Review : Very Bad Things (Briarcrest Academy #1) by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Posted October 11, 2013 by bookstobreathe in Book Review / 1 Comment

Review : Very Bad Things (Briarcrest Academy #1) by Ilsa Madden-MillsTitle: Very Bad Things
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills
Series: Briarcrest Academy #1
Publisher: Little Dove Publishing
Release Date: September 9, 2013
Genre: New Adult
More Info: Goodreads
Purchase: Amazon US
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Purchase: Amazon UK
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Born into a life of privilege and secrets, Nora Blakely has everything any nineteen-year-old girl could desire. She’s an accomplished pianist, a Texas beauty queen, and on her way to Princeton after high school. She’s perfect…

Leaving behind her million-dollar mansion and Jimmy Choos, she becomes a girl hell-bent on pushing the limits with alcohol, drugs, and meaningless sex.

Then she meets her soulmate. But he doesn’t want her.

When it comes to girls, twenty-five-year-old Leo Tate has one rule: never fall in love. His gym and his brother are all he cares about...until he meets Nora. He resists the pull of their attraction, hung up on their six year age difference.

As they struggle to stay away from each other, secrets will be revealed, tempers will flare, and hearts will be broken.

Welcome to Briarcrest Academy…where sometimes, the best things in life are Very Bad Things.

This book. Just. Wow. You read a synopsis thinking you know what you are about to get into, and within the first couple chapters you realize all your preconceived notions were absolutely wrong. I was utterly and completely blown away by this story from first time author Ilsa Madden-Mills. Like Left Drowning and Breathing series blown away. The emotions she sparked in me, well, I just hope I can formulate into words and do her story justice.

Happiness is simply collecting and remembering all the good moments in your life, kinda like beads on a necklace.

From the get go, I feel the resounding theme of the book is finding your happy. No one said that life was perfect, that things wouldn’t get hard, but through it all, you have to figure out how to be okay with who you are. You have to want it, you have to believe in it, and most importantly, you have to fight for it.

“You’re playing with fire. You think you want this?” He laughed darkly. “Buttercup, you can’t handle me.”

Very Bad Things is the story of Nora and Leo, two souls so lost and numb they are barely hanging on. Nora suffers in silence, spending all her time playing the perfect daughter, student, model citizen, when all she really wants is to be loved. She yearns to be someone’s first choice. Leo has the weight of the world on his shoulders, running a successful business, having just moved to a new town, and raising his younger brother, essentially taking on the role of sole parent. His worst fear is losing those that he loves, and in response he vows to never love anyone. But life has a way of knowing what you need, even when you don’t want it, and especially when you least expect it. Fate has a way of throwing in our paths the one thing we need.

“Behind every beautiful thing is a world of pain.”

Never believe what you see with just your eyes, because looks can be deceiving. Behind a flawless complexion, perfect grades, and all the luxury the world can provide, hides a very broken young woman. Nora, Nora, Nora. The obstacles she has to overcome daily are slowly dragging her down. She feels dead inside, lonely in a room full of people, the scum of the earth. My heart just broke for her with every page I turned. I ached that no one could or would see how truly wonderful she is, just the way she was. Why would no one love her and give her the same basic relationships that most of us take for granted. There was no tucking her in at night, no family dinners, no words of endearment. Nora lived in a world of solitude, and the darkness is all encompassing.

“Even after all that has happened to me, I’ve never given up wishing on stars.”

It is astounding that with everything Nora has experienced in her life she is still standing. She still believes in the good in people. She still wants her happy. She cries out for help on a daily basis, but how much can you expect when there is no one there to listen, when there has NEVER been anyone there to listen. What I loved about this story is that despite all this, Nora makes the choice to better herself. She is through with taking crap from everyone, and starts paving the way for the rest of her life.  She doesn’t need to be perfect for anyone, and she doesn’t have to answer for choices she makes.

But something had altered within my spirit tonight. I didn’t need a list. I didn’t need to be bad. I just needed to be Nora.

Then we meet Leo Tate, and the world turns on its axis. For Nora, the connection is instant, but Leo fights it with everything he has. Leo learned at a young age that those you rely on the most aren’t always there forever. Because of this he had to grow up quickly, taking on responsibilities most don’t. Leo never complained, and it was never a question that he wouldn’t, he just did what needed to be done. His heart stayed guarded though, and it wasn’t up for debate. From the minute he saw Nora in the parking lot, even though they didn’t speak, he knew he was in trouble. Don’t get me wrong, Leo is everything you would want in a swoon worthy man. Protector, big brother/parent, musician, business owner, and sexy as sin. All we needed was to convince him to take that leap of faith and let someone in.  A life lived in fear is truly no life at all.

Poor girls didn’t shop at Neiman Marcus, even on sale day. Poor girls didn’t live in big chateauesque houses. Poor girls don’t go to college where you have to write an essay to get in. And, poor girls don’t wait for someone to save them. They save themselves. I was okay with that.

When I mentioned that the world turned on its axis, what I really meant was Nora’s world started spinning out of control. From the entrance of Leo into her life, she starts to make changes. Drastic and necessary ones. Changes that no one saw coming and not all were good. But good or bad, Nora was finally living her life and standing by her decisions. She was dedicated to finding her happy on her own terms, everyone else be damned. For being so young and having lived a mostly pampered life, Nora was surprisingly well accustomed to fending for herself. This isn’t to say she didn’t have her fair share of emotional problems, and boy did she ever, but Nora wasn’t afraid to take those big steps. The only person that ever got in her way was the person staring back in the mirror.

I loved the friendship relationships that Nora formed in this book. First we had her best friend Mila, the one who stood by her through everything, always having her back. Mila was prim and proper, but I think underneath she has a wild side just waiting to come out. I also detected a possible budding relationship with someone else, but that may be for the next installment. Secondly was Sebastian, Leo’s brother. Besides Leo, he was probably the one person in her life she never saw coming, but needed in her world the most. Sebastian was the brother she should have had, but through a cruel twist of fate, she was given the devil. To say that Nora’s family, if you can even call them that, is beyond reprehensible is an understatement. The last friendship that Nora developed was with Teddy, an autistic boy in Leo’s band. Teddy couldn’t read music, but as he was a musical savant, could play by ear after only hearing it once. Nora played these songs for him, and they formed a special bond through that. I think their relationship was my favorite throughout the book, as they both just accepted each other at face value, without judgments.

She consumed me, my head, my heart, my skin, my blood, my muscles, everything aching for the physical touch of her body against mine.

As much as I want to, I won’t delve into Nora and Leo’s relationship too much, because that would be a disservice to those who haven’t read the book yet. Just know that it is maddening, passionate, heart-breaking, all-encompassing, and about a million other adjectives. I will also not delve into her family relationships. Trust me when I say that you will figure those out very quickly.

Truth can be awful and even excruciating, but once it’s released, it’s like a bird that’s been caged too long who finally flies to freedom.

In conclusion, plain and simple, I truly loved everything about this book; the passion, the love, the heart break, the despair, the friendship, and the self growth. My emotions ran high throughout the majority of the story, and by the end I was spent. This author writes beautifully and her words flow effortlessly. I felt like a part of the story, an unassuming bystander. I cannot wait for the next installment in this series. Definitely a 5 star book for me!


About Ilsa Madden-Mills

Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Ilsa Madden-Mills is best known for her angsty new adult romances and romantic comedies.

Eight of her eleven novels have placed in the Amazon Top 10 Best-seller List: Dirty English #1; Fake Fiancée and I Dare You #2; I Bet You, Filthy English, and Very Bad Things #6; Boyfriend Bargain #8; The Last Guy, her collaboration with Tia Louise, #4.

A former high school English teacher, she adores all things Pride and Prejudice, and of course, Mr. Darcy is her ultimate hero.

She’s addicted to frothy coffee beverages, cheesy magnets, and any book featuring unicorns and sword-wielding females. Feel free to stalk her online.

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