Review: Here to Stay (The Fish Tales, #3), by Suanne Laqueur

Here to Stay (The Fish Tales, #3)Here to Stay by Suanne Laqueur
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The third book in ‘The Fish Tales’ series, ‘Here to Stay’ chronicles Erik and Daisy’s new beginning. After everything that they’ve been through and all the pain that they’ve inflicted on themselves and each other, they are finally trying to work things out. However, a past like theirs is not easily forgotten. It will take a lot of understanding and forgiveness to move past the hurt that they’ve hung onto for so long.

As happy as I was to see one of my new favorite couples find their way back to one another, they still had a lot of healing ahead of them. There was no way that they could ever pick up where they left off. Too much had happened. I’ve never seen a couple that caused each other so much pain, even as they loved each other so much.

Aside from repairing his relationship with Daisy, Erik also has to make amends with Will. For me, the disintegration of their friendship was just as heartbreaking. I was so glad to see them reunited and to have Erik acknowledge his mistreatment of Will.

While Erik and Daisy are navigating the new terms of their long-distance relationship, there are some expected insecurities on both of their parts. Understandably, Daisy fears abandonment. Erik has his own worries about his fertility and what that will mean for their future.

Along the way, Erik finally faces his past. He has allowed the actions of his father to model his future for too long. When a long lost relative reaches out to Erik, he and Daisy go on a journey of self-discovery. He uncovers family secrets that shed light on his father’s sudden disappearance. While he doesn’t get all of the answers that he was looking for, he gains a better understanding of the demons that haunted his father.

Of course, nothing comes easy for Daisy and Erik. Just when you think that they’re going to ride off into the sunset and live their happily ever after, tragedy strikes. I swear, they just can’t catch a break.

Old habits die hard and the couple must overcome the desire to slip back into old coping strategies. This time around, they are more mature and better able to help each other heal. I was very glad to see that they were able to work through this upset together and come out stronger as a couple because of it.

‘Here to Stay’ was a wonderful finale to Erik and Daisy’s story. I have loved every minute of this series and the vibrant characters that Ms. Laqueur has brought to life. I highly recommend this series. I listened to the Audible version and the narration was fabulous as well.

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Review: The Man I Love (The Fish Tales, #1), by Suanne Laqueur

The Man I Love (The Fish Tales, #1)The Man I Love by Suanne Laqueur
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

After reading ‘An Exhaltation of Larks’, I knew that I wanted to read every book written by Ms. Suanne Laqueur. Her writing is exquisite. The stories and characters that she brings to life are raw and emotional, heartbreaking and inspiring. I’ve definitely gone a little “fangirl” where she is concerned!

‘The Man I Love’ tells the story of a close-knit group of friends at Lancaster University. In many ways it is a coming of age story, set against the backdrop of a terrible tragedy. They were young and carefree until the unthinkable happens. Then, this group of friends struggles to survive in the aftermath of a terrible attack.

Each of them copes with the trauma in a different way. As young, college students, they don’t appreciate the need to seek out professional help. All of them develop some destructive behaviors. In the months and years that follow they fall into a downward spiral, nearly destroying themselves and their relationships with those that they love.

No relationship undergoes more strain that that of Erik “Fish” Fiskare and Daisy Bianco. Erik was a theatre tech when he met Daisy, a lead ballerina at the school. The two were head over heels in love. They had the kind of relationship that others envied…until that day. Nothing was the same after that day.

Aside from Erik and Daisy, there is a robust cast of characters that make this story memorable. Will Kaeger, Erik’s best friend/roommate and Daisy’s dance partner, also plays a pivotal role. He is left to live with guilt and questions whether or not his actions were to blame for the events of that tragic day. It was his brief love affair with another student, James, that seems to have been the motivator for James’ horrific actions on that day.

Spanning over a decade, the long-term effects of a single traumatic event are played out through these character for readers. This story was absolutely beautiful, but also tragic and highly emotional. These characters both broke my heart and inspired me.

The first book in a series, ‘The Man I Love’ proves to be an addicting read. I will definitely be reading the other books in this series immediately. I highly recommend this book. I am utterly captivated by this story and these flawed, very human characters.

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Review: And I Darken (The Conquerers Series, #1), by Kiersten White

And I Darken (The Conqueror's Saga, #1)And I Darken by Kiersten White
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

‘And I Darken’ was the first book that I’ve ever read by Ms. Kiersten White, but it certainly won’t be the last. The first book in ‘The Conquerers’ series, it managed to completely captivate me. I am both intrigued, enamored, and at times appalled, by these characters and the turbulent world that they occupy.

Lada Dragwlya is an unlikely heroine. She’s unattractive, uncouth and at times, downright mean. She’s everything her father had hoped for in a son, but got in his daughter. Her only redeeming qualities are her love for her homeland, Wallachia, and her love for her younger brother, Radu.

By comparison, Radu is everything that Lada is not. He is soft-spoken and gentle, an utter disappointment to their father, the Prince of Wallachia. Immediately, Radu claimed a piece of my heart.

When their father trades Lada and Radu to the Sultan of Ottoman as pawns to guarantee his loyalty, they are left to fend for themselves in a hostile new world. Lada is determined to be strong and to plan for her eventual revenge on the Sultan and his countrymen. She refuses to show any weakness that might be used against her and Radu.

Unlike his sister, Radu soon takes to the ways of this new world. He never felt that he fit in in Wallachia and finds comfort in this new country. He is not resistant to the new teachings or the new religion, as Lada is.

After months living in the Ottoman Empire, Radu and Lada make an unlikely friend. Mehmed is the illegitimate son of the sultan. Before long, the three are inseparable. The line between friend and enemy blurs and loyalties are called into question.

From start to finish, I was completely captivated by this story. It has a little of everything. There’s plenty of action and battle scenes. There’s romance and angst. Kingdoms rise and are overthrown. The incredible highs are off-set by bitter betrayals.

I am completely and totally hooked on this story. It is the first book, in what I’m sue will prove to be an epic saga. The characters were certainly flawed, but that only made me love them more. As soon as the next book is released, I’ll be diving in again. I was left with a lot of questions and I’ll have to wait for the next book to get my answers.

I listened to the Audible version of this book and I thought that the narration was well done. I could easily distinguish between the characters and I thought the narrator did a great job of conveying the emotions and intensity. It was a fantastic audiobook choice for me.

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Review: Smoldering, by Tiffany Aleman

SmolderingSmoldering by Tiffany Aleman
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I had this audiobook sitting on my Audible shelf for a long time. Finally, I decided to give it a shot as a way to recuperate from the book hangover I was suffering from after finishing K. A. Linde’s ‘Avoiding’ series. ‘Smoldering’ ended up being a good choice for that purpose.

The heroine, Kelsey, is a young lady from a very wealthy family. The daughter of a prominent politician, she is little more than a prop for her parents’ social image. Always yearning to please them, she has allowed herself to be controlled by her parents.

On the day of her wedding, she finally has a long overdue epiphany. She’s standing at the altar, in the midst of marrying a man that she hates, when she realizes that her parents will never truly love her. Trying to please them or make them proud is a pointless endeavor.

For once, she decides to make a decision based upon her happiness. Knowing the fallout will be tremendous, she musters up the courage to take a stand. She leaves her groom standing at the altar and doesn’t look back.

Despite being disowned by her parents, she knows that she has done the right thing. Cut off completely, she moves with her best friend and makes ends meet by working as a waitress. Her life is a far cry from the opulence of her past, but she is happy for the first time in her life.

When she meets Riley Jackson, a local military man, things are finally going right for her. The two have a whirlwind romance and fall in love quickly. Theirs was definitely a case of insta-love.

Just as their relationship begins to get more serious, Kelsey’s past and present collide. What ensues is a clusterf*ck of epic proportions. Betrayal. Hurt. More betrayal. It gets really ugly, really quick.

While I love angst and usually live for the emotional pain a great story can evoke, this story left me feeling a little irritated. With the way Riley was so quick to dismiss Kelsey, and the way he acted almost immediately afterwards, I just couldn’t believe that he really cared all that much for her in the first place. I just didn’t buy it.

Then, after all of Riley’s insensitive actions, he barely even mutters an apology before Kelsey takes him back. Seriously? To make matters worse, she actually assumes a large part of the blame because she had never told him about her ex…even though she didn’t lie and it never really came up.

I absolutely hate it when the heroine turns into some sort of weak, pushover that takes on the blame for the hero’s bad behavior. Ugh! Kelsey needed to grow a damn spine and send Riley packing for good. He didn’t even grovel. Nope. I was not happy at all.

Overall, it ended up being just an “okay” book for me. It started out strong, but then everything hit the fan and there was no coming back for me. Once everything was kind of “resolved” and the characters got their HEA, it seemed to drag on and on also. Maybe I was just irritated because their HEA was not a HEA for me…but the last 45 minutes of this audiobook seemed unnecessary to me.

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Review: Avoiding Responsibility (Avoiding, #2), by K. A. Linde

Avoiding Responsibility (Avoiding, #2)Avoiding Responsibility by K.A. Linde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Once I finished reading ‘Avoiding Commitment’, I immediately downloaded ‘Avoiding Responsibility’. I was completely sucked in by this story and I couldn’t wait to find out where Lexi’s life was going to take her after the upset at the end of the first book. Even though Lexi epitomizes poor choices and a lack of self-respect, I cannot get enough of her story. I’m a masochist like that!

If you haven’t read ‘Avoiding Commitment’, know that this review may contain some spoilers for that book. ‘Avoiding Responsibility’ is the second book in the ‘Avoiding’ series and the books should be read in order to maximize enjoyment and understanding of this story.

Back in New York City, Lexi is left to lick her wounds. Meanwhile, the planning for Jack and Bekah’s wedding is underway. Talk about a nightmare! I spent a fair amount of time moping around, grieving and alternately raging, with Lexi for most of this book. It was just so unfair!

While Jack is relegated to a background role in this second book, Ramsey becomes a primary focus. Where Jack has left Lexi broken, Ramsey sweeps in to pick up the pieces. As much as I liked Ramsey – and I really did like him – I had “friend-zoned” him long ago. So, when Lexi begins to see him as more than a friend, I never really got on board with that.

It’s a hang-up of mine. I always want the heroine to end up with the “first” guy that I experienced her falling in love with. (If that makes any sense.) Even though Jack was a complete and total douche, I was still doodling “Lexi + Jack forever” in my mind.

Since this book centers on Lexi and Jack moving on with their lives without each other, I was left with a hole in my chest. No matter how destructive, it was hard to let go of the idea of their love. It pained me.

While Jack and Lexi’s relationship may have changed drastically, Lexi’s tendency to make very poor decisions did not. Poor Lexi always settles for second-best. It was sad, really. My heart broke for her as she again picked a guy that would never place her first. Ramsey may have even grown to love her on some level, but it was clear that he was still hung up on his ex-girlfriend, Parker. I just kept thinking, “Man, Lexi really knows how to pick them!”

Of course, this book had several twists and surprises along the way. Jack may have been less of a central focus this time around, but he’s still lurking in the background. No matter what they say, Lexi and Jack have not gotten past whatever it was they had together. Sparks fly and feelings get hurt. If you think you’ve seen the end of the drama surrounding these two, you’d be sadly mistaken. It isn’t over, baby!

Overall, I am still loving this series. I am a sucker for an angsty, forbidden romance that rips your heart out. This story definitely delivers on that account. I plan to listen to the next book immediately. I am very thankful that I didn’t read these books immediately upon their release. The wait for the release of the next books would have killed me!

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Review: Avoiding Commitment (Avoiding, #1), by K. A. Linde

Avoiding Commitment (Avoiding, #1)Avoiding Commitment by K.A. Linde
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! I am still trying to get my emotions – mainly anger – under control after reading this one. I have not wanted to pummel a hero like this in a long time! Ugh! I’m not sure I can articulate how furious I am with Jack, but I’m going to give it a shot.

The story begins in present-time, with Lexi receiving an unexpected phone call from an old friend, Jack. It is very apparent that Jack broke Lexi’s heart and that there are some unresolved feelings lingering. Clearly, the two had an intense history and Lexi never recovered from whatever Jack did to her.

Almost immediately, I wanted to strangle Jack. I didn’t know who this guy was exactly at this point in the story, but I couldn’t believe his audacity. With the obvious heartache that Lexi was still harboring, he calls and asks her to convince his new girlfriend that he is capable of commitment. Say what? I was like, “This guy has some damn nerve!”

Ultimately, Lexi caves. She agrees to do this “favor” for her old “friend”. I knew that it would play out that way, but I was still like “Oh, hell no!”. After all, the story had to go somewhere.

As I’m sure you can guess, Lexi and Jack together results in a flood of sexual tension and unresolved issues. It is so obvious that neither one has ever really gotten over the other one. You know that you’re in for a lot of drama and angst.

The girlfriend, not surprisingly, ends up being a royal bitch. I loathed Bekah. Honestly, if she weren’t so despicable, I might have felt bad for her. After all, she loved Jack and he was messing around with Lexi all the time. The fact that Bekah was such a horrible person really made it easy to overlook Jack and Lexi’s indiscretions…which was crucial to enjoy this story.

Like Lexi, I began to fall for Jack’s charm and it was so easy to see how she got sucked in again. However, Jack’s sketchy behavior and indecisiveness has Lexi being jerked around. As their story unfolds through repeated flashbacks, it becomes clear that this is a long-standing pattern of behavior between Jack and Lexi.

Lexi and Jack meet in college and always seem to find their way back to each other. From their first date, Lexi is hooked. She can’t get enough of him. The feeling is mutual, but there’s a problem…Jack has a girlfriend!

When the cat’s finally out of the bag, Lexi is outraged. She, rightfully, walks out on Jack and tells him exactly what a scumbag he is. Yay, Lexi! At this point, I’m totally with her. I was feeling all indignant and high on my “girl-power” mojo. (Picture me walking around my kitchen with my headphones on, drinking a glass of wine and cursing Jack while making dinner.)

Unfortunately for Lexi, that isn’t the last time she will cross paths with Jack. Through mutual friends, their lives are intertwined. Lexi eventually begins to date one of Jack’s friends, which leads to more “chance” encounters between Jack and Lexi.

This is where I started wanting to shake some sense into Lexi. You know that saying, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice…”? Never has it been more applicable to a situation than it was to Lexi’s. No matter what this guy did, she caved and fell for his charms again and again. It was incredibly frustrating. At the same time, I couldn’t help but want Lexi and Jack to end up together. I guess I kind of fell for his charms too.

Jack is definitely a character that I loved to hate. He was irresistible, even though your brain tells you that he’s bad news. There were so many times that I wanted to scream as he repeatedly broke Lexi’s heart. At the same time, I was incredibly conflicted because she did her fair share of harm to others in her pursuit of Jack.

Part of me questioned whether or not Jack ever truly cared about Lexi at all. After all, his actions sure didn’t show it. Maybe I’ve deluded myself as much as Lexi did, but I just can’t believe that he didn’t really love Lexi.

Regardless of what my heart says, my brain says that Lexi should have some self-respect. Honestly, the things that Jack did were inexcusable. Not that he spent much time groveling, but I’m not sure that there would be enough groveling – ever – to make up for the way he treated Lexi. Lexi’s best move would be to pack up and move somewhere far, far away.

The ending of this book really threw me for a loop. I could not believe it! I wanted to throw a temper tantrum.

That being said, I could not pull myself away from this story. I immediately jumped into the next book in the series and have marathon read the entire series in a couple of days. It was like watching a bad wreck unfold in front of my eyes. I couldn’t stop watching as their sordid lives played out for me.

I don’t think I’ve read a cheating book that was this angsty and had me tied in knots like this since reading S. C. Stephen’s ‘Thoughtless’. Holy hell! It’s painful, but I’m hooked.

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Review: The Pawn (Endgame, #1), by Skye Warren

The Pawn (Endgame #1)The Pawn by Skye Warren
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has wrecked me. It completely blew my mind. I am a total mess, suffering from the book hangover that this one left me with. Wow…just wow!

I have read several of Skye Warren’s books. Some of them have been great. Some have been okay. Others have been a miss for me. This book is by far the best book that Skye Warren has released to date, in my opinion. You do not want to miss this one.

As you can gather from the blurb, Avery James puts her virginity up for auction. Gabriel Miller is the man that buys her. He isn’t a nice guy. He is responsible for the downfall of her father and Avery’s current dire financial situation.

In more ways than one, Avery has to pay for the sins of her father. Her father was convicted of fraud and embezzlement. Gabriel Miller was one of his alleged victims and the man that brought her father to justice. Now he’s seeking vengeance.

When I read the blurb, I thought this would be like a thousand others. I was wrong. Avery’s plight pulled me in and held me tight. I didn’t expect to feel the raw emotion that I did or care much, but I did. This book brought me to my knees!

I won’t spoil the ending, but I have to say that I wasn’t prepared for it. Although a part of me expected it, I was in no way ready to deal with the fallout. I have so many questions. I’m enraged, devastated and completely addicted to this series.

I would kill to have an ARC of the second book. This is going to be one of those waits that is unbearable. I must know where this story goes. I need the next book. Thankfully, it is due to be released in a few weeks time. I think I’d go out of my mind if I had to wait much longer.

Read this book.

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Review: Complicate Me (The Good Ol’ Boys, #1), by M. Robinson

Complicate Me (The Good Ol' Boys, #1)Complicate Me by M. Robinson
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book had been sitting on my TBR list for quite a long time. I am a big fan of M. Robinson’s work. After reading ‘El Diablo’, I knew that I needed to read ‘The Good Ol’ Boys’ series. ‘Complicate Me’ is the first book in that series and it does not disappoint. I loved this angsty, coming of age romance.

Unlike the other books I’ve read by this author, this isn’t a “dark” read. However, don’t mistake that for a lack of emotion or tension. What this book lacks in kink, it makes up for in angst.

Alex, aka “Half-pint”, grows up in a small, close-knit community. As an only child, she plays with the older sons of her parents’ friends. A few years younger, she follows them around everywhere they go and inserts herself into their group. She is “one of the boys” and they look after her.

As they grow up, their relationships change. As the boys indulge in their hedonistic desires, Alex becomes “the child” in the background. The boys are older and are discovering girls, beginning to date and explore their sexuality.

Alex is prevented from experiencing many of the normal rites of passage as she grows a little older. The boys make sure of that. They protect her fiercely, preventing any romantic inclinations that other boys might have toward Alex. They keep her sheltered, even as they fool around with anything in a skirt.

Unlike the other boys, Lucas has never viewed Alex as a sister. They have a special relationship. He is her “Bo”. Lucas loves Alex, but knows that she is too young to act on it. The fact that Alex is off-limits is something that he is frequently reminded of by the other boys.

Instead, Lucas does what is expected of him. He hooks up with the other girls in town that are his age. Alex is forced to watch as Lucas sows his wild oats all over town.

These two never seemed to be able to get on the same page. The timing was never right. Over and over, they broke each others’ hearts. It was a sweet torture to read their story.

As I listened to their story, I empathized with Alex. M. Robinson did a wonderful job of capturing the essence of young love and first heartbreak. The emotions were raw and so real they were almost tangible. I was immediately transported back to my teenage years, remembering the emotional highs and lows of youth that gradually fade over time with the loss of innocence.

There were so many times that I was furious with the decisions that these two made, but I couldn’t quit listening. Lucas, in particular, made some insensitive decisions that damaged his relationship with Alex. Despite his claim to be in love with Alex, Lucas spent a lot of time choosing other girls over her. They spent a lot of time hurting one another before they figured things out.

I absolutely loved this angsty, emotional, coming of age love story. There was plenty of heartache, but it only made this book all that much more addicting. I fell in love with all of the characters. I will definitely be continuing this series.

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Review: This Time Around (Maybe, #2), by Chantal Fernando

This Time Around (Maybe, #2)This Time Around by Chantal Fernando
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After finishing ‘Maybe This Time’, I couldn’t wait to find out more about Reid’s fun-loving brother, Ryan. I just loved him and his man-whoring ways!

That was, until this book shed new light on all of his promiscuity…because Ryan is MARRIED! Yep, you read that right. Suddenly, he didn’t seem so sweet anymore.

Needless to say, I did a complete team swap once that little tidbit of information came to light! From that point forward, I was completely in Taiya’s corner. She was so much more civil than he deserved. I would have pummeled this guy!

Taiya left Ryan two years ago after he broke her heart. In the meantime, he has slept his way through most of their town’s female population, while she did her best to mend her broken heart in Africa. Now she’s back to look over her aging mother and to get that pesky little divorce squared away.

Ryan knows that he screwed up, which I have to give him credit for. At least this guy knows that he is to blame. He is determined to do whatever it takes to win Taiya over again. However, with human reminders of his infidelity everywhere they turn, it won’t be easy.

I enjoyed every minute of this book. I love nothing more than a book that rips your heart out, only to have the hero follow it up with plenty of groveling…and grovel he did! Most of this book was spent detailing Ryan’s efforts to win Taiya back. Thankfully, she had a backbone and made him work for it. I was in heaven!

Overall, this was a fantastic read if you’re into this type of story, like I am. I did think that a few big details of the storyline were kind of weak, like how he broke her heart and why she left him in the first place. However, I still found it to be a highly enjoyable and emotional story. I will definitely be continuing this series in the future to see what the rest of the characters get up to.

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Review: Neighbor Dearest, by Penelope Ward

Neighbor DearestNeighbor Dearest by Penelope Ward
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been quite some time since I read ‘Stepbrother Dearest’, which I think was probably for the best in hindsight. At first, the multiple references to Elec and Greta had me thinking that I would need to reread that book prior to reading, or rather listening to, this one. As much as I loved ‘Stepbrother Dearest’, I was glad to find that ‘Neighbor Dearest’ read easily as a standalone.

If you’re like me, you vaguely remember the nice girlfriend that Elec ditched in ‘Stepbrother Dearest’ when he found his way back to Greta. I, for one, had completely forgotten her name by the time I finished that book because she wasn’t part of the happy couple that I had worked out in my mind. Her name was Chelsea and ‘Neighbor Dearest’ is her story.

At the onset of this book, Chelsea Jameson is heartbroken. She is trying to pick up the pieces of her life and taking it one day at a time. She was shocked and utterly devastated to be dumped by Elec, the man she thought she’d spend the rest of her life with. She thought they were the perfect couple, but obviously she didn’t know anything about her “perfect” boyfriend.

When her frustration with her neighbor’s noisy dogs prompt her to complain to the landlord, it is the beginning of an unlikely friendship. What starts out as a contentious relationship, turns into a close friendship. Along the way, those feelings eventually turn romantic in nature.

Damien H. Hennessey is not only her neighbor, but her landlord. He is equal parts amused and aroused when he first meets his feisty new tenant. He cannot deny his attraction to her, but he’s not interested in settling down with anyone.

The two decide to keep their relationship friendly, agreeing to not pursue anything further. Damien still has a complicated relationship with his ex-girlfriend and Chelsea is still reeling from her break-up with Elec. Neither of them are in any place to commit to someone else.

As they spend more and more time together, their feelings become more complicated. Chelsea knows that she is falling for Damien and needs to protect her heart. She’s doesn’t think that she’s capable of surviving another heartache after everything that Elec put her through. She knows that Damien is not looking for a relationship and she needs to distance herself before too much damage is done.

Despite his feelings for Chelsea, Damien is unwilling to waiver on his decision. He acts like he doesn’t want Chelsea, but he doesn’t want anyone else to have her either. Yet, it is clear that there is some unknown factor(s) influencing his decision. He is keeping secrets that are impacting both of their lives.

When things finally hit the fan, I can’t say that I was terribly surprised. Nonetheless, it was emotional and every bit as heartbreaking as it would have been had I been caught off-guard. It was one of those situations where you can understand the reason why somebody does something, but you don’t agree with it. I found myself getting frustrated with Damien, only to have to reign it in because I didn’t really know how I would behave given the same set of circumstances.

Overall, I thought that this was a great, heart-warming story. It was emotional at times, but mostly sweet and humorous. I enjoyed the references to ‘Stepbrother Dearest’, even though you didn’t need to read that book to follow, or enjoy, this one. Everything worked itself out nicely in the end. I listened to the Audible version and it was fantastic!

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