Reviews & Giveaway: Very Wicked Beginnings & Very Wicked Things (Briarcrest Academy #1.5 & 2) by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Posted May 13, 2014 by bookstobreathe in Book Review, Giveaway / 0 Comments

Reviews & Giveaway: Very Wicked Beginnings & Very Wicked Things (Briarcrest Academy #1.5 & 2) by Ilsa Madden-MillsTitle: Very Wicked Beginnings & Very Wicked Things
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills
Series: Briarcrest Academy #1.5 & 2
Publisher: Little Dove Publishing
Release Date: May 13, 2014
More Info: Goodreads
Purchase: Amazon US
Purchase: Amazon UK

Girls say I’m a walking, talking sex god. Guys call me Hollywood because my life is golden. 

It’s not.

But, ESPN did rank me as a four-star recruit, calling me one of the best defensive players since Briarcrest Academy opened its esteemed doors. So yeah, with football and a stellar GPA, my future seemed good.

Then Dovey Beckham shows up in her short skirts and ballet shoes. Driving me insane. Making me want to beg for her attention. 

But that wouldn’t happen, because Cuba Hudson didn’t beg for 

She walked around BA like she owned the place, and most days she looked right through me…the one girl I couldn’t have.
So, of course, I made it my mission to claim her, to put her notch on my bedpost.

Because no girl can resist the Heartbreaker of BA.

But I never planned on destroying her. 

I never planned on wrecking the one thing that could save me.
Welcome to Briarcrest Academy, where wicked love begins…and ends.


Born on the poor side of town…

Ballerina Dovey Beckham is a scholarship student at Briarcrest Academy, determined to prove she’s more than just a girl with the wrong pedigree. She does whatever it takes to succeed in her endgame, even if it means surrendering her body…but never her heart. 

Until the day she meets him, and he rips apart all her well-laid plans. Suddenly, the girl everyone thought unbreakable might just shatter.

Born into wealth and privilege…

Cuba “Hollywood” Hudson is rich, spoiled, and a star football player. With his fast cars and superficial girlfriends, he lives the high-life, hiding his secrets from the world.

Until the day he meets her, and she offers him something he’s never tasted…love.

But once in a lifetime kind of love doesn’t come easy. When trust crumbles and doubts creep in, both will have to decide to either love or let go…forever.

Welcome to Briarcrest Academy, where sometimes, only the wicked survive.


Very Wicked Beginnings

(Briarcrest Academy, #1.5)

Amazon US


My Review

As far as novellas go, this was the perfect taste of things to come. I honestly think this is one of those stories that had I not read first, I would have read Very Wicked Things VERY differently. There were clues throughout, you just had to follow the breadcrumbs. And even knowing the eventual outcome did nothing to lessen the journey. A journey paved with young love, heartbreak, misguided and often misconstrued feelings, but mostly two souls recognizing their counterparts. It was delicious, and the perfect morsel to get the engine revved for the rest of Cuba and Dovey’s journey, of which you will NOT want to miss!

Very Wicked Beginnings Teaser Pic with Charity Info

Special Note

Because Ilsa Madden-Mills fell in love with her beautifully flawed characters in Very Wicked Things, she penned Very Wicked Beginnings as a prequel novella to the book, featuring the story of football star Cuba Hudson and ballerina Dovey Beckham.

Since May is Mental Health Awareness Month, all May proceeds from the sale of the novella will be donated to The Keith Milano Memorial Fund which benefits the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP).

The Keith Milano Memorial Fund was established to help raise awareness about the devastating and deadly disease that is mental illness. Keith’s spirit and laughter is kept alive through our efforts to increase awareness about mental illness and to raise money for education and imperative research. Keith often struggled with society’s perception of mental illness.  Our hope is that by having the strength to say that Keith was “Bipolar” we can strip away the stigma and help others to be more open about their disease.

AFSP is the only national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research and education, and to reaching out to people with mood disorders and those affected by suicide.

Very Wicked Beginning Prequel Cover

Very Wicked Things

(Briarcrest Academy, #2) 

Amazon US

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I got out of the shower and dressed hurriedly, anxious to get back to Cuba.

The door opened, and like he did it every single day, he stepped inside the steamy bathroom.

“Think I need a shower, too,” he said, his fingers easing off his football practice shirt.

What? Now?

Trying to play it cool and failing miserably, I moved my eyes off his naked chest and checked out his track pants and the obvious bulge he sported.

Oh. Did his lower body match the rest of him? Was it all sinewy muscle and big?

Just, yeah. That thought got stuck in my head and went round and round.

 “You staying?” he asked, a grin working his face. Pleased at my open admiration, probably.

“No,” I said, but made no move to go. ‘Cause I had no shame when it came to catching a glimpse of his muscular body.

“Good,” he said, his smile broadening.

He pivoted to turn on the shower, and my eyes betrayed me again, admiring the muscles in his back, checking out how they twitched and rippled when he moved. Football and rowing had been good to him. My fingers itched to know how they’d feel underneath my hands. Which was stupid because we had nothing in common. Not a rich Highland Park boy and a poor girl from Ratcliffe.

And most importantly, he was a player, not to be trusted.

He hooked his thumbs into his pants, paused a moment—maybe waiting to see if I’d run from the room?—but when I didn’t budge, he slid them and his underwear off. My mouth opened. Cuba Hudson, the most popular guy at Briarcrest was standing right in front of me, naked and beautiful. And like the cocky bastard he was, he posed for me, his big-ass biceps and chiseled abs making me vibrate all over. Need for him slammed into me.

Did I say he was hot?

Well, I was wrong.

He was off-the-charts, no-holds-barred, freaking going make-me-lose-my-mind-right-there delicious. The ultimate man-candy, the kind I knew to stay away from, yet here I was, ogling him.

“Still leaving?” he asked huskily.

“Any minute,” I said in a weak voice, backing up to the wall and propping myself up. “Just chillin’. Shower wore me out. I might need to hold this wall up for a sec.”

“I want you to stay,” he said, eyes at half-mast, glowing with heat.

“Why?” I said, aching to touch him. But that was crazy. I was a virgin, and I didn’t know jack about touching a guy’s you-know-what.

“Look at me, Dovey.”

I tore my eyes from his manhood, blushing.

His eyes burned. “There’s a sense of urgency in my head. Like our time is limited.”

I nodded. Yeah, same here.

“And, I’ll be honest, I don’t want to rush you, but I’m dying to sink into you. I want to set you on fire with need for me.” He ghosted his hands over the steel rod between his legs. Once, twice, and—holy shizzle, he didn’t stop.

My chest rose faster and faster, and I tried to chill-out, but I couldn’t.

He lowered his voice. “Kiss me again, Dovey.”

Oh. “That’s a terrible idea, Cuba. Cause you’re naked, and I’m turned on because you’re naked. And you’re touching yourself. And you’re naked.” I sucked in a sharp breath. “Not a good combo. Odds are we’ll end up in that shower together or back in your bed doing the double-backed monster.”

“Then join me in the shower. I’ll be good. For you.” He arched his back, his hands still doing that back and forth that was driving me insane.

Liar, liar, pants on fire, I thought. No way he would he be good.

Because he was the Heartbreaker of Briarcrest Academy. And one wicked boy.



My Review

His eyes did cause some kind of weird visceral reaction in me like no other, almost as if we shared a connection, like we were kindred spirits.

I had the privilege of reading Very Wicked Things early, and to say it knocked me on my tail is an understatement. One of the main things I love about Ilsa’s writing is that you never know what you are going to get. You judge a book by its cover, you see small teasers, and you THINK you know what you are in for. Well let me tell you, you literally have NO IDEA. The depth that she pulls from her characters, from the stars to the ones that have one scene, is literary genius at its finest. It’s magical. It’s awe-inspiring. It’s breathtaking. There just aren’t enough adjectives that can adequately describe the emotions that coursed in my veins throughout this book. Heck, even merely calling it a book seems like a disservice, for it was SO much more than that. Two broken souls, searching for forgiveness from each other, from those around them, but mostly from themselves. It’s a journey, and it’s one that will take you from the highest highs to the lowest lows. From the first page until the last, I had no clue how it would end. I had my hopes and I had my fears, but never could I have imagined the outcome.

Perhaps I’ve given up, Because even at my young age, I recognized the truth: my somedays were killing me one dream at a time.

VWT is the story of Dovey and Cuba. While there are very small mentions to characters in Very Bad Things, for all intents and purposes this is a standalone novel. And for me to admit that is a feat in itself if you know me. When I read Ilsa’s debut book last year, it was my very first diamond in the rough. To find those kids of books are rare. I hadn’t heard of it beforehand, and only read it because I was guest reviewing on another blog. I’ll admit I judged it by its cover. I saw a seemingly spoiled rich girl and assumed what I would find beneath the pages. The reality couldn’t have been further from the truth, and while I knew better this go-round, the outcome was similar but SO different! If Ilsa blew me out of the water with VBT, she sunk the dang Titanic with this one! There is literally a crater somewhere in the earth that was created from my jaw dropping so often while reading. Ilsa’s books aren’t ones that you can simply pick up here and there; no, once you do, you will simply be unable to do anything else. They suck you in and everything else ceases to exist. You are drawn into the characters lives and they become a part of you, or the other way around. It’s a beauty to behold and something that happens infrequently.

Did her heart thud as hard as mine? Did she ever think about me and wonder what could have been?

Two pages in and I haven’t even really begun to talk about the story. That is both by design and the fact that there is just so much I could say without even touching specifics. Dovey and Cuba have both been kicked around by life. They come into each other’s lives at exactly the right and wrong time, depending on how you look at it. But as the universe knows better than we do, sometimes what feels right at the time isn’t. Sometimes you aren’t yet ready for what life has to offer. And maybe, just maybe, the universe knows more than you and can see this. So even though it seems right at the time, you can’t see the big picture, and your seemingly Prince Charming is yanked away. But there are always players in the background, things that are going on that you have NO clue about. And when it’s right, it WILL come back. I am a firm believer in fate, but sometimes you have to help it along.

We were both survivors who’d managed to find each other amid the chaos.

There were so many twists and turns in this book that instead of figuring out where to begin, this is where I end. Because to not experience this book blindly, which is basically what I did, would be a disservice to you. There will be clues along the way, but I can guarantee you that you will never see coming what does. Just when you think you are safe, BAM, Ilsa hits you again. I literally didn’t know until the very end how anything was going to end up, but those are my favorite books. Who wants predictable and safe? Those are two words that simply don’t exist in Ilsa’s vocabulary, and I love her all the more for it. She is an author who takes risks and says screw you to the norm. She’s an author that will ALWAYS keep me blindly coming back for more!

Sometimes it takes reaching your low before you realize you have to put effort into learning to live again.



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Very Wicked Things Cover

 Haven’t read the first book #1 New Adult Romance Very Bad Things? It’s on sale!!

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Very Bad Things

(Briarcrest Academy, #1) 

Amazon US

My Review

Very Bad Things

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.


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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