Monday, 18 August 2014

Book Review: #Forfeit by Caroline Batten (Spoiler free!)

Getting divorced at twenty-five sucks. Teaching over-confident rich kids instead of designing handbags for Mulberry sucks. In fact, every single aspect of Daisy Fitzgerald’s life is one big fail.
Enter Xander, a veritable Knight-in-Shining-Cricket-Pads, who knocks her off her wedge heels and into his world of It-girls, players and Michelin stars.
Buoyed up on cocktails & escapism, Daisy agrees to play Forfeit, the ultimate game of dares, where a simple kiss sparks her relationship with Xander. But £25,000 is up for grabs and the game's called Forfeit for good reason.
Blackmail, betrayal, revenge... Move over Gatsby, there's a new bunch of bored young things in town. 

Daisy Fitzgerald is just trying to get through life and make ends meet. She's going through a separation with her hot hollywood movie star husband, soon-to-be ex husband and to top it off, her job sucks. All she wanted to do was to design handbags for Mulberry, not be stuck in a classroom all day teaching snotty, entitled rich kids how to paint. It's safe to say that Daisy is not living the dream. She needs a lot more fun in her life. It seems as if her wish has been answered when Xander, the local heart throb, sweeps her off her feet (literally) and he quickly becomes her Knight-in-Shining-Cricket-Pads. To get over the HMS she plans to get under Xander, little does she know that she'll want to stay there.
During all of the Daisy/Xander shenanigans is another story entwined with the first; the game called Forfeit. Pay the stakes, roll the dice, do the dare. But soon enough, things start to slip out of her control as she slips further and further into a drugs and alcohol induced oblivion. What is she willing to do to win £25,000? Apparently, anything because now the players have no choice. The game is getting dangerous but no one can back out now, no one wants to either. What would you do for that kind of money?

The characters in this book range from pretty normal to certifiably insane. There's Daisy Fitzgerald, the school teacher who wants to be making handbags for Mulberry. To begin with she's getting over her ex-husband, Finn (or the HMS as she refers to him), she's obsessed with her designer shoes and the contents of her fridge could rival a liquor store. Being a movie star's wife has brought her down to a size zero after being bashed by tabloid after stupid tabloid about being 'curvy'. Now she's drinking, smoking and snorting her way through life thinking that she's happy. Throughout the story we get to see her discover things about herself that she was blind to before, courtesy of Xander and her best friend Clara giving her a swift kick up the arse. 

Then we get to meet the wonderful Xander. He's confident, well spoken, rich and utterly charming but even the most swoon-worthy guys have their flaws. Like Daisy, in the beginning he's happy with drinking himself silly and smoking whatever he can get his hands on. He used to be a player, one who has left a mountain of broken hearts in his wake and one that has a lot of scorned girls rooting for him to fail when Forfeit takes a turn into the world of social media. He too comes to discover that he wants more from life; Daisy being that something. To have her he must change, forget about other girls and help Daisy trust him not to revert back to his old self.

The rest of the characters we meet are consistently part of the story. There's Clara, Daisy's best friend and ex-partner in crime who has given all of that up to marry the wonderful Scott and have their first child. There's James, Xander's best mate who for some reason despises everything that Daisy is. We meet Marcus and India, both related to James (I think). They take to Daisy much quicker and seem like much nicer people, Daisy has idolised India since forever so just being in the same vicinity as her is ground breaking. We also get to meet Xander's brother, Robbie and his lovely wife Vanessa. Rob is the poster child for turning your life around, he used to be just like Xander; a different girl in his bed every night, but now he's settled down and has three beautiful children with the love of his life. It's not long before Xander decides that's what he wants with Daisy. Oh and there's Daisy and Xander's rescue dog, Birkin. How could I forget that adorable little ball of excitement?!

Out of all the characters I think Marcus became my favourite. He told Daisy exactly what he thought of her and that's how she discovers that he is spot on. He calls her out on her bs and is entirely loyal to Xander even when he's been an idiot. When everyone got their final dare, Marcus's was to do something good (I won't tell you the specifics) and he tries as hard as he can to do the right thing. He's a changed man by the end of the story and I have really liked how his character grew.

This book is set in Gosthewaite, a quaint little town in the Lakes. The world building in this story is incredible, Caroline does a great job of painting a vivid picture of whatever scene we're in whether it be the hill Daisy climbs to work off a hangover or Skank Manor, her renovation project. Also, the place she is renovating is constantly changing and we get to see it happen just from the descriptions the author gives us.

At first, I didn't understand the title of this book and by that I mean I didn't understand the hashtag. But then I got it, it happened at around the middle point of the book but I got it and without giving any spoilers, let me just say that it totally makes sense! As for the cover, I love it. Don't get me wrong, I love those covers that have lots going on with an array of different colours but I adore simplistic book cover designs. I think it's the perfect cover for this book. I did find that the cover was relevant because we come to realise that Daisy is a sucker for boots, preferably the expensive, sell-your-car-to-get-them variety. All in all, I like the cover - it matches the content of the book well.

As for the pacing of the story, I do think it could have picked up a little especially towards the middle. Everything seemed to slow down when everyone decided to leave Forfeit alone and for a while the focus was on Daisy and Xander's crumbling relationship. However, when the anonymous texts start coming in, then the pace picked right back up! I had major trouble putting the book down and getting some sleep, especially the night when I only had 100 pages left. There are patches like this in every book but you know that when you get past that one point you're gonna get to the very best bit! That's exactly what happened in #Forfeit.

Now, this book is written by a British author and you can definitely tell. The words 'shag' and 'bloody' are consistent throughout the book and the British-ness doesn't stop at those two words. The entire story is just British, so if you don't like reading about brits, this book is definitely not for you. I, being from England, adored that about it. I generally read novels by american authors so it was a nice change to read something with my own dialect.

The main thing I liked about #Forfeit was that there was always something going on. The amount of twists and turns in this book must have given me whiplash because there is a lot. This is one of those novels where you have to pay attention, don't skim the words read them or else you'll miss something and the rest may not make sense. This wasn't a problem for me, I was so enraptured in the characters that I found myself reading every word. I like it when authors entwine two stories so whilst we read about one, the other is happening off the page but still developing so that when I go back to it, I get to carry on following the other situation. Does that make sense? Maybe. Basically, there was the Forfeit game and then there was Xander and Daisy's ever changing relationship. I really liked the game as it brought a lot of drama into the story. The stakes start off low, low enough that even Daisy is willing to play and the dares are easy. As the game goes on, the stakes are raised, the prize is bigger and the dares take a turn into Crazy Town.

Very realistic scenes and characters. The only slightly unrealistic thing was how well off these people were for their age. They were all in their early-mid twenties but pretty much all of them had their heads screwed on and seemed to know what they were doing 100%. I'd say it was a perk of being wealthy, maybe I'm wrong - maybe people as young as 22 can have a good life plan!

Loved the acronyms, it's the kind of thing me and my best friend would do; come up with nicknames so inappropriate that we had to make them less conspicuous. Sometimes there were so many that I'd forget what they meant if I didn't think about it!

Did all the problems get solved? YES! Thank god. The worst thing an author can do is leave me with questions unanswered, or when I have to decide the ending for myself. Especially when there won't be a book 2 so you know you won't get answers. Luckily, all problems were solved, all questions were answered. The trust between Xander and Daisy is going strong, the karma is all washed away with a heavy dose of forgiveness and it's clear to see that the two are not like they were before. The drugs, the drinking and the childish parties are over and Daisy barely misses her old habits which is major character development. They all totally redeemed themselves, bar a couple of the crazies.

I am totally happy with the ending and the happy ever afters and the not so happy ever afters for those who deserve it! I can't wait for the next book, so Caroline you'd better tell me as soon as Distraction is available for me to buy!

In the end I liked 90% of the characters, some were there to be disliked because, well, there's no story if there isn't someone to loathe, right? James ended up being great, I love Marcus, Clara, Scott, Rob and Vanessa were consistently awesome characters and as for Xander and Daisy I'm super happy with everything they got! I got worried and began to think they'd just kind of push everything to the side and move on without sorting anything out but those last few chapters were saviors.

Now for the very small list of cons; Daisy can be incredibly dense at times and indecisive. She also forgives Xander far too quickly - I'd make him grovel for some of the stunts he pulled.
Daisy's morals - especially in the middle of the book - are scary. The things she plans to do for a dare are crazy! The thing is though, is that there has to be some problem, something to overcome, some bad feelings to work through to make a story worth reading. This con was redeemable but I wont explain why, you can read and find out yourself!

There are so many ways that the author can go with this series, if she makes it into one. I'd love for James and Marcus to have their own stories so I can see how their happy endings take place. I can't wait for the next book to be published; the focus is on the sexy vet we saw at Clara's wedding, ooooh!

The absolute best thing about this book? Absolutely no cliff hanger! That's right, novels can exist without having to be in a 26 book series, crazy right?!

As I said yesterday in my mini Goodreads review, #Forfeit is a perfect example of a book that started on Wattpad and became a fully published book. I hope you guys will go and check out Caroline Batten, the author and her wonderful book. It exceeded my expectations completely, I never read these kinds of books but the dare game sounded intriguing. I'm so glad I stepped out of my comfort zone because, even as I'm writing this, I can't think of how to praise this book enough! I genuinely miss the book and the characters. I don't usually find myself missing books that much but my heart hurts a little. I want to read more about Xander and Daisy, Rob and Vanessa, Scott and Clara and even the Dowson-Jones'. I honestly miss it all, the drama and the antics. Most of all I miss the realistic-ness of it all, books like this are hard to come by.

I also assume Daisy's name isn't a coincidence. The Great Gatsby is mentioned in the synopsis and then the main character's name is Daisy Fitzgerald... Sneaky, Caroline!

#Forfeit will make you laugh, cry, question your sanity and wish for your very own Knight-In-Shining-Cricket-Pads. I 100% recommend it to all of you over 16 - there is drug use, sex and a lot of swearing but it's not overpowering. For those reasons though, I wouldn't recommend this to anyone under the age of 16.

Finally, thank you to Caroline for being so kind to me and for sending me a copy of her book. I can't wait for whatever you bring out in the future!

*This book was sent to me for review for free. All opinions are my own and 100% honest.*

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