Friday, February 1, 2013

Vouched Book: Scandalous by H.M. Ward

H.M. Ward
Book #1 of the Scandalous series
Publication: May 1st 2012 by Laree Bailey Press
Genre: Contemporary Romance

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"I see it, Jack. Your muse is back. The thing that gave you passion, tormented you, and haunted you is back. You're reeling in ecstasy and dread. It's something you want, but can't ever have. And the one that brings the pain is pure, white as snow ... and standing in front of you."

One kiss could have changed Abby's life, but when it didn't happen, she ran. Jack was everything to her and when he didn't respond, Abby couldn't bear it. Everything about that night—leaning in close to his face, feeling the night breeze teasing her hair, the way his scent filled her head—was burned vividly into her mind, including the moment when Jack pulled away. There was no kiss. Abby was wrong. She was wrong about him, wrong about them.

Maybe she didn't have to go to college two thousand miles away, but she did. She had to forget about him. Abby threw herself off the grid, disappearing completely from the life she knew. After completing her undergraduate degree, she enrolled in seminary. All contact with her old life was severed and she never looked back, until she was forced to.

When Abby puts idealism into practice, her congregation throws her out. If she can survive a year on her own, they'll take her back, and continue to pay off her student loans—but if she fails, Abby is on her own with enough debt to fund a small town. Seminary wasn't cheap. With no place left to go, Abby returns to New York and her best friend takes her in.

Desperate to make it on her own and prove she was right, Abby follows a job lead to an art studio on Long Island. It isn't until she hears Jack's voice that she freezes. The hairs on the back of her neck prickle as she turns to see Jack, ten years later, looking even more tempting than before.

Fate is cruel. Abby left this life behind, but she's thrown back into it, head first. It's like someone hit rewind on her life and its ten years earlier. She's the cotton-mouthed girl that she always was around Jack, and now her future relies on the man who rejected her.

Holy. Hell. I was expecting the usual boss-employee troupe, not the provocative and evocative art, smokin' sex, forbidden love, and believable scandals I actually got—and for only 99 cents*.

Jonathon is a famous artist with integrity, trying to keep his pristine reputation, for his work can be considered either fine art or pornography. Abby is a female minister forced on a one-year sabbatical without pay and is still in love with her best friend from high school, Jack. Too bad she didn't know Jonathon and Jack are one and the same when she applied to an art gallery to help pay for her ungodly amount of debt.

On top of their unique backgrounds, I immediately liked the main characters, as well as the secondary ones. They weren't typical or too predictable. Abby is unconventional in mind and maybe in practice, and it gets her in trouble with her church. Although Jack is a millionaire, I easily forgot the fact because he doesn't flaunt it. The moment he walked into the scene with his jeans, plain t-shirt, and paint-splattered Chucks, I knew I would adore him. And with phrases such as this:
"I can't be the one that makes you fall, Abby. You chose your path, you said your vows, and since that's the life you want, I'll help you keep it."
Alternative cover
Well, who wouldn't swoon? He had a boyish charm, an intensity he couldn't hide, and my God, talented hands, too! Abby was fun, determined, but also a little lost. It was nice to see her discover who she truly was and what she really wanted.

I did find her reasons for running from Long Island and joining ministry a bit flimsy, though. It was hard to believe because becoming the head of a church isn't a decision made nor thrown away lightly, and her faith isn't emphasized. And Jack, as good-intentioned as he was, gave up too easily when the fight got too tough. I think I would've given this the full five stars if it was bit longer, too. The I-love-yous happened too fast for my taste, though I guess it's understandable since this was about "the one that got away" and Abby believed in soul mates, in finding "the one" and never giving up.

But overall, Scandalous was a fantastic, steamy read that I couldn't put down. H.M. Ward used such sensual imagery, describing the art pieces so well that I could see them and feel Jack through each. Jack's painting process alone was fascinating. Even the sex scenes were inventive and artistic. I also appreciated how the scandals behind both the main characters' careers added to the mystery and to the great scandal at the end, which turned out to be different than I was expecting and made the book even more refreshing.

I highly recommend Scandalous to anyone looking for a quick, unique, and sensual Contemporary Romance with tasteful scenes. I fully intend to check out all of H.M. Ward's books, especially her Paranormal Romance novels, which are under the pseudonym Elle Steele.

* Price subject to change without notice. Be sure to check and confirm purchase price before buying.


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