I’m going to review these in order with the best being last. Here we go!
First up is Mercy by Debra Anastasia. New author to me that I listened to over the course of several days. Zachery Webber and Muffy Newtown are the narrators. I would listen to Webber read the dictionary. That’s how much I love his voice. Newtown didn’t do it for me, she’s sort of too breathless and didn’t feel like the right voice for her character.
Main characters Phoenix (nickname – Nix) and Becca first meet when they’re children shopping with their parents in the grocery store. Nix is with his dad, who is a horribly abusive man. He’s just killed Nix’s mom and buried her in their backyard. Becca is also with her dad and witnesses Nix’s dad being awful to Nix. She says something, defends him, and tries to get her own dad to intervene. Both Nix and his father remember the exchange and it’s the catalyst to future decisions for both of them. For Nix, he vows to protect Becca. For his father, he wants to hurt her.
Becca grows up, she’s beautiful, kind, still a defender of the underdog, and works in a bar. Nix is hard to define. He’s a hired gun, a killer, a rescuer of kidnapped children. A good guy, doing some bad things for the right reasons. Becca doesn’t know that the young boy she met years ago is still hovering nearby. He’s a stalker, to be honest. In real life- super creepy. In this book- kind of hot.
Nix is always in the shadows because he’s tattooed from toes to face, all over his body, he has a skeleton tattoo. Nix hates his father and when he grew up, realized that he looked VERY much like him and decided to permanently change his appearance. Becca’s bar has a Day of the Dead themed party and for the first time, Nix can see Becca in person because he matches the party theme.
This was an enjoyable listen! The story itself was unique had some great good vs evil moments. Some things were off to me, particularly the first meeting in the grocery store playing such a pivotal part in their lives. In concept, it sounds good and even believable. I didn’t feel the gravity though, it wasn’t as momentous as it should’ve been. The dialogue between Becca and her bestie, Henry (a woman), was at times off putting. Neither of these were deal breakers- all and all a good listen. I liked the side characters, many of whom get their own books in this series.
The Words by A. Jade was my February book club read. This is an enemies to friends to lovers to second chance rock star romance. While I’ve never actually met a man named Phoenix in real life, the main character in this book is also a Phoenix. If I ever do stumble across a guy with this name I expect him to be a hot, tattooed bad boy with family drama.
Phoenix and Lennon are seniors in high school. He’s popular, has some undiagnosed learning disabilities, an abusive father, and dreams of becoming a rock star. Lennon is a good student, her father is a successful songwriter, but she’s often bullied at school for being overweight. Lennon quietly crushes on Phoenix, knowing he’s out of reach. His learning disability gets the best of him and a teacher becomes concerned that he won’t graduate. Phoenix NEEDS to graduate so he can pursue the rock star gig and escape from his father. This lands Lennon with a new tutoring job to help Phoenix.
Phoenix and Lennon get to be friends. Then halfway lovers. Read it and you’ll get the halfway part! They both love music, Lennon likes to write songs and is a decent singer. Phoenix is a truly gifted artist, but not a true songwriter. All is going well, they graduate and…Phoenix does something unforgivable.
Things are complex. A lot of lies. Miscommunication. Phoenix is a major rock star. They don’t talk for years.
He’s into drugs. Women. Fast cars. Parties. People die. Bandmate drama. Illness. Groupies. In a last ditch effort to stop the downward spiral of Phoenix’s career, Lennon is invited back into his life to help him get back on track. She is the one person his manager believes can resist his hot guy aura and wild lifestyle.
It’s a little exhausting. Truly, that’s my biggest ding against this book is that it’s unnecessarily long.
Second ding, Phoenix becomes a gross cliche of a rock star. High, drunk, screws around 24/7. I knew this would happen, no surprises and it’s the conflict needed for the story to work. It just took a very long time for him to snap out of it, and his behavior was soooo bad that I’m not sure I actually found him redeemable. It’s a tough place for authors, they need that friction for a book to be interesting, and then they need to get the reader to put it aside, to love the character again.
With that said, Phoenix tried. His grovel was impressive. Was it enough? For Lennon, yes. For me…still thinking about it. This girl can hold a grudge. There’s extra intrigue with his bandmates’ lives and loves. I could see a book two happening and I would most definitely read it.
To Love Jason Thorn by Ella Maise was my favorite of the three books. It was funny, light, spicy, and had some A+ dirty talk by Mr. Jason Thorn.
Jason and Olive grew up together. Jason’s family lived across the street and he was best friends with Olive’s older brother. Jason was always at their house, and Olive developed a cute childhood crush on him. Jason’s family life wasn’t great. His dad traveled a lot and his mom was an alcoholic who eventually died in their family home. At that point, Jason and his dad moved to LA, and his communication with Olive’s family started falling apart.
Fast forward many years…
Jason is a big movie star who can’t keep it in his pants. He’s constantly seen and photographed with different women in compromising situations. The press is starting to overshadow his film career, worrying his publicist and manager. Meanwhile, Olive is in her senior year of college and wrote a best-selling romance novel. Her novel is about to be turned into a film. One guess on who the leading man might be?
When Olive meets with the studio who wants to option her book, in walks Jason. He’s so happy to see Olive. I loved him, he’s such a golden retriever pup! Olive is awkward. He’s her dream guy and he’s about to star as the main character in the film based on her book. She has lots of feelings. For Jason, Olive will always be like a little sister. They start meeting to go over the contract, hanging out a bit together. Some of their hugs feel closer, looks more intimate, some kissing of the temple and sniffing of the hair.
Jason’s team decides the only thing that will help combat his whore-ish reputation and rescue his career is to get married. And there you have it- Olive and Jason look great together, they have the whole friends to lovers vibe happening, and she becomes the obvious choice to be his wife.
Let the hot scenes commence. So much chemistry with these two! Even when they’re not fooling around, I could feel the steam. There’s a completely clothed publicity photo shoot that gave me chills. And once Jason finally accepts that Olive’s definitely not the little sister type anymore, whoa… his words, oh…his words. Very, very spicy. I loved that he was sweet and possessive and completely enamored with Olive. Olive’s nervousness with him early on was charming. She’s funny, I giggled at her inner monologues. The one small thing that bugged me just a wee bit… Jason calls her “little one” for a good part of the book. I get it, she was his best friend’s little sister. It gave me the same feeling I get when I hear a woman call the guy who is not her daddy, a “daddy”. Just not my jam.
I’m excited to read about Olive’s friend Lucy in the next book, To Hate Adam Connor.