Author: Kristen Ashley
Series: Unfinished Hero #5
Release date: January 11, 2016
(Sub)genres: Alpha, Contemporary Romance
Buy: Amazon US ~ Amazon UK
Nick Sebring has issues. Born feeling like an outsider in his own family, growing up under the shadow of a brother who could do anything, Nick isn’t that great of a guy. But when this culminates with Nick lashing out to hurt his brother through the woman he loves, Nick turns inward and makes some decisions about the man he intends to be.
And as he does this, he falls in love and truly learns the man that he’s grown to be.
When his love is murdered right before Nick’s eyes, Nick knows he has to avenge her. He knows how he’s going to avenge her. And he has no qualms using Olivia Shade to exact that vengeance.
Olivia Shade has grown up on the outside of her family too. Her problem is that they don’t want her outside. They want her all the way in, right under their thumbs. She pays the price for seeking escape and learns her lesson—she’ll never see a dawn where she wakes up free.
Then she meets Nick Sebring, and even as she fights it, the hope that died years ago starts to blossom. She can find love. She can have a man of her own. She can be happy. She can be free.
Olivia hopes while Nick schemes.
However, as Nick peels back the layers of all that is Olivia Shade, he finds something surprising. He understands its fragility. He falls in love with its beauty. He seeks to protect it.
But he forgets to protect his Livvie from one thing: Nick Sebring.
Nick Sebring. I didn’t know what to think of him as the hero of a Kristen Ashley book. Nick is introduced in Knight, the first book of ‘the Unfinished Hero series’. To say he didn’t make a good first impression is an understatement. Throughout the series, Nick made an appearance now and again, he wasn’t a good man at best. Learning he would be the leading man of the final book to the series made me wonder if Kristen Ashley can redeem him. After having read Sebring, I can tell you she can.
“I live in dark. Dawn never comes for me. There will be no new day where I wake up complete. Happy. Loved. There is no other side to make my way to. There is no believe. It just isn’t for me.”
Nick Sebring always felt he wasn’t needed by his mother, his older half-brother – golden boy Knight was all she needed, or so he thought. In Knight he was a selfish, superficial jerk who used women and other people for his own pleasure. While partying and living the high-life, he expected his brother to provide for his lifestyle without having to do a thing in return. But over the years, Nick has changed, becoming a better man. He found a purpose in life and a woman to love. When his girlfriend is killed right in front of him, Nick vows to avenge her death by bringing down the crime family responsible. After years of careful planning, he sets his plan in motion, one of the daughters of the Shade family is his way in. He didn’t count on falling for her though.
“As she melted into sleep, Knight’s words came to him. Mysterious pussy can be good. But mostly, mysterious pussy is just a trap. His brother was right about both. But he’d missed one. Mysterious pussy could also just be a mystery. And Nick was now drowning in the mystery of Olivia Shade. Which meant he had no choice but to solve it so he could surface. And maybe survive.”
Olivia Shade has grown up in one of Denver’s most notorious crime families, with her father being the leader and her older sister the heir. She has learned the hard way never to cross her father, that the family owns her and that there’s no way out. Olivia works in the family business, but she would gladly walk away, starting a new life without the presence of her family, if she could. Over the years, she has mastered hiding her true feelings, pretending has become a second nature to her. Meeting Nick and spending time with him gives her a tiny spark of hope, hope for a different life, hope to be loved by a man.
“I turned to him, my mouth opening to tell him that would never happen. It was a grave mistake. The instant I caught sight of him, I froze. He was tall. His eyes were the color of the ocean. And he made me believe that I could want something, take it and have it. Own it. Keep it. Something precious would be mine. Even if that belief only lasted seconds, I’d waited all my life to feel that feeling. To really, really believe.”
Nick and Olivia start off with an explosive meeting. They keep seeing each other on neutral ground, no talking, no feelings, and no sleepovers. When Nick discovers something about Olivia, something very painful and heartbreaking, slowly he begins to see her in a different light. The beautiful, untouchable façade is a mask and underneath it a scared, lonely woman who has learned to keep other people at bay. Olivia is conflicted about her feelings for Nick, she knows her loyalty is owned by her family and he’s an enemy, but she can’t help falling in love. Nick too is conflicted, he needs to avenge his girlfriend’s death, but he knows it can’t be done without harming Olivia in some way. When the fragile, new relationship is destroyed by forces beyond their control, Nick sets events in motion to give Olivia the freedom she so desperately needs – and they can have a chance at their Happily Ever After.
My heart broke for Olivia—to outsiders she’s a though woman involved in the criminal world. But on the inside she’s a lonely woman who was forced to give up love, to place her life in the hands of her family. She can do what she wants, but the family owns her and has the ultimate say in her life. Basically, she’s living in a golden cage. Nick’s betrayal cuts her so deep, she lets go of the idea to ever find happiness, and surrenders. Nick has come a long way from the spoiled, entitled brat he was. Seeing him having cleaned up his act and finally be the man his family can be proud of was amazing.
“I was scared. Terrified. If I woke up, like so many mornings before, a lifetime of them, it might be gone. But the promise was too beautiful. And now, I believed. I opened my eyes. And there it was, an inch away. Swimming in an ocean of blue, a new day dawning. And me? I woke up from my dream to a living dream. Complete, happy… And loved.”
This being a true Kristen Ashly book, the characters from the previous books – including my favorites Knight and Anya from Knight – have made their appearances. I love to see the little glimpses in their lives, since their own stories were – just as the story of Nick and Olivia – hard to read at times. I give this story 4.5 stars.