Sunday, December 8, 2013



RATING :: ★★★★ 4 STARS ★★★★

Books with sensitive subject matter such as domestic violence, self-harm, mental illness, and addiction are often hard for me to read. I'm overly critical of them since I can't suspend reality for these very real, very harsh topics in the way that I can for books that feature supernatural creatures or biologically-engineered beings.

I come from a background laced with too much reality to ever take it lightly.

I'm very glad to say that Kirsty Dallas does a magnificent job at portraying the world of domestic violence in a way that neither glorifies it nor dismisses it as something insignificant one gets over in a few weeks like a bad haircut. Her pacing was spot-on for me. I loved that the book flowed easily with Jax and Ella falling in love gradually as they both built up their trust in one another. While Ella is clearly a victim of abuse, she is not often portrayed as someone who is weaker because of it. On the contrary, the author encourages the reader to embrace Ella as a heroine in her own right for surviving.

There were a lot of beautiful moments in this piece for me -the opening sequence with young Ella losing her father, Jax getting a chance to have his mother captured exactly as he saw her by Ella's gift as an artist, the ladies all having a laugh at Jax being too protective to want to leave Ella alone for even a few hours for "girls' night"- and I did find it a very touching story.

In terms of characters, it's very easy to love them all. You've got your survivor in Ella, your matron in Mercy, your diva in Rebecca, and your delicate soul in Annie whose love for her son touched me.

Jax is the perfect hero in all the right ways: gorgeous, a little flawed yet he can recognize that in himself, and selfless to a degree which makes the reader instantly melt for him.

The few issues I had with the book were minor. There were some grammar errors that threw me badly (which may not be there in the version available for purchase - I was provided my copy free in order to provide an honest review so I have no way to verify if those were corrected or not) and the pacing on the ending felt odd to me. It was a little rushed, hectic in some ways, and everything fell into place in this tidy way that I am not generally fond of in my stories. I like messy stories to stay messy. I don't mind loose threads in my sweaters or my stories when they're stories about people whose lives are frayed already. That's a personal preference on my part, however, and I know from experience that many people love to embrace a HEA with everything falling neatly into place by the time they see THE END in bold print.

It's a good story which presents an excellent look into the world of those who get lost too often in the shuffle. Overall, I'm glad I got the chance to read it and I read it in one sitting which proves that it does grab one's attention very easily.

Saving Ella is a steal right now on Amazon for 99 pennies so if you haven't gotten the chance to read it?

I'd say it's well worth grabbing!

~Shandra Torbett, reviewer for This Redhead LOVES Books, review based on a free copy provided for an honest review

RATING :: ★★★★★ 5 STARS ★★★★★

Reality comes back to life in this book by touching on loneliness, self-awareness, and surviving in a world where domestic violence is all-too-real. There's a lot of raw material in here that could be considered triggering for some though I do not believe it is nearly as 'dark' a read as the first book in the series, Saving Ella, though it does contain dark subject matter including a violent attack on our female protagonist.

There are some mixed feelings about whether or not one needs to have read Saving Ella to read Fighting Back and I feel that I got more out of it from having read the first book prior to picking up this one. It is not essential that you read it to enjoy this story though. I read it through while trying to imagine how I would feel if I had only been given this book to read as a stand-alone rather than both books to get the full scope of the series and yes, I could have easily enjoyed this story without having read about Ella and Jax first.

This book is perfectly capable of standing on its own. The story is about characters connected to those found in Saving Ella, but the reader is introduced to those characters again in a way that makes it easy to figure out who relates to who and in what ways. I liked having read the first book before starting this one only because it was like getting to become reacquainted with old friends again. I got to say a new hello to Jax and Ella -this book does take place immediately after the end of Saving Ella- as well as Rebecca and Charlie who we met in that first story. Many other characters crop up in the book too who are made more charming because they are recurring characters in this shared world.

I'd recommend reading them in sequence for that reason alone.

That being said, I feel that the writing in this book is more solid on a technical level. It's got that same maturity to it that Saving Ella had without any of the construct issues that tossed me out of the story.

I read this one in one sitting, too!

Character-wise, I absolutely adore Rebecca. She's charming, funny, and enough of an Every-Woman that readers of all ages can relate to her. All her quirks make her memorable in a way that I think is fabulous to see when it's so sad that our female characters often get washed away into the same molds over and over again in favor of making a more interesting male hero for the reader to adore. I love it when I can say that I liked the female protagonist more than the leading man! It makes me smile all over my face. She's my favorite pin-up girl now and I love that I thought of her as Betty Boop before hearing Charlie call her that.

Speaking of Charlie!

Charlie -our leading man- is also a really funny, unique blend of Alpha male and Every-Man which made it impossible for me not to love him. I never found him too overbearing or too much of anything really. He was just this great guy who has enough swagger to make you want to watch the way he works it! I would have let him sweep me off my feet...or potentially beat the you-know-what out of someone for me. I could go for either option where he's concerned.

There was so much chemistry between them that it felt as if I were reading a very natural relationship progression. It's more fast-paced than its predecessor in that sense though these characters carry different baggage than Jax and Ella. They also already had a past that came with them from the first book which made sense for them to move faster.

For me, the ending was perfect. I loved it. There was all that mess and madness I'd been missing. I didn't mind at all that it left me wanting more. I read so that I can be inspired to dream and what's more inspiring than being dared to ask "What happens next?"

I'd recommend this book highly since it's an obvious labor of love with just the right mix of drama and passion to fall into for a good read.

~Shandra Torbett, reviewer for This Redhead LOVES Books, review based on a free copy provided for an honest review

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