Friday, 4 September 2015

Spotlight On: Raven by Ashley Suzanne

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Flight or Fight #1
Ashley Suzanne
Re-Releasing Sept 8th, 2015

In the debut of Ashley Suzanne’s blistering-hot Fight or Flight series—perfect for fans of Monica Murphy and J. Lynn—two sparring partners put their hearts on the line and push their bodies to the edge.

Rian Fields is done being a punching bag. When Rian was thirteen, her only friend walked out on her, leaving Rian alone to mourn when she lost her mother three years later. Then he came back into her life senior year, igniting new desires—and breaking her trust permanently when he enlisted in the army. Now Rian has finally found an outlet for her rage against the world: mixed martial arts. But just as she’s learning the ropes, Garrett Rhodes turns her life inside-out one more time.

As much they hurt each other, Garrett never got over Rian. So when he gets the call that she’s in jail, he bails her out, no questions asked. The years have toughened her. Made her harder. Sexier. All she needs to make it as an MMA fighter is the right coach, and Garrett’s man enough to train her. He just has to go toe-to-toe with “Raven,” the fearless woman who takes control in the ring. . . without falling for Rian, the vulnerable girl who still drives him crazy.

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 Now and again I like to pick-up books that I wouldn't ordinarily read by authors I haven't come across before. Raven by Ashley Suzanne is such an example. Whilst YA books are not new to me, MME is, so I began reading this with the hope I'd get a “feel” for the sport.

Everyone who matters to Rian ends up leaving, so her coping mechanism is to believe she is meant to be alone. For someone as young as she is, life has been tough after being exposed to way too many life issues; each with far reaching consequences.

Garrett always looked out for his friend when they were youngsters, but his Father's new military posting meant a move away. Miraculously, some years later, Rian ends up at the same school as him, after moving in with her aunt. Now in high school their friendship turns into something more meaningful. After graduating, Garrett follows his Father's footsteps and heads off to military training leaving Rian behind. Only he hasn't done a very good job of explaining his motivations. Rian feels abandoned by his departure and does the only thing she can think of and drops out of school and runs away from her old life. To be alone.

There are very clear and defined character developments between the protagonists. Their friendship begins in school and continues on and off as fate pulls them apart only to re-unite them, not once but twice. With each reunion, their bond becomes stronger. There is no sugar-coating the relationship between Garrett and is raw, unconditional and palpable.

The emphasis on MME was a lot less than I expected however, the plot and writing more than compensated for that. Ashley Suzanne has beautifully written a story full of hope and love, with protagonists who show such strength of character and maturity even at the darkest time. I'll definitely be seeking out the remaining books in this Fight or Flight series.

4 Stars

***arc generously received courtesy of publisher Loveswept via NetGalley***

From a young age, I knew that I wasn’t like the other kids. I was the outcast, the one who was talked about on the playground, the one who didn’t have many friends, the girl with a boy’s name. The worst part about being the brunt of all the jokes was that none of it was my fault or anything I had control over.
The problem, which I didn’t really understand when I was seven, revolved around my mother. On any given day, you could find her on the front porch, swaying back and forth with a funny-smelling cigarette in her mouth, which I now know was a joint, mumbling along with Jimi Hendrix playing on the radio. She would more than likely be dressed in a floor-length dress and always in bare feet. My momma was a hippy—so carefree, so happy, but hiding a tinge of sadness behind her brown eyes that were identical to mine, like she was missing something. I never had a father, so I always assumed she was just lonely.
As a little girl, nothing was more exciting than getting off the bus, knowing my momma would be in the same place she always was, waiting to hug me and ask about my day. After the grand inquisition would be over, she’d toss me a piece of fruit and we’d dance together on the porch, rain or shine.
She used to dress me in adorable circa-1975 floral-print dresses with fresh flowers in my hair. I loved every second of it; I was her personal dress-up doll. She would comb my hair for hours and it was all about the quality time I spent with her.
The real bullying started when Kyle Jamison decided that ripping the fresh flowers out of my ponytail would make a great game. Every. Single. Day.
After spending the better part of my childhood miserable, I started to dress more like the other kids—Jordache jeans and high-top Converse or LA Gear sneakers. The shirt didn’t really matter as long as I could tie it on the side and it wasn’t a floral print. I never did anything else exciting with my hair after the last carnation was ripped out by Kyle; it just hung down my back, crimped or feathered, much like the other girls’. I’d traded my love for Stevie, The Doors, and Janis for mainstream music like New Kids on the Block. Some of the songs weren’t so bad once I got used to them, but Donnie and Jordan had nothing on The Mamas and the Papas. I couldn’t even compare the two.
Once I hit junior high, the trends changed and the kids’ words got more mean and more hateful. I tried to adapt to the other girls, but no matter what I did, I still didn’t have friends. Until Garrett Rhodes came to our town.
Being a military brat, his family moved around a lot and our town happened to be a few minutes away from the base that his father had transferred to. Since Garrett was the new kid, he was kind of an outcast like me and we clicked. Once Garrett started to mature and become more a man, the girls started to notice.
Garrett was a grade ahead of me. By the time he was in eighth grade, ready to embark on high school, I started to worry about what my final year in junior high would be like without him. He assured me that it wouldn’t be so bad and that we could still hang out every day after school.
He was wrong. My eighth-grade year was terrible. The girls were nastier and the boys were harsher, and I soon realized exactly why they would make fun of me all the time. Until then, I had never put two and two together.
Apparently, my mother being a flower-loving hippy meant that she was all about “free love,” or whatever. They would tease me, calling my momma a slut, a whore, or easy, and since apples don’t usually fall far from the tree, the same had to be true for me.
I started to develop into a woman that year—getting my first visit from Aunt Flo, as my growing breasts and widening hips gave me more curves than any thirteen-year-old girl should ever have. Instead of Kyle pulling flowers out of my hair, he was snapping my bra or slapping my ass any time I passed. Without having Garrett around to protect me, I was on my own, helpless against my tormentors.
My only comfort during those brutal nine months was the fact that every day, after the bell rang, Garrett would be waiting for me in front of the school to walk me home. I didn’t know if he knew that the other kids were so disgusting toward me or if he just wanted to walk with me, but he always came and it was the best part of the day—the only part I looked forward to.
Then the worst possible thing happened that summer. Garrett’s dad was transferred to a new base, and I was left alone to fight off the wolves. My only friend in this entire world was moving over an hour away, far too distant for him to ride his bike to my house or walk me home from school. It doesn’t sound like much, but the distance might as well have been in light-years. My heart was shattering and I didn’t know what to do or how to act.

My world came to a standstill and everything around me just kept moving. People were growing up and getting more mature, except for me. I was still that little girl having her first heartbreak. Looking back now, I wonder if life could have stayed as simple as it had been at that time. If only the little lessons that life teaches us were as simple as a thirteen-year-old’s broken heart. Life would be a whole lot more manageable.

Ashley Suzanne has been writing for as long as she can remember. As a youngster, she was always
creating stories and talking to her imaginary friends. Thankfully, her parents also carried this love of fiction, and helped her grow into the bestselling author she is today. When Ashley isn’t coming up with her next story, you’ll most likely find her on the couch, telling her husband all about her new book boyfriend, or spending quality time with her two gremlins . . . er, adorable children.

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