Deliverance

“Do you plan on catching me when I fall, Troy?” I flirt, although there is way more meaning behind my words than either one of us can comprehend right now. “Only if you do the same.” His stern look scares me because I want more than anything to believe what he is saying, but I still don’t know if I can.

Evelyn Montgomery does two things really well: suspense and sex.  During the entire novel, you’re constantly on edge, questioning whether or not Troy is going to make the right decision. And even when you think he has finally made a decision, he just as quickly changes his mind. I’m like get it together, man!! We need you! And then…omg…the sex. Holy cannoli it is mind-blowing. Jo and Troy have rockin’ chemistry and Montgomery knows how to dish it out. Sex, for our two leads, is a way to speak to each other without having to actually use their voices. Troy is afraid, almost the entire time, that if he finally gives in to Jo, and admits that he loves her, he might lose her.  So he show her how he feels through their love-making and it’s deliciously perfect.

Troy is a Navy Seal. I think we can all gather enough information from that fact to understand that he’s probably been through the crapper. He watched his twin brother die in combat, and he blames himself. Then he witnessed another horrific death that has lead him to lead a detached, loveless life. Jo, a woman he met ten years prior to our story, is the only person he feels alive with. He loves her without knowing it for many years. He is so conflicted in himself, that he’s constantly pushing Jo away, only to run back to her shortly after. Back and forth and back and forth. Jo waits for him, holds her heart for him, even when he tells her not to. 

“Losing someone you never really had hurts more than I ever wanted to know.”

Our story begins five years after the last time Jo and Troy saw each other. Jo was married, divorced, and had a daughter during those five years. When Troy waltzes back into her life, it’s almost like no time had passed at all. They are still desperate for each other. She cannot resist him. We get insight into both of their minds through their different perspectives (you guys know how much I love that), and it is so refreshing. We experience Troy’s battles with his PTSD and the constant internal conflict he struggles with in terms of his feelings for Jo and her daughter, Anna May. We also watch as Jo grows stronger and stronger in regards to what she and Anna May deserve. She will not let Troy destroy her daughters heart like he has hers many times over. 

A lot happens in this novel. Jo has some demons from her past that come back to haunt her and almost destroy everything she’s ever loved. Be ready with a box of tissues and maybe a shot of something strong…Troy experienced some pretty horrific things that he recounts in his nightmares. It’s difficult to watch him battle with his past. I devoured this tale in about four hours tonight; I couldn’t put it down. Do yourself a favor and give Evelyn Montgomery a try. I sure am glad that I did.

“I’ll take her with me, always.”

Undertow

This is what I think as I sit here. That I want that back, the experience of wanting something desperately that is actually yours. Of wanting what you already have, instead of wanting what will never be yours again.

An “undertow” is defined as a current of water below the surface that is moving in the opposite direction as the surface current.

That is what this novel is about. Perfectly titled. Going against the norm, no matter how hard it is, because it’s what you were meant to do. It’s what Maura and Nate were born to do, together. 

He was my best thing, my sweetest thing, and he wasn’t really mine at all.

Maura, our lead, is different than all the other men and women of her social class. She thinks differently, sees differently, loves differently. She was born into an elite, high society. Her parents are ridiculously wealthy. Money is held in the highest regard and friendships are formed over the judgements of people and things. Maura grew up living in this lifestyle, with one element keeping her tethered to the ground. Nate. Nate is the son of the hired help. His mother had an affair with one of the elite and found herself with child. Instead of taking her under their wing, they allowed her to live in servants quarters and maintain the household. Nate is a “townie”, not worthy of Maura’s type of people, but she loved him nonetheless. They bonded as babies, became best friends as children, and lovers as teenagers. They were inseparable until something (or rather someone) tore them apart. Maura and Nate lived for the time they spent together during their summers at the beach in Michigan where Maura’s family vacationed. When summer ended, Maura had to go back to school, and Nate stayed where he was.  It went on for years like that until that one fateful summer when everything changed.

Finally, after being separated for years, they come back together, only to find that their love hasn’t faded in the least…and neither has their anger. Both of them have their own version of what happened the last time they saw each other. It’s heartbreaking.

“Of course it’s too late,” she answers, regarding me with what looks like sympathy. “It was always too late.”

This story creeped up on me. I thought I had a handle on how I felt. I thought I was comfortable and prepared for this journey. I was wrong. As Elizabeth O’Roark does (better than anyone), my breath was stolen from me. Her words cracked my chest and ripped emotions out that I wasn’t ready for. Maura is weeping for the loss of her adolescent years with the man she loves, only to receive blow after blow of unforgiving facts about her childhood. She questions everything. The entire story is told from Maura’s perspective, so we have little insight into how Nate is feeling or what he’s thinking. It’s difficult to fathom the pain he endured in their separation, especially after he told Maura his version of what really happened that last summer.

Maura and Nate are a dream come true. A love like that is all anyone wants. An undeniable need to be with that person forever. It doesn’t matter how or what it costs you.  This was a journey of reconciliation and forgiveness. It took me a few days to complete because O’Roark shattered my soul, but the ending was everything. I feel so complete, yet I wish there was more. I don’t want to leave Maura and Nate behind. 

“I’ve seen the two of you fight, and complain, and disagree, and even break up, but it’s never worried me. Because Elise is the person you were born to be with. And I really believe that once you’ve found that person,” he says, turning from Brian to lock his gaze into me, fierce and unapologetic, “then no matter how many times you’re separated, you’ll find each other again and again.”

Cruel Intentions

He kisses me like he never believed he’d get to do it again.

Well…I finished it. I feel hollow and dissatisfied. First of all…I HATE CLIFFHANGERS WITH A BURNING PASSION.  And secondly, I like bully romances as much as the next guy, but there’s a line for me. It’s there as a guide for what kind of story it’s going to be and once it’s crossed, the allure of romance is over. I can’t see past the unforgiving things that happened in this story.  The line was crossed in this book before I was halfway through. I knew Cam was going to be Abby’s tormentor, I just wasn’t prepared for how hateful and abusive he would be. His hatred ran deep and burned out all possibilities for a visible romantic connection. Abby was so strong. But not enough. It’s painful to think about…but she let a man, who emotionally and physically abused her, steal her heart. No matter his intentions from the beginning, he still did ALL those horrible things to her. Abby’s father is a murdered and an abusive asshole, you’d hope that she would have learned her lesson. Even when he was caring for her and loving her, Cam still had toxic tendencies. I just wasn’t able to see past it. I mean, for god’s sakes, he almost ripped the hair out of her at the beginning!

The whole “Gossip Girl” vibe this novel played at was brilliant. I love the old verses new elite and all the minuscule details. It was a little hard to follow at times, there were so many characters, but it was still very interesting. And now I’m back to Abby and Cam again…I think I’m just surprised that the novel is so highly rated. I mean, what is Abby to Cam? A possession…an obsession…did he love her at all? Nothing is clear. Even when he is sweet on her, he still orders her around like a servant. He likes to have sex with her but that’s pretty much the only thing we’re given. My heart is weeping for this woman who so desperately wants to be strong, but has the world against her. This was a very difficult read. I felt sick more times than I can count and I wasn’t really rooting for anyone except Abby. Davis has written so many incredible books, this one just fell flat for me. 

“Who are you? What’s your name?” I cup his face, deciding on the truth again. “I’m nobody. I’m invisible. I don’t exist except to obey their commands.”

The Other Sister

“How do I survive without you?” “One day at a time.”

I am so completely and utterly filled. Filled with happiness. Filled with pleasure. Filled with peace. That’s what Leanne Davis’ work does to me. I leave her wonderful worlds fully satisfied. She crafts perfect realms with equally purely flawed humans. Each has an incredible story to share that Davis composes for us, comprised equally of heart-wrenching honesty and vulnerability and authentic compassion and love.  

I first met Davis through River’s End. I had just purchased my kindle with the sole purpose of paying for kindle unlimited and binge-reading sappy romances, when I stumbled upon a free book titled River’s End. I read the summary and figured I’d give it a shot, I’d never been into the whole cowboy fanfare but there was always a chance I might find something I liked. And like it I did…I LOVED it. I read every book in that series back to back. Yep, all ten books. I sobbed and laughed and clung to my blankets through every single unparalleled adventure. It is safe for me to say that Leanne Davis is my favorite author. When I found her website and saw that she had written tons of other stories, I actually cried. At my desk and work. Huge, soggy, toddler-size tears of pure elation. I know this is meant to be a review of The Other Sister, but I felt I needed to preface with my abounding devotion. Although this is the first book I have reviewed for her on my blog, it surly won’t be the last. I mean…I have at least 20 more books to read 🙂 WOOHOO!!

Alright, here we go. So. The Other Sister. Where do I even begin? Davis really has a penchant for strong women. Women whose strength is hidden underneath years of suppression and degradation. Jessie, our heroine, is everything I needed and everything I wanted. It’s not often that you find a female lead described as a “whore”.  That’s how we first meet Jessie. She is the younger daughter of General Bains, a world renowned general in the US Army. Her older sister, Lindsey, serves as a Lieutenant, and is the favorite among the two. Jessie is only twenty when we are introduced, but has already experienced more pain in her life than most of us could ever imagine. At the beginning of our tale, she has been “captured” and stolen away to Mexico…and is being held for ransom. Her father, General Bains, doesn’t want to involve the police or military in this, for reasons unknown to us at the time, so he enlists Will Hendricks, a special forces solider, recommended by Lindsey (the favorite sister), to rescue her. Secretly. Little does everyone know, but Jessie has been brutally tortured and raped for the seventy two hours she is held in Mexico while awaiting her rescue. Will witnesses a great deal of it before he can save her and, in turn, they share a bond that cannot be broken. The story continues, and as luck would have it, they fall in love. It’s not an easy love. It takes years. It takes healing and strength, on both their parts. As I’m writing this, I’ve already downloaded book two, The Years Between, because I can’t stop for a moment without knowing more of their story. 

I had some issues with Jessie’s sister, Lindsey. She really turned around once she truly became aware of Jessie’s suffering, but it took a while. I was in physical pain reading about Lindsey’s desire for Will…and his attraction in return. I know it was necessary, what good is a story without a healthy dose of family drama? Nevertheless, here was my reaction when I read the the scene where Will and Jessie go to the General’s house for dinner and find Lindsey there: (fair warning, it’s very dramatic but I was feeling a lot of feelings at the time)

I’ve never hated a character so much in my life as I hate Lindsey. She is perfect without trying and Will is drawn to her. Jessie has been through so much without even a second thought from her sister. Lindsey gives Will looks and speaks to him with her body, something Will and Jessie don’t do. Jessie is his WIFE. Not Lindsey. It doesn’t matter that she doesn’t know that Jessie was abused by her father. It doesn’t matter what Jessie has done. She is still her sister. That bond is unbreakable and she is letting a man, one she hardly knows and she’s been out with TWICE, break it.  I’m sick with disgust. Jessie deserves better from the people around her. I’m surprised, by this point, that she hasn’t truly tried to kill herself. If the cutting and whoring herself out weren’t screams for help, what more? What else can she do? She is oppressed and alone and scared. I can’t think straight. 

It was only a few pages later that Will first realizes he is falling in love with Jessie. So the above thought chain was basically null and void. Still, I think it’s important to lay it all out there. Lindsey turns around later and redeems herself in more ways than one. I actually am really looking forward to reading her book. She is complex in her own way, and I’m dying to know her secrets. This book gave me the ultimate feels. I’m so happy I could scream. I didn’t think I would ever find a couple that I felt as connected to and that I loved as much as Erin and Jack, yet here we are. Thank you, Davis, for changing my life through your words.

“Someone had to love her enough to convince her to save herself.”

Dare

“There’s freedom in falling, for leaving this world even if only for a few seconds. The weightlessness, the ease of burden…”

Another Austin, Texas story that stole my heart!  I love stories about my hometown, and it only gets better when they use actual places I’ve been to and seen before. Scott did an incredible job of keeping this story moving, keeping the audience engaged. Beautiful things comes in all shapes and sizes; this play on a modern version of Romeo and Juliet portrays this over-arching theme throughout the entire novel.

“It was bound to happen some time. Even the mighty eventually fall.” “In love?” “In all things worth fighting for.”

Our two lovers, Dare and Weatherly (also known as Rob and Pepper), are a perfect example of destiny. They are from opposites sides of the tracks, Dare growing up poor with a single mother who adores him, and Weatherly growing up rich with two parents who never give her the time of day. Dare meets Weatherly in early childhood, completely on accident, when his mother stops to take pictures of the house she loves so much, which happens to belong to Weatherly’s family. They spend a few hours talking and say goodbye…only to meet again fourteen years later, in a bar on sixth street. It’s love at first sight. Dare even asks Weatherly if she believes in that idea because he feels it so strongly. Of course, their happiness could only last so long…before their backgrounds sneak up on them. Weatherly’s parents have zero respect for Dare when they meet him, plainly stating that he is beneath her. Dare is sensitive about that fact and coupled with other circumstances, drives him away from her. 

Don’t worry though, this ends in a gorgeous happily ever after that will bring tears to your eyes. I thoroughly enjoyed this story and the blatant love that was forged into every chapter. Give it a shot and let me know what you guys think! The perfect quickie to give your mind a break, I read this as a pallet cleanser after a really intense, emotional book, and I couldn’t have been more pleased! 🙂

“Beauty attracts the eye, but the soul captures the heart.”

What He Wants

I feel incredibly passionate about what I just read, so I’m not holding back on my opinion. Proceed with caution.

“In his arms, she was home.”

Our two main characters are Cassidy and Torque. Their background is as follows: when Cassidy was nineteen and Torque was seventeen they had a short fling that was apparently true love.  Cassidy drove Torque’s truck (I think it was a manual so she couldn’t drive it?) and she crashed it and murdered an older man. Torque was in love with her, so he took the fall for it and served ten years in prison.  At the start of our story, he is released from prison and Cassidy is there to pick him up. They haven’t spoken since he was sentenced; he refused to take her calls or see her. The remainder of the story is a jumbled, confusing mess of poorly contrived emotions and half finished sentences. 

There just wasn’t…enough. Of anything.  There was hardly any passion – it was difficult to believe that these two were actually in love.  The audience was never clued in on what happened before the accident. Did they sleep together? Did they make out a few times? I just think we needed a little more context to make the story believable. Also, this is a prime example of the reasons I don’t like children in romance novels. These children had no personality, and they just prevented our lovers from experiencing anything together. They went out for ice cream one time, during the entirety of the novel. I just found it lacking. 

There was also a significant dissatisfaction with Cassidy and the way she handled her life, for me. She came from TONS of money, but decided to not touch her trust fund because she felt guilty about letting a seventeen year old guy that she liked go to jail? She was fostering three kids and let them live in an incredibly unsafe apartment because she didn’t want to spend the money to buy a house (that she could afford), yet she was completely devastated about having to give up the man she loved for these kids. Were the kids really that important or was it simply that she needed to prove to this guy that she suffered while he was gone too?

Torque was sexy in his own, mysterious way. He wasn’t comfortable sharing his feelings, so it was entertaining to experience his thoughts about Cassidy and her choices. As far as everything else, Torque was a bit overly aggressive and demanding. Cassidy was supposed to be a lawyer, but couldn’t stand up for herself. Torque obviously didn’t truly respect her and Cassidy, truthfully, didn’t respect herself either. 

I understand it takes a lot of bravery to write a novel and I would never degrade someone for the work they’ve done.  This is a 3 star review from me, but I’d love to hear other opinions, especially if you disagree with my review. Let’s discuss! As always:

“I was too busy looking at you to think about what to do with you.”

Another Sky

“They say the sun loves the moon so much, she dies every night just so he can shine.” As she smiled down at me, a tear rolled off the end of her nose. “You’re my moon.”

This one hit home. Hard. More relatable than anything I’ve read before…making it that much more painful too. I grew up in Austin, my great aunt lives in a house in the Rob Roy Estates (where Miles’ mansion is). I take my dog to Zilker Park on the weekends. I take 290 to get to my parent’s house. All of this is so close to my heart. I also suffer from clinical depression. 

To say that I was blown away by this story is simply a lie. This one changed my life. Miles and Gelsey are two remarkable characters that refused to be forgotten. I’m having a difficult time deciding how to review this book. I want to talk about depression first, but I also want to talk about the explosive emotional journey I just experienced. Our author, Jayne Frost, took us on an exploration of life and love. Real life. Real love. Not the fairytale, happily-ever-afters that we’re used to, but honest, gut-wrenching truth. Life isn’t easy. No one ever said it would be. You have no idea what other people are going through. This story is a perfect example of just that. 

“All great loves are complicated. That’s what makes them great.”

Frost introduces us to our leading man, Miles Cooper, the drummer in a super famous band called The Damaged. He is in love with his childhood best friend, Paige. Paige is also in the band, and to avoid drama, they decide to keep their relationship a secret. Then there is a car accident. Paige dies along with another member of the band, Rhenn, Miles’ best friend. Our story begins six years after the deaths. Death changes you. It’s an interesting concept, incomparable to anything we’ve ever experienced in life. The death of a loved one often leaves lasting effects, and Miles is a great example of that. He lost is father to suicide at a very young age, his mother quickly followed by abandoning him, and then the love of his life and his best friend, die before he has the chance to recover from the previous two. Miles suffers from depression. Not the pretty, socially acceptable version that we see in mainstream media now, the real thing. Miles previously tried to kill himself via overdose shorty after the accident that took Paige and Rhenn from him. He pushes everyone away. It’s not until he meets Gelsey, a ballerina with a slew of issues of her own, that he starts to heal. 

You never truly “heal” from depression, though. You can get through the grief of loss. You can go to therapy and take medicine. You can work out and eat the right things. But it’s always there. Miles calls it his dark clouds, always looming in the back, waiting to come pouring down on him. I call mine my curtain. It hangs above my head, ready to fall and cut me off from the world at any moment. Learning to live with depression is exhausting, every day is a battle. Having the privilege of reading Miles’ story, his journey through the lowest points, and discovering that he can learn to live and love again, was everything I needed and more. 

“We all fall down.”

Readers, please proceed with caution when you dive into this novel. Parts of it are draining and excruciating to swallow. One of the characters that Miles meets along the way, Blake, has a story that broke me. His debilitating depression is so severe, he has scars completely covering his arms from self-harm. I fought through my tears as Miles and Blake bonded over their music and pain. Please keep in mind the trigger warnings before starting this, I had to take copious breathing breaks because I found myself holding my breath so many times.

Gelsey and Miles relationship was delicate and painful. We are constantly reminded of the losses both our lovers experienced in their lives and how they got to where they are now. Contrary to what you might be thinking, that constant reminder is what keeps the narrative alive. They are undeniably in love with each other by the third time they’ve met, but there is always a little something holding them back. When the shoe finally drops, it’s like all the breath is dispelled from your lungs. As the reader, you’re just stuck in their world, waiting for what might happen next.

A moving, arduous exploration through the eyes of mental illness and the effects is leaves on our world. Nothing is impossible, yet everything is probable…isn’t that what they say? I can’t wait to start on the Sixth Street Band Series by Frost, if this book says anything about her talent, she is SUPERB. 5 stars from me for this treasure. I will carry it in my heart forever.

“I loved Paige with all my heart. But what I felt for Gelsey was different. More. She wasn’t just the sun.  She was the whole sky.”