I chose these as my four Binge books for CBR Sixteen Sweet Books challenge, because I read each book in a single day, then was cranky that I hadn’t made them last longer.
I picked up the first book for two reasons. The first was that I am always on the lookout for something to hand over to The Best Niece in Australia – the quest to be a worthy Aunt is ever-challenging. The second was that I just really liked the cover. I know I’m not supposed to do it like that. I know! But these are really eye catching, and I caved to the marketing pressure.
I’m glad I did, because I found these really enjoyable (and perfect for the just-starting-high-school Best Niece in Aus). The first three books are told from the perspective of Avery, your quintessential head down, bum up poor kid working towards college scholarships. Avery is delightfully dorky; she loves puzzles, plays chess in the park with a homeless man, and aspires towards a degree and career in actuarial science (it’s a math thing). Her plans are all disrupted, however, when she discovers that an eccentric billionaire – Tobias Hawthorne – has left her the bulk of his fortune.
Of course, nothing is ever that simple, and the plot kicks off with the codicil – Avery must spend a full year in Hawthorne House, or her inheritance is disbursed to charity. The first three books see Avery navigating puzzles set by Tobias, not-unexpected hostility from disinherited family members, and the personal challenges that come with a life upended by what seems like random chance.
I may not have enjoyed the series quite as much had I not binged them all over the course of three days; there were some pacing issues, particularly in book two, and some of the plot twists would definitely have overstayed their welcome with a slower read.
The fourth book, fair warning, adds nothing much to the series as a whole. Told from the perspective of the brothers, instead of from Avery’s, it depicts some of the events of the first book from different perspectives, dives into the childhoods of the brothers, and tells a novella-length story of a current puzzle. This one’s just for people who don’t want to leave the world of the series, to be quite honest.
I expect that the romance subplot is going to be a sticking point for some readers and/or the parents of tweens. There’s no explicit sex, but Avery turns 18 over the course of the book, so the implication that sex is occurring was not a deal breaker for me (or for my sister, who has okayed the series for TBNiAus). I enjoyed it, but I’m an out and proud romance novel aficionado – as ever, your mileage may vary.
I eagerly await the response from the family – I don’t attempt to solve puzzles, or get out in front of any except the most basic plot twists, but they do. I really enjoyed these overall – the exuberant Xander was a particular favourite character – a joyful binge-y experience.