Thursday, August 28, 2014

Review and Giveaway: Sweet Fall by Tillie Cole

We all have secrets.

Secrets well buried.

Until we find the one soul who makes the burden of such secrets just that little bit easier to bear.

Lexington "Lexi" Hart is a senior at the University of Alabama. Surrounded by her best friends, her loving family and having fulfilled her life-long dream of making the Crimson Tide cheer squad, everything is going exactly as she always dreamed it would. But beneath her happy exterior, demons lurk, threatening to jeopardize everything Lexi has worked to achieve. When events in her life become too much to cope with, Lexi finds herself spiraling down into the realm of her biggest fear. Lexi falls hard, victim once again to the only thing that can destroy her and, on the way, finds herself falling straight into the dangerous tattooed arms of a guy from the wrong side of the tracks.

Austin Carillo, starting Wide Receiver for the Alabama Crimson Tide, must get picked in this year's NFL draft. He needs it. His brothers need it. Most importantly, his mother desperately needs it. Brought up in a world where the poor are forgotten, the sick are left to fend for themselves and no hero miraculously appears to pull you out of hell, Austin had no other choice but to make a living on the wrong side of the law—until football offered Austin the break to get his life back on track. But when a family tragedy drags him back into the clutches of the gang he believed he had left far behind, Austin finds himself falling. Falling back into criminal ways and falling deep into a suffocating darkness. Until a troubled yet kindred spirit stumbles across his path, where Austin quickly finds he is falling for a young woman, a young woman who might just have the power to save him from his worst enemy: himself.

Can two troubled souls find a lasting peace together? Or will they finally succumb to the demons threatening to destroy them?

New Adult/Contemporary Romance novel—contains adult content, sexual situations and mature topics. Suited for ages 18 and up.

Can be read as a stand-alone novel.

4 Stellar Stars

Review by Lisa Kane

I am a huge fan of Tillie Cole's two previous books in the Sweet Home series; Sweet Home and Sweet Rome. Those were centered on Romeo "Bullet"  Prince and Molly Shakespeare. But there was a wide canvas of secondary characters that could certainly carry their own stories and so this one is about Austin CArillo and Lexi Hart. 

Austin is Romeo's best friend. Where as Romeo was the Alabama Crimson Tide's star quarterback, Austin is the star Wide Receiver. Both are being scouted for the NFL draft. Austin has a full scholarship due in part to Romeo's insistence that they were a package deal.  He would only come to play for Crimson Tide if Austin did too. Their backgrounds could not be more different. While Romeo's family is worth millions, Austin's lives in a trailer park, and are dirt poor. He has an older brother Axel, and a younger one, Levi. Both Austin and Axel were recruited to be in the Heighters; a  gang headed by Gio, one seriously bad guy. Austin got out finally, due to Romeo's help in his scholarship, and Gio let him go, without any repercussions. Or so he thought.

Austin's mom is dying from ALS and has no medical insurance. Her disease is advanced and she suffers excruciating pain. But there is no money to cover her pain meds. So Alex and his younger brother, Levi, are selling cocaine to get the funds to cover the meds. Austin is getting heat from the Dean who thinks he and his family are involved in the drug dealing that is occurring on campus. But Austin swears Alex wouldn't do that on school property. That would jeopardize his scholarship. He needs to keep going to school because this is his ticket to the NFL and his family's only hope to get out of poverty. But Austin is going to be proven wrong.

Lexi has serious issues. Both physical and mental. She writes about her daily struggles in her journal. She writes to her friend Daisy, who recently died. They shared many things. Some good, most bad. But it has taken Lexi 4 years to get back to functioning (or somewhat functioning) as a college student should be-she just made the senior cheerleading team for the Crimson Tide. She hides her pain and illness from her roommates. To look at her she appears to be a beautiful, carefree girl with no worries other than her next exam. When she looks in the mirror she sees an overweight, ugly face and body.

One night she is walking in the quad on the college's campus. She sees something she should not have seen. This will change her life. Austin confronts her to find out what she saw. If she tells the Dean or the campus police his family will suffer and he will get thrown of school. He threatens her and makes sure she knows he will make her pay if she talks. She takes him seriously, but he still sends death glares her way, enough that her friends start to notice and question what his problem is with her.

But circumstance and fate intervene and the two are thrown together in a situation where they must rely on each other. This is the moment that things changed between them and they were able to see each has enormous pain and suffering. But how can two such broken people, who can not even fix themselves, help the other?

"I was never good enough for you, Pix. I'm trash; you're gold. I ain't having you brought into this piece of shit trash world I live in. You deserve more than me, more from life. So much fuckin' more. I'll only ever drag you down."

This story has a different vibe to it than the first two in the series. While each held heartache, this has an underlying theme of drugs and gang violence. This one has parts that are very disturbing, and tarnish the halo of our hero. He is not a nice guy to Lexi for a good portion of the book for many reasons. To his credit he doesn't know the extent of her illness but the stress he puts on her causes her to break and retreat to a dark, lonely place. He has no idea that she is so damaged with self esteem issues. While she is soothing to him, he believes he is toxic for her. This story gives a small insight into certain disorders and how they can cripple and even kill. It was difficult to read about the thoughts that are in Lexi's mind and how they control her. Her battle to stay sane is just heartbreaking.

"So you see, Pix, I have scars too. It's just mine are on the outside where everyone can see."

I wasn't sure how long we just stood there like that, two fucked up emo kids confessing our sins, but it was enough time for me to realize one thing: I was falling hard for the little pixie.

There were several things that bothered me in this book. First was the lack of funds for the pain meds. While money is obviously short for this family, medications would rarely be an issue. As someone who works in the health care industry, medical assistance in the state of Alabama would have covered meds related to the mother's illness. Had rent or food been the reason, I would have related better. Reading about Austin's bargain with the devil, Gio, made me lose faith in him. For whatever his reason was, these are hard core drugs, not just weed, this guy is involved with. His treatment of Lexi was so harsh at different times in this book, even when he had the best of intentions. I felt he was a catalyst in her downward spiral.

In spite of those things, I did get the good feels reading this one. There are passaged regarding Austin's mom that were so beautiful and touching that tears spilled over my eyes. For all his faults Austin was a son who loved his mama more than life itself. In her eyes he was a good person, it just took a while for him to see that.

Mamma panted heavily and eventually calmed enough to say,"Austin..I'm so proud...of you. Prom...promise'll save Levi..." Brushing her hand over my lips, I pressed a kiss to her fingers and nodded. "Te lo guiro, Mamma. I swear it to you. I'll find a way to save him."

Amazon Sweet Fall

Amazon Sweet Home

Amazon Sweet Rome

Nook Sweet Fall

Nook Sweet Home

Nook Sweet Rome


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