Book Review: The Art of Hiding

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Title: The Art of Hiding

Author:  Amanda Prowse

Page: 290 pages

Plot: What would you do if you learned that the life you lived was a lie?

Nina McCarrick lives the perfect life, until her husband, Finn, is killed in a car accident and everything Nina thought she could rely on unravels.

Alone, bereft and faced with a mountain of debt, Nina quickly loses her life of luxury and she begins to question whether she ever really knew the man she married. Forced to move out of her family home, Nina returns to the rundown Southampton council estate—and the sister—she thought she had left far behind.

But Nina can’t let herself be overwhelmed—her boys need her. To save them, and herself, she will have to do what her husband discouraged for so long: pursue a career of her own. Torn between the life she thought she knew and the reality she now faces, Nina finally must learn what it means to take control of her life.

Bestselling author Amanda Prowse once again plumbs the depths of human experience in this stirring and empowering tale of one woman’s loss and love.

Thoughts:  Nina McCarrick our lead is a housewife in her mid thirties living in a posh estate in England. She leads a luxurious life with her husband and two sons. One day her husband is meets with a car accident and dies. She finds herself in turmoil when she finds out that her husband hadn’t told her that they are nose deep in debt. She loses everything, their business, property, wealth and even her house. All she is left with is her two children to take care of. She has no money, no skills to carry on her life and yet she is determined to make it. Once again she finds herself in the modest house she spent her time as a child.

We follow the story from Nina’s perspective with a third person’s point of view. The story mostly revolves around Nina’s struggle to find her feet and nurture her boys after her husband dies. Her journey of transformation from a domesticated house wife to a strong independent woman is what makes this book thought provoking inspite of a common plot. What I didn’t like about this book are the parts where Nina’s relationship with other apart from her family did seem superficial.

I read a kindle copy of the book. The book is divided in 15 chapters. The language is quite simple and easy to understand. Over all the book has a common plot but Nina and her boys journey of starting from a scratch after losing everything is quite heart-warming.

Rating: 4/5

PS: Thanks to the author and Netgalley for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Wrath and the Dawn

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Title:  The Wrath and the Dawn

Author:  Renne Ahdieh

Page: 395 pages

Plot: One Life to One Dawn.

In a land ruled by a murderous boy-king, each dawn brings heartache to a new family. Khalid, the eighteen-year-old Caliph of Khorasan, is a monster. Each night he takes a new bride only to have a silk cord wrapped around her throat come morning. When sixteen-year-old Shahrzad’s dearest friend falls victim to Khalid, Shahrzad vows vengeance and volunteers to be his next bride. Shahrzad is determined not only to stay alive, but to end the caliph’s reign of terror once and for all.

Night after night, Shahrzad beguiles Khalid, weaving stories that enchant, ensuring her survival, though she knows each dawn could be her last. But something she never expected begins to happen: Khalid is nothing like what she’d imagined him to be. This monster is a boy with a tormented heart. Incredibly, Shahrzad finds herself falling in love. How is this possible? It’s an unforgivable betrayal. Still, Shahrzad has come to understand all is not as it seems in this palace of marble and stone. She resolves to uncover whatever secrets lurk and, despite her love, be ready to take Khalid’s life as retribution for the many lives he’s stolen. Can their love survive this world of stories and secrets?

Favourite Quote: “Some things exist in our lives for but a brief moment. And we must let them go on to light another sky.”

Thoughts:   There was so much hype created around this series that I had to read it. This is a fantasy fiction based in the kingdom of Khorasan. The Caliph of Khorasan, an eighteen year old king is considered a monster. He takes in a new bride every night and has her executed the next morning. Sharzad our female lead has lost her dear friend to this inhumanity and decides to take revenge for her death. Sharzad volunteers to be the next Calipha of Khorasan. The night after they are married, Sharzad narrates an enticing story to the Caliph and decides to reveal the end only on the next night. This is how she manages to survive night after night.

But nothing is what it seems like to Sharzad. She decides to get to the bottom of the truth of why the women are being murdered at dawn. The relationship between Khalid and Shazi builds, from hatred to empathy to love. Their love story is weaved by creating beautiful situations,with beautiful words. There were few phrases where reading once was just not enough.

Apart from the main leads I loved Despina’s character. She is Shazi’s hand maiden and so witty and quick. The other important character was of Tariq, an old friend/lover of Shrazad is determined to kill the Caliph and set Sharzad free. But the question was if Shrazad really wanted to be set free?

The plot reminded me of the Arabian nights. But there is much more to it. More than the plot I loved the way the story unfolded. The writing is what I liked the most about the book. Some people might be of an opinion that it was too flowery and over written but for me the writing is what made this book beautiful. I loved Sharzad’s character. She is so self empowered, determined and fearless. When her heart and mind were conflicted about Khalid, I struggled too. I was basically transported to Khoransan every time I was reading the book. Towards the end there is a little magic that comes into picture. Hopefully we will see more of it in the next book.

I am almost done with ‘The Rose and the Dagger’. Will be reviewing it soon.

Rating: 4/5

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Book Review: The Sialkot Saga

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Title: The Sialkot Saga

Author: Ashwin Sanghi

Page: 588 pages

Plot: ‘When it’s a question of money, everybody is of the same religion.’

The trajectories of Arvind and Arbaaz, both ‘businessmen’ of a kind whose lives are unwillingly intertwined, ricochet off one another while they play out their sinister and murderous plots of personal and professional one-upmanship, all the while breaking every rule in the book.

Both are unaware that what they seek and fight over is the very obstacle in realising an ancient secret that dates back to a time long forgotten.

And yet, at the heart of it all, there lies tenderness… and pathos… and blood… and rare moments of an almost exalted happiness. So, can it be that a man is both sinner and saint, victor and victim, black and white?

Ashwin Sanghi, master storyteller and spinner of yarns, weaves together threads of the past and present, fact and fiction, history and mythology, business and politics, love and hatred while dangling you ceaselessly over the cliff with this chilling multi-layered narrative, keeping you guessing till a totally unguessable end.

And you’re left wondering whether it’s a matter of faith… or fate?

Favourite Quote: “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you,”

Thoughts:  I have wanted to read this book since its release and finally I did. I am a big fan of Ashwin Sangi’s books. Inspite of his books being fictional, his research is through. I admire his style of seamlessly blending fiction with history.

Like all his books, this one too is based in different eras. The historic era mentioned in the book starts from Ashoka’s empire, proceeding to the other kings and their kingdoms. The second era starts from the times of the India-Pakistan partition and progresses across the lives of our two lead protagonists, Arvind and Arbaaz, between the year1947 to 2010.

The plot revolves around overly ambitious and power hungry Arving and Arbaaz. Arvind is brought up in a Marwari business family in Calcutta. He has a knack of business since a young age. He rises with his risky and instinctive buying and selling businesses and becomes one of the most renowned businessmen in the country. On the other hand Arbaaz has seen struggle since childhood, being from a under privileged family. He joins the underworld under the guidance of Abdul dada and a few friends and finds his way up to the pinnacle. Both their personal and professional lives are intertwined.

Majority of the book is focused on the lives of these two characters who carve their different paths to make their mark on the world. The plot has a lot of twists and turns, some unbelievable coincidence (a little more than one can fathom) the one mentioned in the epilogue being the most coincidental.  The characters are very well developed. Each character’s actions were justified and were in sync with the events. The partition period was narrated descriptively giving a proper understanding of the flow of events. But in my opinion the historic era lacks it’s due and it could have been elaborated a little more. The writing and the story line as usual was very captivating. The book is almost 600 pages but I did not mind it at all.

Over all, the book is a historical fiction with a quest to uncover a secret, towards the end.

Rating: 4/5

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Spotlight: Appointment with Yesterday

Book Details:

Book Title: Appointment with Yesterday: A Novel in Four Parts with a Prologue and an Epilogue

Author: Christopher Stratakis

Category: Adult Fiction, 334 pages

Genre: coming-of-age / WWII / immigrant experience

Publisher: IndieReader

Release date: January 2017

Tour dates: Oct 2 to 20, 2017

Content Rating: PG-13 + M (There is no bad language or violence, but there are references to sex and sexual situations (including between a pre-teen and teen)
Book Description:

A poignant and compelling first novel, Appointment with Yesterday tells the story of Yanni, a cheeky and delightful Greek boy growing up in a small town on an island in the eastern Aegean.

Left in the care of his loving grandparents, Yanni endures the deprivation and terror of the German occupation during World War II and finally leaves his beloved homeland and family to rejoin the parents who had left him behind to make a better life for themselves in America.

Filled with heartbreaking and heartwarming stories of love, devotion, disenchantment, and dashed dreams, Appointment with Yesterday is, ultimately, the story of hardships overcome and a determined boy’s journey toward finding his destiny.

 

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Meet the Author:

 

Christopher Stratakis was born and raised in Greece. After moving to America, he graduated from Drexel University in 1951 and New York University School of Law in 1955. Shortly after joining the law firm of Poles, Tublin & Patestides in 1960, he became a partner, specializing in admiralty and corporate law.

He has written and published several articles, lectured on professional and historical subjects, served as Legal Advisor to several non-profits (pro bono), and was an arbitrator in maritime disputes. He is the author of Mnimes “Memories” (2010), a book of essays, short stories, and poems that he wrote as a teenager. In 2015, he co-edited Chains on Parallel Roads, a book published by Panchiaki “Korais” Society of New York. In recognition of his extensive community involvement, he has been the recipient of several awards from religious, governmental, and educational institutions.

Mr. Stratakis lives with his wife in New York City. He is the proud father of three and grandfather of three. This is his first novel.

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Book Review: The Winner: A Ballroom Dance Novel

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Title: The Winner: A Ballroom Dance Novel

Author: Erin Bomboy

Page: 353 pages

Plot: The most prestigious ballroom dance competition in the United States.
Two dancers need to win.
Only one can.
Nina Fortunova wasn’t supposed to end up almost thirty, divorced, with her dreams of winning shattered. She teams up with Jorge Gonzalez, a Latin dancer, to reinvent the flashy Smooth style. When the Chairman of the Judges offers to throw the competition in their favor, Nina must decide how far she will go to win, even if it means losing Jorge.
Carly Martindale is doing everything she’s been taught not to do—placing her happiness first by dancing with Trey Devereux, the former three-time champion who’s returned to competition for mysterious reasons. Carly becomes obsessed with Trey and allows him to control her every move at great risk to her physical and emotional health. How far will she sacrifice herself, so Trey and she can win?

Co-workers, then friends, and now arch competitors, Nina and Carly face off to determine who will be the winner.

Bright, emotive, and told through dual narrators, The Winner examines the costs associated with winning, the internalization of parental ambition, and the effect of gendered roles on and off the dance floor. It’s perfect for readers who will love the old-school elegance of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in a contemporary setting.

Thoughts:  I follow a lot of dance based reality shows on television and often view a lot of live dance performances. Most of the times I am in awe looking at the dancers swirl, like a poetry in motion. But what we see is the output of their hard work, which often goes unnoticed. I always wondered about what goes into becoming a fine dancer and this book offers exactly that.

‘The Winner’ is a tale of prestigious ballroom dance competition based in the United States. We have two protagonists in the book who desperately have to win this competition. It’s more than just getting a medal. But only one will succeed…

We follow two vivid dancers Nina and Carly in the story. Nina is in the final years of dancing at the Nationals. She is advised to retire gracefully by her well wishers and even her husband who happens to be her dance partner. But she knows she has to do this for herself and her mother’s sacrifices to fulfill the “American Dream”. Carly is a girl next door who takes up a summer job at a dance studio. She is in her prime years of dancing and soon realizes her potential and decides to compete with her former partner/lover at the Nationals. And the story begins…

I loved the characterization. Both Nina and Carly are affable and relatable. I could feel their joys and sorrows while reading the book. All the characters in the book are very well carved, well described and are kept real, making it easier for the reader to connect.

The book is a little longer than usual but it doesn’t feel dragged. There is not a single point in the book where I felt bored. I actually enjoyed reading the constant developments in the plot. The narration was captivating and well structured. It had a steady flow to it.

The book does offer a lot of interesting insights about ball room dancing, what goes on in the green room before the performances, what goes into being a fine dance. But apart from this it also explores other dimensions of romance, relationships, sacrifices, family, etc.

This cover is a perfect choice for a book like this. If you are interested in ballroom dancing or not, this book makes a perfect read for an afternoon curled up in bed with a cup of tea.

Ratings: 4/5

Erin Bomboy Head Shot.jpgAbout the Author: A native of Richmond, Virginia, Erin Bomboy trained as a classical ballet dancer before spending a decade as a professional competitive ballroom dancer. She holds an MFA in Dance Performance and Choreography from New York University Tisch School of the Arts. She lives in New York City with her husband and daughter where she works as a writer, editor, and teacher in the dance field. In her free time, Erin enjoys bacon, books, cats, and wine.
She is the author of The Piece: A Contemporary Ballet Novel and The Winner: A Ballroom Dance Novel. Her next novel, tentatively titled The Pas de Deux: A Classical Ballet Novel, will explore the relationship between a ballerina at the end of her career and the much-younger dancer with whom she falls in love. Taking the shape of a traditional pas de deux, it will premiere in 2018. Connect with the author:  Website  ~ Twitter  

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PS: Thanks to the author and iRead Book Tours for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

 

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Book Review: 13 Dates

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Title: 13 Dates

Author: Matt Dunn

Page: 334 pages

Plot: When Noah Wilson first encounters the quirky, opinionated and very beautiful Angel Fallon, his world is turned upside down. It’s clear she’s not his normal type, but Noah can’t stop thinking about her—which doesn’t bode well for the blind date he’s already late for.

Convinced by his friend (and self-professed dating expert) Marlon that thirteen dates is all you need to fall in love, Noah decides to give it a try with Angel. They should be incompatible: she’s impulsive and he’s a planner; he wants to settle down and she doesn’t ‘do’ relationships—or anything, for that matter—the way Noah is used to. But there’s something about Angel, and Noah can’t shake the idea that all they need is twelve more dates.

Despite some near-disasters involving rock climbing, saddle sores and jellied eels, it seems his plan may actually work. But even if they do reach the magic number, can that really mean they’ll just fall into their happily-ever-after?

Thoughts:  I would like to start the review by explaining the book title. Noah’s friend, Marlon had once read a theory in a Cosmopolitan magazine that it takes 13 dates to know if you really love somebody and are not just infatuated by them. Hence the title.

Noah is the male lead in the book. He showcases artist in his gallery. He is sweet, corny, socially awkward and sometime’s irritating. He is looking for a companion in life and wants to settle down. His friend, Marlon sets him up on a blind date. Noah decides to make a quick stop at Starbuck right before his blind date and bangs into Angel.

Angel, our female lead is a strong, independent, adventurous, unconventional woman who believes in living life one day at a time. Their first encounter scene is really comically narrated. Noah realizes that Angel is the one for him, but Angel has her own baggage. The question is will Noah be able to convince her to overcome her baggage? Will Angel let herself commit to Noah?

The plot is very light hearted, sweet and romantic. The writing in most places is causal and easy going. The punctuations are a little haywire.  I liked the lead characters and their chemistry. The plot will make you believe in love at first sight and in the power of love.  The book does have a very predictable course but there is a feel good factor about reading the book.

I liked that Noah, who otherwise seems to be unsure about things knows the minute he sees, rather hears Angel’s voice that she is the one for him. Inspite of Noah and Angel being poles apart, they find a way to make things work. Plus Mary, Noah’s land lady adds her own flavor to the story.

The book is a light-hearted romantic comedy which can be read in one sitting. It gives you a feel good factor in the end.

Ratings: 3/5

PS: Thanks to author and Netgalley for sending me a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

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Book Review: The Summer of Impossible Things

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Title: The Summer of Impossible Things

Author: Rowan Coleman

Page: 432 pages

Plot: If you could change the past, would you?

Thirty years ago, something terrible happened to Luna’s mother. Something she’s only prepared to reveal after her death.

Now Luna and her sister have a chance to go back to their mother’s birthplace and settle her affairs. But in Brooklyn they find more questions than answers, until something impossible – magical – happens to Luna, and she meets her mother as a young woman back in the summer of 1977.

At first Luna’s thinks she’s going crazy, but if she can truly travel back in time, she can change things. But in doing anything – everything – to save her mother’s life, will she have to sacrifice her own?

Favorite Quote: “Stories are the only things that can ever really change the world. The stories that people believe in are the only ones that matter. Those are the stories that have the power to change everything we think we understand.”

Thoughts:  This book is a sci-fi, time travel fiction about a girl named Luna who is grieving the loss of her mother. She and her sister visit their mother’s birthplace to clear matters only to find themselves in more ambiguity than ever.

After landing in Brooklyn, Luna is magically able to travel through time and encounters her young mother in 1977. The story takes us through Luna’s struggle to firstly understand that she is not a lunatic but is able to travel through time and secondly to undo the course of actions that had taken place in 1977 to change the traumatic future. Will she make sacrifice for love?

The plot is very thought provoking. It makes you think about your past and how acting a little differently could have impacted your future. It is a book that will make you think hard even after finishing it. The writing is fantastic and truly magical. The book is a little long buy worth the read.

If you are a cynic give this book a shot and you might just start thinking differently.

Rating: 4/5

PS: Thanks to author for sending me a copy of the book via Netgalley.

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Book Review: The Spy

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Title: The Spy

Author: Paulo Coelho

Page: 208 pages

Plot: In his new novel, Paulo Coelho, best-selling author of The Alchemist and Adultery, brings to life one of history’s most enigmatic women: Mata Hari.

HER ONLY CRIME WAS TO BE AN INDEPENDENT WOMAN

When Mata Hari arrived in Paris she was penniless. Within months she was the most celebrated woman in the city.

As a dancer, she shocked and delighted audiences; as a courtesan, she bewitched the era’s richest and most powerful men.

But as paranoia consumed a country at war, Mata Hari’s lifestyle brought her under suspicion. In 1917, she was arrested in her hotel room on the Champs Elysees, and accused of espionage.

Told in Mata Hari’s voice through her final letter, The Spy is the unforgettable story of a woman who dared to defy convention and who paid the ultimate price.

Thoughts:   The Spy is based on the life of Margaretha Zelle, famously known as Mata Hari an exotic dancer who bewitched the most influential men of her time. The book is a historical fiction based during the World War 1.

As a child, Margaretha Zelle was abused by her school principal. She got married to an Indonesian solider and escaped from her home town. Soon she realized that her husband was an abusive man and she tried to put up with it for a few years but after a point she left him and their daughter behind to find solitude in Paris. In Paris she started a life as an exotic oriental dancer and in no time gained popularity amongst the Parisans for both wrong and the right reasons. Soon her lifestyle brought her into suspicion and she was charged of being a double agent and arrested by the French in 1917.

The opening of the book is with a bang on a very crucial note where Mata Hari is being executed by a firing squad and she refuses to wear a mask and faces her death in the eye. Mata Hari is a tale of a woman who dared to defy the conventional norms of the society and had to pay the price for it. There are many books written on Mata Hari but what sets this book apart is the format of the writing. It is written as a letter from Mata Hari to her lawyer and a reply from her lawyer to her. We feel Mata Hari’s pain, enthusiasm, passion, shame, courage, numbness all of it. The author has taken creative leverage and added his own version of fiction to the real story to make the book interesting.

If you like Paulo Coelho’s book and historical fiction do give this book a shot!

Ratings: 3.5/5

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Book Review: Sita: Warrior of Mithila

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Title: Sita: Warrior of Mithila

Author: Amish Tripathi

Plot: India, 3400 BCE.

India is beset with divisions, resentment and poverty. The people hate their rulers. They despise their corrupt and selfish elite. Chaos is just one spark away. Outsiders exploit these divisions. Raavan, the demon king of Lanka, grows increasingly powerful, sinking his fangs deeper into the hapless Sapt Sindhu.

Two powerful tribes, the protectors of the divine land of India, decide that enough is enough. A saviour is needed. They begin their search.

An abandoned baby is found in a field. Protected by a vulture from a pack of murderous wolves. She is adopted by the ruler of Mithila, a powerless kingdom, ignored by all. Nobody believes this child will amount to much. But they are wrong.

For she is no ordinary girl. She is Sita.

Continue the epic journey with Amish’s latest: A thrilling adventure that chronicles the rise of an orphan, who became the prime minister. And then, a Goddess.

This is the second book in the Ram Chandra Series. A sequel that takes you back. Back before the beginning.

Thoughts:   I have read all of Amish Tripathi’s novels. He redefines mythological epics in a way that it interests the youth of today. I have waited ‘TWO YEARS’ for the release of this book and it’s finally here. It was a great opportunity to be present at a book store where the author visited for the promotion of this book. Sita: The Warrior of Mithila is the second installment in the Ramchandra series, Scion of Ikshvaku being the first one.

The book plot needs no introduction. It is inspired from the age old epic Ramayana revisited from Sita’s point of view, giving more power to her and celebrating her as a warrior rather than an obedient wife. The book highlights Sita’s life right from when she was rescued by Queen Sunaina to the time she was abducted by Raavan.

I love reading mythological tales narrated from a female point of view I simply loved the way Sita was portrayed in an unorthodox way. I have always imagined Sita as a damsel in distress until I read this novel where she has a warrior spirit and a will to bring India out of turmoil. The female characters of Queen Sunaina and Samichi are also portrayed as powerful women. The writing flows seamlessly and the manner is mesmerizing.

What makes this series interesting is firstly the fabrication of the epic in a way that it appeals to today’s generation and the fact that each book is narrated from a different point of view. The third book in this series will flow from Raavan’s point of view and I can’t wait to read it. I hope the author doesn’t make us wait this long again.

More power to Sita!!!

Ratings: 5/5

PS: I loved the cover!

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Book Review: The Corner Office

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Title: The Corner Office

Author: Katerina Baker

Page: 180 pages

Plot: Tara Johnson’s sacrifices are about to pay off: a senior executive at thirty-five at a Fortune 500 company, she’s one of the two finalists in line for a Managing Director position. Unfortunately, her rival of fifteen years, the charming, infuriating Richard Boyd, is just as qualified, and unlike her, he’s willing to cross pretty much every line to get what he wants.

Of all the things Tara stored in the attic to make it to the top, it’s her personal life she misses the most. That is, until she starts a steamy affair with sex god Aidan, her direct report. Interoffice relationships with a subordinate can mean the end of a career, and when Richard finds out, it’s the perfect opportunity to take his high-heeled nemesis out, especially since he’s still nursing a grudge against Tara for rejecting him years ago.

But Tara’s increasingly domineering lover has his own dark secrets, endangering more than just her career. As her liaison spirals out of control, salvation will come from the man she always thought she hated, and perhaps the only one to truly understand

Thoughts:  ‘Corner Office’ is a contemporary romance novel revolving mainly around Tara Johnson, a thirty five year old, ambitious senior executive, running for the position of a Managing Director at a Fortune 500 company. She has given it her all, ignored her personal life and relationships to reach where she is. But she is not the only one aspiring to be the Managing Director. Richard Boyd, a fellow senior executive, a rival of Tara’s since fifteen years is ready to give it all to become the MD. He is a charmer and he pretty much gets whoever, whatever he wants with much ease. The rivalry and the constant bickering between Tara and Richard is quite a lot of fun to read. Tara has always been a rule abider until the day Adian, joins her team and she gets into a steamy affair with him. This is against the office policy and the story picks up from here on.

Tara’s character is much likable from the beginning itself. I like her go getter spirit, the way she is focused yet when it comes to her mother she leaves everything behind and attends to her needs, even the tiniest ones and the way she inspires her fellow women employees at Women’s Network. Richard’s character is the one that you will strongly dislike at the beginning but fall in love with towards the end. Adian’s behavior was a bit ambiguous and hence the course of his actions was not justified well. His character seemed to change drastically in a short time. I really didn’t understand why such a strong person like Tara did not put him in his place sooner. Towards the end I really wanted to know who gets the corner office and how. Hopefully there will be sequel.

The story is narrated from Tara’s point of view. The writing is smooth and apart from the romance, the premise also offers a lot of corporate politics, stalking, blackmailing, etc. I quite liked the book. It was a quick read. I wish the author good luck for her book release and I definitely look forward to reading more books from her.

Ratings: 3.5/5

PS: The book releases on 23rd June, 2017.  I would like to thank the author and the publication for sending me the ARC via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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