My Life in Shambles – Karina Halle

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★ ★ ★ ★ FOUR STARS

My life in shambles was a read that I couldn’t put down. Halle demonstrates her talent for luring you in with charming characters and an abundance of steamy passion. Before I knew it, I was already a quarter of the way through!

This was such a feel-good read. From their very first conversation I knew I was going to fall for Valerie and Padraig. I’m so glad I decided to give it a go! Halle created a romance that was not only easily readable and off-the-charts steamy but also delved deeper in to bigger issues of illness, confidence in adversity and the constant yearning for familial approval that we can all relate to in some way.

The story begins with the turmoil that is Valerie (Val) Stephens’ life. Having recently split from her fiancé, Val is forced to leave their home behind and move back to her parents’ during the Christmas holidays. As they say, bad luck comes in threes. Adding to this, Val soon loses her dream job as an arts and entertainment journalist. Down on her luck and forced to re-evaluate her life, Val realises that her fear of adventure, worry over others’ opinions and lack of spontaneity have only been holding her back. Determined to make the New Year different, Val spontaneously follows her sisters on a holiday to Ireland in search of adventure and throwing caution to the wind. What she finds is enough to change her life forever.

“This want, this yearning, this need for something new, something exciting and terrifying, it claws through me until I can’t ignore it anymore.” – Val

That change comes in the form of a hunky, Irish rugby ball player named Padraig. Drowning in his own injury and family issues, Padraig seeks solace in Val’s cheerful presence. While their attraction brings them together, it is their commonality of running from their problems that bring them closer in a fake engagement trope to bring comfort to Padraig’s dying father. What started out at a ruse soon delved in to something achingly real and captured my heart.

“Tell me you love me and I’ll tell you I love you more.” – Padraig

I loved Val for her strength and unwavering confidence in herself. As a survivor of an accident when she was young, Val does not let that stop her from the new embrace she has taken on life. When she meets Padraig, an Irish rugby player suffering from his own injury it highlights how her strength through adversity has not only changed her life but can positively impact on Padraig’s too.

“These scars tell a story. They tell the story of my body. …how my body found the strength to survive and keep going…So if you’re going to equate worth with someone’s body, let’s focus on that.” – Val

While this book has many steamy (very steamy) moments there are a lot of tender ones too. The relatable issue of seeking your parents’ approval, even as an adult, is covered throughout this book. Both in the tension between Val and her mother, as well as Padraig’s desperate attempt to ease his father’s worry on his death bed. This yearning for approval is something that I feel everyone can relate to and makes this book endearingly honest.

My favourite character by far was Padraig’s Nana. As a ninety-year-old woman who has seen and done it all, she brought a sense of much needed levity to the heaviness of some of the events in this story. Her odd Irish sayings, tough love and wisdom were some of the highlights of the book. It was easy to picture her in Shambles’ B&B.

Overall, this book surprised me by how much I enjoyed it. While it’s not all light-hearted the story is well worth the read!