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4.5 “Pull me close and hold me tight” stars
This book really took me by surprise. I went into it not knowing much, and I was completely swept away in an emotional, heartfelt story that was also lots of fun and seriously sexy. It’s a beautifully written story of a woman suffering with an illness and trying desperately to get better, and the dark, broody man who falls for her. It’s an absolutely gorgeous romance, and I loved it!
Katherine Wilson endured a terrifying and devastating trauma as a teenager. Now, at age 32 she is a woman struggling with severe PTSD. She suffers crippling anxiety and has a number of phobias which leave her pretty much housebound and incredibly reclusive. She makes the monumental effort of going out to celebrate her sister’s engagement party at Panic, a hot club in downtown Miami, but the crowds, the noise and the lights all prove to be too much for her and she suffers a panic attack which sees her passing out, waking up in the office of the club owner.
Nick Moreno owns Panic. He is working to restore the name of the family-owned club after his father’s shady practices saw it become a center for drugs, prostitution and gambling. Now, aware that they are under the watchful eye of the Police, Nick and his twin brother, Matt, are working hard to keep the club legal and profitable. The stress of it all, combined with the pain and anger leftover from his ex-girlfriend’s devastating betrayal has made him moody and serious, consumed by his work with few friends and little to no social life.
When a woman passes out in his club he is immediately infuriated, assuming she’s just another junkie using his club as a place to get high. To get her out of the building he drives her home, coming into her private sanctuary and unknowingly initiating a connection that will change both of their lives.
She intrigues me in ways no one ever has. She’s drop-dead gorgeous but has absolutely no clue. She’s shy yet feisty. Scared but fucking braver than most.
This is a beautifully developing relationship. They both find the other attractive, but there initially is a lot of animosity between them due to misunderstandings and bad behavior. But their continued interactions allow them to see beyond their initial impressions, and over texts, phone calls, movies and dinners, everyday conversation, gentle teasing and dirty flirting and banter they start to see more in each other than they ever could have realized.
“Tell me what you need. I want to help.” I turn in his arms and look up at him. He did research? God, he’s wonderful. “Pull me close and hold me tight,” I whisper.
Katherine responds to Nick in a way she hasn’t felt about anybody in years. She likes him, she feels safe with him, and she’s massively attracted to the gorgeous man. And Nick is fascinated with Katherine. He listens to her, and accepts who she is and all of the baggage that she brings with her without question. He can see the brave, special woman that she is, and he wants to help her live again. Of course he wants her, but he doesn’t want a relationship, so he holds back and the UST is absolutely sizzling!
Fuck it. I put my hand on hers, unclasp the death grip she has on the counter, and turn her around. With my other hand I reach forward and take a strand of her hair between my fingers It’s soft and silky, and I can’t help but imagine it wrapped around my first as I fuck her senseless, which is absolutely not something someone should be thinking about their friend.
But their attraction is too strong to resist, and they soon find themselves caught up in a passion that consumes them both and OMG, this book is steamy. Nick is a dirty talker who needs control in the bedroom, and the sexy time is seriously hot. And for a woman who needs control in her life, Katherine finds that she loves handing herself over to Nick and letting him take the reins, trusting him to give her what she needs. But more than just lust, there is strong emotion between them and I adored watching them fall for each other.
“I’ve decided I’m going to let myself fall in love with you,” I say.
His smile fades. He brings his other had to my cheek, those emerald eyes looking intently at me. “Then you need to catch up, baby, because I’m already in love with you.”
Oh Nico, how I love you! The broody alpha determined to lock his heart up becomes a massive sweetheart with Katherine. Being there for her, accepting her, supporting her, holding her when she needs it and pushing her when she tries to hide, but always maintaining his alpha ways – making me both swoon and fan myself at everything that he is.
I have no fucking clue how to handle this situation.
And now I’m the one who’s scared.
This right here should be the line in the sand for me, I think. I can leave. Walk away. This is way more baggage than I need or want. I’ve already been in a high-drama relationship, and I don’t need this in my life. These thoughts run through my brain quickly, like one of those silent movie reels, and as quickly as they enter, they leave.
Because instead of running as far away from this woman as possible, I slide in behind her, pushing her forward slightly so that I can wedge myself between her and the wall. I wrap myself around her. “Pulling you close and holding you tightly,” I whisper.
And Katherine is a wonderfully complex character. She’s incredibly self-aware, and that makes her very relatable. She’s smart, sensible and incredibly brave, and I could feel her desperation to get well and start living her life again.
I don’t want to be defined by my illness. I’m not a crazy person. I’m a person who has fears. But if I hole myself up in here and stop living then the illness is who I am. I don’t want my anxiety to win.
I really like the way the author addressed Katherine’s illness – we see her struggles both from her perspective and from Nick’s, and it’s heartbreaking to see her suffer the way she does. But I thought it was handled honestly and respectfully, and it added a wonderful dynamic to the relationship as Nick makes it his mission to help his girl heal and reclaim her life.
“You can do something that most can’t,” he says, looking at me with an intensity I haven’t seen before. “You can look horror in the eye and charge forward, and you can survive.” I chew on my lip. He has a lot more confidence in me than I have in myself, that’s for sure. “I’ll be right there holding your hand.”
It’s beautifully done, but it’s not all serious and dramatic. There are lots of light moments, and Nick’s brother, Matt made me laugh out loud at his antics and banter.
“And hit to you too,” Matt says, taking me out of my hypnotic stare-down of his brother but surprising me with a kiss on my cheek. It’s so sudden, I don’t really have a chance to freak out.
“Mateo!” Nico scolds his brother, and pulls him away from me.
“Oh, shit. Sorry. No touching. I forgot,” Matt says, holding his hands out. “I don’t have germs. I promise What do you need? Antibacterial cream? Rubbing alcohol? Shit. I’m so sorry,” he says in a rush, seemingly worried I might bolt right out of my own home.
“Great job at not making this weird, man,” Nico says.
This is my first book by Sidney Halston and I love her writing! It’s emotive and intelligent, and is beautifully descriptive. She draws you into her story and makes you feel everything yet it never feels over the top or overly wordy. There’s just the right amount of everything to make this a cleanly-written book that still holds you captive, and it makes this book a fantastic reading experience.
“Please look at me.”
She slowly looks up. Her eyes are wet, and I can tell she’s trying to hold back tears. The depth of her sorrow and torment are laid out bare on her face in a way that takes my breath away.
I absolutely loved it. I was drawn in from the very beginning, and I feel like I went on a journey with these amazing characters. This book is emotional and surprising with a wonderful story, and it had me glued to my kindle from start to finish. I loved it and I can’t wait for Matt’s book up next.
An Advanced Reader Copy was generously provided via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
The Panic series
Kiss Me Back (#3)
To be released 6 March 2018
Pre-order: Kindle Ebook