Title: The Debt
Series: Standalone Romance
Author: Karina Halle
Release Date: August 29, 2016!

Her life changed in an instant.
And he's the only one who could have prevented it.
From the New York Times bestselling author of The Pact and The Lie comes a new standalone contemporary romance about those McGregor men.
Jessica Charles shouldn't have even been in London when the unthinkable happened.
She should have been back at home in Edinburgh, perhaps hanging with her boyfriend, having drinks with her sister or doing yoga with her group of friends. She should have been going on in her normal, dependable life as always.
But on that fateful day in August, when a mentally-ill ex-soldier opened fire in public, Jessica's world changed forever.
Now single and crippled from the gunshot wounds, Jessica finds herself scared and alone, losing faith in herself and humanity with each agonizing moment that passes.
That is until a stranger enters her life. A stranger who makes her live again.
Keir McGregor has always been the strong, silent type. Throw in tall, dark, and handsome and you've got pretty much the perfect Scotsman.
Except Keir is anything but perfect. He's got a past he's running away from and a guilty conscience he can't seem to shed. But the more time he spends with Jessica, the more he falls in love with her.
And the more his secret threatens to tear them apart.
He may have been a stranger to her.
But she’s never been a stranger to him.
“Sometimes… we have a war in our hearts. We’re torn in two directions. The way we feel and the way we should feel. They rarely align. The battle goes on."

I went in to The Debt expecting some kind of light and fluffy contemporary romance. I don't know what I was thinking. Apparently I forgot where I was for a minute, forgot who the author was because within a few pages my stomach was stuck somewhere in my throat and my heart was pounding out of my chest. Holy. Shit. This book began on a seriously heavy note and only grew heavier as I read.

Jessica Charles and Keir McGregor are linked by an invisible, tragic thread, but only one of them knows it. I'm not sure Karina Halle believes in fate enough to write a contemporary romance around it, but The Debt is a story of two shattered hearts finding exactly what they need in the person they'd least expect. It felt a lot like fate was at work in this book, even if their meeting was a combination of luck, chance, and design. Jessica's been physically broken in the worst possible way, Keir's been emotionally marred by the same course of events. One blames themself, the other is just trying to put their life back together. Together they somehow begin to heal despite the lies of omission sitting silently between them.

The Debt is about falling in love. It's about two broken people finding strength and hope in each other, in the unexpected bond they've forged during the darkest days of their lives. The Debt is romantic and sexy and you'll fall in love right along with Keir and Jessica. At times, the connection between them is so palpable, their chemistry so profound, it's easy to forget how deep the deceit between them actually runs. It's easy to get lost in the romanticism of The Debt, the steamy eroticism that burns the pages. It's easy to get lost in the sweet, the sultry, the humorous aspects of this richly layered plot. But not for long.

The Debt will speak to your mind as much as it does your heart. This story is important. This story is powerful and raw and devastatingly honest. Woven through this lush romance is the stark reminder that we need to take care of the brave men and women who so bravely take care of us. The Debt is, at times, hard to read and it's hard to forget. It's about the scars we can see and the ones we can't, and it's about finding the strength to heal and forgive; it's about rediscovering the will to live. It's about war, it's about the battle that occurs within each of us over our own survival, the fight to push on or to admit defeat and throw in the towel.

As always, Karina Halle mesmerizes with her stunning writing style. I get lost in her words every single time, in every single book, and yet I've never taken that for granted. To this day, every time I begin a Karina Halle novel, I'm blown away by her words. You'd think after having read so many of her books, I'd just expect it by now. But it surprises me every time just how superbly she illustrates a story. I'm in awe, yet again, with her masterful storytelling and luminous writing in The Debt. The vivid imagery, the edgy dialogue against such lush prose, the layered, multifaceted characters, the raw, palpable emotion that just gripped me as I read, all of it is just so special. I've run out of unique ways to describe Halle's writing... it's just remarkable. The Debt is visually stunning; I could see every page as if it were playing out before me on screen. Both breathtaking and devastating, The Debt is a bittersweet story that will linger long after the final page, without a doubt.

Jessica's Rating:

“You’re not going anywhere,” he says. “Sit. I’ll get you another drink.”

“It’s getting late,” I say feebly but I sit down anyway, my leg giving a protest of pain.

“You need something for that?” he says, noticing my wince.

“The scotch will do fine,” I tell him quickly, not wanting him to make a fuss. “But really, I should go.”

“Why?” he asks from the kitchen. I hear the top pop off the bottle, the slosh of liquid in the glass. “Where do you have to be?”

I have to think about that for a moment. He comes over and holds out the glass. “I won’t keep you here if you don’t want to be here. But if you do want to be here, you don’t need to make any excuses.”

I take the glass from him, holding it delicately in my fingers. He stands over me, a massive wall, waiting for some kind of response.

“I just…” I begin. “I…” I take a sip for bravery. Swallow. “I’m not very good at this.”

“Good at what?”

“At…this. Being with a man.”

When he doesn’t say anything to that, I look up at him. He’s got a peculiar smile on his face, his brows raised. “You call this being with a man?”

I clear my throat, feeling my cheeks grow hot. “I mean. I’ve told you before –”

“Yes, how you don’t do relationships, how you don’t do sex.”

“I never said I don’t do sex,” I remind him quickly.

His eyes never stop searching my face. “Then what is it? What are you afraid to say?”

I have the sudden urge to flee and I know it must show because he suddenly points at me and says, “Don’t you dare say you have to go again. I want you to go back to what you said, that you’re not good at this. What is this? Us? You and me? There’s nothing mystifying about you and me, Jessica. You know quite well how I feel.”

I stare at him in shock. I do? “How?”

He looks off with an air of impatience. “I invited you to dinner, you turned me down.”

“But then you said just as friends.”

“And I meant it. But there are different types of friends. It’s up to you to decide what kind we are.”

I put my drink down with a clunk. “Holy pressure.” And now it’s not just my face going hot but my entire body, flushed from head to toe.

“You’re on fire, little red,” he says, his gaze skirting over my limbs in such a hungry way I can almost feel them on my skin. “I have to say, I like this look on you. Hot and bothered.”

“Back with the innuendos again,” I comment but my voice is weak.

“No, no innuendos this time. You came looking for me tonight not because you wanted to confess but because you want something from me. What is it? What do you want from me? What do you think I can give you?”

Jesus. This is so utterly unnerving. His words slice right through me, his eyes still peeling under the layers, trying to get at something I’m not even sure of myself.

If I lie, he’ll know. I can only be honest with him.

“I want…” I take in a deep breath, my eyes breaking away. “I want…company.”

“Company?” He sounds surprised.

I nod. “That’s the truth. I’m lonely. And I’m afraid. And I’m tired of being both those things. I want to be with someone who makes me forget who I am. You make me feel fearless in a way I didn’t think possible.”

There. That’s the truth. Most of it. It hangs in the air, thickening the tension like flour to stock.

He sits down next to me, has a mouthful of Scotch. “Wow,” he says, running his hand over the beard on his jaw. “And here I was thinking you wanted my cock.”

I burst out laughing. So does he, a big wonderful bellow. The tension in the room eases up a notch.

“Sorry,” I tell him when I catch my breath. “I guess they can both mean the same thing.”

He sucks in his lip briefly, his eyes taking a lustful turn. “If you want it to.” We stare at each other for a few heavy beats. Then his focus trails back to my gaze and he says, “Why don’t you stay over?”

And there I have it. The chance to know what those full lips would feel like on mine, what his skin would taste like. I swallow hard.

Karina Halle is a former travel writer and music journalist and The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact, Racing the Sun, Sins & Needles and over 25 other wild and romantic reads. She lives on an island off the coast of British Columbia with her husband and her rescue pup, where she drinks a lot of wine, hikes a lot of trails and devours a lot of books.
Halle is represented by the Waxman Leavell Agency and is both self-published and published by Simon & Schuster and Hachette in North America and in the UK.
Hit her up on Instagram at @authorHalle, on Twitter at @MetalBlonde and on Facebook. You can also visit www.authorkarinahalle.com and sign up for the newsletter for news, excerpts, previews, private book signing sales and more.


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