Blog Tour/Giveaway: Amber to Ashes: Gail McHugh

AMBER TO ASHES (Torn Hearts #1)
Gail McHugh

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From the New York Times bestselling author of Collide and Pulse comes a gritty new novel about a shattered young woman who unexpectedly falls for two friends as she struggles to overcome the trauma of her tormented childhood.

They were a storm I never saw coming, an unforeseen heartbreak on the edge of a dangerous cliff.

Amber Moretti’s life changes in the span of minutes. An orphaned outsider, she is desperate to start fresh the moment she walks onto campus. In the time it takes to cross the university’s dining hall, she meets two men who bring color, air, and light to her darkened world.

They became my addiction, each a needle to my next hit, my high.

Brock Cunningham’s appeal is dizzying, a potent force Amber can’t deny. A green-eyed smooth talker, he instantly attracts Amber. It doesn’t take long for him to consume her every thought, her every breath.

Ryder Ashcroft, a blue-eyed, tattooed, and pierced bad boy, turns Amber off immediately—that is, until he kisses her, stealing a piece of her heart, her soul.

They were as opposite as fire and ice, yet I ached for them equally.

Never knowing she could be broken down in so many unexpectedly beautiful yet petrifying ways, Amber finds herself falling for both men.

Immoral? Maybe. I say undeniable. Uncontained.

But one devastating event changes everything, shattering each of their lives…and Amber isn’t sure she can recover from it.

This is one of those books that you can't say too much about it without posting spoilers. But Oh what a ride! I was mesmerized from the prologue and completely invested throughout. 

Amber Moretti did not come to college seeking a relationship. But soon she finds herself being pursued by two best friends. Both have appeal and both are dangerous to her walls and fear of commitment. Her past marked her so deeply that she is guarded, fearful, untrusting, and avoids attachments. Some of her demons she can't bear to face. She does not usually let people in to see who she really is. But she manages to find two guys that are not put off by a challenge.

Brock Cunningham, the charming football captain won't take no for an answer. He's intuitive, kind, sweet, dependable, and oozes sexual appeal. He wants to get into her head and find out what makes her tick. He's the apparent good boy with just enough bad boy edge. But he also has issues from his past, secrets, and not everything in his present is how it appears.

His best friend, Ryder Ashcroft sees her first. Actually he totally pisses her off first. He is arrogant, tattooed, pierced, and screams bad boy all the way. He knows just how to push her buttons and thrives on her attention. But he's also funny, magnetic, and a force that is hard to resist. There is definitely more to him that meets the eye as well.

Holy Crap! I will admit that I fell hard for both of these two men. Seriously I had a hard time choosing especially in the beginning. They both had so many hidden layers and past hurts, but also had such magnetic, commanding personalities that really drew me in.  The plot had twists, turns, and depth. There were secrets, lies, mysteries and suspense swirling under the surface. It was all beautifully woven together to create such a provocative and engrossing story.

They were three people circling around each other that became linked with their broken pieces coming together. They all had secrets and pain that gradually came to light. But they found acceptance, understanding, and fragile happiness. But it was tentative at best with their intertwined intense feelings and attraction. It was an explosive situation with no easy resolution.  

I am not usually a fan of triangles, but this one had me enthralled from the beginning as their stories gradually unfolded and connection deepened....all the time building to the inevitable end. The prologue put me on guard and I just kept waiting for something to occur that was hinted at. But all along the way there was serious tension, surprises, and mind f***ery. And underlying the relationship drama was a danger and suspenseful element that added even more complications. 

I think some points were as mind bending for me as they were for the characters themselves. The story went some places I expected and some I didn't. It was intense, passionate, unpredictable, emotional, painful, and dealt with many difficult subjects. What a roller coaster! And it's not over yet. It definitely left me wanting more with Amber, Brock, and Ryder. One of the guys did finally pull ahead in my heart, but they both had good, bad, and swoony sides to them. I can't wait to see where the story goes in the next book and how some foreshadowing in this one plays out.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Amber Moretti arrives for her first year of college leaving a trail of foster families and tragedy in her past. Convinced she is unable to love, she uses sex as a way to forget, if only for a short time, and has become a master at leaving emotions out of everything she does. But running into Ryder and Brock, literally, leaves her battling emotions she hasn’t dealt with in years. Off balance and determined to avoid the emotions that led to her parents’ deaths 10 years before, she slowly lets each man inside her walls, though holds them at different lengths and shares different parts of her with each.

Brock Cunningham and Ryder Ashcroft have been best friends as long as each can remember. Football teammates, they have been there for each other for the good times and the bad -- Brock’s brother’s kidnapping, and Ryder’s sister’s cancer diagnosis. Not they find themselves drawn to the same woman. Both look at Amber as a woman to protect, keep, and make happy. But only one can truly have her.

I spent just as much time engrossed by and anticipating the outcomes from this book as I did terrified of what would happen at the end. I knew there was going to be a cliffhanger at the end, but based on the prologue foreshadowing I was hesitant to reach that point knowing something ugly was bound to happen.

This triangle is as compelling as any I’ve read. I honestly can’t decide who is better for Amber, who she loves more, or who I want her to end up with in the end. I spent part of the book thinking both men were asses, part of it cheering for one, and alternately rooting for the other. To me, that is the perfect beginning of a trilogy containing a love triangle. I am hooked on this series if only to find out who she picks and how reactions influence future events, because no matter who she chooses there is a man who loves her completely who will be heartbroken.

Each man has similarities that are clear in the beginning of the book. They are both arrogant, attractive, and know how to get their way with women without attachments. While Ryder is willing to sit back and let Amber come to him, Brock is more direct in his approach. As the first of many differences though, this will have lasting impact on the interactions between all three characters.

This book was a back and forth for me, and as a result I had a hard time deciding how to rate this. I had a hard time connecting with the characters in the beginning, and I’m still not sure I really love any of the three mains. Each seemed to show a different side of the selfishness of love, and though I find myself rooting for one man over the other there are aspects of each man that won’t allow me to fully get behind either. And Amber seemed so angry and closed off in the beginning that I had a hard time wrapping my head around the idea that she would have either one of these men chasing after her, let alone both of them.

Somewhere along the way though, I became sucked into the storyline and found myself unwilling to put the book down for long, even going so far as to switch to text-to-speech so I could tackle some unavoidable tasks while still progressing the story. The plot took a direction that I wouldn’t have imagined from the beginning, though if I had spent more time reflecting on the bits and pieces we learn about the characters makes absolute sense.
I am still terrified to love either man too much, and I’m equally terrified that somewhere in this series I am going to have a change of heart if I do fall too hard for one character and something bad happens -- because the situations set up here are intense, explosive, and have the potential for permanent consequences. As a result of this fear and my initial dificulty connecting with the characters, I can’t give the book 5 stars, but this was definitely a book that caught me off guard and pulled me in completely.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Friendly PSA: If you are not into ménage then it is time to click the back button. This book will certainly not be for you, and the author should not suffer a bad review because that isn’t your “thing.”

Team RYDER all the way. 

I knew instantly from the author’s introduction of Ryder and Brock which way my loyalty and devotion would lean. I tend to gravitate towards a type and my gut reaction was spot on. Both men were intriguing to say the least; nonetheless, Ryder took the win. He owned my heart immediately and kept it gripped tight within his grasp, making me fall deeper with each turn of the page. Brock’s good ole’ American boy persona had nothing on Ryder’s tatted and pierced bad boy one. 

Brock's character was unique with his particular mix of character traits. 

Although, I enjoyed those traits, I did not want him to get the girl. No way. No fucking how. 

Ryder was definitely an enigma; one whose layers held so much more than meets the eye. 

And I DID want him to get the girl, in a bad way!! Ryder was my obsession from start to finish.

Yes, Brock was an all-around great guy but not the guy. Ryder, on the other hand, was the guy, in my eyes.

I whole-heartedly approved of Amber and Ryder! When these two were in a room together, they seamlessly gravitated towards each other. I never once doubted their chemistry or connection. Unlike Brock and Amber, they felt all consuming; so much so, everything about them screamed off the pages, slamming right into you. When I spent time with them, their relationship held true love and believability. 

Unfortunately, no matter how convincing McHugh tried, I did not feel that all-consuming connection or chemistry between Amber and Brock. I did, however, feel their instant attraction and lust. Furthermore, I most definitely felt Brock’s obsession and ownership. 

Two Best Friends. One Girl. 

Amber was where I struggled the most. I honestly did not always see the overall allure of her. Yes, I liked her, at times, and then other times, I just sat their dumbfounded. Everything about our protagonist and both men was instant and extreme, at times excessive. I struggle majorly with this, especially when their overwhelming obsession came on strong. Due to this, I couldn’t always wrap my mind around Brock or Ryder’s intense, life altering reaction to this broken and damaged girl who used sex to wipe away pain from her past. However, I could see her with one more than the other.

FYI the Ménage: HOLY FUCK! Enough. Said.

I am a huge fan of Gail’s, so to have had some doubts with this one makes me a bit sad. I was really looking forward to settling into a cutthroat and fierce love triangle where the characters not only mind fucked each other but me as well. In this aspect, the execution wasn’t quite there. 

With that said, I am coming away from this trio wicked invested in their outcome. 

Gail has this flawless way of captivating the reader with her writing; you don’t even the have choice but to move on to the next book as you curse her to high heavens. Which you’ll do as Amber to Ashes ends in a cliffhanger, and I won’t lie, it definitely wasn’t an inconsequential one. McHugh will definitely leave you on the edge of your seat with your senses piqued, screaming for the next one.

I think I went a little Veruca Salt there at the end.

Thank you, Atria Books, for the complimentary copy of Amber to Ashes.
Gail McHugh 
A self-proclaimed chocoholic, married mother of three, and a lover of writing for as far back as she can remember, Gail McHugh is the author of two New York Times bestselling novels. The COLLIDE series, which includes COLLIDE and PULSE, was acquired by Atria Books on September 17th, 2013.

"The first of two sexy contemporary romances about a woman torn between her seemingly perfect boyfriend and a dark, mysterious stranger who will stop at nothing to have her." - Publishers Weekly on COLLIDE, a Top 10 Romance pick! 

Gail's next novel, also publishing through Atria Books, AMBER TO ASHES, is slated to release June 9th, 2015.

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