The Bevington College series ends … or does it?

Eighteen months ago, when a brash young woman popped up in my dreams and announced herself as Teddy Nowak, I never imagined a year and a half later that I’d have a three-book series. But Teddy’s story was too big to contain. Her world is a rich, dangerous, wondrous place and it took me some time (and pages) to explore. Have you discovered Teddy and her boys yet? No?

Start here.

But even finishing Teddy’s story with Quaternion left a huge open question. I couldn’t resolve it without another book.

But that’s another post.

Book Review – Saint

Then the twist came and I just sat there staring at the page. Wow.

Saint by Ruby Vincent

This magnificent tale is a little slow to start but keep with it, because it picks up fast and when it does, it’s a heck of a ride!

Addy, Saint, Brutal, Cash, Mercer – I fell in love with these characters and the gritty world they inhabit so hard. And then the twist came and I just sat there staring at the page. Wow. I won’t say any more because you have to experience this book without knowing what’s coming to really enjoy it.

Saint is the first book in the Saint and Sinners series (four books and the series is complete). I’ve already started reading the second book in the series (Cash) and am loving it.

Saint is available to read here on Amazon and free in Kindle Unlimited.

Review – The Bully

This book could be read as a stand-alone, but you’ll get more out of it if you read the first two books in the series and they’re wonderful, so why wouldn’t you?

This is the third book in Sophie Lark’s new Kingmakers series, which is dark, college-age, mafia romance. Her premise – that mafia families from all over the world send their kids to an isolated school where they become the next generation of mafia leaders – is refreshingly different, lovingly thought out and realized (I loved little touches like the classes they take in Torture Technique, Money Laundering, and Espionage), and as always with Sophie’s books, beautifully written.

The “hero” in this book, Dean, was introduced in the first book of this series as part of a love triangle, and my heart broke for him then. He’s even more tragic in this book, desperate for love and yet going about it ALL wrong. The heroine, Cat, is introduced in the second book in the series, and she’s all kinds of wonderful – clever, devious, but heartbreakingly unsure of herself. This book could be read as a stand-alone, but you’ll get more out of it if you read the first two books in the series and they’re wonderful, so why wouldn’t you?

Most of Sophie’s couples bring out the best in each other, and that’s never more true than with Dean and Cat. It’s wonderful to watch them mature into the best versions of themselves in this book. The love story is real and raw and with the constant tug of war between Dean and Cat, super-steamy.

Highly recommended and free to read in KU here.

Review – Lords of Pain

I am a big fan of bully romance. It feeds my humiliation kink and I’m okay with non-con in this context where I’m not okay with it in pretty much anything else (I *need* that consent, particularly in kink books). However, I struggle with the trope when it comes to high school because of the age of the characters, and if they’re written more maturely, it breaks my willing suspension of disbelief.

Lords of Pain hit ALL the right notes for me. It’s set in college instead of high school. The characters are convincingly older/more mature/more advanced in their bullying. The three guys are just privileged/complicated/screwed up enough that I could understand why they bullied. The premise (girl seeks out her former bullies to protect her against an even bigger villain) is somewhat strained, but I was willing to go along with it. The heroine is annoyingly naive at the beginning, but her trusting nature becomes pivotal to the plot, so stick with it.

The book is really well written – super emotional. These are both new to me authors but they did not disappoint at all. Very cleanly edited, too. 

I did NOT expect the book to go so dark. And it does. Serious emotional warfare. And when the girl begins to strike back, the guys better look out. 

Can’t wait for the next book. Highly recommended.

Lords of Pain is on Amazon and free to read in Kindle Unlimited here.

Review – Fractured Minds

Fractured Minds by Nikki J Summers

This is the third book in the Rebels of Sandland series, a dark high school romance series set in the UK. Being set in the rather gritty world of urban/suburban London is just one of the many things that makes this series unique.

Finn, the hero of Fractured Minds, is introduced in the first book in the series and I’ve been waiting desperately for his book because a) I knew I’d love him, and b) I knew he’d destroy me. He did both!

For those readers who aren’t comfortable with the hero bullying the heroine, here isn’t a ton of bullying in this book. There’s some hot and cold/push and pull, but only because Finn is desperately trying to protect his girl from a very bad man. If anything Finn himself is bullied by a surprising new force in the Sandland underworld. I don’t want to spoil the twists and turns of this book, but they grabbed me by the throat. I was so very afraid for Finn from start to finish!

There’s a ton of angst, a shed-load of tears, and some incredibly beautiful moments waiting for you in this book. Trigger warning for child abuse (done in flashback and not graphic).

I’m so impressed with this series, which is going from strength to strength. Finn’s book could be read as a stand-alone, but you’ll get more out of it if you read the whole series. You won’t be sorry!

Fractured Minds is free to read in Kindle Unlimited.

Review – Filthy Little Pretties

Not every book is for every reader, and this book wasn’t for me. 

I gave it 4 stars because it’s unquestionably well-written. The characters are detailed and believable. The setting has all the right trappings of wealth. There are plenty of little twists and turns and some high emotion.

Other reviewers will summarise the plot, but for the sake of convenience: Donovan’s our heroine. Grey is our ostensible hero. Liam is Grey’s best bud. Donovan, Grey, and Liam were all good friends as kids but were torn apart by Donovan’s parents’ divorce and now come back together for senior year at their exclusive prep school. Caroline is Donovan’s rival and Grey’s step-sister. Kai is a close friend. They’re all hot, rich, abandoned by their parents – pretty typical bully/prep academy set up.

The book isn’t for me because there’s no character growth and the “moral lesson” of the book is disconcerting (and this is where the spoilers start so turn away now if you don’t want them). By this, I don’t mean the “bully romance” element (although there’s really only one incident of bullying of the heroine by the “hero” – I’ll explain why I put that in quotes below). I mean that this book is really an exploration of the “hero’s” (and he’s not at all heroic) narcissism. 
I wanted to like Grey – he’s smart, he’s passionate, he has a slightly tragic backstory. But his actions through the book made him wholly unlikeable. He’s a man-baby with no self-control who goes through the book wrecking the people around him emotionally and then demanding they forgive him. 

Horrifyingly, they do. I was actually cheering for Liam (Grey’s alleged best bud that he’s willing to destroy to claim the girl) to walk away and leave Grey to deal with the consequences of his actions. That might have forced Grey to grow up and created an interesting character arc. But no. Donovan forgives the man-baby (racing to him in his “hour of need” – which was very dramatic but made me put the book down for awhile because this is *classic* narcissistic manipulation – which Donovan totally fell for – she’s not a “queen” going to her man in that moment, she’s a sucker). Caroline forgives the man-baby (although I’m not sure what she had to forgive him for, since she’s just doing the same nasty emotional manipulation that he’s engaged in). Kai forgives the man-baby. And lastly, and most disappointingly, Liam forgives the man-baby. The device of Grey “losing” their little rowing competition fell flat for me because, again, Grey faced no consequences. Losing the race didn’t jeopardise his Olympic dreams. It had no meaning – kind of like Grey’s empty apologies. 

I’m good with romance stories being a fantasy – I relish having my mind expanded, even if uncomfortably. Maybe the reason this book didn’t do it for me is that it read too much like reality: a narcissist who manages to successfully manipulate all around him with his tantrums and “save me from myself” behaviour. In the end, because he’s hot and rich and popular, even if he has no courage and wouldn’t know the meaning of self-sacrifice for the people he loves if it slapped him upside the head, he gets rewarded for it. Grey walks away with the girl, his dreams, and his legacy, without ever recognising the damage he’s inflicted on the people who love(d) him. That’s not heroic behaviour. It’s not even anti-heroic behaviour. It’s the Joker, wanting to burn the world down so everyone shares his pain. I just didn’t find it at all appealing.

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