Put down whatever book you’re reading right now and pick up Hero by Samantha Young. I don’t make recommendations like this very often, but this is definitely one of the best romance novels I have ever read.
The book begins with Alexa Holland’s return to work after the death of her mother, an event which has understandably left her very shaken. As an assistant to a celebrity photographer, Alexa is shocked to discover that her first shoot is for Caine Carraway, the CEO of Carraway Financial Holdings. Having recently discovered her family’s worst secret, that her father had an affair with Caine’s mother and left her to die after a cocaine overdose, Alexa is reluctant to be anywhere near Caine with her family name. However, her feelings get the better of her and she apologises to him on behalf of her family, which only leaves him angry and using his powerful influence to get Alexa fired.
Frustrated at his reaction and concerned for her financial state, Alexa forces her way into Caine’s office and apologises again for ambushing him, yet holds her ground when faced with his intimidating stare. Instead of getting her old job back, Caine offers her a job as his PA, warning her that he will be relentless in his demands and will make her job excessively difficult. She accepts the position, with part of her wanting to get close enough to Caine to make him understand that she is not responsible for her family’s mistakes, despite his hatred of the Holland name.
As Caine continues to make excessive demands on Alexa as his PA, the chemistry between them heats up and it is only a matter of time before they give in to it. However, Caine has a reputation of only keeping a woman for a few weeks and never gets close enough to get attached to them emotionally. Alexa knows that she is playing a dangerous game with her emotions if she embarks on an affair with her boss, but maybe, just maybe, she can bring out the softer side to Caine that she glimpses now and again when he is with her. Helped along by Caine’s old lady neighbour, Effie, and his humorous best friend Henry, they might just succeed in turning Caine into the hero that Alexa believes him to be.
On the surface, this might sound like another romance between a billionaire and his assistant, but it is so much more than that. The family secrets that connect Caine and Alexa are only just beginning to come out in full, which serves to both deepen and threaten the connection between them, as Caine has to see past his hatred of the family if he is to really give her a chance. We are always aware that there is a part of his self that Caine is withholding from Alexa, like a barrier between them that needs to broken down by more than just the lust they share.
Despite the book being told from Alexa’s first person perspective, Young succeeds in building up a fully detailed impression of Caine that makes it just as easy to imagine what he might be thinking. He might be intimidating at first, but over the course of the book we get to see where his weaknesses lie and how he might be allowing himself to fall for Alexa. Every time he gets too close, he tries to push Alexa away and can be cruel in his treatment of her, but it is easy to see that this is a self-preservation mechanism and that part of him hopes Alexa will keep coming back. It was particularly touching to see him with Effie, as she has practically become a grandmother figure to him and he lets his guard down around her so we can see his softer side.
It is this softer side that Alexa begins to fall in love with, but she is never naïve enough to think she can change him completely, as he is just as untameable as she is. I loved Alexa’s stubbornness, as she never gives in to Caine’s demands without some smartass quip, making her a perfect match for his domineering nature. She knows exactly what Caine is like before engaging in a relationship with him, but she has been attracted to him from the beginning and feels like he understands her better than anyone else. They have both been abandoned or let down by their parents, and Caine becomes the first person that really makes Alexa feel safe. She is reluctant to give up her heart to him as she knows their dalliance will inevitably end, but I could easily relate to the part of her that couldn’t stop hoping for something more from him.
What I loved most about these characters was how real Young makes them feel, as it is easy to feel as if you know Alexa and Caine, with there being a depth to them that you don’t often find in romantic fiction. Their flaws were genuine and what makes them human, with them sharing that spark felt at the beginning of a new relationship and the sex scenes only serving to enhance their chemistry. Although there are moments of angst between them, Young knows exactly when to lighten the mood using Henry or Effie, ensuring that there is always the right level of tension to keep the story moving. I could honestly pick this book straight back up again and reread it now, which is not something I say about a book often. I think it’s clear to see that I couldn’t recommend this book highly enough. Verdict
An absolutely fantastic romance novel that sets the bar high for other books in this genre, I fell in love with Young’s writing style from the start. The story is told with an ease that subtly pulls you in and won’t let go until you’ve read the final page, helped along by the scorching chemistry between Alexa and Caine. The two leads are so well-developed that by the end of the book you know them inside out, hoping against hope that they will get together. Young knows exactly when to introduce some comedic relief from Effie and Henry, often having me laughing out loud, proving yet again her prowess as an author. Rating: 5 Stars
Hero by Samantha Young Contemporary Romance Piatkus (3 Feb 2015) Ebook: 416 pages
*Warning: Contains spoilers for previous books in the series*
Having thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in the series, I was pleased to return to Engelsfors for the final book by Sara B Elfgren and Mats Strandberg, The Key.
After the shocking conclusion to book two, the Chosen Ones have dwindled to four members out of seven, leaving their circle with some devastating gaps. Anna-Karin, Minoo, Linnéa and Vanessa know that the apocalypse is approaching, but they still have no idea how to close the portal in Engelsfors, or even where the portal is located. After all the strange happenings in the town, the magical energy is only growing stronger and causing further disturbances, as each of the seven elements will manifest in some form as a sign that the portal is ready to activate.
It is Minoo who is separated from the other Chosen Ones in this book, as the guardians tell her that her magic is the strongest of all and that she will be the one responsible for closing the portal. She is persuaded to practice with a new circle that has been formed in association with the Council, one which already has a witch for each element. With the Chosen Ones being so few, there is the fear that they are no longer capable of preventing the apocalypse without the deceased members of the circle, making Minoo question which circle she should belong to.
With tensions running high, it is no surprise that Minoo has arguments with Linnéa, further forcing her to seeking refuge with her new circle. This book throws up even more problems for the troubled Linnéa, as she has to cope with a court trial after Erik and Robin admit to breaking into her flat in the last book. The court will drag up every bit of dirt they can to make Linnéa seem like a liar, but instead of seeking the support of her friends her initial reaction is to push them away. This particularly applies to Vanessa, who has finally realised that she reciprocates Linnéa’s love for her, but has to deal with Linnéa’s fear of happiness and the ease with which it can be snatched away.
Once again, these books have an incredibly vast plotline to sum up in just a few paragraphs, as there is so much going on for each character, and not just the Chosen Ones as a whole. I haven’t mentioned Anna-Karin’s family struggles or the relationship dilemma faced by Minoo, or even the clever way of integrating the deceased Chosen Ones into the plot of this last instalment. Needless to say, there is a lot that goes on these books and it all contributes to the plot in some shape or form. I would say that there are few extraneous details, as even the relationship drama is integral to the development of the characters. With all the stress of their magical responsibilities, it is easy to forget that this group are teenagers and that they still face the same problems as any other teenager.
I think I particularly enjoyed the story of Linnéa and Vanessa in this book, as we have seen their friendship develop in the previous books and now it is being taken further. It is handled particularly well by the authors, as the characters are comfortable with each other and build things up gradually, with the perspectives of each character giving a balanced view of the relationship. We get to see Vanessa’s joy at finally sharing her feelings, having a renewed hope that she has found a relationship that will last. Then we see all of Linnéa’s fears, as she is the happiest that she has ever been with Vanessa, but thinks deep down that she will end up ruining what they have and that she will still be alone. I think they were a good balance for each other, and that they are one of the indicators of hope at the close of the book.
I won’t say too much about how this series ends, as I think the authors did a good job in tying up all the loose ends that have been created throughout, even bringing back some old faces to make sure that their stories also come to a close. I think that given the huge wealth of characters, this series has done a great job at keeping track of them all, making sure that you remember each one when they reappear without having to go over old plotlines. I also loved the further development of magic in this book, as each Chosen One seems to develop a new ability and strength, which manifests slowly rather than giving them instant power. There are also a few surprises when it comes to new magic users, as more people begin to find out about the Chosen Ones.
All in all, I have enjoyed this series from start to finish and think that Elfgren and Strandberg have created a truly unique world with Engelsfors, incorporating a vast mix of characters and ensuring that everyone can find someone to associate with. They also manage to mix comedy and severity seamlessly, often transforming supposedly amusing moments into those of seriousness and danger. The reason I haven’t given this book a higher rating is because there were still moments when I wasn’t as hooked as I could have been, but this could be a translation point rather than a problem with the actual plotlines. As far as the ending goes, there are still questions to be answered in Engelsfors but they are suggested in a futuristic and hopeful way, and not in the way that might beg for an additional book. There is a sense of closure for the Chosen Ones, which is exactly as it should be for such an intense and action-packed trilogy. Verdict
Another stellar addition to the series, this book manages to conclude everything in a unique and unexpected way, following the trend of unpredictability that had been set with the first two books. I particularly loved the continuing development of the characters, as their bonds grow even closer as they work together to prevent the apocalypse, finally realising that teamwork and trust is what will give them the advantage. Once again, I enjoyed the many character perspectives featured throughout this series, and this time there seems to be more importance attributed to events than ever before. There are shocks and surprises throughout, as the book deals with adolescent relationships alongside the impending apocalypse, leaving us with a thought-provoking conclusion that still manages to tie up loose ends. Rating: 4 Stars
The Key by Sara B Elfgren & Mats Strandberg (Engelsfors #3) Horror, Young Adult Cornerstone (29 Jan 2015) Ebook: 670 pages
I liked the narrator's voice but the structure of the book was all over the place and the writing wasn't great. However, the stories were good, it hadI liked the narrator's voice but the structure of the book was all over the place and the writing wasn't great. However, the stories were good, it had so much potential to be a fun, funny, sexy read about a gay guy's pursuits for cock. Shame the editors at Kensington didn't see the potential I did, it could have been so much more....more
Started out ok, but after a while the narrator felt all wrong for the character and genre. She had a very "chick-lit" tone rather than a voice for DNF
Started out ok, but after a while the narrator felt all wrong for the character and genre. She had a very "chick-lit" tone rather than a voice for erotic romance. Also, after at least half way through it became a sex fest. Sex, sex, sex. Maybe this wouldn't have been so obvious if I'd read the book, but listening to the audiobook it was really evident, and became very repetitive with no actual storyline. ...more
Was an ok story, but nothing groundbreaking. The narrator had a lovely voice but just needed a little more acting when changing characters, then it wo Was an ok story, but nothing groundbreaking. The narrator had a lovely voice but just needed a little more acting when changing characters, then it would have been spot on. Will definitely try the next book in the series when I want something light to listen to....more
Good story, well written and narrated. Ended a bit too soon in my opinion, and although I really liked the characters I didn't quite believe the loveGood story, well written and narrated. Ended a bit too soon in my opinion, and although I really liked the characters I didn't quite believe the love between Horse and Marie. Liked the writing so will definitely listen to book two when it's released....more
DNF : Couldn't really get on with the narrator, especially when she went into man mode. The voice she put on for the hero was really grating. Shame as DNF : Couldn't really get on with the narrator, especially when she went into man mode. The voice she put on for the hero was really grating. Shame as the actual story wasn't too bad. May read this one rather than listen....more
Well narrated as usual by Annie Aldington, however, story wasn't as good as previous books containing DI Kate Burrows. A bit too much repetition with Well narrated as usual by Annie Aldington, however, story wasn't as good as previous books containing DI Kate Burrows. A bit too much repetition with regards to the relationship between Kate and Patrick, even though I love them. The ending was bittersweet, but fitting. ...more