Crown of Lies by Pepper Winters
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Yet again, Pepper Winters has managed to suck me in! In her trademark style, she slowly and meticulously weaved a story of romance, danger and intrigue. Bit by bit, the reader is given morsels of truth, while many facts and details remain elusive enough to keep readers guessing.
Elle Charlston is the heiress to a retail dynasty. Belle Elle has been in her family for generations and she stands to inherit the department store conglomerate. From a very young age, Elle has been trained to run the business. While other kids played with dolls, Elle perfected the window displays and learned how to best present merchandise. When other kids focused on basic geometry, Elle mastered complex spreadsheets and earnings reports.
Looking in from the outside, Elle seems to have a dream life. She leads a life of privilege and has everything that money can buy. Yet, she longs for all the things that money can’t buy.
She’s never had anything in common with the kids that she went to school with. Longing for friendship, she allowed herself to be taken advantage of by those who were only interested in what Elle’s wealth could do for them. Her father and her cat are the only “friends” that Elle has ever known.
On Elle’s nineteenth birthday, she makes an impulsive decision to sneak out into the city. She wants to spend one night experiencing life and exploring, without the protective oversight of her driver/security guard. She’s never been able to be “free” and do the things that other teenagers take for granted. For just one night, she wants to shed the uptight persona that has defined her for the entirety of her life.
Not long into her explorations, Elle finds herself in a very precarious position. Without her security guard, she has no protection against the dangers that lurk in the nighttime on the city streets. Having been sheltered her whole life, she lacks street smarts and is an easy mark for those who would victimize her.
Dragged into a deserted alleyway, Elle is robbed and nearly raped. If it weren’t for the bravery of an unnamed homeless man, Elle would have faced a fate far worse. Her unnamed hero saves Elle, beating her assailants and chasing them off into the night.
In the hours that follow, Elle walks the city with the man. The two form an unlikely friendship and eventually more. Sneaking into Central Park after-hours, they share a night of romance and adventure. Elle and her stranger share a kiss that will haunt her for years before their night is abruptly ended and the man is arrested.
For years, Elle tries to locate her hero unsuccessfully. Without his name, and only a vague physical description, she is unable to track him down. She never gives up though. She is determined that she will find “Nameless”, the only man who has ever sparked any interest in her.
Realizing that he may have sentenced his daughter to a life of loneliness, Elle’s father is determined to find a husband for her to help shoulder the burden of running the business. His repeated match-making attempts are futile. Elle refuses to consider the men that her father tries to shove her way. She is only interested in one man and she knows that she’s unlikely to ever find him.
When she overhears her father again trying to set her up with a stranger at a bar, she is appalled. Never has she met a more arrogant man. She’s outraged by her father’s behavior and this man’s cocky attitude. Drenching him in his drink, she leaves the bar certain that it will be the last time she ever has to face the handsome stranger.
As much as she professes to hate the man, she can’t seem to get him off her mind. It is the first time that a man, other than “Nameless”, has consumed her thoughts. When she runs into him, again, the sexual tension between her and the sexy, Penn Everett reaches an all-time high.
One thing leads to another and Elle and Penn begin a tumultuous relationship. The chemistry is incredibly strong between the two, in a love/hate kind of way. They can’t seem to get enough of each other, even as they each try to keep the other at arm’s length. It was incredibly hot!
While Elle is an open book, Penn is not. In fact, Elle doesn’t seem to know much of anything about the enigmatic man. All of her attempts to get to know him on a more personal level are shut down swiftly. Who he is and where he came from are a big mystery.
As the story progresses, pieces of Penn’s past are revealed. However, each detail only leads to more questions. Who is this man and what does he want with Elle really?
From start to finish, I could not get enough of Elle’s story. Admittedly, this book did start off a little slow for me. However, once I got going, I couldn’t put it down. Ms. Winters’ writing is impeccable and she never fails to hold my attention.
The characters were intriguing and the storyline had just enough danger to keep it exciting. I was particularly impressed with the way that Ms. Winters made Elle a personable character that you almost pity. Lets face it, a billionaire “princess” is not a character that most people can sympathize with. However, her kind demeanor and loneliness made Elle very human and easy to relate to.
Elle Charlston, her unnamed rescuer and the high-handed Penn Everett have completely consumed me. I think I know what happened, but Ms. Winters never fails to surprise me. I’ll have to just wait and see if I’m right.
I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book and see where things are headed. I am so glad that I won’t have to wait too long for the next book. The minute it is released, I’ll be all over it!
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