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.
Ilsa Madden Mills. Watch this name, people…you will be hearing it a lot. She has done an excellent job marketing her first book, Very Bad Things, and I was nervous that perhaps it wouldn’t live up to all of the hype. It certainly did. Very Bad Things sucked me in from the start, and despite my not wanting to read as much NA lately, I fell for this book. It had quality about it that just made it stand out as a little more unique, there was just something special.
“If these people only knew the dirty truth about me. How weak I was. How I was dying a little bit every day in small doses. Would they look at me differently?”
Nora is perfect. Beautiful, the smartest girl in school, popular, rich, spelling bee champion, piano prodigy, and daughter of a famous morning show host. But all is not what it appears. Her home life is awful. She is only ‘perfect’ out of fear. Her mother is a she-bitch-from-hell (definitely one of the most hated mothers ever) and her father doesn’t even bother to ever come home. She has a half brother who is away at school, but he is as bad as the parents, or worse. She is left alone with only a housekeeper for weeks on end, and a small infraction will have her punished to her room with no outside communication for weeks.
Leo is the 25 year old brother and guardian to Sebastian, a new kid at Nora’s very upscale private school. When Nora is set to deliver the welcome speech for registration, she freezes and just can’t be that perfect girl anymore.
“Fuck Briarcrest Academy and fuck you all”
Finally, some of the pain and darkness that had been wrapped around my soul fell away.
I smiled for real this time without even trying.
It felt good to be bad.
Leo felt an immediate pull to her from the audience. He couldn’t take his eyes off of her. But immediately shut his thoughts down because of her age. (Nora actually started school late, and turns 19 at the beginning of the story). But when she is in her car and being horribly berated by her mother in the parking lot, Leo was there.
“As if she sensed me, her eyes opened, and when her green ones found mine, I swear, it felt like someone hit the pause button on the universe, and she was all I could see.”
Nora felt so free from that one rebellious move, that she decided step it up, and write down all the bad things she wanted to do in her notebook. She wanted to wipe away that “perfect” label.
“And if saying bad things to people made me feel better, then how much would I feel if I took it a step further?”
She sees a black Escalade and decides to spray paint it. Guess who’s it turns out to be? The gorgeous, older, Leo’s. He promises to let her work off the damage to the car. Despite the pull he feels, he does the responsible thing and resists all of her come-ons as she tries to be bad.
“Don’t you want to touch me?” I whispered, rubbing my breasts against his chest to get some friction.
He gripped my arms and shoved me away from him. “You’re playing with fire. You think you want this? Buttercup, you can’t handle me.”
Sounds harsh…but then we get Leo’s point of view, who is holding on by a thread.
“Nora Blakely was everything I avoided when it came to girls. Her kind expected love and commitments, two things I’d run away from a long time ago.”
‘I didn’t know much about her, but I did know one thing: she was the first girl to ever show up uninvited at my house and get an invitation to spend the night, much less to have breakfast in the morning.’
Nora, who was drunk, ends up staying the night, and the next day meets a band that both Leo and Sebastian play in. (This is not a rock star book…Leo owns gyms). I loved the band, with the mixture of people, including an autistic young man who played the piano. In fact, this was my favorite part about the book. All of the characters were unique and had quirks. I liked that there was an autistic character, and he was written so well. Nora herself had some very quirky characteristics…she had the dictionary memorized and used words in her head as a crutch, and had a few more quirks that made her very endearing and relatable. Super smart kids tend to be a little quirky, and I love how that was used in this book.
Nora became friends with Leo and his group and began to realize it was time to live life on her own terms, and to watch her break out of her shell and grow was scary and beautiful at the same time.
“There’s something going on with you. I see the pain you carry. In your eyes, on your face, and in your actions. And I get it. I do. I don’t know what happened to you, but I think you’re dealing with some shitty things in your life.”
But despite the obvious love blooming between Leo and Nora, he fought it tooth and nail. Even being with other women right in front of her.
“He was my Prince Charming but I wasn’t his Cinderella.”
But it didn’t stop him from wanting her.
“Every time I say I’m going to forget about her, five minutes later, I find myself thinking about her all over again.”
He thought she deserved more.
“Nora, I know you’re hiding secrets, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get you back from that. No matter what, you’re a good girl with all these great talents, and someday you’ll have a big future. Just not with me. I’d just drag you down. I’d end up hurting you.”
Just because this is NA, doesn’t mean it isn’t hot. But I will say, the sexual tension is high, but nothing much happens in the first half of the book.
“Say my name,” he muttered gruffly as I sucked hard at his neck and then licked it. He grunted, and I dug my nails into his back as I kissed my way around his collarbone, sucking another spot.
“Say it, Nora. Say it,” he ordered me hoarsely, and more heat rushed to my center as his demand.
“Leo, Leo, Leo,” I pleaded, arching my back and pushing into him.
He shuddered. “Fucking love that,” he whispered and then placed his lips back on mine, dominating my mouth, like a man starved.
“I want to lay you down and slip deep inside you. I want to find every secret part of you with my lips, my tongue, my hands. I want you to ride me while I watch. I want to hear our skin slapping together. I want to wake up next to you in the morning and do it all over again.”
I want to add a personal note here. As much as I have some trouble reading books with high school aged characters because my oldest is that age, I also remember meeting and totally falling head over heels for a 27 year old when I was 19. Within a few days I was in love with him. Our 23rd anniversary is next month.
“I’m the only one for you, just me. You’re my bad girl. No one else’s”
- I loved the quirky, smart, unique characters.
- Switching points of views.
- The quotes at the beginning of each chapter.
- I wanted to punch Leo, but I totally loved him.
- Sebastian….what a great guy, I hope he gets a book.
- Characters you love to loathe.
- The formatting of the book was beautiful.
- It was expertly edited.
- Some of the best marketing by an author I have ever seen, and the book lived up to it.
- Great cover.
- So many great quotes every page was highlighted.
- Can be read as a stand-alone.
- I started to lose some interest in the last third compared to the way I devoured the first half.
- The book ended at 85% with a preview for another book. I saved the last 15% to read at bedtime, and it turned out to be 3 pages, I was so disappointed!
- It took too long to get the couple together.
- The immature taunts the other high schoolers used…felt like they were in grade school. High schoolers are way crueler.
- A little too much left open, though it isn’t a cliffhanger at all.
Rating: Solid 4.5 Stars 3.75 Heat
Very Bad Things was a beautifully told story, with tons of heart, a shitload of angst, a hot, loving, responsible tattooed guitar player, and quirky, easy to love characters with strong friendships. The book itself was physically beautiful, but I would have loved it even without the lovely formatting. Very Bad Things is a reminder that all isn’t always as it seems. People who may seem perfect from the outside are sometimes the most broken. This book touched my heart, made me think, and reminded me that sometimes there is that one person who you were meant to be with, that makes each of you better than you were apart. And that sometimes close friends can make better family than blood.
“Is this love? No, no, that didn’t cut it. This was no lukewarm, vanilla feeling. It was a madness, making me feel like a weak-kneed boy on his first date, like I had fucking butterflies in my stomach when I pictured her face. She consumed me, my head, my heart, my skin, my blood, my muscles, everything aching for the physical touch of her body against mine.
Purchase Very Bad Things (Briarcrest Academy 1) by Ilsa Madden Mills
Leo Resists Nora
As if he’d made a decision, he pulled me out into the quiet hallway. Once we were alone, he said, “Now, about last night—” he stopped, appearing stuck on what to say.
He took two steps away from me, like he needed some space between us, like what he was going to say was difficult. He ran his hand through his hair furiously, pulling on the ends a little. “Nora, look, I think you’re a pretty girl, but there won’t be anything between us.”
My face flushed because I had acted inappropriately last night. Like a slut, really. Yet I didn’t regret it. And then there was my bad list. I wanted him for my meaningless sex. Still.
“Because you think I’m too young.”
“Yes.” He blew out a breath. “I’m sorry if I come across as a prick here, but I don’t want you to get the wrong idea about me. I don’t do serious relationships ever, and you deserve something good, not just a quick fuck.”
I stared at his full lips, not holding back. “I like it when you say ‘fuck.’”
Ilsa Madden-Mills wrote her first work at the age of twelve when she penned a little ditty about a handsome prince who had no sense. Since then, she’s always written, whether it was for work or fun. When she was young, she entered every short story and poetry contest around; when she was in college, she wrote for the university paper; when she taught English, she wrote a play along with a wonderful group of drama students.
Very Bad Things is her first full-length novel and part of a new series called Briarcrest Academy.
She graduated summa cum laude with a master’s in English from an esteemed university in the South where she now resides. She spends her days with two small kids, a neurotic cat, and her Viking husband. When she’s not typing away at a story, you can find her drinking too much Diet Coke, jamming out to Pink, or checking on her carefully maintained chocolate stash.
She loves to hear from fans and fellow avid readers. Check her out on Facebook or her author website.
Purchase Very Bad Things (Briarcrest Academy 1) by Ilsa Madden Mills
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