In Your Corner by Sarah Castille

At one point in this novel Jake is helping Amanda correct her form and technique with push-ups. I gotta say…I don’t think I’ve ever come across a novel which has made this physical activity seem so damn sensual. What with all the grasping, pulling, pushing and rubbing. Oh good God the rubbing.

What’s it About?

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He rules in the ring

Two years ago, Jake and Amanda were going hot and heavy. But when Jake wanted more, Amanda walked away. Jake immersed himself in mixed martial arts, living life on the edge. But that didn’t dull the pain of Amanda’s rejection-until a chance encounter throws them together.

A high-powered lawyer, Amanda was a no-strings-attached kind of girl. But two years after her breakup with Jake, she still hasn’t found anyone who gets her heart pumping the way he did. And then he shows up in her boardroom, hot as sin and needing help…

But can he rule her heart?

Jake is darker, sexier, and impossible to resist. As their chemistry builds, Amanda’s not sure if she can stay in control, or if she’s finally willing to let him claim her body and soul.

First Impressions

Ok ladies and gents, first things first. I think we all need to take a moment to stop and appreciate the beauty of this cover art. I mean, my God, he’s like a sculpture! I never quite understood in romance novels when female leads expressed the desire of wanting to lick the tattoos of their male love interest, but after viewing this cover?! Yeah, ok I still don’t get the sentiment. Especially considering how sweaty this guy looks. Leaves a bad taste in the mouth if you ask me. But still! Beautiful man right there.

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Alright, now that that’s outta the way, we can begin! To give you all an idea of where my mind was at when starting this novel, I’d actually like to quote myself from something I wrote in my review of the first book in this series. Ahem, cue throat clearing noise, “If we ever have a future novel featuring Amanda as the female lead I’m gonna have some issues with it.” Lo and behold, who is the main character of book 2? Why Amanda of course! I must say, I really hated this character in the first novel. Here’s another gem of a quote from my last review, “Not gonna lie, this woman is a terrible friend, and quite possibly a terrible person in general.” Needless to say, I wasn’t quite looking forward to this read, but if I were ever to skip a book in a series I’m convinced the world would implode in on itself. Ok, I’m not that psychotic, but you get my point.

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Expectation vs. Reality

Imagine my shock and awe when I started reading this book to discover Amanda really wasn’t that bad. Now, personally I think there are three main components which contributed to the reason she didn’t get on my nerves as much in this book. First, it’s been two years since the end of book one. Who knows, maybe she’s been able to mature in that time. Second, we do finally get to hear things from her point of view, and it definitely puts things in perspective. Growing up Amanda was never one to hear “I love you” very often from her parents, who also held her to impeccably high standards. She’s always been closed off, putting a wall up in her relationships in an attempt to numb herself to the pain of when she would inevitably be dumped. Must have added to the whole “selfish” personality trait which was so persistent in book one. Points one and two considered, I think there is one main overbearing reason though why it was easier to like Amanda in this book compared to book 1.

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Honestly, it was like we were introduced to a completely different character. I feel as though more of the infuriating characteristics of Amanda’s personality were either toned down, or even changed entirely in order for us to like her more as a main character. In looking back on my review of the first book, one of the reasons I disliked her so much was in her treatment of Jake when the two briefly dated. I discussed how she decided to slowly faze him out because he didn’t bend to her every selfish whim, and when he said “to hell with this” he decided to break things off, at which point Amanda immediately jumped into bed with someone else. But then in this book their break up is presented in such a different light, as though she pulled away from Jake because she was afraid of opening up to him. Seems like either their break up was not fully discussed in a coherent way in the first book, and I totally misread the situation, or we’re getting a toned down version of events so that it’s easier to sympathize with Amanda. Sure, I like to believe the version of events we get in this book, but I couldn’t help but feel there was some disconnect here.

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Chasing the Climax

Amanda likes sex. No if’s, and’s or but’s about it. The connection of two people, where for the briefest of moments she can finally feel loved and desired by someone else. It’s a feeling which comes crashing down in the light of day, and so she continually tries to chase that connection. When her boss discovers her penchant for sex he tries to use it as a way to blackmail her. Either she gets down on her knees to please him, or he’ll reveal her entire dossier of past sexual partners (and it’s a pretty thick dossier) to her parents. Not only that, but he’ll tarnish her reputation all over town by saying that she was the one to proposition him. Rock, meet hard place. Audience, meet a jackass in a position of power who thinks he can manipulate a woman into spreading her legs for him.

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The fact that this form of sexual harassment happens so often in the real world makes us want to stand behind Amanda in any way possible to support her. Also, the fact that Amanda chooses to say no, to walk away with her reputation in tatters but her integrity intact? Well that makes us root for her all the more. After telling her boss to go to hell Amanda makes the brave decision to strike out on her own. To fight back against the man who tried to take advantage of her, and so many others before her. Honestly I think I liked this part of the story a lot more than the romantic aspect! I almost wish these two separate story lines could have been blended together more. It isn’t until the very end when Amanda is about to face her boss again that Jake makes a quick appearance to say that he is in her corner, but it seemed like a missed opportunity for them to discuss it more throughout the rest of the book as something to connect over. Instead they connect over something else.

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S…E…X

No more beating around the bush. Sex is a very important part of Amanda and Jake’s relationship. We discover that it’s the one way for Amanda to finally open about what she’s feeling. It’s important to remember that when our novel opens, Amanda and Jake haven’t seen each other in over two years. This ramps up their sexual desire about tenfold, as they’ve both been denying their sexual connection for quite some time. It makes every glance, every touch, that much more intriguing. But Jake wants so much more from Amanda than just sex. He wants a relationship, and for Amanda to open up to share what she’s thinking, feeling, and what she’s afraid of. Here’s the problem though. These two don’t know how to effectively communicate!

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In the beginning especially, Jake does a pretty poor job of telling Amanda exactly what he wants out of this relationship. They’ll be in the midst of a heavy make-out session when he’ll abruptly stop, say they both need to consider what they really want from this, and then turn around and leave. This makes Amanda mistakenly think he wants nothing from her. And then when Jake does finally communicate that he wants the whole kit and caboodle with her she suddenly pulls away because she doesn’t want to open up. My God girl do you want the guy or no?!?! I had trouble at times following her thought process.

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When she and Jake start to explore a sexual relationship again after two years apart, she seems so desperate to ensure this isn’t just another notch in her bedpost. She wants that high she’s been chasing for so long to finally stick with someone who makes her feel wanted, and Jake appears to be that guy. When he eventually admits he wants the same thing though she puts her walls back up. She can’t give up control. In a way it seems like now she just wants sex from him, and I must say it was kind of uncomfortable at times how she’d ignore Jake’s feelings to get it. At one point Jake was trying to put a stop once again to their sexplorations so that they could talk things over. He’s begging her to stop, to take things slow, saying no over and over again, but she just keeps rubbing up against him until they give in to their desires on the floor of a MMA fight cage. Remember everyone, no means no. However, ironically enough it turns out that having sex is the key to getting Amanda to finally open up and talk about herself! Something about that post-orgasmic sleepy bliss gets her to talk about her feelings. I have an inkling Jake won’t mind too much in the long run using that technique to ultimately have an honest conversation with the woman.

Series: Redemption, book 2. You might not believe it, but I think I may have actually liked this book better than book one. I am also excited to see what comes next in this series, as I genuinely enjoy all of the remaining characters. Nowhere to go but up, right?

Should you read it? So, just like the previous book I can’t say this was my favorite read ever. Jake and Amanda seem like they are caught up in a never-ending circle of getting close and then breaking away into their separate corners for introspection before eventually coming together again. It got tiring and repetitive after a while. That being said, it starts and ends strong, as this is when we see Amanda stand up for herself against her boss, and go after what she wants in a relationship with Jake. It’s just that measly middle section where she starts to doubt anything and everything about her life. Could have been tweaked a bit.

Smut Level: Vibrating panties and a penis piercing. Enough said. She’s also never been spanked before, and Jake is more than happy to introduce her to it.

Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Sourcebooks Casablanca. 302 Pages.

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Taking Shots by Toni Aleo

She watches the 2005 version of Pride and Prejudice every night before falling asleep. With no mention at all of the Colin Firth version?!?! Not gonna lie, I kind of judge. 
What’s it About? 
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Elli Fisher has never thought she was good enough, let it be her job, her weight, her love life, nothing. That is until she meets Shea Adler. After doing a promotional shoot for the NHL team, the Assassins, she meets the hunky hockey player who shoots a puck, shattering her world. Shea Adler was tired of the life he was living outside of the rink. The girls, the money blowing, the drinking, everything had to stop and it all did when he met Eleanor Fisher. He had never met anyone like her. She was feisty, witty, shy, and simply gorgeous. When he laid eyes on her, it was as if he was taking the hardest hit of his life into the boards, and he had to have her. Elli is a little skeptical of Shea, but he knows that they were meant to be together, and he needed her in his life. Can Elli throw her insecurities out the window and love Shea with everything inside of her, or will she let a past relationship, and her family ruin any chance of her being happy.
First Impressions 
This book was like an accent smorgasbord. I listened to this romance as an audio book and I must say the narrator did a fantastic job with the various accents presented throughout the novel. From our female lead with her Nashville twang, to the hockey star with his Boston accent, and even an adorably romantic supplementary character from Russia. The narrator captures them all effortlessly. Considering how difficult it can be for an audio book narrator to reflect an American accent actively, I was thoroughly impressed with her ability to effectively present so many varied voices.
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This novel does start off with a pretty adorable meet-cute between our male and female lead, Shea and Elli. He’s the stunning hockey captain of her favorite hometown team, and she’s the photographer scheduled to take shots of him and his teammates. To say Elli is a little star struck is quite the understatement. The fact that he starts openly flirting as she snaps his photo has her floored. Their dynamic is just so darn cute in the beginning, but unfortunately things sort of start to go downhill from there.
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A Dragging Romance 
If I had to give you one piece of advice when it came to this novel it would be to try and find the abridged version. The audio book I listened to was the unabridged copy, and ran for almost 15 hours, aka almost 600 Kindle pages. While the initial meeting between Hockey Star and photographer was rather sweet, things just started to drag on from that point. There’s a pretty large portion of the book which seems rather uneventful, and we are presented with a pretty typical romance timeline. We have the meet cute, the pursuit, the first date, and everything else you can predict in an early romance with very little surprise. I just kept waiting around for something to happen. Unfortunately, once we finally do get a little bit of action, it’s rather unsatisfying. Or, maybe depressing is a more appropriate word.
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The Black Sheep of the Family
While the introduction of Elli and Shea’s romance seems to drag on for quite some time, in reality they start to fall for each other pretty quickly. Or at least, Shea falls for Elli extremely fast. She has some past drama from her previous relationship which has left her hesitant to admit her feelings for Shea. However, it’s not long before we get to see the good ole introduction to the family. And my goodness, is it a shit show. Elli’s father is a pure Angel, but unfortunately her mother is the devil incarnate, while her sister is the Antichrist. Both women openly antagonize Elli over her former weight issues, and at one point her mother even slaps her hand away from grabbing a second helping of food.
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The scene would have to be the most memorable of the novel for me, and by far the most frustrating. Firstly, the rest of Elli’s family puts up with this behavior as typical. Her father sort of comes to her defense at one point, but doesn’t put a whole lot of backbone into it. As for Shea, he is noticeably shocked at the family’s behavior and attitude towards Elli, but he doesn’t come to her defense until after Elli leaves the room in a ball of tears. I understand wanting to leave a nice first impression when meeting the family, but I felt like when her hand was slapped away he should have just grabbed Elli’s other hand and pulled her from the room to leave. No reason to put up with that kind of crap. But here was the main reason I had an issue with this scene. 
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Elli let Shea walk into the lions den with no preparation whatsoever. She knew this would happen. Her mother and sister had always made fun of her because of her weight, and she knew it was just a matter of time before their true nature would come to light. However, Elli never told Shea that her female relatives were such terrible people. Or that she used to sing on Broadway, that she gained over 100 lbs following a thyroid issue, or that she was once engaged to a jackass who cheated on her. Instead she lets her mother and sister surprise him completely with all the details of her past. Every…single…one.
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She didn’t need to tell him everything, but some warning probably would have been a good idea. Or maybe just delay having brunch with the family until you feel comfortable enough opening up to your boyfriend about the basics of your past. Shea is understandably upset to discover that Ellie kept so much hidden from him, and for a brief moment her secrets even threaten their relationship. Although he initially turns away from her, it isn’t long before he goes running back to take her up in his arms once again, and put the unfortunate events behind them.
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The Unwanted Kiss
After the brunch from hell, things pretty much go back to normal. We are just waiting, waiting, waiting for something dramatic or substantive to happen. And when it does I must say it pissed me off. At this point we are pretty late in the novel, and both of our lead characters have openly admitted how much they love each other. Shea even threw a Pride and Prejudice themed birthday party for Elli. That’s love folks. And so we’ve arrived at the moment where Shea decides Elli is the woman he wants to spend the rest of his life with, and it’s time to purchase a ring. And who does he allow to accompany him on this shopping adventure? None other than Elli’s terrible, heartless sister. Look, we all know something’s going to go wrong here. Even Shea knows it. And yet he hopes that by bringing her along it will help to bring the sisters closer together. Such a naive rabbit.
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So it isn’t long before her sister kisses Shea right in front of Elli, and of course this causes both Shea and Elli to flip their lids. Shea immediately tells Elli how her sister was setting him up, that she kissed him while he just pushed her away, and that he sees nothing in her. And here was the reason I really didn’t like this scene. Her sister has never been anything but openly hostile with Elli. Spouting verbal abuse left and right that even I would have trouble yelling at my worst enemy, let alone my sister, and yet for some reason I will never understand Elli chooses to believe her sister when she said Shea kissed her.
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Like…what in the actual hell? She calls Shea a liar, an ass hole, and immediately packs up her stuff to move out of his apartment. Elli refuses to listen to Shea’s logical explanation, answer his calls, or read his texts. She has no doubt in her mind whatsoever that he pursued her sister, and that he doesn’t actually love her. Even though he has never done anything throughout their entire relationship to demonstrate otherwise, and he’s always been entirely forthcoming with how much he loves her, even when she couldn’t admit it herself.  
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I tried to keep telling myself that they really haven’t been dating all that long. It’s only been four months, they’re already living together, and they’ve both declared their love for each other. In addition, the fact her ex-fiancé was a cheating ass makes it reasonable for her to be suspicious of Shea, right? Sorry but throughout this whole ordeal I couldn’t see Elli’s side. Maybe if she had been on slightly better terms with her sister I might have found her disgust towards Shea a tad more plausible. Or if she in any way doubted her decision after leaving Shea behind. But when Elli chose her malicious sister over Shea, who has never been anything but a loving gentleman to her, I couldn’t help but think, “You know what Shea, maybe you should just let her go.” It’s always Shea going after Elli, fighting for their relationship, whereas she gives up so easily. If she’s so willing to walk away…maybe he should just let her walk away. I know that makes me sound like such a non-romantic, but considering she kept her entire past a secret from him, and is now so willing to give up on their relationship I couldn’t help but feel that Shea deserved better. 
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Series: Assassins, book 1. I’m gonna keep going with this one. After all, we have a whole hockey team to look forward too. 
Should you read it? I loved the start of this novel. I loved that a tough-as-nails hockey captain like Shea could be so openly romantic and affectionate. I loved the supplemental characters who had their own romantic story lines going on. Unfortunately, Elli really wasn’t my favorite character. I didn’t like that she never seemed to give 100%, or heck even 60%, of herself to her relationship with Shea. He really seemed to be the glue holding them together, and he constantly put in 140% to make up for her hesitancy. It was only during the very last scene that Elli chose to make a big romantic gesture to win Shea back. Perhaps too little too late?
Smut Level: Things are kind of slow going at first as Elli is very self conscious about her body’s appearance after gaining and losing so much weight following a medical issue. But Shea is more than willing to show her that he finds every inch of her delectable. 
Get it on Amazon: Click Here. $3.99 Kindle Price. Loveswept Publishing. 594 Pages.

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.

 

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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