RELEASE DAY REVIEW – Dirt by Cassia Leo

Title: Dirt
Author: Cassia Leo
Series: Evergreen #1
Release Date: January 12, 2018

Jack and I had everything. Then, in one brutal instant, the universe tilted on its side, discarding us into black nothingness.

Now, I have a cocky a**hole for a husband.

The only way we communicate anymore is when we’re fighting or f**king.

With nothing left to lose, I write Jack a goodbye letter and head for Portland, where I quickly meet a neighbor who helps me find a job.

My new neighbor—broody, tattooed ex-soldier Isaac Evans—is complicated. Nevertheless, we form a fast friendship, bonding over our mutual desire to create something beautiful from the wreckage of our lives.

But despite the distance between us, Jack and I are still trying to make things work—fighting and f**king dirtier than ever. And he doesn’t appreciate my new friendship with Isaac. Not one f**king bit.

Cassia Leo has the beginning of an intriguing new series on her hands with Dirt. Laurel’s story was heartbreaking, surprising, and an emotional rollercoaster from start to finish. I didn’t really have any expectations going into this book, other than the promise that the author would stomp on my heart a few times. Cassia Leo certainly delivered, serving up a journey that was darker and more twisted than I could have imagined. Laurel, Jack, and Isaac made for a web of complicated feelings and unexpected ties that has me anxious to see where this story will eventually end up.

“What have we done to each other?”

I absolutely adored Laurel. She was understandably broken and yet there was something so beautifully resilient about her. I loved her quiet strength and the determination she demonstrated in picking up the pieces of her life to build something new. She had her moments of weakness of course, particularly when it came to Jack, but I’m excited to see how she continues to grow over the course of the series. To be honest, I couldn’t stand Jack. His relationship with Laurel seemed shallow and rooted in lust. Throw in his lying, manipulation, and obsessive behavior and I just couldn’t connect with him at all. Isaac, on the other hand, totally intrigued me. His own pain was obvious and yet he seemed to get what Laurel needed and understood her in a way Jack just didn’t. While I loved seeing them spend time together, I think the development of an emotional connection between Laurel and Isaac was lacking a bit and I needed more depth in order for me to really invest in their potential. 

“Sometimes, all someone needs is for one good person to say yes instead of no.”

Cassia Leo’s writing captured a myriad of complex emotions, giving readers a glimpse of life-altering heartache, devastating pain, and persistent hope. Fast paced and written to leave you wanting more, Dirt made me feel and kept me reading. Knowing there are more books to come in this series, I know the characters have a long way to go before we see them settle. I can say with full confidence that I have no clue where Laurel, Jack, and Isaac will end up and I am definitely curious to find out. With a trio of deeply broken characters and the promise of plenty of twists to come, Cassia Leo dives into what will undoubtedly be a fascinating new series with Dirt.


I’ve been dying for a new series from Cassia Leo for what seems like forever. When I heard about Dirt, the first book in the Evergreen series, I am not ashamed to say that I did a dance of giddy excitement. I dove into this novel with my heart open, ready to be torn apart, but I got something completely different. Dirt left me shocked and speechless, with a mind reeling from all that I had encountered.

“If it’s not the fight-me-tooth-and-nail, leave-me-bloody-and-gasping-for-air kind of love, I don’t want it.”

The heroine, Laurel, was undoubtedly my favorite part of this entire book. I loved her search for independence and the attempts to gain control back of her life. Though she may not have felt it, she was strong simply for surviving the tragedy that she had faced. It was in those moments of living, not just surviving, that I caught glimpses of this character’s true personality and likened me to her. On the other hand, her husband Jack drove me up a wall. He was a character with a personality that made me want to slap him seven ways to Sunday. He had a couple moments of likeability, but they were few and far between for this reader. The communication between these two was severely lacking, which left me wishing for a bit more to help relate to them as a couple. I do wish that we had more chapters from Isaac as well. His personality and brokenness intrigued me immensely. The glimpses we caught of his struggles made me curious for more, and I do hope we receive them in future novels.

“Isn’t there some sort of limit on how many times someone can break a promise before the other person has to say enough is enough?”

Cassia Leo has a special way with words. Whether she is writing angst, sadness, or more lightheartedness, the way she pulls readers in is incomparable. I’ll definitely be sticking around to see how the rest of the books in the series unfold, but I have a feeling Leo is not done with the mind games yet!


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Don’t miss the rest of the series:

Seed (Evergreen #2)

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Bloom (Evergreen #3)

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RELEASE DAY REVIEW – The Heiress by Cassia Leo

Title: The Heiress
Author: Cassia Leo
Release Date: September 26, 2017

How much is love worth?

Twenty-two-year-old Kristin and her single mom have always struggled to make ends meet. When her mother’s body begins to deteriorate after many back-breaking years of working as a housekeeper, Kristin must say farewell to her college dreams and hello to a full-time job waitressing. She doesn’t really mind. After all, giving up on her dreams will be her penance for that one horrible night.

Her luck begins to turn when she meets Daniel Meyers. Daniel is sexy and funny, but most importantly, he wants to get to know the real Kristin. It doesn’t hurt that he’s also extremely wealthy and intent on protecting her. Kristin feels safe with him. She wants to open up to him, to share the details of the awful night that changed her life. But she can’t shake the feeling that Daniel may be keeping a dark secret of his own…

Cassia Leo serves up a sweet, sexy, and suspenseful read with The Heiress, Kristin and Daniel’s unconventional love story. From the very first page, I was intrigued. There was something inexplicable between Kristin and Daniel that drew me to them and kept me invested in their developing relationship despite how different they seemed. As their journey progressed, the chemistry between the hero and heroine became more obvious and their connection deepened. Kristin and Daniel challenged one another, pushing each other away for the sake of their personal baggage, only to be drawn back in by that intangible pull. The secondary characters added plenty of heart and tons of intrigue, ensuring that I had no choice but to hang on for whatever wild ride Cassia Leo had in store.

“He was practically begging me to be myself, but who was I?”

Kristin is the kind of heroine I always love getting to know. Hardworking and loyal to those she loves, she’s beautifully flawed and perfectly real. There was something so genuine about this character’s voice that drew me to her heartache. I couldn’t help but feel for her and all she’d already endured. Determined to find her way in the world and make up for the mistakes of her past, Kristin was resilient and vulnerable in a way that made her entirely relatable. Daniel, on the other hand, raised plenty of questions. Everything about this character was carefully crafted and I enjoyed how this hero’s personal history unfolded as the novel progressed. While maintaining a bit of mystery concerning Daniel was necessary to the storyline, I would have liked to unravel him a bit more near the end of the book for the sake of really connecting with him.

“I had never wanted anything more than I wanted to believe I deserved to be this happy.”

One thing I can always count on with this author is her unique and enthralling storylines. The Heiress was no exception and I thoroughly enjoyed the slightly mysterious and certainly surprising journey Cassia Leo had in store for her readers with this book. I loved trying to piece together all the hints and character inconsistencies throughout the novel to try to come up with the truth behind the romance. Cassia Leo’s writing evoked plenty of emotion, tugging on my heartstrings as the past came to light and Kristin and Daniel’s world began to unravel. Although sprinkled with some undeniably suspenseful moments, The Heiress maintained a heartfelt and oftentimes downright swoon-worthy overall tone that made this novel a quick and entertaining read. A poignant and powerful story of loss, love, and forgiveness, Cassia Leo has another memorable romance on her hands with The Heiress!


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REVIEW – To Portland, With Love by Cassia Leo

Title: To Portland, With Love
Author: Cassia Leo
Series: The Story of Us, #3.5
Publication Date: April 16, 2017

To Portland, With Love is a short story from the bestselling Story of Us series.

Rory and Houston are living a seemingly perfect life in their picturesque house on the lake, but all is not as rosy as it seems. Rory’s discontent with the new yuppie lifestyle she feels she’s supposed to adopt is bleeding into all aspects of their marriage, and Houston is not at all pleased. Will the stress of Rory’s first book signing bring them to the brink?

Rory and Houston are back in To Portland, With Love! This sexy little short for The Story of Us Series brought back all the feels of this couple’s tumultuous journey. I absolutely adored seeing Rory and Houston settled into their happily ever after. The heat between these two still sizzled off the pages and Cassia Leo once again managed to make me blush with Houston’s deliciously filthy mouth. Scorching encounters aside, life isn’t all sunshine and roses for Rory and Houston. Cassia Leo doesn’t shy away from the stresses of juggling a marriage, two children, and burgeoning careers. The ensuing bickering and misunderstandings, while certainly frustrating, made this couple feel incredibly genuine and further confirmed the depth of their devotion to one another with their willingness to fight for their relationship each and every day.

“Thank you for writing this story and thank you for setting it in Portland. I… felt like I was reading a book about me. No one ever writes books about people like me.”

In addition to seeing the life that Rory and Houston have built together, we get a glimpse into Rory’s writing career as she prepares for her first book signing. Her success, after everything she’d been through, and the subject of her novel, proved to be deeply satisfying for fans of The Story of Us Series. My heart swelled with pride for Rory. Mindy and Mike were a little bit of a surprise and I needed a little more on the relationship Rory and Houston had with their neighbors, especially since they ended up being a point of discomfort for Rory. While To Portland, With Love lacked the emotional intensity I’ve come to love from Cassia Leo, it definitely had its moments of honesty that made my heart ache and flutter. If anything I found myself missing this couple and wishing this story had a few more pages. Fans of Cassia Leo’s unforgettable series will undoubtedly enjoy another dose of Rory, Houston, and a few other familiar faces. To Portland, With Love is a sexy and sweet treat that will have you ready for a reunion with Rory and Houston.



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Don’t miss the rest of The Story of Us series:

The Way We Fall (The Story of Us, #1)

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The Way We Break (The Story of Us, #2)

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The Way We Rise (The Story of Us, #3)

The Way We Rise

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RELEASE DAY REVIEW – Passion in Portland 2016 Anthology

Passion in Portland Anthology Banner

Title: Passion in Portland 2016 Anthology
Authors: A.J. Downey, A.K. Layton, A.J. Harmon, Alex Rosa,
Anie Michaels, Anna Brooks, Cassia Leo, Eliza Boyd, Gretchen S.B.,
Heather Carver, Heidi Mason, Jaycee Ford, Kimberly Kennedy,
Mary Crawford, Morgan & Jennifer Locklear, Nicole Richard,
R.J. Van Cleave, Sarah M. Cradit, Sidonia Rose, Stace Lee
Release Date: June 1, 2016

Passion in Portland

Synopsis

Twenty amazing authors. Twenty NEW stories. One fabulous anthology. Passion and romance in Portland, OR, tie these twenty novellas together. You will love every one, each unique but connected by their location, the beautiful Rose City.

The Passion in Portland 2016 Anthology is a project of hope. All proceeds from the sale of this book will go to Bradley Angle, a non-profit organization that helps survivors of domestic violence. Thank you for your support.

Books Included

Stay With Me by A.J. Downey | Falling Backwards by A.K. Layton
Mr. Wright Write Right by A.J. Harmon | Chaser by Alex Rosa
Kiss Cam by Anie Michaels | Honest Liar by Anna Brooks
To Portland, With Love by Cassia Leo | Kind of Crazy by Eliza Boyd
Poker in Portland by Gretchen S.B. | Stronger by Heather Carver
Love at First Crepe by Heidi Mason | When in Portland by Jaycee Ford
The Soviet and the Scientist by Kimberly Kennedy
Port in the Storm by Mary Crawford | Shy by Morgan & Jennifer Locklear
Forever Yours by Nicole Richard | Chasing Leigh by R.J. Van Cleave
The Ephemeral by Sarah M. Cradit | We Have Portland by Sidonia Rose
Love in Government Camp by Stace Lee

Review

Mr. Wright Write Right by A.J. Harmon

This short story is my first introduction to A.J. Harmon’s work and it definitely won’t be the last. I thoroughly enjoyed the quirky characters and the adorable story that unfolded between them. Mr. Wright Write Right follows indie romance author Gina as she navigates her first book signing and the world of writing. I loved the familiarity that this setting created and found myself grinning at the inclusion of so many things I’ve grown to adore about this crazy, fun community. The tension between Gina and Jackson and the hilarious and sassy banter that came from their awkward encounters kept me laughing while I devoured their great and unexpected love story.

“If you want to be a great romance writer, then you need to understand romance.”

A.J. Harmon easily pulled me in with her witty and smart writing only to totally hook me with the honest emotion that poured from the pages. I loved the vulnerability that Gina showed and it made me appreciate the plight of the self-published author that much more. Even Jackson had me feeling for him, despite the initial less-than-stellar impression he made. Both characters felt genuine and I found myself falling for them because of the flaws they demonstrated and the earnestness with which their relationship developed. A.J. Harmon has definitely impressed me with her ability to captivate the reader, cultivate relationships, and develop her characters all within so few pages. I look forward to reading more from this author in the future because she definitely left me wanting more of Gina and Jackson! — Rating: 4.5 Stars

Passion in Portland_Mr Right Write Right

Kiss Cam by Anie Michaels

Anie Michaels has me totally hooked on Camden and Riley! Despite the length limitations of a short story/novella, Kiss Cam has it all. I’m blown away by the emotional depth and complex storybuilding Anie Michaels has managed to deliver in such few pages. Kiss Cam is witty, smart, and undeniable sexy, introducing us to Camden and Riley and their amusing first meeting in a way that leaves you begging for more. These two shared a palpable tension that was instant and overwhelming. An easy friendship and natural chemistry, along with some seriously fantastic banter has me wholly addicted to this memorable couple. Camden and Riley were undeniably tangible, living out their story in the real world where twenty-somethings go to basketball games and drink beer at the local pub. This couple came across as comfortable and familiar, allowing me to invest myself in them wholeheartedly. Anie Michaels rounds out Camden and Riley’s world with Hadley and Justin, their hilarious and lovable best friends who make the ride that much more fun with their good-natured teasing and shameless quips.

“I like your mouth, Riley. I like the way you use it and the words that come out of it. I’ve only spent one half of a basketball game talking to you, and I know with near perfect certainty that I would never tire of hearing you speak.”

The best thing about Kiss Cam is the potential for more that Anie Michaels has so skillfully built into this story. Not only do we get to fall in love with Riley and Camden’s unconventional introduction and the ensuing chase but Anie also teases readers with the possibility of clashing social climates, feelings of inadequacy, and general angst. She expertly drops hints at Riley’s insecurities regarding Camden’s wealth and prestige along with notes of discord between Camden and his father. These details not only give this story a surprising depth, but also promise readers a complicated road ahead for this couple. I can only hope we’ll be seeing more of Riley and Camden in the future! Kiss Cam is phenomenally written, effortlessly bringing this story to life and leaving me no choice but to lose myself in the author’s words. Anie Michaels infuses this story with heart and humor, giving Riley and Camden distinct voices that demand to be heard and felt. I’m truly surprised by how invested I am in this adorable couple already. Full of enchanting characters, hilarious banter, plenty of genuine emotion, and an unforgettable storyline, Kiss Cam is undoubtedly one of the most satisfying short stories I’ve read in a long time. — Rating: 5++ Stars!

Passion in Portland_Kiss Cam

To Portland, With Love by Cassia Leo

Rory and Houston are back in To Portland, With Love! This sexy little short for The Story of Us Series brought back all the feels of this couple’s tumultuous journey. I absolutely adored seeing Rory and Houston settled into their happily ever after. The heat between these two still sizzled off the pages and Cassia Leo once again managed to make me blush with Houston’s deliciously filthy mouth. Scorching encounters aside, life isn’t all sunshine and roses for Rory and Houston. Cassia Leo doesn’t shy away from the stresses of juggling a marriage, two children, and burgeoning careers. The ensuing bickering and misunderstandings, while certainly frustrating, made this couple feel incredibly genuine and further confirmed the depth of their devotion to one another with their willingness to fight for their relationship each and every day.

“Thank you for writing this story and thank you for setting it in Portland. I… felt like I was reading a book about me. No one ever writes books about people like me.”

In addition to seeing the life that Rory and Houston have built together, we get a glimpse into Rory’s writing career as she prepares for her first book signing. Her success, after everything she’d been through, and the subject of her novel, proved to be deeply satisfying for fans of The Story of Us Series. My heart swelled with pride for Rory. Mindy and Mike were a little bit of a surprise and I needed a little more on the relationship Rory and Houston had with their neighbors, especially since they ended up being a point of discomfort for Rory. While To Portland, With Love lacked the emotional intensity I’ve come to love from Cassia Leo, it definitely had its moments of honesty that made my heart ache and flutter. If anything I found myself missing this couple and wishing this story had a few more pages. Fans of Cassia Leo’s unforgettable series will undoubtedly enjoy another dose of Rory, Houston, and a few other familiar faces. To Portland, With Love is a sexy and sweet treat that will have you ready for a reunion with Rory and Houston. — Rating: 4 Stars

Passion in Portland_To Portland With Love

When in Portland by Jaycee Ford

Jaycee Ford delivers her own twist on romance with When in Portland. While there is certainly all the excitement of a blossoming new relationship, it is Quinn’s journey of self-discovery that takes center stage in this short story. Recently divorced, Quinn sets out on her own for the very first time, heading to Portland on a new adventure. As she settles into her new life, she begins to fall in love with the city, with herself, and eventually with someone new. I adored the premise of this story, finding Quinn incredibly relatable and easy to invest in. Jaycee Ford’s writing is thoughtful and full of heart, demonstrating a maturity and self-awareness that captured the introspective tone of Quinn’s journey. When in Portland may be my first taste of this author’s work but it will definitely not be my last.

“But any good adventure begins with a really big bookstore.”

Quinn meets some colorful characters upon her arrival in Portland and I enjoyed their quirky contribution to her story. I was hoping we’d learn a little more about them, especially considering their fairly constant presence in her daily life. When Walt enters the picture, I found myself very much intrigued by his laidback and friendly demeanor. He may have stolen my heart when he turned out to be a fellow booklover. I really wanted to get to know him better, especially since Quinn felt so connected to him, but the story just never really got to that point unfortunately. I did appreciate the slow build-up between Walt and Quinn. Most short stories have a quick and intense insta-love that feels forced or superficial, but these two simmered for a bit while they got to know each other and Quinn got to know herself again. All in all, When in Portland was a well-written, sweet, and entertaining story that definitely left me wanting more of Quinn and Walt. — Rating: 4 Stars

Passion in Portland_When in Portland

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RELEASE DAY BLITZ – Anti-Romance by Cassia Leo

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Title: Anti-Romance
Author: Cassia Leo
Series: Anti-Romance #1
Release Date: March 8, 2016

Anti Romance Cover

Synopsis

Laney Hill is screwed. On the bed. On the treadmill. On the hood of a BMW. And on her boss’s desk. Then she’s screwed again when she steps into the free clinic and finds out she has gonorrhea. That dirty prick gave her gonorrhea! She’s totally going to break up with him…until he breaks up with her…because he’s married!

A spur of the moment date with her hot musician neighbor, Kade Masters, goes from smoking hot to red-hot disaster in two seconds flat. Then, a night out drinking with friends leads to a fateful—yet awkwardly-sloppy—kiss between her and her best friend George Bratton.

Laney is ready to go into hibernation-mode, when George receives an invitation to his ex-girlfriend’s destination wedding in London. Self-destructive George and gonorrhea survivor Laney make a deal to go as each other’s dates. It will make great material for Laney’s “Anti-Romance” blog and maybe it will help George finally get over his ex.

Pushing aside thoughts of Kade, and his “big engine that could”, Laney jumps at the chance to escape to the magical land of the royal family. But her magical vacation soon turns into a royal, steaming pile of lies.

This is book one of a two-book series, with book two scheduled for release in May 2016.

Review

Cassia Leo has once again managed to blow me away with her talent and creativity. Anti-Romance is fresh, fun, and incredibly fierce, delivering humor, heat, and heart in one totally addictive package. Laney is undoubtedly one-of-a-kind, hooking me with her amusing cynicism and reeling me in with her intelligence, wit, and surprising emotional depth. Cassia Leo made losing myself in Laney’s ridiculous and oftentimes awkward world absolutely effortless. Anti-Romance is a snarky and unpolished look at love and the ways in which it finds us even when we’re running screaming in the opposite direction. This story overflows with shameless innuendos and crude humor that had me smirking but it was the heart and soul that Cassia Leo so expertly infused throughout this novel that made it absolutely sparkle. Laney’s world is filled with vibrant characters that stole my heart in unexpected ways. I loved George and Kade and found myself totally torn between these two incredibly different men in Laney’s life. I’m dying to get my hands on the rest of Laney’s story to find out if romance will knock this non-believer off her feet.

“No one could feed my self-delusions the way George could, and no one could dismantle my self-delusions just as swiftly.”

To say that Laney is a hot mess would be an understatement. This character is blunt, unapologetic, and sometimes a total asshat. Surrounded by a great group of people, she’s not exactly the best friend in the world and she definitely seems to view men as disposable objects with limited entertainment value. While it is these characteristics that made me laugh and roll my eyes, it was Laney’s surprising emotional depth that made it impossible not to connect with her. As the story progresses, Cassia Leo exposes pieces of this character that had my heart aching for Laney. Through her relationships with George and Kade, Laney slowly begins to unravel, revealing a personal history and series of events that explained the underlying hurt responsible for her view of romance. As Cassia Leo brought this book to a close, I could practically feel a shift in Laney’s world happening as she’s forced to face some harsh truths about herself and the men who care about her. I’m anxious to see where Cassia takes this character in the final piece of her journey.

“It’s one thing to possess a free and independent spirit. It’s quite another thing to push away the people who genuinely care about you in a vain display of sovereignty.”

Going into this story with no real clue as to what lay ahead made Laney’s journey that much more entertaining. From the first word to the last I was riveted, laughing, cringing, and grinning my way through this hilariously uncomfortable and surprisingly heartfelt story. Cassia Leo’s writing cast its spell, bringing to life the colorful personalities and crazy adventures of the characters. There was plenty of heat burning across the pages along with a rollercoaster of emotions I never saw coming. Only Cassia could write something so simultaneously scorching and amusingly un-sexy. Laney’s candor, biting wit, and cynical inner monologue made this character a train wreck I just couldn’t look away from while George and Kade brought out the thoughtful and feeling soul of both Laney and the overall novel. Anti-Romance was perfectly paced and full of surprise twists I didn’t anticipate. My mind is still reeling from all of the revelations contained within the final pages of this book. I can’t wait to see how Laney’s story ends. Anti-Romance is sarcastic and sassy – a one-of-a-kind romantic comedy with heart.

Rating
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Anti Romance_7

Excerpt

ANTI-ROMANCE CHAPTER 7 – EXCERPT
Copyright © 2016 by Cassia Leo.

I closed my eyes and balled my hands into fists to hide the fact that I was now trembling. No one knew about the real purpose of my blog other than my friends, and I had just spilled my secret to a man I’d basically known for a total of four hours. The one alcoholic beverage I’d consumed tonight had been digested hours ago, but suddenly my stomach went sour.

Oh, God. What had I done?

“So that’s why you’re always bringing home all kinds of guys?” he asked, his voice unexpectedly calm and inquisitive. “Holy shit. Are you gonna write about me?”

I turned to him and shook my head furiously. “No! I have no intention of writing about you.” He didn’t seem convinced. “You’re the one who asked me out,” I reminded him. “I had no intention of dating you, much less sleeping with you.”

“You’re not making this any easier to swallow,” he said as he pulled the truck into the apartment complex.

“That’s what she said. Oh, God. I’m sorry.”

He laughed. “That’s okay. I walked right into that one.”

I sighed again as I tried to think of how to explain this without bearing my soul to him, but I couldn’t think of anything. “I don’t know what it is about you, but you make me want to do things I’ve never done.”

He cocked an eyebrow as he parked the truck. “Such as?”

“Like, tell you about what I do for a living.”

“So I should be honored?” he said as he pulled the key out of the ignition.

I looked into his eyes for a moment and thought of when he asked me to be his pick girl earlier tonight. “Absolutely,” I replied. “You see, I have a rule. I don’t write about any of my dates until the relationship is over. But…” I pressed my lips together as I gazed into his eyes and gathered the courage I needed to continue. “I’ve always told myself that when the right guy comes along, I won’t ever have to write about him because…we’ll never be over.”

He broke eye contact as he stared at the steering wheel for a moment. “You’re telling me that you plan on quitting your job when you find the right guy?”

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Don’t miss the conclusion to Anti-Romance:

Pro-Love (Anti-Romance #2)

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Author Bio

Cassia Leo

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time watching old reruns of Friends and Sex and the City. When she’s not watching reruns, she’s usually walking in the rain or reading.

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Anti Romance_5

RELEASE DAY BLITZ – The Way We Rise by Cassia Leo

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Title – The Way We Rise
Author – Cassia Leo
Publication Date – August 21, 2015
Series – The Story of Us, #3

The Way We Rise

Synopsis

The highly anticipated conclusion to the USA Today bestselling Story of Us series.

With Liam’s fate no longer in the balance, Rory and Houston are poised on the precipice of a life-altering decision. When Rory’s father arrives in California to comfort Rory and make amends, Houston finds the decision becomes much easier to make.

When Houston suggests they take a break Rory thinks he must be joking. But he’s not. And his timing couldn’t be worse.

With Houston and Rory vowing to keep their new friendship strictly outside of the bedroom, their friends and family seize the opportunity to draw out the torture and surprises. Ensuring that Houston and Rory’s story has an ending they’ll never forget.

The Way We Rise is the final book in The Story of Us Series, which follows the tumultuous love story of Rory and Houston.

The Way We Rise_1

Review

Cassia Leo could not have written a more perfect conclusion to The Story of Us Series. The Way We Rise was everything I’d come to love about Rory and Houston’s story and then some. This book embodies devastating heartbreak and unimaginable pain, ferocious love and unwavering hope. Cassia Leo has captured the delicate beauty that is falling in love and the even more fragile triumph that is nurturing it. The final book in Houston and Rory’s journey was raw, honest, and emotionally gripping. I often found myself lost in thought, contemplating the poignancy of this story and devouring Cassia Leo’s thoughtful prose. I adored the phenomenal storytelling and the clever integration of plot structure. This book explored the challenge of making the rewrites necessary to adapt to life’s unmatched ability to stray from the planed storyline while maintaining my hope for a happily ever after. The Way We Rise is touching, smart, and utterly breathtaking; every bit the ending Houston and Rory deserved.

“I learned that, whether it’s the love between father and daughter or the love between a man and a woman, you can’t erase love. Not with a delete button or six years or six hundred miles.” I reach up, brushing the tips of my fingers over the sandpaper scruff on his jaw. “That book isn’t us. This is us. Just you and me, getting through every day. That’s our story.”

Houston’s character really developed in The Way We Rise. In the first two books his sole focus has been on getting Rory back, but in this book we get to see a more mature and sympathetic man. Houston recognized the enormity of the events that had unfolded since he and Rory were reunited and he finally accepted the emotional significance of them. How he handles these challenges and the decisions he makes in their wake revealed so much about this character to the reader and gave Houston a polished feeling of completeness. Rory’s chance to grow as a character required her to face her family and eventually herself. Cassia Leo wrote Rory with a genuine vulnerability and understandable hesitancy that kept me feeling her struggle as she faced down the harsh realities of her world. One of the things I adore about this couple is the crackle of energy that seems to permeate their story. Rory and Houston have a palpable connection that never fades. No matter what these two face, their undeniable chemistry and stunning connection continues to shine through, giving this series a magical quality that kept me enchanted.

“The sun has almost completely gone down, painting dramatic swaths of billowy pink clouds across the western horizon. In the east, the stars are twinkling as they get ready to make a dazzling entrance. And here in the middle, on a rooftop in Portland, I feel high enough to touch the sky.”

Authentic to the tone of this series, The Way We Rise was not without several unexpected twists. Rory and Houston’s story unraveled in some ways I had desperately hoped for and in others I couldn’t have guessed. I loved that even after everything our characters had already been through, The Way We Rise still managed to surprise me. Emotionally, this book hit me hard. I found myself crying happy tears at even the smallest moments of joy, feeling deeply relieved to find glimpses of light amongst the darkness. I found this feeling to be the true measure of success in terms of this book, its demonstration of how deeply I had connected with the characters and events in the first two books. The Way We Rise was deeply satisfying, not only providing resolution to our couple’s journey but also delivering an exciting and comforting look into the future in the epilogue. Cassia Leo has truly outdone herself with this book and the entire series, leaving me with a book hangover it’ll be hard to relieve.

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Playlist

Excerpt

Houston

I climb the fence quickly and wrap my arm around her shoulders to guide her back to the car. “What are you doing out here? I told you to stay in the car.”

“I was worried about you,” she says, her teeth chattering as I open the passenger door for her. “Is someone going to let us out?”

“No one was there.”

Her eyes widen. “We’re stuck in here?”

I shake my head as I try to come up with an answer better than the truth, then I remember I promised to never lie to Rory again. “There may be a groundskeeper who’ll come by tonight and let us out. But if not, then yes. We’re stuck here for the night.”

Her mouth drops open in utter horror. “I’m sorry. It’s all my fault.”

“Bullshit. I could have carried you to the car and forced you to leave. It’s not your fault. And, hey, look on the bright side,” I reply, raising my voice to be heard over the sound of the rain battering the top of my car, and Rory looks at me as if I’m insane to even suggest there’s a bright side. “Spending the night in a cemetery will probably be the ultimate test of our friendship.”

She rolls her eyes as she climbs into the passenger seat. “You call that a bright side? I call that a nightmare.”

The Way We Break_5

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The Way We Rise_2

Don’t miss the rest of the series:

The Way We Fall (The Story of Us, #1)

Read our Review HERE
Add to Goodreads
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The Way We Break (The Story of Us, #2)

The Way We Break eBook

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To Portland, With Love (The Story of Us, #3.5)

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Author Bio

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time watching old reruns of Friends and Sex and the City. When she’s not watching reruns, she’s usually enjoying the California sunshine or reading – sometimes both.

Author Links

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The Way We Rise_3

BLOG TOUR & GIVEAWAY – The Way We Break by Cassia Leo

The Way We Break

Title – The Way We Break
Author – Cassia Leo
Publication Date – May 29, 2015
Series – The Story of Us, #2

The Way We Break eBook

Synopsis

The Way We Break is the stunning continuation of the bestselling Story of Us series from New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo.

Live the truth…

The truth about Hallie has torn Houston and Rory apart for a second time. Houston is finally unburdened of the secret his sister confided in him, but now he must deal with the aftermath.

He has vowed to set things right for Rory, and he’s determined to get her back. But the destruction left in the wake of Hallie’s letter is not the only obstacle he must face. Houston must find a way to win Rory back by showing her their story isn’t over yet.

…or live the lie.

In her desperation to move past the anguish of Hallie’s secret and Houston’s lies, Rory seeks solace in Liam. When Liam is transferred to another tech company in California, Rory jumps at his invitation to leave Portland, and her broken heart, behind. In California, Rory finds a friend who opens new doors for her in the literary world. But does this new friend have ulterior motives?

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Bs Review

Houston and Rory’s heartbreaking journey continues in The Way We Break. Cassia Leo is certainly in her element with The Story of Us series, skillfully capturing the angst and uncertainty of the New Adult genre. Houston and Rory find their lives ripped apart by the secrets that were revealed at the end of The Way We Fall, sending their stories veering off in unexpected directions. Cassia Leo has turned up the emotional turmoil in this book, tearing my heart to shreds with each painful revelation and gut-wrenching truth exposed. The Way We Break kept me utterly captivated as I navigated the many twists and turns of Rory and Houston’s journey and delved deep into their complex, shared past. The Way We Break left me feeling as if I knew this couple in a much more profound manner, securing my complete investment in this series.

“No one understands the burden I’ve carried. The power to destroy someone emotionally is not the kind of power I wanted bestowed upon me. But that is the gift my baby sister left me. And it’s all I have left of her.”

If there is one thing I can always count on with Cassia Leo, it’s that her character development is exquisite. Rory and Houston are carefully revealed to us over the course of this novel, providing just enough previously unknown information to drive their story forward while holding on to a few surprises to be expertly timed in their revelations during key plot points. As their journeys take them in new directions, we get to know Rory and Houston as individuals, exploring their feelings for one another in an organic way, untainted by the other’s presence, and get a glimpse at the true heart of their emotional states. Cassia Leo also delivers the complicated history between our couple in a series of memories and flashbacks that solidifies both Rory and Houston’s relationship and our own connection with the characters.

“You’re the least boring, most screwed up girl I know.” 

As stunned as I was by the things we learned at the end of the first book, I definitely couldn’t have predicted the direction in which Cassia Leo took The Way We Break. As Rory struggles with the ugly truth, Houston is forced to deal with his role in that deception, resulting in a flood of feelings. Cassia Leo’s beautiful writing ensured that the reader was experiencing every high and low right alongside our couple. Secondary characters played their roles in illuminating the rare and inimitable love that Rory and Houston share, while pushing the couple outside of their comfort zones. I adored the addition of Hannah and the spectacular growth Rory sees in her presence. Kenny continues to make me laugh out loud, while moving me with his unconditional loyalty and support. Cassia Leo has once again managed to allow me to lose myself completely in her beautiful world full of unforgettable characters with The Way We Break. I can’t wait to get my hands on the final book in this fantastic series!

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Cs Review

This series has something special that makes readers feel like Cassia Leo is getting back to her roots; it has reminded me why I fell in love with her writing. There is something I can’t quite put my finger on about The Story of Us series that brings it all home for me. The Way We Break was able to splinter my heart, start to piece it together, and then shatter it all over again while simultaneously picking up the pieces.

“It’s always tempting to choose the safer road. The one you think will get you to your destination in one piece.”

I really felt for Rory and her plight in this book. I think we all want to pick up and leave at some point in our lives, which made her situation quite relatable. So when the opportunity arose and she jumped on it, I could completely understand her motivations. I actually admired that we got to see a weaker, more vulnerable side to her character as well. Though I hated the manipulations that took place to make it happen, it felt vital to the story. And on the other side of the coin, I loved how dedicated Houston became. He grew up in a way and wanted to prove his love. Of course there were some mistakes along the way, but readers could tell that his heart was always in the right place and definitely left me rooting for him!

“But as you learned today, sometimes the safe roads are nothing but dead ends. And I’ll tell you one thing I know for sure.”

The Way We Break picks up where the first in the series ended, though there is a little bit of back and forth in the timeline. I really appreciated getting those glimpses of the past though because it helped me as a reader to better understand the emotions these characters were going through. Rory and Houston do spend a majority of the novel apart, which often bugs me; however, the way Leo writes them is actually pretty brilliant. You can feel their chemistry and desires, even in these times of separation. The angst only adds to the readers’ desires to see them together and honestly heightens the emotions described. They’ve each had to grow and realize things apart in order to see whether or not they’ll have a future. I felt like the execution of the storyline was perfect and appreciated it as much as, if not more than, when we got to see these two be together in the first novel.

“No matter what your destination is, there’s no safer road than the one you take with someone you love.”

I am clearly addicted to a little angst with some emotional tugging of the heartstrings and Cassia Leo sure knows how to deliver on both accounts. The ups and downs of Rory and Houston flow effortlessly and I’m curious to see how this relationship will play out. Furthermore, I want to see how Rory is able to figure out her life after what she has been through. This series keeps getting better and better and I can’t wait to see where the author chooses to take us next!

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Excerpt

Houston

September 5, 2014

I want to storm out of this office and never come back, but I promised myself I would do the mature thing and make it through at least four counseling sessions. This therapist better up his game and start reining in Tessa’s hysterics. I can’t take much more of this.

“Okay, let’s try something different,” Mansfield says, sitting up straighter in his chair. “How about we do an exercise? Why don’t the both of you each give me three positive things that will come out of this divorce?”

My mind instantly conjures Rory’s face. The one positive thing that will come out of this divorce: I’ll be free to make room for her in my life. Then I try to think of three things I love the most about her, but it’s hard to narrow it down. Her vanilla-scented hair is pretty high on the list. Her constant movie references. Her creamy skin and the way it feels when her legs are wrapped around me. Her many facial expressions: adorably confused, scary angry, her come-fuck-me expression, and, my personal favorite, her smile. But it seems all she’s done lately is cry.

Which is why I’m stumbling my way through these counseling sessions. It’s why I’m giving Rory the space she needs to work things out with her parents. I just hope her father took my threat seriously.

I’ve wanted to throttle that son of a bitch for nearly six years, but I’ve put it off because of Rory. After she tossed me out of her life last week, I had nothing left to lose. I showed up at his law offices in downtown Portland and managed to finesse my way past the receptionist. I found the glass-walled conference room where James stood at the head of a long mahogany table. He was in the middle of a meeting, but not for long.

I stepped into the conference room and pointed at him. “You and I need to talk. Now.”

“We’re in the middle of a meeting,” said a blonde woman sitting in a chair a few feet away from me.

“No, it’s fine, Christina,” James said, making his way toward me. “Carry on without me. I won’t be long.”

I clenched my fists as I followed him to his corner office. The first thing I saw when I stepped inside was the row of framed pictures on the console table behind his desk. There were two pictures of James and Rory together, one of him kissing her forehead as they stood next to a backyard grill. The other picture was obviously from the family vacation they took to Hawaii when Rory was in high school. I couldn’t remember how old she was during that vacation, but I found myself wondering if Hallie had already developed a crush on James by then.

This thought made me more sad than angry. How would Hallie feel if she knew why I was here? What would she think of the way I’ve handled her secret?

James’s office smelled of leather and hardwood. It reeked of money, with the tufted leather armchair behind the mahogany desk and the walls lined in bookshelves and certificates. Light poured in through the window painting a silver glow over every gleaming surface. But that was only the first impression. Upon further inspection, an uneasy feeling rippled through me.

The stain on the mahogany desk didn’t match the stain on the mahogany shelves. And the leather chairs appeared worn, as if all these pieces were scrabbled together from purchases made at a used office furnishings warehouse. I tried to determine what this said about James, but I didn’t know if it meant he was pragmatically frugal, or maybe he took on a lot of pro bono cases. Did that mean I should admire him? The man who was once an activist, fighting for the rights of the wrongfully accused, until he settled down and had a family.

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Don’t miss the rest of the series:

The Way We Fall (The Story of Us, #1)

Read our Review HERE
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The Way We Rise (The Story of Us, #3)

The Way We Rise

Read our Review HERE
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To Portland, With Love (The Story of Us, #3.5)

Read our Review HERE
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Author Bio

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cassia Leo loves her coffee, chocolate, and margaritas with salt. When she’s not writing, she spends way too much time watching old reruns of Friends and Sex and the City. When she’s not watching reruns, she’s usually enjoying the California sunshine or reading – sometimes both.

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The Way We Break 2

REVIEW – The Way We Fall by Cassia Leo

Title – The Way We Fall
Author – Cassia Leo
Publication Date – February 18, 2015
Series – The Story of Us, #1

Synopsis

Maybe we shouldn’t have fallen so fast and so willingly.

Maybe we shouldn’t have moved in together before we went on our first date.

Maybe we should have given our wounds time to heal before we tore each other to shreds.

Maybe we should have never been together.

Houston has kept a devastating secret from Rory since the day he asked her to move in with him. But the tragic circumstances that brought them together left wounds too deep to heal.

Five years after the breakup, Houston and Rory are thrust together by forces beyond their control. And all the resentments and passion return with more intensity than ever.

Once again, Houston is left with a choice between the truth and the only girl he’s ever loved.

From New York Times bestselling author Cassia Leo comes a twisted and passionate love story that pushes the boundaries of loyalty.

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Bs Review

Cassia Leo has written an arresting story of heartache and vulnerability in The Way We Fall. Every time I think I know what to expect from this incredibly talented author, she changes the game and completely overwhelms me with her intricate storylines and broken characters. The Way We Fall was so much more than I could ever have expected and I am desperate for the next book to see where she plans on taking these one-of-a-kind characters. This is the first book in the series, so you can’t expect a happily ever after right away. What you can expect is to be blown away by the significant weight and raw feelings of this story. Rory and Houston are a twisted mess of emotion and history that promise to take you on an unexpected journey of love, loss, growth, and forgiveness.

“I’m just a screwed-up girl with a billion stories racing through my mind on any given day. And only one story I really want to tell.”

Cassia Leo has a knack for crafting characters that are complex and different while still emotionally accessible to her readers. Even if the situations the characters face are outside of your realm of understanding, she conveys the emotional upheaval with such integrity that you can’t help but feel every bit of their pain and heartache. The Way We Fall doesn’t just tell a story, it creates it. I was swept up in the excitement and hesitancy of Rory and Houston’s chance meeting only to find myself thoroughly invested in their uncertain future. Cassia paces this story beautifully, playing the past and the present off of each other to set the emotional undercurrent of the book. Well-timed placement of past memories enhanced Rory and Houston’s present story, until I was sure I could tangibly hold onto the connection between them.

“You’ll always be the deepest scar on my heart.”

I absolutely adored what Cassia did with Rory and Houston. Both characters were unique in their own right while coming across as completely genuine and entirely relatable. I love a character that I not only connect with and understand, but that I feel for, and that is exactly what Cassia has created here. I was invested in these characters much like I would be an old friend and Cassia Leo made sure every breathtaking and gut-wrenching moment they experienced shook me to my core. Much like the emotions these characters wore on their sleeves, the chemistry between these two is palpable. The electricity between them never settles, never dulls, continuously sparking until it manages to catch fire. You can be sure that when they do go up in flames, you’ll be there burning along with them.

“You can’t erase love without erasing yourself.” 

The Way We Fall ravaged me emotionally, repeatedly breaking apart and putting back together my heart as we joined Rory and Houston on their journey. Cassia Leo had me effortlessly falling for the stunning and tragic story that is the first part of Rory and Houston’s journey and left me restless for the rest of their story. I devoured this book in one sitting as it proved to be something incredibly special. The Way We Fall has all of the things I’ve come to love in a good romance book and new adult novel making it one of my favorite books I’ve read so far this year. The tenuous relationships and uncertain future we are left to face at the end of this book promise an even more intoxicating journey with the next book. The Way We Fall is definitely worth taking the leap.

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Cs Review

Cassia Leo is undoubtedly one of those writers who likes to dabble in a little bit of everything; I’ve seen her write new adult, suspense, erotica, etc., and always with a spin of romance. She has a knack for all of them and I honestly don’t think I could pick out my favorite. However, The Way We Fall felt like it encompassed all of Cassie Leo’s strengths and highlighted the very best of everything she has to offer.

“We may only ever have one great, passionate love. If I had one, it would definitely be Rory. But sometimes it’s best to leave that kind of love in the past.”

I found myself not only falling in love with the characters of Rory and Houston, but being completely mesmerized. Rory was strong and independent and she wasn’t afraid to recognize her feelings, yet still hold back. Whenever a situation arose, it was her putting that wall up and refusing to give in. While some people might consider this a stubborn move, it really likened her to me. I knew that she would be a take no-nonsense character, which in a way showed the depth of her feelings that much more. Houston to me was a much more complex character. He was ruled a lot by emotions and guilt which made for some interesting scenarios. Despite being married, it never felt like a love triangle because of how much Rory and Houston cared for each other and how often their paths had crossed. Houston was very loyal and dedicated in his feelings for Rory and I’m definitely interested to see where that goes in subsequent books in the series.

“Love is a strange concept. That the very sight of someone, the very mention of their name, can cause an intense chemical reaction inside you is crazy. The fact that many people settle for less than that explosive chemical reaction is even crazier.”

I think one of the things I appreciated the most was how a person with no point of view, no voice, and was a part of the past became such an integral character in their present. Hallie was this looming figure in all scenes and to both characters. She shaped so many of their actions and their feelings that it really brought her to life. There were chapters with alternating time periods so the reader does get glimpses of her, but it is mainly through the influences of Rory and Houston that she comes to life. There was something about their love story that felt timeless and the journey that the reader experiences just felt special; we were receiving the story Rory was writing which sucked me into the book even deeper.

“The world can fall to pieces around us, but in the end we’ll always make it back to us.”

While there may be versions of this story in existence (meaning girl falling in love with best friend’s brother), I’ve never seen it told quite like this. There were some heartbreaking moments and some filled with laugh out loud chuckling. Furthermore, the clues dropped throughout provided for the perfect amount of suspense to keep the reader hooked. There were some twists and turns I never saw coming either. I can honestly say that it felt like Cassia Leo was getting back to her roots with The Way We Fall. If the other books in the series are nearly as addicting as this first installment, I can’t wait to see how their story continues!

Rating
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The Way We Fall

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Don’t miss the rest of the series:

The Way We Break (The Story of Us, #2)

The Way We Break eBook

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The Way We Rise (The Story of Us, #3)

The Way We Rise

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To Portland, With Love (The Story of Us, #3.5)

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The Way We Fall 2

REVIEW – Knox by Cassia Leo

Knox Banner

Title: Knox – The Complete Series
Author: Cassia Leo
Series: Knox # 1-4

  Knox Complete Series

Synopsis

Rebecca hasn’t seen or heard from her mob boss father in four years, but she’s about to receive a message from him that will throw her life into chaos. She thought she left the crime family, and the painful memories, behind when she went into law enforcement. She never expected to be abducted by a smoking hot stranger. But when this stranger makes Rebecca an offer too tempting to refuse, she finds herself dragged into one of the most ruthless vendettas of the century.

Knox Savage is well known as the infuriatingly sexy CEO of Knox Security and a notorious bad boy. What most don’t know about Knox is that he loves helping high-profile criminals escape justice. He makes no judgments about guilt or innocence. And he doesn’t do it for sentimental reasons. But he’s about to take on a case that’s going to get very personal.

Review

VOLUME ONE

In true Cassia Leo fashion, this story had me hooked from the very beginning. I don’t read many serial novellas like this because I’m not a very patient person, but I’m even less patient when I have the chance to start something by an author I really like. This first installation introduces us to Rebecca, whose career in law enforcement is as far from her past and family as you can get. When her father needs her help, she is taken to a secure location and questioned by a handsome stranger. Knox is dangerous and mysterious and oh so sexy. The interaction between these two is electric and it adds another dimension to this intriguing story. The ending caught me by complete surprise. I’m pretty sure my jaw actually dropped. It was the kind of twist I love in a book, but then I remembered I had to wait for the second novella! Ahhh. I’m definitely going to keep reading to find out where this story takes Rebecca and Knox. Rating — 4 Stars

VOLUME TWO

This installment picks up some time after the first one left off. The relationship between Knox and Rebecca has completely changed, kicking the steam factor up several notches. Some of the questions we were left with at the end of book 1 get answered and Rebecca begins to struggle with her decision to help her father. I had a hard time accepting how quickly Rebecca accepted the reemergence of her old life, surrounded by lies and violence and blackmail, but whether it is blood or love, family makes you do crazy things. Rebecca’s best friend Lita helps us get a better picture of the type of person Rebecca is and the life she has been living since walking away from her family. We also get to know Knox a little bit better, getting a glimpse into his life and his business. I loved seeing the fiery side of Rebecca come out as she challenged Knox and refused to be used as a simple puppet. I’m a huge fan of a strong and self-sufficient heroine. Just as Knox and Rebecca start to settle into the current lives, a familiar face reappears asking questions and Rebecca gets some unexpected news that changes everything. Once again Cassia Leo, leaves us hanging and begging for more Knox! Rating — 4 Stars

VOLUME THREE

This was the most exciting installment of the story so far. Volume 3 is almost entirely from Knox’s point of view. I am so glad we got to get inside his head for a while. He is such a complex character and up until now his motives have remained somewhat of a mystery. His need for revenge is clear, but the details of the events leading to the moment that sealed Knox’s fate were a bit hazy. As the mystery of Knox’s past comes to light, the storyline begins to round itself out and we get to meet some key players. We finally get to see a bit of Rebecca’s father and get a feel for the type of man he is and how he feels about his daughter. I’m not usually big on serials unless I can get the whole story at once, because I tend to lose interest getting only a little piece of the story at a time. The complexity of the characters and the carefully crafter storyline in Knox has kept me coming back for more, anxiously awaiting the resolution to this story. Once again, Cassia leaves us with a shocking revelation and a “what the hell” moment to cling to while we await the final volume in Knox’s story. Rating — 4.5 Stars

VOLUME FOUR

The final volume of Knox’s story did not disappoint. After I was left hanging at the end of volume three, I couldn’t wait to see what happened next. I think this installment did a great job of closing up the story, answering our questions and putting to rest the chaos we volume three left us in the midst of. Not only did Cassia Leo clear up Rebecca and Knox’s story, but she also included an epilogue that takes place six years down the road. I love epilogues, and I love them even more when a significant amount of time has passed so that we can see where our favorite characters are at in their lives. It gives us the reassurance and the closure we all need to walk away from a story. I hated waiting for this final volume, I’m not really a very patient person, but I’m glad I started this story. Knox is an interesting and fun story that will take you for a ride on the emotional rollercoaster and keep you guessing right up to the end. Rating — 4 Stars

Rating
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Overall Series Rating

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The Knox Series can also be purchased as individual volumes:

Knox: Volume One

Knox Volume 1

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Knox: Volume Two

Knox Volume 2

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Knox: Volume Three

Knox Volume 3

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Knox: Volume Four

Knox Volume 4

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BLOG TOUR & GIVEAWAY – Chasing Abby by Cassia Leo

chasing-abby

Title – Chasing Abby
Author – Cassia Leo
Publication Date – September 29, 2014
Series – Shattered Hearts, #6

chasing-abby

Synopsis

The heart-stopping conclusion to the New York Times and USA Today best selling series.

Five years, six months, eight days….

It’s been eighteen years since Abigail was born with a hole in her heart. Five years since she collapsed on the soccer field. Five years, six months, eight days since she found out she was adopted.

Abby has spent five years wondering about the family she never knew and waiting for her eighteenth birthday. When Abby shows up on the doorstep of Chris and Claire Knight, her birth parents are overjoyed to see the little girl they lost eighteen years ago.

One summer is all they have to make up for the years they lost. But a summer of love soon turns into a summer of heartache.

Review

Chasing Abby is one of those books that leaves you gutted and completely raw from all the emotions experienced while reading it. The story truly embodied love and warmth, yet heartbreak and strength. It was an incredible way to end the series and really brought all the storylines full circle. I don’t know that I will ever be fully ready to say goodbye to Chris, Claire, and Abby, but if I have to, Chasing Abby was the best possible outcome that I could have hoped for.

“Because blackbirds can’t touch the sky if you never set them free.”

This book is the fourth in the Shattered Hearts series and though we receive several different points of view, this is truly Abby’s story. With her eighteenth birthday fast approaching, she has a decision to make about whether or not she will open the safety deposit box that holds the key to who her biological parents are. After an argument with her adoptive parents, she decides that she wants to know and goes with her boyfriend, Caleb, to find out. On the brink of giving up hope that they will ever meet Abby, Chris and Claire are stunned when Abby shows up on their doorstep. What follows is a beautiful journey and an unforgettable experience where readers get to witness an incredible transformation and growth because of one decision that Abby made.

“This is hopeless. I feel like Chris’s famous roast chicken, like I’m being carved into pieces: one piece for my mom and dad, one for the Knights, one for Caleb and my friends How about me? Which piece of me to I get to keep?”

One of the things that I absolutely loved about this book was that the family situations were awkward and pragmatic, and Cassia paints that picture so well. You can feel the tension in the room, or the longing to have that connection with Abby but not knowing how to get there. However, when it was one on one time, both Chris and Claire were easily able to connect with their daughter through their own channels – i.e. Chris with music and Claire with the beach. The emotions portrayed felt realistic and we didn’t have to watch them through rose-colored glasses, which I definitely appreciated. The story did not feel forced and just seemed to flow effortlessly from one moment to the next. Watching Abby mature and become stronger was something very special for me. She grew more assertive with her dreams and really found her voice, but not until she discovered her roots. She made the hard decisions in haste and it was probably one of my favorite qualities about her. Her progression from the beginning of this book to the very last page was captivating and she is absolutely not a character that I am likely to forget any time soon. Chris and Claire are the same characters we have come to love, yet so much more at the same time. Seeing them interact with Abby, as well as their other children, just gave such a familial dynamic to the book. It was the perfect touch.

“I’m different. I’m the girl who got away. The girl who was strong enough to capture my parents’ hearts in a single twenty-minute meeting and hold them captive for eighteen years.”

I saw Cassia Leo say that the Shattered Hearts story has always been Abby’s story, and I didn’t quite agree with her until reading Chasing Abby. This one book truly makes you realize that everything Claire and Chris had gone through had been all about Abby. From day one of them meeting, it all led to the moments in this final piece of the puzzle. I’m not going to lie and say this book is all roses, there were some definite ugly crying crocodile tears going on and several times, I needed to put it down to compose myself. However, being able to experience so many emotions is definitely the sign of a great writer, and Cassia Leo is just that. She has a beautiful way with words and is such a strong storyteller. This book was heartbreaking, breathtaking, and absolutely beautiful. I loved the series overall, but Chasing Abby rose the bar for me and is, without a doubt, my favorite of all the pieces.

Rating
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Chasing Abby

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Check out the Rest of the Shattered Hearts Series!

Forever Ours (Shattered Hearts #1)

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Relentless (Shattered Hearts #2)

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 Pieces of You (Shattered Hearts #3)

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Bring Me Home (Shattered Hearts #4)

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Abandon (Shattered Hearts #5)

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Ripped (Shattered Hearts #7)

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Excerpt

AMY RIDES HOME with Caleb and me after school. An April storm swooped in while we were in third period. The smell of the rain and the sound of the drops tapping on the vinyl convertible top is soothing after a long day of fake smiles. Amy and Caleb are the only people who know about the significance of today’s date. Everyone at school was wishing me a happy eighteenth birthday, completely oblivious as to how unhappy today actually is.

I haven’t told Caleb or Amy, but I’ve already made my decision about opening the safe-deposit box.

Caleb pulls into the driveway, next to my dad’s silver pickup truck, and turns off the engine. The silence that follows brings a smile to my face. They’re both waiting for direction from me.

“Let’s go. I’m sure my mom is pacing the living room, waiting for me to walk through the front door.”

Caleb laughs, but Amy shakes her head. Her wavy brown hair is damp at the ends from the rain and the light freckles on her nose are showing through her makeup, but she still looks great. My makeup is probably all gone.

“Is your mom going to freak out?”

I push the passenger door open and a few raindrops fall on my arm. “Amy, this is my mom. Of course she’s going to freak out… on the inside. On the outside, she’ll pretend like everything is okay.”

Caleb grabs my shoulder as we stroll up the front walk, then he gives it a soft squeeze. “Whatever you choose is the right choice. Don’t let anyone make you believe otherwise.”

I smile and, for some reason, the $4,000 guitar lying in his trunk comes to mind. Of course Caleb thinks that whatever I choose is the right choice. He thinks I’m so special I actually deserve a $4,000 guitar. I could probably run away tonight and Caleb would tell me I made the right choice. Of course, if I ran away tonight I’d probably end up spending the night with Caleb at the apartment he shares with his twenty-three-year-old roommate. So that’s a bit obvious.

“Is your dad supposed to be home right now?” Amy asks as I reach for the doorknob.

“No, he probably left work early. It’s a big day for them, too.” Pushing open the front door, I’m a bit surprised to find my dad standing in the foyer, as if he were waiting for me. “Hey, Dad.”

He clears his throat and smiles. “I know I wished you a happy birthday this morning, but I’m going to do it again.” He extends his right hand forward and I see the gold key lying flat in his palm. “Happy birthday, sweetheart. This is yours now.”

I draw in a few deep breaths, then I reach forward and take the key from his hand. I curl my fist around the sharp metal, squeezing as it digs into the soft flesh of my palm. Looking up into my father’s blue eyes, the barely disguised grimace crinkling the skin around the corners, I tuck the key into the front pocket of my jeans.

“I’m not going today,” I say, smiling so he doesn’t think this was a difficult decision to make. “I don’t know if I ever will, but thank you for trusting me to make the decision on my own. I love you, Dad.”

I wrap my arms around his thick waist and he squeezes my shoulders so tight it hurts. “I’ve always trusted you, sweetheart. I know you’ll make the right decision for you.”

“What’s going on?”

My mom’s voice is soft and laced with worry, but it still grates on my nerves. I love my mom, but her inability to trust that I would make the right decision has broken something between us. I don’t know if I’ll ever hear her speak and hear the same voice that sang me to sleep every night until I was eight years old.

“I’m not going,” I say, letting go of my dad.

Her eyebrows knit together, but there’s a spark of hope in her eyes and a slight curl to her lips. “Why not?”

I blink a few times to hold back the tears. “Because I’m afraid of hurting you.”

“What? That’s silly.”

“No, it’s not. I can see how much you want me to leave that part of me in the past. Even if you don’t say it, I can see it in your eyes.”

“I’m sorry, Abby. I just—”

“No, you don’t have to explain, Mom. I understand.” I sniff loudly as I wipe the tears from my face. “You don’t want to lose me. And I’m lucky to have you. I know that… I don’t want to lose you either.”

She shakes her head and takes my face in her hands. “Oh, honey. You’re not going to lose me. You’ll never lose me.” She kisses my forehead and tucks my hair behind my ear. “Yes, I’m afraid of what this will do to our family going forward, but it’s natural. We fought so hard for you, Abby. I just want to protect you. I want to protect this family.”

“From what?”

She presses her lips together as she considers this question. “I don’t know. But please don’t let my fear influence you. This is your decision, honey. Your father and I will support you no matter what you choose to do.”

I nod and she takes me into her arms. I allow myself to cry on her shoulder for a moment, before I excuse myself to my bedroom with Caleb and Amy. Closing the door behind us, I immediately take a seat on my bed while Amy sits at my desk and Caleb sits next to me.

“She’s hiding something from me,” I say as Caleb grabs my hand.

“Our parents probably hide more things from us than we do from them,” Amy replies, opening up my laptop. “Do you want me to respond to all your birthday greetings on Facebook?”

“Yes, please.”

“Not the ones from guys,” Caleb adds, and I shove him. “Are you sure you don’t want to see what’s inside that box?”

I nod quickly. “I’m not ready. I’m actually glad my mom made me wait. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready to face the people who gave me away.”

“What if they had no choice?” Amy says.

“No choice? In what kind of world would they have no choice? Of course they had a choice. Maybe it was a difficult one, but it was still the choice they made. Why do I even want to meet someone who didn’t want me? My parents want me. They’ve always wanted me and now I’m going to risk hurting them just to satisfy my curiosity? It doesn’t make sense.”

“You’ll know when you’re ready,” Amy says, an automatic response as she scrolls through my Facebook profile and responds to hundreds of birthday wishes.

“That’s bullshit.”

I look up at Caleb and he’s staring straight at me. “What?”

“That’s bullshit,” he repeats. “You’re not going to hurt your parents. And you know that.”

I try to let go of his hand, but he tightens his grip. “You don’t know what you’re talking about.”

“I know better than you do. I had a mother who didn’t want me. Really didn’t want me. But you… you don’t know what your birth parents felt about you and I think that’s what scares you the most. Not knowing.”

The soft tapping of Amy’s fingers on the keyboard of my laptop stops. I bite my lip as I try to deny that what Caleb just said is true, but I can’t. He’s right. I’m not afraid of hurting my parents. I’m afraid of hurting me.

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Author Bio

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cassia Leo grew up in California and has lived in three different countries. She loves to travel and her dream is to one day score a record deal based on her awesome shower singing skills. She is the author of the Shattered Hearts series (Forever Ours, Relentless, Pieces of You, Bring Me Home) and the Luke, Knox, and Chase series.

Come chat with her on Facebook and Twitter. You can also follow her blog at http://cassialeo.com to stay up to date on new releases and giveaways.

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