Hold Me Until Forever by Christina Phillips
Book Three of the Grayson Brothers series
Publisher: Entangled Brazen
Publication Date: January 4, 2016
Rating: 4 stars
Source: eARC from NetGalley
***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers***
Summary (from Goodreads):
She's the only one he wants...and the one he can never have.
Ella Clark has been in love with Alex Grayson forever. She’s tired of being invisible—or worse, being treated like his kid sister. If she can just get him to drop his iron-fisted control for two seconds, she’ll prove she knows exactly how to blow his mind.
Alex has been fighting his attraction to Ella since her should-have-been-innocent sweet sixteen kiss burned down his world. He's damaged, and there's no way he'll ever drag her into his screwed up life. Until she offers him something he's always craved—steamy, no-strings sex inside his exclusive BDSM club. Where she'll be safe from the darkness that haunts him.
Except there's nothing safe about being with Ella, and the more she gives, the harder it is to let her go. If he stays, he risks everything, but how can he walk away from the only woman he's ever needed?
What I Liked:
I've not read the other two books in this series! They don't sound particularly special and I'm not sure I would have enjoyed them since the heroine in each book is rich and/or famous (I'm not a huge fan of books that have a famous hero or heroine). This book, however, dealt with two close friends. I really enjoy the friends-to-lovers trope in romance, and I'm glad I chose this Brazen novel!
Ella is sure that her friend and boss Alex Grayson will never notice her. She's been in love with him since she was sixteen, but he treats her like a sister. Ella is ready for some change in her life - so she resigns from the company and is going to start at a new job. Little does she know that Grayson has wanted her for years, but he knows he isn't good enough for her. Juvie past? Too damaged for this kind, good woman. But Ella surprises him when she comes with him to his BDSM club for an exclusive night with him - and another, and another, until they've become friends with benefits. But Ella wants more - can Alex let himself trust again?
This book was a lot more dense than I thought, in terms of the issues that the author went into. Usually Brazen novels have steamy romances and *some* angst, but not too much. In this book, Alex has a really, really bad past (not your cliche type either), and it has been eating him for years. Going to juvie is definitely a reason for guarding oneself from others emotionally, especially for why he went. I felt so bad for him! But I loved seeing this aspect explored so well, especially emotionally. Alex shut down emotionally after juvie, in terms of relationships.
I liked Alex. He's not your typical alpha Brazen hero, though he is definitely still domineering and manly in other ways. He's the silent type, but he isn't arrogant and doesn't play hard to get - he just doesn't want people to bother him. He loves his brothers and would do anything for them. He's been love with Ella for years, but can't let himself be that close to her. Alex has been shouldering guilt for years, and it makes him somewhat of a hard man. He's swoony and broken, if that makes sense.
Ella is a cutie. She's kind of awkward but also kind of bold, and she's got a good sense of intuition. I like that she kept trying with Alex, never really let him go. She understood his issues and didn't run from him, not when they were younger and he went to juvie, not now when he pushes her away. Ella is emotionally strong and independent, which I liked!
The romance between these two started a little slowly, but really picked up speed. I'm not into BDSM so I liked how the author incorporated BDSM into this book - very mildly. Ella and Alex go to the club, but it's just Ella and Alex exclusively - nothing else going on. Their physical relationship is really steamy, and Ella picks up certain things quickly. But their emotional connection also progresses nicely - I liked seeing Alex slowly trust Ella with his "dark side".
I think the author constructed this romance very well! It wasn't over the top with drama in the end, and both parties worked to be together (not just one of the other). I liked the ending - it was an interesting and adorable end!
What I Did Not Like:
I think there could have been a little more chemistry before the couple had their first sexual experience... but that's just me. Maybe because they were supposed to be platonic friends, it was hard to write the chemistry between them. But the chemistry was off the charts after that first night! *fans self*
Would I Recommend It:
If you're into Brazen novels, this one was pretty good! I don't think I'd call it a favorite, but I enjoyed it, and I could see myself remembering this or possibly rereading it or recommending it. There wasn't anything that bothered me *too* much!
3.5 stars -> rounded up to 4 stars. This author is new to me, but I can tell that she writes a good romance! I'll be looking out for more novels by her in the future.
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