Bloom (The Order #1) by Nikki Rae

Published: 28th February 2018Goodreads badge
Publisher:
 Self Published
Pages: 290
Format: ebook
Genre: Dark contemporary romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Given to The Grimm Order as an infant, Fawn was raised in a world shaped by the rich and powerful. When she was sold at the age of nine to a Suitor, Fawn believed he would protect her from the “Mainworld”, where those who know nothing about the Order live. Living with the cruel man who bought her freedom, she finds just what the Order is about: money, control, and status for the Owner and humiliation and abuse for those they own. 

Unwilling to accept the expectations of being Owned, Fawn goes from golden girl to maid, content to live in the shadows of the Order as long as she isn’t Owned again.

It’s been ten years since she disgraced her former Owner’s name, and now the brooding Frenchman Elliot Lyon wants her. Master Lyon is kind, smart, and unlike any man she’s met. She doesn’t want to admit it to herself, but Fawn is drawn to him despite constantly planning her next escape. 

Even the prettiest flowers have thorns, and Master Lyon is hiding secrets that will uproot everything she thinks she knows about him.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book by the author for review.

Once again, Nikki Rae has delivered. I will admit I was wary when I first began reading. It’s different, it’s certainly uncomfortable and dark at times, but nevertheless, it is everything that makes Rae’s books wonderful.

There were some scenes that made my stomach turn, which is interesting because this is not Rae’s first dark, sinister book. Nor the first with such a dark subject. It wasn’t the concept though, nor the overall situation, just a few scenes that made me feel uneasy as I read. Which I guess was the point. It made my stomach turn but I couldn’t stop reading. My own heart was pounding alongside Fawn’s. My own heart was thudding in my chest because I wanted to know what was going to happen because clearly anything could. I was engrossed, I stayed up late to read, I had to drag myself away at the end of lunch hours, trying to read another sentence, another paragraph.

Rae gets us inside Fawn’s head as we plan, assess, and discover all there is to her new world and her new situation. We discover things about her past life and her experiences with seamless transitions and carefully placed words. I felt the touch of fairytale in there and I loved the society and its secrets hidden in the modern world. Rae brings us into this dark world and the grand forbidden estate. We’re drawn into Fawn’s new life and feel her uncertainty and her defiance, her trepidation but admire the inner fire that keeps her going. An important thing to note is that while it is of a darker sexual nature, it isn’t too terrible, but there are also a few scenes of descriptive violence. In context and in the world in which Rae has created it makes sense, but certain scenes were hard to read.

I finished the final chapter very late at night and immediately wanted to leap into the next book. Rae takes you on an emotional journey with secrets you may or may not guess, and moments wrought with suspense and suppression. Everything you think you know or guess will get turned on its head on a whim. By the end you wish you knew what to expect but are delighted and scared when the story changes direction and you cannot fathom just where this story will take you.

You can purchase Bloom via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Wish List (#4) by Belinda Williams

Published: 26th May 2016Goodreads badge
Publisher:
Momentum
Pages: 280
Format: ebook via the publisher and NetGalley
Genre: Contemporary Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

Could the wrong man on paper be the perfect man in real life?

Cate Harmon likes lists. While this may serve her well as a financial planner, her girlfriends think that creating a checklist for her ideal man is going a step too far. But she has one, and she’s sticking to it.

Cate has always dreamed of starting a family and settling down and yet she’s the only one of her close-knit friendship group still unattached. But that doesn’t mean she’s going to lower her standards.

Enter Dave, a reformed bad boy with gorgeous hair and eyes the wrong colour. Dave doesn’t tick any of the boxes on Cate’s list. It’s unthinkable that she would develop feelings for him, and yet … Cate finds herself being drawn to Dave in a way she’s never felt before.

Will Cate confront the reasons behind her list? Or will she risk losing a man who could be better than any list she could ever dream up?

I legit had a massive smile on my while reading this book, even in the rocky parts. I think I said something corny when I started reading it saying it was like coming back home but it was true; I love these women so much and I love Williams’ stories about their lives and as soon as I started reading Cate’s story I was back in their world with Maddy and Scarlett and Christa. It was like I hadn’t left.

It’s not all big smiles and excitement though, Williams did bring a few tears to the surface in some part, but just for a moment. I’m not saying the book is 90% happiness and frivolity, but it was just so wonderful to read that every little thing made me happy, the conflict, drama, Cate’s frustration and denial, the SURPRISES! It was the perfect package and balance.

I’ve realised through this series that there’s a little bit of me in each of these women, possibly all the wrong bits to identify with but all the same there’s something in each of them I adore. I adore because despite them feeling insecure, having a duty of care, a desire to do the right thing, and having hidden secrets, they still get up and have a great life with beautiful friends. They don’t let themselves or their past stop them (well, eventually anyway).

Wish List is the final in the City Love series and after seeing Christa’s, Maddy’s, and Scarlett’s stories we finally get to explore Cate’s. Williams has been great at dropping snippets of information through all her books about each woman, and with Scarlett’s story Cate was given a closer look, just enough to tease you and build anticipation. Justified too because the Cate we discover is totally unexpected from the Cate we’ve gotten to know. Delving into her mind and life is wonderful and finding out more about her secretive past and seeing that she isn’t always the cautious and structured girl she seems to be is fantastic, like all the girls we see her grow.

Williams’ starts off the story slowly, almost as you’d expect, meeting a guy who isn’t the guy you expect to fall for, but even if you think you know what may happen, that it will follow some clear set of events, it won’t. Williams brings a whole new story to the table and brings complexity and depth and drama that doesn’t feel over the top or too messy, it feels real and justified and intense.

That isn’t even the biggest twist as Williams has five or six more up her sleeve that continually surprise you when you least expect it. She lulls you into feeling safe before pouncing and makes you remember all the little details you’d forgotten about because you were caught up and recovering from the last surprise. It’s easy to think this story is one big issue but it’s a bigger, deeper, more complicated situation that twists and turns and shocks and delights you. By the end you can’t believe you ever thought it was just going to be that simple. It’s not even close to being that simple.

For me this is the best and most wonderful ending to a series and a book I’ve read. Williams has always treated these women well and given them stories that suit them and that they deserve, this is no exception, and being the final book it also manages to be a farewell and big finale for the four of them. The continual surprises and little bits of joy and intensity are an emotional ride but I wouldn’t change a thing. As I read my heart was pounding, I had knots in my stomach, a smile on my face, continually holding in gasps and squeals as my eyes fled across the page trying to read faster and possibly physically immerse myself in the story.

One thing I admire about William’s writing is she makes wonderful romantic stories that are heart-warming, heartbreaking, and satisfying without making them overly sweet and mushy, or too innocent or risqué either. Getting inside the heads of these women helps balance that out because you see their reservations, their developing feelings and their reasoning behind what they do. You also fall in love with new characters and reacquaint yourself with the old ones. Dave is my favourite of all the boys in this series, even for his faults. With Cate’s narration we can see how he causes her so must frustration and angst, how his few words annoy her and confuse her. But through Dave’s actions we see a bit more of Cate as well, they balance each other out.

I could go on forever and talk about every little thing in this book but I won’t, I’ve gone on enough already, but I will say that there’s 101 things to adore in this story, it’s got everything, love, drama, friendship, excitement, the works. William’s has done a truly marvellous job and had wrapped up the City Love series spectacularly.

You can pre-order Wish List via the following

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Amazon UK | Barnes and Noble

Google Play | iBooks Store

Kobo

AWW16

The Pitch (City Love #2) by Belinda Williams

Published: 28th May 2015Goodreads badge
Publisher: 
Momentum
Pages: 306
Format: Ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance
★   ★   ★   ★   ★  – 5 Stars

She’s in a long-term, committed relationship. With her business.

In three years Madeline Spencer has single-handedly grown her marketing agency, Grounded Marketing, into one of the country’s fastest growing companies. But her success has been at the expense of her social life, and her girlfriends have had enough. They’ll do whatever it takes, from speed dating to blind dates, to show her there’s more to life than work.

Only Maddy is having a hard time forgetting about her business. She’s about to pitch for her biggest client ever and the mysterious media mogul, Paul Neilsen, has volunteered to mentor her. Maddy might just be in with a shot of landing the account – if she can keep her mind on the job. Working with Paul is not at all what she’d imagined, and Maddy finds herself torn between her ever increasing workload and her feelings for Paul. She’s discovering playing in the big league means making sacrifices … and Maddy must decide what she can’t live without.

Note: I was provided with a copy of this book from the publisher for review.

I truly and honestly can say I never was, nor ever thought I would be, a romance lover or someone who got excited and invested in a couple in a book but this book has momentarily changed that. What Belinda Williams has created her is a wonderful balance of clever writing, sweet but not sappy story, and real characters that feel like genuine people rather than stuck simply on a page.

Every aspect of this story feels so real, whether that is because I recognise the places and can picture it playing out, or just because Williams’ writing brings the story to life so incredibly well. There are surprises and bumps along the way and while you think you know how it will end, there are still surprises in store that make it an enthralling read and just the right kind of bumpy.

The characters are diverse, not just in their personality but with everything. Each revelation of character is a joy and Williams skilfully makes the characters complicated and deep yet simple on the page. Being the second in the series there are brief mentions about the events in the previous book but no more than passing references compared to a full recap.

With a new storyline and a new point of view there is a mixture of new faces to become acquainted with but also familiar characters that were introduced in the first novel. Williams makes you become involved with her characters and with each book focusing on a different friend there is a wonderful chance to get to know each of them and after reading about one it will certainly make you curious to learn about the others.

The friendship between the four women is divine and through dialogue and actions the writing captures and expresses the intense and loving relationship between the friends, but also the brutal honesty and tough love as well, sympathising and highly supportive while not enabling or mollycoddling.

Maddy is a wonderful character and a great narrative voice, she is strong and focused, but at the same time a bit unsure of herself at times and can be oblivious to what’s in front of her. Her determination makes her amazing, and whether it is work or her personal life, her confidence doesn’t overshadow her occasional doubt which what makes her so genuine.

I loved the complications in this story, and I loved how rooted in reality they were. It was nothing grand or overblown but different and unique, and the everyday nature of the story while still being climactic and dramatic made it intriguing.

This is a slow-burn romance, and while it seems like it is going to be a fast, wild, love story Williams paces it remarkably well. The romance is natural with understandable barriers, and without a love at first sight passion but still enough to start something. There is also restraint with things like sex scenes but Williams doesn’t make it plain either, nor does she skip over it like it isn’t important to the story or character relationship.

The story is clever, classy, and adult with real issues, but has the romance in it with style and heartfelt sincerity. With great characters and clever writing Williams has added to the City Love series a wonderful narrative that brings the realities of life with the dreams of romance together with resounding success. I look forward to continuing the rest of the series because I know it is only going to get better.

You can purchase The Pitch via the following

Momentum | Barnes and Noble

Amazon | Amazon Aust

Amazon UK | Google Play

iBooks Store | Kobo

 

Instant Karma by Donna Marie Oldfield

Published: 19th July 2014
Goodreads badgePublisher: Sonic Pop Publishing
Pages: 325
Format: ebook
Genre: Contemporary romance
★   ★   ★  – 3 Stars

Do you believe in karma? Materialistic, selfish estate agent Siena Robinson doesn’t – until she hits a disastrous run of bad luck that makes her wonder if she has brought it upon herself.

In Instant Karma, Siena moves to the quiet village of Fenville, where the locals are opposing a development that will see a beloved hall and library replaced by new flats and shops. What her neighbours don’t know is that she is one of the developers and stands to make millions from the deal.

But then Siena discovers that her high-school sweetheart, Aiden, is leading the protest and she finds herself acting as a double agent who is torn between her neighbours’ plight and making lots of money.

Will Siena betray her new friends and let greed ruin a second chance with Aiden? And will she ever find out who or what is behind her run of bad karma?

Note: I was given a copy of this book for review.

After having time to think about it this is more 3.5 stars than 3 I think. The story Oldfield has created is all about the effects of karma and the message that what goes around comes around and bad karma comes to those who deserve it. While this idea could be very moralistic for the reader it works because Siena is a character who is very stubborn and selfish and can’t really see or accept that her bad luck is caused by her own behaviour. This brings the focus more on Siena’s character than on the karma itself so you can ignore the “you get what you deserve” message that flows through it.

Siena is a person you do kind of dislike, but without disliking her you can’t understand why she does what she does. You wouldn’t like someone who acts the way Siena does and to do so means the story does not work. It is not a strong dislike, more of an intense judgement about her and her behaviour. You judge her actions and get a nice feeling when she gets her comeuppance.

Siena has an attitude along the lines of “if they don’t care about me I won’t care about them”, but even if they do she brushes them off, finds the bad in people and always assumes the worst. She has her group of friends but they are similar to her and she cannot see the problems with herself as a result. The few realisations she has come after she tries to improve her attitude and a few home truths slowly start to change her way of thinking but it is a long road and she falls more often than she succeeds. But as much as it irked me it took her so long I liked that there was no instant turn around. Doing one nice thing does not change Siena; it takes time and some severe bouts of bad karma for her to truly start to change, and not just for her own benefit, real genuine change. And it is the attempt that makes you start to hope for her, that maybe she is better than the selfish and nasty person she has turned into.

When she reconnects with Aiden Siena tries to improve herself but this is purely for selfish reasons, to make him think she was a better person rather than to actually improve herself. But in doing this Aiden helps her remember the person she was eight years ago when they were together, the nicer, kinder person rather than the snobby and judgemental person she has become. Siena tries to be good for Aiden, to impress him and to show him she is a nice person, but her desire to do better is also powered by her attempt at better karma, but when there is no instant gratification she feels she deserves, she falls back into her old ways.

What I liked was that Oldfield gives us a hint at how Siena became she person she was, and how she gradually changed from the person Aiden knew to the person she becomes. Events in her past and conscious decisions have shaped who she has become and this helps understand her more, and makes you pity her slightly.

One review I read described this story like A Christmas Carol in modern real estate which is the perfect description, but with fewer ghosts. There is definitely something that keeps you reading even though Siena gets up your nose. I think I kept waiting for her to come to her senses and realise the impact her bad decisions and selfish ways were having on her life. I kept expecting that the next chapter would be where she changes her life and sees her fortunes improve.

The changes do come about though and I think at just the right time. Oldfield concludes the story pretty well with some surprises but it works in a way, without being too incredulous or unbelievable. The ending is dramatic but exciting and after the gradual build up in anticipation about the development as well as Siena’s bad karma, it all comes to a head in a wonderful fashion. There are some unexpected surprises that add a bit of mystery to the mix but they manage to work out well. There are a few things left unanswered at the end that I would have liked to see outcomes and consequences of but other than that there is a good concluding sense about Siena’s future. She knows it is not going to perfect but she is going to face it and embrace it as it comes.

 

Purchase Instant Karma via the following

Amazon USA

Amazon UK

 Amazon Australia

 Amazon Canada

The Boyfriend Sessions (City Love #1) by Belinda Williams

Published: 23rd October 2014
Goodreads badgePublisher: Momentum
Pages: 339
Format: ebook
Genre: Contemporary Romance
★   ★   ★   ★  – 4 Stars

Please take your seats. The journey to happiness may involve some turbulence.

Christa Morrison has commitment issues, a fact that quickly becomes apparent after she flees a romantic proposal in Paris, the thunder of impending wedding bells ringing in her ears.

Back in Sydney, she turns to her closest friends for reassurance. Instead they offer her a startling and painful diagnosis: she’s a relationship junkie. The cure? An extreme rehabilitation program guaranteed to reform even the most L-word illiterate.

With her girlfriends along for the ride, Christa commits to their radical plan and the chances of recovery look good. The only problem is Max Spencer. The one guy Christa—and her friends—never expected her to fall for. But he’s proving to be a temptation she may not have the willpower to resist …

For a shot at happiness, is being with Max worth betraying her friends? And will Christa have the strength to trust her heart when her colorful relationship history comes back to haunt her?

It might just be enough to make a poor girl leave the country (again).

Note: I was provided a copy of this book for review.

After fleeing Paris after being proposed to, Christa’s friends make her promise to be single for awhile and take a look at why her relationships have been unsuccessful. But what starts out as a fun and good-humoured discussion about Christa’s past boyfriends soon turns into a serious evaluation of her life and her past. With this story Williams has created something that is quite complex beneath a jovial exterior, and it isn’t until you are submerged in its characters and narrative that you realise there is a lot more going on, and is sometimes a lot more serious than first impressions suggest.

As soon as Christa promises to swear off men for six months you just know that is when she is going to meet someone but the way Williams explores it is clever and she doesn’t rush anything narrative wise or make it too cheesy or simplistic either. It is interesting to see how it plays it out considering the ban, and it does not always go in the direction you were expecting either which gives it another level.

Williams is very good at capturing the dynamic between the girlfriends and the relationship and friendship between them. The conversations are natural and Williams demonstrates the friend discussions well, each girl talking over the top of one another, interrupting one another, and getting sidetracked onto other things.

There are diverse personalities among them and the friendships differ in strength and style. Williams doesn’t try and make everyone perfect and she doesn’t make each woman a certain type, so different from the others that there are the four totally different people who happen to be friends. Instead she shows characters with unique personalities but who have a strong history and connection with one another, each with strengths and weaknesses and flaws of their own.

I loved that things are hinted at in Christa’s past that didn’t need a huge revisit or recapping. Details about her parents and her boyfriends get the right about of mention and detail. The reader does not need a huge, detailed, information overload about who they are as characters, instead Williams uses them to focus on Christa and expand on her character. Williams also uses this technique when providing information about Christa, her friends, and Max. Details and histories are skilfully woven into the narrative and are provided through Christa’s thoughts, casual remarks, and dialogue between characters. This adds to the realistic nature of the story and makes it feel more natural.

While there are times when Christa got on my nerves, especially concerning Max and her questions about his past relationship, most of the time she was great to read about. With her own ignorance about her relationships and her emotions it didn’t feel like she was intentionally being difficult and seeing the realisations slowly emerge was a great character development and one that made you understand her more.

This is not a typical romance novel where Christa’s past relationships are looked at and analysed adoringly. Williams has created a story that looks at how relationships affect people and how not understanding or acknowledging the impact that these cause can have lasting effects. There is a wonderful serious underside to the laughing and the wine and it brings the best out of the narrative. Seeing this switch from the informal and humorous discussions to a real reflection is great and it changes Christa for the better. I really enjoyed this novel because it didn’t go in any of the directions I thought it would and it is complicated, unexpected, and satisfying. Williams has managed to balance the light heartedness and seriousness wonderfully which has resulted in an engaging and thoughtful story.

Purchase The Boyfriend Sessions via the following

Amazon AU

Amazon UK

Amazon

Momentum

iBooks

GooglePlay

Barnes and Noble

Kobo

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