What I've Been Reading
Hello everyone! How are you all doing? I've been on my Instagram a lot this week sharing my recently increased struggles with OCD. I've been on medication for years to help me manage the impact it has on my life, but as of late it hasn't been working very well. I don't know if it's holiday stress or if my brother's passing last month finally caught up to me.
Last week I had a much-needed appointment with my doctor to discuss what's been happening in my life. Together we decided to try a medication change that I'm hopeful for at the moment. It is a little terrifying to change my meds for the first time in over three years, but I'll give anything a go at this point.
In an effort to escape the discomfort, I've been seeking solace in fiction as much as possible. This includes books like the ones I'll review in this post. Keep reading to see my star ratings for some new-to-me books that I've gotten to read in the past few weeks.
Disclaimer: This blog post will contain affiliate and referral links. I may earn a small commission to feed my book hoarding tendencies if you use these links to make a purchase. This in no way impacts my opinions of the books listed - they are all my own.
Title: Twisted Bonds
Author: Cora Reilly
Description: Can you ever truly leave the past behind in a house full of haunted souls? Kiara always wanted a loving family she could take care of. She never thought she’d find it with the Falcones. Nino and Kiara both lost part of themselves in their traumatic childhood. Together they’re trying to recover the missing pieces, but they aren’t the only broken souls in the Falcone mansion; Kiara fears that not all of them can be saved. Determined to protect her new family and the future of her dreams, she’s on a mission to help each of them in her own way, even if it means stacking up secrets. Four brothers bound together by an unbreakable bond forged in their dark past. If one of them falls, will they all?
Rating: ★★★★ (4/5)
(Trigger Warnings: Rape, Prostitution, Violence, Gore, Blood, Assault, Murder)
I'm a massive fan of any and all Cora Reilly books, so far at least. They're definitely dark romances in the sense that they do contain unhealthy dynamics which I will continue warn others about. The Twisted series is my favorite so far even as I'm reading her new Rise series, opinion and review to be determined later.
Twisted Bonds is different from the other books in the series because it isn't a standalone. In order to understand Twisted Bonds, you at the very least need to have read Twisted Emotions, though there are allusions to events from the rest of the previous books. The story requires a connection to the characters from the rest of the series if you really want any kind of enjoyment out of your reading experience. It isn't necessarily as actions packed as its predeccesors and relies predominantly on a love for the characters that have worked their way into your heart.
Aside from that, I found Twisted Bonds to be a great companion novel. It tied up loose ends that may have been skipped over in previous books. Also, it gives glimpses into the story AFTER the original books of cute domestic moments and what happens after their "fairytale" ending. I would consider it a fluff piece in that it really is a story meant to satisfy loyal readers. The book delves past the conflicts of the first book, such as learning to love one another in a new relationship, and moves onto new territory you may have been curious of before.
Title: Twisted Love
Author: Ana Huang
Description: He has a heart of ice...but for her, he'd burn the world.
Alex Volkov is a devil blessed with the face of an angel and cursed with a past he can’t escape.
Driven by a tragedy that has haunted him for most of his life, his ruthless pursuits for success and vengeance leave little room for matters of the heart.
But when he’s forced to look after his best friend’s sister, he starts to feel something in his chest:
A fire that could end his world as he knew it.
Ava Chen is a free spirit trapped by nightmares of a childhood she can’t remember.
But despite her broken past, she’s never stopped seeing the beauty in the world…including the heart beneath the icy exterior of a man she shouldn’t want.
Her brother’s best friend.
Her savior and her downfall.
Theirs is a love that was never supposed to happen—but when it does, it unleashes secrets that could destroy them both…and everything they hold dear.
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
(Trigger Warnings: Violence, Gore, Murder, Assault, Consensual Sexual Humiliation, Drowning)
I'm a pretty faithful romance reader who, once I find an author I love, will proceed to read everything they write going forward. I can safely say that Ana Huang is now one of these authors for me.
Twisted Love is the first book in the Twisted series and a strong opener for what is to come. The book is an almost grim romance that strays far from the fairytales we've come to rely on as romance readers. It feels edgier than most but still maintains those "so painfully sweet that your teeth will rot" moments that we all need in life. It manages to hold true to all the most sacred tropes of the genre AND creates tension so thick at times you could slice through it with a knife. Ana Huang has found the perfect balance between the two for an unforgettable romance novel that will keep you up late into the night.
And you will be up late into the night reading because this series of books is super lengthy. It's like going on an epic odyssey, but with more kissing and less seafaring.
Author: Amy Daws
Description: What happens when an almost thirty-year-old virgin agrees to let her Scottish footballer best friend give her some lessons in seduction?
Lots of banter, awkwardness, jealousy, and heat.
Midfielder Maclay “Mac” Logan is a loud-mouthed, tattooed ginger content with focusing on football. But when an adorably-freckled seamstress comes barreling into his life, he finds Netflix-And-Bickering with her to be his new favorite pastime.
Freya Cook is used to being the invisible woman with a needle and thread, offering cheeky punchlines as she helps dress London’s finest. She’s plus-sized in body and spirit, and other than her friendship with Mac, talking to the opposite sex is one skill she never mastered.
However, after one innocent game of Never Have I Ever, Mac offers to play Love Coach for Freya.
What neither of them see coming are the feelings that develop when the clothes come off.
Now they’re both about to learn the biggest lesson of all: Don't fall in love with your best friend.
Rating: ★★★★★ (5/5)
Picking up Blindsided by Amy Daws, I expected a comedic yet superficial read that would satisfy my romance novel cravings. I was looking for a purely filler book while I bounced around between more committed reads. What I didn't anticipate was how phenomenal this book was in every regard.
Blindsided is the best of every trope-filled, friends-with-benefits book you've ever read. It approaches the niche with whip-sharp humor and a thick Irish narration that I don't see as often as a US reader. Tropes like this can just feel meh as if they're regurgitating the same storyline over and over again, but that was not the case with this read. What you may ask was the difference? It did these tropes better than all the others you've read. It understood and aced the assignment.
The story is that of Mac, a massive, burly footballer who spends the first half of the book playing love coach to his purely platonic friend Freya. Later it becomes an offering of friendship with other perks that muddy the waters between the characters. It showed this trope from the perspective of a genuinely plus-sized woman who was at times insecure, but also firmly planted in her values. I know some plus-size readers don't necessarily want a self-conscious narrator, but I think this book manages to portray the ostracizing feeling of not fitting into society's model of the 'ideal' woman without forcing Freya to change her identity.
Cute and lighthearted, Blindsided doesn't spare on captivating writing. The majority of the book is effervescent with hilarious banter and charm, but follows that with a buildup of incredibly written tension. In the more emotional moments, the reader will find a tear in their eye equal to that of the most heart-wrenching romance stories that you'll find anywhere.
(Of course there is an HEA so no need to worry on that front.)
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