Review: After (After, #1), by Anna Todd

After (After, #1)After by Anna Todd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you thought the ‘Fallen Crest High’ series was full of angst and teenage melodrama, you haven’t seen anything yet! ‘After’ is like many other teenage/college-aged romances, with all the “end of the world” dramatics…on steroids. I found this book to be equal parts irritating and addicting.

The “adult” part of me has to acknowledge the truth in much of the criticism I’ve seen regarding this story. Hardin and Tessa’s relationship was a train wreck. I spent a lot of time rolling my eyes and thinking “hang it up already”. However, I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t enjoy this story. It was a total guilty pleasure. Even though I was often annoyed, or even infuriated, by the goings on in this book, I couldn’t turn away. I really enjoyed this book, despite the responsible adult in me saying I should run far in the other direction.

The story centers on Theresa “Tessa” Young and her relationship with Hardin Scott. Tessa is portrayed as the quintessential sheltered prude. She is a sweet virgin, who dresses conservatively and arrives at her dorm with her over-bearing mother and high school sweetheart in-tow. Immediately, Tessa stands out and becomes a target for her roommate’s hard-partying group of friends.

More so than anyone else, Hardin seems to take extreme pleasure in tormenting Tessa. He is constantly toying with her and trying to humiliate her. He goes out of his way to put her down, but he’s always there. Despite all of his insults, he is constantly showing up in her daily life.

Little by little, Tessa and Hardin form a tenuous friendship. Eventually, it grows into more. There are plenty of obstacles along the way — none larger than Hardin’s broody, closed-off, and often volatile nature. Time and time again, Tessa forgives Hardin for his reprehensible behavior.

These two might take the prize for the number of times a single couple can go back and forth, breaking up and making up, in a single book. It did start to wear on my nerves, even as I couldn’t turn away. They were the perfect example of everything that only works in fiction. In real life, these two needed some serious counselling and intervention. They were toxic, to an extreme degree. No way would I ever want to be any where near a couple like this in real life. However, for a smutty romance, they definitely kept things interesting.

While I don’t want to give anything away, I will say that the ending of this book gutted me. I actually cried. I was so furious, I think I might have felt the betrayal as acutely as Tessa did!

So many times, I told myself that when this book was over that I wouldn’t be diving back in for another round of their melodramatic, childish antics. I was kidding myself. There was no way that I was going to skip the next book after that ending. It’s on to the next book for me.

As an aside, this book was apparently written as fan-fiction originally. It is supposed to be based on the lives of the boy band “One Direction”. Since I’m not very familiar with this group, I don’t have anything to offer in terms of how closely this book follows any of those band members. If it does closely follow one of the bandmate’s lives, God help the poor girls that are his prey.

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Review: The King (Masterpiece Duet, #1), by Skye Warren

The King (Masterpiece Duet, #1)The King by Skye Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been dying to get my hands on Damon Scott’s story ever since he was introduced in ‘The Pawn’. He was just so sexy and dangerous that I couldn’t help but be drawn to his character. At the same time, it was clear that he wasn’t entirely “bad”. He had an underlying protective, even kind, nature that would sometimes shine through. When Penny was later introduced, the obvious tension and history between the two piqued my interests even more. I had to have this book.

Thankfully, I can say that this book did not disappoint. The Damon and Penny’s story was absolutely captivating. It was a story of youthful innocence against the backdrop of the city’s gritty criminal underbelly. It was also a story of innocence lost, addiction, betrayal and other unspeakable acts. There were so many facets of this story and I loved every single one.

Penny first meets Damon when she is a young girl. Living on the streets to try and escape his crazy father, a teenaged Damon grows fond of the bold little girl from the trailer park near the woods where he was camped. Left on their own as Penny’s father leaves her for days at a time to feed his gambling addiction, the two strike up an unlikely friendship. In many ways, Damon becomes an older brother type of figure in her life, although it is apparent that some of his feelings aren’t very brotherly.

Eventually, the two lose contact, but neither one forgets about the other. Penny grows into a teenager, struggling to make ends meet while her father continues to gamble away every bit of her money that she earned waiting tables. Meanwhile, Damon rises up from the back alleys to become a king of sorts in the criminal underground, his power surpassing even his own father’s.

When Penny’s father’s addiction places her in grave danger again, she finds herself in the crosshairs of Jonathan Scott. Knowing that his son cares about Penny only makes her an irresistible temptation for Damon’s deranged father. While Damon works hard to try and free Penny from the situation that her own father placed her in, Jonathan Scott sets out to harm Damon and he plans to use Penny as the tool to do so.

If you’ve read the ‘Endgame’ series, then you’re already aware of the outcome for Jonathan Scott and the state that Penny was left in. This book provides the backstory that was not provided in that series. It details the events leading up to Penny’s horrible attack and provides far more details about the events that followed. Some of the timeline overlaps with the ‘Endgame’ series, but most of it does not.

This book leaves off with a lot of questions unanswered, which is no big surprise since there is another book expected in this series. I am dying to see how Damon and Penny will move forward. I’m not even humoring the thought that they won’t be moving forward together at this point. It just isn’t going to happen. No way!

I will certainly be reading the next book as soon as it is released. There is no way that I would miss it. If you are a fan of the ‘Endgame’ series, you don’t want to miss this spin-off series. If you haven’t read the ‘Endgame’ series, I would recommend that you start there. You could certainly read this series as a standalone, but you’ll miss a lot of the backstory and details that are provided in that series. They’re both wonderful though, so enjoy!

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Review: Irreparable Damage (Irreparable, #1), by Sam Mariano

Irreparable Damage (Irreparable, #1)Irreparable Damage by Sam Mariano
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was dark, taboo and offensive. Accordingly, I thought that it was a fantastic read! Not the best dark captivity story out there, but definitely not the worst either. If you enjoy darker stories and don’t shy away from controversial subject matter, then ‘Irreparable Damage’ is worth a read.

The first in a series, this book tells the story of Willow Kensington. Willow is abducted right after her 18th birthday by sex traffickers. Her father is a powerful Mafioso and her captors think that they can use her to get at her father. Innocent Willow is caught in the crosshairs, despite having almost no interaction with her father.

While undercover trying to locate another missing girl, private investigator Ethan Wilde runs across another girl whose picture recently came his way. He hadn’t accepted Willow’s case yet, but fate has their paths crossing. Unfortunately, to maintain his cover he must harm Willow before he can save her.

Following Willow’s rescue, she struggles with the after-effects of her captive experience. Her healing is only made more difficult by the fact that she will not discuss everything that happened to her at the hands of her captors. She is torn by the fact that her rescuer was also the man who committed the worst crimes against her. She won’t condemn him, but she can’t cope either.

Returning to his wife and children, Ethan faces his own demons following his most recent case. He cannot stop thinking about the girl that he assaulted. He wonders how she is doing and whether she hates him. He waits to be held accountable for his crimes, but with each day that passes it becomes increasingly clear that Willow isn’t going to turn him in – no matter how much he deserves it.

Ethan’s guilt transforms into an obsession, masked as concern. Before long, he’s stalking the teen online and “checking up on her”. The lies begin to pile up and he is drifting away from his wife.

Of course, Ethan isn’t the only one that can’t get Willow’s trauma in captivity off their mind. Willow is finding that her nightmares surrounding her assault are turning increasingly erotic. Yep, she’s fantasizing about her assailant. (This is smutty, dark erotica, not non-fiction after all! Know that what you’re signing up for isn’t a harrowing, true-to-life account.)

Willow and Ethan begin meeting up to vent and discuss their feelings about what transpired. It seems that they are the only two people that can relate to one another. Admittedly, I rolled my eyes at the idea of the victim actually consoling the attacker and vice versa. However, even as I was rolling my eyes I was anxiously flipping pages to see where the story would go.

This story was pure, smutty goodness! It was definitely a “guilty pleasure” type of read for me. It was unbelievable, taboo and hot. Clearly, this isn’t a book that you choose for intellectual enlightenment. It was dirty, sexy and fun.

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Review: Dirty Filthy Rich Men (Dirty Duet, #1), by Laurelin Paige

Dirty Filthy Rich Men (Dirty Duet, #1)Dirty Filthy Rich Men by Laurelin Paige
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Laurelin Paige continues to blow me away with this series! I cannot get enough of this twisted, angsty love story. If I thought that ‘Dirty Filthy Rich Boys’ was addicting, I hadn’t seen anything yet!

The first full-length book in the ‘Dirty Duet’ series, ‘Dirty Filthy Rich Men’ was every bit as captivating as ‘Dirty Filthy Rich Boys’. I love this story and the constant push and pull between the characters. This book kept me on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what would happen next.

Donovan, in particular, has my rapt attention. He is certainly one of the most contradictory heroes that I’ve ever encountered. He is aloof, possessive and completely confusing. Naturally, I cannot get enough! I am appalled by some of his harsh and inconsiderate behaviors. I want to hate him, but I can’t. Like Sabrina, I am under his spell.

Weston also comes to life in this book. While ‘Dirty Filthy Rich Boys’ predominantly featured Sabrina’s fantasy version of who Weston was, this book introduces readers to the real Weston. Despite some less than flattering behaviors, I have to say that I really liked Weston. After all, he never pretended to be something that he wasn’t. Underneath his manwhore ways, he ends up being a pretty decent guy.

Sabrina has certainly got her hands full with both of these dirty, filthy, rich men in this book. My head was spinning at times. Talk about an emotional roller coaster! I was glued to the pages of this book.

If you love angsty, emotionally charged love stories, then you don’t want to pass this one up. I am hooked on this story! There are plenty of surprising twists and turns along the way that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Not to mention, it is hot, hot, hot! Days later, I’m still thinking about these characters and where this story might lead. I cannot wait to get my hands on the next book!

As an aside, ‘Dirty Filthy Rich Boys’ is included as the prologue in this book. So, if you haven’t already read it separately, you’ll get the backstory with this one also. However, if you’re not sure if you want to pay for the full-length book yet, it is offered for free and you can get a feel for the story.

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Review: Dirty Filthy Rich Boys (Dirty Duet, #0.5), by Laurelin Paige

Dirty Filthy Rich Boys (Dirty Duet,  #0.5)Dirty Filthy Rich Boys by Laurelin Paige
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Wow! Laurelin Paige has definitely got my attention with this freebie prequel. I am completely and totally hooked on this twisted story. No doubt about it, I will be jumping right into the full-length book immediately!

‘Dirty Filthy Rich Boys’ tells the story of Sabrina Lind, Weston King and Donovan Kincaid, all students at Harvard. Unlike Weston and Donovan, Sabrina does not come from a wealthy family. She is attending on a scholarship and in awe of the extreme wealth of the students that surround her. No one has her attention more than the extremely handsome and rich playboy, Weston King.

Something about Weston caught her eye the first time that he waltzed into class late like he owned the world. Although she hasn’t worked up the courage to approach him, she attends every party at the house that he shares with some of his friends. She watches from the shadows as he chooses a different girl every night to share his bed, never even noticing her.

Sabrina has her mind set on Weston, even though she realizes that one night with him is all she’d get. He never does repeats. Nonetheless, she wants him.

Then one night, Weston’s best friend and roommate, Donovan, comes to her rescue. Suddenly, she is feeling conflicted. Donovan is older, and the Teacher’s Assistant for her Business Ethics class. His hot and cold behavior only serves to make matters more confusing. Suddenly, Weston is not the only guy that Sabrina is fixated on.

I don’t want to give too much away, so I’ll just say that this was one hot little prequel. Holy hell! I was completely sucked into this story. This story was addicting and sexy. I was on the edge of my seat the entire time. Oh…and that ending! I am definitely diving right into the full-length book immediately! I am hooked!

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Review: The Castle (Endgame, #3), by Skye Warren

The Castle (Endgame, #3)The Castle by Skye Warren
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

If you follow my reviews, it is no mystery that Skye Warren’s ‘Endgame’ series has become my latest addiction. There was something about Gabriel and Avery’s story that drew me in, right from the start. What can I say…I love an uber-Alpha a$$hole! Gabriel Miller did not disappoint in that regard.

After the way ‘The Pawn’ ended, is it any wonder I was hooked? It blew me away! For me, this series is about as addictive as crack cocaine. I can’t wait to get my next fix and when I get my next “hit” I devour it in record time.

The third book in ‘The Endgame’ series, ‘The Castle’ picks up where ‘The Knight’ left off. Gabriel and Avery are back on again. For once, they seem to be on the same page and their relationship seems more solid than ever. This was a nice development, as there seemed to be such a huge disconnect in previous books. Now, they seem to be united against a common enemy – Jonathan Scott.

Damon Scott’s maniacal father has it out for Avery. To protect her, Gabriel has pretty much imprisoned her on his estate for her own protection. In the meantime, the madman grows increasingly dangerous. No matter how hard Gabriel works to find him, he always seems to be one step ahead. This made for some very suspenseful, nail-biting scenarios.

I have to say that I couldn’t really understand the motivation for Jonathan Scott’s actions. Sure, he supposedly loved Avery’s mother. However, that doesn’t really explain his cruel actions or his determination to harm Avery…or her mother for that matter. Perhaps I should just accept the fact that he was a deeply disturbed individual and that there was no justification for his actions. Yet, I can’t deny that I craved more of an explanation.

Maybe we’ll get the story of Avery’s mother, Jonathan Scott and Avery’s father in the future. That’s one story that I’d love to read. It is bound to be a angsty and captivating story. I love a great villain and I can’t help but wonder what made Jonathan Scott into the deranged man that grew up to terrorize his former lover and her daughter.

While there was plenty of action in this book, I feel content with the way things ended. Their road was a difficult one, riddled with danger and deceit. Nothing worth having ever comes easy though.

This book also introduced Penny, a young lady traumatized by Jonathan Scott. Despite She clearly holds a special appeal to Damon, but we’ll have to wait to see exactly how deep their connection runs. Although she was mostly in the background this time around, I have no doubt that Penny will be central to Damon’s story.

Each book in this series has proven to be suspenseful and utterly addicting. I have enjoyed each one immensely and I look forward to seeing where the next book, ‘The King’ will take us. While ‘The Castle’ brings Gabriel and Avery’s story to a close, there are many more intriguing characters whose stories are yet to be told. ‘The King’ is supposed to focus on Damon Scott and I could not be more excited! I’ve pre-ordered my copy and will be anxiously awaiting it’s arrival in June.

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Review: The V Girl: A coming of age story, by Mya Robarts

The V Girl: A coming of age storyThe V Girl: A coming of age story by Mya Robarts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started this book, I knew it would deal with some pretty “heavy” subject matter. After all, the blurb is pretty forthcoming about the fact that rape is commonplace in this futuristic world that Mya Robarts created. While it proved to be every bit as gut-wrenching as I expected, there were also more moments of simplistic beauty than I had anticipated.

Given the dark, gritty and downright gloomy existence that the heroine lives, these few exquisite moments provided her with the inspiration necessary to keep living another day. For the reader, they served to keep the story from becoming so depressing as to not be enjoyable. Even in the darkest of times, there is light to be seen if you look hard enough. Finding that light is the essence of the human drive to survive against all odds.

Lila Velez was a girl that managed to find the light in a very dark world. Coming of age in her town meant being eligible for recruitment by the army. While this sounds deceivingly honorable, don’t let the fluffy language fool you. “Recruitment” is really a nice way of saying “rape” that is completely legal and sanctioned by the government. There is nothing nice about it or this life that Lila was born into. It is raw, brutal and horrific.

If you can picture that, then you can imagine the morose feeling that pervades this book. The vast majority of this book takes place in the months preceding the recruitment ceremony. (Yes, they actually have a big ceremony to celebrate these traumatic, and very public, mass rapes.) There was a strong sense of impending doom and the clock ticked down to the time that Lila would face a certain and brutal rape.

Fully aware of what the future holds in store for her, Lila is determined to take control of her own first sexual experience–to the extent that she can when she is faced with an ever-shortening timeline. She sets out to lose her virginity before it can be taken from her. She has no illusions of romance, but refuses to let the soldiers take that part of her. At least she can be sure that her first time will be with someone that she cares about, even if it isn’t with someone that she is in love with.

When Lila’s best friend, Rey, first turns her down, she is disappointed but not deterred. She is certain that she will be able to convince Rey before the troops arrive in their town. If she can’t she is sure that she can find somebody. After all, anyone would be better than the soldiers.

General Aleksy Furst immediately takes notice of Lila when he arrives in town. An awkward, rather comical, first meeting ensures that he won’t soon forget Lila. Despite her initial protests, Lila eventually comes to consider Aleksy’s offer to rid her of her virginity.

While reading this story, it was easy to draw many parallels between this fictional futuristic dystopian America and factual past and present war crimes of the world. This book forces readers to evaluate their values and sheds light on many unpleasant truths that are not discussed in polite society. From homophopia, rape, government-sanctioned war crimes, genetic modification, gender-specific roles to hypocrisy, this book touches on so many controversial topics that I couldn’t begin to list them all.

That is really what makes this book so moving and memorable. Of course, I enjoyed the love story that evolved between Lila and Aleksey. However, the beauty of this book was in it’s ability to make readers think about these controversial topics. The best books are those that force us to reevaluate our beliefs and behaviors, sculpting us into better, more compassionate, individuals. This is one such book.

While this book certainly isn’t a feel-good type of story, I highly recommend it. Like ‘1984’ and other dystopian classics, ‘The V Girl’ is a thought-provoking social commentary. I especially liked the questions for discussion that the author included at the back of the book.

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Review: Dishonorable, by Natasha Knight

DishonorableDishonorable by Natasha Knight
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

After reading the blurb for ‘Dishonorable’, I was sure that this would be a dark, twisted and disturbing story. In other words, I thought that this would be just what I needed to satiate my thirst for depravity. Unfortunately, this book didn’t deliver on that front for me. It was the type of story that plays with the idea of darkness, without really ever crossing the line into truly “dark” territory. Don’t get me wrong, it was great. It just wasn’t what I thought I was going to get.

The heroine, Sofia Guardia, is essentially forced into marriage with Raphael Amado. Her grandfather wronged him in some terrible way and Raphael has demanded Sofia as repayment. Sounds twisted, right? Well…kind of.

While Raphael’s intentions were certainly bad, he wasn’t the monster that I had imagined – hoped for – in my depraved mind. You see, he was pretty much after her inheritance and not necessarily her. For many readers, I’m sure this will be a positive turn of events. However, it was pretty disappointing.

Of course, in time, Sofia and Raphael’s relationship grows more intimate. From the start, the chemistry between the two is pretty intense. Their initial interactions are heated, to say the least. However, they soon reach a middle ground. Eventually, flirtation becomes more.

Although I didn’t find the dark read that I was craving, I couldn’t deny the appeal of this story. Raphael was such a damaged hero and he grew on me. While Sofia might have been young, I found her to be admirable and mature for her age. It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with the idea of this couple.

The supporting characters were well-crafted and interesting. They breathed life into the story, while not stealing the spotlight. Raphael’s brother, proved to be especially endearing to me.

This book had a little of everything. It had romance, without being syrupy. It had plenty of danger and an aura of darkness, even if it never really turned “dark”. There was a feeling of impending doom that seemed to lurk in the background for most of the book, serving to keep readers on edge.

Overall, this was a great story. Despite the fact that it wasn’t the dark romance that I had anticipated, I enjoyed it quite a bit. I love an a$$hole that ends up being redeemable. The worse they are, the more I love them. Raphael certainly didn’t disappoint in that regard.

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Review: Lost and Found (Lost and Found, #1), by Nicole Williams

Lost and Found (Lost and Found, #1)Lost and Found by Nicole Williams
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

‘Lost and Found’ was a sweet, heartwarming story that ended up being a pretty good way to pass some time. This book tells the story of Rowen Sterling, a troubled teenage girl that has spent years acting out. She has used drugs, alcohol and sex to try and get her deadbeat mother’s attention to no avail.

When Rowen’s mother has finally had enough of Rowen’s antics, she sends her to the home of an old friend in Montana. Rowen has never met the Walker family before, but she will be spending the summer on their ranch. It is about as far from Rowen’s normal life in the city as possible, but she begrudgingly agrees to go or else her mother will not pay for her to attend art school in the fall.

Right from the start, I noticed that there was a contradiction between who Rowen was supposed to be and who she actually was. From the moment that she arrived on the ranch, she was considerate and respectful. She immediately fell into the routines of the Walker family and pulled her own weight. She was a far cry from the rebellious hell-raiser that she was supposed to be.

In very little time, Rowen and the Walker’s son, Jesse, have caught each others’ attention. While Rowen was supposedly the “bad girl”, Jesse was a total sweetheart. He was hardworking, good looking and the type of guy that parents want their daughter to date. It was hard not to love Jesse.

As Rowen and Jesse’s summer romance takes off, Jesse’s past comes back to haunt them. His ex-best friend and his ex-girlfriend add a little drama to this story. Both Jesse and Rowen have to fight their insecurities at every turn.

When Rowen’s mother shows up on the scene, all hell breaks loose. To say that her mother is nurturing is putting it mildly. Rowen’s mother has spent years selfishly placing the needs of her revolving door of boyfriends above the needs of her own daughter. She is selfish and shallow. Suddenly, it becomes very apparent why Rowen had been acting out at home.

Overall, this was a nice, sweet story. If you’re in the mood for a heartwarming, YA type of romance, this is a pretty good choice. This can easily be read as a standalone, although it is part of a series. You won’t be left hanging. It will leave you with warm fuzzies.

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Review: Blaire (Blaire, #1), by Anita Gray

BlaireBlaire by Anita Gray
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I read the blurb for ‘Blaire’, I was intrigued. I love nothing like a deliciously dark story that pushes my boundaries and makes me wriggle in nervous anticipation of what will come with the next turn of the page. Luckily for me, ‘Blaire’ did not disappoint. This book held my attention from start to finish.

Blaire was taken at a young age and subjected to horrific abuse. She was brainwashed and conditioned, both physically and mentally, to be the a slave for Maksim. Over time, she became his fiercest protector and most treasured possession. Despite her petite frame, she is more lethal than men twice her size.

When a rival crime boss, Charlie, enters the scene, it is clear that he is different. He doesn’t fear Maksim the way that others do. In fact, Maksim seems to be afraid of this newcomer. Their actions hint at a complicated history and it seems that Maksim may have betrayed Charlie in the past.

As repayment for past transgressions, Charlie asks to borrow Blaire from Maksim. He is in need of her expert hacking skills for a job that he has planned. Although, his keen interest in Blaire makes it clear that he is interested in far more than her computer skills.

To Blaire’s astonishment, Maksim agrees to Charile’s terms. Before she can voice her protest, she is drugged and taken to be Charlie’s captive. Soon, she is forced to feel things that she’s never experienced before and everything she knows is called into question.

Little by little, Blaire and Charlie’s relationship evolves into something entirely new to Blaire. Charlie treats her with kindness, which she had never experienced before. She battles between the feelings that she has and those that her conditioning tell her that she should have. She is beginning to fall for Charlie, but knows that this is the ultimate betrayal of Maksim, the man she has been groomed to protect and cherish.

Eventually, Blaire and Charlie must face the light. Blaire’s time with Charlie comes to an end. Betrayals and their consequences come to pass. Things go from bad to worse in the blink of an eye.

Reading Blaire’s story, I found myself enjoying this atypical captivity story quite a bit. Blaire wasn’t weak or even innocent, by any stretch of the imagination. She was a conditioned, hardened killer. Yet, she was vulnerable at the same time.

If dark stories with abuse do not appeal to you, then this is one that you’ll want to steer clear of. There are graphic accounts of sexual, physical and mental abuse in this book. Heed the warning in the book’s disclaimer.

If you enjoy dark stories, like I do, then ‘Blaire’ might prove to be just the book that you’re looking for. It is different from the plethora of other captivity-themed books out there. I enjoyed it quite a lot and will be reading the next book in the series when it is released.

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