Very Bad Things by Ilsa Madden-Mills



Born into a life of privilege and secrets, Nora Blakely has everything any nineteen-year-old girl could desire.  She’s an accomplished pianist, a Texas beauty queen, and on her way to Princeton after high school.  She’s perfect…

Leaving behind her million-dollar mansion and Jimmy Choos, she becomes a girl hell-bent on pushing the limits with alcohol, drugs, and meaningless sex. 

Then she meets her soulmate.  But he doesn’t want her.

When it comes to girls, twenty-five-year-old Leo Tate has one rule:  never fall in love.  His gym and his brother are all he cares about…until he meets Nora.  He resists the pull of their attraction, hung up on their six year age difference.

As they struggle to stay away from each other, secrets will be revealed, tempers will flare, and hearts will be broken.

Welcome to Briarcrest Academy…where sometimes, the best things in life are Very Bad Things.


Ena’s 5 Star Review

“Behind every beautiful thing is a world of pain.” – Nora Blakely

I was given an ARC copy of this book for an honest review and  I can honestly say that this book touched me on a deeper level than just a good book.  Sometimes you find a book that if you search deep enough within the words written on the page is a meaning and a lesson that in the end can touch so many people.  I truly feel that Very Bad Things did just that.

Ilsa did such a wonderful job giving us a story about a girl who on the outside was truly beautiful but on the inside was broken and lonely.  Growing up in a rich family, always being expected to be the best at everything life was never easy for Nora.  She pretended to be someone she wasn’t to please the people around her.  Always going above and beyond to outshine everyone and put on her fake smile and be the “perfect” girl so many expected her to be.  Doing that for so long caused a whole in Nora that she isn’t sure could get any bigger.  Scared, alone, and just plan tired of being good she makes a promise to herself to go against the grain, to step out of the tidy little box she has been living in and shock the world with all the very bad things she could do to show people that she isn’t this perfect girl that everyone believes her to be.  It’s time for Nora to take back her life and be who she wants to be even if that means standing up in a room full of people at a prestigious school and telling them all to fuck off!

“There’s something going on with you.  I see the pain you carry.  In your eyes, on your face, and in your actions.  And I get it.  I do.  I don’t know what happened to you, but I think you’re dealing with some shitty things in your life.”

Those words are spoken by Leo Tate and he is BEAUTIFUL.  Leo was thrown into Nora’s world when she needed him the most.  Having to raise his younger brother after the brutal murder of both his parents Leo finds Nora on the very same day she decides to tell everyone in her life to fuck off and from that moment on he is drawn to her like a moth to a flame.  Even with the age difference he can’t deny that there is something about Nora Blakely that catches his eye.  Having to spend so much time around Nora due to his brother Sebastian attending the same school as her it proves hardier and hardier for him to stay away.  Leo knows that Nora has a dark past and has been hurt by the people who were supposed to love her the most but he also knows he needs to stay far away from her in order for him to keep his heart locked safely within the walls of his chest.

“Every time I say I’m going to forget about her, five minutes later, I find myself thinking about her all over again.” – Leo Tate

As time passes and Nora’s behavior and her determination to do very bad things start to increase the concern Leo finds himself having scares him.  He shouldn’t let Nora into his heart but somehow her beautiful broken self finds a place to take up residence and he can’t seem to keep her away.  Nora knows what she wants and she voices that just to be let down and broken again but someone whom she cares deeply for.  The two seem to have this back and forth emotional struggle going on and at times I wanted to smack both of them and tell them to wake up but that would not make for an interesting and compelling story.   Sometimes love, you know, the forever and always, fairytale, until my last dying breath love takes time and work and sometimes timing is everything.

“Nora, I know you’re hiding secrets, and I’ll do whatever it takes to get you back from that.  No matter what, you’re a good girl with all these great talents, and someday you’ll have a big future.  Just not with me.  I’d just drag you down.  I’d end up hurting you.”

Two people can only fight their attraction for one another for so long because their wants and desires finally take their toll and their bodies cave for what they have been longing for, for so long.  When Nora and Leo finally came together and got over all the what ifs, and the why this can’t work it was beautiful and passionate and raw and emotional.  It was everything that I could have hoped for and more.  Nothing says it will last forever but just once they were both willing to take that chance of hurting later and see where it could go and I couldn’t be happier about that.

“Say my name,” he muttered gruffly as I sucked hard at his neck and then licked it.  He grunted, and I dug my nails into his back as I kissed my way around his collarbone, sucking another spot.

“Say it, Nora. Say it,” he ordered me hoarsely, and more heat rushed to my center as his demand.

“Leo, Leo, Leo,” I pleaded, arching my back and pushing into him.

He shuddered. “Fucking love that,” he whispered and then placed his lips back on mine, dominating my mouth, like a man starved.

Just when things couldn’t seem to get any worse for Nora Blakely a terrible secret and shameful past comes creeping back into her life and threatens to break her even more than what she was already broken.  When you live a life like her certain things are expected of you, your family name is supposed to be respected and you never bring shame to that name.  Even when the one thing that breaks a little girl beyond repair happens you are expected to push it away and move on and never let that secret out because in the end it will damage the name you have.  So that’s exactly what Nora Blakely has had to do for years, pretend that the one thing that hurt her the most never happened but when it comes back and the nightmares you have from the past start to become a reality again it’s time to stand up and do something about it.  Do something to stop all the pain from happening again regardless of the consequences.  It’s time for Nora to finally stand up for herself and have the life she not only wants but deserves.

-I did know with certainty that life is full of bad people, broken people, sad people, betrayed people, twisted people, and people with secrets and scars the world never sees.

Is the passion and want between Nora and Leo strong enough to overcome the deepest darkest secrets that Nora has kept locked down for so long?  Is Nora strong enough to overcome the demons and evil from her past and start to mend all the broken pieces inside her?  Or will her past prove too much for Nora to handle leaving her to continue doing Very Bad Things?

“I’m the only one for you, just me.  You’re my bad girl.  No one else’s,”……

I urge you to go out and read this book.  It was absolutely wonderful and Ilsa did such an amazing job with all these characters.  Her style of writing and how she brought the characters to life made me fall in love with them.  I couldn’t put this book down.  This is one of those special reads that if you look deep enough there is a message in the book.  To anyone who feels like they need to be perfect either because it’s what’s expected of you or what you think you need to be – DON’T.  Nobody is perfect, everyone makes mistakes and messes up it’s what we take away from those mistakes that make us who we are.  Love yourself completely for who you are not what you think you need to be.  Be truthful to yourself and only surround yourself with people that care and love you for who you truly are.  It’s never okay for anyone to hurt you, EVER.  No matter what happens to you in your past you future can always be brighter.  You ALWAYS have a choice to make things better – sometimes all you need is a Leo in your life and help you, asking for help is never a bad thing.  Don’t ever settle for less than you deserve.  Everyone has a story to tell, make yours amazing and beautiful.  Live the life you want to live and do the things that make you happy.  There are people all around us that are willing to help if you need someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on, or just an ear to listen to.  Be true to yourself and always go after what you want – you deserve nothing but happiness!