The Revenge Pact by Ilsa Madden-Mills
December 3, 2020 Self Published
What to read when you’re trying to distract yourself from an insurrection? My book club chose The Revenge Pact by Ilsa Madden-Mills weeks ago and it was the perfect happy distraction. I discovered Madden-Mills this year and was thrilled to immerse myself in this latest book. It is part of a series, with each book being written by a different author. The series centers around three college football players who have just had the worst season of their careers.
Here we go:
River sees Anastasia (Ana) in the campus library. She is on her own studying and he is with a few of his frat brothers. Ana is unique and catches their attention. She’s pretty and colorful with lavender hair, short skirts, and prone to tie-dyed leggings. River’s hair is described as, “deep mahogany with pops of gold from the sun.” He has high cheekbones and tattoos. He also has some learning disabilities; ADHD, dyslexia, dyscalculia. River is always moving, always anxious, tapping his fingers, and talking a lot. Alas…it’s not River who gets the girl. Not this time. It’s his friend, Donovan, who is also good looking, but more in a cookie-cutter smart guy, yet somewhat aloof type way.
The boys write a wonderfully sweet note and drop it on Ana’s desk when she steps away. All guys should use this note as a how-to on getting noticed. I loved it. It had everything to make a girl swoon. The note asked Ana to meet him outside the library if she was interested in him, too. Of course, she’s into it…and waiting for her is, Donovan. They start going out and she becomes friends with other guys in the frat, too.
The entire time they’re dating, River likes Ana. But, he is good friends with Donovan and there is a bro code. Don’t go after your brother’s girl. River chooses not to act on his feelings, and in fact, he’s just the opposite with Ana. With the exception of a few heated sexually charged moments of unrequited passion, he’s very standoffish and she thinks he hates her.
Fast forward…what is the actual Revenge Pact? Donovan’s family really dislikes Ana. They’re pretentious jerks and Ana doesn’t have the status they’d like for their son. They do love his old girlfriend as she checks all of their silly snobby boxes. After talking with his parents one day, Donovan decides to very publicly and drunkenly break up with Ana at a party. It’s devastating. Total asshat move. River is there for Ana and helps her escape with some dignity. From there, a Revenge Pact is hatched that requires Ana to find another guy. And for River to help her find this fantastic rebound dude.
I enjoyed the plot, loved River to the moon and back. And, the ending…a certain choice Ana makes…gave me all the feels. I like quirky characters and Ana was an original. River’s learning disabilities were written very well. When he does reveal them to Ana, there’s so much heart in the conversation and in her response. The H’s for book two and three are introduced and I’m invested. I want to read their stories.
My Darling Arrow by Saffron A. Kent
September 14, 2020 Self Published
I’m a bit torn on My Darling Arrow by Saffron A. Kent. I read it quickly, stayed up late, thought about it…and yet it did make me uncomfortable.
Arrow is a guy. He’s a beautiful star soccer player for The LA Galaxy. He’s five years older than our heroine, Salem. Salem and her older sister, Sarah, grew up being taken care of by their mom’s very good friend, Leah. Leah is Arrow’s mom. Salem’s mom died when Salem was a child. The first time Salem and Arrow meet is in Leah’s house. Salem is in the kitchen, cold and huddling on the floor. Arrow comes in for some juice and drinks it out of the carton in from of Salem. Salem is 10, and Arrow is 15. Salem develops a crush, but her sister gets the guy. Sarah and Arrow are THE it couple for eight years. They are perfect together. Good looking, career-driven, never a hair out of place, smart, and in deep love.
Salem overhears Leah and Arrow talking about Arrow proposing to Sarah. Salem decides it’s time to run away (she’s 17 at this point, I think) because she’s so in love with Arrow and needs to start fresh and away from them. Before she goes, she steals some cash from Leah. She gets caught running away. Leah is the president of a girl’s reform school and decides that Salem needs tough love. She sends her off to bad girl school to be a better person.
While at bad girl school, she and her friends see a press conference (streaming on a phone) with Arrow that says he is taking a leave of absence from the LA Galaxy. He has an injury and is coming back home to recuperate. Salem knows Arrow very well and the whole press conference feels off to her; he’s not himself.
Salem sneaks out one night to a bar with her friends. Because she’s a bad girl. And low and behold, Arrow is at this same bar. They have a confrontation because he’s kissing a girl who is not Salem’s sister. Arrow is cocky. He’s mean. And he finally admits that he and Sarah have broken up. This rock’s Salem’s world.
Salem’s entire character is developed like a real bad girl who doesn’t follow the rules, she sees herself as being a bad omen type girl with her ‘witchy’ name. She’s not the perfect girl that Sarah pretends to be, but I never felt that Salem was an actual bad girl. She seemed like a normal teenager to me. Except for… she has been writing letters to Arrow for YEARS. It’s kind of disturbing. Letters that she never mails him, but keeps. Almost every night writes a letter. FOR YEARS. And, she keeps them shoeboxes. Oh no. You can tell what’s coming, right? Never ladies…I mean…never…keep that shit around. And certainly don’t hide them where other people can find them.
And here’s where I’m torn about the book. Salem’s obsession with Arrow is hard to take. It felt very unhealthy and cringe-worthy to me. And Arrow has a fairly unredeemable personality. I did like him at the end. But for a good part of the book, he’s so cruel to Salem. I love dirty talk, but his wasn’t doing it for me. Much of it just felt mean, and condescending to say these things to someone who has been living for him and idolizing him for years.
And yet, I ripped through it fast. The book kept my attention, I didn’t skim any sections and I’m still thinking about it.
Forgiven by Garrett Leigh
January 25, 2021 Carina Press
DNF. I want to be fair, this book wasn’t awful by any means. But at 15% in, I just couldn’t get into it. And it was tough to make it that far. May have been just not a great fit for me.