Titles included: Contessa, Olivia, Dear Jon, and Livvy
Author: Lori L. Otto
Released: Feb 2014
Find on Goodreads
The Choisie series is a Young Adult/New Adult story following a teenage girl as she struggles to find her footing under the scrutiny of local media and the cautious eye of her overprotective father.
Livvy Holland was adopted by a generous and wealthy couple as a child. Now sixteen, she is a burgeoning artist, encouraged by her mother and inspired by a man she was never able to meet. Feeling estranged from a loving father whose mind works much differently than her own, she questions whether or not she was paired with the right guardians. In her plight for independence, she reconnects with a fellow art student who grew up alongside Livvy.
Jon Scott has led anything but a privileged life. After his father passes away, he is left to care for his two half-brothers while his mother’s alcoholism threatens to tear his family apart. All he wants for himself and his brothers is a better life. His dreams for an Ivy League education are coming to fruition, thanks to a lifetime of hard work and ambition. This is not only important to Jon himself; he also knows that the man who will win Livvy’s heart has to be someone exceptional. Her father would accept nothing less–and Jon believes that Livvy deserves the best of everything, too.
That may be the only thing Jon and Livvy’s father agree upon.
Over the course of their courtship, these two teens will experience the bliss of true love, but their immaturity and differing lifestyles will also threaten to tear them apart. They both begin to question the other’s devotion and commitment; only time will tell if their first love is meant to last a lifetime.
This series, comprised in totality of four books, allows the reader to experience first love for a second time. The first three books–Contessa, Olivia, and Dear Jon–are available now, with the fourth book–Livvy–slated to be released December 9!
Jon shakes his head. “It’s weird, because I’d never really thought about ‘love’ when it came to my dad. It wasn’t something I’d ever really looked for. I knew some kids had that–hell, I knew you had that, with the way your dad doted over you–but I just assumed you were all lucky, or special, or somehow extraordinary. I never knew it was something I should expect. I mean, my dad never even told me he loved me. And when Will and Max came along, their dad was the same. Emotionally dead.
“And Mom wasn’t much better. She was too hurt by my dad–and then too drunk in the wake of what happened. She’d tell me she loved me, but it was rarely when she was in a coherent, sober state.”
“I love you, Jon,” I tell him spontaneously, moved to say so by his story and by my own genuine compassion for him. “How could anyone not love you?” Sadness overwhelms me as I look into his eyes, and I feel myself begin to cry. “Don’t believe it for a second. Just because they didn’t say it doesn’t mean they didn’t feel it.”
Another tear falls down his cheek, but he never breaks down. He looks at me for a few seconds, his thumbs wiping away the wetness from my face, and returns my involuntary verbal outburst with an instinctive physical one of his own. His lips crash hard against mine, moving quickly as his hands lace through my hair and rest at the nape of my neck.
Both of us in need of a breath, he turns his head to the side slightly, resting his temple against mine. My hands press on his chest, feeling the fast rise and fall of his breathing that mirrors my own. His left hand trails down my right arm until it reaches my hip. His fingers grasp my hipbone as his right hand gently caresses my cheek.
“I need you,” he whispers in my ear. I nod my head against his, and I know he can feel my response. He continues to stroke the corner of my mouth with his thumb. I kiss it sweetly, and he lets it linger over my lips. I kiss it a few more times before I grasp his t-shirt in my hands and start to take it off. He lets go of me to pull it over his head.
His eyes trained on mine, he stands up in front of me, offering his hand to help me to my feet. Once standing, I kiss his lips, then his jawline, then his neck, and he turns his shoulder like clockwork, bending down ever so slightly so I can kiss the dream and the sleep.
True or False. If Lisa loves angsty books and Lori Otto writes angsty books, Lisa loves Lori Otto’s books. Answer: TRUE!!!!! Now, if this question were asked in a mathematics class, the answer might be different, but for all intents and purposes it is TRUE in this case.
In the Emi Lost and Found series, we are introduced to Livvy (Olivia) at the end of Never Look Back. She is a 3+ year old orphan that becomes part of Emi and Jack’s family. Contessa fast forwards to Livvy at 15 years old.
True to Lori’s writing style, she provides just enough descriptiveness to engage you, but leaves just enough out for your mind to fill in the blanks. She has an amazing talent in getting you emotionally invested in her characters whether you agree with their behavior or not. She writes them to be real human beings, not some unrealistic version of a person whom most people will never encounter in actual life.
So, what can we say about Livvy and Contessa. Livvy is 15 and behaves like most 15 year olds do. She craves independence and lashes out at those who not only love her the most, but those she decides are not as worthy to be in her life as she deems. Does anyone recognize this teenage behavior? As she approaches her 16th birthday, the date which her parents say she can date, we meet Jon.
The relationship between Livvy and Jon is not written the way most YA romances are. There are no quick leaps or rash decisions. There is more at stake between these two than a girl or boy next door type of story and they know it. While certain behaviors which are indicative to their age occur, i.e. lying to parents, pushing boundaries, saying hurtful things to people they love, Jon and Livvy are a blend of overly responsible for their years to remarkably selfish which is common for teens.
The high society girl and a boy from the wrong side of town has you loving and questioning them both at different times in the story. From a parental perspective, the problems, responsibilities, appearances and etc. are all written extremely lifelike and believable. Memories of raising my own teen daughter came rushing back in certain passages and exchanges in the book.
I truly enjoyed Contessa and seeing the continuation of the Emi and Jack story, with Nate’s character blended in. Adding the burgeoning relationship of Livvy and Jon and this is another must read series from Lori.
“I want you to make love to me.” My voice cracks when I say it.
“Why?” he challenges me. Why? What kind of a question is that?
“Because I love you.”
“You wear my ring because you love me. You devote every Saturday night to me because you love me. You answer my calls every day because you love me. Why do you want me?”
“I don’t… I don’t think I understand.”
“Here’s what I want. I want to trail my fingers down the length of your naked body and feel the excitement they leave in their wake.”
I look around quickly, grateful that he’s not speaking too loudly.
“I want to smell the perfume you wear as I nip at your earlobe and whisper things to you I’m too afraid to say when I’m not inebriated by your very presence.”
I can’t believe he’s saying these things to me right here, in the light of day, as if he’s telling me about his classes or what color shoes he decided to wear today.
“I want to hear you pronounce my name with such desperation, supplicating me for more – deeper, slower – like you can’t get enough of me even though you’re holding me so tightly you leave marks on my skin that take days to disappear and underscore the words forever inscribed on my shoulder blade–”
“I’m sorry–” He interrupts my interruption with a surprising kiss, his hand supporting my neck as his mouth moves hard and fast against mine. I gasp when he pulls away, and my eyes are enraptured by the fervency of his gaze.
“I’m not,” he whispers, then shakes his head. “I want the taste of you…” He pauses and nods just so, making sure I fully understand what he’s implying. “…on my lips.”
“Jon!” I nearly shriek, taken aback by his brazenness and indelicate suggestion. Oddly enough, though, I’ve never been more attracted to him than I am in this moment. He laughs at my response.
“And I want to make you blush, just like that.” He touches his thumb to the warm skin of my face. “To see the glow of tamarisk in your cheeks when you’re coming down. There’s not a prettier color in nature.”
I can say nothing, do nothing, except stare at him with my mouth agape.
“And do you want to know why I want these things?”
It takes me a moment to realize he’s asked me a question, that he’s waiting for my answer. “Because you want me to be happy?”
“No.” Now both of his thumbs rub my temples as he stares lustfully at me, through me. My pulse is raging, and I can hear it in my ears and feel it coursing beneath my skin. “Because I’m a selfish man, and every one of those things rouses me and makes me want to take you in ways I never have — ways your virtuous mind has probably never even imagined. You engage me and provoke me and you drive me to the brink of insanity, and just when I think I’m gone, you save me, Olivia. A brush of your hand. A kiss. A whisper.”
Olivia is the second book in the Choisie series. I had been putting off reading Contessa (book one in the series) because I knew I would want to read the entire series from start to finish. Well I wasn’t wrong in the assessment that I will absolutely be reading the next two installments in the series as soon as she makes them available.
So, Olivia aka Contessa, Livvy, Liv Little, Liv etc. Livvy Holland is growing up and experiencing first love. She has known Jon since they were children and they shared a love of art. Both are talented and smart, but come from very different backgrounds. As a result their relationship is not without its challenges.
Lori does a brilliant job in creating Olivia into a completely believable 16 year old, complete with eye rolling, tempered outbursts, sprinkled with some sneaking around behind her parent’s backs. There were moments I wanted to throttle Liv for her behavior and treatment of her parents. There were other moments when I was transported to my own first love and how many wondrous things came rushing back in memories.
Jon is written in such a way that you can’t help but love him. He is overcoming incredible odds to try and raise himself out of a cycle of life he has no wish to remain in. At times he is the voice of reason and at others the utmost in impulsiveness. When both are faced with situations and decisions they are not necessarily equipped to handle or make, things take a turn forcing the characters to find themselves.
Of course I also got my fix of Jack Holland. I am firmly on Team Jack and could not help but love him as much in his late 40s as I did in his 30s. My hope is that the last two books in this series come in rapid succession. I am very eager to find out what happens to Liv and Jon.
My mother digs into her purse and produces a small case with a Superman logo on it.
“Clever,” I laugh. “I bet Clark Kent had the same case.” I put the glasses inside and secure it shut. “If you wear these all the time, you’re gonna make yourself dizzy. Only wear them when you need them.”
“But they make things look weird,” Max says. “It’s funny.”
“It’ll be funny until you trip walking down some stairs or straight into a wall… and they aren’t cheap, Max. You need to take good care of them. Okay?”
“Okay.” He immediately takes them back out of the case and puts them back on.
“What did your brother just tell you?” Mom asks.
“I’m gonna go read!” he argues, grabbing the unopened letter and running out of my room.
“Is that from Livvy?” My mother looks away as she asks.
“Yeah,” I say, getting up. I’m not afraid he’ll read something he’s not supposed to. He’s not used to cursive writing, and most of Livvy’s letters were written with such emotion that her penmanship seemed rushed, and messy.
“I met Audrey,” she adds, moving aside to let me out of my room.
“Yeah?” I don’t really want to discuss any of the women in my life with her.
“I didn’t realize you had a date tonight.”
“She was so good with Max. Really sweet. And so pretty.”
“I’m glad you approve,” I say, not really caring one way or another. I find my brother hidden on the side of his bed in the next room. The slurping of his milkshake gives him away. When I hold my palm out, he returns the letter to me, unopened. “Glasses?”
He hands me those, as well, after putting them in the case. “Are you gonna kiss Audrey?”
“Max, come on.” I turn around to see my mother sitting on Will’s bed. I blush, embarrassed by his question. I’d been wondering that myself all day. “Some things aren’t any of your business. Livvy’s letter? None of your business. What I do tonight? None of your business.”
“What are you doing tonight?” Will asks, joining us in the room but lingering in the doorway.
“Going out with Audrey from the glasses place. Remember?”
“You gonna have sex with her?”
“Will!” my mother tries to reprimand him, but he just rolls his eyes, ignoring her.
“You still mad at me for asking her out?” I challenge him.
“What’s sex?” Max asks.
Mom takes that as her queue to leave, but urges my youngest brother to go with her. “He didn’t say sex,” she lies. “Will said Chex… like the cereal. ‘You gonna have Chex with her?’ That’s what he said.”
“You can’t have Chex at night! It’s for breakfast,” he says before he’s yanked from the room.
“Actually, you can have Chex any time of the day, Max,” I yell after them, happy that my mother may actually need to step in and teach my brother something. It’s about time.
“Whatever!” she calls back to me. “I would hope that you would wait to have Chex with this girl!”
“Whatever,” I whisper to myself, glaring at Will. “What was that about? If you have something to say to me, do it. Don’t try to make things uncomfortable in front of Mom… don’t think I don’t know what you’re doing when you take your long showers. I was your age once. I could point that out to her, if you really want to compete.”
“Shut up.” We both take a seat on opposite beds.
“You can’t be mad at me for this. She’s the one who made the suggestion to go out on a date, Will.”
“You didn’t have to ask her out.”
“I’m interested in her. There’s no reason why I shouldn’t take her out…”
“I liked her.”
“I promise you, Will, if she was some seventeen-year-old girl that you’d known for any reasonable amount of time, I would never have asked her out. Even though that’s an incredibly unrealistic expectation for you to think some senior in high school is going to want to go out with you, I know there are some lines you don’t cross. But face it, she showed you some sunglasses for five minutes.”
“But she said I was cute!”
“Her job is to sell glasses, Will. She gets paid to make people feel better about themselves.” I know by saying that, I’m likely making him feel pretty crappy about himself. “The truth hurts,” I add. “But I’m sure she wasn’t lying… you favor me, and she’s interested in me, so… of course she thinks you’re cute.”
“You didn’t even let me have a chance.”
“You want to come with us tonight? We’ll fight it out. We’ll make her pick. I mean, is that what you want?”
“I just don’t want you to go with her.”
“What… if you can’t be happy, I shouldn’t be happy, either? That’s pretty selfish.”
“She can’t make you happy,” he says. “You can’t be happy without Livvy.”
“Livvy is not my girlfriend anymore.”
“But you’re still holding her letter in your hand.”
Dear Jon, the third book in the Choisie series is a true gem. A beautifully crafted story about finding oneself, second chances, wasted opportunities and youthful mistakes.
This is, without a doubt, one of the best books I have read this year. I absolutely loved this story and feel that Lori has taken her writing to a new level with it. As she weaves the letters that Livvy sends to Jon and his reflections, interpretations and reactions to them together the relationship between the two takes on an entirely different dimension. The letters and the responses are so honestly realistic and provide an interesting perspective on the trying times these young lovers have endured, together and apart. Livvy conveys her feelings bit by bit and tries to explain her feelings, actions, culpability and remorse over the actions that led to Jon leaving. Jon in return examines each situation and gains new insight into what was really happening and why.
I liked Jon before, but love him more than ever now. As a reader I felt a huge connection to these two characters, and that has not happened for me in quite some time. I cannot wait for the next book in the series and urge you to read the entire series soon!
When we walked into this restaurant, he was the only other person to recognize Livvy Holland. The short haircut was supposed to be a disguise and give me a little more privacy. Within three minutes, five other people knew my identity, the daughter of Jackson Holland II. Since we sat down ten minutes ago, four more people were informed. I hadn’t even had time to enjoy the brief anonymity, and I resent him for it. I decide to set a limit of fifteen people. After the fifteenth person, I’m getting a cab back to my dorm. I don’t care if it is a forty-five minute ride to campus.
“Sir, would you like another drink?”
“Yeah, make it a Dewar’s on the rocks,” Wayne says. “You sure you don’t want anything, Livvy?” He hands me the wine list, but my eyes never leave his as I shake my head in the negative. The waiter walks quickly to the bar as I take a sip of my water.
“You kind of ruined it for me,” I explain. “Now that they know who I am, they know I’m not old enough to drink.” Not that I want to, anyway, but it’s the principle of the matter.
“Sure you can. That’s what money’s for,” he says with a laugh.
“Oh, am I picking up the bar tab tonight?” I ask brightly, blinking innocently.
“That’s not what I meant,” he says, reaching across the table to put his hand on mine. “I’m sorry. I just wanted to make sure they gave us good service.”
I smile at him, trying not to be so shrill, but he’s making it impossible for me to have a good time. “Well, this place is known for its good service. I don’t think we had to worry about that.”
“I just want the best for you, Livvy.”
“I understand,” I say with a nod. “Thank you.”
“Do you know what you’re going to get?”
“The vegetable risotto,” I tell him.
“That’s the cheapest entree here! You can get anything you want.”
“And I want the vegetable risotto.”
“Are you going to get a salad?”
I glance over the menu, seeing something that makes me smile. “Yes, this peekytoe crab one, because the name’s too good not to try it.” I giggle to myself before looking up at him. His brows are furrowed and he looks too serious. “Peekytoe crab?”
“Livvy, those are throw-away fish,” he says. “You don’t want that.”
Fish? I look at him in disbelief and sigh. “Just order for me, please,” I tell him. “Whatever you think I’d like. I’m going to the ladies room.” Before he has time to try to stop me, I grab my bag and go to the hostess station to find out where the restroom is. I consider leaving now, but I promised my roommates I’d give him a chance.
He’s cute, yes, but he spent the entire car ride here trying to impress me with useless facts- and some tidbits that he believed to be facts, but weren’t. I’d learned a lot from dating the smartest guy I’d ever met. It’s quite possible he’s ruined all other men for me.
In the bathroom, I pull out my powder and touch up my makeup. I stare at my reflection, still wondering where the real Livvy Holland is. I hadn’t felt like myself in months. As I put away my compact, I glance at my cell phone, checking for messages or texts. I’d stopped feeling disappointment at the lack of communication some time ago. It’s just normal now. I expect nothing, and get nothing.
He stands when I return to the table, helping me with my chair. “Thank you,” I tell him politely.
He takes a drink before sitting back down across from me. “Vegetable risotto and the crab salad you wanted-”
“Peekytoe,” I clarify, wishing he would just lighten up and say it. The name makes me smile again. If I just keep thinking of this crab, he may actually think I’m having a good time. Peekytoe. Peekytoe. Peekytoe.
After graduating from the University of Texas at Arlington in 1997 with a Bachelor’s Degree in Communications, Lori Otto worked in the billboard industry for ten years. Frustrated with trying to communicate entire messages in “seven seconds or less,” she decided to leave outdoor advertising and return to her love of creative writing.