Tuesday, March 04, 2014

TOXIC by Rachel Van Dyken ~ Release Day Review and Giveaway


Title: Toxic (Ruin, #2)

Author: Rachel Van Dyken

Genre: New Adult

Release Date: March 4 2014

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Everyone has a secret...
Gabe Hyde is on borrowed time. He's been hiding his identity for over four years-hidden from the world that used to adore him--obsess over him--driven to the edge of insanity by one poor choice.
But that one choice, altered the course of his life forever.
Pretending isn't all it's cracked up to be, especially when pretending means hiding your real self from the people that care about you the most. But if anyone ever discovered the truth it wouldn't just be his life at risk--but hers.
Saylor doesn't hate men.
Just Gabe.
Only Gabe.
He's a reckless, happy-go-lucky, silver spoon fed pain in her ass. Everything about him makes her more and more confused. Unfortunately they both donate time at the same Group Home. If she wasn't afraid of flunking, she'd be long gone. She hates that she's attracted to him almost as much as he hates that he's attracted to her--and she can tell, especially since their first encounter ended up making her knees so weak she couldn't form coherent sentences for weeks afterwards. But the closer she gets to him, the more confused she becomes. He isn't who he says he is, and he's hiding something big.
What happen when two worlds collide? Two worlds that never should have met in the first place? Some secrets are too big to be hidden forever--the only question? Will his destroy everyone he loves? Or finally bring about the redemption he's been craving for the past four years?
Everyone has a secret...What's yours?



Lisa’s Review


5 “Emotionally Intense” Stars


“Baring your soul to someone is like purposefully stabbing yourself in the heart and waiting for the person you love to stop the bleeding.” ~Wes M.

toxic 1

Toxic by Rachel Van Dyken is book two in her Ruin series. After reading Ruin, I admit that I was very excited to discover that Gabe would be getting his own book. I fell head over heels for the cocky, flirty and sarcastic playboy who didn’t seem to have a care in the world. I wanted to see what type of girl it would take to tame the reckless bad boy. Holy hell, I was not expecting what this book actually ended up delivering. Gabe has demons that he has been running from. He is about to discover what happens when the deep and dark secrets he has been trying to escape finally catch up to him.


toxic 2


Gabe has been living behind a carefully designed façade for over four years now. The sexy and easy going lothario who loves them and leaves them is who he wants the world to see when in actuality he is hiding secrets so deep and painful that they threaten to bury him alive on a daily basis. Pretending to be someone he’s not is Gabe’s way of hiding, escaping the loss and pain caused by one poor choice. He reinvented himself only to immerge more broken and in need of saving. Gabe is unable to share his true self with those he has grown close to. It eats at him, consumes him. Now Gabe’s past is in danger of being thrust right into the open for all to see. The collision of his past and present can ultimately lead to his complete destruction.


toxic 3


Saylor is a beautiful and smart music student trying to get through college in order to help provide a better life for her family. She is dedicated and utterly focused on getting good grades to eventually secure a great and stable job. Her life may be boring and predictable but she has responsibilities and can’t allow herself to simply be carefree. The last thing she needs is a distraction; however, the said distraction comes her way anyways. And, it comes in the form of a gorgeous and tattooed ass-hat who unhinges her with his douche ways, makes her heart flutter and whose music haunts her with its passion and beauty.

“And you, little girl, better be careful. You’re dangerously close to getting me to fall for you, and I don’t do relationships, I do girls.”


“With you,” I said, sighing, “I can just be me.”

“A non-smooth talking jack-ass with shifty eyes?” she asked dryly.

Gabe and Saylor do not start off on the right foot. I did not even recognize Gabe as his behavior towards Saylor was absolutely deplorable. Seriously, where did the carefree guy who cracked jokes go? But then I began to understand that he was struggling to keep up his façade, becoming more vulnerable by the minute. Underneath the sarcasm, verbal lashes and the secrecy was this scared individual who was grieving deeply and afraid to open up his soul. Gone was the young man he once was, replaced by someone he did not even recognize. Right from the start Saylor is someone who threatens Gabe’s necessary defenses. They both share a profound love of music. But where Gabe is all intensity and passion, Saylor is all about control and perfectionism. Two extremes that on the surface would appear to never work. Saylor and Gabe may have been like oil and water but there was no denying their connection.


toxic 4


Gabe’s existence was complicated, complex, intense and so unbearably sad. My heart literally ached with all that he had gone through. As the story unfolds and Gabe’s life comes crashing down at his feet, you see him being pulled into the darkness that is threatening to swallow him whole. Wes, Kiersten and Lisa all played a big role in helping Gabe find his way once again. I particularly loved all the scenes between Gabe and Wes. They were both sweet and laugh-out-loud funny. Like Gabe’s friends, Saylor becomes someone who he can lean on. Her feelings for Gabe ran deep and she shows maturity and wisdom well beyond her years in how she dealt with it all. I loved the fact that she understood where Gabe was coming from and simply gave him what he needed in order to heal and move on. The two of them together were all sorts of messy beautiful as they maneuvered their way into a profoundly touching relationship.

All in all, Toxic was a wonderfully written piece of work that had me clutching my heart as much as it had me smiling through my tears. This author has a way with words that I find compelling. She easily draws me into her stories and I quickly become engrossed in the pain, desolation, uncertainty, happiness, passion and love all experienced by her life-sized characters. Next up is a novella called Fearless about Wes and Kiersten due out on March 9th, 2014. I am so excited for that. I frankly need a little more Wes Michaels in my life.


toxic 5


Series Reading Order




With slight pressure, Gabe moved my hands to the piano, slowly, effortlessly placing them on each key.

He was playing through me, using my body as an instrument to convey the story of his life. Each time he pressed down on one of my fingertips or guided me to another area of the piano, I felt the sadness of the song clench deeper. The notes became floating tendrils of pain, each one of them slowly invading my body and taking hold until it hurt to breathe.

He moved faster and faster, my hands couldn’t keep up. I pulled back as he continued the song, in such a rush it was like he was yelling but doing it with music. Unable to convey it in any other way.

With a final burst of movement, he lifted his hands off the piano and smashed them against the keys, causing a chaos of notes to burst forth.

Gabe’s breathing was uneven, ragged as he leaned heavily against me, his chin resting on my head, and he whispered brokenly, “I can’t.”

“You were doing so good.”

“It’s like getting into a car with suicidal tendencies. You keep going faster and faster, needing the adrenaline to keep you alive until suddenly you turn the wheel and everything goes black. The notes, they go higher and higher, and right when I feel like I can change the outcome — I panic. Some things…” He sighed and pulled away. “Some things are better left in chaos.”

“Are you sure about that? Are you sure about perfection?” I folded my hands in my lap, but didn’t turn around.

“Sure.” He moved from behind me and sat on the bench. “If life was perfect, how in the hell would we ever learn to depend on someone other than ourselves? If anything, that’s what life’s taught me. The need to be perfect is stemmed in the very belief that it’s actually something we can achieve. Self-actualization — doesn’t exist.”

I licked my lips and looked down at the keys. “Does that mean we don’t try then?”

“No.” Gabe tickled a few of the ivory keys in front of him, the music note tattoos on his fingertips looking darker against the white of the piano. “It just means when you reach the end of your rope, you shouldn’t regret a damn thing, but applaud yourself for trying to do the impossible.”

I felt like he was using double meanings. The philosophical Gabe was a bit terrifying because he made me feel more insecure than the jackass Gabe. But the guy sitting next to me right now? I was beginning to understand, he wasn’t just one person. He was every person, everything, whatever he needed to be, he was.

Like a chameleon.

And suddenly the ending to the story made sense.

Ten different notes all clamoring at once.


Gabe was Chaos.

“So.” He sniffed and cleared his throat. “Now that I’ve totally ruined the moment by talking in my serious voice and scaring the shit out of you — why don’t we work on one of your performance pieces?”

“Okay.” I placed my hands on the piano again, careful to angle my wrists at the perfect degree and keep my eyes on the music ahead. Sometimes I wondered if my posture was better than my playing.

“What the hell are you doing?” he asked in calm voice.

I turned and gave him a firm nod[L1] . “I’m getting ready.”

“To go to battle?”

“What?” I relaxed my hands a bit. “No.” I straightened. “This is the right posture, it’s—”

“If you say perfect, I’m going to kill myself.”

“Someone should have majored in drama.”

He burst out laughing. “Oh, honey, you have no idea.”

“So?” I lifted my wrists again and looked ahead.

“Fine.” He smirked. “Play just like that.”

“Okay.” I started one of my harder pieces, Piano Sonata 14. It felt exactly the same. The movement wasn’t as fast as some of the others, but the timing for it had to be perfect.

“Close your eyes,” Gabe instructed.


He swatted my wrists. “No arguing with your piano master.”


“Say ‘yes, master’.”

I smiled tightly, my eyes focusing on the music in front of me. I started slowly playing. “Not in this lifetime.”

“Bet I could make you say it.” His voice had an arrogant lift to it, which made me all the more irritated. Master? Um, no.

“Eyes.” He growled again.

With a resigned sigh, I closed my eyes. “Better?”

“Immensely,” he said smoothly.

Darkness enveloped my world. All I had were the notes at my fingertips. All I had was the music — that and Gabe.

He wasn’t saying anything.

Which killed me.

It also made me want to open my eyes, but I knew he’d probably just tell me to close them again, so I kept playing.

And then, with a teasing touch, his fingers grazed my chin, slowly tilting it down toward the piano while his other hand went to my upper back then slowly moved down until it was in the middle, with a gentle push, he urged my body closer to the keys.

Eyes closed, posture completely off, I leaned over the piano. Everything felt wrong as I continued playing.

“Slower,” he said softly.

With a sigh, I started playing slower. His hands moved to my hips. And stayed there. Other than jumping a foot, I was still able to concentrate.

“The music,” he whispered, “It’s not just your story — it’s your lover.”

“Okay,” I squeaked. Heat washed over me as the word lover bounced around in my brain. I knew it, but I’d never experienced it. How was I supposed to use something I didn’t know how to use? And how embarrassing was it that I was stuck in that tiny room having never been… stuck in a tiny room with any guy? Lover. I’d take him. If I got a choice. It would be him. But people like Gabe, beautiful people who had music in their soul, who knew how to speak without words… they weren’t for girls like me.

“Each stroke…” His hands pressed against my hips making me gasp. “You need to feel it not just on your fingertips — but everywhere.”

Holy. Crap.

“Feel it here,” he squeezed and then ran his hands lightly up my sides, then resting right underneath my breasts, he pressed again. “And here.”

My breathing picked up speed, as did my music.

“Slow down,” he commanded in that same irritating patient tone. “Where is this story taking me? Where are you taking your lover?”

“Huh?” I breathed.

“Use your hands to tell me the story — use your body to propel the story forward, what happens next… Tell the story, Saylor. Make me feel it without even touching you.”

“But — that’s impossible.”

“You can feel a kiss without touching someone’s lips.”

“I’m confused.”

“Concentrate.” Gabe’s voice was firm. “I want to kiss you.”

“What?” He was lucky I didn’t actually collapse against the piano this time.

“In the story.” He chuckled. “I want to kiss you in this story, so kiss me.”

“You want me to get up and kiss you?” Mind you, I was still trying to play a difficult piece as he was asking me this, which basically meant I must have had talent, because my body was on fire.

“Without our mouths meeting.”

“Through the music.” I clarified in a doubtful voice.

I could hear the smile in his tone as he answered. “Yes, through the music, show me what the kiss would feel like. I want to taste it.”

“But how?”

He laughed softly. “I’m touching them.”


“My lips,” he countered. “They’re soft, open, wet…”

I squirmed on the piano bench, squeezing my eyes shut. “What else?”

“As I part my lips… I wonder what your tongue tastes like, what type of pressure you’d use as you pressed your velvety smooth mouth against mine. I imagine exploring your mouth not just because I want to — but because I can’t help it. I’m lost. And your kiss is my salvation… so, Saylor, will you save me?”

My fingers glided effortlessly over the piano as I imagined his mouth — the way he smiled, the way he took his lower lip hostage when he was deep in thought. The dark look he got in his eyes when there was something he wanted. Our kiss would be epic.

The music picked up speed as I leaned over the piano, pounding each note with the rhythm of my footsteps as I approached him.

His hands would reach for my hips as he pulled me closer. My hands hovered over the keys making my hesitation known.

And then I pressed softly against the ivory, leaning forward as if I was leaning into Gabe with my body pressed against his. My breasts brushed the keys. I moved closer to the piano and then slowed the music.

His eyes would close.

His lips would part.

And we’d meet in the middle — because both of us wanted the same thing. Both of us wanted to taste, to explore, to feel.

I slowed my left hand as my right hand moved quicker across the keys, to show the anticipation.

And then, our mouths would touch.

I pounded the keys with my left hand, making it the loudest part of the piece which wasn’t normally how it was done.

Our tongues would tangle.

I pounded the piano harder.

His fingers would dig into my arms as he lifted me into the air.

I pulled back from the piano, stopping the music, and then gently started the rhythmic cadence again.

Our kiss was the perfect joining of music.

He was the left hand, I was the right.

Separate they sounded like silly scales.

Together — they were beautiful.

When I stopped the piece, I was sweating.

“Open your eyes,” Gabe whispered.

He was breathing so heavily it looked like he’d just run a marathon. With a smile he tucked my fallen hair behind my ear and tilted my chin toward him.

“That…” He leaned in. “…is how you perform. Like every kiss is both your first and last — like you’re saying both hello and goodbye — like you’ve just been born… like you’ve just died.”




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Author Bio


Author PhotoRachel Van Dyken is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, and USA Today Bestselling author of regency and contemporary romances. When she's not writing you can find her drinking coffee at Starbucks and plotting her next book while watching The Bachelor.

She keeps her home in Idaho with her Husband and their snoring Boxer, Sir Winston Churchill. She loves to hear from readers!


Website: http://rachelvandykenauthor.com/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/RachelVanDyken

Twitter: https://twitter.com/RachVD

TOXIC Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18935386-toxic?ac=1

Rachel Van Dyken Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/4882127.Rachel_Van_Dyken



  1. When a BB gets behind the wall put up to protect themselves.

  2. the one characteristic in a book boyfriend that will get me every time is devotion.

  3. Complexity. When I can see the good and the bad, and the bits of history that made the BB who he is.

  4. His heart gets me very time.

  5. His Love and Loyalty to that one person

  6. Romance, a tough as nails BB but can show his tender romantic side. :)

  7. His ability to let down his defenses when it comes to his heart! Thanks for the giveaway!

  8. Nice pecs and he has to be an alpha!

  9. The ability to listen to what the girl is saying:)

  10. Alpha man who knows how to 'perform'......:)

  11. tall, lil dark, possessive, alpha male for sure!

  12. I love loyalty in a book boyfriend.

  13. The whole alpha bit..ha ha, draws me in!

  14. What is the one characteristic in a book boyfriend that will get you every time? A Buff Bod, Hot long hair,
    Tat's all over, bilker boots, tight black jeans with a gruff dom voice.

  15. The thing that draws me to my book boyfriends is overcoming adversity.

  16. I love a book boyfriend that is loyal & protective.

  17. Unconditional loyalty always gets me. I love a hero that is loyal to his woman through everything.

  18. When that Alpha persona protects and shows undivided loyalty to his woman.

  19. Alpha males! explains it all lol

  20. alpha-ness with reading your mind abilities :)

  21. I like when the screwed up in the head alpha discovers he has a heart and emotions. He's still a hot alpha just more real life!

  22. Devotion/ Loyalty - And if we're talking physical then beautiful eyes

  23. His protectiveness of those he loves

  24. the hidden sweet/insecure side gets me everytime

  25. Hot sexy alpha male with nice muscles and tattoos who also has a sensitive side just for that one girl