Holding Aces (The Kingdom Book # 1) by Nikki Groom
I think we (Nicola and Crystal) can both agree that this debut book by Nikki Groom certainly met and exceeded our expectations. It was definitely a page-turner that kept you guessing and on your toes. As far as debut novels go, it’s probably safe to say that Nikki Groom nailed it with this one.
The book begins tragically. A broken relationship and an even more broken woman. Arianna (Ari) was beaten by her fiancé badly enough to be put in the hospital. From there she gathers what strength she has left and runs away. She runs and ends up making a new life for herself as Natalie Jamesson, wife to Aaron. Mind you that Ari is quite good at keep up the charade that is now her life. Until Aaron discovers a secret that she was keeping on a day when he was already under a lot of stress – so he just snaps and leads Natalie down a path that she knows all to well. Except this time, she’s not willing to stick around for the apology or for things to get worse. She packs what she can and just leaves. This is one of the greatest shows of strength we see in Natalie/Ari. She knew this time that she wouldn’t and couldn’t go down that path again, so she just walked away at the first signs of domestic abuse.
Ari travels back towards her old hometown, but reconsiders because she doesn’t want her ex-fiance Jonny to be able to find her. She enlists the help of her old friend Lottie. Part of running away the first time meant that she had cut ties with both her mother and her best friend. It was just better this way so there was no clear path to be found by Jonny. Lottie directs Ari to Las Vegas where her boyfriend’s brother runs a casino and hotel that Ari can stay at for a few days until she gets her bearings.
And in walks the gorgeous Denham King. Man, oh man, what a lovely specimen he is too. He has just the right amount of badass power to sensual lover. He is immediately taken with Ari, but her understandably skittish nature means he has to work extra hard for it. Slowly, but surely, Denham is able to peel back the layers to Ari’s broken heart and she timidly lets him. It takes a while, but they are finally able to embark on a special journey together where he just might be able to heal old wounds for her. Denham is written as a slight enigma in that he is very powerful in his business, but he doesn’t use that to impress Ari. He’s more interested in getting to the parts of her that he can tell she’s carefully constructed a façade around.
And that cliffhanger…well, let’s just say that neither of us can wait for the conclusion. You won’t be sorry if you give this book a shot! A definite winner from a first-time author!