Review: By Invitation Only by Geneva Lee (Gilt #1)

When my eyes are finally dry he tips my chin up with one finger, gazes down at me. I understand the look I see shining behind his blue eyes even though I've never experienced this feeling before. The sensation wraps around me and I sense it doing the same to him, binding us together. Our lives become inextricable in that moment. We're inseparable and unbreakable. I'll carry his pain as he carries mine, and in these strong arms bracketing my body, I'll find protection.

Geneva Lee, you are an evil genius. Let me give you the two reasons why: first, you've written a book that felt so much like the premiere of must-see TV on prime time, the kind that makes you itch for your next hit of what could very well be an addictive series; and second, you offered this first book for free right in time for the release of the second one, and this enables readers to see if this series is their cup of tea (it should be!) and have book two ready and waiting via the e-retailer of their choice. Yes, Geneva Lee, your Gilt series has made me both a fan of yours and a fan of Jameson West and Emma Southerly and the dysfunctional cast of characters that they're part of. I'm inviting readers who have yet to read this to give By Invitation Only the chance to welcome you to the world of Belle Mère and the mostly privileged students walking down the halls of its posh but  preparatory school. Get to know the residents of this place where secrets abound, sinners are a dime a dozen, and the singular saint could be poised to be corrupted.

The West and the Southerlys have been sworn enemies from the time that Nathaniel West broke Jacob Southerly's trust. Years later, their offspring continue to be nowhere near tolerant of each other, especially not after Monroe West seduced and stole Emma Southerly's then boyfriend. When Emma crashes a party hosted by Monroe at the penthouse atop one of the family-owned casinos along the Vegas strip, it's clear that this is the last place Emma wants to be at. Wandering around the palatial residence while trying to locate her best friend, she's discovered loitering about by a young man who tells her that his name is Jameson. There's an immediate connection and they share kisses into the night, both falling asleep. In the light of the new day, however, the murder of Nathaniel West is discovered and the prime suspect just happens to be Jameson. Oh, and did we forget to tell you that Jameson is none other than Jameson West, only son of the murder victim? Was their moment real or was she a convenient scapegoat?

I enjoy reading feel-good love stories, but I confess that there's a special reserved spot for those tales that have varying hues of darkness in them, the ones that make you sit up and pay attention so that you don't miss out on a single thing happening lest you get lost in a suspenseful sea of intrigue and mystery. The author has done such an exceptional job weaving this intense story of young but forbidden love, murder most foul, a years-long rivalry between two families, and too many hidden secrets just waiting to be unearthed. I loved the hesitant but sweet and almost sultry romance between Emma and Jameson, but the most interesting thing about their fledgling relationship is that teeny, tiny seed of doubt that's been planted with regards to their guilt or innocence in the crime. Emma is only seventeen and this summer before her senior year in high school is one to remember, and not all for the right reasons. Jameson is a business school dropout in his early twenties who stirs feelings in her that are both enticing and daunting.

This wasn't an overly long nor a too short read. Like Goldilocks once said, this was just right. Yes, it ends in an evil cliffhanger (this is what makes Geneva Lee evil), but the author makes a point of promising her readers that the wait in between books won't be agonizingly long, and in the case of the first two books, it's a little over a month and a half. She did provide a free short story that she released at the one-month mark entitled Summer of Scandal, and I suspect it was to both whet literary appetites and placate the impatient fans waiting to learn what happens next to Jameson, Emma, and the rest of the Belle Mère crowd. This story is now part of the second book as the first two chapters, so if you never got around to reading it, no worries. I keep trying to wrack my brain to see if there was anything about this book that I didn't like and honestly, I simply couldn't find any. By Invitation Only is an invite you'll want to RSVP to. Five-plus stars. ♥

Date Read: 27 July 2016

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