BOOK REVIEW ~ WITHIN THESE WALLS BY J.L. BERG

Within these walls, he became my solace, my sanctuary and my strength.
I am not strong. I am just a survivor of circumstance.Isn’t that what we all do? Survive?
Each of us has our own set of circumstances to muddle through. Mine are just more…complicated. Born with a severe heart defect, I’ve seen the inside of a hospital room more than my own bedroom.
I was drowning, a prisoner to the illness that owned me, until he appeared. He thinks he’s blocked out the world with his tattoos and hard exterior, but I see the real Jude, the one he so desperately wants to forget.
But is he the answer to my prayers or will he break my already damaged heart forever?
My name is Lailah Buchanan, and this is our story of hope, redemption and sacrificing it all for the one you love.

This was such a sweet story! While I didn’t totally love it, both main characters were adorkable, the message behind the story was uplifting, and the romance was heartwarming. After reading this book and this author’s Ready series, I notice that all of her books make me fall in love with the idea of love. There are clichés and her stories are definitely sugary sweet, but ultimately, it’s just impossible for me to not enjoy her books on a certain level. For me, her books are the perfect ‘feel-good’ romances that are bound to put a smile on my face and leave me with warm, fuzzy feelings. This book was no different.
The heroine Lailah Buchanan was born with a heart defect, and her entire life has been uprooted by her condition. She’s spent most of her time lying within the walls of a hospital. Now at 22, she’s finally looking forward to being discharged and living life like she’s always intended to.
“My life has been nothing but surgeries, procedures, and living from one test result to the next. I’ll gladly trade all that for a little normalcy. Give me a terrible prom and a hot, sticky day at Disneyland. Let me fall in love even if it means I’ll get hurt in the end. At least then, I’d know that I’m living.”
But unfortunately, things don’t go the way she planned and once again, she’s stuck inside her white-walled prison.
The hero Jude Cavanaugh is a nurse aide who harbors immense guilt after his fiancé died. Working as a nurse aide in the same hospital where Lailah resides, he’s a complete loner who gave up his lavish lifestyle in a twisted hope that walking the same halls where his fiancé once was would bring him closer to her. He believes he doesn’t deserve forgiveness and working as a CNA is his atonement.
“Healing required the desire to do so. I didn’t want to heal, and I certainly didn’t want to move on.”
I don’t want to spoil exactly how, but the way Lailah and Jude meet is SO cute and completely melted my heart, like awww-worthy.
Though the romance didn’t develop until later on, there is an underlying mutual attraction and I still felt that it was more insta-love, especially considering the number of years Jude shouldered his guilt and refused to move on from his ex-fiancé he fell for Lailah pretty fast. But because I really did love both of these characters who are just completely charming, I didn’t mind too much that they got together quick.
There’s a part of this book I have to mention. Lailah had this list, a Someday list of things she wanted to accomplish but couldn’t because of her poor health and whenever Jude would help her finish one of those goals, it completely melted my heart. Just the dedication and conviction behind Lailah’s desire to complete each goal and Jude’s determination to help her achieve them all made my heart feel so full. It also served as a step towards their relationship development as well so in light of that, the insta-love at the beginning really didn’t bother me too much.
Though I could have easily given this book 4 stars or more, the fact remains that the last 20% of the book was slightly disappointing and I flat-out disliked the decisions these characters made.
“Two broken hearts – we would destroy each other before we even had a chance to begin.”
Throughout it all, I felt like this conflict was unnecessary because as quickly as it was introduced, it was resolved just as fast and didn’t offer any significant plot development, only served to make this last portion of the book too sugary and rushed. But taking the book as a whole, this story was a solid romance read that is bound to warm any romantic’s heart.
Within These Walls is a NA contemporary romance that is NOT tragic. Though it’s written as a standalone, there is an upcoming book titled Beyond These Walls that continues this couple’s story and there’ll also be a spinoff book for Jude’s brother who is introduced in this book. Personally, I can’t wait for that one! It’s bound to be darker to match his character…
Rating: 3.5 stars!

BOOK REVIEW ~ DEAR EMILY BY TRUDY STILES

Adoption. Is it a choice you could make? For yourself? For your unborn child?
Live this heart wrenching story with both Carly and Tabitha. Carly and her husband desperately want a child of their own, but are unable to make that dream their reality. Tabitha has been through unspeakable things and must make one of the most difficult decisions a scared and pregnant girl can make.
Dear Emily is told in dual point of view, allowing the reader to experience the highs and lows of both Carly and Tabitha and the decision that ultimately brings them together.
Take a chance on these two very different, but incredible women.
*******Two women. Carly and Tabitha. They each have suffered life-altering events that have left them both traumatically damaged.
Carly Sloan’s life was perfect until her security and innocence was torn from her. The vast repercussions from these events threaten to destroy her stability and her chances for a happily ever after. Kyle Finnegan comes into Carly’s life at the height of her turmoil. Can he help her find what she desires most?
Tabitha Fletcher has constantly suffered from a very young age. She has been hiding from her past, which was full of sadness, loss and abuse. She has been so brutally damaged that she has very little hope for redemption. The revolving door of men only leads her deeper into misery.
What circumstance brings these two women together and can they help each other heal? And will they each find what they need?
Redemption.Love.Family.

This is one of the most unputdownable and unforgettable books I’ve read this year! I’m ashamed to say it’s not a story I would’ve read at first glance and I’d never have picked it up if it weren’t for a few friends who absolutely adored it and now…I can definitely see why. The story follows two women who are the main characters – Tabitha and Carly – and their individual lives and romances, and how one child brings them together. It’s a story not just about love, but family, friendships, and fate. The way the book is written is especially unique; with alternating POVs between Carly and Tabitha that sometimes jump back and forth in time, I really expected to be frustrated and turned off by the execution but quite the opposite happened. I adored the way the story unfolded and it felt like I was reading two books in one. Even more so, I’m amazed by how invested I was (still am) in both Carly and Tabitha’s lives, even when they hadn’t met each other yet. The author’s writing style is simplistic in an alluring and captivating way, gripping me from the VERY first page and ended the book with such a bang that I need to dive into the next one asap.

The premise of the story is a crisis that many women face today – adoption. In this case, an emotionally damaged and confused teenaged Tabitha prepares to give up her unborn child Emily to another couple who she feels is more qualified and will provide Emily with a stable family environment – to Carly and her college sweetheart Kyle. When the adoption agency links her up with Carly and Kyle, Tabitha and her current boyfriend Seth feel a kinship towards them and believes what they’re doing is the right thing as they’re both in no way ready to take on raising a child.
Here’s the really cool part. While the present focuses on working out the adoption details and seeing Tabitha and Carly interact and get to know each other better, the flashbacks to the past reveal painful scars both women have been carrying around for years and how their ordeals lead them to find love and get to where they are currently. It’s one of the most unique storytelling methods I’ve ever read that not only made me feel invested in both of these women and their individual tales, but also had me flipping the pages so fast just so I could devour more about these characters. The men in their lives that stood by them and were a pillar of support I could not be more grateful or love more, and it was so inspiring and heartwarming to know that these two women who were in dark times in their respective lives, had at least one person they could shoulder their burden with.
I also can’t forget to mention what an amazing cast of side characters were in this book. They were so supportive and a never-ending source of comical relief as the overall tone of the story is emotionally heavy.
There is, however, one thing that bothered me a lot while I was reading and is the reason why I can’t give this book a full 5 star rating. I am a grammar and punctuation Nazi and though it may not be a big deal for most, seeing tons of exclamation marks in the story drove me nuts. Sentences that could’ve easily ended in a period had a !. Sentences where the meaning didn’t convey much emotion ended with !. It may just be me being picky but it’s a pet peeve of mine to have too much of one thing.
Other than that, this story was perfect in my eyes. Emotionally, it struck deep and I teared up a few times. The words on the page demanded to be read and felt, and whenever I was forced to put down the book because of holiday festivities I was internally screaming.
While I felt like one arc of the book was wonderfully concluded, another part still had many loose ends, which is where book 2 comes in and I’m both nervous and excited to see where and how Tabitha’s story goes. Now that I know this author’s writing style and the way she presents her story, I’m sure the second book just promises angst, tears, second chances, and redemption.
It was plain dumb for me to keep this on my TBR for so long, though I am glad now that I at least gave it a shot or I would’ve missed out on one heck of a story. For anyone else contemplating on reading this one, I highly recommend you bump it to the top of your TBR list.
Dear Emily is the first book in the Forever Family series and not a standalone. Because there are two main female leads and only one of their stories is concluded here, book 2 must be read to fully wrap up both story arcs presented. There will be a third book, but it’s an optional spinoff.
Rating: 4.5 stars!!

 

 

BOOK REVIEW ~ DEAR TABITHA BY TRUDY STILES

You know me. You know who I am. What I am.
Damaged. Confused. Alone.
You feel sorry for me. You pity me.
You know what I’ve done. What I’ve given up. Who I’ve given up.
You try to understand what I’ve been through and how I can go on with my life. But you can’t possibly understand.
I’ve lost too much. Sacrificed too much. Given up everything so that I can find myself.
Well, I’m done.
I’m done walking away from everything that matters.
It’s time for me to heal.
It’s MY TURN to earn…
Redemption.Love.Family.
“Dear Tabitha” is the second book in the “Forever Family” series. This is book 2 of 2 and concludes the story that began in “Dear Emily”. It is NOT a standalone story and is meant to be read after Dear Emily.

Having read and loved the first book Dear Emily I dived straight into this second one, fingers crossed hoping that a certain character would finally get the ending she deserved. And Trudy Stiles delivered. As if the first book wasn’t emotional enough, book 2 packed quite a punch, delving deep and stripping bare Tabitha’s harrowing past while laying out a second chance romance with her ex-boyfriend, Alex. I will admit I started this book with mixed feelings towards Tabitha as some of her actions in the first book caused so much pain to the two people who loved her unconditionally. But by giving us her complete past that lead up to the present, I completely sympathized for her and only wanted her to finally get that happy ending she desired.
When I flipped to the first page, I kid you not, I immediately re-connected with the characters. The author wastes no time and immediately hits hard with her words, revealing the painful pasts of both main characters that are only briefly touched upon in book 1. Is it possible for a heart to break twice at a time? Because I’m sure that’s what was happening when I first read about Alex’s memories and then Tabitha’s following right after.
After Tabitha’s mom died, she’s tossed into one foster home after another, finally escaping but only to end up in another monster’s den until she finally meets Alex. On the other end, Alex has been physically abused since he was a kid and aside from his bandmates, is emotionally detached until he meets Tabitha. They run through the whole relationship spectrum, going from acquaintances to friends to lovers and because of one weak moment, break up. Even though they don’t meet again until a few years later, neither one has moved on from each other. And when they do finally see each other again, any misunderstandings and hurt are washed away and only longing and love remains.
I think the character growth in this book is stunning, especially for Tabitha. In book 1, she truly was a mess and couldn’t pull herself together after suffering from severe depression, pregnancy, and losing Alex. I was happy the book focus wasn’t entirely just on rekindling her romance with Alex and put Tabitha’s well-being and healing process a priority. I also enjoyed the Carly, Kyle, and Emily cameos as they all played a huge role in Tabitha’s life.
But without a doubt, what made this book stand out for me was Alex. For starters, I liked that he wasn’t portrayed as the typical rockstar who slept around with groupies and had an ego the size of a mountain. He’s loyal and loving, and because he knew the only girl for him was Tabitha, there was no room in his mind or heart for another. But at the same time he also struggled with anger and jealousy issues and that character growth is explored as well.
Though they wanted to, Tabitha and Alex certainly weren’t ready to handle the enormity of a family and their relationship without working out their own problems first, and once they had and faced their fears, it was a heartwarming thing to read them being able to move on towards their future together.
Just like the way the story was told in book 1, this book alternates between past/present scenes switching back and forth between Alex and Tabitha’s POVs. It sounds like a hassle, but honestly, I was entranced and sucked in by the author’s storytelling method and never felt annoyed or disconnected from the characters. However, the one thing that I wasn’t too fond of was Seth’s absence. He was such a big part of Tabitha’s life in book 1 and it saddened me to see him totally cut out of her life. I think I might be the only one who didn’t think he was annoying but instead, felt for this guy who had an unrequited love for Tabitha and the only thing he did receive was pain and hurt. Anyways, his book is next so I’m awfully interested to see where his story goes…
This book and the first one are stories that took me by storm. Completely gripping and the emotion practically bled out from the pages. I’m still getting used to the fact that this is one author who used past/present POVs and time jumps that didn’t get on my nerves (because 99% of them do). With just these two books, Trudy Stiles has skyrocketed to my list of authors to watch out for. And for the time being, I will be waiting for book 3 with bated breath…
Dear Tabitha is the 2nd book in the Forever Family series and not a standalone. Dear Emily MUST be read first and though there are more books planned in the series, it’s perfectly safe to read these two now as book 2 ends on a satisfying, conclusive note. But I won’t lie. I wanted the next book yesterday!!

BOOK REVIEW ~ SWEET FALL BY TILLIE COLE

We all have secrets.
Secrets well buried.
Until we find the one soul who makes the burden of such secrets just that little bit easier to bear.
Lexington “Lexi” Hart is a senior at the University of Alabama. Surrounded by her best friends, her loving family and having fulfilled her life-long dream of making the Crimson Tide cheer squad, everything is going exactly as she always dreamed it would. But beneath her happy exterior, demons lurk, threatening to jeopardize everything Lexi has worked to achieve. When events in her life become too much to cope with, Lexi finds herself spiraling down into the realm of her biggest fear. Lexi falls hard, victim once again to the only thing that can destroy her and, on the way, finds herself falling straight into the dangerous tattooed arms of a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.
Austin Carillo, starting Wide Receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide, must get picked in this year’s NFL draft. He needs it. His brothers need it. Most importantly, his mother desperately needs it. Brought up in a world where the poor are forgotten, the sick are left to fend for themselves and no hero miraculously appears to pull you out of hell, Austin had no other choice but to make a living on the wrong side of the law—until football offered Austin the break to get his life back on track. But when a family tragedy drags him back into the clutches of the gang he believed he had left far behind, Austin finds himself falling. Falling back into criminal ways and falling deep into a suffocating darkness. Until a troubled yet kindred spirit stumbles across his path, where Austin quickly finds he is falling for a young woman, a young woman who might just have the power to save him from his worst enemy: himself.
Can two troubled souls find a lasting peace together? Or will they finally succumb to the demons threatening to destroy them?

Whatever expectations I had, I didn’t count on this book being so gutwrenchingly emotional. This book made me lose my marbles and break down and ugly cry…definitely one of the more heavy and dark NA romances I’ve read this year. The characters were yanking at my heartstrings right from the beginning, and little by little, the emotion built up until it exploded in the last 20% of the book and basically nuked my heart. Thanks Tillie Cole
But I’m getting ahead of myself again. Back to the beginning…
On the outside, Lexi Hart is a perfect college student who seems to have it all: loving family, supportive friends, and a spot on the cheer squad. But underneath, every day is a struggle for her and she’s barely keeping up. Unknown to most, Lexi is anorexic. Her body image worries and thoughts hurt her deeper than any blade could and ashamed of herself, she concocts a mask to hide behind when she’s with friends. Only alone, can she be her true self. Only alone, can she be free to give into her anorexic temptations.
Austin Carillo has a boatload of problems, all invisible to most. Coming from a poor and unstable home life with a sick mother and two brothers to look after, Austin sees football as his only way out of his shithole life. But it isn’t enough and with gang problems giving him trouble, Austin is cornered between pursuing his football dream and living like a lowlife like he’s perceived to be, all in the name of providing for his family.
Austin and Lexi’s romance seemed improbable at the beginning because they were so different. Aside from their circle of friends knowing each other, there is literally no overlap that should’ve happened between them so the fact that their romance did happen was totally unexpected and made it all the more intriguing. Perhaps it was because they were both broken and felt like they were shouldering the world that they had this deep, intense connection, but whatever the reason they’re able to let down their guard and be open with each other.
Reading about these characters individually and what they had to go through with all the problems in their lives gave my heart a big squeeze, but that was nothing compared to the scenes where they were a couple.
“Why the war paint, Pix?”
“Why the tattoos?”
I’m not even going to sugarcoat it – I felt overwhelmed. Reading about Lexi’s anorexia hurt, like in my chest kinda hurt, and it was all portrayed in such a raw and gritty manner I couldn’t help but be moved. Reading about Austin’s poor home life, his very real and heartbreaking struggle to keep his family together while trying so hard to make his football dream come true…all of that combined was a lot to process and emotionally digest down. And as mentioned before, all of this culminated and completely exploded in the last 20% of the book, leaving me a sobbing mess.
But at the same time, I didn’t fully love the romance part. I mean, it was very clear to me that these two characters belonged and complemented each other perfectly, but because there was just SO much going on – Lexi’s illness, Austin’s home life – plus tons of external conflict ranging from gang business to side character drama, I felt like the actual romance wasn’t given enough attention, hence I had to deduct half a star.
Regardless, this is a book that is guaranteed to make you FEEL and ultimately, that’s what I was looking for when I decided to read this book so overall, this one’s a winner for me!
Sweet Fall is a NA romance standalone and the 3rd book in the Sweet Home series. It can be read without reading the first two books and the events in this book run parallel to those in the first one, Sweet Home.

BOOK REVIEW ~ RAZE BY TILLIE COLE

To take back life, one must first face death…
One man stripped of his freedom, his morals…his life.
Conditioned in captivity to maim, to kill and to slaughter, prisoner 818 becomes an unremorseful, unrivaled and unstoppable fighter in the ring. Violence is all he knows. Death and brutality are the masters of his fate.
After years of incarceration in an underground hell, only one thought occupies his mind: revenge…bloody, slow and violent revenge.
Revenge on the man who lied.
Revenge on the man who wronged him.
Revenge on the man who condemned him and turned him into this: a rage-fueled killing machine. A monster void of humanity; a monster filled with hate.
And no one will stand in the way of getting what he wants.
One woman stripped of her freedom, her morals…her life.
Kisa Volkova is the only daughter of Kirill ‘The Silencer’ Volkov, head of the infamous ‘Triad’ bosses of New York’s Russian Bratva. Her life is protected. In reality, it’s a virtual prison. Her father’s savage treatment of his rivals and his lucrative and coveted underground gambling ring—The Dungeon—ensures too many enemies lurk at their door.
She dreams to be set free.
Kisa has known only cruelty and loss in her short life. As manager of her father’s death match enterprise, only grief and pain fill her days. Her mafia boss father, in her world, rules absolute. And her fiancé, Alik Durov, is no better; the Dungeon’s five-time champion, a stone-cold killer, the treasured son of her father’s best friend, and her very own—and much resented—personal guard. Unrivaled in both strength and social standing, Alik controls every facet of Kisa’s life, dominates her every move; keeps her subdued and dead inside…then one night changes everything.
While working for her church—the only reprieve in her constant surveillance—Kisa stumbles across a tattooed, scarred, but stunningly beautiful homeless man on the streets. Something about him stirs feelings deep within her; familiar yet impossibly forbidden desires. He doesn’t talk. Doesn’t communicate with anyone. He’s a man beyond saving, and a man she must quickly forget…for both their sakes.
But when weeks later, out of the blue and to her complete surprise, he’s announced as the replacement fighter in The Dungeon, Kisa knows she’s in a whole lot of trouble. He’s built, ripped and lethally unforgiving to his opponents, leaving fear in his wake and the look of death in his eyes.
Kisa becomes obsessed with him. Yearns for him. Craves his touch. Needs to possess this mysterious man…this man they call Raze.

Even though this is only the second book I’ve read from Tillie Cole, I can already see what a versatile writer she is. I mean this in a good way but never in a million years did I expect the author of Sweet Fall – a highly emotional and poignant NA romance – to come up with a gritty and twisted mafia romance like this one. Though there were a few hiccups along the way, this book was INTENSE from start to finish. There is something special about this author’s writing that is just gripping and makes the book unputdownable. On top of that, there’s this hidden element to the romance that’ll be revealed early on in the story that just made my heart RACE. I was rooting for these characters hard!
Number 818 or ‘Raze’ is taken from his home when he was a young boy and then raised and brainwashed into a cold-blooded killing machine in the fighting rings, where one fights to kill. He doesn’t remember much about his past because of the drugs fed to him, only that he has one purpose: to get revenge on the man who wrongly accused him of a crime he didn’t commit. His search leads him to the heart of a ruthless death match enterprise and straight into the path of a blue-eyed girl whose face is eerily similar to the girl in his fuzzy memories.
Kisa Volkova is the daughter of the man who runs a savage underground fighting ring and betrothed to the long-time champion, a demented and truly twisted man who’s obsessed with possessing her. She’s well aware that in this mafia life, she has little say in what she wants and is physically and emotionally battered by her fiancé’s demands and the invisible iron cage her family has her own. Fully knowing that her heart belongs to another – a man she has never seen again since her childhood – Kisa has resolved herself to become the dutiful wife everyone in the mafia expects her to be.
On one fateful night, Kisa is saved from an unknown assailant by Raze, who’s come to the city to get his revenge against Alik Durov, who’s also Kisa’s fiancé. Without spoiling anything, Kisa and Raze have this insanely intense connection and can’t help but be drawn towards each other, even though their attraction is the last thing they need with Kisa already engaged to another and Raze only interested in his revenge plan.
The first half of this book left me breathless. My heart was pounding from the fight scenes, the sizzling chemistry between Kisa and Raze, and the hidden element to their romance that gave my heart a squeeze. I just wanted them to be together without any obstacles in their way, you know? But their road was not an easy one, and I’m glad the author made it bumpy or else it really would’ve cheapened their romance. I think my main concern with this book was the big discrepancy between the first and second halves of the story. It seemed too convenient that everyproblem Raze had (from his memory loss to revenge plan etc…) was wrapped up and concluded so nicely. The first half of the book really set a gritty and challenging pace for these characters and though I’m sure it wasn’t the author’s intention, I felt like the second half of the book got a little too cheesy and predictable. Nevertheless, my overall enjoyment of this story was high, and I could overlook these things because I was invested in the romance and genuinely cared about the characters’ welfare.
By the time I got to the end of the book, I was sad the story was ending and wished there was more. I love the mafia world the author set up and strangely enough, there were two side characters I loved just as much (maybe even a little more) than Kisa and Raze and whether or not it’ll happen, I wish the author could do books for them too: Rodion (Kisa’s brother) and fighter number 362 (Raze’s rival and friend). All in all, this story had my attention from beginning to end, got me invested in these characters, and had me wishing there was more to the story after it ended…which I think are all essential aspects that comprise a good book. I couldn’t be happier to end my 2014 reading year on a high note!
Raze is a dark contemporary romance set in the mafia world. It’s a true standalone and unrelated to the author’s other books.

BOOK REVIEW ~ LAST WILL & TESTAMENT BY DAHLIA ADLER

Lizzie Brandt was valedictorian of her high school class, but at Radleigh University, all she’s acing are partying and hooking up with the wrong guys. But all that changes when her parents are killed in a tragic accident, making her guardian to her two younger brothers. To keep them out of foster care, she’ll have to fix up her image, her life, and her GPA—fast. Too bad the only person on campus she can go to for help is her humorless, pedantic Byzantine History TA, Connor Lawson, who isn’t exactly Lizzie’s biggest fan.
But Connor surprises her. Not only is he a great tutor, but he’s also a pretty great babysitter. And chauffeur. And listener. And he understands exactly what it’s like to be on your own before you’re ready. Before long, Lizzie realizes having a responsible-adult type around has its perks… and that she’d like to do some rather irresponsible (but considerably adult) things with him as well. Good thing he’s not the kind of guy who’d ever reciprocate.
Until he does.
Until they turn into far more than teacher and student.
Until the relationship that helped put their lives back together threatens everything they both have left.

This book ranks high on my list of favorite NA romances. Though it has clichéd tropes (what NA book doesn’t?), the approach and execution was done very well and with ethnically diverse and easy to love main characters, an engaging storyline, and side characters that were both comical and warmed my heart, Last Will and Testament was a big winner for me!
“…life doesn’t give a shit about perfect timing or perfect circumstances; it just happens. And by now, I’ve lived enough to recognize that when something pretty damn good is coming your way, no matter how inconvenient, you should just fucking embrace it while you still can.”
What makes this book stand out from the typical NA romance is the strong heroine Lizzie Brandt. I can’t tell you just how refreshing it is to read about a heroine who actually deserves the title of female lead and doesn’t instantly turn into a giggler and a pile of mush when she meets the hero. She’s gutsy, bold, and snarky, but she has her fair share of flaws. I love how well-rounded her character is, and she’s everything a normal 18-year old college girl would be.
When she learns that both her parents passed away in an accident, Lizzie starts to realize there’s a lot more at stake than just her own needs: she has two younger brothers to take care of along with all the things her parents left behind, and she can’t afford to slack off in school any longer.
The one guy who has the potential to help her out of the mess and at the very least tutor her is her history TA, Connor Lawson. As I have an extreme weakness for intelligent and brainy heroes, Connor made me swoon at every moment. He’s nerdy, righteous, and so thoughtful, and goes far and beyond to help Lizzie. Though there’s no insta-love, subconsciously these two characters can’t help but want to be near each other and because they have totally opposite personalities, it was SO fun to see them clash and banter.
“Whose work are you ripping apart?
Yours. Constantine VI is best known for being the son of Constantine V? Really?
Best is subjective.”
As for the side characters, Lizzie’s younger brothers melted my heart! I loved seeing them interact with her and Connor and their naïveté was endearing. Several of their conversations gave my heart a squeeze and some had me smiling like a fool.
“I don’t know how to…I don’t know what I’m doing. I just know I like hanging out with you guys, and I’m crazy about your sister okay?”
“Gross. Aren’t you her teacher?”
Because of the forbidden nature of Lizzie and Connor’s relationship, there’s an expected amount of angst and drama but regardless of all the stolen moments and secrets they do stay strong and their feelings for each other never waver.
I did find some things to be a little inconsistent, like how a bright high school valedictorian could fall so, so low in college. I didn’t really buy into that part of Lizzie’s character and in addition the author does delve into the past a lot but not much development is seen there, so there’s a slight disconnect. It didn’t bother me too much though because Lizzie and Connor made such a great couple and I was entertained by their relationship dynamic and invested in their story. It speaks volumes to how much I enjoyed this book when I say that as a reader with a very short attention span, I just had to finish this book in one sitting and I actually wanted to continue to read it instead of watching my favorite anime show.
Last Will and Testament is a NA romance standalone and the first book in the Radleigh University series. The next book focuses on a side character.

BOOK BLITZ ~ ROOK & RONIN SERIES BY J.A. HUSS

How far are you willing to go to start over?
Rook Walsh is homeless, jobless, and down to her last ten bucks when opportunity knocks her in the head and delivers a once in a lifetime opportunity. Internationally renowned photographer, Antoine Chaput, knows the minute he spies Rook in his studio that she’s got The Look. The dark and desperate look he must have to land the exclusive TRAGIC media contract.
Rook is paired up with top model Ronin, and he knows exactly what to do to make her blush for Antoine’s camera. Her luck changes in an instant and suddenly she’s got more attention and exposure than she can handle—both in front of the camera and behind the scenes.

TRAGIC is over and Rook is ready for the future—Spencer Shrike and the STURGIS contract!
It’s three months of body art modeling! That means three months of Spencer Shrike’s paintbrush all over her body, three months in front of Antoine’s camera, and three months of twenty-four-hour filming for Spencer’s Biker Channel reality show.
Wait a minute… what reality show? Maybe she should’ve read that STURGIS contract a little closer?
Sure, Rook’s bank account is overflowing, but Ronin is angry, Clare is trying to escape rehab, Antoine is a worried mess, and Elise is just trying to hold everyone together. Rook’s new family is about to fall apart before she even gets the chance to enjoy it.

Rook is chasing her dream—film school and a chance at a life beyond the one she ran from six months ago. But before she can become the girl she wants to be, she must deal with the girl she left behind.
Ronin is also chasing his dream—a family of his own and a life away from erotic modeling. And he too, has a past he’s trying to forget. A past that makes Rook question everything about their life together.
Lies, secrets, and shocking truths will rock the foundation Rook and Ronin have built. Can they put the past behind them and move forward together? Or is this just another too good to be true relationship that will crash and burn in the end?

The girl catches me staring and I hold my breath. But neither of us turns away. We stare, unabashed, until Antoine’s direction pulls her back into the shoot and she’s lost again—guarded and unhappy, frowning and resigned. She’s a blackbird sitting in a tree staring out at the world, daring the wind to come and knock her off the swaying bough.
She is wrecked, Elise is right. But she’s not down yet. The look on her face is defiant. When I look over at the clock it’s well past five. Antoine has been shooting her for almost two hours. Elise left a while back but whether she’s still here in the studio or up in her apartment, I have no idea. I lost track of her because my eyes are only on the girl.
Antoine does pretty well until the end. It’s clear he’s finished shooting and the girl is starting to look uncomfortable when he asks her what she was thinking about during the shoot. I cringe. No, you don’t ask them! You make them want to tell you, you idiot! I want to pull him aside and stop the crash and burn that’s coming, but it’s too late. She snaps at him and he pulls back when he realizes his mistake.
He turns the conversation to business and this is where it really gets interesting. She tells him she’s not a model and has no portfolio. I’m just about to laugh when she starts yelling about pictures as payment.
I look back towards Elise’s station and realize she forgot to explain the terms to her. We are so off our game today. One tragic girl has disrupted all the carefully laid plans and protocols we’ve had in place for years.
The tragic girl storms off yelling. Antoine walks over to me and we wait together as she rants to Elise.
“You better fix this, Antoine,” I say calmly, but inside I’m screaming too. “Pay the fucking girl, she needs the money.”
He snorts like a fucking Frenchman. “I do not pay for test shoots.”
“This,” I say, turning to face him, “was no test shoot and you know it. You’ve got hundreds of shots in that camera. Pay her and make sure she comes back or I won’t do the contract. I want her. I’ve put up with hundreds of stupid girls over the years for you and I’ve never asked you for a favor like this. I want this one, or I won’t do it.”
He fishes through his pocket and pulls out the cash that Clare never earned.
The studio door slams and we are all reminded that two models have walked out on us today.
“Elise!” Antoine calls, thrusting the bills out at her. “Catch her, pay her, and invite her back on Monday.”
Elise grabs the money and flies out the door.
“We’re in trouble, Ronin. She is trouble.” He turns a little to look me in the eye, something he rarely does unless he’s serious and wants me to consider his advice. “You should stay away from her, keep it professional. Or it might get messy.”
I shrug. “I’ll do what I want. And staying away from her isn’t even in the top million things I want to do with that girl.”
“Elise will hurt you if you ruin this one, Ronin. She won’t tolerate another Mardee.”
Fuck you, is what I think. But I don’t say it, I just sigh and we wait in silence for Elise to come back.
J. A. Huss likes to write new adult books that make you think and keep you guessing. Her favorite genre to read is space opera, but since practically no one reads those books, she writes new adult science fiction, paranormal romance, contemporary romance, urban fantasy, and books about Junco (who refuses to be saddled with a label).
She has an undergraduate degree in horses, (yes, really–Thank you, Colorado State University) and a master’s degree in forensic toxicology from the University of Florida. She used to have a job driving around Colorado doing pretty much nothing but shooting the breeze with farmers, but now she just writes, runs the New Adult Addiction and Clean Teen Reads Book Blogs, and runs an online science classroom for homeschoolers.

PROMO TOUR ~ AMOUR AMOUR BY KRISTA & BECCA RITCHIE

Love is a circus
“Every day,” he says lowly, “I hold a person’s life in my hands. The circus is based one-hundred percent off trust. I give it all to someone, and they give it all to me.”
The best aerial technique won’t land 21-year-old Thora James her dream role in Amour—a sexy new acrobatic show on the Vegas strip. Thora knows she’s out of her element the second she meets Amour’s leading performer. Confident, charming and devilishly captivating, 26-year-old Nikolai Kotova lives up to his nickname as the “God of Russia.”
When Thora unknowingly walks into the crosshairs of Nikolai’s after-show, her audition process begins way too soon. Unprofessional. That’s what Nik calls their “non-existent” relationship. It’s not like Thora can avoid him. For one, they may be partners in the future–acrobatic partners, that is. But getting closer to Nik means diving deeper into sin city and into his dizzying world.
Thora wants to perform with him, but when someone like Nikolai attracts the spotlight wherever he goes—Thora fears that she’s destined to be just background to his spellbinding show.
This sexy and exhilarating New Adult Romance can best be described as Cirque du Soleil meets the steamy, athletic romance of Center Stage.

Name: Shay
Dream Cast: Carlos Marti, model
 
Age: 22
Hair: Light brown
Eyes: Blue
 
Current Location: Columbus, Ohio
College: 3+ years at Ohio State
Born: Cincinnati, Ohio
Occupation: student
Likes:
Gymnastics
Pommel horse / vault
College life
His best friend
ESPN
Dislikes:
Risks without rewards
Avoidable mistakes
Low scores in gymnastics
Las Vegas
On a normal day you can find him: practicing with the Ohio State Gymnastics Team or at the gym, but he’ll always answer your calls and texts.
Krista & Becca Ritchie are identical twins—one a science nerd, the other a comic book geek—but with their shared passion for writing, they combined their mental powers as kids and have never stopped telling stories. Now in their early twenties, they write about other twenty-somethings navigating through life, college, and romance. They love superheroes, flawed characters, and soul mate love. They are the New Adult authors of the Addicted series and Calloway Sisters spin-off series, and you can find them on almost every social media, frolicking around like wannabe unicorns.

BOOK REVIEW ~ AMOUR AMOUR BY KRISTA & BECCA RITCHIE

Love is a circus
“Every day,” he says lowly, “I hold a person’s life in my hands. The circus is based one-hundred percent off trust. I give it all to someone, and they give it all to me.”
The best aerial technique won’t land 21-year-old Thora James her dream role in Amour—a sexy new acrobatic show on the Vegas strip. Thora knows she’s out of her element the second she meets Amour’s leading performer. Confident, charming and devilishly captivating, 26-year-old Nikolai Kotova lives up to his nickname as the “God of Russia.”
When Thora unknowingly walks into the crosshairs of Nikolai’s after-show, her audition process begins way too soon. Unprofessional. That’s what Nik calls their “non-existent” relationship. It’s not like Thora can avoid him. For one, they may be partners in the future–acrobaticpartners, that is. But getting closer to Nik means diving deeper into sin city and into his dizzying world.
Thora wants to perform with him, but when someone like Nikolai attracts the spotlight wherever he goes—Thora fears that she’s destined to be just background to his spellbinding show.
This sexy and exhilarating New Adult Romance can best be described as Cirque du Soleil meets the steamy, athletic romance of Center Stage

This book was a unique, uplifting, and inspirational NA romance! It’s the kind of story that starts off decently but by the end your heart feels so full of love for ALL the characters in the book. I’ll be honest and say that I had trouble in the beginning because the heroine was too weak and the romance wasn’t the main focus, but I’m glad I continued with it. If I didn’t, I would’ve missed out on the heroine’s extraordinary character growth. I would’ve missed out on one of the very best literary heroes. And most importantly, I would’ve missed out on a few (but profound) heart-in-throat moments that captured the beauty of family bonds, deep friendship, and unconditional love. And in the end, isn’t that what NA is all about? About self-discovery, finding your passions, and pursuing those dreams, growing and maturing through all those experiences. In this aspect, KB Ritchie did a splendid job of portraying that dynamic, and it is this factor along with the 5+ star hero that convinced me that despite some hiccups along the way, this book deserves at least 4 stars.

The heroine Thora James is finally going after her life-long dream: heading out to Vegas to audition and be a part of a prestigious circus. A risky gamble, and despite her friends and family’s warnings, she persists in doing what her heart feels is right.
The hero Nikolai Kotova is one of the circus’s top performers and oozes charm and grace. He becomes Thora’s acrobatic trainer and though there’s no questioning there’s an attraction there, his focus is entirely on helping Thora become the best she can in time for her audition.
There’s been a lot of speculation, but I’d like to wipe the slate clean but saying there is absolutely no cheating. It’s easy to take a scene out of the book and blow it out of proportion, but because it’s out of context, you don’t get the full story…so my advice for those worrying about potential cheating, drama, and what-nots is to just go into the book without reservation because the story has so much to offer and it’s really not worth it to be hung up on miniscule issues that – in my opinion – don’t even exist.
As for the romance part, it starts off a little weak but gradually becomes stronger as the story progresses. Because of how dedicated Nikolai and Thora were, they willingly shelved their true feelings and always put their goals in the circus first, love second. But at the same time, it was obvious that their connection was undeniably soul-deep and though there’s some drama, Thora and Nikolai stay strong.
Another big plus this book has is the wonderful cast of side characters, and I mean each and every one of them were vital to this story. From Nikolai’s siblings to Thora’s parents and new friends made in Vegas, they provided comical relief and heightened the emotional impact in pivotal moments. They gave the book a family gathering feeling and it truly warmed my heart to see how close everyone was.
The only thing that I’d advise to be prepared for is the circus talk/acrobatic jargon. While unique and intriguing, the circus premise quickly wore me down and truthfully, I got a little bored with the ins and outs of the business. Nevertheless, it’s a big part of the book and what grounds both of the main characters so it didn’t get to the point where it was completely bothersome.
Though the book started off a little shaky, it ended with a bang. The overall message the story sends out is inspiring, the romance that finally blossomed was heartfelt and all the characters were 100% loveable.
Amour Amour is a NA romance standalone that’s unrelated to the author’s other books. But if you’re a fan of the Addicted series, you’ll get a nice surprise in this one 。
Rating: 4 stars!