Thursday, 30 January 2014

Review: Secret by Brigid Kemmerer

Title: Secret (Elemental, #4)
Author: Brigid Kemmerer
Publisher: Kensington Teen
Published: Jan 28, 2014
Buy: The Book Depository

This series has some of the best character development arcs that I’ve seen in YA recently. The paranormal edge to the plot could still feel slightly more significant, but, to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t quite matter anymore. The heart of these books is most definitely its characters, and they are the sort of characters that you read on for no matter what. And if there’s one character that I appreciate more than any other, it is the fantastic Nick Merrick.

Breathless introduced us to the basis of his story (and also to that of Quinn’s) and Secret does a fantastic job of continuing it with the perfect amount of emotion, sincerity and depth. I love the complicated relationships between all of the characters here. I especially love that Nick’s story feels slightly more affecting than his brothers’ and Hunter’s before him, and not simply because of the romance. His internal battle with his feelings and his need to keep his sexuality a secret from his family is heart-aching and perfectly presented, and every painful obstacle is as palpable to the reader as it is to him. He has always been the quieter and more level-headed of the Merrick twins, and his story, in a way, with its subtle tones and less explosive action scenes, reflects that.

One of my favourite things about Brigid Kemmerer’s writing is how seamlessly she can shift between different perspectives and still make each and every one of them work. Not only do all the voices throughout this series feel entirely distinct, Kemmerer also skilfully manages to unravel the deeper layers to her characters that you might not have suspected were even there. Secret is also Quinn’s story, and although I can’t say that I ever appreciated her as much as I appreciated Nick, her situation is a complex one, and one that doesn’t feel forced or unnecessary like similar situations sometimes do. Most surprising of all is Tyler Morgan’s role in her tale, a move on Kemmerer’s part that is almost as equally brave and different as it is unexpected. Very little in this book is simple or black and white, and Secret successfully gets you to think and see the possibilities for more.

Like its predecessors, Secret wouldn’t have quite as much of an emotional impact if it didn’t make use of its vast and diverse secondary cast. It helps considerably that we’ve had the chance to get into the heads of the likes of Chris and Becca and Gabriel and Hunter, as it makes them more than just secondary roles here. Once you form an attachment to characters like Kemmerer’s, it’s hard to simply forget it. Hunter warmed my heart, Chris made me choke up, and Michael made me come dangerously close to proposing to a fictional character. I liked the banter, the support, the arguments and realistic sibling issues. I liked that there were real problems, real reactions, and a whole lot of love when it really mattered. I think this book, more than any other in the series so far, has made me realise just how much I am going to miss the Merricks and their friends – and even their enemies – once the next and last book, Sacrifice, wraps up.

Overall, this is another brilliant addition to one incredibly addictive series. I'm so pleased to see that it's still going strong, and I can't wait to find out how it all ends!

Rating: 4 stars

97 comments:

  1. Sounds like an amazing read. :-)

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    1. It's definitely a series that I've grown to appreciate more than I thought I might. Hope you'll consider giving it a try!

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  2. I can't wait to read this one . First , I have to read my copy of spirit though. Tnx 4 the review

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    1. Spirit surprised me, especially with how it changed a few of my opinions about Hunter. I hope you enjoy it!

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  3. Now that the last book is nearing I really should scramble to read the third book and this one as well. I wasn't a fan of Spark and left off and it seems as if Hunter's story was just alright - nothing phenomenal - but this one seems to be REALLY good and I almost desperately want more of Nick. Fantastic review, Sam - I'm off to see if my library has this! ;)

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    1. I enjoyed both Gabriel and Hunter's stories, but I think Nick's book is just slightly more emotional. I definitely felt that it dug a little deeper, at least. I hope it works for you, Keertana!

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  4. Yay, I loved this one too! I adore how Kemmerer dealt with Nick's struggles with his sexuality, and this is one case where I really didn't mind the romance kind of taking over the plot. It felt right.

    And hey, you're not allowed to propose to Michael because HE IS MINE. We're planning a summer wedding.

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    1. I agree! There was quite a large focus on the romance, but it didn't feel wrong or unnecessary at all.

      And AMBER. You are obviously mistaken, because I'm sure Michael belongs to ME.

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  5. I haven't read this series yet (I'm totally slacking, it's bad) so I skimmed, but I can't wait to get into the author's writing! I love different POVs, but am always nervous to see how they handle it so props to Brigid for pulling it off! It's too bad that it wasn't AS emotional as it could have been, but you liked it overall so I'll be okay with it :)

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    1. I can't wait to see what you think of the Merricks, Sunny! It's not often that I'll enjoy changing points of view across a series (actually, I usually find it quite irritating), but I think Brigid Kemmerer does a fantastic job.

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  6. Yes! I adore this series, it is just so much fun. This book had a whole different feel to it than the others but I still loved it and can't wait for the next one.

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    1. I'm so glad you loved it too, Ali! I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next, though I'm not sure that I'm ready to let go of these characters any time soon! Hopefully the final book will do the series justice. :)

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  7. Honestly, I think I'm going to cry when I finally read Sacrifice! Especially after Secret, which was simply amazing. I loved that I fell even further in love with these characters, experienced a lot of emotions and really got into this story. Brigid's amazing, and her series just keeps on getting better.

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    1. I completely agree, Alexa! It'll be hard to say goodbye to the Merricks. I feel like each book has been slightly more emotional than the last. I'm nervous about what might happen next, but I can't wait to find out!

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  8. I'm sure I've heard of the Elements series but I don't really know much about them. The character development sounds amazing and so does the author's ability to go from one point of view to another. The cover though... I don't know. It's kind of making me think this is just a silly series but of course I am wrong. I just can't help sometimes to judge a book by it's cover. Thinking back now I feel like the author guest posted on here or I've at least heard of these characters before and I remember liking their different personalities. I'll make sure to put the first book on my tbr list so I don't forget again. Awesome review (:

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    1. This cover here is actually my least favorite of the series. I feel it's inappropriately misleading (making the assumption that that's Nick and Quinn in the image), and as I do it myself very often, I don't blame you for judging! And you're correct - Last time she was here, Brigid shared book recommendations from the Merrick brothers. They definitely all have interesting and different personalities, so I hope you'll get to meet them properly one day soon! :) Thanks, Adriana.

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  9. I wasn't very sure about this series at all, but the reviews I've seen from you and other bloggers make me think I might be missing out, so I should add them all to my TBR list!
    Thanks for the review, Sam!

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    1. On the surface, it can sound quite typical to a lot of the things that we usually get, but the books actually dig a lot deeper than you might expect. It still surprises me sometimes that it's managed to keep me fully invested this far in! :) Definitely add it to your TBR list, Pili!

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  10. Everything about this review is perfect. I can't think of a better way to describe the Merrick's and while I haven't read Secret yet, I can imagine (from what I know of Nick) that you've captured his essence here as well.

    This will be a series I have a hard time saying good-bye to; the love between siblings that you speak of, comes across the pages so easily that these fictional characters feel a lot like family, in a lot of ways.

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    1. Thank you so much, Kelly! I'm so glad that you appreciate the character interactions in this series too. I know I'll have a hard time saying goodbye as well, but I can't wait to spend one last time with the Merricks again. I hope Secret lives up to your expectations!

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  11. I haven't read this series, but I must admit I am curious now especially with the character development and plot line being so well done. Lovely review Sam!!

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    1. I think you might enjoy this series, Kimba! It gets stronger as it goes on, and it's definitely a good one to pick up if you like character-driven stories with a contemporary flavour.

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  12. I STILL haven't read this series yet though I've heard such amazing things. I hope to get to them eventually--esp since you think of them so highly. I do wish the cover art was a bit better...I'd never pick these up on my own. Great review Sam!

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    1. I don't think I would have done either, if it hadn't been for all the great reviews of Storm, the first book. The covers for this series aren't the best, but some are better than others (this is my least favourite so far). I hope you'll get around to them eventually though! I can definitely see you enjoying these books. :)

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  13. I don't exactly know who's who because I haven't started reading this series but I did get the earlier books based on your raving reviews. It's rare to see a series that just keeps getting better and better. This sounds amazing!!

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    1. I can't wait to get your thoughts on this series, Henrietta! The first book is pretty good, but I think things really get going by the second installment. I hope you'll enjoy them as much as I do. :)

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  14. I'm glad you liked this series! I've seen it all over Goodreads and book blogs but I've been iffy on starting it. It makes my decision a little easier to know you like them because I probably will too :)

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    1. I hope you aren't let down! If you have some problems with the first book, do still give the second one a try, as I think that's where the series really picks up. :)

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  15. That's it!! I am going to read this series. Soon! I am allll about great characters.

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    1. YES! Do it! Especially if you like character-driven stories. This is a great series to pick up for that.

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  16. Rashika and I loved this one only because of Nick Merrick. We HATED Quinn and Tyler. We couldn't put ourselves to sympathise with her because she would make every thing about herself, and TYLER?! OF ALL PEOPLE?! WE WHO HAVE HATED HIM SINCE BOOK 1 AND HE WHO HURT THE YOUNGER MERRICKS?! To us it was just unacceptable :( That doesn't mean we don't appreciate the twists tho... you are right in saying there's no black and white, but it was still hard to swallow. Hahaha.

    I can't wait for Sacrifice!!

    Faye @ The Social Potato

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    1. No, I completely understand! And I know that a lot of people will feel the same way too. I reacted similarly at the start, mainly because the whole idea of Tyler and Quinn felt so absurd to me, but I slowly started seeing that there was more to it than I might have thought possible. Quinn was difficult to like throughout a lot of it, but I can't say that I didn't appreciate her story anyway. I'm glad you still loved Nick's side of things though! Hopefully Michael's story will be just as fitting.

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  17. I agree with you completely, Sam! Kemmerer knows her characters and she knows them well. What she chooses to do with them, especially Nick, is a thing of beauty. This is my favorite so far, but I have high hopes for Michael's book. He is simply amazing, our Michael. :)
    Lovely review, Sam! Missed you.

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    1. I love that about her writing. It makes me think of Maggie Stiefvater, even though their styles are very different, as she too gives of the impression that she understands her characters inside and out. I can't wait to see what Michael's book is like! Hopefully just as good as Nick's, if not more. :) Thanks, Maja.

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  18. These characters sound fantastic, especially how well fleshed out they are! And I like a writer who plans out each characters voice. I'll give this one a closer look now - Thanks for your review Sam!

    Jeann @ Happy Indulgence

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    1. You can definitely tell that Brigid has thought about each and every one of her characters. I really like that too, especially as it makes the cast feel all the more real. I hope you'll decide to read this series one day!

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  19. I like your review but the cover doesn't work for me!

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    1. I don't think many people are fond of this cover! It's actually somewhat misleading too. But thankfully the inside is much better. ;)

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  20. I have heard that the characters are remarkable in these books. I kind of dislike that it's a gay romanc basically and the cover has a girl and a boy on it. I guess since it's a secret, I could roll with it, but still. I wish it had two boys on it or just the guy. Though, when you say that it's also this girl's story, I guess it makes sense. Aw, I love a great cast of charcters and I'm glad that they had a great effect on you :) I hope the last book lives up to your expectations:)

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    1. I definitely think the cover should have been different. I think it's okay to have both Quinn and Nick in the image (if that's them), given that it's both their stories, but I'm not sure that the positioning of the models was the best idea. Still, the book was great, so I can't complain too much. :) I hope Sacrifice is just as satisfying too!

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  21. I definitely agree- it's so surprising just how much Kemmerer is able to develop her characters! I feel like my views on all the characters swing wildly each time a new book comes out haha

    I'm definitely going to be sad when the series ends too. Such a great cast of characters!

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    1. Right! I remember thinking that when Hunter's book came out. I thought I had my mind made up about him, but I loved how easily Brigid was able to open me up to more. I'll be sad to see this series end too, but I hope it will finish on a strong note. :)

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  22. Completely agree with your review, Sam! I love how each of the book is a reflection of the character and they all have different feels to them. Tyler also threw me for a loop and I couldn't really pin him down, which I appreciate. I also thought it was really cleverly called Secret from all the hidden truths we unveil in this book from Tyler to the financial situation to the Merricks and the sudden, surprise ending. I adore these characters and I'm going to have a really hard time saying goodbye in the next book.

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    1. It's fantastic how Brigid manages to do that. I feel each of the stories so far has captured the voices of the various protagonists quite perfectly. And Tyler's character is really interesting! I didn't think I'd ever even begin to entertain the idea of there being more to his personality, so I really like that Secret was able to get me to consider things further. Me too! It'll be difficult parting ways with this series, but I hope the final book will give these characters a send-off they deserve.

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  23. I've really enjoyed this series too, and agree that the diverse cast of characters really helps have an impact as we read

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    1. I'm glad you're a fan of this series too, Brandi! The cast of characters here is one of my favourites. I'll be sad to see them go. :)

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  24. I see Faye already beat me to commenting and basically said pretty much everything I wanted to (darn her). I think that what made this book special really was how the secondary characters helped Nick become more sure of himself. He feels like he's alone and he's going to need someone to tell him he isn't. I love how Chris, Michael and Hunter all reassured him (and wanted to punch Gabe for not doing the same). I may have hated Quinn and Tyler but Nick's story arc was done so well that I couldn't bring myself to take away more than a star from a book that might have been my favorite book in the series had Quinn and Tyler not gotten together.

    Wonderful Review, Sam!

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    1. YES. I agree - the secondary characters played such a great part in Nick's journey and self-discovery. I too loved how supportive Chris, Michael and Hunter were. And I completely understand the issue with Quinn and Tyler's relationship (I'm sure a lot of people will feel similarly!), but I'm glad you still enjoyed the book overall. Thanks, Rashika!

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  25. Great review Sam :D I'm still unsure if these books are for me.. maybe one day. <3 But I'm so glad that you are mostly loving them all :D Loving the characters are always a plus, so I'm very happy that you did in this book. <3 thank you so much for sharing your honest thoughts :)

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    1. I think you could like them, though there is a small almost-love triangle in the first book. I think the key to enjoying this series is connecting with the characters, as they play an even bigger part than the story. If you do decide to pick them up one day, I hope you enjoy them! :)

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  26. SIgh.. why haven't I gotten to this series yet? I own three of the books. Sad. I can't wait to meet the characters and see what I think. At least my procrastination will mean that I won't have to wait between books.

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    1. That's definitely always the good thing about waiting to start a series! You can dive into the sequels straight away. I hope you enjoy these books if you get around to them eventually.

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  27. Ha I have considered many times of proposing to a fictional character, I've never really known who my favourite Merrick was, as I always tend to change my mind, when a new book comes along. But I'm glad that this series is still going strong for you Sam, I love the depth that Kemmerer brings to these stories. Fab review as always!

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    1. Ha, it is hard to pick a favourite Merrick. I loved Nick's character from the start, but Gabriel and Michael are fantastic too. Especially Michael. *swoons*. I can't wait to get his book!

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  28. I love how much you love this series! You had already convinced me to add this to my TBR, but coming close to proposing to a fictional character seals the deal -- I've had my own close calls with that. Hahaha!
    A fabulous review, Sam, and one that ensures I'll be meeting the Merricks soon! <3

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    1. Oh Michele, Michael was just irresistible in this one. ;) I can't wait for you to meet him!

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  29. This review didn't appear in my feed when you posted it for some reason. -_-
    Anyways, I'm so glad you enjoyed Secret. I've been putting off reading it because I wasn't a fan of the previous book, but I think I'm going to give this a try. I've always liked Nick.
    Plus, like you said, the character development in this series is the greatest. I can't wait for Michael's book!
    Lovely review, Sam.

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    1. I know Rachel wasn't a big fan of the previous book either. I hope you manage to connect with Nick's story more! And I'm ridiculously excited about Michael's book now. Secret made me realise just how much I appreciate his character.

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  30. Thank you for the review. Love love, Andrew. Bye.

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  31. I haven't read this series, but have heard great things about it. After reading your mention of it reminding you of Maggie Stiefvater's writing as far as characterization- I'm that much more intrigued now, Sam! :)

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    1. They're very different styles and hard to compare to each other on a technical level, but Brigid's obvious understanding of her characters makes me think of Maggie Stiefvater. :) I hope you'll give these books a try!

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  32. On a whim I picked up the first book in this series, Storm, when I was recently spending a Christmas giftcard. I haven't had a chance to pick it up yet, but I love how this series has elemental magic. Reminds me of Avatar the last airbender and I still love that kid show! A couple new books just came out that I'm going crazy to read, but I'll definitely be starting this series soon =)

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    1. Yay! I can't wait to see what you think of it, Stephanie. I enjoyed Storm, but if you end up having mixed thoughts about it, do still give Spark a try; that was where the series really picked up steam for me.

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  33. I totally agree! The author does well with third person narration and switching between POVs.

    Lovely review, Sam! <33

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    1. Doesn't she just? I'm not always a fan of changing points of view, but Brigid makes it work so well. Thanks, Mel!

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  34. I'm behind in this series, but I'm planning on getting caught up very soon, and now after reading your lovely review I'm even more excited to get to Secret! The series I find the most addictive are the ones with really strong characters, both the good and the bad, and I'm beyond thrilled to hear that your love for the Merricks and their friends is stronger than ever. Brilliant review, Sam! Glad you're back, I love reading your reviews! :-)

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    1. I completely agree, Lauren. The strongest series for me are definitely those with good characterisation. An interesting plot can only take you so far; characters are so so crucial! And thank you so much. I'm not sure how often I'll be reviewing these days, but it's so lovely to know that I have wonderful readers like you. <3

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  35. Yay, it's good to have you back, Sam!

    I need to give this series a try this year because I haven't seen any negative reviews for it yet on people's blogs. Everyone just raves about the characters!

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    1. It does look like this installment has been generally well-received, which definitely makes me happy. I hope you enjoy meeting the Merricks, Z!

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  36. Wonderful review, Sam. I wasn't planning on picking up this installment after my feelings on the last one, but everyone seems to love it, so maybe I was a little hasty in my decision. I do agree, Brigid does a wonderful job with characterization. :)

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    1. I remember that you had mixed feelings on Hunter's book, Rachel, but I hope this one will work better for you! If it's any incentive, the romance is positively swoon-worthy. ;)

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  37. I'm glad you enjoyed it, Sam! I agree, Brigid really excels with character development and her secondary characters. Although I have to say I wasn't a huge fan of Quinn's, hah. It's probably the first you're-supposed-to-find-her-sympathetic-now character that I haven't connected with in these books, but I did very much enjoy being in Nick's head. So excited for Michael's book, too!

    Really happy you are back. <3

    Wendy @ The Midnight Garden

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    1. I have to admit, I was never really a huge fan of Quinn's character. I found her much easier to appreciate in this book, but she isn't a favourite in the same way that several of the others are. I'm glad you enjoyed it too, though! I can't wait to see what's in store for Michael in Sacrifice.

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  38. I really enjoyed the first 2 books in this series and for some reason I haven't read the others yet but I definitely will. I also agree that this author is a master at character development and making each one sound distinct with their own voices and personalities. I also love how everyone is getting their own book! :D I can't wait to see what Quinn has in store for us and then Michael!

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    1. I'm glad to hear you enjoyed the first two! I hope you can pick up the rest soon. And Brigid really is a master at character development; I have such a clear picture of each of her characters' personalities in my head. Not every author can do that!

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  39. I remember really liking the first book but like Giselle, I haven't read the others yet. You've encouraged me to get my bum in gear! Thanks for the great review, Sam :D

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    1. Yaayyy! I hope you aren't disappointed. I look forward to seeing what you think of the rest.

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  40. I haven't started this series yet, but it popped back onto my radar when I saw it on sale at Dymocks the other day haha I've heard so many great things, I'm glad you really enjoyed it! It sounds like it puts a large emphasis on the different romances which I really like, I'll be checking it out soon I hope!

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    1. There's a clear romance in every book, and Brigid definitely always give the romance enough attention (without it being distracting or overwhelming). My favourite is probably Gabriel and Layne's relationship from Spark. :)

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  41. Okay. I give up. I'm going to have to pick up this series ASAP! You're making it sound SO good Sam! It's not really the genre I'd typically read (I'm not usually one for straightforward romance), but I think I'll make an exception for this series since I've heard nothing but good things about it from everyone - although I think your review is making me the most excited to read it!

    I'll definitely have to get onto starting this series pronto! Thanks for sharing Sam, and, as always, brilliant review! :D

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    1. I've been reading more and more romance recently, so the contemporary feel of this book suited me quite well overall. There are definitely paranormal elements present too, but they don't quite matter to me in the same way now. :) But I hope you enjoy this series, Zoe! I look forward to seeing what you think of it.

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  42. Reading your review and some of these comments, it seems like I'm missing out on a good series. Thanks for passing it along!

    The Warrior Muse

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    1. Happy to help put it on your radar, Shannon. It's definitely a series worth checking out, especially if you enjoy character-driven stories. :)

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  43. I haven't read any of the books in this series, but after reading your review, I'm intrigued. It can be hard to make multiple POVs work, and distinct voices and smooth transitions are crucial, but you make this author's efforts sound so well-executed. I'll definitely have to look into this author some more!

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    1. It can be hard to make multiple POVs work. It's often one of the main reasons why I might fail to connect with a book or series. I love when an author can pull it off!

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  44. This sounds like an amazing book!

    www.modernworld4.blogspot.com

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  45. Glad you really enjoyed this book, Sam! It seems that this series totally works for you. :) I'm really intrigued to pick up this book sometimes, but somehow I'm afraid this may not work for me. I wasn't really able to connect with the characters in the novella, but maybe someday I'll give this series a go. :) This is kind of out of context, but I love that you said you came so close to proposing Michael. Girl, I feel you. Some fictional boys practically screamed for me to propose them... ;)

    Amazing review, Sam! :)

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    1. Hmm, I've only experienced the novellas after reading the main books, but I wonder whether I'd have reacted differently to them too had it been the other way around. I'd say give Storm and Spark a try if you're still curious in the future, as it's likely to be easier to connect with the characters in the books than in the novellas. :)

      And Hilda, there have been weddings aplenty in my head! These fictional characters are too darn irresistible sometimes.

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  46. So glad that this series keeps staying strong! I've heard nothing but positive things about these books so I must read and devour them soon. :) The characters sound amazing, I love it when an author really brings the world to life. Great review, Sam!

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    1. I'm hoping the final book will be a good one too, and then I can add this to the small list of series that I've enjoyed all the way through! Thanks, Zoe. I hope you can meet the Merricks soon. :)

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  47. I also love this series so damn much and Secret was a wonderful addition. Just like you I feel that the paranormal elements do not matter anymore, but then it also not really about this ... These book feel more like Contemporary books to me and.. I love it no less!

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    1. Yes! This is it exactly. Although the paranormal elements are interesting at the start, this series definitely reads like a contemporary one for a large portion of the time. I'm so glad you're a fan of these books too, Danny!

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  48. I've seen review after review of all of these books in the series and every time I just want to read them straight away...something is holding me back. Too many books hehe. I really will start this series this year, its one of the series I hope to start. Great review as always, Sam. Hope to see you around. :)

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    1. Ha, this is me with about a hundred other series, so I know what you mean. ;) But I do hope you can make a start on these books eventually - I can't wait to see what you think!

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  49. I love when books series keep the momentum going! So glad you enjoyed this one and I look forward to reading the series. :)
    ~Jess

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    1. Yes, me too! It can be hard to keep that up with a long series. I'm so glad this one hasn't gone downhill once.

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