Review: Hate to Want You by Alisha Rai

Review: Hate to Want You by Alisha RaiHate to Want You (Forbidden Hearts, #1) by Alisha Rai
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, erotic romance
Series: Forbidden Hearts #1
Pages: 371
Published by Avon on July 25th 2017
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

One night. No one will know.

That was the deal. Every year, Livvy Kane and Nicholas Chandler would share one perfect night of illicit pleasure. The forbidden hours let them forget the tragedy that haunted their pasts-and the last names that made them enemies.

Until the night she didn’t show up.

Now Nicholas has an empire to run. He doesn’t have time for distractions and Livvy’s sudden reappearance in town is a major distraction. She’s the one woman he shouldn’t want…so why can’t he forget how right she feels in his bed?

Livvy didn’t come home for Nicholas, but fate seems determined to remind her of his presence–and their past. Although the passion between them might have once run hot and deep, not even love can overcome the scandal that divided their families.

Being together might be against all the rules…but being apart is impossible.

My Review:

If the tragedy of Romeo and Juliet had a love child with the romantic comedy Same Time, Next Year, the result would be Hate to Want You. And while this doesn’t seem like a logical pairing, just like any opposites attract romance, the result is intense – and wonderful.

Hate to Want You, the romance itself, is not an opposites attract romance. Instead, it’s a second chance at love for the Romeo and Juliet of two feuding families. Nicholas Chandler and Livvy Kane grew up together. Then they became teenage lovers.

It all went smash when his mother and her father were killed in an automobile accident, together in a car far from where either of them was supposed to be. In the resultant chaos, his father bilked her mother out of her family’s shares in the very successful chain of grocery stores founded by their grandfathers.

Livvy and Nico were too young to resist the pressures of their families driving them apart. But they also couldn’t stay away from each other. It’s been ten years since that tragedy. They have met in secret, once every year, to feed their craving for each other.

While they have both spent the last ten years living for that one night together, they can’t admit that to each other. But when Livvy comes back to their small hometown to help her mother after an injury, they can’t keep apart.

No matter how much it hurts each time they have to separate. And no matter how ballistic the explosion from both of their families if anyone finds out they are seeing each other.

But ten years is a long time, and the threats that cowed a couple of teenagers have a whole lot less of an affect against 30-year-old adults – even ones as scarred and messed up as Nico and Livvy.

Now that they can’t put half a continent between them, they run into each other at every turn. The more they see of each other, the more often they meet in secret, the more difficult it is to pretend that they ever got over each other, and that neither of them can move on until they deal with the past. Not just their past together, but everything in the past that has driven them and their families apart.

As Livvy’s grandfather used to say, it’s only over if you quit. Ten years ago, they quit. They were young and scared and hurting. In the midst of multiple traumas, it was hard to see a way through that let them stay together, no matter how much both of them wanted that outcome.

But when they quit each other, they also quit themselves. Now it’s time to fight. Not just with each other, but also for each other. Once and for all. For forever.

Escape Rating A: My friends at The Book Pushers highly recommended this book, and now I know why. Hate to Want You was stay up until 3:30 in the morning unputdownable.

The story is a very hot and sexy romance. Unlike tomorrow’s lovely but squeaky-clean book, Hate to Want You pulls none of its punches (or its spankings) inside or outside the bedroom. The hotel room. The woods. Anyplace and everyplace that Nico and Livvy think they are sneaking away to.

But the poignance of the story is in its backstory. Because that long ago scandal and the shitstorm that followed didn’t just break up a pair of teenage lovers, it broke apart two families that had been through everything together and built a business empire on the strength of the bond between them.

All of that is gone, and it’s left heartbreak in its wake. Livvy lost Nico, and that was tragedy enough. But she also lost the rest of his family, who up until that moment had been part of her own. Her own family fragmented, and Livvy feels alone and isolated.

Nico feels like a windup toy. He’s been forced to suppress his emotions in all of those intervening years. Not just what he felt for Livvy, but pretty much everything he felt at all. It took every ounce of his energy and concentration to play the peacemaker between his father and his grandfather – who now hold equal shares in the company while he has none.

Livvy’s return breaks him out of his box, forces him to confront not just the mess of his hollow life, but everything that he has been holding down. And it hurts.

Part of what makes this story so good is that this is not a case of poor little rich boy, where daddy threatened to take away his inheritance if he didn’t toe the family line all those years ago. Instead, daddy was, and still is, an asshole. The threat that Nico knuckled under to all those years ago was much more sinister. If Nico hadn’t given up Livvy, daddy dearest would have disinherited Nico’s little sister, who was only 13 at the time. Evangeline is now in her 20s, and more than ready to get out from under daddy’s neglectful but still oppressive thumb.

It takes Nico a while to realize that he is finally free to act – if he’s ready to step out of his box and take a risk. It takes even longer for Livvy to trust him this time, as it should.

And when she does, it’s absolutely glorious.

One final comment. As satisfying as the romance is, I really want to see daddy dearest get what’s coming to him. Hopefully that will occur in one of the upcoming books in the series, Wrong to Need You and Hurts to Love You. He needs to suffer, and I want to see it.

Review: Intimate by Kate Douglas

Review: Intimate by Kate DouglasIntimate by Kate Douglas
Format: eARC
Source: publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook
Genres: contemporary romance, erotic romance, romantic suspense
Series: Intimate Relations #1
Pages: 336
Published by St. Martin's Paperbacks on December 1st 2015
Purchasing Info: Author's WebsitePublisher's WebsiteAmazonBarnes & NobleKoboBook Depository

From bestselling author Kate Douglas comes the first book in a sensational new series set in California wine country—a place where love is always intoxicating...
They call her Kaz. She's a gorgeous model with a good head for business—until now, at least. Kaz has just been fired from her latest photo shoot for having the wrong tattoo in the wrong place at the wrong time. But a chance encounter with photographer Jake Lowell could make everything right again . . . if Kaz is willing to accept his proposition. What does she have to lose?
Jake has been searching for the perfect model to pose for a body-jewelry shoot—one that will leave no room for modesty. Is Kaz, who is nothing if not professional, ready to bare it all for a man she is not sure she can trust? It's an offer that's too good to refuse . . . and as Kaz finds herself growing more comfortable with Jake, the attraction between them reaches arousing new heights. But while the artist and his subject learn more about each other in the intimacy of wine country, evil lurks in the shadows—and soon it becomes clear that someone else has designs on them...

My Review:

Intimate is the name of a brand that specializes in jewelry that does intimate things or features intimate places. Or both. It is also about intimate secrets that can save or doom a person – or a relationship. And the story is about the intimate relationship that develops between model Kaz and photographer Jake – a relationship whose intimacy neither intended, and one that will force them to deal with intimate secrets in both of their pasts.

This is a story of secrets and lies, and also the baggage that keeping those secrets drags behind us like a noose. Kaz reveals some of her baggage, and that revelation drives Jake to keep his very firmly under wraps – even when it reaches out of the past to put Kaz in deadly danger.

The story begins when Kaz is fired from her modeling agency. Although the ostensible reason is the monarch butterfly tattoo on her midriff, the actual reason is that she complained about the client’s son invading her dressing room while she was changing. And that the owner of the modeling agency is an asshat.

Jake needs a model with tats and piercings in both conventional and unconventional places to model his best friend’s line of high-end jewelry for body piercings. Jake is looking for someone both sexy and edgy, a model who conveys a slight touch of danger and lots of unconventionality. Kaz, with her six-foot-plus height, her bold butterfly tat, and her piercings in her ears, nose, belly button, and other more private places, is exactly the look that Jake is searching for.

That she also appeals to him on a personal and very intimate level is a bonus. Especially when she says that she hasn’t got the time or the energy to invest in a relationship while her career is smoking hot.

Because Jake and Kaz have unfortunate dueling traumas in their respective pasts. Kaz’ beloved little sister Jilly was killed by a drunk driver, and Jake did six years in the California Youth Authority for driving drunk and killing a young mother and her child.

Once Jake learns about Jilly, he is determined to keep his own unsavory past from Kaz. They fall into an intense weekend fling, that neither of them expects to be more – even while they separately hope that it could.

But someone from Jake’s past is sending threatening texts – and trying to frighten or kill Jake with a series of near-fatal accidents. It looks like someone all too sober wants Jake to die the same way that his victims did all those years ago.

When Jake’s stalker turns his attention from Jake to Kaz, Jake is forced to confront the actions he thought he left two decades in the past – before they take the life of the woman he loves.

Escape Rating A-: The romance in Intimate heats up almost instantly, while the suspense does a slow and increasingly frightening build to its bloody climax. Once the suspense ramps up, it is impossible to put this book down. I know, I tried.

One of the fascinating parts of the suspense in this story is that Jake’s secret both is and isn’t what the reader thinks it is at the beginning. It’s a slow reveal that ramps up the tension and drives the reader crazy. Jake and Kaz would have had a much easier time of it if he had come clean a lot earlier – but it is easy to understand why he doesn’t.

At the same time, the story of little Jilly’s death both is and isn’t the one that Kaz initially tells. The bits that she leaves out don’t have the same feel of lies of omission that Jake’s do, but they are still pretty important. And they make the two sets of old baggage match a bit more than the reader first believes.

The chemistry between Jake and Kaz is absolutely smoking hot from the very beginning. These are two people who can’t keep their hands, their minds or their hearts away from each other from the moment they meet. But their mutual hesitancy about taking the relationship further than model/photographer is very real.

The villain of the piece is a bit over the top into absolutely screaming, foaming at the mouth crazy. His motive for all this evil seems logical on the surface, but once we finally get to meet him in the epic conclusion, we see that he has pretty much flung himself off the edge of sanity. To the point where, based on his history, one can’t help but wonder if he was ever ON or even within spitting distance of the edge of sanity in the first place.

redemption by kate douglasThe fast tension of the romance and the slow build of the suspense make Intimate a fantastic story to get absorbed in. And the ending provides a very satisfying conclusion to the dangling threads of all of Kaz’ and Jake’s relationships – especially the one that no one sees coming.

And for the real treat – Intimate is the first book in a series. The teaser at the end for the next book, Redemption, had me well and truly teased. I can’t wait.