Review: Played by Jen Frederick

Played
Series: Gridiron, #4
Author: Jen Frederick
Publication Date: October 6, 2017
Publisher: Pear Tree LLC
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, Sports, New Adult

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

She’s been playing it close…

Ara Martin and college football star Ty Masters have been best friends since the first day of school when Ty literally ran her over. She fell for him immediately, but having lived under the shadow of her famous father, she knows a relationship with irresistible Ty would only end in heartbreak. For four years, she’s kept her feelings hidden. But one drunken encounter weeks before graduation is about to expose Ara’s biggest secret and destroy her most treasured relationship.

He’s been playing for keeps…

Ty is about to be drafted into the NFL, but his personal life is a mess. He’s got an agent he doesn’t like, a brother who can’t stop offering his opinion, and a beautiful woman he craves but can’t have. He can fire his agent and ignore his brother, but he’s not sure what to do about Ara. Ty’s been able to run down every quarterback he’s faced, but his sexy, stubborn best friend keeps slipping through his fingers.

Luckily, he’s not one for giving up, and once he gets his hands on her, he’s never letting go.


Finally! Ty’s book! I know you’re just as excited as I am. I have been waiting for Ty’s story ever since I met him in Sacked. Everything I learned about Knox Master’s twin from that book and the ones that followed had me wondering what lucky gal was going to be able to pass the twin test.

Jen Frederick didn’t disappoint! She had the perfect gal for Ty: his best friend, Ara. Ara and Ty were those best friends who are secretly into each other but refuse to tell each other because they don’t want to lose their best friend. They had amazing chemistry, but most of all, they had an amazing friendship. Ara and Ty got each other in a really special way. I loved every minute of their story. It was so much fun!

The only tiny complaint I have about Played was that it wrapped up a lot more quickly than I wanted it to. I wanted more time with Ara and Ty as a couple. That might just be me being needy, but I can’t help it. Those two were just so great together. I needed more!

If you’re a fan of this series, you do not want to miss Played. You will love it! If you haven’t read any of the Gridiron books, I highly suggest you do. Start at the beginning with Sacked and work your way to Played. You won’t regret it.

I’m really, really hoping Jen Frederick continues this series and that Played is not the end. (Hint hint, Ms. Frederick!)

Review: Run Away With Me by Mila Gray

Run Away With Me
Series: Come Back to Me, #3
Author: Mila Gray
Publication Date: November 28, 2017
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Emerson Lowe and popular ice-hockey player Jake McCallister have been best friends since third grade but just as their friendship starts to morph into something more, a terrible event occurs that heralds the end of innocence for both of them. Within a week, Jake’s living on the other side of the country and Emerson is left alone to pick up the pieces of her life in a small town determined to paint her as a liar.

Seven years on and Emerson is still living on the beautiful Pacific West island of Bainbridge, helping her family run their outdoor adventure company. The last thing she needs is Jake turning up, bringing with him old memories and opening up old wounds. But Jake—even better looking than Emerson remembered and on the cusp of a bright sporting future—seems determined to revive their friendship no matter how much Emerson tries to push him away and soon they’re in the midst of a passionate summer romance that neither of them wants to end.

But if they’re to have any kind of future, they’re first going to need to confront the past, a past that most people want to stay buried.


I have been a fan of Mila Gray’s Come Back to Me series since it was released. I love the physical and emotional healing that takes place in her books. The first and second books in the series were military based, so I was surprised to find that Run Away With Me was a sports romance. The writing had the same new adult angst feel, but otherwise the story felt different. The wounds of war were gone, and in their place were those of a different kind of tragedy.

In Run Away With Me, Jake has just returned to Bainbridge Island to make things right with Emerson. He couldn’t move past his childhood friendship and crush. He felt like something was missing from his life, and he needed to find out if it was Emerson. Their reunion wasn’t exactly a happy one. Emerson wasn’t exactly on board with it. She had a lot of anger deep inside that needed to be dealt with. There was a lot of healing to be done between the two of them.

Emerson and Jake had a shared history. I enjoyed the way it was unraveled. What happened to separate them in the past was a little bit of a mystery. There were some major revelations given throughout the story, and I liked that it was done through separate flashbacks. Getting to know what happened to both of them that way was really profound. Their experiences were so different and they both felt the fallout from what happened when they were fourteen. I was happy they could eventually get past the heart ache and find happiness with each other again. They both deserved to get their friendship and the possibility of more back.

One of my favorite things about Run Away With Me was the setting. The way Mila Gray described Bainbridge and the surrounding islands was beautiful. I felt like I was right there with the characters. I’ve been to Vashon, but never Bainbridge. This book made me curious to explore it since it’s not too far from backyard.

Overall, I really enjoyed this romance. It was full of deep emotions and strong bond between the characters, but also had a light summer feel to it.

Review: Fraternize by Rachel Van Dyken

Fraternize
Series: Player’s Game, #1
Author: Rachel Van Dyken
Publication Date: September 12, 2017
Publisher: Skyscape
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult
Note: I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

Emerson just made her dream come true as a professional cheerleader for her favorite pro football team. But even though the plus-size athlete is breaking down boundaries, she still has to contend with the massive rulebook. Carbs? Nope. Chocolate? Definitely not. Still, Emerson loves her curves, and she’ll rock the hell out of this job even if it kills her. Except for one mandate that is easier read than done…

No fraternizing with the players.

Problem one is Miller Quinton: Emerson’s first love, first sex, and the guy who still ignites her daydreams and R-rated fantasies. Thrown back together, Miller and Emerson feel the undeniable pull of passion again, even if the conflict that tore them apart seems insurmountable. Then there’s way-too-sexy Grant Sanchez. He has a serious reputation with the ladies, and when it comes to winning someone he wants, he doesn’t let anyone stand in his way.

Now Emerson is breaking every rule in the manual. But what she doesn’t know is that she’s part of a wicked little game—one that could steal both her dream and her heart.


I am normally a big fan of Rachel Van Dyken’s new adult novels. I love the heart she brings to them. However, I was not a big fan of Fraternize. It was well written and entertaining, but I had a lot of little problems with it. (Caution – SPOILERS AHEAD).

First, I am a native Washingtonian. I grew up and live about 40 minutes from downtown Seattle and Bellevue. I had a hard time buying into a Bellevue Bucks  AND a Seattle Seahawks NFL franchise. Seattle and Bellevue are a measly ten miles apart. There is no way the area could support another NFL team. Traffic is bad enough as it is. I did appreciate all the Russel Wilson love, though. And I loved how parts of the game of football and grueling practices were included in the book.

Second, I didn’t love the love triangle between Miller, Emerson, and Sanchez. It made me very uncomfortable. Everyone was too close for comfort. Miller and Sanchez were teammates, neighbors and friends. Emerson had a past with Miller that she wasn’t over. Sanchez was overly aggressive in his attempts to woo Emerson, even though he knew Miller had a past with Emerson. Miller and Emerson had been best friends and then more. The had a very intimate emotional connection. I could feel their bond, and I wanted them to be together. That’s not what happened. Emerson ended up with Sanchez.

Third, my biggest problem was I didn’t care for Sanchez. Like I said, he was overly aggressive when it came to Emerson. He had a filthy mouth when it came to his attempts to get her to go out with him, and he wouldn’t take no for an answer. It was disrespectful and made me uncomfortable. I get that underneath it all, he was a nice guy. I just didn’t get that from him until the end.

There were some things I did like about Fraternize. I liked how Emerson wasn’t the standard NFL cheerleader. I loved that she was fit even though she wasn’t a size 0,2, 4, 6, 8…I also loved that she loved food. Emerson’s confidence was cool. Another thing I loved was the ending. The one about Miller. It leads into the next book, and I’m actually really excited to read it. I loved Miller, and I am hopeful Rachel Van Dyken will give him his happy ending.

Honestly, Fraternize was a good book that just wasn’t for me. I’m sure there are going to be lots of people who fall in love with Emerson and Sanchez.

Review & Excerpt: Most Valuable Playboy by Lauren Blakely

From #1 NYT Bestselling author Lauren Blakely, comes the swoony and oh-so-romantic title…MOST VALUABLE PLAYBOY.

In MOST VALUABLE PLAYBOY, the NFL starting quarterback Cooper Armstrong needs his best friend’s sister to pretend to be his girlfriend. Violet is willing, but neither one expects their boyfriend-girlfriend scrimmage to turn into a full-contact sport so quickly. Find out if their fake play will become the real deal or if they can turn back the clock to when they were just friends in this sexy new standalone sports romance!

Now available on all retailers! Get your copy delivered now!

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Hands down, my favorite thing in the world is to score. Touchdowns.

Don’t let the fact that I’m the leading pick in the Most Valuable Playboy charity auction fool you. These days, I’m only a player on the field. I’ve kept my pants zipped all season long — and it has been long — because nothing’s more important than leading my team to victory every week. Except maybe escaping from the team owner’s recently-widowed and handsy-as-hell sister who’s dead set on winning more than a date with me.

Enter Violet and a well-placed Hail Mary.

She’s my best friend’s sister with a smile as sweet as cherry pie and a mind that runs quicker than the 40-yard-dash. After Violet saves the day with the highest bid, I don’t even give her a two-minute warning before I kiss her in front of the whole crowd and then announce that she’s my girlfriend. Which would be fine except my agent tells me we have to keep up the act while he’s negotiating my contract.
Violet takes one for the team and pretends to be mine, but our boyfriend-girlfriend scrimmage quickly turns into a full contact sport, and I want it to go into overtime. The problem is — I’ve been riding the bench for years.

How can a guy like me, who finally has a chance to prove his worth on the field, convince the girl she’s most valuable to his heart?

MOST VALUABLE PLAYBOY is a brand new standalone sports romance written in the guy’s POV!

Amazon Amazon UK Audible Audio on Amazon

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10% of the proceeds from the release day sales along with a portion of pre-orders across all retailers of MOST VALUABLE PLAYBOY will be given to the Hurricane Harvey Relief Fund and Houston Humane Society to help those in need from the natural disaster.

My Review:

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Note: I received an ARC from InkSlinger PR in exchange for an unbiased review.

Lauren Blakely is a master at writing romantic comedies. Each book she writes is filled with witty, sexy dialog. They’re so much fun to read. I was very excited to get my hands on an ARC of her upcoming release, Most Valuable Playboy.

Most Valuable Playboy was a cute combination of a few different relationship tropes I love. Cooper, our hero, is the new quarterback for the San Francisco Renegades. When a team auction takes a possible turn for the worse, his best friend Violet makes a bid that turns her into his fake girlfriend. The lie wouldn’t be such a big deal if Violet’s older brother wasn’t Cooper’s best friend or if Cooper didn’t actually feel something toward Violet. Soon their fake relationship is feeling rather real for both of them.

Cooper was the narrator of this story, and I enjoyed reading about his relationship with Violet through his eyes. He was confident in all things except her. I loved how he valued her friendship most of all. I also loved the close and supportive relationship he had with his mother. It was nice to see that Cooper wasn’t just another charismatic sports star.

Violet may not have gotten her own point of view, but she didn’t need it to shine. Her character was perfect. I loved how witty and down to Earth she was. Violet had some pretty fun text messages included that brought out even more of her personality.

There were other great relationships in Most Valuable Player besides Cooper and Violet’s. I already mentioned Cooper’s relationship with his mother. That was fantastic. There were also some football players who Cooper was close with, his agent, and coach that were special. I liked how the actual sport of football even got some attention.

The only thing I could have asked for more of was more story in the middle. Most Valuable Playboy felt like it flew by so quickly. There were so many great moments where Violet and Cooper were connecting intimately and finding themselves falling in love. I loved those moments, but I wanted more moments of them with friends or out and about with media scrutiny. I guess what I am saying is that I wanted more scenes with them being a regular couple.

Overall, Most Valuable Playboy was a light, fun sports romance. I adored the characters, their relationship and watching them fall in love. I have high hopes the next book in the series will be even more exciting to read.


✦The audiobook is narrated by Zachary Webber! Grab your copy today! http://adbl.co/2gbiHT2


Excerpt:

The business suit woman raises a hand, offering forty-one hundred.

Maxine’s eyes laser in on me, and she slashes an arm through the air. “Five thousand dollars,” she says, jacking the price up by nine hundred and staking her claim. I shudder inside.

The guy’s eyes widen, and he holds up his hands. “I’m out.”

My stomach plummets when the business woman shakes her head.

“Going once?” Sierra asks, scanning the tables, looking for perhaps one last big spender. My eyes scan the crowd, too. Hell, maybe I’ll find an escape hatch. A trapdoor to drop into and disappear like in a magic act. Maybe Trent will learn to read my mind. Trent, I’ll cover you for anything you bid. Just raise that hand, name a price, and save me.

My best friend’s expression is merely curious now as he watches Maxine and Sierra, waiting for the verdict. My opportunity to play yard boy slips through my fingers.

The look in Maxine’s eyes is pure satisfaction as she waits for the final word. She winks at me, as if we have a secret. Holy shit. She thinks I want this. She thinks I want her to win me.

A flash of chestnut brown hair in the back catches my attention. A flurry of silver. It’s Violet, hands in the air, wildly flapping over her head in the middle of the ballroom. She brings her finger to her nose. And she’s tapping it, like fucking Santa Claus coming down the chimney, and Harlan tapping his nose to signal his agent, and all the greatest solutions in the universe at once.

My heart goes crazy.

It hammers in my chest. This is like finding an open receiver a second before you’re sacked.

“Going twice,” Sierra says, trailing off as she waits.

I raise my arm and tap my nose, too. Violet is the only one who knows I need to get out of this jam. She’s the only one I mentioned it to. And she’s the only one now who can save me.

“Ten thousand dollars.”

Holy shit. Violet does not mess around with my money. Her eyes widen, as if she’s surprised she bid that high.

My gaze finds Trent. He’s staring at his sister, slack-jawed.

Sierra’s smile is bright and wide. “Ten thousand dollars. Do we have ten thousand, one hundred?”

The room is hushed. Maxine’s expression is blank. She must be shocked. She probably didn’t expect anyone to vie with her to this extent.

I tap my foot, willing Sierra to close this quickly. Just slam the door shut, please, fucking please.

“Going one. Going twice.”

I say a silent prayer. I cross my fingers. I hope.

Maxine blinks, opens her mouth, and I steel myself for a disgustingly high counter bid.

But there’s only silence. No words come. Violet has shocked her speechless. This type of bid wasn’t in Maxine’s playbook.

Sierra raises her arm. “And a night with the quarterback is sold for ten thousand dollars.”

Talk about a Hail Mary.

“Lauren Blakely is a master at writing sexy, engaging stories that draw you in and make you fall in love with her characters. A definite go-to author for me!”
NYT Bestselling Author Melanie Moreland

“Lauren Blakely never ceases to amaze me with her sense of humor, her talent to write fabulous heroes and heroines and to pull an A game with a male POV. Most Valuable Playboy is a real treasure.
Becca at Little Read Reading Hood

“The slow burn, the teasing, the kisses, OH THE KISSES!!! MOST VALUABLE PLAYBOY exceeded all of my expectations. Lauren Blakely has a knack for making a reader fall for her characters.”
Jess at Jo and Isa Love Books Blog

Add it to Goodreads here!

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Lauren’s Most Valuable Playboy Team Spirit Prize Package Giveaway! This bundle is valued at $450 and includes a Coach Handbag ($300 value) and $150 Stub Hub Gift Card to use for tickets to the game, your favorite concert, or theater performance.

http://laurenblakely.com/valuable-playboy-giveaway/

About Lauren Blakely:

A #1 New York Times Bestselling author, Lauren Blakely is known for her contemporary romance style that’s hot, sweet and sexy. She lives in California with her family and has plotted entire novels while walking her dogs. With fourteen New York Times bestsellers, her titles have appeared on the New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestseller Lists more than eighty times, and she’s sold more than 2 million books. In September she’ll release MOST VALUABLE PLAYBOY, a standalone sports romance. To receive an email when Lauren releases a new book, sign up for her newsletter! laurenblakely.com/newsletter

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Review: The Real Thing by Melissa Foster

The Real Thing
Series: Sweet Lake, #1
Author: Melissa Foster
Publication Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: Montlake Romance
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

This sassy, spirited baker is fine with heat—but is her fake fiancé too hot to handle?

Bakery owner Willow Dalton’s friendship with Zane Walker has always been a bit complicated. Now a scrumptiously hot A-list actor, Zane’s always had a reputation as player. He’s arrogant, and he’s definitely not boyfriend material. Sure, he did Willow a favor by agreeing to take her virginity before college, but is that reason enough to go along with a fake engagement a decade later—even if it comes with a real diamond ring?

Zane should have known better. Nothing involving Willow has ever been easy. Still, he knows her better than anyone, and becoming America’s hottest new leading man means cleaning up his reputation. An “engagement” to curvy, sass-mouthed Willow is the perfect PR move . . . provided no one gets hurt.

Now Zane and Willow’s little white lie has turned into an irresistible recipe for sweet temptation. And soon no one will be able to tell the difference between their fake engagement or the real thing—including them.


Willow has always longed for her older brother’s best friend, Zane. They had a night together back before Willow left for college, but their relationship went no further. It left Willow with feelings of anger and resentment toward Zane — especially when he became a womanizing famous actor. Now, Zane’s back in town and looking to change his image. He needs Willow to help him do that by pretending to be his fiancée. The arrangement is something Willow should know better than to say yes to, but she still can’t resist Zane.

The Real Thing was a fun fake fiancée romance. It’s been a long time since I read a book by Melissa Foster. I had forgotten how much I enjoy her writing. She’s an author who knows how to write third person point of view. A lot of the time, it takes me a while to be able to get into third person narration. It wasn’t that way with The Real Thing. I didn’t even notice it. Third person felt just as easy as reading first person in this book. I really appreciated that. I also appreciated that both Willow and Zane’s perspectives were included.

Willow and Zane were a cute couple. She was independent, loyal and fiery. He was overconfident, but deep down had a big heart. All of those things fit really well and complimented each other. I loved that they had been pining over each other since high school. It made their love story all the sweeter.

I do have to admit there was something that bugged me about this book that I couldn’t let go. Willow’s hatred and distrust of Zane didn’t make complete sense. I understand that she’s mad that he moved on, but she set things up that way. He truly didn’t do anything that set out to hurt her or break her heart. Plus, it had been like ten years and she was still holding onto to her anger. It seemed weird since she had been in contact with him at least monthly and had seen him several times over the years. Maybe I was missing something. Maybe I needed more than just a snapshot of the aftermath of their teenage decision.

One of my favorite things about this book was the cast of secondary characters. Willow had an amazing family. Each was an individual with a strong personality. Meeting them made me very excited for what’s to come in this series. I hope they all get their own books. I’m really hoping to see more of Ben and Amelia!

Overall, The Real Thing was a sweet contemporary read, and an entertaining take of a celebrity fake relationship.

Review: Fired Up by Anna Durand

Fired Up
Author: Anna Durand
Publication Date: July 28, 2017
Publisher: Jacobsville Books
Genre: Romance, Contemporary
Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

He sets women on fire, but the only one he needs is fireproof.

Humiliated by her cheating ex, control freak Mel Thompson has resolved to avoid sex and romance. But her plans skid off the rails on her birthday, when she overindulges in champagne and tries to seduce her best friend, Adam Caras, exposing her long-repressed attraction to him. She’s determined to remain just friends, but her erotic fantasies have other ideas…

Firefighter Adam Caras has seduced more women than he’d ever admit to, earning the nickname the Arsonist, thanks to his explosive sensuality. Unfortunately, he realized he’s in love with his best friend Mel five minutes after she hooked up with her sleazebag ex. For two years, he’s kept his true feelings a secret. His libido, on the other hand…not so easy to rein in. Now that she’s free, he has a plan of his own. He’ll win her heart the only way he knows how–in bed–by employing every weapon in his lady-killer arsenal.

As their firecracker chemistry transforms into much more, past mistakes and a new crisis converge to test their loyalty to each other. But will it forge their bond into an unbreakable love or tear them apart?


A while back, I read Anna Durand’s novella Tempted By A Kiss. It was so much fun, and I wished it wasn’t just a novella. I really wanted to read a full length novel about Mel and Adam falling in love. Luckily, I wasn’t the only one who wanted more of them. I was very excited to get the opportunity to read their new, full length novel Fired Up.

Fired Up begins similarly to Tempted By A Kiss, but is slightly different. Instead of stopping after Mel’s birthday night the story continues. Best friends Mel and Adam go through a torturous time of figuring out what their friendship really is and where it should go from there. I loved watching them navigate their newfound relationship and how they adjusted to no longer being just friends.

The one tiny issue I had with the story was Mel’s instant forgiveness of Adam’s secrecy. I expected more of a reaction from her at times. The one time she did react, I was a little surprised. It didn’t seem like as big a deal as the other times when she didn’t react.

Overall, Fired Up was a very fun friends to lovers story. It was sweet, steamy and everything you would expect in a great contemporary romance.

Review: In Pieces by Danielle Pearl

In Pieces
Series: Something More, #2
Author: Danielle Pearl
Publication Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Forever
Genre: Romance, Contemporary, New Adult
Note: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Three years ago she was left in pieces . . . Most college freshmen love the newfound freedom of living on campus, but none of them craves it like Beth Caplan. One ill-fated night when she was fifteen left her locked in a posh prison of private tutors. It’s for the best, everyone said, and maybe it was. But after years of hard work and healing, the one person who never thought of her as broken could be the one to break her all over again. And Beth can’t seem to stay away now any more than she could all those years ago. As soon as David March learned his best friend’s little sister was enrolling at his school, he promised to look after her, and promised himself he’d keep a safe distance. But the sweet little girl he’d grown up with has transformed into a gorgeous young woman, and she’s attracting attention from people she shouldn’t-like the ex who nearly destroyed her and a strange new student with a disturbing habit of showing up wherever Beth goes. But for David, the most troubling discovery is realizing that he doesn’t just want Beth to be safe. He wants her to be his.


In Pieces is the first book I’ve read by Danielle Pearl. I really enjoyed her writing style. She told the story in first person dual points of view. That’s my favorite type of narration because it allows me to connect deeply with the characters. She also threw in some chapters set in the past that helped show how the characters had matured over the years.

My favorite thing about In Pieces was Beth and David’s relationship. David was Beth’s older brother’s best friend. He was supposed to be her protector at college due to her weaknesses, but Beth was constantly pushing his boundaries. She didn’t want to be seen as a little girl any longer. They both were harboring secret feelings for each other. I loved the way their relationship progressed from friendship to lovers.

The only problem I had with this book was that there was almost too much going on in it. Both characters had secrets in their pasts. That probably would have been enough to keep the story going on its own, but there was also a ton of other drama. There was the new stranger, David’s frat friends, and a surprise twist toward the end. It was entertaining for sure, but just too much at times. I just wanted to focus on the love birds.

Overall, In Pieces was a fun, quick read. It had everything I would expect from a new adult romance and more. I liked Danielle Pearl’s writing style so much that I would definitely pick up another of her novels. I would like to read the first book in this series.