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Jordan Steele’s life began when he was ten. When he was taken from his parents and a house that was never a home. When he met his brothers, the other lost and abandoned boys in his group home. When he learned what friendship and family and love looked like.
Now he’s made good, touring the world with the band he and his brothers formed in that crowded group home. No one but his found family really knows the man under the fame and fortune, the scars he hides behind the rockstar lifestyle. Until he sees her through the windows of the National Ballet, dancing, and suddenly the world doesn’t seem so dark.
Aleksandra Artemov ticks all the ballet boxes. Father a legendary Kirov dancer. Check. Prepping since birth for classical ballet. Check. Compulsive control over the food she eats. Check. Principal dancer at The National Ballet of Canada. Check. But what she craves is freedom.
She craves Jordan.
Everything about him should terrify her. His size, his tattoos, his edge. But he doesn’t. He stirs her very soul. Jordan has nothing but himself to offer her, and he’s never been good enough for anyone. Can he figure out how to face his own demons before he loses his light for good?
“You’re my everything … Everything I didn’t know I wanted or needed. Everything I didn’t think I could have.”
Wow, this book is gorgeous! An emotional, sexy, angst-free love story featuring two broken people overcoming the demons of their past, learning to trust and find strength in each other, and following their hearts. Jordan and Lexi absolutely stole my heart and I loved it.
I love Scarlett Cole’s Second Circle Tattoos series, and from the moment I met the boys of heavy metal band, Preload, while reading The Purest Hook, I knew that I needed more of them, so I was so excited when I discovered that they were getting their own spin-off series – though this can definitely be read as a new series without having to have read the previous books.
The Preload boys are more than a band. They are family. Each of them had a terrible childhood, ending up in a group home where they formed unbreakable bonds and became each other’s whole world. They have overcome adversity to become hugely successful, forming a now-world-famous metal band. But their personal struggles are far from over.
The first book in this series gives us the story of bassist, Jordan Steele. Like the rest of his brothers, Jordan’s childhood was tragic, and he endured horrific abuse and still carries the inner scars to this day. He is the quiet one of the group, the one who has difficulty connecting with anybody outside of his ‘family’, and the one whose circumstances have kept the boys living as close as they do, knowing that he needs their presence and support.
Jordan is struggling with the imminent departure of Dred, who is planning on leaving their home to move in with his girlfriend, Pixie, and their little girl who means so much to Jordan. He is wondering how he will cope without his family all under the same roof, and is anxious about the changes that it will bring to his life. Finding solace in long, night-time walks, he finds himself in the city one evening and becomes mesmerised when he walks past the National Ballet and sees a ballerina dancing alone in a studio. He’s never seen anything as beautiful as the graceful dancer, and he feels an immediate sense of calm and peace as he watches her.
Aleksandra Artemov is a Principal dancer with the Canadian Ballet. Beautiful and successful, she seems to have it all, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. Lexi is struggling with her own issues – the strain and physical demands of her career, a difficult home life, and the pressure put on her by her controlling father, who is living out his own shattered dreams through his daughter. She loves dance, but she longs to live her own life on her own terms. Dancing desperately on her own one evening, she is pouring her emotions out through dancing when she sees a man watching her from the darkness outside of the studio window and without words the two of them share an intimate connection that rocks them both.
Him…he was transfixed as his eyes followed her. Such intensity should have scared her, but it didn’t. It aroused her.
He held her stare, and she licked her lips to soothe their dryness. The connection between them couldn’t have been anymore real had they been touching. It was solid, and heated, and unlike anything Lexi had ever experienced.
Unable to forget about each other after that night, it is Jordan that reaches out to Lexi by writing music for her, and Lexi returns his gesture by dancing to his music for him. Through artistic expression their connection to each other deepens, they find that understand each other in a way that surprises them both, and as they open up to each other and begin to talk and spend time together, a very natural relationship begins to develop.
I love Jordan and Lexi together. He is all sullen and moody and closed off, terrified that he’s not good enough for Lexi and scared of everything that he is beginning to feel for her, and Lexi is like a breath of fresh air in his life – open and honest about her feelings for him, not allowing him to push her away, and instead wearing her heart on her sleeve for him and coaxing him back to life.
“I’m not the guy for you, no matter how badly both of us want me to be.”
“I’m out of my depth. I don’t date. I don’t share. I don’t do small talk and bistros and ballerinas. I don’t do complicated. But you make me want to try, and it’s fucked up.”
… “Try me, please,” she whispered.
There is a beautifully sweet innocence to their relationship, which is absolutely perfect given Jordan’s inexperience with love and all of the new emotions that he is feeling (as opposed to his previous emotionless manwhoring). But their passion for each other is just as strong as all of the other emotions they are feeling, and the sexy time is hot, steamy and intense.
“Let me touch you. But please. Close your eyes.”
“No … Please, let me be with you, Jordan. No rules,” she said, leaning forward to kiss the scar behind his ear. Jordan shivered at her touch. “Don’t make me look away,” she whispered against his skin as she kissed his neck. “I want to see you. To know it’s you I’m with. To know you know it’s me.”
I honestly loved every moment of this relationship. The angst is minimal, and the drama is understandable and adds to the story rather than just being there for the sake of drama. It works to develop the characters and the story, and brings the feels as we watch Jordan and Lexi lean on each other and be there for each other. They have a true partnership that is functional and honest, and I love that they let their hearts and their vulnerabilities show.
“Don’t leave me, Aleksandra, I don’t think I could deal with that.” He stroked her hair off her forehead and stared deeply into the blue eyes that encouraged him to bare his soul.
“I won’t. I promise.”
Jordan and Lexi are wonderful characters, and I love them equally! Usually it’s the hero that steals my heart, and while Jordan definitely did that, Lexi’s story was just as compelling and I adored her as a character. The book is written in dual POV, and I loved that we got to be in both of their heads, seeing every moment of their individual struggles and growth. Their honesty was refreshing and heart-warming, and despite all that they are dealing with, they are both incredibly strong characters and I love seeing that strength come to the front as they fight for each other and for the life that they so badly want.
“It’s taken me all this time to realize I’m not alone. And neither are you. You’ll never have to do any of this on your own because I’m right here. And I am too fucking stubborn to move because I love you.”
I also love that we got to spend so much time with the Preload boys. They are such a great group, and their dynamic is fantastic! They laugh, tease and banter, but they care for each other deeply, and I can’t wait to read more about them.
I really enjoyed this read. It is heartwarming, emotional, dramatic and gorgeously romantic, and I was hooked from start to finish.
I loved it – 4.5 stars.
Advanced Review Copy generously provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
SCARLETT COLE is a writer of contemporary romance and a two-time RITA finalist. Her debut, The Strongest Steel, was a Best Debut Goodreads Author Finalist 2015. Born in England, Scarlett traveled the world, living in Japan and the United States before settling in Canada where she met her own personal hero – all six and a half feet of him. She now lives with her husband and children in Manchester, England.