arc · new adult · new release · review · romance

Ache by S.M. Soto

Ache
by S.M. Soto

Rating: ★★★
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What happens when you fall for the boy next door?

Bea Norwood had the market on normal. Drama free life? Check. A single-mother who doubled as her confidant and partner in crime? Check. A neighbor and best friend she trusted more than anyone? Check. But that was until the day her mother remarried. The day that changed everything.

When her best friend’s cousin, Liam Falcon, is sent to live with his aunt and uncle to clean up his act, Bea finds herself falling for the boy next door. With their hearts so infinitely entwined, Bea turns to Liam as her only escape from her new step-brother’s daily torment at home. Bea thought their love could conquer anything. But she was wrong. Love was for fools, and she was the biggest fool of them all. When Liam left Lakeport, he took her heart with him, shattering the organ to pieces.

Six years later, Liam takes a trip back to Lakeport to visit his family, and to see HER. His first love. The girl who holds his heart. The same girl who shattered it six years ago without looking back.

Liam is hell-bent on seeing Bea again after six years, but what he finds tears his heart in half. Bea Norwood is a shell of the girl he fell in love with. Underneath the baggy clothes, and pale skin, he knows she’s still in there somewhere, he just needs to find her. Liam will stop at nothing to win his girl back, but sometimes, ignorance is bliss, and Liam isn’t prepared for Bea’s truth.

*ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*

You can also read this review on Goodreads

Before heading into my review, I want to warn readers: approach this with utmost caution. Written in blunt and honest words, the depictions of harrowing real life circumstances will grip your heart without remorse and brutally tear your emotions into unrecognisable shreds, rendering you speechless and emotionally drained, as the heavy and heart-wrenching scenes aren’t eased in carefully or alluded to in vague detail.

Liam Falcon is the boy who captured my heart, and the man who saved my life.

I experienced a variation of emotions reading Ache, but the one that made a real stand is anger. Pure, intense vexation unrivalled by anything else. Bea’s mother is an irredeemable and irresponsible character wrapped up inside an impenetrable bubble of picture perfect husband and stepson, too blind to notice what occurred inside what is supposed to be a family home.

For six years. Fucking six no one noticed or interfered. And when Bea’s mother’s dream world shattered, life is hard and she abandons her daughter for the nearest hotel because her incompetent degenerate ass can’t cope. And Bea’s mother’s attitude made me realise something: Bea’s fear to admit her truth goes beyond being threatened. When your mother, someone meant to love and care for you, is too self absorbed and self centered to realise something is changing their child in irrevocable ways, then who will listen, or believe your truths?

Bea’s my sun, my moon, and all my stars – the entire universe combined.

Separated into past and present, both sections are interspersed with flashbacks that follow Bea and Liam’s romantic relationship as it undergoes an innocent beginning and traverses a heartbreaking separation, until it finally reaches the present day. I find flashbacks difficult to manage and introduce in romance as they disrupt the momentum and create a jarring effect. Bea and Liam’s connection could have easily been outlined in flashbacks without needing to separate it into two parts. I lost a connection to this couple’s relationship and discovered innumerous character and romance gaps by this timeframe division that make it difficult to consider this narrative second chance romance.

Our love was written in my scars, just as it was scattered across the stars.

S.M. Soto writes beautifully and brilliantly, but despite her writing ability, I wouldn’t recommend this. Readers might consider this difficult to read. I found the abuse pushed aside the second chance romance, dominating the scenes and actions of almost every character. Considering the abuse’s commanding presence, it disappointed me to never witness the heroine become a survivor—she remains a forever victim.

arc · new release · review · romance

Savior by Fiona Cole

Savior
by Fiona Cole

Rating: ★★★
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He bought me, but not to touch or taste. He bought me to save me, and to atone for past sins.

Handsome and mysterious, he swoops in to offer me a new life, but this is no knight in shining armor. He’s cold, hardened by his past. But there’s an inferno underneath the ice, I can feel the heat each time he looks at me—each time he gives in to the desire between us.

No matter how much I push to unleash the fire in his eyes, he shoves back harder each time. He’s merciless with his cruel words, telling me how naive I am, how little I know of the world.

But I’m stronger than he thinks.

When we face down our demons from the past, I’ll prove which one of us was in need of saving, and which one of us is the savior.

*ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*

You can also read this review on Goodreads

I love that this author intertwines her standalones into this single, larger world, reacquainting us with familiar personalities and introducing new-found characters. Savior contained a variation of romance’s best features—a white knight hero, a heroine with backbone, irresistible angst and mouth-watering tension tied together beautifully to deliver a decadent age gap romance between Alex and Erik.

She was a light that still managed to shine through whatever darkness she faced.

Alexandra Hughes is familiar with desperation, but she reaches new heights when selling her virginity becomes an unwavering decision and the only option to escape extreme hunger and financial instability. However, what awaits within the shadows isn’t as terrifying and gruesome as assumed; instead unexpected opportunities through an infuriating, mysterious hero presents itself. Despite Alex’s naive nature, it is difficult not finding this young woman—her perseverance and inner strength—awe-inspiring in some ways as she goes head to head with Erik.

A miracle wasn’t happening. It was just me. I had to be my own savior.

Consumed by haunting memories and unavoidable guilt, Erik Brandt is atoning for his past sins. Underneath his disinterested and seeming uncaring facade is someone hurting, being chased by grief as he protects himself from feeling the same loss he experienced before. Erik is both endearing and infuriating in equal measure—a combination of caring and callous. One moment he is charming beyond recognition, the next a grating asshole because he can’t cope with his emotions.

I adored this initially and though that feeling hasn’t changed much, I pondered my review further and became increasingly annoyed with certain tiny details. Such as Erik—his inability to accept romantic affection bloomed between him and Alexandra became an irritant as, instead of acting mature, he ensured Alexandra witnessed him sexually entangled with other women. Outright asshole, to be honest. Alex and Erik’s physical connection is brimming with some sexual chemistry, heated encounters and intense hatred, but the emotional side is lackluster, making it difficult to appreciate their relationship.

arc · new adult · review · romance

Wrath by Claire C. Riley

Wrath (The Elite Seven #3)
by Claire C. Riley

Rating: ★★★
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I’m a motherless son to a father who hates me. Fury has lived and breathed in my black heart for so long, it’s a part of my soul now. The only thing that’s ever mattered to me is protecting my twin sister, Sabella, from my father’s temper.

So when the chance to join a secret society presents itself, there’s no question I’ll do whatever it takes to become a member and earn my place in the ranks of only the most Elite.

With a taste for the deviant, I’m drawn to the darkest of desires, and no one ever leaves my bed unscathed. My task: seduce Patience Noelle, St. Augustine’s sweetheart and the mayor’s beloved daughter—then break her heart.

Sinning is what I live for, and deviance is my passion. Failing has never been an option.

But what happens when my sin becomes my curse—when destroying the only woman I’ve ever wanted is my key to protecting my sister? Accept your sin wisely, for the tasks given to earn your place are not for the weak…they’re for The Elite.

This isn’t just my chance, it’s my legacy and reckoning.
I am Samuel Gunner.
I am WRATH

*ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*

You can also read this review on Goodreads

The Elite Seven continues as dark, deranged and dangerous as before. I’m learning to expect the unexpected; don’t assume we’ll receive answers and romance isn’t a priority in this series. I wanted to love Wrath—a man hellbent on enacting revenge on an unloving father with a penchant for sexual deviance used to conquer and destroy an innocent woman called to me. However, the execution was lackluster.

I don’t love like most. I love darkly, cruelly, and brutally, or not at all.

Driven by hatred and fuelled by vengeance inspired by harrowing childhood experiences, Samuel Gunner won’t stop until the Elite Seven notices his presence. But when they finally notice, in an unexpected turn, Samuel is torn between protecting Sabella, his twin sister and luring the mayor’s sweet daughter, Patience.

Patience Noelle is an endearing, innocent woman caught within this devious game. I admired the attitude she showed Samuel, creating an enemies to lovers vibe with an irresistible and delicious chemistry between two opposites. Intense and heated, the encounters between Samuel and Patience are sexually deviant, passionate and filthy. And the way Patience manages to keep Samuel grounded—the rare occurrences of sweetness to soothe the raging bitterness—makes my heart flutter tenfold!

I’m not the good guy, and I’ve never claimed to be. I’ve surrounded myself with rage and darkness, embracing the hateful side of myself for so long, it’s become a living thing inside me.

I loved these two characters together, but the moments we witness between them is awfully limited, making it difficult to fully appreciate their chemistry. Reading the beginning and ending of this novella made me lose interest—Samuel’s backstory was far too descriptive, a massive information dump essentially that could’ve been disclosed through flashbacks or passing remarks. And the crude sex scenes featuring other woman to highlight Samuel’s deviant nature wasn’t really necessary.

Wrath sets a different tone for this series. It is lengthier, written with gripping scenes and tantalising encounters that made this difficult to step away from; however, it is missing more moments between Samuel and Patience, as well as deeper insight into the Elite Seven. In saying that, if you are into mind-numbing and jaw-dropping dark romances; a dominant hero; an endearing heroine, I recommend picking up this series because while it does lack in certain areas, it is good for what it is!

arc · new adult · new release · review · romance

Lust by Ker Dukey

Lust (The Elite Seven #1)
by Ker Dukey

Rating: ★★★
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I was born with wealth, athletic ability, and looks that could melt the panties off a nun.
I had a clear path to success.
Until fate dealt me a cruel blow, leaving me empty and in need of purpose.
My only focus now is to become part of The Elite—a secret society in one of the most prestigious colleges in the world.
But everything comes at a price, and with The Elite, you have to earn your place.
Lucky for me, being sinful is in my DNA.
The only obstacle to full initiation is my task: seduce the un-seducible, the forbidden, and lure her with the sins of the flesh. Easy for a man like me…in theory.
She started as my task, but what happens when the lines between lust and love blur, and the need for power rages war with the need for her?
Accept your sin wisely, for the tasks given to earn your place are not for the weak—they’re for The Elite.
This is my life, my chance, my legacy.
I am Rhett Masters.
I am Lust.

*ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*

You can also read this review on Goodreads

What a ride! And interesting introduction to what will become a captivating series centered around a secret society promising an unrivaled amount of wealth, prestige and benefits. I wasn’t really sure what to expect—maybe a dark, erotic romance of intrigue, debauchery and manipulation. However, this isn’t dark, or even erotic as the romance is pushed aside to create the foundation for the series.

I would still take lust over love every fucking time. Fuck love.

Chastity Griffin appears to be shy and timid, but there’s inextricable boldness and feistiness hidden beneath her appearance. She’s smart and sweet, with a touch of innocence about her demeanor, but there’s this admirable sensuality about her, too. It balances the dark wildness and teetering instability within Rhett.

Rhett Masters is desperate to escape from reality. Crushing guilt after losing someone and his father’s insufferable attitude have pushed him towards drowning in women, drugs and liquor. Conceited, arrogant and feeling an unhealthy amount of invincibility, nothing is forbidden or dangerous. Rhett embodies lust, however, more so through reputation than action.

My entire high school years were built on my reputation of panty peeler, pussy realtor, heart stealer.

It is one reason for pulling my rating down. I assumed this short story would be filthier, more forbidden and teeming with an intense amount of eroticism, finished with a dash of passion and romance to sweeten the connection. And that is my second reason for lowering my rating—the romance is minimal. When Rhett and Chastity are together, the pages explode with sexual tension and witty banter. You can sense unexplored chemistry between them that would have made an excellent forbidden romance.

Lust is a violent desire, destructive and uncontrollable.

I can say one thing for certain—I’m excited to continue delving deeper into this world of secret societies and sinfully devilish assignments. Ker Dukey’s writing is fantastic, the emotions will roll you over straight away, the pacing of this short story is decent and the concept of this series captivating.

arc · contemporary · new release · review · romance

Cruel Money by K.A. Linde

Cruel Money (Cruel #1)
by K.A. Linde

Rating: ★★★
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She was supposed to be a one night stand.

A way to sate my sexual appetite.

I gave her a glimpse of the man I am. The face that I hide behind my carefully cultivated life. But she ripped open that divide—and there’s no going back.

Now, she’s here. In my city.

I don’t care that I’m Manhattan royalty and she’s the help. Only that she’s living in my summer home. With me.

And I want more.

*ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*

You can also read this review on Goodreads

Think Gossip Girl or Cruel Intentions and you have Cruel Money—a second chance romance set within the glitz and glamour of New York’s upper class society. It is devious and abundant in delicious drama, characterised by deceitful personalities brimming with lies and scandalous propositions.

Delightfully addictive, without doubt compelling and unputdownable, Cruel Money, with an insurmountable level of intrigue and intensity, will have you invested throughout. It doesn’t just have angst and drama, it also contains seduction dripping with manipulation, deception flowing with tension and sweet lies coated in deviousness.

Our worlds didn’t connect. Our lives were so far from normal. I didn’t want to want this. I didn’t want to want him.

Penn Kensington and Natalie Bishop’s romance is twisted, yet fascinating—a train wreck of malicious intentions and inescapable heartache that you can’t turn away from. I became so engrossed in this narrative of cruel words and vicious actions that everything else faded away.

However, I couldn’t fully fall in love with these characters. Natalie does have some positive qualities—she’s confident, determined and she has serious backbone, but she’s also dense and unobservant, despite being a writer with certain qualities. Penn is an undeniable gorgeous, enigmatic figure, but there’s something missing.

Penn Kensington had gotten under my skin. He crawled beneath the surface and there was nothing I could do about it.

I know I will fall in love with this series. Cruel Money is filled with some of my favourite tropes combined into this enticing series. If you’re searching for something brimming with deception; a narrative with characters you’ll love to hate, or hate to love; the glamorous, lavish lifestyle of upper New York, this series will grip your attention.

I’m more than ready for Cruel Fortune (sadly, months away!)

arc · contemporary · review · romance

Ruthless King by Maya Hughes

Ruthless King (Kings of Rittenhouse #3)
by Maya Hughes

Rating: ★★★
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My dick never got me in half as much trouble as my heart…

We were high school sweethearts. I was head over heels for her and no one could tell me we weren’t going to last forever. College? Going pro? My family’s money? None of it mattered. She was all I needed.

Then she ripped my heart out. But I’m not going to let that happen again.

She’s back. Invading my life and acting like she was the wronged one. The pain is still there, but I can’t keep my eyes off her. I can’t stop thinking about her and how much was left unsaid between us. Being this close is making me question everything I thought I knew about her.

This time everything will be on my terms. Everything…

*ARC provided by author/publisher in exchange for an honest review*

You can also read this review on Goodreads

I have been dying to read Avery and Emmett’s second chance romance since starting Kings of Rittenhouse. Once having experienced an enviable, near perfect romance, only to have that dream shatter, ending tragically, Avery and Emmett’s relationship started to be filled with undeniable animosity. And many questions started swirling in my head, piquing my interest, about this couple’s reasons for separating.

Ruthless King was overall more enjoyable than Shameless King and Reckless King. However, I seem to have an issue with each installment. In Shameless King, Declan’s virtually non-existent relationship with his dad was pointless; in Reckless King, the forbidden relationship came too late and wasn’t worth being a point of contention.

Avery Davis had dismantled me and left me as a shell. Even knowing the pain she’d caused, every night I closed my eyes, it was her I dreamed about.

Complete, utter disappointment consumed me when we finally received details about the separation. I understand that sometimes a situation appears worse than it is, but unless you really saw something, or find definitive proof, having a smidge of maturity really saves a person from experiencing unnecessary heartache. Miscommunication is my least favourite reason to separate a couple for prolonged periods of time.

Avery could have been honest, saving herself being subjected to bullying by an ex-boyfriend, but instead remained quiet about everything that happened. She didn’t trust herself, nor her relationship. I experienced inconsistencies with her less than fabulous personality—one minute, she’s angry at Emmett for not believing her; the next, she admits she didn’t want to cause issues by upsetting Emmett. You can’t be annoyed at someone over a situation you’ve been secretive and dishonest about.

“I never stopped loving you. Even when I hated you with all of my being, even when I hated myself for it and wished I could carve my heart out of my chest, I still loved you.”

I started enjoying this more towards the end, because the narrative moved forward and the characters developed some. However, relationship development felt stagnant. I have some very good feelings regarding Ford and Olivia (that ending!) in Fearless King. If you love second chance sports romance, I recommend reading this series!

review · romance

Review | Midnight Blue by L.J. Shen

Midnight Blue

by L.J. Shen

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SYNOPSIS

It should have been easy.
I needed the money. He needed a babysitter to keep him from snorting himself to death.
I was cherry-picked especially for him. Responsible. Optimistic. Warm. Innocent.
The worst part is that I should have known better.
Alex Winslow. British rock star. Serial heartbreaker. Casanova with whiskey eyes.
“Don’t get near the devil in a leather jacket. He’ll chew you up and spit you out.”
Guess what? I didn’t listen.
I signed the contract.
World tour. Three months. Four Continents. One hundred shows.
My name is Indigo Bellamy, and I sold my soul to a tattooed god.
Problem was, my soul wasn’t enough for Alex Winslow. He ended up taking my body, too.
Then he took my heart.
Then he took my all.


REVIEW

You can also read this review on Goodreads!

Before you cringe at my rating, I promise I enjoyed this. I really, really, really did. L.J. Shen is an amazing writer, there’s no denying it. She strings together sentences so beautifully, they become lyrically and poetically enthralling. While weaving a unique tongue-in-cheek sense of humour, and writing some memorable quirky heroines and angst-ridden asshole heroes, she’s established a reputation for herself as an amazing story-teller and character creator.

She’s my Queen of Asshole Heroes.

Some aspects of this made me swoon with stars in my eyes, or giggle in absolute delight. They just didn’t happen enough, hence my rating. I also experienced moments where I really wanted to throw my Kindle, but I’m awfully attached to my little piece of brilliant technology. However, my biggest issue is Indie, who’s both endearing and infuriating in equal measure.

“Life is full of secrets, and narrow-minded people, and sugar-coated, empty conversations that hold no weight. What’s real is what’s inside us. What’s important is what we feel.”

Travelling is one of my greatest hobbies, so to read about the characters on tour, jumping from continent to continent, exploring the various cities they visited, it feels as if you’re travelling around the world, watching relationships transform and experiencing the same moments as Alex and Indie.

Asshole heroes have a spot in my heart. Brooding, arrogant assholes are enticing because they are mean, dangerous and oftentimes the antithesis of everything wholesome in life. Alex Winslow isn’t just an asshole, he is an outright knob. I don’t care that he abuses booze and drugs, or that he is unsettled. I care that he harboured this fascination and obsession with Fallon, his ex-fiancee.

Indigo Bellamy is an interesting character. She’s full of contradictions. She’s neither tough nor sassy, but rather a pushover and doormat. I actually adored her during the beginning and ending. To watch her personality go downhill during the middle was disappointing and depressing because she could’ve been such a good character!

For more than 3/4 of this, Alex continuously tells Indie, in blatant and brutal honesty, that they have an expiration date, because he’s too busy chasing his ex-girlfriend. I know they tried to redeem Alex towards the end using a decent excuse to explain his treatment towards Indie, however no matter the reasoning he is still a giant knobhead.

“I waited for many things, but a few minutes later, I heard the door open and shut, and knew he’d left me there, like the disposable fuck doll he’d wanted me to feel like.”

I can’t stop myself from comparing Indie to Millie, the starring character of L.J.’s other novel, Vicious. They both have vibrant coloured hair, share similar creative and exuberant personalities (Indie sews, Millie paints), a quirky style of fashion and they have asshole men charging into their lives.

However, the biggest difference between them is Millie actually doesn’t take Vicious’ bullshit, whereas Indie rolls over despite everything Alex has said and done. Oh and another thing: Vicious is actually a loveable asshole because at least he cares about Millie, whereas Alex is just a five year old dressed up like an adult.

Then you came in, walked away, and guess what? Now I know. I know I’m incomplete and my soul, which I thought was dying, is actually in Los Angeles, riding a French bike in a ridiculous dress.

During the end chapters I actually started to fall in love with Alex and Indie. Despite the heartache and struggles they’ve been through, they grow and change into better characters. Indie gains confidence from somewhere and begins standing up for herself. Alex starts recovering from substance abuse, coming back down to humanity after suffering from an addiction.

I seem to have this love-hate relationship with literally every character this author writes. Will it ever stop me from reading her brilliant writing? Hell no. I love immersing myself in the worlds she creates.

arc · review · romance

ARC Review | Bedfellows by Lola Leighton

Bedfellows

by Lola Leighton

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SYNOPSIS

I wasn’t looking to fall for one man. Let alone two…

Sullivan and Will are as close as two friends can be. Growing up in the system forced them to rely on each other, and they’ve become accustomed to sharing everything—including women.

Now they’re ready for more. To find love. To start a family. To see the dreams they’ve shared since childhood come true.

Apparently I tick off every box on their list—brains, beauty, and sass. I never hesitate to put both men in their places—which they find sexy as hell.

One problem, I’m a traditional girl, with traditional values—one man, one woman, till death do us part—kind of values.

They’re willing to work to prove how very right the three of us could be, but what happens next is anyone’s guess…


REVIEW

You can also read this review on Goodreads!

So, to begin, some background information.

I normally stray very far away from anything involving more than two within a relationship. However, I have been pushing myself to be more adventurous with my reading. I’m becoming more tolerant of threesomes, but only if they serve one of two purposes: it furthers the story; or it creates character development (i.e Corrupt by Penelope Douglas).

Threesomes, open relationships, menages… anything and everything about these types of relationships don’t interest me, because they are odd. Not odd as in inhumane or unnatural… odd, because I don’t understand or connect with anything pertaining to this kind of lifestyle.

More bodies means more limbs. And to be honest, my little brain cannot keep up with many limbs.

Monogamous relationships, in literature and real life, are preferred. I remember reading this trilogy years ago where the main female character ends up with both men in the end. You spend the first two books reading these eligible bachelors’ dating profiles, having to choose between them, only to be forced into accepting both candidates as winners without any warning.

I DNF’d so hard my head spun.

From this experience, I learned I hate choosing between two characters, or anything resembling a dreaded love triangle. I generally form unbreakable attachments, usually towards the initial candidate and despise feeling forced into accepting every eligible person, because there’s almost always something wrong with one of the characters (I understand this is sometimes done to push readers towards the main love interest).

In saying that, Bedfellows is an interesting representation of what ménage relationships can entail. Both men are self-assured and brimming with complete confidence. They’re a package deal that says, “both of us or none of us”, meaning there is no silent competition or random heartache because someone is stewing in jealousy. You aren’t forced into choosing between one of two men. 

Both of them kissing and fondling me? It was like a gateway drug to menage. And the bastards knew it.

What pulled this story down is that it went from being about Adrienne dating and eventually falling in love with two men, to being about two men who dabble in each other in between being with Adrienne. It felt as if this menage could only work, or function, or even make sense if Will and Sullivan became a “couple” within the threesome. And everytime they came together, Adrienne was excluded.

For me, Bedfellows went from being MMF to MM/MMF because for whatever reasons (reasons that were never explained), neither Will nor Sullivan would do anything with Adrienne without the other person. Some background information on Sullivan and Will, specifically as to why the way they are (other than being orphans) would have given them more substance. 

…somewhere deep down inside of me, I was still very much a traditional girl – a one man, one woman, till death do us part – kind of girl.

One other thing that baffled me is Adrienne’s easy acceptance of everything inside this relationship. She seemed to be easygoing about every facet, excluding significant amounts of character growth and transformation that would have made this story more angst driven.

I will say, the scenes with these three were quite scandalous and scorching, especially that shower scene. And this made my nine hour flight flyby (pun not intended).

arc · review · romance

ARC Review | Church by Stylo Fantome

Church (Church #1)

by Stylo Fantome

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SYNOPSIS

A broken girl.

An unusual boy.

A beautiful face that hides a dark secret and an ugly past.

Sealed lips which hide wicked words and dangerous thoughts.

She would kill for him to love her.

He just wants to kill.

Maybe, if Emma Hartley prays hard enough, Church Logan can make both their wishes come true.

Fuse, meet match.


REVIEW

You can also read this review on Goodreads!

I’ve been sitting on this for some time, struggling to come up with words that seamlessly articulate my thoughts and feelings on this dark and twisted story.

To begin: I wouldn’t classify this as dark romance. Rather, I would categorise this as dark, psychological thriller. What the main characters experience isn’t romance. Instead it is an unhealthy “romantic” obsession with each other.

So unhealthy, it drives Emma, our starring female character towards developing a terrifying attachment to Church.

She kept her eyes closed and let out a deep breath. He had a beautiful voice, rich and full. She was glad he didn’t share it with anyone else.

Emma Hartley suffers from deep-seated issues, ranging from crippling low self-esteem, multiple personality disorder, anxiety, etc. After years of suffering from social abandonment and lacking affection, Emma often develops unhealthy attachments to those who grant her attention. So, when she meets the mysterious Church Logan, her mental stability and chaotic emotions take an interesting turn.

She does have a certain charm about her, even I have to admit. Beautiful and damaged, like a rose in a vase. Lovely and doomed to die.

Beneath the quiet, enigmatic personality is someone twisted, awfully strange and outright terrifying, yet intriguing. He isn’t an anti-hero that you will love to hate. He doesn’t even have redeeming qualities really. Yet everyone that surrounds Church is an awe of him, because he is that classic tall, dark, handsome and intelligent character.

In classic Stylo Fantome fashion, Church is shrouded in twisted darkness and interesting turns. While this isn’t my darkest read, I do believe this does deserve a warning as it touches on certain topics ranging from psychosis, self-harm and varying self-esteem issues.

What kind of fell down is my inability to connect with these characters, or to really feel that deep connection or chemistry between them. Emma and Church develop a dangerous and detrimental codependancy that’s far removed from becoming even slightly romantic. They have this vile, toxic relationship that is strangely beguiling and horrendously terrifying.

I’m torn between wanting to rate this four stars (because it is abnormal and interesting) and three stars (because I couldn’t fully connect with these characters). I suspect the next story will be better as everything should hopefully ease into a more deviant and distorted plot line.

It’s the best thing ever, fear. It creates focus. It creates drive. ‘Necessity is the mother of invention’, but what creates necessity? Fear.

arc · review · romance

ARC Review | Hard Sell by Lauren Layne

Hard Sell (21 Wall Street #2)

by Lauren Layne

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SYNOPSIS

He’s a Wall Street wolf. She’s been hired to tame him. From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Layne comes a wildly sexy novel of business and pleasure.

Twenty-eight and filthy rich, Matt Cannon is the youngest broker on Wall Street. He may be a “boy wonder,” but he’s every inch a man. Ask any woman—any night. But when Matt’s latest fling makes scandalous headlines, his clients get anxious, and his bosses at Wolfe Investments level an ultimatum: keep his assets zipped, get a “real” girlfriend, and clean up his act. Only one woman can help Matt with something this hard.

For PR genius Sabrina Cross, the best fixer in Manhattan, playing Matt’s steady is going to be a challenge, even if it’s just for show. They already have an explosive history, she can’t stand the cocky party boy, and worse—she can’t stop thinking about him. So who’ll dare to break her “no touching” rule first? Because when that happens, Matt and Sabrina’s game of let’s pretend will get so hot it could set both their reputations on fire.


REVIEW

You can read this review on Goodreads!

If something is going to capture my attention, it is an enemies-to-lovers romance between a scandalous investor and sassy public relations specialist. And that is what happened here with Hard Sell, my first, but not last read by Lauren Layne.

However, while the characters are engaging, there were certain areas within the story that needed some finessing to make this, what to me would be, a more complete and gripping romance.

Who else, besides Matt Cannon, would ruin my appetite for a perfectly good croissant?

Charming and wealthy, at twenty-eight year’s old, Matt Cannon is Wall Street’s youngest broker. Numbers come easy, women easier. But when Matt makes headlines featuring his latest fling, his clients become anxious and his bosses propose an ultimatum: appear to be settling down with a “real” girlfriend, or leave the company.

Easier said than done.

The hardest thing is going to be keeping my hands off the only woman I’ve ever wanted.

One woman is capable of keeping her distance and maintaining professionalism: Sabrina Cross, PR specialist and known fixer in Manhattan. Everyone knows they detest each other though. He’s too conceited, she’s too stubborn. While Sabrina agrees to assist in cleaning up Matt’s sordid reputation, she has a stipulation of her own: no more hookups.

Posing as Matt’s pretend girlfriend should be easy.

She is the last woman on earth to be at risk of falling for me. Because Sabrina Cross hates my guts.

Sabrina and Matt have very interesting chemistry, or rather a long history of loathing and antagonism. What makes an enemies-to-lovers story gripping and captivating is witnessing the angry banter, experiencing the passionate animosity and seeing the conflict the characters undergo.

I loved the premise of Hard Sell, but the execution fell flat. I’m still unsure what actually transpired between our leading characters to make them intense enemies, or rather, I don’t understand what prompted Matt to be an abhorrent jerk towards Sabrina.

My favourite thing about enemies-to-lovers romance is watching the relationship transition. I crave that intense passion and the burning hatred shared between the two characters. While the mutual love-hate transformed, I wish I knew more about their history to really connect with that change.

“At least you acknowledge that it’ll be the end of the world before I feel anything other than tolerant loathing for you.”