Review: Under the Influence by L.B. Simmons

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Under the Influence coverTitle: Under the Influence
Author: L.B. Simmons
Series: standalone
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
Dalton,

I loved you once. A love I thought irrevocable. A love I mistakenly believed could transcend both time and circumstance. Under the influence of my dimwitted, naïve, traitorous heart, I became intoxicated with what I now know was simply a figment of my self-indulgent imagination. So drunk on the feeling, I couldn’t see what was right in front of my face. So foolishly enamored, I blindly followed my heart into the depths of an emotion that would ravage me.

Years later, I know now what I wish I knew then. I am stronger. Smarter. Tougher. I will not allow myself to be broken again.

I loved you.

I raged for you.

I wept for you.

And now, I’m letting you go.

Author’s Note: Under the Influence is the journey of two childhood friends that spans the course of five pivotal years in their lives. It is a story about their discovery of true friendship as it blossoms into first love, their experience of crucial sacrifice and ultimate betrayal, and their endurance of agonizing heartbreak on the way to finding lasting redemption.

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My Review:
Wow! What an amazing read! Under the Influence is a beautifully written love story that tugged at my heart strings. I loved everything about it – the writing, the plot, characterization, and worldbuilding. While this is my first L.B. Simmons book, I know it won’t be the last.

This is Spencer (Spence) and Dalton’s story, and it’s narrated from point characters perspectives. I love reading books in dual POV, and I especially love reading the male perspective so extra brownie points for that.

Spence and Dalton met as kids and thus began a friendship that lasted until they were in their late teens. When we first meet them, Spence is 17 and in her last year of school, and Dalton is 18 and he has just finished. This is the second book in a row I’ve read where the male character had a troubled background filled with abuse and neglect. And like that other book, Under the Influence made me feel everything he felt, and made me care. I felt a deep emotional connection to both of them. I adore books that really delve into the emotional layers beneath the surface, and this book delivered on that front. I thought both characters were very well-developed, but especially Dalton. It was difficult being in his head at times – raw, gritty, and painful, but it was realistic.

Dalton has cut himself off emotionally from everyone, and even his best bud Rat, and Spence, only catch the odd glimpse of his real persona. He hides who he is in front of Spence out of misguided loyalty and in an attempt to shelter her from the seedier side of his life. He was preyed on as a youngster and has gotten himself into a nasty mess, but he is struggling to see any way out. Because of this, he won’t even entertain the notion of a romantic relationship with Spence even though it’s what both of them want and need. Eventually, they cave to their feelings and become a couple, and it was so sweet. We got to see a different side to Dalton and he was lighter and brighter as a result.

One beautiful night turns disastrous and they are torn apart from one another. I won’t say any more for fear of spoiling the story, but suffice it to say that there is plenty of heartbreak and angst for our young couple.

I thought it was a little slow-paced at the start but after a few chapters the pace picked up and it kept my attention the whole way through.

I loved the secondary characters, especially Cassie. The author is writing her story next and I will definitely check it out. She is an intriguing character, and she had some of the funniest lines and scenes in the book. She always had Spence’s back and I loved her as a best friend.

I love this author’s writing style! Her prose is beautiful – poetic and eloquent, though others may find it overly descriptive in parts. Not me, I loved every word.

I liked the note the author put in the back – that was a nice touch. I also love this cover. It’s stunning!

Overall, this was a fantastic read and it had bits of everything – love and romance, friendship, family, suspense, drama, heartache, sacrifice, and above all else – redemption. I’d highly recommend it.

Actual rating 4.5 stars.

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LB SimmonsAbout the Author:
USA Today Bestselling Author of The Mending Hearts Series, The Resurrection of Aubrey Miller, and Under the Influence

Links:

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Review: The Mistake (Off-Campus #2) by Elle Kennedy

The MistakeTitle: The Mistake
Author: Elle Kennedy
Series: Off-Campus #2
Rating: 5 stars
Genres:
Links:

Blurb:
He’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.

My Review:
This is Grace and Logan’s story and I loved it every bit as much as The Deal, the first book in this series. Logan intrigued me in The Deal so I was delighted that Elle was writing his story next and it didn’t disappoint. Logan has been a major player the whole way through college, but as the story progresses we begin to understand why. He is shouldering some unbelievable pressure and the prospect of not being able to take up any offers to play professional hockey. Grace comes into his life at just the right time and they click (though it’s not without it’s ups and downs). I loved both characters, loved that we got to see Hannah and Graham again, and the writing is exceptionally brilliant. I cannot wait for Dean’s story next. This is an amazing series and a must read for all NA fans.

Blog Tour: The Truth About Him by Molly O’Keefe

TTAH_BLOGTOUR
Today is my stop during the blog tour for The Truth About Him (Everything I Left Unsaid #2) by Molly O’Keefe. I share my review with you and there’s a giveaway!

the truth about himTitle: The Truth About Him
Author: Molly O’Keefe
Series: Everything I Left Unsaid #2
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
We played our roles, told each other lies.

But now Dylan is no longer just a mysterious deep voice on the other end of the line. We’re face-to-face and our relationship is very, very real.

We still have secrets—but so much is crystal clear:

The thrilling danger.

The raw, naked desire.

The need to keep feeling the way he makes me feel. Forever.

Dylan is putting up walls, trying to keep me safe, but he can’t shut me out. He has seen my darkness and rescued me. Now it’s my turn, if only he will let me.

OKEEFE_TruthAboutHim_ecard2

My Review:
Emotionally charged. Dark. Destructive. Compelling. Hopeful. Addictive. Those are just some of the words I’d use to sum up this book. This story had me hooked from the get-go and I found it very difficult to put this book down – and I only did so because I had to. All I could think about during the down period was how quickly I could get back to my Kindle so that I could finish it. Honestly, this book made me feel all the feels. It really sunk its teeth into me and didn’t let go until I had devoured every last word.

Dylan Daniels (I love that name – doesn’t it just roll so smoothly off the tongue?) keeps himself well and truly caged inside his damaged skin. It’s not all that surprising when you consider that those who are supposed to have loved and protected him let him down so badly. Now, he lets no one in, trusts no one, not even himself. He has built a mountainside fortress where he lives and works and he has basically become a hermit. Until he crossed paths with Annie and his world turned upside down. Annie has had her own fair share of trauma and she also has a troubled background. Definitely a case of two tortured lost souls gravitating toward one another.

I hadn’t read the first book when I read this book (I have since ) but I didn’t need to. The author did a superb job of backfilling the story and it was easy to pick up the plotlines. Boy, did this book open with a bang and I was instantly pulled into the world.

Annie and Dylan intrigued me from the minute I met them. I’m in awe of this author’s ability to create such complex-multi-layered characters who are flawed but also such nice people underneath all the shit life has thrown at them. I was rooting for them so badly and really hoped they would get their HEA. Both of them deserved it. They struggle to share the truth but gradually they learn to let each other in as they grapple with the evil forces threatening to pull them apart. When Dylan told Annie that no one had ever said I love you to him, I thought my heart would split wide open. I felt his pain as if it was my own. Now, that’s talent.

I love books with strong romance once there is another dimension to the story, and once the romance doesn’t overtake the story at the expense of all other plotlines. This book skillfuly combined all plotlines and there was a strong subplot bobbing beneath the surface which added supsense and mystery and more than a hint of danger.

The romance was sweet and depraved in equal measures and the chemistry was scorching between our couple. Steamy stuff.

I thoroughly enjoyed Molly’s writing style and the pacing is perfect – there was no urge to skim as every word had meaning and added value

For me, the underlying message is that no matter how dark and disturbing life can be, true love can elevate your world from dark into light, and that love can appear in so many different guises. This was a book of hidden depth and meaning about love, family, relationships and the challenge of life.

Summary: If you enjoy emotionally complex well-developed characters, strong worldbuilding, and excellent writing, then you will love this book. I know I did.

TTAH_AVAILABLE

About the Author:
Molly O’Keefe has always known she wanted to be a writer (except when she wanted to be a florist or a chef and the brief period of time when she considered being a cowgirl). And once she got her hands on some romances, she knew exactly what she wanted to write.

She published her first Harlequin romance at age 25 and hasn’t looked back. She loves exploring every character’s road towards happily ever after.

Originally from a small town outside of Chicago, she went to university in St. Louis where she met and fell in love with the editor of her school newspaper. They followed each other around the world for several years and finally got married and settled down in Toronto, Ontario. They welcomed their son into their family in 2006, and their daughter in 2008. When she’s not at the park or cleaning up the toy room, Molly is working hard on her next novel, trying to exercise, stalking Tina Fey on the internet and dreaming of the day she can finish a cup of coffee without interruption.

Links:

There’s a tour wide giveaway, for a chance to win enter the rafflecopter below:
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Blog Tour: Laguna Lights by Kaira Rouda

LL_BlogTour
Today is my stop during the blog tour for Laguna Lights (Laguna Beach #3) by Kaira Rouda. There’s a tour wide giveaway!

Leguna Lights - coverTitle: Laguna Lights
Author: by Kaira Rouda
Series: Laguna Beach #3
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
Welcome back to Laguna Beach…

Laura Kinkaid’s glamorous Hollywood life is falling apart. After years of reality television stardom beginning in high school on Laguna Nights, her career and relationship with her long-term boyfriend Scott are fizzling out. Laura decides to go home to Laguna Beach for the weekend to attend a baby shower for her high school friend. That decision – and a car accident – will lead her to a new future, if she’s ready to take a chance at love.

Paul Dorn’s former life in New York City is far behind him and he’s working in a popular Laguna Beach surf shop when fate brings the most beautiful woman he’s ever met into his life. The attraction is instant and he has an overwhelming desire to protect her. While Paul’s retail sales career is a short-term job for market research purposes, his focus on Laura is long-term.

Will Laura allow a handsome stranger to help her create a future unlike her past, or will the bright lights of Hollywood pull her back to LA?

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About the Author:
Kaira Rouda is a USA Today bestselling, multiple award-winning author of contemporary women’s fiction and sexy modern romance novels that sparkle with humor and heart. Her women’s fiction titles include HERE, HOME, HOPE, ALL THE DIFFERENCE and IN THE MIRROR. Her bestselling short story is titled, A MOTHER’S DAY. Kaira’s work has won the Indie Excellence Award, USA Book Awards, the Reader’s Choice Awards and honorable mention in the Writer’s Digest International Book Awards. Her books have been widely reviewed and featured in leading magazines.

Her sexy contemporary romance series set on INDIGO ISLAND includes: WEEKEND WITH THE TYCOON, Book 1; HER FORBIDDEN LOVE, Book 2; THE TROUBLE WITH CHRISTMAS, Book 3; and THE BILLIONAIRE’S BID, Book 4. Each of these novellas can be read as a stand alone, or enjoyed as a series. Her new series is set in LAGUNA BEACH and includes: LAGUNA NIGHTS, Book 1; LAGUNA HEIGHTS, Book 2; and LAGUNA LIGHTS, Book 3 coming winter 2015. She also helped launch Melissa Foster’s The Remington’s Kindle World with her bestselling novella, SPOTLIGHT ON LOVE, and is part of Carly Phillips Dare to Love Kindle World with THE CELEBRITY DARE.

Her nonfiction titles, REAL YOU INCORPORATED: 8 Essentials for Women Entrepreneurs, and REAL YOU FOR AUTHORS: 8 Essentials for Women Writers (available for free download on her website) continue to inspire.

She lives in Southern California with her husband and four almost-grown kids, and is at work on her next novel. Connect with her on Twitter, Facebook at Kaira Rouda Books and on her website, KairaRouda.com.

Links:

There’s a tour wide giveaway, for a chance to win enter the rafflecopter below:
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Release Day Blitz: The Truth About Him by Molly O’Keefe

the truth about him BLITZ
Today is my stop during the blog tour for The Truth About Him (Everything I Left Unsaid #2) by Molly O’Keefe. I share my review with you and there’s a giveaway!

the truth about himTitle: The Truth About Him
Author: Molly O’Keefe
Series: Everything I Left Unsaid #2
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
We played our roles, told each other lies.

But now Dylan is no longer just a mysterious deep voice on the other end of the line. We’re face-to-face and our relationship is very, very real.

We still have secrets—but so much is crystal clear:

The thrilling danger.

The raw, naked desire.

The need to keep feeling the way he makes me feel. Forever.

Dylan is putting up walls, trying to keep me safe, but he can’t shut me out. He has seen my darkness and rescued me. Now it’s my turn, if only he will let me.

OKEEFE_TruthAboutHim_ecard2

My Review:
Emotionally charged. Dark. Destructive. Compelling. Hopeful. Addictive. Those are just some of the words I’d use to sum up this book. This story had me hooked from the get-go and I found it very difficult to put this book down – and I only did so because I had to. All I could think about during the down period was how quickly I could get back to my Kindle so that I could finish it. Honestly, this book made me feel all the feels. It really sunk its teeth into me and didn’t let go until I had devoured every last word.

Dylan Daniels (I love that name – doesn’t it just roll so smoothly off the tongue?) keeps himself well and truly caged inside his damaged skin. It’s not all that surprising when you consider that those who are supposed to have loved and protected him let him down so badly. Now, he lets no one in, trusts no one, not even himself. He has built a mountainside fortress where he lives and works and he has basically become a hermit. Until he crossed paths with Annie and his world turned upside down. Annie has had her own fair share of trauma and she also has a troubled background. Definitely a case of two tortured lost souls gravitating toward one another.

I hadn’t read the first book when I read this book (I have since ) but I didn’t need to. The author did a superb job of backfilling the story and it was easy to pick up the plotlines. Boy, did this book open with a bang and I was instantly pulled into the world.

Annie and Dylan intrigued me from the minute I met them. I’m in awe of this author’s ability to create such complex-multi-layered characters who are flawed but also such nice people underneath all the shit life has thrown at them. I was rooting for them so badly and really hoped they would get their HEA. Both of them deserved it. They struggle to share the truth but gradually they learn to let each other in as they grapple with the evil forces threatening to pull them apart. When Dylan told Annie that no one had ever said I love you to him, I thought my heart would split wide open. I felt his pain as if it was my own. Now, that’s talent.

I love books with strong romance once there is another dimension to the story, and once the romance doesn’t overtake the story at the expense of all other plotlines. This book skillfuly combined all plotlines and there was a strong subplot bobbing beneath the surface which added supsense and mystery and more than a hint of danger.

The romance was sweet and depraved in equal measures and the chemistry was scorching between our couple. Steamy stuff.

I thoroughly enjoyed Molly’s writing style and the pacing is perfect – there was no urge to skim as every word had meaning and added value

For me, the underlying message is that no matter how dark and disturbing life can be, true love can elevate your world from dark into light, and that love can appear in so many different guises. This was a book of hidden depth and meaning about love, family, relationships and the challenge of life.

Summary: If you enjoy emotionally complex well-developed characters, strong worldbuilding, and excellent writing, then you will love this book. I know I did.

TTAH_AVAILABLE

About the Author:
Molly O’Keefe has always known she wanted to be a writer (except when she wanted to be a florist or a chef and the brief period of time when she considered being a cowgirl). And once she got her hands on some romances, she knew exactly what she wanted to write.

She published her first Harlequin romance at age 25 and hasn’t looked back. She loves exploring every character’s road towards happily ever after.

Originally from a small town outside of Chicago, she went to university in St. Louis where she met and fell in love with the editor of her school newspaper. They followed each other around the world for several years and finally got married and settled down in Toronto, Ontario. They welcomed their son into their family in 2006, and their daughter in 2008. When she’s not at the park or cleaning up the toy room, Molly is working hard on her next novel, trying to exercise, stalking Tina Fey on the internet and dreaming of the day she can finish a cup of coffee without interruption.

Links:

There’s a tour wide giveaway, for a chance to win enter the rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Blog Tour: Butterfly Dreams by A. Meredith Walters

butterflydreamsbanner
Today is my stop during the blog tour for Butterfly Dreams by A. Meredith Walters. I share my review of this book with you today and an excerpt from the book.

Butterfly Dreams coverTitle: Butterfly Dreams
Author: A. Meredith Walters
Series: standalone
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
In a powerful romance hailed as “heartbreaking, real, and breathtakingly beautiful” by Stacey Lynn, New York Times bestselling author A. Meredith Walters tells the story of a troubled young woman and the unforgettable guy who teaches her to live—and love—to the fullest.

She’s waiting to die. . . . Corin Thompson is paralyzed by her obsession with mortality. Having lost both of her parents, she is terrified by the idea that she too will die young, and she loses control at any sign of illness. But when Corin connects with someone who has survived a very real brush with death, she begins to see the world in a whole new way.

He’s learning to live. . . . As Corin struggles under the weight of her neuroses, Beckett Kingsley is attempting to rebuild a life that feels all too temporary. With the ever-present threat of heart failure never far from his mind, he just wants to make the most of whatever time he has left. And that means pursuing the girl he never expected to find.

Together, Corin and Beckett finally learn to let go of their fears and take solace in everyday pleasures. Who knows what the future holds? After all, nothing lasts forever—the only promise they have is right now.

Butterfly Dreams graphic #1

My Review:
This author certainly knows how to write a powerful emotionally-charged book that had me blubbing like a baby. I was captured from the very first word right until the last page.

Corin hasn’t effectively dealt with the deaths of both of her parents and she’s suffering from anxiety, depression, and a morbid fear of her own impending death. She basically camps out at her doctors and every day she has a new health worry or concern. At the time we meet her, she is convinced she has a heart condition, so she joins a support group and there she meets Beckett.

They share some history – he was the kind stranger who helped her overcome her anxiety attack on the sidewalk – but Corin is really embarrassed over the whole incident and tries to push him away.

Beckett has undergone a massive life transformation after a recent heart attack. Having struggled to adjust to his new reality, he is trying to make the best of it, even though he can no longer do all the things he used to love doing.

They meet at an important crossroads in their lives and see something in the other which draws them closer. This is a heartwarming, beautiful love story and I loved every moment of it.

I felt that the author handled the anxiety and depression very realistically and the opening scenes were so emotive that I almost felt like I was the one suffering from the panic attack, not Corin. At times, it’s painful to be around Corin and there were plenty of moments where I cringed at her awkwardness and social ineptitude.

The twist toward the end, though not completely unexpected, left me in tears. I could hardly see the words through my blurry vision. Gosh, I love when an author literally reduces me to a sobbing mess and my heart physically ached for our couple.

This is my second A. Meredith Walters book and it’s clear that she is a very accomplished, talented writer. Character development was superb and the writing flowed smoothly. I could scarcely put this book down and I read it in two sittings.

If you enjoy well-written romances that pack a powerful emotional punch then Butterfly Dreams is a must read.

Butterfly Dreams graphic #4

Excerpt:
My doorbell rang.
What?
I looked at the clock and realized it was already 7:30.
So that meant it was Beckett on the other side of the door.
Shit.
I looked down at my half-naked body.
Shit!
And then I started freaking out.
“I’ll be right there!” I yelled.
Should I let him in?
But I was practically naked!
I couldn’t let him see me like this!
Maybe I should own it. Shake my hips and let him get a look at the goods.
Like that would ever happen.
Crap, what was I going to wear?
I grabbed a pair of jeans from my floor and wiggled them on, not really paying attention to which ones they were.
I reached into my closet and pulled the closest shirt off the rack. I tied my hair into a ponytail and slipped on a comfortable pair of ballet flats.
I hoped Beckett hadn’t planned on five-star dining because I was dressed more for a McDonalds milkshake before hanging with the bowling league.
“Sorry,” I said, out of breath, opening the door and letting Beckett inside.
“I was starting to think I needed to break in and make sure you hadn’t gotten stuck in the toilet or something.” Beckett looked damn near perfect in a dark pair of jeans and button-up blue shirt the same color as his eyes.
He had even gotten a haircut. Way to make me feel like a total underachiever in the getting ready department, buddy.
“Looks like you cut yourself,” I said, indicating the piece of toilet paper stuck to his chin.
“Fuck. I forgot about that,” he muttered, pulling it off, looking embarrassed.
“You should have left it there. It’s cute,” I teased, putting on my black wool coat.
“You ready?” he asked.
“As I’ll ever be.” I gave him a wide smile and he laughed.
“I’m not taking you to your death by firing squad. You could act a bit more excited.”
I jumped up and down, clapping my hands together. “OMG, Beck! I can’t wait!” I gasped.
“Is that better?” I asked, closing my apartment door behind me and locking it.
“Much.” Beckett leaned down and I swear he was checking out my ass.
“Excuse me, but what in the hell are you doing?” I demanded.
“Are you aware that the Cheshire cat is on your right butt cheek?”
I craned my body to get a look at what he was talking about. And sure enough, there was a bright purple patch with the damn Cheshire cat on my derriere.
“I must have picked up the wrong jeans,” I groaned. These were my hanging-out-doing-laundry jeans. Not meant to be seen by anyone but myself and the cat.
“I was in a rush. I couldn’t figure out what to wear. It was stressful,” I tried to explain, pulling my coat down over my feline-covered bum.
“The last thing I want is to stress you out, Cor-Cor.”
I smacked his arm. “I thought I warned you about using that damn nickname,” I threatened.
“I show up with toilet paper stuck to my face and you have a cat on your butt. I think we make a pretty awesome pair,” Beckett snickered, unlocking his car.

Butterfly Dreams graphic #3

A Meredith WaltersAbout the Author:
The New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary and Paranormal romance including The Find You in the Dark and Bad Rep series as well as the upcoming stand alone romance, Reclaiming the Sand, and a dark new adult series for Gallery Books.

A. Meredith spent ten years as a counselor for at risk teens and children. First working at a Domestic Violence/Sexual Assault program and then later a program for children with severe emotional and mental health issues. Her former clients and their stories continue to influence every aspect of her writing.

When not writing (or being tortured with all manner of beauty products at the hand of her very imaginative and extremely girly daughter), she is eating chocolate, watching reality television that could rot your brain and reading a smutty novel or two.

A. Meredith is represented by Michelle Johnson with the Inklings Literary Agency.

Links:

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Review: The Deal (Off-Campus #1) by Elle Kennedy

the dealTitle: The Deal
Author: Elle Kennedy
Series: Off-Campus #1
Rating: 5 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

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

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

…and it’s going to be oh so good.

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

My Review:
Thank God for this book! The Deal was a breath of fresh air for me after reading a succession of similar NA books that fell way short of the mark. This book ROCKED – it was insanely good and there isn’t a single thing I can fault about it. In fact, I loved it so much that I’m going to reread it again tonight. It’s just that good.

Writing – Amazing. The dialog was freaking hilarious and I was cracking up all over the place. There were tons of funny one liners and I loved it. The banter between Garret and Wellsy (Hannah) was priceless.

Character Development – I loved both mains and character development was really strong. I genuinely felt like I got to know both of them and I was rooting for them as a couple. As the story progresses we understand the issues driving both of them and see how they help each other overcome their inner demons. I also liked all of the side characters, though I couldn’t fathom Hannah’s attraction to J (her crush).

Plot – Not a hugely original story but it was superbly executed. Information leaked out at a steady pace and keep me hooked. So much so, that I stayed up until 4.45am reading it. I kept saying ‘just one more chapter,’ but I couldn’t stop reading. It was unputdownable. There are some heavy themes in this book, but it was appropriately and sensitively handled, never glorified or glossed over. Brutal and honest at times, parts of it had me in tears. I really felt Hannah’s pain and these sections, in particular, were extremely well written. Garret was a rock and I just fell more and more in love with him as the book progressed.

Worldbuilding – Not bogged down with heavy descriptive text but enough info to allow you to visualize the world. I liked the college setting and the glimpse of both the hockey and music worlds.

This book was a perfect blend of angst, longing, heartbreak, pain, humor and drama. And did I mention plenty of steamy romance? Hells, yeah, it was STEAMY.

I am definitely continuing this series and I’m pleased to see that the second book focuses on Logan as I’m intrigued to find out more about him. I’ve already downloaded it on my Kindle. Elle Kennedy is now on my list of favorite authors and I look forward to reading more of her work.

If you love NA then you MUST check out this series!

Review: Beautiful Surrender (Forever #3) by Priscilla West

beautiful surrenderTitle: Beautiful Surrender
Author: Priscilla West
Series: Forever #3
Rating: 3.75 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
“What gives you a thrill Kristen?”

The conclusion to the Surrender Series by Priscilla West.

No one is who they seem to be.

Kristen let Vincent into her heart because he seemed so different from everyone in her conservative world of wealth management. She thought they shared something special, but when she realizes that Vincent has been playing her the entire time, her heart is crushed.

As Kristen’s relationship with Vincent reaches a crisis point, a man from Kristen’s past returns looking for a second chance. Is her ex-boyfriend really looking for redemption or is his goal something more sinister?

Kristen struggles to hold herself together, until she discovers a revelation that will change everything.

My Review:
Actual Rating: 3.75 Stars

This was the best book of the series and finally we saw some real suspense, some gritty action. I had a much better sense of both characters in this book though I have to say that I warmed to Vincent much more than Kristen.

Kristen flies off the handle with Vincent when she discovers what he’s done. I didn’t understand her reaction and it wasn’t natural in my view, all he was doing was trying to protect her and she freaked-out.

Marty is a very disturbed boy and the scenes at the end were explosive.

Now that I’ve read all three books I’m feeling a little frustrated because I think this series could be really great with a little bit more fleshing out and stronger plot development. For me, this story lacked originality: Everything that happens is predictable and apart from the romance there isn’t much else happening. Even the sub-plot centering around Marty could have been woven more intricately throughout the story so that he really felt like a threat. He only felt like that at the very end. I think there was a missed plot opportunity with Richard, and excepting Gizelle and her family, none of the side characters added any value to the plot. They should have been expanded on or removed.

Though this might sound like a contradiction, I did still enjoy reading this series, but I was frustrated at the wasted potential because Priscilla West is clearly a talented writer and I admire her writing style. I am definitely going to check out some of her other books.

With stronger structural/developmental editing this series could be so much better. I also think that this would work better as one larger book. While I know it’s trendy to serialise in shorter segments, I just didn’t feel like it worked here.

I received a review copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest review.

Review: Secret Surrender (Forever #2) by Priscilla West

secret surrenderTitle: Secret Surrender
Author: Priscilla West
Series: Forever #2
Rating: 3.5 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
“What gives you a thrill Kristen?”

I knew that giving in to Vincent Sorenson was a risk, but it was one I was willing to take. I had hidden my heart for so long and for the first time in a long time, Vincent was close to breaking down the walls.

When a trip to Vincent’s exclusive private island reveals the real Vincent underneath the layers of suave nonchalance, I thought we were close to the start of something special.

Just when things were looking up for us, I would discover the one secret that Vincent never intended for me to find.

My Review:
Actual Rating: 3.5 stars.

I thought this book was better than the first installment though I still had some issues with it.

Character development was stronger in this book, mainly because it centers on Vincent and Kristen’s romance. I enjoyed the world-building as Kristen was shown a taste of what it’s like to date a wealthy, successful, man.

The romance is smokin’ hot, just as I like it!

The main issues I had again were underdevelopment of the plot. Kurt and Bernie were so obvious it was almost laughable. Poor Riley is relegated to the sideline which was a shame as she seemed like an interesting character in the first book. Kristen’s ex, Marty, makes an appearance but then disappears again. While Vincent took this seriously, Kristen was way too flippant. She’d been having nightmares about the guy for years and she was too easy-breezy about it.

The writing remains very good, but this series is still not hitting it’s true potential in my opinion.

I received a review copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.

Review: Forbidden Surrender (Forever #1) by Priscilla West

Forbidden SurrenderTitle: Forbidden Surrender
Author: Priscilla West
Series: Forever #1
Rating: 3 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance
Links:

Blurb:
“What gives you a thrill Kristen?”

The minute I saw Vincent Sorenson, I knew he was trouble. Billionaire. Bad boy. And dangerously sexy. He was everything I craved, and nothing I needed.

Unfortunately, I couldn’t just avoid him. The higher ups at my company decided they needed his business, and I was on the team to bring him in. Vincent Sorenson didn’t seem as interested in business as he was in me, but I knew that was a door better left unopened. If I got involved with him, it would only unearth the pain I spent years trying to bury.

I thought I had it under control, but I seriously underestimated Vincent’s seductive charm and silver-tongue. I would soon find out how delicious it would feel to let myself fall into this forbidden surrender.

My Review:
I liked this book, but I didn’t love it.

I enjoyed the writing style and the book flowed smoothly, but it was too short and there wasn’t adequate time to really connect with the two mains.

Kristen was initially presented as risk-averse, sensible, a bit boring, and quite condescending when she first met Vincent. However, her character was inconsistent and she suddenly became aloof, fiesty, and then she totally folded on the second date. As you do.

Vincent actually seemed like a decent enough guy, if a bit overpowering at times.

Kristen’s work colleague, Richard, has slime-ball potential written all over him.

The romance happened too fast – there wasn’t enough build up – and the whole plot felt a bit rushed. For me, it lacked depth and substance.

However, I’m engaged enough to continue the series and I’m hoping the character development is stronger in Book 2.

I received a review copy of this book via Netgalley in exchange for my honest opinion.