To Free the Stars

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Pub Date 08 Aug 2023 | Archive Date 08 Sep 2023

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This white-knuckled conclusion to The Brilliance of Stars takes readers on a breathless adventure from the speakeasies of America to the Horse Guards Parade in London, an ancient cemetery outside Paris, and back to the Eastern European strongholds where the Vales’ tragedy first began.

“Fate is fickle and the stars are silent, but I do know this: No matter how difficult the circumstances or how savagely the world tries to tear us apart, I am here with you.”

Ten years have passed since Jack and Ivy, elite operatives for the secret agency Talon, rescued their friend Philip and completed their fateful mission. The 1920s are in full swing as American speakeasies thrive amid Prohibition, and despite the team’s best efforts, the deadly cult, the Order of the Rising Moon, lives on in the shadows. Which is no surprise to Ivy; nothing has gone as she expected since that day after Poenari Castle.

When a wave of assassinations strikes world leaders, intel confirms the Order’s involvement. Ivy holds them responsible for the tragedy that changed her life, and she is determined to find and destroy the villains once and for all—but she must do so before their relentless assassin eliminates his next target. Her.

Except, there’s something oddly familiar about the way he moves, the way he anticipates each of her moves. It’s as if he knows her. But that’s not possible. Is it? Ivy will have to rely on every skill she’s learned if she hopes to survive—and save those she loves. No matter the cost.

Bestselling author J’nell Ciesielski wraps up the Jack and Ivy novels with yet another thrilling adventure filled with glamorous espionage and a boundless romance.

  • A fast-paced historical adventure novel set during the roaring ’20s
  • The second book in the Jack and Ivy duology
  • Includes discussion questions for book clubs

This white-knuckled conclusion to The Brilliance of Stars takes readers on a breathless adventure from the speakeasies of America to the Horse Guards Parade in London, an ancient cemetery outside...

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ISBN 9780785248484
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Average rating from 78 members

Featured Reviews

Such a fantastic addition to the first book!! So many twists and turns and unexpected adventure. It had me reading well into the night because I just count put it down!

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One of my favorite lines in the entire book sums up the story of Jack and Ivy so well: "To greatest heights or lowest depths, I'd go to be with you."

Full of loyalty and betrayal, love and loss and hope. To Free the Stars is an epic conclusion to Jack and Ivy's beautiful story. It was heartrending to read about so much pain and loss, but then hope glittered through the cracks. Family broken apart by fear. A love lost and found. But our heroine clings to hope. I loved reading Ivy's story, so full of hope, even in the brokenness. and J'nell is a beautiful story-teller from start to finish.

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A fantastic historical fiction novel that was unputdownable. Authentic details from the 1920's and superb writing raise this book above the rest. It was thrilling and an excellent ending to the series. I really enjoyed it and will read anything this author decides to write!

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This book was wonderful!

I loved the adventurous feel of this book. I would advise reading the first book before this one (something I didn't realize I missed) because it would make so much more sense that way.

This book was fast-paced and engaging, and I had trouble putting it down. I loved it!

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"To Free the Stars", the riveting conclusion to "The Brilliance of Stars", is a fast-paced, intense read. If the reader is looking for unicorns and rainbows, she (or he) is doomed to disappointment as neither can be found here. Amid spying, assassinations, and drug-induced mind control, one finds Jack and Ivy Vale on opposing sides, dark and evil vs. light and good, at least initially. A shocking betrayal fuels much of the action.

Due to the inherent storyline, there IS violence. That being said, I consider this on the line of good triumphing over evil. Actions take place in several places around the globe, and Cielsielski paints a vivid picture of both. Characters are well-drawn.

J'Nell Cielsielski weaves this unique tale with her evocative prose. Jack and Ivy's love story is simply beautiful. There is an intimate scene of the married couple near the end of book that to me was deeply romantic. However, I still classify this as a clean read, as I find onscreen love scenes distasteful and unwelcome, and would state it if this were the case. This is not a stand-alone novel. The author is a very talented storyteller. I've read all of her works, and look forward to more of her engaging books.

Thanks to NetGalley and Thomas Nelson Fiction for an ARC of this compelling read.

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I loved this story by J'nell Ciesielski, such a great storyline and characters!

I just reviewed To Free the Stars by J'nell Ciesielski. #ToFreetheStars #NetGalley
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"The pair of you have always been attuned to a melody all your own. If I were a man given to romantics, I'd say it's rare to find notes to make up such a composition."

I had thought J'nell Ciesielski's finest work was The Brilliance of Stars when Jack and Ivy were introduced....but To Free the Stars has completely and utterly outpaced and out-romanced the first book. The opening scene of this book is a direct continuation of the first book and goes from 0 to 60mph in the first few pages. It covers every emotion possible - despair, grief, anger, jealousy, hope, loyalty, mercy, and love. Action, suspense, and romance are perfectly blended for a thrilling adventure. Mix together Jason Bourne, Mission Impossible, and Captain America/Winter Solider into 1927 international political backdrop and you have this fabulous novel.

Jack's journey is heart-breaking and raw; he seems a different man from the one we met in the first book. Ivy's desperate and unrelenting love for him is also heart-wrenching and raw as she fights to hold onto who they were. There are a lot of flashbacks to their lovely, delicious, tender romance and a good portion of the book is dedicated to Jack and Ivy finding a new rhythm. Though there isn't a faith thread, I thought there was a good metaphor for captivity of sin and freedom and healing that come from love.

To Free the Stars will have you crying tears of empathy, clutching the edge of your seat in anticipation, sighing at the romance of it all, and cheering for Talon as good battles evil and love disarms betrayal. One of my favorite reads of 2023! I received the book from Thomas Nelson via NetGalley and was under no obligation to post a positive comment. All opinions are my own.

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First of all, I want to say I have seen some mixed reviews of this book and I feel that the negative ones are unwarranted. I believe that they base their reviews on their preferences, not to the actual merit of the book itself. (Which is well within their rights.) They have taken their preconceived notions of what to expect and not appreciated the beauty of this story. Is it perfect? No. Does it deviate from J’nell’s previous works? Yes. Is it too much? Maybe for some, but not for most. Is it deep and raw and intense? Yes! While it could have been presented safer or toned down, it wouldn’t have depicted the great suffering of their journey or the true testament of the kind of connection between the two main characters. Their love is an all consuming, all encompassing, all enduring, undying love that deserved a moment of freedom and release. I don’t want all my ramblings to be interpreted as this being “spicy”, so let me offer some context hopefully without spoiling the story. Chapter 27 has a scene between a married couple, some would call it “closed door”, some would say “fade to black”. If you have read a lot of historical romantic fiction I would place it between Mimi Matthews and Amy Harmon. It isn’t explicit, it isn’t gaudy, it is a culmination of acceptance, longing, of walls coming down; of love conquering fear, self doubt, and regret; of a healing intimacy. It is uninhibited and fierce and frenzied. The scene is descriptive of feelings and removal of clothing and all that leads up to the “inevitable”. Some people wouldn’t be comfortable with it. It is easily skipped. But it is definitely a true (albeit this is a fictional world and premise) representation of the moments between a husband and wife who have overcome many horrible experiences to finally be together again.

The other criticism I’d like to address is the originality. Like countless other stories in the big wide world of fictional writing, the author watched a movie and the wheels started turning. She took that seed of inspiration and created what I consider to be an outstanding duology. Full of history, action, suspense, romance, good vs. evil, spies, betrayals, survival.

Now that I got all that off my chest here’s my review.

To Free the Stars is book 2 in the Jack and Ivy duology. Technically you could read it as stand alone, but that would be a disservice to the efforts of the author, to the journey of Jack and Ivy, and to yourself. The Brilliance of Stars is an amazing story that jumped to the top of my all time favorites. It was fast paced and intense, with outstanding characters. At the conclusion of book 1, we are given the hints of what is to come next. Although, it is not what you want, it is what makes the next book so spectacular.

It would be too hard to discuss at length without giving away anything for either book. But I’ll make some observations and comments to give you the feel of what to expect. Jack and Ivy are highly skilled trained assassins. They spar, they test their mettle against each other, they respect one another, and love grows deep and wide. It takes awhile before they admit those feelings, but once they do their love and passion rivals that of Claire and Jamie Fraser or even Noah and Allie. It is intense. They have epic chemistry.

The plot from book 1 is carried over into book 2 with some dire complications and stinging betrayal. Jack and Ivy are both pushed to the edge of humanity. Evil is increasing its chokehold on them and the world they know. Friendship is tested, trust is shattered, and love is put through the refiner’s fire to either turn to ash or come out in its purest form.

With nods to Captain America: The Winter Soldier, and some hints of The Hunger Games and Mission: Impossible you are in for a wild ride of fight scenes, some torture, romantic tension, harried escapes, hard won battles and hard to except losses.

I think this book is the bomb! J’Nell is a terrific writer and is spreading her wings to fly with this duology.

Thank you to NetGalley for my advanced copy. All opinions are my own.

#jnellciesielski #tofreethestars #historicalfiction #historicalromance #netgalley

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I adored this story! I wish it could have gone on and on. I didn’t want it to end. Ivy and Jack’s love story is beautiful and hopeful and exciting and intense and wonderful. To Free the Stars will keep you enchanted and waiting on the edge of your seat as you hope for the happiest of endings. Thanks to J’nell Ciesielski and #NetGalley for this chance.

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This is a review of "To Free the Stars" book 2 of the Jack & Ivy series by J'nell Ciesielski, which comes out on Aug 8,  for NetGalley in exchange for my honest review.  Ok so this book was not at all what I expected!  I read book 1, The Brilliance of the Stars, and loved it, so I was excited to read book 2.  You must read book 1 to understand book 2.  I don't want to give a synopsis like normal because doing that will give spoilers for book 1, so not going to do that.  I am just going to post my thoughts of the book here.

This was totally unexpected!  I love J'Nell's books, and book 1 was fast paced and great, but this book was mind-blowing!  This is not your typical Christian story, but is a book about assassins and evil, but also incredible love, grace and forgiveness that ends up saving some characters but destroying others!  It is a book where evil is real and horrible, but love really conquers all in the end!  I literally read this book in 1 day because I literally couldn't put it down!  My heart was racing, and I was engrossed from beginning to end!  There is violence in it because of the assassins, so prepare yourself, but it was also a great story of love and friendship that triumphs over evil!  I highly recommend it, but just go into it knowing those things, and I believe you will enjoy it!  It kind of has a Jason Bourne vibe to it, but in a clean way that makes a great and exciting story!!!  So I give it 4 out 5 stars only because since it was from a Christian author, I would've like to have seen something about the Lord in the story as the author of ultimate forgiveness and grace, but it didn't mention Him, but I still really enjoyed the story, and would recommend it!

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The Jack and Ivy books have been a journey that really captured my imagination. I loved the secret society angle and the devotion that Jack and Ivy had for each other was just.....all the heart eyes!
You absolutely must read book one first!
This book is a genre all its own, a romantic spy adventure with a strong gothic element.
For me the undying devotion between the main characters is really what I loved about this series. It built up over book one and had me fully invested.
I will say not much about this series was much of a surprise. I was really nervous to read this book because of what I was expecting to happen to the couple. The author handled the twists well for this type of story. It is entertaining and I loved the characters. So it was a win for me.
I recieved a complementary copy of this book from the publisher through Netgally. All opinions in this review are my own and honest.

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INTENSE!!! This is not a stand alone book you must read the first book. Jack, Ivy and Phillip have been through so much. This book continues the roller coaster of emotions. Honestly there were several times I didn't know if I had the emotional fortitude to finish the book. Having said that, I loved it. It is a story of redemption, courage and faith. This book is not for the faint of heart. But if you love a great thriller this is the book for you!

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J'Nell Ciesielski is such a talented author with an amazing way with words. At times, this was a hard book to read (man these characters were put to the test) and I'm sure a hard book to write. Yet Ciesielski executed it so well and I finished the book feeling completely satisfied with the ending. I'll definitely be recommending the Jack and Ivy novel to friends!

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1927. This is one where really, it's best to have read the previous book to understand the full depth of Jack and Ivy's relationship. Very deep, complex. Perfectly matched. Orphans, brought together at a young age. Secret agents for our country, trained in weaponry, self defense, hand to hand combat, stealth. Each assassins when necessary. They spent 10 years apart in agony because of an organization called the Order - dark, nefarious. Action filled story, so well written you can feel their heartbeats. Would make quite the movie as they help save the world as well as themselves. Hard to put down! Intense love story of healing and redemption.

I received this book free from the authors, publisher and NetGalley book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
#NetGalley #ToFreeTheStars #jnellciesielski #BooksYouCanFeelGoodAbout #ThomasNelson #HistoricalFiction @jnellciesielski @tnzfiction #upcomingrelease #winteriscoming

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This book was oh so good but very difficult to read because of the dark and heavy content. And it made me sad. It was very moving.
Many thanks to Thomas Nelson Fiction and to Netgalley for providing me with a galley in exchange for my honest opinion.

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Ten years after her beloved husband and fellow Talon agent dies in Europe while rescuing their friend Philip, Ivy still struggles with depression and sadness. While assisting in a covert operation in London, Ivy comes face to face with Jack.

Instead of falling to his death that fateful day, Jack fell into the hands of the Order of the Rising Moon, a fiendish cult bent on world domination. Drugged, deprived, and manipulated, Jack has gone from Ivy’s closest friend and husband to a lethal automaton in the hands of evil. He is a Riser.

Ivy knows the old Jack remains somewhere inside the shell of the man, and her new goal in life is to find him. But first, she must capture him—the world’s deadliest assassin. With the help of Philip (who also suffered at the hands of the Order) and other Talon agents, Ivy just might accomplish her rescue.

Can Ivy and Jack regain the years the Order has stolen? How will they navigate the terrors locked inside, the betrayal of their dearest friend, and the unspeakable horrors of their separation?

What I Loved About This Book

Two important notes about this book. Readers will only understand this book if they read the first one, The Brilliance of Stars. This book does not provide a light, beach-read experience. While the first book hints at the darkness, the characters will plumb the depths of darkness in the sequel.

Readers will hear the echoes of the salvation story. They’ll see how the evil one wants to ensnare and enslave us. Readers will also see God’s relentless pursuit of us, no matter how small or wide the chasm between us seems. Ultimately, it is the grace story of hope and redemption for the worst of the worst.
I often had to put the book aside for a day or two and struggled with the big emotions it brought up. Read the two books together. While they might not provide an easy week of entertainment, they will provide a fast-paced thriller filled with deep theology and analogies to ponder for weeks after closing their covers.

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Gripping books like TO FREE THE STARS, the last in a compelling histfic romance series, are the reason I auto-read anything by J'Nell Ciesielski. I suggest you read the first before devouring this. You will be completely rewarded. This second book is not for the faint of heart as we follow the continued adventures of Jack and Ivy. I experienced all the feels -- fear, anguish, hope, loss -- and I will never forget it! Highly recommended.

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An imaginative story in a world of assassins. The reader is in for a heart-stopping adventure in this 'Mission Impossible' type story. What a page-turning sequel to The Brilliance of Stars. To Free the Stars takes place 10 years later. A wife who has never gotten over the loss of her husband. "I will never give up on Jack. Never." I love her unwavering commitment to her husband and her always wanting to give those she loves the benefit of the doubt.

'Talon continues in its search to find and destroy the Order of the Rising Moon. Can light/good win over dark/evil?' The assassins with Talon are tasked with ridding the world of this evil order. The Order of the Rising Moon thinks world domination with them in charge will make a world a better place. Like other recent ideologies that are evil and try to present themselves as good, many understand the threat that they are. Not light topics, but a very compelling story. I recommend this series for lovers of unique, non-stop action, romance, and adventure stories!

I could not stop turning pages. Thank you to the publisher and Net Galley for allowing me to read an early copy. All opinions are my own.

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Ten years later, still devastated by her inability to find Jack, Ivy continues on with vengeance the only thing she seeks. Assassinations, kidnapping and more will keep you wondering if she can even survive.

The author brings this story to a conclusion with a little bit of light at the end of the proverbial tunnel - Jack has been found but will he ever be the same? With all those drugs in his system forcing him to do things he does not want to do, can he overcome the darkness and let the light back in?

Talon continues in its search to find and destroy the Order of the Rising Moon. Can light/good win over dark/evil?

An early copy was received through Thomas Nelson, HarperCollins Christian Publishing and NetGalley. These thoughts are my own and were in no way solicited.

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After successfully rescuing Phillip from the Order of the Rising Moon, Ivy and Jack are looking forward to some rest and recovery back at the Talon headquarters. But an ambush derails all of Ivy’s plans as she watches Jack disappear into the darkness. Ten years later, Ivy has accepted that her husband is dead and is focused on bringing down the Order that took him from her. She’s in the midst of her reckless revenge when she comes face-to-face with someone she never thought she’d see again.

This book was so good! Full of action and intrigue. Betrayal and reconciliation. And a lovely romance. So many wonderful things in this story. I felt there was a perfect balance of action and romance. I thought all the action scenes were very well done and exciting. And the romance was sweet and hopeful. Ivy and Jack have a rough, emotional journey but it’s so worth the read and so satisfying in the end. Just a really well written story that sucks you in. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

If you’re looking for historical fiction with intrigue, action, and romance then pick up this duology, “The Brilliance of Stars” and “To Free the Stars”.

Thank you Netgalley and Thomas Nelson Publishers for the opportunity to read this book. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Thank you @jnellciesielski @tnzfiction for the book and having me on tour!

“Fate is fickle and the stars are silent, but I do know this: No matter how difficult the circumstances or how savagely the world tries to tear us apart, I am here with you.”

AUTHOR: J’Nell Ciesielski
PUB DATE: 08.08.2023 Pre Order Now

This white-knuckled conclusion to The Brilliance of Stars takes readers on a breathless adventure from the speakeasies of America to the Horse Guards Parade in London, an ancient cemetery outside Paris, and back to the Eastern European strongholds where the Vales’ tragedy first began.


Don’t let the cover fool you, this book is intense, and a suspenseful ride - Book 2 continues immediately from where The Brilliance of Stars left off, and immediately dives in to Jack and Ivy’s story. Moving forward ten years ahead and be still my heart not only for the triumphant writing of the action adventure scenes but the sweeping romance that gutted me. TO FREE THE STARS is a deftly written historical fiction that had me in tears, and all kinds of emotions. An exuberant duology must read for any historical fiction lover.

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Title: To Free the Stars

Author: J’nell Ciesielski

Ch: 33 plus epilogue

Pg: 400

Series: Jack and Ivy book 2

Genre: Historical Fiction

Rating: 5 stars

Publisher: Thomas Nelson

I loved To Free The Stars as much as I did The Brilliance of Stars. I do have to say though J’nell did not make Jack and Ivy’s journey easy. But they do say the course of true love never was smooth. This one picks up ten years after the first book. And let’s say Ivy’s had a hard ten years. But despite what others have told her she’s held on to hope. Jack on the other hand has given up.

To Free The Stars is indeed more suspenseful and stressful than the first one. And you feel the emotions that both Ivy and Jack feel. Despite being a spy Ivy does wear her heart on her sleeve. I finished this one in two days. One of which had me saying up late to finish because I had to know what happened.

And there ended up being a character that I should have hated. But despite what they did I couldn’t hate them. Because of what they went through.

This is a two book series that you really need to read in order. I do suggest caution to readers because there is mentions of trauma and mind control. As well PTSD on the page even though for the time period that wasn’t the term at the time.

Though it all J’nell Ciesielski still manages to give us a romance that won’t die. And I still got to say she gave me what the MCU wouldn’t do she gave me a Winter Soldier Black Widow love story.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through netgalley. I was not required to write a positive review. All opinions expressed are mine alone.

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I was completely thrilled to get this book so I could find out what happens with Ivy and Jack. This book mixes the roaring 20s with spys assassins and the Cult, Order of the rising moon is back. And this keeps you on the edge of your seat biting your nails good! I loved it!!
I just reviewed To Free the Stars by J'nell Ciesielski. #ToFreetheStars #NetGalley
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What a conclusion to Ivy and Jack's story! The intensity and adrenaline are so high during this story I needed to take a few breaks to catch my breath. White-knuckle action and edge of your seat danger keeps the story flying by. With a deadly Order still trying to raise out of the shadows, the danger never seems to back off and Jack and Ivy are right in the thick of it. But the villains need to be stopped and erased to save the world from a danger they don't even know exists. Just who will be the the one to throw the fateful last punch though? And what will the price be? Historical espionage roars to life with this amazing romance/thriller.
I loved that there are all these deeper levels to Ivy and Jack that this second installment got to show the reader. I also loved all the traveling I got to do with this high action couple. J'nell Ciesielski is a master at transporting readers to different locations all over the world. Her descriptions and research make each city and mountain top fall into place a piece at a time until the reader is surrounded by the new location. The extra layers this detail adds to the story makes it come to life like a movie. Through all the suspense, espionage, and danger threads a string of love and dedication that shows how important family is to ground a person through good and bad. I have quickly grown to love J'nell Ciesielski's writing and always eagerly anticipate her next release. With the rich history and marvelous suspense in each story, she is always at the top of my TBR pile. I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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"Hope was the most dangerous of all. Hope told a person what might be. It whispered sweetness in the ear, encouraged one to take a chance. Hope bloomed in rebellion against fear. Hope would be their savior." ⠀

J'nell Ciesielski, To Free The Stars⠀

To Free The Stars by J'nell Ciesielski is one of the best sequels I've read in a while!It starts off strong with an action packed flashback and tons of spy intrigue and just keeps building from there. Ivy is so different in the sequel but I love her strength and perseverance. She's made a name for herself and it's pretty awesome. Jack is unforgettable and I am totally invested in his dark Bucky Barnes vibe. I couldn't ever really make up my mind about Philip but I enjoyed his story arc. The author did a great job of keeping the characters fresh and interesting with several surprises and tons of action. Talon is an impressive organization and the historical aspect of the 1920's in Europe fascinated me. I would recommend this series to any fan of historical spy stories and found family tropes.

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A beautifully written book about two agents who get separated after a mission gone awry. Ten years later, Ivy is still mourning the loss of her husband and is seeking revenge for his death, only to run across him trying to kill her. Will Jack and Ivy ever get their happily ever after? This book is a rollercoaster of emotions. Full of betrayal, forgiveness, redemption, and romance. Highly recommend for lovers of suspense.

I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

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J'nell Ciesielski has quickly become an auto-buy author for me. One of my absolute favorites. This book was no exception, and is an instant add to my collection!

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Jack and Ivy! Jack and Ivy! The series included everything its marketing promised—action and intrigue and romance and more. I was impatient for this second book in the series the second I finished the first one, and I was not disappointed! J'nell Ciesielski has become a fave of mine over the past few years and I'm already watching her social media for any hints as to what comes next. :)

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I Am Speechless! This Could Be A Movie!

I thought the first book was amazing and this second book took you even further into a crazy world of intrigue and emotions.

I am anticipating another book with what has been shared in the Epilogue!

I received a complimentary copy of this book. Opinions expressed in this review are completely my own.

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Wow, this was not what I initially thought this book would be like. It was FANTASTIC. The elements of love, combined with suspense, had me riveted from beginning to end! Thank you so much for allowing me to read and review this book!

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I thank the Netgalley and the publisher for a copy of this book! The opinions in this review are entirely my own.

I was very excited about reading this book since I greatly enjoyed the first one! This book was not quite as good as the first one. The writing was as great as in the first book. It reminded me of old Russian Baba Yaga fairy tales, which I love! Ivy got a bit annoying at times, though. Overall, a great read I read in one sitting. I still like the first book more than this one!

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I had to read this one! I loved the first and am in love with this series. The history, romance, and suspense is the perfect blend. Thank you!!

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