Book Review: Cutter by Ashley Suzanne

Life advice I’ve picked up from reading romance: if you think not telling the father of your child that he’s the father of your child is a good idea, you’re probably wrong.


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
When a fighter comes back to town a few years after his girlfriend broke it off with him, he finds a secret that she’s kept from him for three years. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Friends First
Cutter is a homeless teen until he’s taken in by a couple who own a gym. He starts as a custodian, then becomes a fighter when he wants to impress a pretty girl who works there. Josette is determined to get through school, get her degree, and make something of herself. Which means no time for a relationship, except that she enjoys hanging out with Cutter and the attraction between them is very real. The obvious solution? A friends with benefits agreement.

There It Is…There It Isn’t
It’s not until Cutter is ready to leave for Vegas to further his fighting career that he and Josette decide to try to be an actual couple, long distance and all. But when Josette finds out she’s pregnant, everything changes. She tells him that she’s going to “take care of it” because with him leaving and her plans for the future, there’s no way she can be a mother. And Cutter, being of the mind that it’s her choice, lets her do what she thinks is best, even though he wants her to have the baby. The whole thing leaves Josette with the feeling that they can’t be together, and so she breaks up with him right before he leaves, refusing to answer his emails and leaving him heartbroken.


Then and Now
Fast forward a couple years later and Cutter is returning home to visit the couple who took him in. He’s had a good career and hasn’t been home since he left, and the last thing he wants to do is run into Josette. But when he sees her at a social gathering, not only do old feelings rear up, but he also finds that she’s not alone. She has a daughter.

Character Conflict
I liked Cutter and Josette as characters, and this was one of the stories I’ve read lately where the conflict is completely between the two main characters (no outside danger in this one). Cutter is severely pissed that Josette never told him about having the baby and even more pissed when he finds that she’s seeing an old enemy of his from the gym. Josette thinks she did what was right in not ruining his career by telling him about the baby. However, she’d recently had some conscience issues and had been trying to figure out how to drop the bombshell. Unfortunately, she didn’t do it in time, and Cutter is left angry and hurt but sure he wants to be part of his daughter’s life.

Realistic Feels
The struggle between these two is so real. There were a lot of emotions and parts of the story that totally broke my heart. I also had a lot of anger at Josette. She was a good character, but she was also flawed in that her way of thinking was so selfish. Good intentions or not, how the heck is not telling the father of your kid what’s up a good thing? I especially liked that Cutter’s friends, who’d always liked Josette, called her out on her BS and told her how dumb she’d been.


Kid Alert
The parts with the little girl were well written and I didn’t find them annoying as I sometimes do in novels. I thought that Josette’s single mother journey seemed a little easy. She’d finished school and got a good job all while raising a baby, and though there seemed to be a few people who helped her out, it felt way too easy. I know she was super prepared and organized and had laid a lot of groundwork for her future early, but babies seem way more complicated and difficult than that.

The Romance Factor
The secret child trope is not my standard heartstring stuff, but I enjoyed how much Cutter and Josette really loved each other even when they were fighting. I thought the things they had to work through were genuinely difficult, and I liked that Cutter had to come to terms with his hurt and anger towards her to be able to move on. 3/5

The Steam Factor
There aren’t many sexy times, but there a few that are fairly spicy. 4/5

Final Thoughts
There’s a lot of the redemption theme in this book, and the story is a classic case of good intentions gone wrong. I enjoyed the emotion and the overall plot and thought the narrative and characters were strong. I haven’t read the first book in the series, but that didn’t matter. I got the jist of things and it’s fine to read this one as a standalone.

Book Review: Crazy About Love by Cassie Mae

I enjoyed the last book I read by this author so much that I didn’t even hesitate to request this one from NetGalley, even though the description might not have been one that appealed to me. I’m so glad I did. I loved this book and would list it at the top of my “fun” reads.


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
To try to get over being in love with one of his best friends, an actor uses a bachelor auction as his opportunity to force himself to move on. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Unrequited Love
Alec has been in love with his longtime friend Theresa for years. Unfortunately, after he confessed his love to her, she rejected him. She wasn’t unkind about it, but Alec found it was harder to be around her. So he pulled away. And in the course of their friendship, he did this several times, always being there for her when she needed him, but then always avoiding her afterwards to save his heart (though it wasn’t really working, but whatever).

When Theresa asks him to fill in as a bachelor at a charity auction she’s helping organize, he reluctantly agrees. When a local artist wins him, Alec decides this is his chance to really try to move on from Theresa and he commits to having a good time and trying to find a connection with his date for the evening.

Time to Move On?
The first half of the book is told from Alec’s point of view and switches between his present date and his past interactions with Theresa, including meeting her for the first time, being there for her when she got robbed, and, most recently, the night they spent together a few weeks, prior after which Alec pulled away from her again, figuring it was only going to be a one night thing. While the flashbacks are poignant and sweet, his date with the artist is hilarious, mostly because of all the weird things that keep happening. Like the fact that every time Alec tries to kiss his date, something strange happens…like food flying at him and basketballs coming out of nowhere.


Finally Ready!
The second half of the book switches to Theresa’s point of view throughout her relationship with Alec and during his date. After a relationship that took a toll on her emotionally, she’s finally ready to be with him and admit how much she loves him. But when he ends up being won by another woman at the auction, she’s afraid she’s lost her chance. So she does what any self-respecting woman would do: she plays stalker for the evening.

Part of the reason the synopsis didn’t appeal to me was because my knee jerk reaction to Theresa was that she was selfish and kept the poor guy hanging on for no reason. But that’s not entirely correct. When Alec tells her he loves her, she’s in a weird situation with her long distance boyfriend, and the timing is just off. It genuinely takes her time to get it together and be the person Alec deserves.


The Romance Factor
Who knew unrequited love could be so sweet? I generally feel uncomfortable for characters who are hopelessly and one-sidedly in love, and there was a little bit of that with Alec. But on the other hand, once I figured out what was going on, I was invested and totally rooting for him to get his HEA. Even in the flashbacks, it’s obvious Alec and Theresa should be together. The journey to them getting there is a little bit heart wrenching, but also fun.

The Steam Factor
There’s a little bit of steam, but not a lot of graphic details. Just enough to let you know what’s going on. 2/5

Final Thoughts
This was a fun read that was both funny and sadly sweet at times. Not only did I love the story, but I liked the way it was laid out, giving both view points in two different halves of the book.

Book Review: This One Moment by Stina Lindenblatt

I seem to have fallen into a kick of reading romance novels that have a dark aspect and/or mystery to them. I’m not complaining, but one of these days I’m going to need to find something super lighthearted to balance this all out.


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A music star goes home when he finds out his best friend from high school is in a coma despite the fact that the town holds bad memories for him. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Embracing Those Repressed Memories
Nolan is shocked when one of his friends calls to tell him that his best friend and the girl he was in love with for years is in a coma, having been attacked in a shady section of their hometown. Even though Nolan hasn’t been home in five years and hasn’t talked to Hailey (the one in the coma) in all that time, he goes back to see her, even though he knows that doing so could trigger memories of the night his father killed his mom and sister.

One Way to Masochist
Hailey never confessed her own feelings to Nolan, but she was hurt when he left without keeping in touch. Yet she seems to accept his reasons and tries to enjoy the fact that he is back and she gets to spend at least a little time with him. She “knows” he doesn’t return her feelings and that he’ll be going back to L.A. soon, so she tries to guard herself against feeling that hurt all over again.


Everyone’s Taking Crazy Pills
Part of their time together includes trying to solve the mystery of who attacked her and put her into a coma. She can’t remember anything from the attack or the few days leading up to it. Other weird things happen, and I kind of liked that you never know which things relate to her attack and which things just sort of happen.  Fair warning: between Nolan’s past and Hailey’s attack, this story contains some dark themes. It kind of feels like a small town story, but for a small town, a lot of crazy stuff happens (the town is probably actually a city and I just read it wrong).

The Fame Life
Another wrench is thrown into their reunion when the media gets ahold of their relationship and Nolan’s fans start threatening Hailey for stealing him from his fake media girlfriend. The paparazzi also get their hands on the info regarding Nolan’s past, and things kind of get nutty from there. Stupid media.



I enjoyed the trope of best friends who love each other but are too afraid to tell each other the truth. It’s one of those angsty things that could be solved with a little communication, but I can relate to the fear of telling a friend you have feelings for them and potentially ruining the relationship, which is the situation that Nolan and Hailey find themselves in.

Stage Names Are Real
I understood most of what was going on with Nolan’s rock star status, but it seemed weird that when his real name came out that it turned into a thing. A lot of celebs have a real name they don’t use and it tends not to be a huge deal. While I can buy it was kind of an issue where his bandmates were concerned, it seems weird that it wasn’t just presented to the general public that he’d chosen a different stage name.

The Romance Factor
The romance is strong for me because I love this type of story (best friends to lovers). I thought the parts where they were together were epically sweet and it was sad when Nolan left to go back to L.A. I had one of those reader moments when I was like “Dude, are you really going to be that stupid?” The question wasn’t so much as to why he was going back to L.A. (he had a career he enjoyed and all that), but why he didn’t ask Hailey to go with him. 4/5

The Steam Factor
Steamy, but not frequent. The sexy times were titillating, though they still had the melancholy feel of the rest of the story. 4/5

Final Thoughts
This was not a happy cheery story by any means, but I still enjoyed it. Good writing and the emotions from the characters came through strong, which is always a win for me.

Book Review: Cuff Me by Lauren Layne

I love the Moretti brothers. I love friends to lovers romance. I love the angst of two people who are very obviously in love but don’t know who to let the other one know because they don’t think the other one is interested.  This book was several hours of sheer reading crack.


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
Partner detectives who’ve been close friends suddenly find tension in their relationship when she becomes engaged. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Emotionally Frozen
I love heroes who have a vulnerable side, and Vin Moretti fits that to a tea. He’s stoic and gruff, and the only person other than his family that he’s accepted into his life is his partner, Jill. In fact, he’s sure he has a thing for her. But Vin is convinced he lacks normal emotions and that he doesn’t have it in him to love someone. Though he can’t pinpoint a reason for his cold nature, his mom sheds some light on the subject at one point in the story. Talk about an “aww” moment.

Jumping Into Marriage…to the Wrong Guy
Jill, on the other hand, is a ray of sunshine who has a lot of love to give, and she’s at the point where she’s ready to settle down and give it. Since her first choice, Vin, doesn’t seem to reciprocate her feelings (other than the friendly ones), she says yes when a man she met in Florida asks her after having only known her a few months. He’s the kind of guy most women would love to marry, but Jill finds herself struggling with her choice when she gets back to New York. She should be happy, but she’s not.


The tension and build-up between Jill and Vin is amazing. Though they’ve never had a problem communicating before, they suddenly find themselves in situations where they don’ talk because of the weirdness between them. In fact, their perfect work record even looks like it’s going to get its first mark when they can’t figure out any leads on the recent murder of a actress. I love their banter. Layne brings her epic dialogue skills to the story, while at the same time pulling us effectively into each characters head.

Family Dynamics
Of course, we get appearances from all the Morettis and the new Moretti wives and girlfriends from the previous books. One of the main themes for Jill is that the Morettis have always treated her like family, but she realizes that when she marries the other guy, she’s going to lose that. I liked that her inner conflict was mostly about Vin, but it was also about the relationship she’d built with his entire family.


The Romance Factor
The conflict that comes when two characters are in love with each other but don’t think the other reciprocates is the best. Vin goes between feeling possessive and determined to win Jill to feeling like he’ll never be able to give her what she wants, and poor Jill is pulled in all sorts of directions. 5/5

The Steam Factor
The sexy times are few but effective. Because the build-up is so strong, it feels explosive and sensual without being overly graphic. 4/5

Final Thoughts
This series was great from the start, but I think this one is my favorite (and I thought the 2nd one would be hard to beat). There was a romance, a little bit of danger, a lot of sexual tension, and the great side characters and developed relationships that are always found in the author’s novels.

Book Review: Falling for Max by Shannon Stacey

This is one of the later books in the Kowalski family series, but it’s the first one I heard about and it grabbed my attention right away. Nerdy, shy hero? I am all over that! And while it definitely feels like a later book with all of the other relationships and references to past plots, I didn’t feel so lost in the history that I couldn’t enjoy the story


One-Sentence Synopsis
A waitress befriends a shy, socially awkward man and sets out to help him find a wife. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Loving the Shy Guy
Everything about this book was complete crack for me. Max is the super awkward town resident who’s somewhat of a mystery and was at one time speculated to be a serial killer (jokingly…sort of). But the truth is that he spends a lot of time on his own because he doesn’t relate to people well and has always been known been seen as odd (though it’s never stated, he seems to have Asperger’s). But over time, he’s made friends and has went out of his comfort zone to actually go out and keep himself from becoming too reclusive. And one of the things he wants to do? Find a wife and have kids. But he realizes that to get there, he needs to find someone to date first.

Collateral Damage
Tori is a graphic designer and waitress who has an instant connection with Max. Witnessing his shyness, she offers to not only help him find someone in town to date, but to also teach him how to be a little more at ease with someone in a conversation. They become friends quickly, and though Tori finds him attractive, the shock and hurt of her parents’ divorce has made her built a wall against trying to find a relationship for herself, fearful that it would end with hateful and mean words, and the last thing she wants to do is hurt Max.

Friends to Lovers
I love foreplay in my stories, but I also like a good slow burn where feelings develop naturally, and this story falls into tha category. When their friendship starts, Tori and Max really do plan on just being friends, regardless of what others seem to think when they see them hanging out together. It’s a small town, and people speculate, and they figure that once Max starts dating someone, the talk will die down.


The natural way they start realizing they want to be more than friends is well paced, and so by the time Max finally admits that he wants a relationship with Tori, there’s no feeling of insta-love.

Flaws & All
Max wanting a wife and kids feels old fashioned but it’s so sweet. His being excited to have kids thing made me melt (and I’m not even a kid person). It was also endearing, though sad, how self aware he was of his own oddness, and how happy he was to finally have a group of friends he could spend time with.

Tori frustrated me with her fear of getting close to Max, but I felt that her reasons were sound, so rather than being an annoying character who went around in circles that didn’t make sense. I completely understood where she was coming from. The fact that her mother was a horrible person kind of cemented that understanding.

The Romance Factor
Max makes such a good romantic hero, and the fact that he tries to give Tori what she wants when she says she wants to be friends with benefits, even when he knows he wants more, made me want to hug him. I mean, to be honest, I kind of wanted to hug him throughout the whole book. More importantly, I wanted Tori to hug him. 5/5


The Steam Factor
Though we get to see some of the sexy times and thoughts between Max and Tori, it doesn’t go into need-a-cold-shower territory. In fact, the sex is just as sweet as the rest of their relationship. 3/5

Final Thoughts
While I’m glad I read this book, I wish I would have started with the first book and got to know the rest of the characters and followed Max’s story up to the point he meets Tori. When I heard about this on a podcast, that seemed to be one of the things people enjoyed, that they’d been hoping he would get his own story. The good news is that I enjoyed this book so much that I figure if I go back to start at the beginning and read the whole series, I’ll be ready to re-read this one when I get to it.

Book Review: The #5Star Affair by Allyson Lindt

Anyone familiar with the whole Gamergate fiasco will find this story very familiar. If you’re like me and found much of that whole thing fairly disgusting, you’ll likely have a strong reaction to the plot.


One-Sentence Synopsis
A game reviewer faces major online harassment when her identity is made known, a situation complicated by the relationship she’s falling into with her game developer roommate. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

Hidden Identity
As angry as this book made me and as hard as it was to read at times due to the harassment Jaycie is faced with, I really enjoyed it. Jaycie is the game reviewer who doesn’t mince words. If a game is bad, she’s going to call it out for being bad, despite the nasty comments and social media reactions she gets from butthurt game designers and fanboys. When she realizes that the guy who placed an ad for a roommate works for a game company, she knows she should decline the offer. But she doesn’t, making him promise to keep her identity a secret and not to get angry about any reviews yet to come out.

Opinion Shifts
Ethan feels an immediate connection with Jaycie, including an attraction that he tells himself he can’t act on. And for awhile he doesn’t. Being the nice guy he is, he doesn’t treat her any differently because she’s a woman who enjoys gaming, and he promises to keep her secret. As they get to know each other and he finds out more about her, Ethan starts seeing the industry through her eyes.


Not All People Suck
When things blow up and Jaycie’s identity is revealed to the public as part of an accusation that she’s exchanging sex for good reviews, Ethan is there to support her. Not only does he become her rock and her protector, but he helps her take steps to fight what’s happening to her in whatever ways she can. He also tries to guard her from the harassment she gets when someone leaks her contact information and saving her from being attacked by a friend of her ex’s who’s been stalking her for awhile.


Food for Thought
Ethan and Jaycie’s relationship isn’t perfect. They have bumps along the way. He gets angry when he gets her latest review, even though he promised not to. They also highlight many of the dynamics and perceptions about sexism in the industry through their arguments and disagreements. But his willingness to change his views and his protectiveness of her are sweet and shed some light and hope on a situation that really sucks for a woman.

The Romance Factor
The great tension that lead up to Ethan and Jaycie getting together and the sweet way they treat each other is the perfect balm for the other emotions that the harder themes invoke. They’re a cute couple and their friends-to-lovers journey is genuine and paced well. 5/5

The Steam Factor
Jaycie and Ethan only get their groove on a couple times in the course of the story, but there’s a lot of sexual tension and it’s definitely racy when the clothes do come off. Their couch encounter is especially erotic and fun. 4/5

Final Thoughts
If there was anything I didn’t like about this book, it was that the first several pages seemed to have a lot of commas, and the cadence threw me off a bit. But it quickly found its groove (or I quickly acclimated to it) and the rest of it flowed well. Definitely an enjoyable read that hit all my romance crack buttons.

Book Review: Wallbanger by Alice Clayton

I’d heard good things, but I waited until I was coming off a heavier read to enjoy this one, since people said it was funny. The premise seemed strange, at least for purposes of a meet-cute, but it ended up being really awesome and, as promised, hilarious.


One-Sentence Synopsis
A woman on an orgasm hiatus is annoyed by her neighbor’s loud, wall-shaking sexual antics, not expecting that giving him a piece of her mind one night would lead to a strange friendship…and then something more. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

80% Satisfaction Rate
Having just moved into a new apartment, Caroline is happy with her life. She has a cat who doesn’t like men but seems to adore her, she loves her living space and her friends and her job. The only thing she doesn’t enjoy is the fact that a bad experience with an ex has left her unable to have an orgasm, even a self-induced one, and it’s put a damper on her sex life.



Being Neighborly
If her lack of fulfillment weren’t already frustrating, her apartment walls are super thin, so she can hear the nightly activities of her neighbor Simon, who rotates through a “harem” of three different women, each with their own sexual quirks that Caroline identifies them by. At first, it’s amusing, but when Caroline can’t sleep because of all the noise, she snaps one night and goes over to Simon’s apartment to yell at him. What she didn’t expect was that from that moment, he was going to figure into her dreams and that coincidentally, their lives were going to intertwine through their friends.

I Am Woman
Caroline is cute and quirky, and when I first started reading, I thought she might be a little too cute and quirky. I know people hate the Mary Sue term, but part of me was cautious that she might be that type of character. She quickly became an easily likable character. I liked that she was comfortable with herself and referred to herself as hot. The girl had self esteem, even though she wasn’t in denial about her sexual issues.

How One Handles Their O
And that was another thing I thought was well done and not usually talked about in this genre: sexual dysfunction. While Caroline wasn’t assaulted, her bad sex experience did cause a psychological bump her in her sexuality, and I think this is something that doesn’t get talked about as much as it should. Being that sex is so intimate and important, there are a lot of things that can go wrong and trigger weird reactions. No, she didn’t treat the experience like a rape, and she knew it was consensual. But afterwards, she was rightly angry about it and obviously didn’t want to be confronted with her ex-again.

Simon Says
As for Simon, it took me a little while to get my head around the fact that the main love interest was going to be introduced via sex with women other than the heroine. I’m not prudish about this, and I’ve read many books where something like this is the case, but I don’t know…it just seemed strange in this setting. Once again though, first impressions dissolved once the story got going, and Simon’s development and the way he fell for Caroline was sweet.


Minor Players
I loved the subplots as well, minor as they were. The relationships of their friends were funny, especially the role Caroline and Simon played in those mini-dramas. I also loved the cat, who, as strange as it sounds, is enticed by the meowing of one of Simon’s lovers. I know, it sounds weird, but it’s actually really funny in the context of this story.

Quirky Novel, Quirky Writing
The dialogue and banter is funny, and I enjoyed that even though most of the book is told from Caroline’s point of view, a few chapters take a bit of a different twist. There are chapters made up of nothing but texts between the various characters, a chapter where we read the various thoughts of four different people in a car, and even a chapter from the cat’s point of view.

The Romance Factor
There is so much foreplay in this book. Simon and Caroline go from enemies to friends, then friends to lovers, and every time they got cozy, I had that inner conflict of wanting them to do something and wanting them to hold out longer. I loved the evolution of their relationship and the way that Caroline’s orgasm issues affected how she saw things. Also, Simon turns out to be incredibly sweet, and though Caroline falls in love with him, she still seems happy to hold on to her independence. 4/5

The Steam Factor
The original scenes with Simon and the other women were more funny than they were steamy, but the sexual tension between him and Caroline definitely adds a high dose of buildup. When they do finally break through the tension (if you know what I’m saying), it’s hot, it’s a relief, and it goes on for a really long time. Even during the sexy times, there is still that humor that the book as whole has, and it makes those scenes just as fun. 4/5

Final Thoughts
This one kept me up late. I even tried to go to sleep and couldn’t because I wanted to see what happened next. I love the author’s voice and I enjoyed the characters and can’t wait to read more of this series, as well as more by Alice Clayton.

How Forever Feels by Laura Drewry

Sometimes you just need a sweet romance that doesn’t put your hormones in overdrive. NetGalley suggested I read this one since I’d read and liked its predecessor, and I think it’s safe to say that Laura Drewry is definitely a go-to for a mild contemporary that still delivers on the feels.


I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A game developer reunites with his ex-sister-in-law only to discover he still has feelings for her, despite the fact that he’ll have to choose between her and his family. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

The Good Stuff
I love an awkward hero, and Jack is awkward, not only because he has long held feelings for Maya, but because he knows his family wouldn’t approve. While this type of family dynamic annoys me, I thought Jack’s reasons for being loyal to his family were solid, and his backstory only made him that more likeable.


The catty woman in me liked how Maya unwaveringly and unapologetically referred to her ex’s new fiance as Skank through the entire book. It cracked me up and felt all too real.

Things That Made Me Go Hmmm
I hated Will (the ex) and I didn’t like Stella (Skank), and I think that speaks to just how well the author put me into Jack and Maya’s mindsets. There are moments when both have a redeeming quality, and other than being Will’s other woman, Stella wasn’t a bad person. But I appreciated that the author didn’t try to make me like either one of them.


There’s a huge amount of exposition at the beginning in the form of Maya telling her friends the backstory of her and Jack. I prefer stories to unfold over time, as scenes like this often feel forced as a way to bring the reader up-to-date.

The Romance Factor
Not only is this a sweet, slow burn romance, but it’s one that has to overcome a lot of obstacles. Even though the two admit their feelings early on, there’s a lot more at play than the “Does he/she love me” conflict. 5/5

The Steam Factor
As I said before, sometimes you just want romance. While there are a few sexy times, the scenes aren’t detailed or scandalous. 2/5

Final Thoughts
This series is cute, and while sometimes fun, it doesn’t shy away from some of life’s real challenges when it comes to romance.

Goodreads Review: Laid Out by Sidney Halston

My last review coincided with me getting ready to attend a spring outdoors camping weekend, and this one is being written as I sit at home recovering from said weekend. While it was quite a bit of fun, there were also some challenges that I need to work through before I do this again. However, I did learn the joys of archery, and hopefully by the time this publishes, that will be a thing I’m doing. Speaking of sporty type things, I’ve found a new love for sports related romances. This one includes MMA fighting, though mostly in passing. I liked this book…high angsty love drama for the win! The book is scheduled to release on August 18th. 

Laid Out (Worth the Fight, #4)Laid Out by Sidney Halston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I received a free ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Cain and Violet were best friends growing up. As adults, they’re still friends, but things have changed. Cain, who has always been in love with Violet, can’t bring himself to pursue a relationship with her because of his guilt regarding their other childhood friend and Violet’s fiance, who died in the service. Violet can’t bring herself to date due to a lack of confidence brought about by a strict and critical father. When Cain decides to help her become more confident, he promises he can do it without ruining their friendship.

I wasn’t entirely sure I was going to like this book, especially because there are parts of each character that are really not likeable. However, it turned out to be enjoyable and a good standalone story (even though its part of a series).

The plot used a few different tropes, including military man, girl with confidence issues, and friends to lovers, but whereas in a lot of stories the tropes are fairly straightforward, these ones had layers, so the plot felt intricate and fleshed out. There was conflict coming from several directions, so the resolution didn’t feel easy and the angst level, especially for Cain, was really high.

There was one plot point I would have liked to see developed further, and that was Cain’s MMA fighting. It was mostly talked about it narrative. There were a few fight scenes when Cain was fighting for scary Russians, but those felt like teasers. Also, movies and books have taught me that you generally don’t start doing stuff for the Russian mob and then just stop whenever you want. Maybe they weren’t really the mob, and maybe that’s reality and Hollywood biffed it again, but it felt like the story started down one path and then detoured without looking back.

Cain and Violet are interesting characters who I sort of liked but who also irked me. Violet had body confidence issues and was slightly obsessed with thinking she was fat (she was a curvy character). There was a lot of negative self talk, even though she was contradictory and often said that she really liked and accepted who she was when clearly she didn’t.

Cain is actually a major jerk through most of the book. His mood changes frequently and he goes from being sweet and affectionate with Violet to ignoring her completely. I felt that she took a lot of emotional abuse from him and kept coming back for more. As the reader, I likes that the author switched points of view, because knowing Cain’s thought processes actually helped in dealing with this character. Also, he decides that after Violet can get naked in front of him without feeling embarrassed, she’s obviously ready to date. This drove me nuts because yeah, I get he was trying to teach her self confidence, but dude…just because she can get naked in front of one guy doesn’t mean she’s ready to take it full monty everywhere she goes.

I think what made me enjoy this book overall was that it was so much romantic angst (unrequited love was another trope), and though I’m not always a fan, I really liked it as part of this story. The Romance Factor is a strong 5/5 for that reason and because for all his flaws, I could buy how much Cain adored Violet. The Sex Factor also gets a 5/5 because the sexy times were intense and sweet and were paced well so that they didn’t take up half the story but made an impact when the did come into play.

The book was technically well written, though this arc had several minor errors in wording and grammar, including a random switch from 3rd to 1st person POV. I’m assuming those will get ironed out before publishing. Overall, this was a pleasant surprise and was hard to put down, especially at the end. I’d definitely read more from this author and might look into some other MMA novels as well.

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Goodreads Review: Blurred Lines by Lauren Layne

As I write this, I’m getting ready to pack for another Becoming an Outdoors Woman weekend, this one for the spring, but I wish I could say I was excited. I’ve taken several steps back in my health journey, and am currently back at walking with pain. However, by the time this actually publishes, I’m hoping to be back in shape and walking all over the place (having survived BOW, of course). As for this book review, I think we all know how I feel about getting a Lauren Layne ARC. It’s like Christmas, but I get it a few times a year or whenever she releases a book and NetGalley loves me enough to approve me for it, as they did with this one. This book is set to release in August, and if you like friends to lovers stories, this one is one of the best I’ve read. 

Blurred LinesBlurred Lines by Lauren Layne

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Parker knows that men and women can just be friends. Best friends, in fact. She knows this, because she and Ben have been best friends for 6 years and have never had the urge to sleep with each other, even as roommates. So when her boyfriend dumps her, Parker comes to conclusion that she just wants casual sex. Then she comes to the conclusion that since she needs to have a connection with someone first, casual sex with her best friend is just the thing the doctor ordered. Because they’ve been friends so long, it’s not going to get weird, right?

Friends-to-lovers is one of those tropes that I find fun and realistic (to a degree), and I love the way Lauren Layne made this trope work. It’s a familiar story, but the way it plays out is fun and kind of like crack…I had a hard time putting this book down. I seriously wanted to skip a gaming session to read this book. I didn’t, but I did manage to stay up and finish this book in a few hours, so win for me!

The plot moves along at a good pace and builds well to the angst of the 2 characters. Their friendship is solid, and I liked the foundation of a good, comfortable relationship. What makes the story better is that it doesn’t start with unrequited love. One is not consciously in love with the other, and though I don’t mind that trope either, I really liked that we got to watch both persons’ feelings develop alongside each other.

Parker and Ben are adorable as besties. I loved how comfortable they were with each other and like all of Layne’s dialogue, theirs is easy and familiar. It’s like reading a book about people I know. Their chemistry comes across to the reader early, but it’s great when characters are blind, even more so when other characters pick up on it.

There were also some really interesting side characters, such as Ben’s friend Joe and Parker’s co-worker Eryn, who’s kind of a bitch at first but ends up having layers. I also loved Parker’s family (her mom is kind of a riot).

The Romance Factor for this book gets the coveted 5/5 because it gave me all the feels. The romance is sweet, and yet Ben and Parker have to get through some rough stuff to get to their happy ending. As for the Sex Factor, I think I’ve been ruined by other books that are super steamy, so this one seemed a little bit tame. But, it’s still getting a 4/5 because even though they’re not detailed, the sexy times are pretty hot…and super sweet.

I think the only thing that pulled me out of the book at times was that since I’m used to hearing Parker as a man’s name, there were times I forgot who’s POV I was reading from. I’ve never had that problem in any of the books before, and I love the switching of POVs by chapter, so it was just a matter of me backing up and re-reading from the right person’s view to get what was going on, and I honestly cant’ blame the author for that. It was all me.

This book comes out later this year and I’d already pre-ordered before I received the ARC. This is one I’m going to read again. Romance fans who like the friends-to-lovers trope should enjoy this.

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