Review+Excerpt: Raising the Stakes

Wednesday, April 8, 2015
25086499Title: Raising the Stakes
Author: Karen Rock
Publisher: Harlequin
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Release Date: April 1, 2015

Synopsis from Goodreads:
Hiding from the world… 

Tucking herself away in the Adirondack woods was supposed to keep Vivienne Harris safe. From dark memories of the Bronx, from danger, from entanglements. But when an orphaned bear cub raids her pantry and conservation officer Liam Walsh appears with news of poachers nearby, her private, peaceful world is turned upside down! 

Suddenly two forces are drawing her out—Button, the cub who needs her help, and Liam, the man who's dead set against her rehabilitating the bear. If she can just win Liam's support, Vivie knows she can give Button a good life. And maybe find the courage to embrace a future with Liam…


Liam kissed his mother’s damp cheek and eased his guitar from her grip. Her clear-eyed happiness soothed the deep burning inside. Vivie had a point. His music did make a difference. If it made his mother feel better, smoothed over this bump in the reception, then it was worth reliving the past. And maybe the past was something he needed to face, as Vivie had last night.

When he and Vivie approached the band area there was brief applause followed by an attentive hush.

He plucked two notes and felt the audience lean toward them. He touched a string and began to tune the instrument. It was not the finest guitar. He hadn’t been able to afford a better one at the time. Its neck was nicked. One of the pegs was loose and prone to going out of tune, he recalled.

He brushed a soft chord and tipped his ear to the strings. As he glanced up, he glimpsed Vivie’s face, clear as the moon. She smiled excitedly and the soft light in her eyes made his heart squeeze.

He touched the loose peg gently, running his hands over the warm wood. The varnish was scraped and scuffed in places, but that didn’t make it less precious to him.

So, yes. It had flaws, but what did that matter when it came to things you treasured? Vivie had called herself damaged goods and he could say the same about himself. Yet, did that mean they couldn’t be loved…find love…together?

Anyone could love someone perfect. Whole. That was easy. But to love someone scarred. Wounded. To know the flaws and love them too. That was rare and pure and perfect. Could he and Vivie share that?

He adjusted another string and pictured his old bunkmate, Roger, asking him for some Bon Jovi, Pete wanting more Journey. How both of them, and the rest of his unit, had sung along or closed their eyes, remembered better times. He had brought them peace at the end and the thought soothed a jagged part of him that had scraped his heart raw.

At last, he moved a finger and the chord went minor in a way that sounded a bit sad. He moved his hands again and this time two chords sang with each other. Then, without a plan, he began to play.

The strings felt foreign to his fingers, like old friends meeting up again. He played soft and slow, sending notes to the edge of the circle gathered around them. Fingers and strings worked together carefully, as if this tender bond might be broken at any moment.

Then he felt something inside him open and music poured into the quiet. His fingers danced, intricate and quick. The music moved like a maple key spinning to the forest floor, dandelion fluff floating on a summer breeze. It felt as if it carried his time in Kunar with it, along with the anguished waiting, the heart-stopping fear, the despair that he’d never make it out.

At last, he slipped into a familiar tune, a love song Mary Ann had played endlessly when they’d grown up. Her eyes smiled at him and Vivie joined him in a duet. Her voice was honey-smooth, a light soprano that complemented his baritone perfectly. They sang as though they’d done so together forever, each one taking turns weaving harmonic lines, supporting the melody and sometimes carrying it for the other. The moment was the sharpest, sweetest, he’d ever known.

He felt the heat of her beside him. Breathed in the summer rain and meadow-flower scent of her. Listened to the tender fluttering of her voice. It was beautiful. His eyes kept returning to her as she sat on a stool, arms hugging her knees.

At last the song ended, the final chord ringing in the silence, and after a bit, it slowly began to dawn on Liam that he’d been staring at Vivie for an awkward amount of time. But she didn’t seem offended or amused. She studied his face, as if she was waiting.

He wanted to take her somewhere private. Brush her cheek with his fingertips. Tell her that she was the most beautiful thing he’d ever seen. That the sight of her was enough to drive the breath from him. How sometimes he missed out on what she said for the soft lilt of her voice. He wanted to say that if she were with him then nothing could ever be wrong in his world again.

In that moment, he considered asking her to come with him to Yellowstone. He felt the question boiling up in his chest. He drew in air, then hesitated. What could he say? Come with me? Leave your work, your friends, home, everything you know and love?


Sudden certainty tightened in his chest. He couldn’t promise her anything. He closed his mouth and smiled instead at the applauding crowd and his beaming mother.

Whatever he said couldn’t guarantee her permanence or stability, and after all she’d been through she deserved at least that.

My Thoughts

Hello everyone! We're back!

Whoa, after 3 long months, I'm finally free from my endless piling school load!!!! Yahoo! And what's a better way for celebration but to read books? ;) So here I am!

I actually had a hard time choosing which book to read since I wanted my first one after my hibernation to be a good one in order to set my pace, and to bring me out of my reading slump. There were a lot of books that I wanted to read, and it was really hard. In the end, I decided to give Karen Rock's Raising the Stakes a try. I figured I wouldn't be disappointed since out of the three books of hers that I've read, I loved them all. I was certain that this fourth book wouldn't be any different.

And I was right. To say it was beautiful is an understatement. It was amazingly astounding. Holy crap. I had my reserves for this since it involved animals. Seeing that I'm not a great fan of them (sorry!! I'm just so scared of them huhu), I thought I'd have a hard time connecting with Vivie, an animal lover. I was wrong.

Vivie is more than an animal lover. In fact, I love everything about her: her character is just so realistic as her fear and anxiety are weaved into her strength and determination. Her ability to follow what she thinks is right is truly admirable. Right from the start of the novel, I figured that there was something about her past. To know what happened in her past surprised me because despite everything else, she is one of the strongest people I've ever met (even if she's just fictional). Even though I am not an animal lover, to say at the very least, I was able to connect to her in the way that I could feel her worries for Button, the orphaned bear cub she rescued.

Meet Liam, the animal conservation officer for Button. But he is more than an animal conservation officer. At first, I hated him because of the way he treated Button and Vivie. He seemed inhumane. But I guess, judging someone is really bad, since by the end of the book, I loved him. Although he had his own problems to deal with, he was there. He knew when to push, and when to pull back. There were times that he had crossed the line, but that's what made everything realistic. He makes and says some stupid things, the wrong things, but it's okay. It was exactly what life is.

Putting the two of them together seemed impossible. Both were broken and unable to move on from the past. Both had conflicting choices and decisions. They were contradictory in many possible ways. But the one thing that made me believe in their love is that they helped each other grew. Unconsciously. And that's what made the romance so beautiful.

The entire time I was reading this one, I couldn't put it down. I read this in one sitting, because before I knew it, I was done. From the middle of the book until the end, I could just feel my heart pounding for them, aching for them, and sympathizing with them. It was a roller coaster ride for me. As I read their thoughts, I couldn't help but have an aching heart. Not to mention, I couldn't help but to get teary-eyed too.

I was with them their entire journey, and it was beautiful. Despite the pain and tears, it was truly heartwarming, as all Karen Rock's books are. Reading this has allowed me to reflect on some of my decisions and will-be choices. Despite the cover looking like a National Geographic scene (Karen's words, not mine! haha), Raising the Stakes is an ultra, mega, hyper awesome story that I absolutely recommend! A story about love, setting oneself free and putting up the stakes in order to be able to trust, love and live that I am glad I had this as my first legit book this year. ❤️

My Rating


Karen Rock said...

Wow, Pauline!! I'm so honored that you chose to read this book first, by you absolutely stunning review that shed so much light on the deep issues, for hosting me and five stars!!! I'm speechless, though my fingers still work, thankfully, so I can tell you how much I appreciate the thought, time and care you put into this review I will never forget <3

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