘enemies-with-benefits’ story, and once I started reading it, there was no way I could put it down. Spencer and Jazz’s unconventional brand of romance pulls you in with its witty, mischievous charm, irresistible from the get-go, and refreshing in all its flaws until the very end.

“@TheSpencerRyan: I took a hot shower this morning. It’s like a regular shower, but it had me in it.”

4halfstars

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BOOK REVIEW: Fury by Fisher Amelie

Revenge is an euphoric thing. Trust me on this. Nothing compares to the release you get when you ruin someone’s life. When they’ve stolen important things. Things that didn’t belong to them. Things I revel in making them pay for.

What? Have I offended you? I’m not here to appeal to your delicate senses. I have no intention of placating your wishes or living within your personal belief system nor do I care if you hate me. And you will hate me. Because I’m a brutal, savage, cold-blooded murderer and I’m here for my revenge.

I’m Ethan Moonsong…And this is the story about how I went from the world’s most sacrificing man to the most feared and why I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.

review

“I’m not who I used to be, Finley.”
“That’s a shame, because you used to be wonderful.”

Opening a new Fisher Amelie book is an adventure in itself, perhaps akin to the feeling of standing upon a cliff, high above a whimsical but luring sea, basking in the beauty of the landscape before us, while pins and needles tingle our skin from the sheer magnitude of the jump that is ahead of us. We know that once we leap forward, the free-fall might exhilarate us, but the sea will inevitably then greedily engulf us and force us to fight for our next breath. And yet nothing compares to the thrill of those few stolen breaths, of those powerful moments of struggle against a mighty foe, because we know, we just know we will eventually come up for air, find the sun again, and immediately start looking forward to climbing our next cliff. Every story in this extraordinary series has brought light to a ‘great foe’, a social issue that is quietly bringing our society to its knees, humbling us daily and putting our entire lives into perspective. But in every story a bright beacon of hope has also emerged—powered by love, self-sacrifice, kindness—and this story is no exception. From the angry ashes of loss and despair, a phoenix of courage is born, boldly taking flight and thus freeing itself from the shackles of its own pain. This is a story of two broken people who find their way to each other by facing their worst fears and embracing a new purpose in life. It’s a story of hope, forgiveness, atonement and a once-in-a-lifetime kind of love—pure, selfless, compassionate—a love that erases all hurts and fills all voids. I adored this book, as all its wonderful predecessors, and remain in awe of the thoughtfulness it takes to write a story such as this.

“The fury raging in my blood was more than I could contain.”

Ethan Moonsong is an angry young man, drowning in a sea of uncontrollable rage and resentment because he is incapable of voicing his pain. Unable to cope with the loss of his fiancé to another man, and still clinging to a romanticised idea of what that relationship meant to him, he has channelled all his anger into a misguided need for revenge, with each passing day losing more and more of himself to the fury that boils inside him. Until an auburn-haired spitfire re-enters his life and shows him all that he’s been too blind to see.

“Don’t you want forever with someone who burns for you the way you burn for her? You deserve that just as much as she does.”

Finley Dyer has never let her painful past define her, bravely shouldering the weight of her memories and making the most of each day in her life with a bright smile on her face and a spring in her step. Straightforward, confident, and full of life, she comes across as fearless and uninhibited, but deep inside this young woman hides a suppressed anger even more destructive than Ethan’s, an anger that makes her feel lonely, unloved, an anger that she has learned to control, but is yet to fully rid herself of.

“So you got your heart broken. So what! There are worse things, you know. There are things out there that would curl your toes to know about, Ethan.”

Finley’s past takes them far away from the safety of their small home town in Montana, to a place where their most basic instincts come to life, in search of retribution, justice, hope, and a little peace for Finley’s broken soul. But igniting Ethan’s inherent protective streak and thus unleashing the fury brewing inside him proves to be both a blessing and a curse, each day his conscience growing heavier, and the marks on his soul etching themselves deeper and deeper as he tiptoes the fine line between right and wrong. Each day he fights to erase Finley’s scars, to make himself worthy of her love, but in a world where justice is always a step beyond their grasp, his every action only puts the young lovers’ future in jeopardy even before it started.

“She’d become more important to me than myself.”

An extraordinary tale that I cannot even begin to analyse without giving too much away and depriving you of some crucial twists and turns in the storyline—this is a book I awaited for so long and it did not disappoint in the least. Ethan and Finley are two characters that I understood, empathised with, became invested in. I loved the subtle manner in which their romance was presented to the reader, almost platonically, where all focus remained on the nature of their connection and little or no importance was given to the more intimate aspects of their relationship. I understood the reasons for such an omission, even though I would have wholeheartedly welcomed that facet of their romance too. A beautiful friends to lovers story, a great addition to the series, an unforgettable journey.

“I love you. I love you because I can, because it’s my right to. I love you because I want to. I love you because it was my choice. You are my choice, Ethan.”

4halfstars

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Seven Deadly – Reading Order and Purchase Links
(standalone stories with interconnected characters)
Vain_New
greed_new

VainMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
GreedMy Review | Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
FuryAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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BOOK REVIEW: The Friend Zone by Kristen Callihan

Gray doesn’t make friends with women. He has sex with them. Until Ivy.

The last thing star tight-end Gray Grayson wants to do is drive his agent’s daughter’s bubblegum pink car. But he needs the wheels and she’s studying abroad. Something he explains when she sends him an irate text to let him know exactly how much pain she’ll put him in if he crashes her beloved ride. Before he knows it, Ivy Mackenzie has become his best texting bud. But then Ivy comes home and everything goes haywire. Because the only thing Gray can think of is being with Ivy.

Ivy doesn’t have sex with friends. Especially not with a certain football player. No matter how hot he makes her…

Gray drives Ivy crazy. He’s irreverent, sex on a stick, and completely off limits. Because, Ivy has one golden rule: never get involved with one of her father’s clients. A rule that’s proving harder to keep now that Gray is doing his best to seduce her. Her best friend is fast becoming the most irresistible guy she’s ever met.

Which means Gray is going to have to use all his skills to get himself out of the friend zone and into Ivy’s heart. Game on.

review

IvyMac: I’m…prickly. I don’t mean to be.
GrayG: Prickly? Naw. You’re…saucy. Like that sauce on a Big Mac.
IvyMac: If you call me special sauce, you lose a nut.
GrayG: I knew it, you’re talking dirty to me! Shenanigans!
IvyMac: Lol. Dork
GrayG: That’s Cupcake to you, Special Sauce.

I am officially a New Adult genre addict…again. And it comes as no surprise given the phenomenal writing style that makes this author’s books so impossible to put down, placing them into a category all of their own, somewhere between ‘when-I-grow-up-I-want-to-write-like-this’ and ‘how-many-times-can-I-reread-a-book-before-it-becomes-unhealthy’. After The Hook Up, I didn’t really think I could enjoy a college romance more than Drew and Anna’s captivating love story, but I was wrong. Gray and Ivy are two characters that we fall in love with on the very first page, their playful banter making us grin like lunatics, and as their story progresses, their every facet makes us love them more and more. This is the type of read I will always be in the mood for and cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone seeking a feel-good, confidently written, sweet but achingly sexy friends-to-lovers tale that makes you want to read it in a single sitting.

“I just like her. I really like her. She’s the first person I want to talk to. Every day.”

They might have bonded over a bubblegum-pink Fiat 500 and the shenanigans that may and may not take place inside this powder-puff car, but it was clear from the very beginning that Gray Grayson and Ivy Mackenzie would become best friends. Their friendship started before they ever even met, their endless text messaging and ability to open up to one another unreservedly thus weaving a rare thread of affection and trust between them that had been missing from both of their lives. So, when they finally meet, the awkwardness their expected to encounter between them immediately dissipates, leaving in its wake a heart-warming feeling akin to coming back home.

“I’ve just officially met Ivy Mackenzie, and I realize I’ve missed her for what seems like years.”

But being best friends with the only person in your life who has ever made you wish of things you never thought you would want, proves to be a constant challenge for both of them. The world might see him as a popular jock, the larger-than-life star player on a championship-winning football team, but there are so many sides to Gray Grayson that no one but those closest to him ever get to see. Highly intelligent and innately talented in much more than just playing football, Gray is determined to live life to the fullest by pursuing a career in a sport he truly loves, his motto of working hard and playing hard allowing him to always live in the moment and never needing to look forward to anything in his life…until Ivy.

“Am I really living for the moment? Or am I running away from reality?”

Ivy grew up surrounded by sports legends, her lack of ‘fan-girling’ tendencies making her a rare sort of female in Gray’s life. Her no-nonsense attitude and ability to see through his macho act make her the first girl to see the real Gray. Her hidden vulnerability awakens the natural protector and carer in him, his need to look after her as strong as his aching desire to be taken care of by her. Their unique bond grows exponentially each day, their easy communication making them utterly addicted to one another and to each other’s opinions, but when that addiction starts blurring the lines of friendship they so carefully drew between them, it becomes apparent that those self-imposed boundaries might have been nothing more than ‘lines in the sand’ they were destined to cross from the very beginning.

“…all I wanted to do was kiss her, explore the gentle curve of her lower lip before sucking on it. And Ivy would have flipped out. Because friends do not maul other friend’s mouths.”

I am a sucker for friends-to-lovers romances, and this one might just be one of my all-time favourites now because I loved these characters as friends even before I wished for them to become more. No aspect of their friendship is sacrificed in order to feed the romance storyline, and it is that loving, selfless, honest connection between them that won me over in the first place. The way their friendship is put first, before everything else, and the way they fight to safeguard it, often even against themselves, was a fresh and truly touching angle that I didn’t see coming. When their friendship is finally allowed to evolve into a love affair, my heart was already bursting at the seams, and it is through heart-shaped lenses that we then ‘live’ their romance, regardless of how steamy and utterly mouth-watering it gets.

“Jay-sus, he’s hot. And freaking huge. A veritable mountain of sexy. Seriously, Iv…You could climb him like Everest, make base camp at his cock, and tackle the rest in the morning.”

The faultless character development and the quirky dialogues are what sets this book, as well as its prequel, apart from many books of this type. The greedy reader in me would have wished even more insight into Gray’s problematic family background and the way those relationships then changed, but we were given enough knowledge of those events in order to form a realistic and credible picture of that facet of his personality, and anything more would have just been icing on the cake. I cannot believe I am saying this, but I loved this book even more than The Hook Up, which I adored, and that is all you need to know.

“You’ve owned me from ‘Shenanigans,’ Ivy Mac.”

5stars

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Game On – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
(standalone stories with interconnected characters)
thehookup_new

The Hook Up: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
The Friend Zone
: My ReviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA

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BOOK REVIEW: Sweet by Tammara Webber

He’s the love of her life, but he doesn’t know it.

She’s his one moment of sacrifice in a lifetime of survival.

He was damaged and wild, but resilient.

She’s always been obedient; now she’s restless.

Home for the summer between college and med school, Pearl Torres Frank knows two things: Boyce Wynn is the embodiment of everything she should run from, and everything she wants to run to. Rebellious and loud. Unconcerned with society’s opinion of him. Passionate. Strong. Dangerous.

And one more trait he hides from everyone but her:

Sweet.

review

“It’s just me, Boyce. You don’t have to do anything to impress me.”
“Because you already think I’m awesome, or because you never will?”
“You saved my life. I’ve been impressed with you since I was five years old.”

I feel like my heart is glowing like a Christmas tree from the sheer exquisiteness of this beautiful, oh-so romantic and yet very tantalizing story, a story that sneaks up on you unhurriedly, pulling you in deeper and deeper, as you lose yourself in a swirl of emotions and truly superb prose. A tale of second chances, of finding the courage to give one’s heart what it desires the most, this is a love story that spans over fifteen years, showing that even some of our most painful memories can become our most treasured ones. This book left me beaming, bursting at the seams with child-like delight, knowing I’d found a story I would never ever want to forget.

“When are you going to stop being afraid to love your life, Pearl?”

Pearl and Boyce’s lives have been gently intertwined since they were children, when a seven-year-old boy saved a little girl from drowning. But growing up in two very different families, from opposite sides of town, meant that their everyday lives had very little in common, their unlikely friendship born over the years as a secret they both guarded fiercely, rather than nurtured openly. As their story is given to us in snippets—their past and present intermingling continuously to slowly but purposefully paint the picture of their shared history before their future can truly be understood—we unravel their past through both their eyes, both their hearts.

“Boyce Wynn—my guardian angel, the imaginary best friend of my childhood, my unprofessed adolescent crush, my dirty little secret.”

We watch a young girl from a privileged upbringing fall desperately in love for the bad boy at school, because while everyone else only ever sees her façade, he sees the person she hides from the world. He understands her like no one else ever has, his bluntly honest and often cantankerous attitude spurring her to open up to him and express all her doubts, fears, and wildest dreams. He makes her feel safe to be herself, to take chances in life, and to follow her heart, their secret friendship evolving over the years into a young romance that never quite takes flight, never gets a chance to blossom. And eventually, Pearl’s education takes her far away from Boyce, leaving them both full of regrets over the many missed opportunities they had.

“In four years, nothing had erased or even dimmed my memories of Boyce. His kiss. His touch. The disorienting intensity of his gaze.”

When Pearl returns to her home town after college to pursue a childhood dream, thus giving up the one she was always expected to blindly follow, she finds herself seeking the help of the only man who has always only protected her—Boyce. As their lives become once again entwined, this time more than ever before and in ways they never even dreamed possible, every new step forward in their budding relationship stems out of a shared memory from the past. They remember it all, every kiss, every stolen smile, every moment spent in each other’s arms, as they gather the courage to finally open up their hearts to one another and confess what they’ve been hiding for so long.

“I’m gonna kiss you. Unless you tell me not to good and loud right now. I’m gonna kiss you, and I’m not gonna be sorry.”

But old insecurities and fears lurking behind them never stop making them question everything they mean to one another, everything they’ve always meant to one another, forcing them to fight, for once, for their place in the other’s life.

“I’d rather her be happy the rest of her life without me than be the thing that made her sad.”

Ms Webber is a very unique storyteller, her narrative structured in a way that not only felt new and different to me, but also utterly gripping. Through frequent flashbacks of sorts, generously dispersed all throughout the storyline, she marries her characters’ past with their future, each sliver of their shared story fitting perfectly together to form a heart-warming picture like no other. She gives us both their voices, a window into both their hearts and minds, and she makes us love them both, equally, unequivocally, leaving no gaps in their emotional growth and character development in general. I cannot believe that this is my first novel by this extraordinary author, a real shame I waited so long to experience her astonishing writing style, but it will not be my last.

“I was a man who’d loved this girl from the moment she’d come back to life and saw no one but me.”

5stars

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Contours of the Heart – Reading Order and Purchase Links
breakable2 sweet

Easy: Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | iBooksPaperback
Breakable
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | iBooks | Paperback
SweetAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | iBooks | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: The Mistake by Elle Kennedy

TheMistakeHe’s a player in more ways than one…

College junior John Logan can get any girl he wants. For this hockey star, life is a parade of parties and hook-ups, but behind his killer grins and easygoing charm, he hides growing despair about the dead-end road he’ll be forced to walk after graduation. A sexy encounter with freshman Grace Ivers is just the distraction he needs, but when a thoughtless mistake pushes her away, Logan plans to spend his final year proving to her that he’s worth a second chance.

Now he’s going to need to up his game…

After a less than stellar freshman year, Grace is back at Briar University, older, wiser, and so over the arrogant hockey player she nearly handed her V-card to. She’s not a charity case, and she’s not the quiet butterfly she was when they first hooked up. If Logan expects her to roll over and beg like all his other puck bunnies, he can think again. He wants her back? He’ll have to work for it. This time around, she’ll be the one in the driver’s seat…and she plans on driving him wild.

review

“Are you trying to buy your way into my good graces?”
“Yup. And excellent pun, by the way.”
“I wasn’t punning. My name just happens to be a homonym.”
“I love it when you talk homonyms to me.”

There are books you read in a week, there are books that you might even finish over a couple of days, and then there are those addictive little gems that you inhale all at once, reading non-stop, often in the wee hours of the morning, showing complete disregard for your real life responsibilities, and loving every blissful moment of it. Flawlessly written—as I’ve now come to expect from this terrific author after the pleasant surprise that was The Deal—this is a story that had me grinning cover to cover, and while it had the perfect combination of engaging plotline and fulfilling character development, this was first and foremost a fun, heart-warming read. One I will definitely want to re-read very soon, whenever the fussy reader in me starts aching for a book to make me smile.

“He’s John f*cking Logan, one of the most popular guys at Briar. And I’m Grace f*cking Ivers, one of thousands of girls who are crushing on him.”

Grace Ivers is a good girl—cautious, responsible, always in control, a freshman in college…and a virgin. She is the girl no one notices because she does nothing to attract attention, even though she would give anything to be seen by her one and only college crush, the star defenseman of the hockey team. But good girls like Grace are not even on John Logan’s radar these days, his relentless pursuit of ‘easy lays’ whose name he is not even expected to know being the only kind of ‘relationship’ he appears to be interested in. Secretly, however, Logan craves the kind of intimacy and emotional bond his best friend and teammate, Garrett Graham, has found in his life, to the point of convincing himself of being in love with his best friend’s girl.

When Logan and Grace accidentally meet, they are both pleasantly surprised by how effortless and enjoyable it is to spend time in each other’s company, their flickering attraction gaining momentum quickly and irresistibly, and while one kiss is all it takes for it to ignite, one confession is all it takes to destroy their budding relationship. As quickly as it started, it all ends in an instant, leaving them both heartbroken and full of regrets.

“I was your distraction?”

Not a man to give up easily on what he wants the most in life, Logan then commences his stubborn and utterly entertaining pursuit of the woman who has captured his heart like no other before her, determined to make her forgive him and give them one more chance. He woos her unashamedly, becoming his teammates’ running joke, but Logan is a man on a mission and he refuses to give up until the one who has stolen his heart is his once again.

“Give me another chance. Let me prove to you that I’m not an egocentric ass.”

There are so many fabulous layers to this story, all working perfectly together to deliver an engaging, uplifting, unputdownable tale of opposites attracting, of two people being exactly what the other needs, in good times and in bad, and never giving up on each other. Ms Kennedy has given us two characters who steal our hearts from the get-go—a popular jock, reformed womaniser whose loyalty and selflessness make him impossible not to adore, and a strong, independent, kind-hearted heroine who loves fiercely, but respects herself the same way. The hilarious banter, the heart-warming romance, the skin-tingling sex scenes, the colourful array of secondary characters—this book excelled in every aspect, keeping me enthralled for hours, and it again left me craving for more from the irresistible Briar boys and their kickass leading ladies.

“I don’t want anyone else. All I want is another chance.”

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
Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | iBooks

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BOOK REVIEW: Aflame by Penelope Douglas

The tables have turned. Now I have the power—and it’s his turn to beg…

Everyone wants to be me.

Maybe it’s the sway of my skirt or the way I flip my hair, but I don’t care. Even though their attention is the last thing I crave, I just can’t stop. I dominate the track, the speed rattles my bones, and the wind and the crowd screams my name.

I’m her. The girl driver. The queen of the race. And I’m surviving—something he thought I’d never do.

They all talk about him. Did you see Jared Trent on T.V? What did you think of his last race, Tate? When is he coming back to town, Tate?

But I refuse to care too much. Because when Jared does come home, I won’t be here.

Tatum Brandt is gone. I’m someone new.

review

“Would it have been better if I had never left? Would you still love me if I kept living a lie?”

Ah, the sweet sorrow of seeing one of your most beloved series come to an end! I have to admit, I was a late comer to the Fall Away ‘party’, having discovered this phenomenal group of characters only very recently, but from the moment I dove into their world, I have been utterly bewitched. It all began with Jared and Tate’s tumultuous teenage romance, and in this stunning conclusion to the series, we revisit these characters and watch them fight once again for their happily-ever-after. It’s the kind of scenario no fan of this series really wanted to ever see happening, but every aspect of this story was just as it should be, true to the characters and their personal journeys, thus cementing my love for this author’s consistently perfecting writing style and her uplifting brand of storytelling.

“I love you. I love you so goddamn much. I just…I just need time, some space, to figure out who I am and what I want.”

At twenty years of age, Tate and Jared have their whole lives ahead of them. They have grown up together, overcome their worse fears while finding their ways to one another, and ultimately discovered the kind of love that defines them, shapes their every decision in life. But somewhere along the way, Jared lost himself. Torn between what he believes is expected of him and what his free-spirited nature calls him to do, he makes the ultimate sacrifice for the sake of the woman he loves more than life itself, hoping that by making the right changes in his future and thus finding himself in the process, he’d give Tate the man she deserves to have at her side.

“I hate feeling like I’m a lost puzzle piece. Where the hell did I fit?”

Two years go by, two years of heartbreak on both sides and endless longing, and when they meet again, they are no longer the kids they once were. They are stronger, more confident in themselves, finally certain of what they want out of life, but their love has not changed at all, regardless of all the resentment obstructing their path towards each other. Having channelled all her anger and pain into her passion for racing cars, Tate is no longer the hesitant little girl who once allowed a bully to make her life miserable—she now thrives in situations that used to intimidate her, drive her to tears, and having to now face each day the man who broke her heart and left her behind only draws out even more the tenacious fighter in her.

“The players might be the same, Jared, but the game has changed.”

But this is not a story of heartbreak, as heartbreaking as Jared and Tate’s separation is to witness. This is the story of two halves of a whole finding their way to one another, of having enough self-awareness to see where their life was inevitably heading and enough courage to make the necessary changes. There is no pointless angst or superfluous drama aimed at putting these characters through the wringer and back. Every aspect of this story is character-driven, their inner battles just as crucial to the development of the story as their occasional confrontations, and we feel their pain, their uncertainty, their desire, their anger, their hope, and their determination. We feel it all and our hearts rejoice in every little dagger that is aimed their way, every heart-clench, every moment of skin-tingling emotion that makes this story so addictive and impossible to put down.

“I left so I could be a man for you. So I could come back to you.”

This story, quite simply, makes sense. It adds a wonderful new layer to a tale that, in hindsight, would have felt incomplete without it, showing us that sometimes one needs to lose their beacon in order to learn to navigate through life as a complete person, without crutches or lifelines, and that no amount of time or distance can erase true love. While in their first book we heard only Tate’s voice, and in the second one only Jared’s, in this book, we hear both, never losing our connection to both these characters and the insight into the emotions driving their every action. Everything about them is different this time around—their maturity levels, their levelheadedness, their willingness to fight for one another—making this chapter in their beautiful story only even more compelling and appreciated.

“I’m a better man, but there’s never been a better woman for me. There’s never been anyone like you.”

But this is not only Tate and Jared’s grand finale—we get to see again all the other couples as well, as their fates remain forever closely intertwined, leaving us with the goofiest grins on our faces. A spectacular ending, a much needed closure, a series that only kept getting better and better, becoming one of the finest examples of the New Adult genre.

“Everything else may change, but never the way I love you.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Beautiful Secret by Christina Lauren

BeautifulSecret 322When Ruby Miller’s boss announces he’s sending her on an extended business trip to New York City, she’s shocked. As one of the best and brightest young engineers in London, she knows she’s professionally up to the task. The part that’s throwing her is where she’ll be spending a month up close and personal working alongside—and staying in a hotel with—Niall Stella, her firm’s top urban planning executive and The Hottest Man Alive. Despite her ongoing crush, Ruby is certain Niall barely knows she’s alive…until their flirty overnight flight makes him sit up and take notice.

Not one for letting loose and breaking rules, recently divorced Niall would describe himself as hopeless when it comes to women. But even he knows outgoing California-girl Ruby is a breath of fresh air. Once she makes it her mission to help the sexy Brit loosen his tie, there’s no turning back. Thousands of miles from London, it’s easy for the lovers to play pretend. But when the trip is over, will the relationship they’ve built up fall down?

review

“It’s yours, you know.”
“What is?”
“My heart, of course, but also my body. My hands, my lips, my cock. I trust you with all of it more than I even trust myself.”

My mind is still reeling because this book was my complete and utter undoing. I am writing this review while literally still hugging my now beloved paperback copy, secretly hoping that the beautiful words in it would somehow escape and infuse themselves into me forever. With one of the most phenomenal writing styles of our generation and flawless, iron-clad character development, this talented writing duo has given us once again an unforgettable, emotionally engaging storyline to become addicted to, this time with two incredibly intricate characters and a perfectly paced, meticulously crafted relationship that is never rushed, never even hurried, and solely driven forward by the characters’ emotional growth and self-awareness. I gobbled up every word, immersing myself into a story that had my attention from the get-go, and I fear I will never be able to fully express how much I truly adored this book.

“I’d been wrestling with my Niall Stella crush for six months, and I was pretty sure he still didn’t know that I was an employee at the firm rather than a regular takeout delivery girl.”

Ruby Miller is a twenty-three-year-old American intern at one of the largest and most successful engineering firms in Europe, now living in London. Attractive, smart, witty—Ruby’s open and honest personality shines through her every action, but is regularly stilted by her ongoing and downright distracting infatuation with her office crush—the very handsome but unreachable, Niall Stella. Fully aware that the object of her affections might not even be aware of her existence, she is happy to appreciate him from afar, relishing every moment spent in his presence, every stolen glimpse of the man who feeds her most intimate fantasies, but still secretly hoping that one day he’d notice her.

“What was it you said about repressed sexual energy?”
“Enough to power the whole bloody city, if you ask me. That’s where his real urban planning skill would come in—hooking himself up to the grid .”

Niall Stella is distinguished, reserved, his every step measured and poised, but behind that firm façade lies a man who is stuck in a rut of self-imposed boundaries and expectations, a man who struggles daily with regret and self-deprecation, his failed marriage having left a deep emotional scar that makes him question whether he could ever make a woman truly happy. His old-fashioned view on relationships and love in general is shaken from the moment Ruby enters his life, her vivacious and unrestrained personality, coupled with the kind of openness and honesty that is foreign to him, drawing him out of his shell and forcing him to push his own limits.

“Do you think I’m weird?”
“Yes, weird in the sense that you are unexpected and I am rarely surprised by people. I think you rather exquisite.”

When they find themselves together on a month-long business trip to New York City working alongside each other every single day, they quickly discover that their greatest difference lies in the way they perceive relationships and the way they each process the growing emotions they feel for one another. An extrovert by nature, Ruby’s honest and communicative disposition shakes the very foundations of Niall’s introverted, quiet reserve, making him feel adventurous, interesting, fun for once—sides of himself he never got to see during his decade-long marriage to a woman he barely knew. Everything he feels for Ruby is new to him, part of the uncharted territory of his inexpressive personality, thus forcing them to commence a carefully paced, open and honest exploration of what a sexual relationship between two such opposites might entail. And what it would take to overcome all the emotional hurdles standing in their way.

“If I wanted to make love to her tonight, I could. If I wanted to feel myself deep in her throat, I could. If I wanted limits, I would need to be the one to set them. But did I truly want limits, or did I think I should want them?”

What starts as a sexy, rather flirty storyline, quickly morphs into an even sexier but deeply emotional romance that is truly remarkable in its approach to the way these characters learn to discover one another, and themselves in the process. We hear both their voices throughout the story, that precious insight into both of these characters making us appreciate their deepest fears and hang-ups a lot more intimately.

I laughed, I cried, I felt my body burn from the sheer sexiness of too many scenes in this book to count, never knowing a guy merely touching a woman’s calf could make me literally combust in my own skin like that. And I felt every single emotion these extraordinary authors had expertly woven into this story. Their signature climax in the end carries that sweet punch of angst that we’ve become helplessly addicted to, perhaps even pricklier this time around as it left me a sobbing mess in its wake, only standing to show that there is no emotion these authors are unable to stir in their readers. A beautiful read, an astonishing love story, a couple whose journey I understood and felt from beginning to end—this is a book I would recommend with all my heart.

“And what if after the rush of conquest wears off, you’ll realize that I’m not what you’ve built me up to be?”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Three Simple Rules by Nikki Sloane

threesimplerulesI would do anything for my dream job. Now I have to.

In order to save my skin at the office, I’m forced to sell it at an exclusive and illegal blindfold club.

He paid thousands of dollars for one night to own me, but when my blindfold comes off, I want more. More nights, more rules, and more from this unavailable and uncompromising man.

Rule number one, no questions.

Rule number two, no lies.

But, rule number three? That’s the hardest one to obey.

review

“I’m not interested in a relationship, but I am interested in you.”

Just… WOW. Talk about total sensory overload! One of the hottest stories I’ve read in a while, with possibly some of the best written sex scenes I have ever come across, this is a book I devoured in every possible way. And loved every delicious moment of it. Steamy, romantic, exhilarating—every twist and turn in this mouthwatering story was delivered just right, penned to perfection, and kept me hypnotized cover to cover. One of my most exciting reads of late, this is exactly the kind of erotic romance I tend to completely lose my mind over because apart from a fresh and interesting storyline, the sex scenes in it never bored me, they never stopped stretching my comfort zone, and I never stopped clinging onto every single word in them. Sometimes repeatedly.

“I was about to become a whore.”

Evelyn Russell loves her job. As a talented young designer at a prominent design agency, she is hungry for success and willing to give her all to achieve it. But when one simple mistake puts all her hard work into jeopardy, Evelyn is forced to sell her body, for one night only, at an exclusive BDSM club, where clients pay thousands of dollars for sex. The only catch is that she is to be blindfolded and bound during the act, as per club’s policy. Apprehensive but desperate, Evelyn is determined to go through with it, even secretly a little aroused by the idea of surrendering all her inhibitions to a man in such a way…but nothing prepares her for that man to be the one who pushed her into that predicament in the first place.

“Someone’s requested a hold be put on you. He’s not a member of the club, and only members have that privilege.”

Evelyn’s ‘buyer’—whom I won’t name so that you are not deprived of the thrill from discovering his identity on your own and at the right moment—is a man accustomed to getting his own way in his professional life, but craving that level of control in his personal life too. Evelyn is everything he hopes to find in a woman, the allure of her courage, willpower and confidence being his ultimate siren call, but he finds himself overwhelmed, both physically as well as emotionally, by the lustful vixen blindfolded before him and the ecstasy he finds in her arms as they consummate their one-night only arrangement.

“So, yeah . . . That was the best orgasm of my life.”

And so he takes off her blindfold and what follows is a oh-so sexy exploration of sexual tastes and fantasies, with only three simple rules guiding them through it, designed to challenge and explore the very essence of their self-control. As their relationship takes flight, what they eventually find in one another is exactly what they never even dreamed of needing—a person they would be unable to live without, in and out of the bedroom.

“You don’t get to ask questions, no matter what… Rule two is you answer my questions, and you have to answer them honestly… The last rule is your body belongs to me, so that means your orgasms are mine. You don’t come without my permission.”

I rarely enjoy such a relatively low level of angst and drama present in a story, but this story was truly an exception. It was exactly as I needed it to be for the sexual connection between the characters to take centre stage and thus become a crucial component of the evolution of their relationship, without sacrificing the emotional aspect of it all. These characters discover themselves through their sexual connection, and as sizzling as those scenes are between them, there is no doubt in my mind that this is first and foremost a romance, a love story between two people who found their perfect match in each other, and who are willing to put in the work for their relationship to survive.

I loved this book, unexpectedly so, and cannot praise it highly enough for the way it so seamlessly ‘married’ titillating erotica with heart-warming romance, all wrapped up into a flawlessly written, impressive little gem. It was a joy to read and it catapulted me right onto the next book in the series without a second thought.

“I would have paid twenty for you.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Deep by Kylie Scott

DeepPositive. With two little lines on a pregnancy test, everything in Lizzy Rollins’ ordinary life is about to change forever. And all because of one big mistake in Vegas with Ben Nicholson, the irresistibly sexy bass player for Stage Dive. So what if Ben’s the only man she’s ever met who can make her feel completely safe, cherished, and out of control with desire at the same time? Lizzy knows the gorgeous rock star isn’t looking for anything more permanent than a good time, no matter how much she wishes differently.

Ben knows Lizzy is off limits. Completely and utterly. She’s his best friend’s little sister now, and no matter how hot the chemistry is between them, no matter how sweet and sexy she is, he’s not going to go there. But when Ben is forced to keep the one girl he’s always had a weakness for out of trouble in Sin City, he quickly learns that what happens in Vegas, doesn’t always stay there.

Now he and Lizzie are connected in the deepest way possible…but will it lead to a connection of the heart?

review

“You’re the only girl I want.”

Well, tickle me pink and call me a Stage Dive groupie for life, because this was the perfect ending to a series I adored beginning to end. We’ve been collecting clues about their relationship for so long, little breadcrumbs Ms Scott has been leaving here and there just to keep us speculating, and now we finally get to hear it all and fall in love with yet another couple in this crazy, addictive rock star family. As the entire Stage Dive mob comes together to take care of one of their own, we are given one of the most emotional and angst-ridden stories of the lot, and yet another reason to love this series and secretly hope we haven’t seen the last of them.

“The moment I came into Ben Nicholson’s orbit I was helpless, powerless to resist his pull.”

As the little sister of the wife of one of Stage Dive’s most rowdy members, Liz was immediately brought into the fold and regarded as family, but from the first moment she set eyes on him, she knew her heart would always beat for one man and one man alone—the bearded wonder also known as the group’s bassist, Ben Nicholson. Eight years her senior, Ben is a loner, a natural-born musician who cherishes his freedom and not having any ties in life preventing him from enjoying his rock star lifestyle, but even against his better judgement, he cannot fight the pull of the young woman who is set on seducing him and obliterate any semblance of self-control he pretends to have around her. One night of unrestrained passion, one night of pretending the world around them does not exist, and their fates become forever intertwined.

“It was like we were each other’s whole world. Nothing else existed beyond the bed.”

Finding herself an unwedded, expectant mother at twenty-one is not what Liz ever thought her life would amount to, but her heartbreak only deepens when she realises the man she has also fallen desperately in love with could never give her what her heart aches for the most—a permanent place in his life. So a friendship is forged for the sake of their unborn baby, a friendship that neither of them truly feel comfortable with or emotionally fulfilled by, but they try, against everything their hearts scream at them to feel…until they cannot pretend any longer.

“One day I’d find someone else who made me feel like Ben did. I just had to wait it out.”

But falling in love with a man who does not know how to make room for someone else in his life, a man already living his dream, proves to be a hurdle Liz never expected to have to face, especially with a baby on the way, adding an incredibly gripping level of angst to a story that is as emotional as it is entertaining. A story of two people finding in each other what they didn’t even know they sought and needed the most in life—a place to belong—this was the perfect send-off to a group of characters whose tales have each become favourites of mine. Ms Scott is an expect at giving us stories we become absorbed in, often giggling uncontrollably while our hearts are clenching from the underlying angst behind the jests, her colourful characters owning the pages they live on, and never losing our undivided attention. A drunken Las Vegas wedding between two strangers, an unexpected and rather hilarious match made in Heaven between two complete opposites, a story of unrequited love under the guise of a friends with benefits pact, and now this series gets its cherry on top with an unexpected pregnancy scenario that evolves into a truly touching and flawlessly paced romance between a kickass heroine whose strength of character is inspiring, and her bearded wonder, the man who never knew what his life was missing until he met her.

My heart is still hurting when I re-read some of my favourite scenes from this book, the deliciously prickly angst getting to me every single time. Another must read from this very talented author, another slam dunk in the series. Let’s hope it is not truly the last…

“Just give me a chance to catch up and I promise, Lizzy, I will have your back.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Fisher’s Light by Tara Sivec

fisherslight

Fisher, 
I guess this is it, huh? After fourteen years together, starting a life of our own on this island, five deployments and countless letters I’ve written you through it all, I finally go out to the mailbox and see something I’ve always dreamed of: an envelope with your handwriting on it. For one moment, I actually thought you’d changed your mind, that all the awful things you said to me were just your way of coping after everything you’d been through. I was still here, Fisher. I was still here, holding my breath, waiting for you to come back even though you told me you never would. You always said you’d find your way back to me. Out of all the lies you’ve told me, this one hurts the most. Enclosed you will find the signed divorce papers, as requested. 
I hope you find what you’re looking for. I’m sorry it wasn’t me. 
Lucy 

To get the ending they want, Lucy and Fisher will have to go back to the beginning. Through the good and the bad, they’ll be reminded of why they always made their way back to each other, and why this time, one way or another, it will be the last time.

review

“No matter what, I will always find my way back to you.”

The hardest thing to do when you find a book you end up loving body and soul is not to turn your review into an ode to the author and all the ways her words have moved you, thrilled you, inspired you, but I fear that I will fail miserably by the end of this review because this book took my breath away, and made me fall in love all over again with Tara Sivec’s spellbinding writing style. Heartfelt, gut-wrenching, romantic—this is a story that enthrals you completely, shutting out the world around you and overwhelming you emotionally until you cannot think of anything else. An epic love story like no other, Lucy and Fisher’s tale will forever hold a very special place in my heart, and it still brings tears to my eyes every time I think about it.

“My life has been spent waiting for this man to come back to me.”

Lucy and Fisher are high school sweethearts, each other’s first loves, each other’s only loves, but after Fisher’s five tours of duty over a fourteen-year span, the bulk of their marriage has effectively been spent living apart. Every single deployment has left Fisher just a little more broken each time, the horror of his memories continuously tormenting him and stripping him of his ever-waning grasp on reality. Until his terrifying fantasies start bleeding into his everyday consciousness, completely blurring the line between his past and present, thus putting in danger his very reason for living—his beloved wife.

“She is my heart, my soul, my everything and I know it’s only a matter of time before I do something that could possibly kill her.”

Lucy has spent her entire adult life as a military wife waiting for her husband to come back to her after his many deployments, making sure he had a loving place to come home to. In her early thirties, the owner of her own business, she has always worked hard to stay independent from her husband’s family legacy and wealth, the only thing she ever wanted out of life being her husband’s safe return and his love and devotion. But war has slowly changed the man she has loved since she was sixteen years old, chipping away at his sanity and the man who eventually returns after his last tour of duty is not the man she once knew.

“I’ve never felt so alone, even when he was halfway across the world. I’m living in this house with my husband and I get to see him every day, but it feels like I’m living with a ghost.”

As their past is revealed to us in snippets, their present and their past interlaced with one another and told simultaneously, we see their marriage as it came to be, we watch it survive distance and separation, and eventually succumb to the effects of the many traumatic events Fisher has lived and survived through, not to mention how little they know of one another by the end of it. With astonishing insight into the darkness of his mind and his struggle to keep it rooted in reality, we get to hear not only Fisher’s voice as he tries and fails to break free of the prison in his mind, but also the magnitude of Lucy’s heartbreak from the demise of her marriage and the gradual loss of her one and only love.

“I want to take away his pain, to stop the hurt that fills his heart and his mind, but I feel like I’m so far out of my depth that I’m drowning.”

And eventually, we see them lose it all. But this is not a story of lost love—this is a story of two people who have fought hard to stay together, to expel the demons tearing them apart, and who are forced to fight even harder to find their way back to one another. This is a story of second chances, of remembering the good and the bad that brought two people to a particular point in their relationship, and of never forgetting the great, once-in-a-lifetime kind of love that never allowed their bond to be truly broken.

“How many people get a second chance at love with the only person they’ve ever held in their heart?”

With impeccable, emotionally inspiring prose, Ms Sivec caught me by surprise with this novel, her once witty and entertaining voice now replaced by a more mature, confident writing style that made me regretful of having missed all the undoubtedly brilliant steps in the evolution of her craft. Even though this story is told in constant and often disjointed leaps from past to present, we are never distracted or confused by those leaps, as their tale becomes a puzzle that forms effortlessly in our minds, each new fragment of their past adding new layers to our perception of their present. By giving us a window into the psyche of both these characters, we grow attached to both of them in equal measure, our hearts breaking at their lows, and rejoicing at their highs. We get to feel the powerful love between them, and all they are willing to give of themselves in order to never let their bond wither away. This was one of the most intense, heart-wrenching stories I have ever read, as well as one of the most exquisite ones, and I wish there were a way to read it for the first time all over again.

“I’m going to remind her why we’re perfect for each other. I’m going to show her that there’s no one else on this earth that can love her like I can.”

6stars

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BOOK REVIEW: Rock Hard by Nalini Singh

rockhard2Wealthy businessman Gabriel Bishop rules the boardroom with the same determination and ruthlessness that made him a rock star on the rugby field. He knows what he wants, and he’ll go after it no-holds-barred.

And what he wants is Charlotte Baird.

Charlotte knows she’s a mouse. Emotionally scarred and painfully shy, she just wants to do her job and remain as invisible as possible. But the new CEO–a brilliant, broad-shouldered T-Rex of a man who growls and storms through the office, leaving carnage in his wake–clearly has other plans. Plans that may be equal parts business and bedroom.

If Charlotte intends to survive this battle of wits and hearts, the mouse will have to learn to wrangle the T-Rex. Game on.

review

“Ms. Baird, have I or have I not made it clear that I would like you in my bed?”

When you put together a former pro rugby player turned CEO, a timid but mouthy assistant, and enough all-consuming sexual tension to burn up the pages, you get quite a delicious little package already. But add to that some rather phenomenal writing and flawless character development and you are in for a real treat. A sweet, slow-paced, very sexy romance between two people who are drawn to one another from the moment they meet, this story is not as straight-forward or as predictable as it might seem. Gently and sensitively interwoven with some heavier, much more intense emotional undertones than I ever expected to find in a story of this kind, this was a book I found to be absolutely impossible to put down. I adored the characters, I loved their unique connection, the snarky humour that colours their every exchange, and I was utterly charmed by the way their relationship slowly but surely takes hold, never rushed, never forced, thoughtfully and realistically mapped out from the start. A book I will most definitely re-read many a time, I urge you to meet and fall in love with Charlie-mouse and T-Rex.

“A petite but tempting morsel. Too bad she was terrified at the sight of him.”

Charlotte Baird is the girl no one notices in the office. Petite, unassuming, cloaked by figure-drowning clothes that are designed to make her feel invisible, she is self-conscious and unobtrusive, but behind the timid little mouse hides an intelligent and witty young woman, capable of much more than people give her credit for. Her traumatic dating past, however, has made it so that she now deliberately avoids attention of any kind, her bashfulness and fear of men being something she cannot control or escape from, both in her personal as well as her professional life. Her quiet existence is thrown off balance by the arrival of her new boss, a man hired to salvage the struggling company Charlotte works for, but one look at him and there is no doubt in her mind that he is the most compelling man she’s ever met. And the most intimidating one too.

“Gabriel Bishop was a gorgeous man… Too big and muscled and dangerous, but gorgeous. Like a tiger was gorgeous. Right before it ate you.”

Gabriel Bishop’s reputation precedes him wherever he goes. An ex-rugby star turned ruthless businessman, he is smart, driven, confident and successful in all his endeavours, but very few people in his life truly know the man behind the muscles and the tailored business suits. What comes across as arrogance and callous drive is a need to never again feel like that little boy whose whole life changed the day his father abandoned his family and left them fending for themselves. From the moment shy little Charlotte steps in front of him, he cannot get her out of his mind, the hidden fire in her eyes stirring something in him, a hunger he’s never known before, but it is her occasional smart mouth that intrigues him the most. So he makes her his new PA, forcing her to work daily alongside a man she is terrified of as well as viscerally attracted to, both being a constant challenge for Charlotte, especially since her new boss is also determined to get her in his bed. And has no qualms about expressing it. Unequivocally.

“If you tell me you don’t want me, I’m going to demand you give me your panties to prove they’re not damp.”

In a sexy game of “T-Rex and mouse”, we watch their relationship change over time, cross boundaries and evolve into what they both desperately want. But Charlotte’s hang-ups are a real obstacle to any intimacy between them, forcing Gabriel to handle her with patience and care, teasing, tempting and charming her out of her shell, thus allowing her to bloom under his loving touch at her own pace.

“The seeds of terror were hidden within her, could burst open at any time.”

I am still stunned by how much I not only enjoyed this story, but also felt emotionally invested in every aspect of it. There is a delightful streak of light-hearted humour tied in with the intense emotions driving this story forward, and it is this perfectly balanced contrast that hooked me in and kept me enthralled until the end. The characters are well-rounded and fascinating, and their very differences are what makes their connection so magical and touching at times. A mighty “T-Rex”, larger than life and deceptively rough around the edges, falling for a gentle little “mouse” and treating her with such loving care and sensitivity that it wards her demons away and makes her whole again—this is a story that will warm your heart and make it race all at the same time, every part of this story done just right, and every eloquent word penned by this gifted author making you want to read everything else she’s ever written.

“When you look at me like that, I want to do everything you ask me.”

5stars

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Rock Kiss – Recommended Reading Order and Purchase Links
RockAddiction rockcourtship rockhard2

Rock AddictionAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback
Rock Courtship (novella): Amazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA
Rock HardAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: Lifers by Jane Harvey-Berrick

lifers

After eight years in prison, twenty-four year old Jordan Kane is the man everyone loves to hate.

Forced to return to his hometown while on parole, Jordan soon learns that this small town hasn’t changed since he was carted off to juvie all those years ago. He is the local pariah, shunned by everyone, including his own parents. But their hatred of him doesn’t even come close to the loathing he feels every time he looks in the mirror.

Working odd jobs for the preacher lady, Jordan bides his time before he can leave this backwards town. But can distance erase the memories that haunt him? Would living in another state free him from the prison of his mind? Will the pain of living ever subside?

Torrey Delaney is new in town and certainly doesn’t behave in a way the locals believe a preacher’s daughter should. Her reputation for casual hook-ups and meaningless sex quickly spreads around town. And that’s on top of her budding friendship with the hardened ex-con handyman – the good Reverend is less than thrilled with her estranged daughter’s path.

As friendship forms, can two damaged people who are afraid to love take their relationship to the next level? Can Torrey live with Jordan’s demons, and can Jordan break through Torrey’s walls? With the disapproval of a small town weighing heavily on them, they struggle to find their place in the world. Can they battle the odds, or will their world be viciously shattered?

Is love a life sentence?

review

“I didn’t believe life was worth living ‘til I met you.”

I don’t know why I am even surprised anymore when I fall in love with another novel by this extraordinary author because it happens every single time, and I always end up walking away a total wreck, unable to pick up another book for days to come. An unexpected but truly phenomenal reading treat, this was a story I loved with all my heart, and even now, days after I first finished it, I am drawn to it again, aching for the characters, for more of their life journey, for more of that unique, exquisitely poignant feel a Jane Harvey-Berrick novel possesses beginning to end. This is a book I want to urge everyone to read, to drop everything and not wait another minute, because beautiful, inspiring stories like these are rare finds these days, and it baffles me why they are not on everyone’s lips when they truly deserve to be.

“What would it do to a person, living day in and day out surrounded by nothing but memories and hatred?”

Torrey Delaney does not believe in love. Her parents’ broken marriage and her mother’s subsequent abandonment when she was just a young girl have taught her that relationships are undependable, that hearts are expendable and that the only person she will always be able to rely on is herself. But while such a life mantra has protected her so far from heartbreak and disappointment, it has also caused her to act recklessly when picking her casual hook-ups, her latest affair finally driving her to leave her old life behind and to start afresh somewhere else. With limited resources at her disposal, however, Torrey is forced to make a small town on the gulf coast of Texas her temporary new home—the very town in which her estranged mother happens to be the local preacher. Perceived by everyone as the preacher’s trashy daughter, she does nothing to dissuade others of that opinion of her because it gives her the freedom to behave as she chooses…until she crosses paths with a young man who cannot escape what the whole town thinks of him as his every move is judged and condemned.

“I wouldn’t want a guy like me spending time with my daughter either.”

Jordan Kane has spent the last eight years of his young life serving a prison sentence for one careless act that cost him the life of his beloved older brother—the town’s golden boy. Now treated as the local pariah by everyone he once knew, Jordan is met with disdain and disgust everywhere he goes, but no one hates him as much as he hates himself for getting to live the life his brother never got to live. Alone and broken in a town that wishes he were dead, he struggles daily with the burden of his memories and his newly found freedom, clueless as to how to assimilate into a world that keeps rejecting him at every turn. Until an outspoken firecracker breaks through his defences and teaches him how to live again.

“In prison I’d kept to myself; out here, I didn’t know what the boundaries were anymore. It was a game of life where I didn’t know the rules and couldn’t work them out— and I was losing. Big time.”

A friendship born out of loneliness and curiosity soon becomes a powerful bond that neither of them can deny, or live without. But while Torrey struggles to recognise her feelings for the sad, broken man she is slowly falling for, for Jordan she represents everything he never dared to hope he would find in life, and everything he believes he will forever remain unworthy of. Torrey eases his despair, her no-nonsense attitude forcing him out of his self-imposed purgatory, and the more time they spend together, the more he no longer feels all alone in the world.

“If I could, I’d take you somewhere real upscale. There’d be a starched white cloth on the table, napkins folded into fancy shapes, and candles all around us. I’d order champagne and the best food on the menu. We’d eat and laugh and talk, and I’d take you dancin’ till dawn. Then I’d lay you down on soft sheets and love you till the sun was high in the sky.”

Living in a small town determined to never forget or let him forget his sins, however, remains a constant test for their budding romance, and while our hearts melt with delight as we watch them fall irrevocably and passionately in love with one another, they also break every time their love is met with hostility and intolerance. A story of forgiveness, of second chances, and of letting go of anger and self-hatred in order to be truly free to embrace all that life has to offer—a story like this is simply my favourite kind of reading escape. Confidently and eloquently written, addictive cover to cover, every emotional word of this oh-so wonderful tale stole my breath away and even though it was my undoing on more than one occasion, it left me with the goofiest grin on my face. I cannot recommend it highly enough.

“…the only thing I’d miss if I went back now would be you.”

5stars

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BOOK REVIEW & EXCERPT: Soaring by Kristen Ashley

soaring

American heiress Amelia Hathaway needs to start anew.

Her husband cheated on her, and when everything she wanted in life slipped through her fingers, she fell apart. When she did, she took another heart wrenching hit as she lost the respect of her children.

When her ex took her family from California to live in the small town of Magdalene in Maine, Amelia decided it was time to sort herself out. In order to do that and win her children back, she moves to Cliff Blue, an architectural masterpiece on the rocky coast of Magdalene.

Her boxes aren’t even unpacked when she meets Mickey Donovan, a man who lives across the street, a man so beautiful Amelia takes one look at Mickey and knows she wants it all from him.

The problem is, she finds out swiftly that he’s friendly, he’s kind, but he doesn’t want everything back.

Amelia struggles to right past wrongs in her life at the same time find out who she wants to be. She also struggles with her attraction to the handsome firefighter who lives across the street.

But Amelia will face a surprise when her friendly neighbor becomes not-so-friendly. As Amelia and Mickey go head to head, Amelia must focus on winning back the hearts of her children.

She soon discovers she also must focus on winning the heart of a handsome firefighter who understands down to his soul the beautiful heiress who lives across the street is used to a life he cannot provide.

review

“All my life, I was the girl who everyone thought had everything or could get it. But the only thing I ever wanted was a man like you.”

To encapsulate all the feelings that a Kristen Ashley novel stirs up in me is always an ambitious feat in itself, her stories being an extraordinary emotional journey beginning to end, and this book did not disappoint. Mickey and Amelia’s story moved me deeply, just as I expected it would, but the sheer beauty of their romance caught me by surprise. I never expected to relate so completely to two characters representative of this particular point on the age spectrum, and while their sizzling chemistry is truly something to behold, the emotional aspect of their connection, specked with just the right amount of heart-pricking angst, took my breath away on more than one occasion. This is a story about life, about the unexpected journeys that life takes us on, about the curveballs, about the direct hits and the pain they bring, but it is first and foremost a story about second chances at finding happiness, about finding the strength to be whole again and fighting for what matters the most in life. A truly splendid example of this author’s inimitable style of storytelling—I walked in these characters’ shoes, I felt all they felt, my heart roared every time they ‘soared’, and in the end, I did not want to say goodbye to them.

“There is nothing guaranteed in life. But the only leaps worth taking are leaps of faith on love. So look where you leap, beautiful, and happy landing.”

Amelia Hathaway is a woman in her late forties, an heiress, a mother, a scorned wife. The unexpected demise of her marriage made her lose herself in her anger and pain, turning her into the kind of vindictive individual her privileged upbringing taught her she should be, but while reeling in self-pity and fury, Amelia lost herself along the way, the ultimate cost being the affections and respect of her two beloved children. In a desperate attempt to start anew, to beat back the anger and bitterness that poisoned her mind for too long, and to give her children the kind of mother they could not only love again, but also be proud of and learn from, she moves to Magdalene, the small coastal town her ex-husband and their children made their new home.

“No matter what it took, no matter how much time, no matter that it made me bleed, no matter what it cost me, no matter that it would take everything I had and force me to find more, I had to do what I’d come to Maine to do.”

But a new house, new friends, a new purpose in life mean little when one’s confidence has hit rock bottom, and Amelia’s wake-up call arrives in the form of a handsome firefighter neighbour, whose striking looks and protective demeanour make her wish he’d see her the way a man sees a woman he wants in his life. But she soon realises that before anyone can see her that way, she needs to like what she sees in the mirror.

“He didn’t need me in his life. I didn’t even like me in my life. Alas, I couldn’t escape me.”

Mickey Donovan is a single dad, a natural provider, a man who works two jobs in order to give his kids the life they deserve, even when doing what he loves means living a more modest life than the one he was born into. The slow downfall of his marriage has made him question all he can offer a woman, especially a woman like Amelia Hathaway, knowing he could never give her all that she has been accustomed to having in her life. But Amelia’s insecurities put a different spin on Mickey’s reluctant behaviour.

“He didn’t want me, plain and simple. I was just his…‘attractive’ neighbor.”

When they finally take a leap and give in to their attraction, they inevitably connect on every level, but they don’t rush—they take their time, they show consideration for the people in their lives such a union would affect the most, and they give themselves time to get to know one another. The true beauty of these characters is that they are two formed, adult individuals who know what they’d gain by taking a chance on such a love, what they risk missing out on if they don’t, and who are now prepared to work their hardest to hold onto the rare magic they found in each other. The slow evolution of their relationship is as it should be, gradual and organic, each emotional milestone sinking deeply into our hearts and making us smile in delight. And there is so much to smile about in this story!

“… there is no safer place than in my arms and when you’re here, Amy, you can give me anything.”

This is the tale of a woman who always had a lot in life, and yet all she ever wanted was a loving family and a man to stand by her and accept her for all that she is. And it is the tale of a hard-working man coming to terms with the fact that some women are not looking for glitz and gold in life, but the simple joy of loving and of being loved by a man who understands them and provides for them in ways no money could ever buy. With so many aspects of this story designed to tug at our heartstrings, this was not a book I was able to read in one sitting, taking my time to fully absorb the magnitude of some particularly emotional scenes in the story. While this might be in essence a love story, this is also a tale of broken families, of healing families, of new families. And it is a story of redemption, showing that we are not defined by the mistakes we make, but by the steps we take to correct them.

“I am who I am. I have what I have. And one of the things I got that I wanna keep is you.”

5stars

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excerpt

“Hello, Boston Stone,” I greeted because I had no idea what else to say.

“You are?” he asked as I put the bags to the ground and touched the button on the trunk that would open it keyless.

As it glided open, I opened my mouth, doing it uncertain if I’d share my name or continue to try to brush him off, but I didn’t have the chance to decide.

I heard the word, “Babe,” growled from behind me.

I turned and saw Mickey stalking our way.

Not sauntering.

Not simply walking.

Stalking.

And he didn’t look happy.

“Mickey,” I called tentatively as a greeting, uncertain at his demeanor.

I hadn’t seen him since he hadn’t seen me (I hoped) at the movies.

He was in his firefighter-not-fighting-a-fire uniform of blue khakis and tee. His eyes were moving up and down my body. He still was unbelievably beautiful (that uniform…seriously).

He didn’t greet me back.

When he stopped, his gaze cut to Boston Stone and it went flinty.

“You need somethin’?” he asked incomprehensibly inhospitably.

“I was just helping this lovely lady with her groceries,” Stone responded.

“I got it,” Mickey stated flatly and then he got it. As in, he carefully pulled me back, grabbed the bags I was perfectly capable of picking up myself and placed them in my trunk.

He then went for the bag Stone was carrying, caught hold, but Stone didn’t let go.

“I can put it in the trunk myself, Donovan,” Stone clipped.

So they knew each other.

“As I said, I got it, Stone,” Mickey clipped back.

Yes, they knew each other.

The handles flattened as they both kept hold and pulled.

“Please!” I exclaimed. “We already had a wine incident. The sidewalk of Magdalene has been anointed with one red, let’s not anoint Cross Street with four.”

Mickey instantly let go and stepped back, running into me but he didn’t apologize or move away.

He stayed close, the back of his left side touching the front of my right.

It was at that point I noticed Mickey gave off a lot of heat.

Stone put the bag in my trunk, shut it and turned slowly to Mickey and me.

But he had eyes on Mickey.

“Are you two seeing each other?”

“That’s your business how?” Mickey asked as reply.

“It’s my business because, if you’re not, I’d like to request you leave so I can ask her to dinner,” Stone returned.

My head jerked as my body locked in shock.

“That’s not gonna happen,” Mickey growled.

My body stayed locked in shock but that didn’t mean my eyes didn’t fly to Mickey’s stony-faced profile in more shock.

“So you are seeing each other,” Stone remarked.

“Again, not your business,” Mickey bit out.

Stone’s expression turned shrewd. “And that’s something that would lead me to believe that the beautiful woman standing behind you is free to go to dinner with me.”

“You forget English?” Mickey asked. “I already answered that too.”

I butted in, “I think I can speak for myself, Mickey.”

He moved nothing but his head (though his torso shifted an inch) so he could look down at me.

His eyes were communicating again.

This time they were communicating the fact that he really didn’t like Boston Stone.

Considering what I knew of Mickey, this would be something that, along with my own natural aversion to Mr. Stone, would have made me decline the man’s invitation.

Unfortunately, Mickey added words to his look so this didn’t happen.

“You’re not goin’ out with this guy.”

Was he being serious?

He couldn’t tell me what to do. He wasn’t my father, my brother or my lover.

Heck, he barely knew me!

All he knew about me was that he didn’t want me. I was his…“attractive” neighbor who he now did not even walk over to beg recipes from (okay, so Aisling didn’t know of any other recipes I had, but whatever).

He didn’t even return my email!

And he was off with beautiful, statuesque redheads, smiling at them, taking them to movies.

He couldn’t tell me who I could and could not see.

“I’m not?” I snapped.

“No,” he turned fully to me, an ominous fully. “You are not,” he enunciated each word clearly.

“Sorry?” I asked sarcastically. “When did you become my big brother?”

He was still enunciating clearly, and dangerously, when he stated, “I absolutely am not your big brother.”

“No, you’re not,” I retorted, tossing my hair, which I hoped was shining in the sun. And with my hair toss, I further hoped my fabulous highlights caught the rays and gleamed. “You’re my neighbor. And if I want to go out with someone, you can’t say boo to the contrary.”

“This guy is an asshole,” he bit off, jerking his thumb at Boston Stone.

I felt my eyes get big and I got up on my toes, leaning into him, hissing, “That’s insufferably rude, Mickey Donovan.”

“It isn’t rude if it’s the truth.”

“You may think so but you don’t say it in front of the man in question.”

“You do if he’s as big of an asshole as this asshole is,” Mickey shot back.

My eyes got wider and I leaned closer. “Stop being nasty!” I demanded.

“You been in town, what?” he asked then answered with another question he didn’t expect a reply to. “A coupla months? I lived here my whole life and trust me, I’m savin’ you from a load of misery, this guy gets interested in you,” he returned.

I rocked down to my stilettos. “I am a big girl, Mickey. All grown up and everything. I do think I can make such decisions for myself.”

“You do, and they’re not what I’m tellin’ you to do, you’d be wrong.”

I glared at him.

Then I pushed right past him, hand lifted and got in the space of Boston Stone.

“Boston,” I said as he took my hand, grinning arrogantly and more than a little obnoxiously at me. “A belated nice to meet you. I’m Amelia Hathaway.”

His hand tightened in mine as he murmured, “Amelia.”

I pulled my hand from his, asking, “Do you know Cliff Blue?”

“Of course,” he replied, inclining his head in a pompous way that actually was kind of creepy.

“I live there,” I announced, doing another hair toss and powering beyond the creepy. “And I have plans this evening but I’m free tomorrow. Are you?”

“I wasn’t,” he replied. “But I’ll be making a phone call and I will be.”

“Excellent,” I decreed. “Seven?” I went on to ask.

“I’d be delighted,” he said softly, his eyes dancing with humor and I could see that too was relatively malicious.

I didn’t care.

I’d go out with him once, just to stick it to Mickey.

Then I’d be done with Boston Stone.

And anyway, I had about seven new outfits that would be perfect for a date and I knew this even though I hadn’t been on a date in two decades.

“I’ll see you then,” I said.

“You will, Amelia.” He dipped his chin to me. “Looking forward to it.”

“And me,” I replied.

He gave me another arrogant grin then transferred it to Mickey.

“Donovan,” he murmured.

Mickey didn’t reply.

Stone looked back to me. “Until tomorrow, Amelia.”

“Yes, Boston. And please, feel free to call me Amy.”

Mickey grunted.

Boston smiled before he turned and sauntered away.

I whirled on Mickey and tipped my head to the side. “See? All grown up and able to make decisions for myself.”

“What I see is a pattern here,” he retorted unpleasantly.

“Oh?” I asked with mock interest. “Do tell.”

Then Mickey told.

“First time I laid eyes on you, your ex was up in your face, cursing at you, threatening you, shouting right at you and acting like a total f*cking dick. It’s obvious he’s rich and up his own ass and didn’t give a shit you were alone, and because of that, you probably felt unsafe. It was just as obvious you were lettin’ him use you as his punching bag. Even if no woman deserves the way he was speakin’ to you, he just kept right on punching. Now, you know that guy you just made a date with is a total asshole and you made that date anyway. So that’s your pattern. You open yourself up for assholes to shit all over you. And if that’s the way you like it, baby, then no way in f*ck I’m gonna get in there to show you there’s another way.”

Before I could retort, he turned on his boot and prowled away.

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Magdalene series reading order and purchase links
(standalone novels with interconnected characters)
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Soaring: My reviewAmazon US | Amazon UK | Amazon CA | Paperback

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BOOK REVIEW: Confess by Colleen Hoover

CONFESSAt age twenty-one, Auburn Reed has already lost everything important to her. In her fight to rebuild her shattered life, she has her goals in sight and there is no room for mistakes. But when she walks into a Dallas art studio in search of a job, she doesn’t expect to find a deep attraction to the enigmatic artist who works there, Owen Gentry.

For once, Auburn takes a chance and puts her heart in control, only to discover that Owen is keeping a major secret from coming out. The magnitude of his past threatens to destroy everything important to Auburn, and the only way to get her life back on track is to cut Owen out of it.

To save their relationship, all Owen needs to do is confess. But in this case, the confession could be much more destructive than the actual sin.

review

“I’m scared I’ll never feel this again with anyone else.”
“I’m scared you will.”

I have a confession to make. I started reading this book at least half a dozen times over the past two months, and every single time I could not get past its very first scene. I am a glutton for angst, I seek and devour stories that make me feel, that move me one way or another, thus leaving a small but memorable trace of themselves in me long after I finish reading them, but I do not enjoy scenarios that hit too close to home, the finality of which leaves me without any hope left, and where the pain I experience while reading those few pages adversely affects my experience of the entire book. I am a diehard fan of Colleen Hoover’s brand of storytelling, her endless imagination and irrefutable skill at penning little masterpieces of ‘mass destruction’ always leaving me speechless and in awe, but I simply could not connect with this story as well as I hoped, and even though I enjoyed it in the end, it did not keep me enthralled as her stories normally do because I failed to connect with the characters on too many levels. And yet, given the very subjective nature of my ‘objections’, I’d recommend this book in a heartbeat as I don’t doubt it for a moment that most readers will love this story with all their hearts.

“I’m so tired of having to give up the only things in life I want.”

The sum of all its heartbreaking puzzle pieces, this is a story like no other I have ever read. Auburn Reed is a young woman in her early twenties whose past six years of her life have slowly crushed her spirit, leaving her unsure of herself, vulnerable, and stuck to the choices she was forced to make. The helplessness of her situation, however, has not completely extinguished that tenacious spark in her that drives her to believe her future could be brighter one day. And it is her resolve to better her life that brings her to the door of an art studio in downtown Dallas with a “help wanted” sign in the window.

Owen Gentry is an artist, a loner, a young man who drowns his demons in the striking art he creates by drawing inspiration from other people’s life stories rather than confronting the reality of his own. But not even the weight of his own self-reproach could ever erase the selflessness of his heart, or his fiercely protective nature. Finding Auburn at his doorstep is something he always hoped for but never dared to believe could happen. We are told their story from two very different perspectives, aware from the very beginning that their perceptions of their fated encounter are nothing alike, but the connection they both feel from the moment they set eyes on one another is the same—visceral, irrefutable, unfaltering.

“I’ve never felt stronger than I feel when I’m with her. I’ve never felt like I had purpose like I feel when I’m with her.”

As they dare to explore the attraction between them, we slowly discover what their lives truly entail and why being together is perhaps something they were never meant to have. They selflessly give their hearts to one another, that love palpable in their every stolen touch, every lingering glance, every playful word, but some loves come at too high a price to bear, and Auburn and Owen’s love might have been ill-fated from the very start.

“I’ll take whatever you’re willing to give me. Because I know that if you walk out that door, then ten years from now . . . twenty years from now . . . we’ll wish we had listened to our hearts when we think back on tonight.”
“That’s what scares me. I’m afraid if I listen to my heart once, I’ll never figure out how to ignore it again.”

Colleen Hoover has created another unforgettable story exploring the human condition and, in this case, how much of themselves a person is willing to sacrifice for the ones they love. Her trademark sense of humour, her familiar literary techniques, the very recognisable tone of her characters, are all there to pull us in and leave us incapable of putting this story down, but I found myself unable to connect with Auburn and Owen as well as I needed to in order to become completely invested in their story. I felt we were offered only snippets of their colourful personalities, as well as of some of the secondary characters, but not enough to make me understand them in their entirety. There was an intensity to this story that was missing in my eyes, especially given its themes, many vital aspects that could have made me feel closer to the characters often only hinted at or brushed over too quickly. The confident straightforwardness with which this author always tells her tales did not fit the story, in my opinion, leaving me wishing for more emotion, more passion, more highs and lows that neither of these characters got to express, especially given the helplessness of the situations they both found themselves in.

A very touching tale of two people whose lives have been intertwined for longer than they realise and whose hearts are forced to battle what their every instinct tells them to feel, this is a story that will greatly please most readers, and even with my own inability to connect with some aspects of it, I have to admit that I could not put it down. There is a great balance to this story that leaves us filled with hope and bittersweet positivity, showing us that for every act of thievery that life inflicts upon us, there is a gift offered in its stead.

“She deserves better. So much better. She deserves me. If only she knew that.”

4halfstars

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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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