Monday 13 April 2020

Tell Me To Stay & Dear Ava (Willow Winters / Ilsa Madden-Mills)

Some spoilers (aka potential triggers) are mentioned below for Dear Ava!


It’s impossible to get over what we had.
He was everything – irresistibly handsome, ruthlessly elite, and seemingly untouchable - while I was nothing.
Yet he protected me when I was at my lowest; more than that, he wanted me.
He devoured me… and I did the same to him.
Until it all fell apart and I ran as far away from Madox as I could. After all, the two of us were never meant to be together.
I never thought I’d see him again, years later. Let alone be under him in the way I’ve craved since we said goodbye.
The attraction between us still burns like fire, but time can’t change the past. And I don’t know if it’s possible for us to mend all of our broken pieces.

This is my first Willow Winters novel and I must admit that I found it completely underwhelming. I don’t know if it was because this particular story had started off as a novella which was later expanded (into a short novel) or whether it was just the author’s writing style but I found it to be a bit of a hot mess.

The characters lacked any kind of depth or personality, the storyline was paper thin, and the constant back and forth between flashbacks and the present was tedious when the past barely explained anything going on in the present. (I think that the flashbacks were supposed to add depth, but they failed.)

The book was just… Sex and angst. Angst that meant nothing to you as a reader because you did not care a single jot about any of the characters because it’s hard to give a single crap about a fictional character who is no more fleshed out than a name on a page.
As for the sex… I read it with a bored almost clinical detachment because I just did not care.
I don’t think you could class the book as erotica as it fell short on the fundamental requirement of that - i.e. being erotic - but I wouldn’t call it romance either as it failed to inspire emotion.

Basically, it read like a first draft. It was the bare bones of a story that sorely needed to be fleshed out with some life breathed into it but, unfortunately, it was delivered DOA.


*Read via Kindle Unlimited*

The rich and popular Sharks rule at prestigious, ivy-covered Camden Prep. Once upon a time, I wanted to be part of their world--until they destroyed me.

The last thing I expected was an anonymous love letter from one of them.

Please. I hate every one of those rich jerks for what they did to me. The question is, which Shark is my secret admirer?

Knox, the scarred quarterback.
Dane, his twin brother.
Or Chance, the ex who dumped me. . .

Dear Ava,
Your eyes are the color of the Caribbean Sea.
Wait. That's stupid.
What I really mean is, you look at me and I feel something REAL.

It's been ten months since you were here, but I can't forget you.
I've missed seeing you walk down the hall.
I've missed you cheering at my football games.
I've missed the smell of your hair.
And then everything fell apart the night of the kegger.
Don't hate me because I'm a Shark.
I just want to make you mine.

This book was nothing like I expected.
For a start, Ava is drugged and raped the first chapter of the book (off page but the aftermath isn't) and that wasn't something I was prepared for.
Secondly, I wasn't prepared for the devastating events of that night to permeate every chapter of the book - but it did and in a big way.
I'm not going to lie, I went into this book expecting an angsty, hate to love romance, that was pretty straight forward but what I got was an angsty hate to love romance with an added side of serious shit and honestly, I didn't appreciate the serious shit at first and considered DNFing.
I felt like I'd been mis-sold the book. However, I'm glad I kept reading.

Ava is one tough cookie. Knox is a bastard sweetheart. Seeing them come together as a couple - wading through all that serious shit - was worth the journey.
Seeing them get their HEA was awesome.
Knowing that the asshole who raped Ava got his comeuppance? Priceless.
(Even if you could guess who it was pretty much from the freaking beginning.)
Is it a book I'm likely to fangirl over and recommend to everyone? Not really, no.
Is it a book I'm likely to read again? No.
But I enjoyed it in the end and I'm sure it'll tick a lot of people's boxes, especially if they like bratty rich kid dramas and hate to love romances. (Which this book captures in spades.)


  1. I may read it. Have a great day. Stay safe.

  2. I have been wanting to read Dear Ava. I actually like that the deep, heavy stuff is at the beginning, and the happy things follow after. Like darkness before the dawn.

    1. It was a bit like that, I just wasn't prepared for it and that's topic in particular I need time to brace for... I hope you get to it at some point though.

  3. Ava does sound tough and i am putting this on my TBR. Thanks for the great review.

  4. I'm sorry to read the Willow Winters book wasn't what you hoped it would be. And the Madden Mills book sounds very intense.
    Great reviews.

    1. I hope it was a fluke with the Winters book as I have a few more of hers on my kindle! :/

  5. Tell Me to Stay sounds like a total dud. Ugh. I've seen several good reviews of Dear Ava. I think it's the kind of book that probably isn't for everyone but it does sound like an good, intense story. I don't mind dark romance or a lot of angst, but I'm not a huge fan of rich kid drama or hate to love so I'll probably give it a pass.

    1. I would've had less of a problem with it if I'd had any warning of the content, you know?

  6. I haven't read either of these. Not sure they are my kind of books.

  7. 50% isn't bad! ;) The first book does sound like a hot mess, but you've piqued my interest with the second...

    Lindsi @ Do You Dog-ear? πŸ˜·πŸ’¬

    1. 100% hot mess. I have a few other books by Winters on my kindle so I'll eventually find out if it was a one off disaster or not. :/

  8. I really liked Dear Ava. Glad you battled through it and enjoyed it as well.

    1. It just caught me completely by surprise as I hadn't seen the subject matter mentioned in any reviews.

  9. Great reviews. Dear Ava seems interesting. Thanks for sharing.

  10. Bratty rich kid drama is definitely a pull but I am 100% not a fan of books that are mis-sold, as you said. Especially if you are completely unprepared for that serious shit right in the beginning. I would have thought quite a bit about DNF-ing also.


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