The Brutal Truth by Lee Winter

Rated 4.86 out of 5 based on 7 customer ratings
(7 customer reviews)

$9.99 / E-BOOK

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Read an excerpt here: pdf | epub

Author: Lee Winter


Australian crime reporter Maddie Grey is out of her depth in New York, miserable, and secretly drawn to her powerful, twice-married, media mogul boss, Elena Bartell, who eats failing newspapers for breakfast. As work takes them to Australia, Maddie is goaded into a brief, seemingly harmless bet with her enigmatic boss—where they have to tell the complete truth to each other. It backfires catastrophically.

A lesbian romance about the lies we tell ourselves.

Additional information

Publication Date

November 2017


epub, mobi, and pdf


108,000 words




978-3-95533-899-2 (mobi), 978-3-95533-900-5 (epub), 978-3-95533-901-2 (pdf)


Ylva Publishing

7 reviews for The Brutal Truth by Lee Winter

  1. orlafsmith
    Rated 5 out of 5


    Everything about this novel is crafted to perfection; from the cover showing a quarter of an elegant face smirking at the reader to a very prescient and timely plot line around powerful men in the entertainment industry using their positions to get away with sexually assaulting vulnerable young women.

    Our protagonist, Maddie, is a young Australian women living the dream as a journalist in New York, except for her it has turned into a nightmare. She is stubbornly plodding on as she refuses to admit to her family back home that her great adventure has been a failure; unable to connect to anyone except through her blog ‘Aliens of New York’ a layer of anonymity, which allows her to be brutally honest about her feelings and to write beautifully. Beauty in all its forms is what Elena Bartell prizes above else and the blog speaks to her loneliness but to her, Maddie is just the scruffy ‘dead-people writer’ who sits outside her office.

    As the name suggests the idea of truth runs right through the novel, specifically how we use masks to hide ourselves and focus on living up to other people’s expectations lest the terrifying truth about ourselves being let into the light. What happens, however, when we reveal the the parts of ourselves that we usually keep hidden from everyone else and most definitely from ourselves?

  2. Karola
    Rated 5 out of 5


    ***free ARC
    What a great book. From the beginning to the end I couldn’t find one time where one of the mentioned person was out of their character. Elena the straight, forceful, don’t-mess-with-me tigershark mogul in media business, but inside a sad and lonely woman; Felicity her chef of staff and sometimes PA with a cold and obnoxious personality. And Maddie, the junior journalist with a deep believe in herself, that she can do this although the luck is not always on her side.
    Always saying the truth, being brutally honest, isn’t easy. Not only to say it but also to hear it. So the truth about yourself is sometimes shocking and you have to learn alot about yourself. And sometimes it leads to a new insight of yourself, what can turn your life around.
    The story of Maddie and Elena, two people so completely different, is a journey written in a sometimes dry humour, with an insight to the fashion world, the power of some higher ups in the food chain and finding the real yourself.

  3. Jem
    Rated 5 out of 5


    This book is an unabashed homage to that most intriguing of character tropes–the uber-successful, all-powerful, untouchable “ice queen”. No doubt inspired by the two most famous ice queens in lesfic fandom: Miranda and Regina. And of course, where’s the fun in thawing ice queens if the thawer isn’t one of the lowliest and least powerful underlings around?

    I’ve noticed that the author loves to explore these kinds of relationship dynamics featuring such extreme power imbalances. Newbie vs Pro (The Red Files), Prey vs Predator (Requiem for Immortals) and now PA vs CEO. I’ve also realized how much I love such stories (no wonder all the books got 5 stars from me 🙂 and never get tired of it.). I don’t know….there’s just something so incredibly compelling and satisfying about the whole idea of having an ordinary nobody finding the key to catching/touching/turning these cold, emotionally unavailable superstars into the, well, less cold and more human versions of themselves. The sheer impossibility of the task, the obstacles, the little triumphs, the setbacks, even more struggles and then the final victory — the whole journey, is an adventure no less exciting than if they’d gone on a pirate treasure hunt. Yeah, I love these stories, and…I’m rambling. 🙂

    Let’s just say if you’re a fan of ice queens, or of any powerful women in general, the synopsis alone will prove irresistible.

    Elena Bartell is a self-made, billionaire publishing mogul. And she didn’t get there by being nice. After being pushed out of a job that was rightfully hers by merit, she knows not to play fair. Keen business sense and a touch of ruthlessness has seen her sweep up failing publications and turn them into either thriving media or cold edifices…employees be damned. To them she is a soulless tiger shark, but the stockholders love her, and that’s all that matters… at least to her. (Actually, that’s pretty much the norm in many corporations where CEOs are paid to the high heavens for increasing shareholder value, so if she were a man, she’d probably be celebrated and admired instead of being stuck with a nickname.) Anyways…

    Maddie, a recent NY transplant originally from Sydney, finds herself working the graveyard shift crime beat pulling double duty doing obits for a metro paper. When Bartell Corp buys the paper, everyone is put on notice to shape up or ship out. Ice queen Elena sets up office in the building, right next to Maddie’s desk. And the dance and endless battle of wills begin…

    Like Tarantino’s homage films, the author takes a campy, over-the-top approach to drawing her characters, almost all of them familiar stereotypes (either they were inspired by the iconic ‘Devil Wears Prada’ movie or this was a former fanfic, take your pick) and imbues and magnifies them with the kind of larger than life personas that make them so memorable. And so delicious. The book is best enjoyed from this angle, as some situations feel contrived or preposterous. But ice queen fans would fall head over heels in love with the book, and Elena.

    As I mentioned earlier, the main characters are all pretty stereotypical. But the reason why I loved the book is how deeply the author explores their psyches, and the lengths she takes to make her characters’ connection realistic. Imagine that gap–a CEO and a lowly night shift grunt. It’s not gonna happen overnight. Or even over time. It’s going to take a lot of exploration, a ton of character growth and a huge dose of fairy godmother dust to make it happen. And that’s what differentiates an exceptional author from a good one. Lots of lesfic authors can do the first two, but the sprinkling of fairy dust? Only a handful can weave the kind of plot magic that makes the cynical reader go, ‘why didn’t I think of that’ , or ‘hell, yeah’ or ‘awwwww…’ No matter how unrealistic the plot is, the author makes it seem at least plausible. And it’s highly entertaining to boot.

    It goes without saying that one of the things that make the author’s characters feel so authentic is that they never become someone they’re not. There’s change, and it can be huge and life-changing, but you don’t undo 40 years of someone’s personality completely and have it last further than the honeymoon. And yeah, I love that she gets her characters idiosyncrasies, and lets them be. But not after freeing the real woman trapped inside the ice.

    It’s important to note that this isn’t a typical romance where ‘romantic development’ involves sweet, endearing dialogue or PDA displays, or whispered sweet nothings or even, the protagonists showing special care for each other. Every lesfic writer does that already. Don’t look for it here. For a good deal of the book, it was either an awkward dance around each other, tension-filled exchanges and talking in circles. Hence the need for ‘the brutal truth’. In fact, the most romantic parts of the book are when they’re actually thousands of miles apart. How weird is that? More often than I could count, their relationship was moving frustratingly one step forward and two steps back. The chemistry is off the charts, but there is just so much emotional and balance-of-power distance between them, not to mention the multiple layers of masks the ice queen wears. I figured it was going to take Maddie a lot to uncover those firmly welded-on protective masks. I didn’t figure it would take almost the entire book. Well most of it anyway. As the masks had to be lifted off layer by layer. Well, I guess that’s ice queen for you. They’ll never admit to emotion willingly. Least of all that most unspeakable emotion of all–love. That one word signals the ultimate ‘melt’, and no ice queen worth their salt will ever utter it if they want their reputation intact. Towards the end, when Maddie was trying to wrangle that declaration, I kept wishing her a mental ‘hah, good luck with that!’. 🙂

    In terms of how much I enjoyed the book, I should give this book a solid 5 stars, especially for putting my faith back in lesfic’s ability to ‘make my day’. But then there’s The Red Files, and then there’s Requiem. Ranged against such formidable opponents, a 4.95 will have to do.

    But still, Elena Bartell earns a permanent place in my pantheon of earthly goddesses, joining the likes of Jessica Maddox, Mallory Spencer, Victoria Willoughby, Genevieve Fornier, Jennifer Lamont, Catherine Ayers and a few others whose names escape me for the moment but who live beyond the books they inhabit and whose exploits and personalities still manage to fill my thoughts…Women who focused on themselves and their dreams rather than love, who had to suppress a good part of their inner selves and acquired a discipline, a coolness and even a bit of ruthlessness, sometimes even losing a part of their humanity in the process, all in the name of success, and doing it on their own terms. It was such a joy to see them come in from the cold, their long suppressed selves unlocked… and how love is the secret key to it. It’s just…magical.

    4.95 stars

    ARC from Ylva

    PS. Is it sheer coincidence that a crucial part of the plot involves a sexual harassment case very similar to whats happening in the news, including even the fallout from it. This is one subplot that felt incredibly realistic and totally grounds the whole book.

  4. Jane Shambler
    Rated 5 out of 5


    To say I liked this book is an understatement. This book spoke volumes to me even the parts left unsaid. It was thought provoking, scary and invigorating. It is so easy to forget what women must endure to be successful. But do some take the need to endure too far? Maybe? Does Elena like to be aggressive and brutal? Or is it she hasn’t found the one who sees her for who she really is? In walks Maddie a down to earth slightly pessimistic crime journalist who is seriously home sick. She’s lonely and missing her native Australia. She came to New York to become a crime journalist and got stuck with the graveyard shift at Hudson news and is now being taken over by Elena a shark in business.

    But, Maddie is also a very personable person who loves to connect with people. Even with those she considers out of her league. Elena finally meets someone who doesn’t shiver and shake in her presence. They seem to be drawn to one another. For totally different reasons. Maddie just wants to know the ” real ” Elena. But Maddie has this habit that she says what she is thinking totally uncensored. Which makes for some interesting and funny exchanges with Elena and Felicity. Felicity is Elena’s long suffering chief of staff.

    Maddie has a way about her that makes her strive in to the unknown and yes she has her eyes open. There is more to this story than meets the eye. Yes it deals with some controversial issues like sexual harassment in the work place. But Maddie seems to be able to over come issues. She and Elena embark on a journey of self discovery and discovery of one another. Elena is learning to be loved for who she is and not what she can do. And Maddie? Well Maddie is a long for the ride of a life time. Enjoy!

    *ARC provided by publisher via Ylva Publishing*

  5. Sandra Meier
    Rated 5 out of 5


    This is my first book from this author, but definitely not the last one. This story has so much I really love in a book. Funny dialogues, loveable main characters, good secondary characters, some seriousness and some ferocity.

    There’s Maddie Grey with the big dream of being a good journalist who works as a junior crime reporter for a small newspaper in New York City. She can’t find her way in New York and she suffers from homesickness big time. And sometimes it’s risky to tell what you’re thinking.

    And there’s the Ice Queen, Elena Bartell, who owns one of the biggest publisher companies of the world. Her nickname fits, Tiger Shark. She has a reputation to uphold and acts accordingly.

    When these two women work in offices ajar, there are flying sparks, but not always the good ones. Sometimes Maddie catches some glimpse of Elena behind the Tiger Shark mask? Will she likes what she sees there?

    Elena is a power driven women in a hard-hitting business world. In this world feelings and caring for employees is not possible. But there is this intriguing junior crime reporter with big journalist dreams. What does this women has that got her under her skin?

    The romance between this extremely different women is very slow burning. But it’s really intriguing how Lee Winter is able to bring all the thoughts and feelings between the pages. The women change their perspectives and sometimes they had to be brutally honest. And develop strong feelings for another. You have to be patient in romance department, but in the end you will rewarded with a beautiful and steamy love scene. I would like to know more about how they will shape their lives together.

    I recommend this book to all romance and Ice Queen lovers. And I’m looking forward to another one from Lee Winter

    My rating 4,5 stars.
    Thanks to Ylva for receiving an ARC for a honest review.

  6. Ana Leamaro
    Rated 5 out of 5


    Free ARC Copy
    Another great book from this author. I have read them all. Great characters, intense and funny dialogs. As usual the build up romance is slow burning but the well written plot and interesting secondary characters turns this into a page turner. I loved it. 5* reading without any doubt.

  7. Michelle
    Rated 4 out of 5

    (verified owner):

    I waited impatiently for this book and was not disappointed when it finally arrived. In fact it kept me awake most of the night as I did not want to stop reading it. The above reviews provide sufficient commentary on the book so I won’t repeat it here, other than to say Lee Winters has a way of making a story speak to you. Her words encourage the pages to come alive in your mind and you become the invisible third person, walking the scenes with the characters and enjoying every moment of the intersection in their lives that they allow you to inhabit. I thoroughly recommend this book.

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