Wow! You Will Laugh, Cry, And Be Utterly Shocked As The Events Unfold.
Commenté aux États-Unis 🇺🇸 le 12 novembre 2020
In This Absorbing High School Bully Romance, Brooklyn Refuses To Let Isabella Win As She Stays To Stand Her Ground. Matt & Brooklyn’s Incredible Story Delivers Once Again.
Empire High Betrayal is the third book in the Empire High series. This book picks up right where the cliffhanger in book two of the series left off. It is not a standalone. Fans might recognize familiar characters that intersect various other series. A glimpse of a teenage James Hunter from The Hunted series shows his dark early days. From the Men of Manhattan series, playboy Mason from City of Sin appears, as does jokester Rob Hunter in Third Chances. New characters are introduced as well – watch for future spin-offs.
A note to those that have not yet read the aforementioned books: reading them prior to completing the Empire Elite series might leave readers a little frustrated. This series takes place while those leads are in their youth, and those books follow chronologically. If you have no problems with spoilers then by all means indulge in any order. A quick refresher of this series precedes this book's review.
From Empire High Untouchables, book one of the series:
Empire High is the best private high school in New York City and an institution dominated by the elite. Even within its privilaged walls, cliques are alive and well. At the top of the chain is the old money crowd, most of which have legacy preference. Students from new money rank next, their longevity amongst the elite not yet proven. These students may feel like they aren’t fully accepted, but the difference is negligible in comparison to the next group on the list. Scholarship kids face unique obstacles and challenges. Those students are invisible. Money talks, even when it comes to the faculty. Finally, a very small number of students qualify as the bottom feeders. As the family of employees, they qualify for legacy preference. Scholarship students get in based upon achievement, so they outrank these lowly students.
There is one group, however, that stands above them all: the Untouchables. The Hunter and Caldwell brothers exude wealth. Old money. James, Robert, Mason, and Matthew are the Untouchables of Empire High. They are all beautiful at first glance, but upon closer scrutiny there is evidence of cracks in their façades.
Brooklyn Sanders, sixteen, was numb after the death of her mother weeks ago. She had never known who her father was, so after the funeral she left her Delaware home and went to stay with her Uncle Jim – her only remaining relative. He lived in New York and worked as a janitor at Empire High, where he had enrolled Brooklyn for classes. By the end of the first week of school she had made one friend, Kennedy Alcaraz, who was on a scholarship and was friendless herself. Kennedy also happened to live down the hall, so the two easily became good friends.
Brooklyn still felt like she was drowning without her mother. There was one thing, though, that made her forget about all she lost. Matthew Caldwell. An Untouchable. She lost herself in his presence, and her insecurities were replaced by a feeling of peace. She didn’t know why, but seeing him kept her going. He was the only thing to bring a smile to her face. Unfortunately, when mean girl extraordinaire Isabella Pruitt caught her looking at Matthew, she set her target on Brooklyn.
Brooklyn began her school year with the belief that she was invisible, but she soon became entwined in lies and deceit that put her in the hot seat. Matthew Caldwell was a would-be knight in shining armor that came to her rescue only to ignore her the next moment. His apparent mood changes had her spinning, and his excuses began to dry up. Isabella seemed to own him at times. Rob Hunter was the jokester of the Untouchables, but his humor might have masked hidden pain. James Hunter, the older brother, was dark and troubled but Brooklyn didn’t know why. Isabella sometimes hung onto him, but he had a girlfriend, Rachel, that attended public school. Mason was endlessly absorbed with girls. Matthew’s devotion to his lifelong friends illustrated his sense of loyalty, but despite his promises Brooklyn was left on the outside looking in. In her grief and loneliness, she craved love and friendship – but Matt failed to live up to his promises.
Felix Green, sixteen, quietly snuck into Brooklyn’s life, giving her a second friend. His interest in her was obvious and didn’t waver, but Kennedy warned Brooklyn against him. Felix was easy-going and kind at a time when Brooklyn needed friends, but he was also a dealer according to Kennedy. He was from new money and claimed that he was an outsider, but he was invited to all the parties and had a connection with the Untouchables.
As the story closed, Matthew and Brooklyn had begun a secret relationship of sorts. He tried not to trigger Isabella’s wrath, but the facts were still unclear. Brooklyn did not know what Isabella was using to blackmail Matt nor what the consequence might be if the truth got out, but Matthew assured her that the truth would hurt someone close to him. Matthew’s cold shoulder at Empire High was sometimes so cutting that it drove her to consider Felix’s attentions, who courted her as well. But Uncle Jim’s unexpected death threw life as Brooklyn now knew it into turmoil once again. She had anticipated living with Kennedy and Mrs. Alcaraz, who had been given guardianship of Brooklyn, until Mr. Pruitt showed up at her uncle’s funeral claiming to be her father. He gave her no choice in the matter when he plucked her up and stole her away from Mrs. Alcaraz.
In Empire High Elite, book two of the series:
This book opens roughly one month into the school year – roughly ten days in advance of Homecoming. It seamlessly picks up where book one left off.
Brooklyn is whisked away from her old life and immersed into the world of the elite. Mr. Pruitt – her father - had never wanted her before, and introducing an illegitimate daughter to his wife and Isabella could not be expected to go well. Brooklyn doesn’t accept the new status quo and quietly plots to escape the opulent and haunted halls of the Pruitt apartment. One major obstacle stands in her way, however. The guard assigned to watch over her is under the strictest of orders.
Miller, in his twenties, escorts Brooklyn everywhere she goes. She is a prisoner for all intents and purposes, blocked from her friends and forced to endure her cold and loveless new home. She develops a case of paranoia – always feeling like someone is watching her. There are mysterious house rules and relationship agreements in addition to her father’s undefined but dangerous business. Miller is guarded in all he says, but Brooklyn eventually puts a few cracks in his façade. They develop a friendship of sorts – and she needs a friend in the Pruitt household. She is now grieving her mother, her uncle, and all sense of security.
Emotions are raw and pressure mounts until the secret Isabella holds over Matt’s head comes out. The news comes with disastrous results for Brooklyn and the Untouchables. Felix Green is not out of the picture yet. The void left by Matthew Caldwell’s devotion to his friends leaves an opening as Brooklyn grieves alone. But when she doesn’t find the comfort of Matthew’s arms at night, yet another steps into the fray. The drama is on full blast as Brooklyn tries to find her bearings in the Pruitt home. Matthew, Felix, and Miller compete for her attention – and all manage to fail her in one way or another. Everything culminates in one confusing and consequential evening on Homecoming that ends in a devastating cliffhanger.
In this book:
The story picks up in the middle of October following the Homecoming dance. Fearful of her own safety and that of those she loves, Brooklyn faces a difficult decision. Isabella will commit murder should Brooklyn not disappear, but running away no longer seems like the right choice. It is a wake-up call. Brooklyn had been building a life at Empire High and she was determined to stand up against her evil half-sister Isabella to defend it. All became clear as she stood naked and alone. Matt, Felix, Miller, even James. They were all dear to her in one way or another, but there was only one that calmed and mended her broken heart. She wouldn’t let Isabella take that from her. But everything changes after Isabella’s latest attempt to get rid of her, and even Brooklyn’s father admits there is only so much he can do to protect her. She eventually makes her way to the Caldwell house where she and Matt try again to mend their relationship. Meanwhile, an epic Halloween party approaches.
Several outstanding issues remain as the story begins. First, with so many potential suitors in the wings, Brooklyn must finally stand strong and face each one. Can she succeed while keeping true to Matt? Second, she remains in the dark about her father’s dangerous business, but a few occurrences raise her suspicions. Third, the mysterious falling out between the Caldwells and the Pruitts poses a potential road block for the young couple who try to enlist their parents’ approval. Fourth, Brooklyn has yet to read her mysterious house rules and relationship agreement, so she has no clear idea what she signed up for. Fifth, will Matt finally make Brooklyn his priority? Finally, the Untouchables continue to feud and Brooklyn feels responsible for it.
In this book, Brooklyn begins to take responsibility for her actions as she settles into a new normal. After moving forward with Matt, reuniting the Untouchables becomes her mission. If not for her, Isabella might not have revealed Matt’s secret, sending their friendships into a free fall. But facilitating reconciliation is complicated when the Hunters and the Caldwells are not on speaking terms. Brooklyn also wrestles with how best to deal with Isabella, who remains a threat – and not just to Brooklyn. The surprisingly sentimental story of Brooklyn and her father is furthers as Brooklyn sees a private side reserved only for her. Her first impressions of him are turned upside down, but the fact remains that Richard Pruitt has two very different sides. While wrestling with everything – Matt, the Untouchables, Isabella, and her father – Brooklyn struggles with her identity. She tries to forge a way forward on a bumpy road.
As the author has made clear: this is Matt’s story. His fellow Untouchables already have their own HEA’s written. A free bonus short story from Matthew Caldwell’s POV, Matthew Caldwell – The Untouchable, is available by following the link at the back of books one and two and signing up for the newsletter. It gives his version of their first meeting. But thus far Matt’s story has been told from Brooklyn’s POV. Food for thought! I have my own theory on where this goes next….
Matt and Brooklyn’s incredible story delivers once again. You will laugh, cry, and be utterly shocked as the events unfold in this absorbing high school bully story. Brooklyn is a tragic figure thrown into a fairy tale life, but appearances are deceiving. It is great to see that Brooklyn has finally settled on one beau in this book. Granted she was an emotional mess from so much grieving, but watching her inadvertently toy with the guys’ emotions was becoming difficult to justify. She and Matt have some plans that are a little eyebrow-raising, but given their elite status in the world of the Untouchables it seems to work. Brooklyn succeeds in at least one of her endeavors before the story ends, bringing the series to an emotionally devastating full circle. This story is an ending, but the series continues in book four with Matt’s happy ending!
As it closes, most of the big questions are finally answered, but a few important questions emerge. *Spoilers* What really played out in the Pruitt household that morning? What motivates Mr. Pruitt? Are his motives straightforward or are they more complex? Will it be relevant in book four? In this book she came storming back to claim her new life. Might she quietly reappear when least expected in the next – perhaps while revisiting old haunts?
Brooklyn refuses to let Isabella win as she stays to stand her ground. She struggles to make things right as events line up for her ultimate betrayal. With so many characters at odds, it is impossible to predict who might be responsible. The story is superbly written. The plot is quite complex and layered. The characters are carefully crafted and three-dimensional, evoking an emotional connection. The book is written in first person in Brooklyn’s POV, with three chapters in Matthew’s POV. I rate this book a full five stars (something I rarely do).
I received an advance copy of this book and am voluntarily leaving a review.
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