Review + Excerpt + Giveaway: Lead Me Not by A. Meredith Walters

My Thoughts

Intense, heartbreaking and emotionally charged.
This is a raw and poignant look at addiction and a riveting story about finding love when you need it the most.

4halfstars

Synopsis

lead me notIn this dangerously sexy novel from the New York Times bestselling author of Find You in the Dark, a straight-laced college student meets a handsome but enigmatic stranger who lures her into an underground club scene, where she finds it difficult to resist temptation 

Aubrey Duncan understands loss. She knows what rock bottom looks like, and she is determined to crawl back up to the top after the sudden death of her younger sister. She blames herself for her part in the tragedy, convinced that she could have done something, anything, to help her.

In her effort to gain redemption, Aubrey starts fresh at Longwood University and facilitates an addiction support group, hoping she can support someone else in the way she failed her sister. But what she doesn’t count on is an all-consuming fascination with group member Maxx Demelo, a gorgeous, blond, blue-eyed enigma who hides dark secrets behind a carefully constructed mask. He only reveals what he wants others to see. But Aubrey glimpses another Maxx hidden below the surface—a Maxx who is drowning in his own personal hell.

As Aubrey and Maxx develop an attraction too intense to ignore, he pulls her into the dark underbelly of the city club scene, where she is torn by her desire to save him and an inexplicable urge to join him in his downward spiral. Worst of all, she is beginning to love everything she should run away from—a man who threatens to ignite in her a fire that could burn her alive…

My Review

“Addiction was messy. It was consuming. Addiction whispered in your ear, telling you that she’s the only one. She’s all you need.”

This book is emotionally intense, sharing the kind of story that makes your heart hurt, your thoughts circle endlessly, your emotions befuddled and impossibly murky. It’s a story of grief and addiction, love and redemption… hope and hopelessness. Aubrey and Maxx’s tale is heartbreaking because we get to see these two people that grow to love each other deeply, fall apart over and over again. We see the ribbons of dependency coil them tighter to their own sin, tethering them to their addiction of choice. It’s a gradual fall to rock bottom and I felt so invested in both, in the experiences that shaped them and the choices that would define their future.

After the tragic death of her sister, Aubrey carried a great deal of guilt. She longed to start fresh. To learn from her mistakes. Hoping that her enrollment in Longwood University’s addiction support group, Aubrey hoped she could make a difference for others, given that she wasn’t able to make a difference to one of the people she loved the most. Unfortunately her roommate and best friend finds herself in an unhealthy relationship, marching down the same path as her sister. And when Aubrey meets enigmatic Maxx Demelo, she is caught up in his one-of-a-kind charisma that consumes everything and everyone in his perimeter.  Before too long, Aubrey is led down a familiar path she worked hard to escape from.

“Maxx was the man your mother warned you about. He was sex and danger and secrets. He was the very worst kind of temptation and the very best kind of distraction.”

Maxx was caught in a downward spiral fueled by guilt, shame, responsibility, addiction and hopelessness. He lived a duplicitous life. On one hand, there was a boy with immense talent, heart, loyalty who wanted to overcome his painful past, to rise above it and be a man he could be proud of. On the other hand, you had X… the Maxx that thrived on feeling wanted, desired among the throngs of the nameless faces, numb to the reality of his struggles, oblivious to what he was doing to himself. With each passing day, with each bitter little pill swallowed, Maxx became more of the latter. More of the Maxx that felt he could conquer the world, fooling himself that he had everything under control. And when he met Aubrey, this girl seemed to make him want to be better again. And perhaps, a new addiction took root.

“The dynamic we fell into seemed to pit anger and distrust against lust and longing. Frustration warred with contentment. Irritation and wariness were at odds with vulnerability and sincerity.”

As Maxx and Aubrey get to know each and begin to fall for each other, their dynamic swings between the good and the healthy, and the deceptive and the ugly. Maxx hides a world so brutal and dark, drawing Aubrey in with a dangerous combination of sincerity and need. Because the more Maxx needs her, the more Aubrey is hooked on being needed. She’s fallen for Maxx and despite the ugly world he lives in, she sees the guy that loves her, needs her, wants to get better. And being needed in that real, raw and profound way, breaks her resolve… muddles the possibility of clear thinking. Because the truth of the matter was that Aubrey was compromising her own future, falling into the abyss right along with Maxx. Her desire to forget her own pain, her desire to be needed, and her desire to be fun, wild and free Aubrey blinded her own reality.

“… he needed me. And I lived for being needed. It was an addiction just as powerful as his. And it had the potential to be just as destructive.”

Lead Me Not is a story told entirely in shades of gray. I felt like I was confronted with decisions that were difficult and monumental for me to process, just as the characters worked through the same issues themselves… especially Aubrey. We got to see how addiction affects everything and everyone. Not only those who are addicted to the actual high of drugs, but the ones who love them. We wondered, through the turbulent ups and downs of this poignant story, could Aubrey be enough to stave Maxx’s addiction to drugs? Could she love him enough to break the cycle? Or would she be swept into the dark oblivion of addiction herself?

This was my first A. Meredith Walters novel and I loved how the characters made me feel so much, how the story unfurled so realistically and raw. There were times where my heart broke and times where I truthfully felt upset, at Aubrey AND Maxx, but I think therein lies the reality of addiction. Behaviors don’t make sense in the grip of dependancy. There will be another book to continue Maxx and Aubrey’s story and I can’t wait to see what happens.

“Love made us stupid. Love made us blind. Love could incapacitate us and leave us powerless. And love could also make everything better.”

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Excerpt

Maxx put his hand first in one pocket and then the other. “Where are they?” he asked, getting unsteadily to his feet and digging farther into his pockets.

“Where are what?” I asked, bewildered by the sudden change in his mood.

“I need them!” he yelled, pushing past me and lumbering into the kitchen, where he started taking things out of the cabinets and throwing them on the floor. When he didn’t find what he was looking for there, he let out a howl and practically ran down the hallway to his bedroom.

I followed him at a distance. I thought about trying to stop him, but a desire for self-preservation held me back.

He ripped his room apart, dumping clothes on the floor. He gathered the empty baggies and ripped them open.

“Where are they?” His scream was desperate. He tipped over his bedside table and fell to his knees, looking through the stuff that had fallen out. He picked up a bottle and shook it. It rattled, and the look of euphoria that replaced the hopelessness on his face made me cold. I knew exactly what he had been looking for.

“No, Maxx!” You don’t need that,” I cried, falling down beside him and trying to pry the bottle from his hands. Maxx yanked it away from me and scooted backwards on his knees. He popped the top off, and before I could do anything, he dropped the white pill into his mouth.

He crunched it between his teeth. His mouth went slack, and he leaned back against the wall.

“Maxx,” I said with bone-weary regret. Maxx looked at me, his normally beautiful lips stretching into a lazy smile that was all too familiar. I used to think that smile was sexy and mysterious. Now it was just sad and pathetic. Now I knew exactly why he smiled that way.

I hated that smile. 

Giveaway

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Cover Reveal: Scorned + Jealousy by S.L. Scott

 elegant sensual young woman in red dress on recamier indoor shot jealousy cover

I’m so excited to share the first two covers of a brand new contemporary romance serial from S.L. Scott entitled Inside Out! There will be a total of four parts and the first two, Scorned and Jealousy, will be out on August 18th and September 8th, respectively.

About Scorned and Jealousy

We shared a love that regulated every heartbeat and every breath we took. It was all encompassing. I thought our love could withstand time and anything thrown our way.

I was wrong. So wrong.

I used to be happy. I used to be Juliette Weston when Dylan Somers filled my life with promises of love and a happy ever after. But when he took my heart and broke it into a million pieces, I became someone else entirely. In one afternoon, I lost my soul mate. I lost everything I knew myself to be.

Three years later, the man who destroyed me is back.

To assuage his guilt? To finish the job? It doesn’t matter… I won’t let him this time. I’m stronger. I’ve moved on. He won’t affect me.

This is a story of love and betrayal. Pain and loss. Happiness and fate. It’s about finding your true destiny.

This is our story.

And it’s not for the faint of heart.

About S.L. Scott

Crop 3S.L. Scott is a former high-tech account manager with a journalism degree pursuing her passion for telling stories. She spends her days escaping into her characters and letting them lead her on their adventures. Live music shows, harvesting jalapenos and eating homemade guacamole are her obsessions she calls hobbies. Scott lives in the beautiful Texas hill country of Austin with her husband, two young sons, two Papillons and a bowl full of Sea Monkeys. Her novels include Naturally, Charlie, Good Vibrations, and A Prior Engagement.

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Review: Don’t Let Go by Sharla Lovelace

My Thoughts

A beautiful story about second chances brimming with all the feels you can imagine. One of my absolute favorites this year!

6stars

Synopsis

don't let go coverNoah Ryan and Jules Doucette spent every moment together, first as best friends and later as young lovers. The two had planned a life together—until one unspeakable decision tore them apart for good.

Twenty-six years later, Jules is still carefully living the life her mother planned out for her. She’s running her mother’s store, living in her mother’s house, following her mother’s rules, and keeping the secrets her mother made her bury.

Then Noah comes home and any sense of an ordered life flies out the window. Noah’s return does more than just stir up old memories—it forces Jules to see her life in a whole new way and uncovers secrets even she didn’t know were buried. Secrets that could easily destroy her world once more.

My Review

“Sometimes it’s the harder relationships, the complicated ones you have to fight and claw for that have staying power.”

There are some books that grab you because the writing is phenomenal or distinctive. There are some books that draw you in with heart-pounding suspense and mystery. Some that grab you with an addictive, unidentifiable quality. And some have a particular character that drives you to maddening heights in the best possible way. Although this book pulls in elements of the aforementioned, it’s the story and the way it is penned so beautifully, which made me fall in love with this book. I’m on such a wonderful, feel-good high from reading it and I feel like shouting about it from the mountain tops. This is a story about second chances. About mistakes made and love lost. About feeling abandoned and finding your own way. It’s also about forgiveness and hope and being courageous enough to fight for your happily ever after.

“Noah Ryan was my first love. He was my first everything. He was my first boyfriend, daring me to climb to the top of the monkey bars in the second grade and then kissing me square on the mouth when I did… He was the first to break my heart, then steal it again. He was the first boy to ever tell me he loved me, the first one I ever loved back, and the one I gave my first time to… Fumbling and awkward and passionate in the pouring rain one late April night, driven by young love and raging hormones, we learned what making love was. And what making life was.”

For Jules Doucette, life was routine and calm, living in the same small town she grew up in, in the house her mother passed down to her, running her mother’s bookstore, while she raised her teenage daughter, Becca. She was divorced from a husband she never fully gave her heart to and the only man she had loved without abandon, had left her so many years ago with a hole in her heart she was never able to fill. He left, and her past, her future, all crumbled into secrets her mother forced her to bury. Until one day, that man–Noah Ryan–walked back into her life, dredging up everything that was painful and unsettling, igniting emotions she didn’t have a right to feel.

“Twenty-six years. A lifetime ago. And yet in that moment, with Noah Ryan standing fifteen feet away from me, I was suddenly the seventeen-year-old… holding his hand in the hallway.”

The chemistry that immediately rekindled when their gazes met again, made my heart beat furiously with anxiety and excitement. Lovelace was able to quickly build that tension that helped drive the plot forward and keep the pacing engaging. Seeing Noah again causes Jules to take another look at her life, examining whether she had been following in the footsteps her mother had dictated for her, or whether she was truly living the life she had at one time hoped for herself.

“Whose life was I living? Mine or my mother’s? Whose plans, Mom? Mine or yours?”

Noah and Jules had grown up together. They were each other’s best friends. Each other’s first loves. Even at seventeen, they loved each other passionately… recklessly even, planning a future full of love and possibility. Then fate intervened and a situation that should’ve brought them closer together, tore them apart, much of it due to Jules’ mom. Noah left. Left Jules on her own, battling her own sadness and heartache.  That hurt, that pain, that anger… it all morphed into a wound that would never fully close. A wound that began to fester the second Noah stepped back into town.

“Everything we used to be in another lifetime was still there, pushing and tugging and teasing. It wasn’t just my imagination. I’d seen it in his eyes as well.”

With so much lost time, lingering hurt, a lifetime of experiences and other lovers, you would’ve thought that the intensity of their feelings had waned, but no… Everything was still there. A maelstrom of unrequited love, pain, sadness, betrayal. And with Noah’s return, came news… news that made it clear that Jules could never look at Noah the same way. Could never love him again.

“You aren’t the only one that hasn’t been able to love anyone, Jules,” he said under his breath. “And I’ve tried.”

I don’t want to spoil a moment of this book, but I can tell you that there are so many elements at play. So much that contributes to this feeling of desperation and need that had me breathless and yearning for them to be together. Every moment in this book is emotionally charged and incredibly poignant. So much so that it completely broke my crying dry spell as tears streamed down my cheeks at multiple points in the book. It was gut wrenching. I cared deeply for the characters, felt viscerally everything they had gone through and were continuing to go through. The novel concludes in this beautiful, full-circle way that had me relishing in the story’s high and knowing irrevocably that this would be an unforgettable, all-time favorite. And certainly, any book that can make me feel that much warrants a 6-star rating from me! This is the first I read from author Sharla Lovelace and I can assure you it won’t be my last.

“I’ll always love you.”
“Don’t let go,” I whispered.
“Never.”

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Spotlight + Excerpt + Giveaway: Lady Luck (#3, Colorado Mountain) by Kristen Ashley

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IMG_6038Lady Luck, the third book in the Colorado Mountain series is available on paperback today!!! I absolutely love this book and have loved the series, which is currently comprised of six descriptive, raw and heartfelt novels, each following the story of a man on his rocky road to second chances. Each book can be read as a standalone. Ty and Lexie’s story is one of my favorite. It’s incredibly sexy, angsty and full of heart. Read my review of Lady Luck.

Synopsis

lady luckTy Walker was wrongly imprisoned and for the five years he was inside, he honed his plan so when he gets out, he has nothing but vengeance on his mind.

But then he walks straight to stylish, leggy, beautiful, goofy Lexie Berry and he suddenly has something else to think about. He knows within seconds he wants her and within days he can love her but with the filth that was flung at him clinging; he also knows he can’t have her.

Since birth, Lexie Berry has been Lady Luck’s favorite toy and because of that, Lexie is cautious. But within a day, she senses Ty is something special. With her luck, however, she can’t trust it. Then she finds out what was done to Ty and she’s willing to do anything to make it right.

Even what Ty will never forgive her for doing.

Ty clings to vengeance and Lexie goes all out to give him back the time he lost. But Ty is battling demons within and they’re up against dirty cops and criminals who will stop at nothing to sway Lady Luck against them. All Ty and Lexie have is hope Lady Luck will finally swing their way.

Excerpt

“I know it’s fake but thank you, Ty. I never expected to have anything that nice and it is nice, no matter what. So thank you for giving it to me.”

He didn’t speak but his eyes changed, one of those changes I didn’t know, didn’t yet understand but this one was meaningful. They all were but this one was more meaningful than the rest.

A lot more.

And I couldn’t stop myself, his eyes so close, that look in them, my arms moved from around his shoulders, my hands framed his face, I leaned up and whispered, “Thank you.”

Then I pressed my lips to his.

I meant to give him a soft kiss of gratitude. This was not to say I didn’t want to give him a long, hard, wet kiss of something else. And just what I wanted to give him and what that would lead to had also been filling my head space the last couple of days but that wasn’t where I intended to go just then. Not yet. Not with a house full of people downstairs waiting to eat fried chicken.

But when my mouth hit his, he didn’t give me the chance to give him a soft kiss of gratitude.

Instantly, his fingers slid up into my hair, cupping my head, and his mouth opened over mine making a demand.

Mine complied. His tongue spiked into my mouth and I liked the taste of it, I hadn’t had it in what seemed like a decade, I missed it and he tasted so fucking good my body pressed into his and not just because his arm around me grew super tight.

Then I was twisted, on my back in what was, I noted vaguely and was unbelievably happy for, a bed. His torso was on mine, his hips beside mine, his long, heavy leg moved to tangle with mine as his tongue moved in my mouth. I wrapped one arm around his back, one around his shoulders, my hand moving to cup the back of his head and hold him to me.

God, he couldn’t kiss. He could kiss.

Reading Order and Purchase Links

See all Kristen Ashley Reading Orders ✦

the gamble

Max & Nina

lady luck

Tate & Laurie

lady luck

Ty & Lexie

breathe

Chase & Faye

Jagged

Ham & Zara

kaleidescope

Deck & Emme

My Reviews: The Gamble | Lady Luck | Breathe | Kaleidoscope

Connect with Kristen

Website | Facebook | Twitter | Goodreads

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VBB Weekly – 07.28.2014

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What a week!!! I don’t know about you, but I’m still swooning over the Fifty Shades of Grey trailer, which I watched about a million times! I don’t remember the last time I was this excited about Valentine’s Day! I thought it was incredibly well done and I’m so looking forward to seeing the entire movie.

I’m also preparing for the craziness that is August—it’s an insane release month!!! And the 5th… well, I’ll tell ya… I think everyone just needs to take the day off. Too much goodness hitting our Kindles that day. Just check out the list of releases below and I dare you not to start clicking. Plus, Outlander is premiering on Starz as soon as August 2nd and officially on August 9th. I will be dancing around my living room in a kilt,  talking in a terrible Scottish accent and swooning over Jamie all over again! 

This past week I also had the awesome opportunity to do a video interview with Anna Todd, author of the hugely popular series, After. The series consists of three books with the first installment being the self-titled After. The books have amassed over 900 million reads on Wattpad as fan fiction of One Direction. The story was indeed inspired by the band, but the characters have evolved organically contributing to a series that is intense, emotional and full of plot twists. The first book will be released through Gallery Books on November 25th and all are available for pre-order below. Check out my interview, spotlight and make sure to enter the giveaway to win the first set of copies of After!

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New Releases

(Click cover to order)

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Releasing This Week
The True Diary of That Girl by JS Cooper - New standalone romance. From blurb: Sex. Lies. Romance. Love. My life has it all. I do what I want, when I want and no one can stop me. This isn’t a story of how I found my prince. Or my how my prince found me. 
Lead by Kylie Scott – This is the third book in the rock star romance series Stage Dive. This is Jimmy’s story. Reading Order: Lick | Play | Lead | Deep
Beautifully Forgotten by L.A. Fiore – The first book in the Beautifully Damaged series, a contemporary romance about a quiet girl who meets an inked and gorgeous boy with dark secrets.
Rogue by Katy Evans – This is the fourth book in the Real series, but this is all about Brook’s best friend, Melanie. This can be read on it’s own if you haven’t read the previous books in the series. Reading Order: Real | Mine | Remy | Rogue | Ripped
Break the Sky by Nina Lane – This is a spin-off of the Spiral of Bliss series and it’s all about Liv and Dean’s friend Kelsey and his brother, Archer!!!
Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead – From the bestselling author of the Vampire Academy comes the fifth book in the paranormal (vampire) series Bloodlines. Reading Order: Bloodlines | The Golden Lily | The Indigo Spell | The Fiery Heart | Silver Shadows | The Ruby Circle
Pre-Orders

(Click images to buy or for more info)

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★ Visit THIS PAGE for the full list of releases! ★

New Reviews
Community News
Giveaways

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Sales

Here’s a current list of sales for Amazon U.S. Click on the image to purchase.

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Happy Reading!!! ♥

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