Very Bad Things – Ilsa Madden-Mills 5 Star Review

Briarcrest Academy is a school for the upper middle class youths of Texas. They are Ivy league bound, and Nora Blakely is no different. Well, on the outside anyway.
Nora feels that she is bad, that her present (and future) is shaped by a past she can’t forget. When she snaps and says something she shouldn’t at school orientation she feels oddly better. She she makes a list of bad things she plans to do to feel better. Even if it’s only fleeting.
Nora is a bright student, a member of student council, and debate. She also harbors a dark secret. One no one can see. She’s bad, dirty. She cannot wait to get away from home. She’s on track to go to Princeton after graduating Briarcrest.  On that fateful day of orientation things change. She stand up at the podium to espouse the merits of Briarcrest, but instead the ugliness she keeps inside comes out. She feels better, lighter-even if it’s only momentary. She makes a list of bad things to do, and plans to start right away.

Out in the audience is Leo Tate, a wealthy twenty-something gym owner and legal guardian to his brother and new Briarcrest student, Sebastian. Leo is drawn to this girl up on stage, whom he starts calling Buttercup. They witness Nora’s meltdown, but even still Leo is drawn to her. On their way out to Leo’s escalade, Leo locks eyes with Nora who is sitting in the backseat of the car parked next the them. It’s a moment in time that will alter their futures. Sebastian is aware that something is happening with Leo, but Leo denies it. Both of their parents were murdered several years before, and despite his tough exterior Leo doesn’t plan to love anyone, ever. Except Sebastian. All Nora really wants is love. And her sights are set on Leo.

Leo catches Nora vandalizing his SUV, and brings her into their loft to sleep off her intoxication and decide how to go about reparations to the damage. She tries to seduce him. He’s obviously interested, but he thinks she’s too young. Despite their initial meeting, and their age difference the attraction is obvious. They spend the night taking in his bed and fall asleep.

This story is not all light and fluffy. There are some dark themes, but that doesn’t detract from the story. No matter what happens to us, we can rise above. I found this book easy to read and I didn’t want to put it down. I loved Nora despite her actions in the beginning, because we know they come from a place of pain, and longing to be accepted and loved. She’s a brilliant girl, who calms herself with words. She has her quirks, but that just makes her all the more endearing. She has an amazing friend in Mila, and becomes fast friends with Sebastian. Life at home for her is either miserable or non-existent. She has a safe place with her Aunt Fanny, who owns a bakery, and stays with her when she can.

Leo runs hot and cold when it comes to Nora. He tries to keep his emotions in check, but is not always successful. He’s become a wealthy man from opening/restructuring gyms, and also plays in a band. He doesn’t want love so he sleeps around when he feels like it, keeping things casual. We see that he is a very kind man, and cares deeply. He takes great care of Sebastian, and will do whatever it takes to help his brother succeed.

I loved how Nora was not afraid to love Leo. She was brave and beautiful, and I wanted her to get the guy. I thought Leo was a bit misguided in his desire to “forget” Nora.

The host of supporting characters range between love and hate. I thoroughly loved Sebastian and Mila. I hope we get to see more of them in the future!

This book is a definite 5 star read for me. I highly recommend it. Continue Briarcrest with Very Wicked Beginnings a novella, and then Very Wicked Things. I’ve read VWB-it introduces us to Cuba and Dovey’s possible attraction. (We meet Cuba in VBT.)


I’ll leave you with a couple of my favorite lines/quotes.

“Why did they call it heartbreak, when it felt like my entire body was dying?” – Nora

“Is it true that soulmates always end up together? I didn’t think so, but I hoped that if there was such a thing as reincarnation, we would meet again in another life and try again. If it was possible, I’d find him, for another chance at love.” – Nora

I…I think maybe if I let her in, she might get under my skin so deep that I’d never want her to leave. That terrified me.” – Leo


Posted in books, Briarcrest Academy, series

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