Rating: 5/5 stars
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance
A thousand stars (and a desperate plea for the second book)
❝ You know the funny thing about fairy tales? You never see what happens to the pretty scullery maid after she rides off into the sunset with a dashing prince in a gold-plated carriage and shacks up in his castle.
Fade to black. Roll credits.
And they lived happily ever after.
You know the story. There's a plain, ordinary girl with a dangerous secret. A royal father that abandoned her and deprived her of the life she deserved. A tragedy of epic proportions that exposes the girl to the spotlight, and suddenly turns her into the crown princess of a crumbling nation. By all means, she should be happy. Ecstatic even.
Or...did they? ❞
But Emilia Victoria Lancaster is not. She is angry and terrified, thrown into a pit of snakes that seek an opportunity to bite her, to smother her, to crush her under expensive shoes, thinly-veiled threats and disdain. Between an aloof father, an evil step-mother and a certain lord she shouldn't want this bad but gods above she does, between a past that was safe, that was planned and hers and an uncertain future burdened with responsibilities and sacrifices, Emilia nearly crumbles. She must find her strength, her resolve and beat her opponents, before they break her, bit by bit, once and for all.
❝ The fairy tale ending?
I'm living it.
And I'm here to tell you...
It fucking sucks.❞
I've said before that Julie Johnson is my bookish fairy godmother. That her powerful words, her poignant stories laced with emotion and a unique kind of magic only she can cast are my refuge from daily disappointments and exhaustion, from bitterness and the hopeless feeling of falling so deep inside yourself that it seems nearly impossible to reach the surface. I didn't know that my godmother had it in her to weave a slightly twisted, deliciously sinister modern fairy-tale full of depraved nobles, sizzling forbidden romance and broken, messed-up characters that constantly battled the sharp-clawed demons and the suffocating darkness that threatened to devour them. In the past, I've loved Julie's stories for multiple reasons. Dirty Halo, though, is the most addictive. I craved each page and chapter and heartbreak and treason like a drowning man gasping for air. My fingers itched to touch the silk fabrics, my feet to wander the corridors of Waterford Palace, my eyes to feast on beauty and plastic smiles that hid cold calculation and malice and my heart knew, in its darkest corners and rugged edges that every kiss, every breakdown and tear would pervade my senses and imbue my atoms. Dirty Halo had soul, tattered soul, beaten soul, and I relished every single moment.
❝ Life is a chess game, E. Welcome to the board. I suggest you play your moves carefully.❞
Dirty Halo is a story brimming with searing passion, longing and despair, a lush tale of court intrigue, schemes, political maneuvers and dirty secrets set in the kingdom of Germania, a monarchy that faces its greatest challenge when a tragedy that could hide something fouler befalls the ruling family. Emilia's journey is a perilous one and finds her unwilling to give up on her previous life, when she tried so hard to fight and quench the dreams of royalty and finally being accepted by her father. But the greatest danger of them all is none other than Lord Carter Thorne. His armor is tarnished, and so is his reputation. He is wicked, cruel and secretive, but his chemistry with Emilia is OFF.THE.FREAKING.CHARTS. Or more likely, it turns poor charts to ashes. Carter and Emilia are a bomb waiting to explode, but I am all too eager to burn in the inferno they create.
❝ Non sibi sed patriae. Not for self, but country. ❞
Julie Johnson constantly evolves as an author; she doesn't rest on her laurels, she tries for more, and she achieves it. With Dirty Halo, this sensuous, dark fairytale that set my world ablaze, she justified once more my trust and unwavering faith in her stories.
P.S. Luckily for me I read the Preface before I embarked on a futile journey to Germania in order to track down and kidnap a certain smirking Lord. You should as well.
*ARC generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review*