Crossfire – Sylvia Day

The Crossfire series by Sylvia Day is a fast-paced, well written, dramatic romance series set in modern day New York City. It will greatly appeal to fans of Fifty Shades, but is considerably more entertaining and better written in my opinion.

The heroine is named Eva and she was raised by her mother and a series of extremely wealthy stepfathers. Her best friend / roommate is Cary, a charming and rising male top-model who is currently dating both a girlfriend and a boyfriend. Eva has serious trust issues, and a tendency to run away from relationship problems and commitments because she was sexually abused for years as a child by an older step-brother.

The hero is billionaire businessman Gideon Cross. He can understand and relate to Eva’s problems because he has a few of his own, after witnessing his father’s suicide as a child, and then being abused by his therapist as a teen. Gideon is ruthless, dominant

Bared to you is the first story in the Crossfire series, followed by reflected in you, and entwined with you, captivated by you, and finally, one with you. This series has been completed and the other does not intend to write anymore about Gideon an hour according to her social media posts so this is a great series to check out if you are tired of constantly waiting for the next book.

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This series has a lot of sex in it,  and a lot of drama between two people used to fucking up their relationships. But despite this, G & E have a soulmate type connection and their love for each other is never in doubt. Day’s writing reminded me of the tale of Odysseus in some ways because Ewa and Gideon have so many trials they must overcome in order to just have each other’s company. Friends, family, and numerous witchy exes all try to keep them apart.

One of the most important aspects of a series for me is the world that is created, and secondary characters are huge factor in this. I love that I quickly grew to care about many of the friends of Gideon and Eva. I cared for Steven and Mark and Trey and Cary and Megumi and Arash and all the rest. I actually hope that a couple of Gideon’s friends have their own books or series one day, particularly Arnoldo or Arash.

I think anyone who has read Crossfire or 50 Shades will inevitably make comparisons between the two series. Both feature a character or two who has been abused as a youth in a sexual manner. Both male heroes are a rich businessmen who are aloof, and difficult to emotionally connect to, though they are highly sexual in nature as well. The heroines are athletics built, smart and educated, new graduates starting out their careers in the field of their choice. But this is where the comparison ends.

Eva is not the wishy-washy, virgin lead that you find in Anastasia. Eva loves sex just as much as Gideon and initiated it as often. The romantic scenes in the Crossfire series are not as kinky. There are no whips, no red room of pain, no sexual contacts. But there is a lot more sex to go with your story. Something I also loved about Eva and Gideon is that there issues don’t magically work themselves out. They go to counselling individually and as a couple because they know they have issues to work through and care enough to do the work so that they will have a stable relationship that will last.

The last book in the series is one with you. I thought that the author was working on another novel until I finished reading it so the series end came as a bit of a surprise to me, even though I mostly feel like it’s a timely end. I feel like today has finished on a strong note and there wasn’t much more to say. That being said, in the last third of this book there is a surprise twist that is very sad and it left me bawling my eyes out into my pillow. I didn’t feel like there was enough time for the reader or the main characters to recover from this plot twist and get over it. At the end of the day this is a romance novel and I like my romances to and happily. I thought this plot twist would have been more appropriate at the beginning of the book or in the previous one. I don’t resent that it happened, but I don’t think it was handled well.

Otherwise, I highly recommend this novel and the whole series to anyone who likes romance. It’s less kinky than my usual fare but still a fantastic read with lots of sex. 

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Xx

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Yours and Mine by Christine Duval

Yours and Mine is the long-awaited sequel to Positively Mine. They are both books in the Freshman Forty Series.

yours and mine

Picking up from the dramatic ending of Positively Mine, Yours and Mine continues the Freshman Forty series as we meet Danny Santoro, Laurel’s baby’s father, for the first time.

It’s been almost a year since he last saw her, that sultry morning she walked off the beach before dawn had even cracked the August sky. It seemed from her silence, she was out of his life forever.

But Laurel’s timing couldn’t be worse to tell him he’s a father. The last year hasn’t been easy. Danny’s own father was arrested for a DUI, his mother moved out, and Danny started sleeping with his brother’s old high school, drug-abusing girlfriend.

After Laurel shocks him with the news, she attempts to relinquish Danny of any parental responsibility leading to a heated custody battle. In an unorthodox arrangement, an eccentric judge orders Danny and Laurel to spend alternating nights with each other for the upcoming school year.

Told from Danny’s point of view, Yours and Mine explores the second chapter of a romance that never got off the ground, the challenges of young parenting, and the hope of rekindled love.

—                         —                         —

I am so excited that Yours and Mine has finally been released! I have been periodically checking back on the author’s goodreads profile for a couple of years with no luck, only to find out this time that it was released at the end of last year! It was also pretty surprising that the entire book is written from Danny’s perspective, a character that we had barely met before.

But as surprising as this was, it worked. I like how the author planned it out.

This is a story of a custody struggle between two young parents. Its a story of growing trust and coming of age and working out relationships. It is the pinnacle of a new adult novel, and a fairly clean one. Yours and Mine starts the same way that Positively Mine ended, with Laurel telling Danny that they have a three month old daughter together.

Something that really stood out to me in this novel is that the characters stay very true to themselves.

Laurel is 3-4 years younger than Danny and has had much less responsibility throughout her adolescence, and certainly more financial privilege. Her experiences of being emotionally estranged from her father and of burying her mother as a pre-teen shaped her to be secretive and withdrawn. She has a difficult time sharing and recognizing other’s feelings. Especially since find out she was going to become a mother herself, Laurel relied only on herself and has a difficult time letting Danny into her and their daughter’s lives.

Danny has been working a fulltime job for years, and is now juggling that job with a Masters program in Homeland Security and adjusting to the news of fatherhood. He also has to worry about his mother and help her to recover from his father’s alcohol and gambling addictions.

Although Laurel is a good person and a good Mother, her relative immaturity is apparent. She often fails to communicate with Danny, and clings to the idea that she can be a normal college girl on the nights that Danny has physical custody of their daughter. When things don’t work out the way she had dreamed, she is initially heartbroken and doesn’t know how to move forward and make it right. Although changed by mommyhood, Laurel clearly has less experience in relationships and less confidence in herself. Her go-to move is to hunker down and completely withdraw.

I loved reading Yours and Mine from Danny’s point of view, but at times I wish we could have also had Laurel’s. It was a little funny to not be in her head at all, after the first book was entirely from her perspective.

At the end of the day I loved this book, but I can’t give it 5 / 5 stars because I felt that it was too short and that their problems were resolved too easily. I was expecting the same format as the first book, which covered the entire academic year, but Yours and Mine resolves by (American) Thanksgiving. The ending was also fairly predictable but I loved the happily ever after fans were left with so I can’t really complain about that.

I hope that the author writes another book, and that this time the wait isn’t so long!

Edit: I also love this cover! It is perfect in its simplicity and represents the story and characters wonderfully.

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xx

Bound Series – a review

The Bound series is written by Cora Reilly. They are fictional accounts of the New York and Chicago Italian-American mafia families and their attempts to put to rest decades of violence between them in order to solidify their power. Russian and Taiwanese crime syndicates have been gaining power along the Northeastern coast of the U.S. Each book features a couple that have been matched in an arranged marriage to strengthen their families’ positions in The Outfit (Chi-town) or The Cosa Nostra (NY).

Bound by Hono[u]r: book one features Luca, the heir to the NY criminal throne and Aria Scuderi, the 18yo daughter of Bigshot #2 in Chicago.

Bound by Duty: book two features the new Chicago Capo (Dante) as he  ascends following his Father’s retirement and 24yo bride, Valentina, also from Chicago.

Bound by Hatred: book three features Aria’s younger sister Gianna and Luca’s younger brother Matteo. With the passing of time in book world, Gianna is also 18 when she marries. No child brides here.

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I discovered these books by searching for recommendations on goodreads and google and read all three over two days. The stories really attracted me and were exactly what I felt like reading last week. All three follow the same basic principle of big bad Alpha mafioso male protagonist (I can’t bring myself to say hero, they’re definitely anti-heroes) and a younger, virgin bride. Despite these similarities, so far the characters have all had very different personalities. Reilly isn’t just duplicating a successful debut novel.

That fact that she is a relatively new author, within the last year or so is astonishing, because she is pumping these babies out! I admire her story-telling, and while I’m sure that there are people in the life who would say that they aren’t remotely accurate, to me they are, and what’s more, they are entertaining. My only major criticism is that this lady needs an editor and quick. I suspect that she is self-publishing the books on Amazon, and more power to her, but there cannot be any third party editor reviewing. The grammatical mistakes are endless, irritating, and ultimately distracting for the reader. Little words that give sense to a sentence like “to” or “for” will be missing. Or miscalculating how many inches taller Luca is than Aria; you specifically said that he is 6″5 and she is 5″4, that makes him 13 inches taller (there are 12 inches in a foot), not 10 as specified in the wedding kiss scene. Ms. Reilly, please find a passionate and detailed editor! If you are reading this, I will gladly fill the role for you. Nothing is a bigger pet peeve for me than stupid little ‘housekeeping’ mistakes ruining an otherwise well-told story.

Since I read the Bound books so quickly and they are part of a series, I am mostly reviewing them as a set, but I do have a few individualized comments.

The first book (Aria and Luca) was probably my favourite in the series. I liked the evolution of Luca and Aria’s relationship and although Luca was a lot more patient with their wedding night than I think he would have been as a real-life Capo, his sweetness towards his wife was redeeming. Secondary characters pop up regularly throughout the series, and I found it to be a little annoying in this one. Aria was such a sweetheart that she didn’t stand up to her out-spoken sister Gianna … which made me want to tell G to just shut the hell up at times. I get that she was protective of her sister and Gianna gets mouthy when scared. Given the lifestyle they were born into, that’s just about all the time, but there was too much going on in that respect. I really wanted Aria to turn around and tell her “Gianna, you are making this harder on me” but they never had that adult to adult conversation. It’s too bad, it would have cut down on tedious arguing between Luca and Gianna and allowed for more character development in both girls.

Bound by Duty is Dante and Valentina’s book. This was my least favourite but that has more to do with my personality clashing with the hero and heroines’ than poor story-telling. An emotionally closed-off male character is a complete turnoff for me, just as it would be in real life. Valentina had a strong personality, but she wasn’t super confrontational, she backed down before a situation went too far. That is probably what worked for their relationship but I refuse to live through intermittent “cold wars” so I felt disconnected from them. I did like the subplots with Bibiana though, and at the end when Dante has absolute faith in his wife, it was heart-warming to see how his love for her had grown.

The last book in the series thus far is that of Matteo and Gianna. I love these two together! I suppose my main criticism is the same as I had of Gianna in the first book: that she is so incredibly bratty and mouthy when scared, which is most of the time, and she never really overcomes that satisfactorily. As a result, she is extremely emotionally dishonest and I wanted to shake her. I would have liked to have seen her mature more throughout the book and be braver, more willing to share how she feels with Matteo and Luca rather than reacting and attempting to cover her true feelings. Hopefully we will see her evolve in the next novel, otherwise I don’t know how good a life she will have.

Still speaking on Bound by Hatred, although this book was only my second favourite in the series, it had my favourite scene! I love see the Russian interrogation was which glossed over in book one, and the interactions between Matteo, Gianna, Luca, Lily and Romero that occurred here. The book started off with action! But BbH didn’t top my list because I would have emphasized different scenes in the book than Reilly chose to. I felt that (minor spoiler ahead) Matteo taking G’s virginity was a much bigger deal, because of how their marriage came into being. It was such an opportunity to foster honest emotions and grown-up relationship conversations between them and it didn’t happen. The same at the end of the book…. how to say this with minimal spoilage. Hmm. I expected the confrontation that occurs between Luca and Gianna to be much bigger and more explosive. I actually expected it to by physical on Gianna’s part, with the way he stayed in her way and refused her entrance. I was disappointed that there wasn’t one big blowout before they make peace in the epilogue. That last bit showed a huge amount of character growth on Gianna’s part, and though we didn’t see as much of “real Luca” in there as I would have liked, hopefully we get glimpses in book four.

Speaking on book four…

Bound by Temptation will be released in June 2015 and it will feature familiar characters, the youngest Scuderi girl, Liliana, and NYC ‘made man’, Romero.

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From goodreads …

Liliana Scuderi has been in love with Romero from the moment she first saw him. After her sisters were married off for tactical reasons, she hopes she might be allowed to choose a husband for herself, but when her father promises her to a man more than twice her age that hope is crushed. No begging can make him change his mind.

Romero has always ignored Lily’s flirting. Her age and status made her off-limits but even someone as dutiful as him has only so much control. Wanting her when she’s supposed to marry another man could mean war between New York and the Chicago Outfit, and Romero has always put the Cosa Nostra first.

Lily suspects her sisters and Romero would risk everything for her, but is her happiness worth that much? Is love worth a war between the Cosa Nostra and the Outfit?

I can’t wait until the next book is out! I already pre-ordered it for my kindle, hope someone else out there falls in love with this new author as well.

Edit: Since I wrote this post, the author has also released the cover and blurb for the fifth book, due out Fall 2015!!!

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xx