Wednesday, September 9, 2015

REVIEW: Games of the Heart by Kristen Ashley (The 'Burg Series #4)

From the balcony of his house, Mike Haines can see the quiet, commonplace beauty of the Holliday farm. But what he remembers is the little sister of his high school girlfriend, Dusty who grew up there. As a teen, Dusty had gone off the rails but when she was a kid, she was sweet, she was funny and she had a special bond with Mike. But after high school, she took off and Mike never saw her again.

Then tragedy strikes Dusty's family, she comes back into town and Mike thinks she hasn't changed back to the sweet, funny girl he knew but instead continued to be selfish and thoughtless, leaving her family alone to deal with their mourning. So he seeks her out and confronts her in an effort to understand what went wrong and to force her to sort herself out.

He finds out quickly he's wrong about Dusty Holliday. Very wrong. And right after Mike discovers that, the bond they had years before snaps back into place in ways he would never suspect.

But Mike Haines had a bad marriage then he played games of the heart for a good woman. And lost. In order to protect himself and his kids, he's cautious, he's careful to read the signs and he's not interested in finding a woman he has to fix.

Then he learns what happened to Dusty and he thinks she needs to be fixed. He swings, he misses and in this new game of hearts, for Dusty, Mike just got strike three.

Kindle Edition, 600 pages
Published March 15th 2012 by Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Source: Purchased
Purchase your own: Goodreads | Amazon

Shel: Truth: We've been reading some dark things lately and I like it. I like exploring that side of humanity and asking those tough questions and embracing those dark things in me. But sometimes, it can be unrelenting and grim and after reading several dark reads in a row, I knew it was time to step away from those.  One of my favorite ways to do that is to dive into a Kristen Ashley book and since there are a few I haven't read yet, I decided to pick Games of the Heart and what a perfect choice! Anytime I pick up a Kristen Ashley book I know that within pages I'll slide into the world she creates and lose myself in it and it's exactly what I needed after some hard reads. Court: True story. The 'Burg series has become one of top contenders for favorite's and of course it is KA...I don't think I have to tell you just how much we love her writing...but I will. Her writing in this story is exactly as we hoped. 

Shel: In Games of the Heart we get Mike and Dusty's story. (You may remember Mike from Vi's story a few books back). As with several of KA's other books, this novel features the "second chance at love" theme--not in a way that feels recycled, but in a way that felt perfect for Mike and Dusty. He needed someone he could trust with his heart after being trampled by Audrey and Vi. She needed someone she could trust after the string of losers she'd been with in the past. When a sad event brings them both together, the opportunity arises for them to take a chance on each other and they do, without delay...and as you've got to know...not without some trouble as well. Interestingly, the trouble that finds them, or that they make, isn't what you'd necessarily think when it comes to an  ex-wife and two teenage kids. Instead it comes from an awful sister and her schemes and an incident at the end that was an idiotic vengeful act that went horribly, horribly wrong. Court: SO here is where it gets dicey for me...and maybe why I couldn't quite get into it a few months back. Themes in this novel hit home, and while I wouldn't have been able to read this entire book in a few days a few months ago...this week I did it. I finally did it...and all of this family drama definitely felt familiar and embraced me, so I did the logical thing and embraced it back. Just WHOA on this story, these people, these kids, their land, their legacy and all of the day to day in between. And Mike Haines loves his fucking dog, and that made me love him even more.

Shel: What I loved about Mike and Dusty was that their love was evident early and it was strong. They communicated with humor and love and respect. They didn't hide things and they owned their mistakes. I also loved that KA didn't feel the need to add any extra drama by manufacturing problems where they didn't need to be any; she instead created loving and open relationships. And while I'm at it, let me say that I loved how far out she took the ending too. Court: I KNOW!!! Not that they always had the answers either, but there wasn't this soul crushing angst for a stupid reason here. There were big things happening, and family and openness that is seriously beautiful. Hard truths, and epic love. Games of the Heart is an epic story.

Shel: I have lots of love for Kristen Ashley and she absolutely never disappoints. I cannot wait to have grab her next book and dive back into her world. Court: Bring me Frankie and Bennie! 

Kristen Ashley was born in Gary, Indiana, USA. She nearly killed her mother and herself making it into the world, seeing as she had the umbilical cord wrapped around her neck (already attempting to accessorise and she hadn't taken her first breath!).

Kristen grew up in Brownsburg, Indiana but has lived in Denver, Colorado and the West Country of England. Thus she has been blessed to have friends and family around the globe. Her posse is loopy (to say the least) but loopy is good when you want to write.

Kristen was raised in a house with a large and multi-generational family. They lived on a very small farm in a small town in the heartland and existed amongst the strains of Glenn Miller, The Everly Brothers, REO Speedwagon and Whitesnake (and the wardrobes that matched).

Needless to say, growing up in a house full of music, clothes and love was a good way to grow up.

And as she keeps growing up, it keeps getting better.

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