Playing to Win by Ashlie Knapp

Our male lead’s name is Kyle Kelly. He has four sisters. All of them and their parents have names starting with the letter “K”. Nicknamed the “K-clan”. Ummmm…probably not the best nickname ever? Too many “K’s” and “clan” kind of bring something else to mind. Just sayin’. Anywho, onward to the actual story!

What’s it About? 

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Spunky, quick-witted twenty-one year old Callie Thompson is a University of Oklahoma journalism student by day and Oklahoma City Thunder dancer by night. Callie hopes her connections with the franchise might get her foot in the door for a sports broadcasting job when she graduates. She just has one rule: never date the players. Kyle Kelly is the deadly handsome and charmingly Southern Thunder man of the hour. All the twenty-six year old is looking for is an NBA championship to call his own. An unexpected meeting with an opinionated, feisty Callie, however, who is very unimpressed with his celebrity status, sets his sights toward winning two things: her heart AND the championship.

First Impressions

If I had to describe this book in a word it would be cute. Or maybe adorable. You know, sweet really works too. Oh hell you get my point! This book will definitely make you smirk and have you curling your toes in delight. In a way, it was almost Hallmark-esque with how cute it was, but definitely not as annoying as a Hallmark movie can be. Believe me, I should know. My dad plays them on repeat throughout the whole month of December. And July. This book has a level of cheesiness to it that is enjoyable without being over-the-top. I mean, at one point Kyle jokes about how his and Callie’s lips want to get to know each other, that their lips are best friends, etc. Admit it! That’s just adorable.

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A Horsey Meet Cute

This novel has a meet cute as classic as can be: our two lovebirds literally bump into each other. But rather than stare up at the famous Kyle Kelly with stars in her eyes, Callie has pretty much the same reaction that I would. She yells at him! After all, she knows his type as a professional athlete. Arrogant. Full of himself. So to prove her wrong Kyle challenges Callie to a game of horse. Ummm…ok? Don’t really see the connection here, or how it’ll prove he’s humble. He’s a pro basketball player for crying out loud! Pretty sure his confidence level in winning a game of horse was pretty high. Could we even say…arrogantly high?

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While I didn’t necessarily understand the reasoning behind their game of horse, the resulting challenge just made me smile. If Kyle wins they have to “hang out” five times. Callie refuses to call them “dates”, but she’s only kidding herself. We all know it’s just a matter of time before their friendship develops into something a bit more steamy. I also gotta hand it to Kyle, this guy is charming as hell. I’d definitely play him in a game of horse. Sure, I’d lose immediately because my hand-eye coordination is absolute shit, but still. Sign me up!!

The Voices of Reason

In addition to hearing input from her best friends (who will undoubtedly be the focus of future novels), Callie also has an inner voice rattling around in her mind who always tries to giver her words of wisdom. Needless to say, it pisses Callie off something fierce because that voice is constantly pushing her towards Kyle! She’s determined not to date him because her recent ex-boyfriend was also an athlete, and things did not end well. Will Callie be able to overcome her hesitancy in exploring something more romantic with Kyle? If her inner voice has anything to say about it, hell yeah!

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I found Callie’s battle with the voice in her head to be hilarious. Another delightfully fun component was Kyle’s rapport with his teammates, who were just as big of gossips as Callie and her friends. It was kind of sweet actually, as these supposed tough guys are asking Kyle all about his new love interest in the locker room after a game. His teammates definitely like to razz him for spending so much time thinking about and hanging out with Callie, but he never lets it faze him. He’s honest about his feelings for her, and isn’t ashamed to admit it to his buddies Definitely an acceptable form of locker room talk!

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Here it Comes

Callie and Kyle’s close friendship eventually develops into the most adorable of relationships, but after a while you just know that sooner or later the other shoe is going to drop. Their relationship has been going too smoothly, with very little drama for far too long. They even hit it off with each other’s family members! Surely we can’t go the whole novel without a little drama thrown in there? And sure enough, it comes about right at the end of the third quarter.

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Not gonna lie, this was probably the most disappointing feature of the novel for me. While I was definitely happy this dramatic plot point didn’t drag on for too long, you could really see it coming from a mile away. It was just too obvious of a climactic twist. And the fact that it was almost a complete and total shot for shot replica of the scenario which ended Callie’s relationship with her ex-boyfriend was a bit far-fetched for me. I guess all in all I would have liked to have seen a bit more creativity when it came to the drama. Perhaps a secondary issue surrounding his basketball commitment or her schooling could have spiced things up a smidge.

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*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Playing series, book 1. I’ll be continuing with this series, for sure. I just can’t wait to see the pairings between Kyle’s teammates and Callie’s friends.

Should you read it? Simply put, this is a fun and cute read. Definitely a good beach read when you just wanna relax and take your mind off things. It’s also a quick read! Kyle is adorable, and the man loves his cat, so what’s not to like here?! His flirtations with Callie were definitely cheesy, but some moments were also remarkably heartfelt. Both features added to his overall charm.

Smut Level: A pretty clean read. We have some kisses, but only one sex scene that comes pretty late in the game (no pun intended) and is glossed over as far as sensual details. No problem reading this one in public.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Amazon Digital Services LLC. 225 Pages.

 

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Against the Ropes by Sarah Castille

I was talking to my mom the other day, and she mentioned how she was reading a novel that featured two leads with some pretty unique names: Daphne and Simon. After a slight pause I responded, “I’m reading one featuring a ‘Makayla’ and a ‘Torment’.” Yeah…Torment. Granted, it’s a fighting name, but still. I think that beats out “Simon” in the unique name department.

What’s it About? 

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He scared me. He thrilled me. And after one touch, all I could think about was getting more…Makayla never thought she’d set foot in an underground mixed-martial arts club. But if anyone needs a medic on hand, it’s these guys. Trouble is, at her first sight of the club’s owner she’s the one feeling breathless. All sleek muscle and restrained power, the man they call Torment plays to win at any cost. Whether it’s in the ring or in the bedroom, he knows exactly when to use a soft touch and when to launch a full-on assault. He always knows just how far he can push. And he’s about to tempt Makayla in ways she never imagined…

First Impressions

Makayla is your stereotypical romance novel heroine with a total lack of self confidence, or awareness of her own sexuality. After the first few times of meeting Torment she’s constantly asking herself, “Oh is he flirting with me? Does he like me? Could he possibly want to take things to the next level and sleep with me?” Girl! He just kissed each and every one of your fingers, then your palm, wrist and up your arm to your elbow. I think it’s safe to say he’s got some warm and fuzzy feelings for ya! This novel definitely starts off strong as Makayla and Torment have this fabulous sexual tension, and you can’t wait until they work some of it off in the bedroom. Unfortunately it quickly devolves into this bizarre, pseudo on-again off-again relationship. It seems like every time they take a step forward in their relationship they then take two giant ass steps back.

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Money and Friend Problems

Makayla is experiencing some severe financial issues. She mistakenly thought her school loans were deferred, but apparently they’ve been handed over to a collections agency. She has this really interesting rapport with the debt collector who is in charge of her case, and while kind of creepy at times, it also develops into a really interesting part of the story. Her financial woes are what first bring her and Torment together though, as she accepts a position as the ring-side first aid medic for his underground fighting ring.

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This is also how we are introduced to Makayla’s best “friend”, Amanda. Not gonna lie, this woman is a terrible friend, and quite possibly a terrible person in general. She only cares about herself, and basically ignores every concern Makayla brings up about this debt collector who is pressuring her for a lot of money she doesn’t have. Amanda also has some questionable relationship opinions. When her boyfriend Jake doesn’t bend to her every whim she decides to faze him out and give him the silent treatment as a way of getting back at him. When Jake basically says, “to hell with this”, and breaks things off Amanda gets so pissy she sleeps with Makayla’s boss to show Jake other people want her just fine. Ughh, anyone else think this is too high school?

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What Not to Do

At first I kind of enjoyed how protective Torment was of Makayla. Normally when we have a male lead who is overly protective of his woman it’s something I hate, but when it came to Makayla’s living arrangements I couldn’t help but agree with him. She’s living in what is basically a hallway that opens up to the back entrance of a shared house. And the door in her “room” that leads outside has a broken lock. So yeah, I kind of understand why he would be protective of her in this instance. However, as their relationship progresses it becomes so “me Tarzan you Jane” it’s kind of ridiculous.

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This book eventually becomes the perfect example of how dangerous an introduction to light BDSM with your partner can be when you don’t have good communication. Torment ties up Makayla, restrains her and pushes her to the point where she has flashbacks from her abusive childhood. When he asks her what’s wrong she brushes it to the side as though nothing is wrong, even though Torment recognizes that there is some kind of underlying issue at work here. That doesn’t stop him though from doing it a second time! Shame on him! He kind of pushes her to the point where she has an emotional breakdown, and that’s just not ok.

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Series: Redemption, book 1. If we ever have a future novel featuring Amanda as the female lead I’m gonna have some issues with it.

Should you read it? Meh, it was just ok. Kind of frustrating how it had such a fun and promising start, but eventually there’s just so much back and forth of will they/won’t they between Makayla and Torment it was kind of frustrating. The debt collector aspect was an interesting question mark feature throughout the novel that did come together at the end for a delightful finish. Definitely not a must read, and also shows what not to do when it comes to introducing BDSM into your relationship.

Smut Level: I did appreciate at one point when Torment asks Makayla what she wants her safe word to to be to stop all sexual activity and she asks, “Why can’t it just be ‘stop’?” Such a great question.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $1.25 Kindle Price. Sourcebooks Casablanca. 368 Pages.

 

Consumed by Skyla Madi

OMG you guys, the names in this book are so over the top “romance novel” names you can’t help but love it. Blade? Seth Marc? The guy literally has 2 first names. What more could you ask for???

What’s it About? 

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Olivia James has never been one to walk on the wild side, at least not until she meets Seth Marc—a cocky, sexy fighter at her father’s gym. He’s infuriating, nauseatingly addictive and she just can’t seem to shake him. He’s only been in town a short while and his name is already on everyone’s lips. He’s the kind of guy moms’ warn their daughters about—the kind that leaves a trail of shattered hearts behind him and he has Olivia in his sights. Olivia has never met anyone as confusing as Seth and his hot and cold attitude constantly sends her reeling. She’s never wanted anyone’s touch so badly in her life, but having recently come out of a long term relationship diving into another is something she’d prefer to avoid. Determined for his touch, but not to let him under her skin, Olivia embarks on the most thrilling ride of her life.

First Impressions

This novel has two main themes. First: it’s all about moving on from one relationship to another. Second: good girls can have fun too you know! Olivia has just got out of a six year relationship with an ultimate ass-hat who cheated on her multiple times. At first, she turns to fighter Seth as a distraction, and as a way to finally have a fiery sexual relationship in her life. Well, she definitely gets both, but also more! Olivia soon discovers that she wants more out of her tie with Seth, as she starts to develop real feelings for him. But can she take a chance on a man who is so different than anything she’s ever known, and will he choose to let his guard down for this “good girl”?

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All in All

I will say this isn’t the strongest story, plot-wise. It’s definitely an interesting read, but when all is said and done not a whole lot happens until the very end of the novel. The climax is a rather comprehensive combination of sad, sweet, and action-packed. For the first three quarters of the novel though? It’s primarily just Olivia and Seth laying the foundation for their relationship, without too much overt drama.

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Throwin’ Some Shade

For the most part I can pretty much say I am a fan of Seth. He’s definitely putting himself out there with Olivia by not only opening up about his past, but also even the fact that he’s pursuing a relationship with her in the first place. That’s not exactly his modus operandi, and he’s quite honest and adorable at times as he maneuvers how to enter into a serious and monogamous relationship for the first time.

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However, in spite of his cute side he does also have two brief flashes of darkness. These come out particularly when taunting other men who want Olivia. First was with her boss during a heated standoff in her office. While Olivia confronts her boss about her new relationship with Seth, he proceeds to come up behind her, smell her neck, and tease the boss by saying “she tastes as good as she smells.” Ummm….the shade has officially been thrown!

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Then there’s a moment with Olivia’s ex boyfriend, Blade, who wants her back after seeing her photographed in a dress which he purchased for her. Seth again taunts this potential foe by saying that after one of his match fights he and Olivia went back to his hotel and he proceeded to “ruin” that dress. Daaaaaaamn. If I were Olivia I must say I’d be kind of pissed. You’re kind of crossing the line there buddy. Why not just head somewhere more private if you wanna measure who has the biggest willa walla ding dong? c8fce312f321a767d12a4f0c2a01ef01433b312c22910cca0bcdd5ad9549aa01The Best “Friend”

There was another important character in this novel, and that would be Olivia’s best friend, Selena. Not gonna lie, she annoyed the ever loving shit outta me. Definitely using the term “friend” rather loosely here if you ask me. Look, I’ve definitely had friends who were pretty much the total opposite of me. They’ve succeeded in sometimes pushing me out of my comfort zone to try new things. But, unlike Selena, they have never berated me, or made me feel like an idiot if I didn’t want to try something that made me legitimately uncomfortable. Selena doesn’t seem to understand the meaning of “no”, and often offers up judgement when Olivia wants to play things safe. Severe judgement.

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At one moment she scoffs at Olivia for turning down the opportunity of having a threesome between her and a complete stranger. During another she begs Olivia to go on a blind date in her place, and when she then learns that Seth kicked the shit out of this date she immediately calls Seth an ass without even asking Olivia’s versions of events to find out what truly happened. Said blind date was actually a drunken ass who tried to force himself on Olivia, and Seth stepped in to protect her. If I had to describe Selena in a word, it would be selfish, as she’s a woman who only cares about having fun even if at the expense of Olivia’s comfort. Not a fan.

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Series: Consumed, book 1. I’m excited to see where this story goes, and how Olivia and Seth will develop their relationship even more.

Should you read it? It’s a sexy read that held my interest, even though not a whole lot happens story-wise. I’m starting to wonder if this first book is more of a build up to book 2 that might have more struggle and drama between our characters. However, in this book we understand the framework and starting off point to their relationship, so still a good read.

Smut Level: You just know fighters have an excess amount of testosterone that’s bursting for release. One of my favorite scenes involves our couple making a mess of things in the bathtub.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $2.99 Kindle Price. Limitless Publishing LLC. 422 Pages.

 

To Win Her Smile by Mackenzie Crowne

A contemporary romance featuring a quarterback football star who eventually dons a kilt by the end of the novel. Ummm, yes please!

What’s it About? 

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When sultry British Baroness Piper Darrow falls on desperate times, she needs a diversion—and cash. As a talented photographer, she jumps at the chance to travel to the U.S. for a Manhattan Marauders football event. But she gets more than she bargained for when buff quarterback Wyatt Hunter’s errant pass lands . . . in her face. And when it results in Wyatt’s comeback of a lifetime, the superstitious athlete is convinced Piper is his good luck charm . . .

With his sights on the Super Bowl, Wyatt will do anything necessary to keep Piper close. The fact that she’s a feast for the eyes is a bonus. And as they get closer, he discovers that beneath her proper English surface is a sweet, sexy seductress. Soon the notorious playboy finds himself genuinely smitten, and surprisingly open to love—until his powerful family uncovers something about Piper that threatens to shatter his trust. Now he’ll have to decide whether to team up with his fears, or his heart.

First Impressions

I’ll admit, when this novel first started I was initially quite concerned. Our opening scene features a football game, and the stakes are high as Wyatt plays our lead quarterback competing to hopefully set the gears in motion to advance his team to their fourth Super Bowl win. So why did this concern me? I don’t do sports! Least of all football. Believe me, growing up in a Midwestern state that was all about sports rivalries I’ve more than had my fill. At the start there was quite a lot of detail involving passes, end zones, and lines of scrimmage that had me cringing in a kind of PTSD sports haze. But alas! I ended up loving this one! Our lead football star proceeds to throw his ball 60mph directly into the face of a stunning British photographer on the sidelines, and things simply go up from there!! Filled with humor, drama, sexy kitchen and elevator fun times, as well as family issues for both parties. What’s not to like?

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A British Baroness and Good Luck Charm

Piper might be a baroness, but she’s in desperate need of money to get an annoying cousin off her back who’s seeking a half million dollar inheritance. Piper risks losing her family home if she can’t pony up the pounds, but along comes a flying football to her nose to change things up. Wyatt sees her as his good luck charm, seeing as his team won a close game after the minor nose accident, and he’s willing to pay her a pretty penny to have her attend the rest of his games for the season.

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He also commissions her to photograph a calendar featuring him and his hunky teammates to raise money for Down syndrome research. However, Wyatt also makes it clear that he’s burning with lust to take the gorgeous redhead to bed, and he’ll do anything to convince her to take a chance on their blatant sexual chemistry. I must say I was rather surprised there was no initial hesitancy on Piper’s part with a possible comparison to…well…prostitution. After all, he is paying her with the intention of eventually getting her into bed, and his claims for her photography services sort of blur the lines on what exactly it is he’s paying for. To get a chance to photograph that beautiful man though? Mmm mmm mmmmm.

Secret Former Flings

For Wyatt, he’s definitely got a type in his attraction to redheads, and Piper fits the bill to perfection. As they get to know each other however, we see that his connection to her goes far beyond the physical. Wyatt is comfortable around Piper to a degree that he’s never had with another woman, and he’s willing to share things with her about his life that he’s never opened up to anyone else about. His family secrets, his home, and even his love.

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For Piper, she’s concerned entering into a relationship with Wyatt seeing as her last foray with a professional athlete ended so terribly, with the British gossip rags dragging her name and reputation through the dirt. I will say I was mildly disappointed that Piper didn’t choose to share any of this background with Wyatt until pretty late in the game. True, they initially agreed to keep things casual with no strings attached. However, as they get closer, and Piper sees the true Wyatt through her camera lens, I wanted her to willingly share more of herself with him beyond just her body. Only when he asks her to does she open up to him.

*A copy of this book was provided for an honest review*

Series: Players, book 5. I shockingly really enjoyed this one, even with it being steeped in the world of sports. I also kind of want to go back and read the other novels in the series too!

Should you read it? A fun story, albeit with a somewhat cheesy ending. When you’ve got a hottie in a kilt declaring his love though I’m 100% in. I also found Wyatt to be a highly admirable character. His father is running for president, and he knows it’s only a matter of time before his staff uncovers the history of Piper’s appearances in the press. Even though their relationship is new, and it could be so much easier to break ties, Wyatt instead chooses to stand by her. Sigh.

Smut Level: Give me a passionate scene in an elevator any day.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $4.99 Kindle Price. Lyrical Shine. 232 Pages.

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