Review: On the Corner of Love and Hate (Nina Bocci)

On the Corner of Love and Hate
Series: Hopeless Romantics, #1
Author: Nina Bocci
Publication Date: August 20, 2019
Publisher: Gallery Books
Genre: Women’s Fiction, Romance, Contemporary
Note: This review is for an ARC and is my unbiased opinion.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½

Synopsis:

For fans of Christina Lauren and Lauren Layne comes a delightfully sassy and sexy romance about a campaign manager who reluctantly works with the local Lothario to help revamp his image for the upcoming mayoral elections, only to discover that he’s hiding something that can turn both their lives upside down.

What’s a campaign manager’s worst nightmare? A smooth-talking charmer who’s never met a scandal that he didn’t like.

When Emmanuelle Peroni’s father—and mayor of her town—asks her to help rehab Cooper Endicott’s image, she’s horrified. Cooper drives her crazy in every way possible. But he’s also her father’s protégé, and she can’t say no to him without him finding out the reason why: Cooper and her have a messy past. So Emmanuelle reluctantly launches her father’s grand plan to get this Casanova someone to settle down with and help him lose his lothario reputation.

Cooper Endicott wanted to run for Mayor, but he never wanted the drama that went with it. Now that he’s on the political hamster wheel, the other candidates are digging up everything from his past. Even though he’s doing all the right things, his colorful love life is the sticking point for many of the conservative voters. He wants to win, badly, and he knows that if he wants any chance of getting a vote from the female population, he needs to change his image. The only problem? He might just be falling in love with the one person he promised not to pursue: the Mayor’s off-limits daughter.

A perfect blend of humor and heart, On the Corner of Love and Hate is the first in a new series from USA TODAY bestselling author Nina Bocci.


Today, I have a book I’m excited to share with you for a couple of reasons. If you’re a romance blogger like me, you have probably communicated with Nina Bocci or at least heard of her in some way. It’s always exciting to see a name you’re familiar with publish a book. Or maybe you’re like me in another way and became a fan of Nina Bocci’s writing with her collaboration with Alice Clayton on Roman Crazy. Either way, I was excited for On the Corner of Love and Hate for both of those reasons. Here is what I thought of Nina Bocci’s solo début.

What I liked:

  • I knew I liked Nina Bocci’s writing based on what I read in Roman Crazy. I wasn’t sure how that would translate to a solo novel. I was very happy to find that her writing felt just as strong by itself.
  • Emma was a strong female character. She was successful in life. She didn’t need a man to hold her hand through life. I liked that when she finally had a man in her life, it was because she wanted one instead of needing one.
  • Emma’s family. Her relationship with her dad was sweet, but her relationship with her mom was sweet and funny. I loved the texts they shared.
  • Emma’s friends were adorable! I loved Nick and Henry! I can’t wait to see them again.

What I disliked:

  • There was too much going on. There were three big things going on all at once and it was a little overwhelming. I didn’t know where to focus my attention: the mayor’s race, Emma’s tense relationship with Cooper, or Whitney?
  • The lack of Cooper’s point of view. Honestly, I wasn’t a fan of Cooper because all I got to see through Emma were the bad things. Even when she moved from hate to love, it was hard to understand why. There wasn’t much to show their love for each other. It was so slow burn, the romance was almost non-existent.

Overall, On the Corner of Love and Hate was a strong solo début for Nina Bocci. It made me excited to find out what’s next in the Hopeless Romantics series.

GIVEAWAY

Mini Reviews: Rock Bottom Girl & Cruel Sanctuary

Rock Bottom Girl
Author: Lucy Score
Publication Date: March 8, 2019
Publisher: That’s What She Said Publishing
Genre: Contemporary Romance, Sports

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

“You may be faking the relationship, but you’re not faking the orgasms.”

Downsized, broke, and dumped, 38-year-old Marley sneaks home to her childhood bedroom in the town she couldn’t wait to escape twenty years ago. Not much has changed in Culpepper. The cool kids are still cool. Now they just own car dealerships and live in McMansions next door. Oh, and the whole town is still talking about that Homecoming she ruined her senior year.

Desperate for a new start, Marley accepts a temporary teaching position. Can the girl banned from all future Culpepper High Homecomings keep the losing-est girls soccer team in school history from killing each other and prevent carpal tunnel in a bunch of phone-clutching gym class students? Maybe with the help of Jake Weston, high school bad boy turned sexy good guy.

When the school rumor mill sends Marley to the principal’s office to sign an ethics contract, the tattooed track coach, dog dad, and teacher of the year becomes her new fake boyfriend and alibi—for a price. The Deal: He’ll teach her how to coach if she teaches him how to be in a relationship. Who knew a fake boyfriend could deliver such real orgasms? But it’s all temporary. The guy. The job. The team. There’s too much history. Rock bottom can’t turn into a foundation for happily ever after. Can it?

Warning: Story also includes a meet-puke, a bouffanted nemesis, a yard swan and donkey basketball, a teenage-orchestrated makeover, and a fake relationship that gets a little too real between the sheets.

My thoughts:

I have been seeing Rock Bottom Girl pop up just about everywhere online recently. I read a couple of great reviews for it, and decided I wanted to read it. I’m so glad I did! I have officially found another author whose back list of books I want to binge read. Rock Bottom Girl was a delight to read.

What did I love about this book? Everything. What really stood out, though, was the way 38 year old Marley was portrayed. Way older than people at this age normally act. It’s like they’re premature 80 year olds or something. Marley wasn’t like that. She was still trying to figure out life and navigate relationships. That’s what people are still going in their 30’s and 40’s, people. She (and Jake) were just so relatable. I loved that! Plus, this entire book was funny. It made me smile so much. It was one of those really enjoyable romantic comedies that I would love to see as a movie. You should read it.


Cruel Sanctuary
Series: Wages of Sin, #1
Author: Tara Leigh
Publication Date: March 22, 2019
Publisher: Tara Leigh Books
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

They say New York City is the Devil’s Playground.
They’re wrong.
This city belongs to me.
And so does Aislinn Granville.

She is a pampered politician’s daughter.
A decorative ornament, raised to smile and nod and do what she’s told.
Except… she doesn’t. Not with me. Ever.

In this city full of thugs and thieves, I’ve kept Aislinn safe.
From my enemies.
From me.

Until now.

My thoughts:

Cruel Sanctuary is a classic dark romance: A good girl gets swept up in a bad guy’s world —  which is actually her world, she just doesn’t know it yet. There’s sex, violence, and a political war waging. I enjoyed reading Cruel Sanctuary. It was fast paced and I liked the plot. The chemistry was there between Aislinn and Damien. My only issue is that things were a little stalky on Damien’s part. It was disturbing, but I have a feeling that the next book is going to explain that and it won’t feel as wrong. Overall, it was a fun dark romance.

Review: Spiked by Jennifer Lane

30165905Spiked
Series: Blocked, #3
Author: Jennifer Lane
Publication Date: October 1, 2016
Publisher: Psyched Publishing
Genre: New Adult, Sports Romance, Political Romance
Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Synopsis:

They say
University is the time
To find yourself
But I don’t need to find myself
Just want to find you

After watching his older siblings find their love matches at Highbanks University, Mateo Ramirez feels unlikely to follow in their footsteps. What girl would want him? Unlike his brother and sister, he battles diabetes and chooses music over sports. But at least he can write songs about his life—and the girl who caught his eye when their parents ran against each other for US President.

Hey, chica! Come conmigo
And baby, why don’t we go
Down under the bridge to the water
With you it can only get hotter

Jessica Monroe is a talented swimmer who dreams of representing Team USA at the Olympics. When she earns an athletic scholarship to Highbanks, she’s excited to attend the same school as the cute boy she met two years ago: Mateo. Too bad he’s not around when a teammate spikes her drink. Jessica may never trust men again.

Trust
Is a hard-to-earn thing
Just
Try to keep listening

Swallow
Down all of the unjust
Hollow
My chest, my heart will bust

College years are the time to shake off the past and find your future. But will that future find Mateo and Jessica together? Dive in and immerse yourself in the eagerly anticipated conclusion to Jennifer Lane’s Blocked trilogy.


Don’t judge Spiked by its cover.

That’s the first thing that came to my mind when I sat down to write this review. Yes, the shirtless man is what most of us have to come expect when we pick up a new adult romance novel, but Spiked isn’t your normal new adult romance. It’s layered, honest and complicated.

Jennifer Lane’s writing was stellar. Her knowledge of psychology and politics continued to shine in the newest addition to the Blocked series. Spiked was the fastest paced book in the series. There weren’t as many political situations to complicate the story. The focus of Spiked was Jessica and Mateo’s struggles and how they build and shape their relationship. I loved this change.

It’s easy to guess from the blurb that Jessica is raped. I don’t think I’m spoiling the story by putting that out there. What I loved about Jessica’s story is the way the entire rape situation was handled. It was done in a matter that felt real and honest. Jessica’s suffering after the incident was what would be expected. What wasn’t was the way Jennifer Lane dealt with it. I’ve read several books with rape in them recently. Spiked is the only one that dealt with the therapy aspect of overcoming the horrible experience. I loved that because I was able to get a feel for how Jessica was able to slowly recover.

Mateo’s story was also an important one. It put a spotlight on being a young person with diabetes. Mateo struggles with his illness was very relatable. I loved his thoughts and feelings about what getting an insulin pump meant to him. I also loved the way he responded to any political question. Mateo felt like a man who wanted to make his own decisions and not let his parents shape his decisions.

Their personal struggles were enormous in Spiked, but Jessica and Mateo’s relationship was simple. I really enjoyed how their relationship grew over time from attraction and friendship to love. The support they gave to each other was so sweet. Their relationship just felt so natural. Spiked cemented Mateo and Jessica as my favorite Blocked series couple.

Overall, I truly enjoyed reading Spiked. It was such a deep new adult read. I was so caught up in Jessica and Mateo’s love story that I was sad when it ended. I would have loved to have known more about the progression of their relationship.

Review: Aced By Jennifer Lane

25916281Aced
Series: Blocked, #2
Author: Jennifer Lane
Publication Date: December 2, 2015
Publisher: Psyched Publishing
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary Romance, Sports Romance, Political Fiction
Note: I received this book from the author in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

Volleyball wonder Lucia Ramirez found her love match in Blocked despite the glaring political spotlight aimed on her family. In Aced, the second book in Jennifer Lane’s Blocked series, it could be her brother Alejandro’s turn to get lucky in love.

Medical student Alejandro’s hot Latin looks get him plenty of attention, but his deep faith and admiration for his father keep him on a righteous path, with no time for something as frivolous as love. He strives to do the right thing—study diligently, take care of his siblings, represent the family well—so why does he feel so unfulfilled?

Enter Lucia’s friend and teammate Maddie Brooks, who shines at blocking the ball and acing the serve. Too bad this graduating senior isn’t so confident about her life off the court. Her longtime boyfriend has just bailed on her, and med school applications loom large. Oh, and a nerve-wracking tryout for Team USA also approaches.

Maddie meets Alejandro when he visits Lucia at school, and she’s soon drawn to his sharp mind. Alejandro is similarly intrigued by Maddie’s talent and strength. But will personal biases and family politics smother the slow burn of their attraction? Unless Maddie can learn to believe in herself, and Alejandro can become his own man, their kindling romance hardly stands a chance.

Will either of them be bold enough to try something new? Find out in this emotion-rich story that refuses to shy away from life’s hardest questions. Because love is worth the risk.


Almost a year ago I read and reviewed Jennifer Lane’s Blocked. It was different from any other sports romance I had read before. Blocked was a forbidden romance filled with not just sports, but politics and psychology. I enjoyed the way the author weaved all these different elements together, so when the opportunity arose to read Aced I was excited to see what was going to happen next in the Blocked world.

Aced begins right where Blocked left off. (For those of you who read Blocked, we get to find out who won the race!) This time, we get Lucia’s brother Alejandro’s story. He’s a med school student, a devout Catholic and a Republican. Alex had strong views on how he and others should live their lives and he isn’t afraid to share them. His views are challenged when he meets Lucia’s volleyball teammate Maddie, whose beliefs do mirror his.

Maddie may dominate on the court, but she’s also on the med school track. Lately, Maddie’s life has been drifting out of control. First, her boyfriend broke up with her. Then she begins to feel the pressure of getting good grades and making the national volleyball team. It’s more than she can handle. The only bright spot is Alejandro.

Maddie and Alejandro know there’s a spark between them, but they can’t deny how different they are. They’ll have to decide if their differences outweigh the possibilities of a beautiful relationship.

Aced continued Blocked‘s tradition in being a well written, complex romance novel. There were so many different aspects to this book. This slow-burn romance combined love, sports, psychology, religion, social issues, and politics all into one story. (Pretty amazing, right?) While I enjoyed everything it touched on, I do have to admit that I got overwhelmed with how many different things were going on at times. Everything was very relevant to today’s society, but I was more interested in Maddie and Alex’s developing relationship.

Maddie was an excellent female main character. She was physically strong, smart and a genuinely nice person. The only thing slowing her down was her emotional stability. It had been compromised by several events in her life and she was having a hard time dealing. I really appreciated the way Jennifer Lane used her psychology background to write about Maddie’s issues. She created a way to deliver important information and advice to her readers. There were so many great things for young women (and men) to learn from Maddie’s story.

Alex wasn’t my favorite character to start off with. His dedication to his parents’ beliefs was a little tough for me to swallow. As the story went on, I warmed up to him. I loved watching him question and challenge himself. I also loved his relationship with Maddie and the care he took of their relationship. Maddie and Alex’s relationship and the moments they spent together were my favorite parts of Aced.

Another great part of Aced was getting to see how Dane and Lucia’s relationship had evolved. It was really fun to catch up with them and the rest of the supporting characters. I loved what their influence brought to Maddie and Alex’s relationship as well.

Aced was a satisfying addition to the Blocked series. It was filled with sweet moments and thoughtful issues. I enjoyed reading. I’m really excited to see what’s next in for the Ramirez family in Spiked (Blocked, #3). I would highly recommend Aced to romance readers who enjoy stories that examine issues that affect today’s society.

Review: ’89 Walls by Katie Pierson

’89 Walls
Author: 
Katie Pierson
Publication Date: June 5, 2015
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary Romance, Historical Fiction
Note: I received this book from the author via Goodreads in exchange for an unbiased review.

Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★ ☆

Synopsis:

College is not in the cards for Seth. He spends his minimum wage on groceries and fakes happiness to distract his mom from the MS they both know will kill her. It’s agony to carry around a frayed love note for a girl who’s both out of his league and beneath his dignity.

Quinn’s finishing high school on top. But that cynical, liberal guy in her social studies class makes her doubt her old assumptions. Challenging the rules now, though, would a) squander her last summer at home, b) antagonize her conservative dad, and c) make her a hypocrite.

Seth and Quinn’s passionate new romance takes them both by surprise. They keep it a secret: it’s too early to make plans and too late not to care. But it’s 1989. As politics suddenly get personal, they find themselves fighting bare-fisted for their beliefs—and each other—in the clear light of day.


’89 Walls is kind of a hard book to review. It’s categorized as YA, but so much of the story screamed adult fiction to me. Maybe I’m wrong, but I think the multitude historical references may be off-putting to some young adults looking for a coming of age contemporary romance. I grew up in the 80’s and even I found myself overwhelmed by the multitude of historical references peppered throughout the book. They set the timeline and political nature of the characters, but distracted from my emotional connection to the story.

That being said, Katie Pierson’s writing is very good. I never would have guessed this was her début novel. I applaud the way she dealt with some very tough political, social and personal issues. She didn’t shy away from anything.

My favorite thing about ’89 Walls were the relationships between all of the characters. Seth and Quinn had a deep connection for a couple of teenagers on the verge of adulthood. I loved that each stood their ground on their beliefs, but were willing to learn, grow and possibly change their minds. Their relationship wasn’t without turmoil, but the outcome of their problems made them stronger together and apart.

The story wasn’t just about Seth and Quinn’s relationship, though. It also focused on their relationships with their respective parents. Both were close to their parents and wanted to make them happy, but it wasn’t always possible. Seth and Quinn were fighting for their adulthood and freedom to make important choices in their lives. I loved they way they discovered how to balance their need for independence with their desires to make their parents proud.

Overall, ’89 Walls was a strong début novel. It’s filled with both political and emotional gems. I think readers who were teenagers in the late 1980’s will love and identify with the story.