Blog Tour with Review: The Freshman by Sophie Lark

April 5, 2021

 


I’d Go Anywhere For Her…

The Freshman, a must read new-adult standalone in The Kingmakers Series from Sophie Lark, is available now!



Even to Kingmakers, the most brutal school in the world. Where mafia children are trained to control, dominate, infiltrate, and kill.

I followed Anna because she’s my best friend. I’ve always been right by her side.

She needs me to protect her. Especially from Dean Yenin, a Bratva heir with a lethal grudge.

He plans to take everything from me. Starting with Anna...



Future heirs, accountants, enforcers, and spies from all of the criminal organizations around the world train at Kingmakers Academy for three years with the understanding that they aren't to fight, maim, or kill anyone from rival organizations while in attendance. Anyone that breaks the rules will be punished accordingly. The punishment is an eye for an eye in all matters, including everything from a punch in the face to cold-blooded murder. 



This story is told from the POVs of three heirs, Leo, Anna, and Dean. Leo and Anna grew up together and were raised as cousins. They've been best friends their whole lives, but they're starting to have feelings for one another that "cousins" are not supposed to have. Dean grew up an only child to two toxic parents, one of which seems to have abandoned him. He's an actual biological cousin of Leo. 



Leo and Dean may be family, but they have no love for one another. It's tough to overlook betrayal and the murder and disfigurement of one's family members, so understandably, they're at each other's throats from day one. After Dean sets his sights on Anna, their hatred for one another grows to a dangerous degree. 


The Freshman is my first read from Sophie Lark, and I can tell I've been missing out! Her writing is AMAZING! It has an almost cinematic quality to it that drew me in immediately. The way every detail is described in such a rich and effortless manner made me feel like I was experiencing everything as if I was actually there! 



The addition of the song links in the book made it feel even more like a movie to me. Listening to the songs as I read the scenes that followed added something special to every single one. I hope the author continues to do this for all of the books in the series! 


The Freshman is more than just a romance between two people. It's the set up for an entire series. We're given insight into a character that will be explored further in the future and an introduction to other characters that will have their stories told in subsequent books as well. Though it took up a good portion of this installment, I sincerely enjoyed the time spent on world building and character introductions. It's completely necessary for the books to come, and it's so well done that I didn't mind at all. 


The day to day life at the academy is interesting too, and the competitions are a lot of fun to read about. I love all the blossoming friendships, and I'm already invested in every character's story. It looks like we're only getting three more books, so I'm biting my nails wondering who's going to be left out. 


The romance in this one is an angsty slow burn, and while I wish we could have gotten more of the couple once they got together, I'm sure we'll be seeing them a lot more throughout the rest of the series. They are each other's perfect match, and I adore their relationship. I'm so glad everything ended up the way it did.


I've been purposely vague about the main couple and held back on talking too much about the individual characters themselves, because I don't want to spoil anything for you. There are three POVs here, and only two people in a couple. Two of the characters end up in a relationship and one ends up needing redemption. I'll let you figure out who is who for yourselves. It's just more fun that way. 


I will say that someone I thought I was going to love turned out to be a person I wanted to strangle and hang off the edge of a cliff where I may or may not have let them fall to their untimely death. Harsh? Maybe, but I'm nothing if not honest. I can't wait to see how the author is going to change my mind and make me love them again! I'm honestly wondering if she's just going to let him be a straight up villain. I could be down for that, too. Even villains need love, right? 


If you're like me, and you haven't read the parent series, don't worry! I somehow missed that this was a spinoff series, and I never felt lost or like I was missing out on anything. The author has a way of including the relevant bits from previous stories in a way that gives you all the information you need and at the same time, makes you interested in finding out more. 


New adult and mafia romance fans, this one's for you!



Download your copy today or read FREE in Kindle Unlimited!

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Excerpt

I assume there’s going to be a whole lot of jockeying for position in the first few weeks at Kingmakers. Every kid here thinks they’re the alpha — and they probably were, wherever they came from. But we can’t all be alphas at the school. There’s going to be a new hierarchy. I intend to be at the top, like always.

Bram probably thinks the same thing. He narrows his eyes at me, tossing back his longish hair and muttering something to his friends. The other Penose give me venomous looks.

Bram’s the next shooter. He rolls the point number three times before hitting a seven, ending the round. He scoops up his winnings, grinning.

“Hey Dmitry,” he calls. “Why don’t you come join?”

He’s calling to a tall blond boy who’s standing at the railing looking down at the water. The boy took his shirt off because of the heat. A Siberian tiger is tattooed to the right of his spine, done in the classic style as if it were crawling up his back. Because the boy is so pale, the tiger looks snow white with black stripes.

Dmitry turns around slowly, facing our group.

He looks right at me, and seems to recognize me immediately.

I get a similar jolt.

He’s strangely familiar, even though I know we’ve never met.

His eyes narrow, his jaw tightens, and his lip curls up in a sneer.

“No thanks,” he says, coldly. “I don’t like the company.”

“What?” Bram says, glancing back and forth between us. “The Amerikanets?”

“What’s wrong with Americans?” I say. I keep my voice level, but I’m looking the blond boy right in the eye. 

Bram and I sized each other up last night, and it was clear that we both thought we were hot shit. Who’s shit is hotter remains to be determined. With Dmitry it’s something else. He doesn’t view me as a rival. He’s looking at me like an enemy.

“It’s not Americans,” he says to me. “It’s you.”

His voice drips with disdain.

Something in his tone, coupled with his coloring and the familiarity of his features makes it all click at once.

I’m talking to my cousin. He’s calling himself Dmitry, but this is Dean Yenin, I’m sure of it.

Not that Dean considers us family.

His father and my mother are twins. They were best friends growing up. Until my mom chose my dad over her own family.

Dean’s grandfather tried to kill everyone I know and love at my parents’ wedding: my uncle Nero, my aunt Camille, Uncle Dante, my godmother Greta, even my father. He succeeded in murdering my grandpa Enzo, so that I’ve only ever known him from a portrait that hangs in my father’s office.

And in return, my father reigned down bloody retribution on Dean’s family. Dean’s grandfather is dead, strangled to death by my dad. And his father Adrian is burned up worse than Vader from what I’ve heard.

So we are enemies, maybe more than anyone else on this boat.

I knew that Dean was coming to Kingmakers.

I knew this was coming.

But it’s something different to meet him face-to-face, after never even having seen a photo of him.

He’s the main reason my mother didn’t want me coming here. She’s tried to reach out to her brother over the years — tried to repair their relationship so they could at least have a measure of forgiveness, even if they could never be close again.

He never responded to her, not a single word.

It’s clear from the expression on Dean’s face that my mom was right. The Yenins weren’t just avoiding us. They fucking hate us still.

“Is that any way to talk to your cousin?” I say to Dean.

I won’t give him the satisfaction of glaring back at him. Instead I paste a grin on my face, like I don’t take him seriously. I know that’s the best way to really piss him off.

Sure enough, he takes another couple steps toward me, closing the space between us. Instinctively, everyone else steps back. They all know the feeling of a fight about to happen. That anticipation in the air, the electricity between two people itching to do each other harm.

“Don’t call me that,” Dean says.

It’s funny how even the simplest words can cut if they’re said sharply enough.

Dean hasn’t raised his voice, but he makes it perfectly clear that he isn’t fucking around. His fists tighten at his sides, and his shoulders swell as his body shifts into a more aggressive stance. He’s got the look of a fighter, as if he’s most natural in that position. If I were anybody else, I’d probably take a step back, cringing like a little bitch.

But I’m not somebody else. 

I’m me. And I don’t back away from anybody.

“Don’t call you what?” I say. “Cuz?”

 Dean takes another step forward until we’re within arm’s reach of each other. I’m taller than him by two inches, but he’s got a decent amount of muscle packed on his frame, and he looks fast too. I’m watching him carefully, though I don’t let it show. I stand there as relaxed and casual as ever.

“We’re not family,” Dean hisses. “Because your whore of a mother betrayed her family. She’s not a Yenin anymore. She’s just a piece of treacherous trash.”

I want to hit him so bad my fists are throbbing. I can’t let that go unanswered.

“The Yenins broke a blood oath,” I spit back at him. “I don’t know how the fuck you’re even here. You should be excommunicated. Whose cock did your father have to suck to get you back in?”

We rush each other at the same moment. I throw the first punch, right at his stupid fucking face. But to my surprise, he slips the hit so my fist barely glances off his jaw. I’ve never missed like that before.

At the same time, he hits me with a left hook that fucking rocks me. Dean may not be quite as big as me, but he’s fast as fuck and strong, too. My head is ringing, and my hangover headache comes roaring back.

I swing back at him, and this time he can’t quite duck it — at 6’5 I’ve got a fuck of a longer reach than he’s used to. I pop him in the cheek, raising an instant red welt under his eye.

In retaliation he slugs me back in the gut, and that fucking hurts too. Jesus he’s got a sledgehammer for an arm.

The howls of Bram and the other students draw the attention of the sailors. Two of the deckhands tear us apart before we can finish the fight. They’re big, burly men, and they fling us down on the deck shouting for us to knock it off.

The bigger of the two, a man with a glass eye and two sensuously entwined mermaids on his forearm, points a sausage-like finger at me and growls, “Raise your fists again and I’ll chuck you in the fuckin’ ocean. No fighting on board.”

He stands there, arms crossed over his broad chest, watching us both until Dean picks himself up off the deck and resumes his sullen position at the railing, and I head back toward the bow.

I climb up in the net once more, making Ares stir and mumble in the midst of his nap, and Anna glances up from her book.

“What the hell?” she says. “What happened to you?”

She’s staring at my face.

I swipe my hand under my nose, seeing blood smear across my knuckles.

“Little family reunion,” I say.

“Dean?” Anna asks, eyes wide.

“Who else.”

“Why’d you have to go and fight him?” Anna says.

“He started it. I was willing to be friendly.”

“For how long, two seconds?” Anna frowns.

“He called my mom a traitor!”

“Of course he did! You know what he’s probably been told. Did you even try to talk to him?”

“It’s not my job to talk to him!” I scoff. “His family are the fucking traitors, and if he says another word about my mom, I’ll break his jaw for him.”

“You’d better not,” Anna says, darkly. “You know the rules—“

“He’s the one—“

“They won’t care!” Anna cuts across me. “This is exactly what Aunt Yelena was worried about—“

“Oh, get off it,” I grumble at Anna. “I heard enough of that before I left.”

I hate when Anna acts like she’s on my parents’ side about me not going to Kingmakers. She should be happy that I came here with her, instead of taking my full-ride to the University of Kentucky. Does she want to be here alone? I thought she’d be thrilled that we’re both experiencing this together.

The thought of going to some school without her, any school, makes me sick to my stomach. She’s my best friend. We’ve always done everything together. 


           
About Sophie           

Sophie Lark is an Amazon Bestselling author who writes intense, intelligent romance, with heroines who are strong and capable, and men who will do anything to capture their hearts. She lives with her husband, two boys, and baby girl in the Rocky Mountain West.

She has a slight obsession with hiking, bodybuilding, and live comedy shows. Her perfect day would be taking the kids to Harry Potter World, going dancing with Mr. Lark, then relaxing with a good book and a monster bag of salt and vinegar chips.

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