BLOG TOUR REVIEW AND EXCERPT: Dear Ava by Ilsa Madden-Mills

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“Dear Ava is heartwarming and angsty and don’t get me started on Knox. Read this book! You will love Ava’s fight and Knox’s alpha.”

Tijan, New York Times bestselling author

Wall Street Journal bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills delivers a gripping enemies-to-lovers, secret admirer, high school romance with Dear Ava, available now!


The rich and popular Sharks rule at prestigious, ivy-covered Camden Prep. Once upon a time, I wanted to be part of their world–until they destroyed me.

The last thing I expected was an anonymous love letter from one of them.

Please. I hate every one of those rich jerks for what they did to me. The question is, which Shark is my secret admirer?

Knox, the scarred quarterback.

Dane, his twin brother.

Or Chance, the ex who dumped me. . .

Dear Ava,

Your eyes are the color of the Caribbean Sea.

Wait. That’s stupid.

What I really mean is, you look at me and I feel something REAL.

It’s been ten months since you were here, but I can’t forget you.

I’ve missed seeing you walk down the hall.

I’ve missed you cheering at my football games.

I’ve missed the smell of your hair.

And then everything fell apart the night of the kegger.

Don’t hate me because I’m a Shark.

I just want to make you mine.



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My Review

When I read the short excerpt of Dear Ava in the Team Player 2 Anthology, I felt like I was brought back to my very first Ilsa Madden-Mills’ read – Very Bad Things – and I was more than a little excited. Nora and Leo’s story CONSUMED me in that New Adult Romance way, and I couldn’t get enough of the angst, the dramatics, the larger-than-life personas that Madden-Mills’ created at Briarcrest Academy, so to feel some of the same emotions that I felt as I lost myself in that book in her newest release, I couldn’t wait to get my hands on the whole story.

There’s an intense and emotionally driven tone and feel to this book as soon as chapter 1 begins and readers are provided with details of the night that unequivocally changed everything that Ava was and what she believed about herself and about her peers.

Fast forward ten months, and Ava begins her final year at Camden Prep – a prestigious private school where she’s not the typical rich kid on campus; in fact, she’s about as polar opposite to the rich, popular, and untouchable students who run the school and see her as nothing more than a charity case and an unworthy, lost cause. And, as much as Ava version 2.0 is focused on holding her head up eye and refusing to be intimidated by the Sharks and their mean girls, it’s a daunting task given the fact that almost the entire student body thinks she’s trash and undeserving of even walking down the same halls as them.

I’m glad that Ilsa Madden-Mills didn’t make readers wait too long to find out who Ava’s secret admirer was and just how long he’s wanted to claim her as his. There are so many layers to Knox Grayson that the author slowly unravels as Knox stops fighting his attraction to Ava and starts fighting to make her is. But any kind of relationship with Ava is going to have to be painstakingly fought far, not only because of what happened to her all those months ago, or even the fact that Knox hasn’t treated her the best when they did/do interact…what he has to worry about the most is Ava’s inability to trust a Shark and her perception of him and all of his friends/football teammates who not only runt he school but also seem to run/ruin other people’s lives if they so choose.

Dear Ava is an emotionally rich and thought provoking story – one that allows its main characters to bear their souls and realize that the greatest moments in life are those fought for at all costs. The way that Ilsa Madden-Mills transitions these two enemies from worthy adversaries to each other’s safe place doesn’t happen instantaneously, which allows the progression of their feelings and any kind of relationship other than the snarky banter that they seem to dish out to one another to be built on a solid foundation and to expand in a lasting way, despite a bevy of obstacles, drama, and poor choices.

What’s provided with absolute clarity at the end of Ava and Knox’s story is that persevering through loss, through heartache, through unimaginable experiences makes a person stronger and allows them to see just how worthy they are of life, of laugher, and of love.

4.5 Poison Apples 


“What do you want?” Knox says with as sneer as I ease in the football locker room. Cold eyes flick over my cheer skirt then move up and land on the hollow of my throat. It’s not cool enough at night for our sweater uniform so tonight my top is the red and white V-cut vest with CP embroidered on my chest.

“Where’s Chance?”

He whips off his sweat-covered jersey along with the pads underneath. “I don’t keep tabs on my best friend for you. Get out—before I scare you.”

He’s scaring me already.

But I can’t stop looking at him.

His shoulders are broad and wide, his chest lightly dusted with sparse golden hair, tan from the sun, rippling with powerful muscles, leading down to a tapered and trim waist. He has a visible six-pack, and my gaze lingers briefly on a small tattoo on his hip, but I can’t tell what it is. He isn’t brawny or beefy-looking like one might expect from a guy blessed with his athletic prowess, but sculpted and molded and—

Dropping my gaze, I stare at the floor. I shouldn’t be ogling him. Chance is my maybe-boyfriend.

I hear male laughter from one of the rooms that branch off from the locker room, maybe the showers, and I deflate, guessing that’s where Chance is.

Glancing up, I intend to ask him to tell Chance I came by to congratulate him on his two touchdowns, but my voice is frozen. Knox has unlaced his grass-stained pants and is shucking them off. His legs are heavily muscled and taut, unlike the leaner build of Chance. His underwear are white and tight, cupping his hard ass, the outline of his crotch—

“Like what you see, charity case? You can look, but you can’t touch.”

Anger soars, replacing my embarrassment. I know I’m just the scholarship girl at Camden, but why does he have to constantly remind me?

“Don’t worry about me touching anything. I don’t like ugly.” The words tumble out before I can stop them. I meant his superior attitude, not his face, but I see the moment when he freezes and takes it the wrong way.

He touches his face, tracing his scar while his jaw pops. “Get the hell out. Only players allowed in here.”

I pivot and go for the door, forcing myself not to run. “Asshole,” I mutter.

His laughter follows me.

Ilsa head shot-2

About Ilsa Madden-Mills

Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Ilsa Madden-Mills is best known for her angsty new adult romances and romantic comedies.

Eight of her eleven novels have placed in the Amazon Top 10 Best-seller List: Dirty English #1; Fake Fiancée and I Dare You #2; I Bet You, Filthy English, and Very Bad Things #6; Boyfriend Bargain #8; The Last Guy, her collaboration with Tia Louise, #4.

A former high school English teacher, she adores all things Pride and Prejudice, and of course, Mr. Darcy is her ultimate hero.

She’s addicted to frothy coffee beverages, cheesy magnets, and any book featuring unicorns and sword-wielding females. Feel free to stalk her online.

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