Note: This ARC was provided by the author via InkSlinger PR in exchange for an honest review.
"I wasn't lying about dreaming of you."
"You dreamed of me because you wanted revenge."
"I dreamed of you because you are the brightest thing I've ever seen. You were then. You are now."
It's been years since Simon Malik and his friends left St. Joke's, but the events that led to their departure from the place that became a living hell for each one of them still linger in the deepest and darkest recesses of their minds. When his marker is called in by the man who "saved" them, a man simply known as Bates, Simon knows he has no other option but to agree to whatever is asked of him. After all, how difficult should it be to get close to the Painbrush Inn and Resort's co-owner and executive chef, Penny McConnell? All he needs to do is show up at an event, pretend to be someone other than the journalist that he is, and verify who Bates believes she is--Tina Andreas. The same Tina Andreas who is the illegitimate daughter of Dale Simpson, the man Simon blames for the death of his beloved mother which, in turn, led to the suicide of his loving father. The same Tina Andreas who stood by Simon's side as he contemplated whether or not to proceed with his plan outside the court steps after Simpson was exonerated years ago. The very same Tina Andreas whose one act led Simon to end up in St. Joke's.
Everything I Left Unsaid remains my favorite M. O'Keefe series, but after reading the third full-length novel in her The Debt series, this ongoing one looks like it's giving the former a run for its money. While you can read Ruin You as a standalone, I'm going to highly recommend that you check out the free prequel novella, The Debt, because it does give readers the necessary backgrounder regarding what happened in that "home" that Simon and his friends were stuck in. Simon has a more than promising career as a journalist with the Los Angeles Times, and it's that journalistic background combined with his thirst for revenge and his need to repay his debt to Bates that makes him the perfect choice to go after Penny. And yes, she may have been introduced as Tina in this book, but for all intents in purposes in this review, we'll go with Penny because she's tried to shuck her past, not wanting to be tied to her family history. Naturally, Simon doesn't really expect to be as drawn to Penny as he is in the story, because how do you separate deception from desire, especially when it becomes more complicated when love is involved?
I loved how O'Keefe peppers this story with the far more romantic and passionate moments between Simon and Penny while keeping the thrum of suspense and anticipation underneath it all. Will Penny find out who Simon really is and what he wants? Will Simon's growing feelings for Penny override his want for vengeance? What happens if Simon reneges on his debt? Gah! There are no simple resolutions for either Simon or Penny, but when everything was said and done, I was one happy puppy, perfectly sated with how it all turned out, and thrown for a loop by one particular revelation near the end plus that little nibble as to where the series will proceed to next. In the nearly two years since I first discovered this author's writing, her books have easily become one-click options for me. She's lulled me into moments of complacency and then knocks me over with a twist or a turn that has left me gasping in surprise more than once. I'm not entirely sure when the next book in The Debt series will be released, but my expectations will be high, and I'm confident I won't be disappointed. Five-plus stars for Ruin You. ♥
Read my reviews for The Debt series:
The Debt (prequel novella) - five stars - My Review
Lost Without You (book one) - five stars - My Review
Where I Belong (book two) - five stars - My Review
Ruin You (book three) - five-plus stars - My Review (posted above)
Date Read: 09 November 2017
Learn more about M. O'Keefe.