The Risk (Briar U #2) by Elle Kennedy

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ARC provided to me by the author in exchange for an honest review.

#1.) The Chase ★★★★★

I’m not sure what the world has done to deserve Elle Kennedy and all the amazing stories she keeps giving us set around this hockey team, but we are so damn blessed, friends. I hope she continues to write them forever. And The Risk was so sexy, so funny, and so phenomenal. Reading this was pure joy, and my biggest complaint is that I wish we had an extra epilogue, because I want and I need more. The Risk perfectly plays with the enemies to lovers trope, but also adds the fake dating element, and I was truly living my best life while reading this story.

Brenna Jensen – Daughter of Briar’s head hockey coach, and a bit of a bad girl. Even though she has had some awful things happen in her past, she is strong, confident, and isn’t going to let anyone boss her around. Plus, she is focusing on getting a jumpstart with a hockey news internship.

Jake Connelly – Captain of the Harvard’s hockey team, and already all-star. He has signed with the Oilers for the next season, but is trying to win it all his last year in college, and cannot risk any distractions for him or his team.

“I know you’re Chad Jensen’s daughter. I know you would take any opportunity to mess with my players’ heads. I know we’re probably going to be facing off with Briar in the conference finals in a few weeks”

And Brenna and Jake’s paths cross when Jake meets up with Brenna to tell her that she is being a distraction to one of his players. Which, Brenna obviously doesn’t listen to, even if she isn’t really romantically interested in the other Harvard player. But it is the perfect set up for Brenna and Jake’s paths keep crossing as enemies, even if they can’t stop thinking what it would be like if they were lovers.

Plus, we have seen the chemistry between these two characters brewing for so dang long, and even when they are disagreeing on something, their banter is perfection. And they are both the perfect amount of hard and soft, I’m not even going to hint at it, I’m just going to say this: this book has the best sixty-nine sex scene I’ve ever read. Like, there were so many elements that made it so sexy, but it was amazing.

In this story we really see a lot of people in the sports industry be very nasty and hold some very misogynistic views. Sadly, Brenna experiences this first hand when trying to enter the field she eventually wants to work in. But even more sadly, this is something that so many women deal with in our world, too. I’m sure most of who have been to a sports bar, you have heard people say some gross stuff about women interviewers for any pro-sport. But I really loved and appreciated Brenna, and a few other women, trying to break those toxic cycles.

I also loved how this book constantly discusses how bad things that have happened to you in your past are not your fault, even if you can’t help but feel an immense amount of guilt over them. People make bad choices all the time, and just because you love someone and were a part of their life when they were making bad choices, does not mean that those bad choices are your fault whatsoever. This is constantly brought up throughout the book, and I think survivor’s guilt is something that we should talk about more in society, and I really appreciate how it was handled in this book.

I’ll be honest with you, I thought this installment was going to be my favorite out of everything that Elle Kennedy has written, and I truly kept thinking that until around the 85% mark. I just didn’t love the ending of this one, and I felt like the coach being a jerk was just a quick and kind of dumb bump in the road to give us one like little unnecessary angst plot. Which I would have been able to overlook, if we would have seen a really romantic or sexy scene after. But it just got wrapped up, and the Epilogue was more about personal success than relationship success, so it left me wanting so much more. I don’t know, I feel bad saying this, but because the book was so freaking amazing and unputdownable for 85%, that last 15% just felt like such a letdown and left me a bit sad upon closing the book. But I still loved this story as a whole.

Overall, Brenna is, without question, my favorite protagonist from the entire Off-Campus world. And I honestly might even go as far as to say that Jake is my favorite love interest of them all, too. They are both the characters that I would want to date the most, but they are truly so damn perfect for one another. I won’t lie though, I am dying to get Hunter’s book, so I am ready to pray every night that The Play will end up being his book. Also, side note, I do not want Hazel to come back into the story or be a love interest. So, I’m extra crossing my fingers and limbs for that not to happen. But yeah, this was a wonderful installment. I read it in twenty-four hours because I couldn’t put it down. The sex was mind-blowing. The set up was glorious enemies to lovers perfection. And I truly can’t wait to see what comes next.

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The quote above was taken from an ARC and is subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for explicit sex, a lot of misogynistic comments (always challenged), talk of past loss of a loved one, drug addiction and substance abuse, use of the word cr*zy, talk of past miscarrying, and a panic attack.

#1.) The Deal ★★★★
#2.) The Mistake ★★★
#3.) The Score ★★★★
#4.) The Goal

❤ I also read this for Contemporary-a-thon!

 

Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss by Kasie West

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“I have to convince audiences everywhere that a zombie loves a zombie hunter. So far, it’s not happening. So far, the only thing future viewers care about is that I’m not someone else.”

Okay, the only other thing I’ve ever read by Kasie West was the short story of hers in Snow in Love, but I think it is safe to say that I am officially just going to preorder everything she writes from now on, because this story was also such a damn delight. And she is now 2/2 for writing the sweetest and softest boys in YA literature. I honestly just had a smile on my face while reading the majority of this book. If I’m ever in need of a feelgood book, I’m just going to turn to Kasie West’s backlist from now on.

So, basically, Fame, Fate, and the First Kiss stars a girl named Lacey who just landed a breakout role in an indie zombie film which she will co-star in with the extremely famous, Grant James! Lacey has only ever done minor acting roles in the past, but she is willing to give up her senior year of high school to move to Hollywood and to give this role all she has. Meanwhile, her father has agreed to move with her, to help give her structure. Yet, he also gives her a tutor named Donovan, who is supposed to keep her on track with the schoolwork that she is already neglecting.

But while filming, it becomes apparent that maybe Grant and Lacey don’t have the best onscreen chemistry with one another. Yet, Lacey is finding it easier and easier to find chemistry with the tutor who is supposed to be teaching her chemistry. *winky face* Donovan is the sweetest boy and I just loved him completely from page one. No spoilers, but the jumping on the trampoline scene? Added five years to my life.

But on top of Lacey trying to put everything she has into this zombie role, it becomes more and more apparent that someone is trying to sabotage her chances of making it big. I won’t lie, this does have a bit of a Scooby-Doo feeling mystery around the movie set, because the someone that is trying to sabotage Lacey before her career even gets started is kind of doing innocent things. Yet, I still loved that it kept me guessing for far longer than it probably should have. Towards the end it became kind of obvious who it was, but right up until that ending point, I was honestly thinking that the sabotage was someone else.

I also didn’t love the inclusion of bits of the movie script in-between chapters. I feel like we got a good enough feel of the plot of the film without those, and it pulled me out of the story (ironical enough) each time I read them. I think this book would have been stronger without them entirely, honestly. Also, there was a scene with them finding a drug dealer’s lair that I thought would come back into play and just never did and it was a little wild.

But my only real complaint was that I kind of hated both of Lacey’s parents. I totally get that she’s only seventeen, but they both just felt like crappy parental figures throughout the book. From her mom, boxing up her stuff and giving her room to an animal that Lacey wouldn’t like, even though she thought she would be coming back to finish her senior year! To her dad who decided he wanted to play a major role in her life seventeen years too late, and then force her to over exhaust and over work herself to try to have a semblance of a “normal” teenage life, after agreeing to letting her act in the movie. I don’t know, they just both rubbed me the wrong way, and not even the ending of this book justified their actions to me. But at least she got a cute and sweet tutor out of the deal.

Overall, I just loved this. It was the perfect sweet and heartwarming contemporary that I needed. I actually think this would be a perfect read for the spooky season. I mean, I wouldn’t say it is “spooky” per se, but it surrounds the making of a horror film all about zombies! And some of the moments in this book will keep you on the edge of your seat, involving the sabotage on the set. But I just think Kasie West is a master of YA Romance, and I think she is so deservingly beloved among the community. I can’t wait to see what she does next, and she 100% made a new fan from me.

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The quote above was taken from an ARC and is subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for a couple comments that are weird about food and dieting, talk of online harassment and bullying, and use of the word cr*zy.

Buddy Read with Amy & Heather! ❤

 

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne

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ARC provided by the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

“Maybe he’s 1 percent mine. That has to be enough.”

Sally Thorne’s long awaited and most anticipated sophomore release, 99 Percent Mine was truly a wild ride for me. I’ll be honest, it took me a while to warm up to this story and especially to this main character, but I ended up enjoying this one for the most part. But, sadly, it is no The Hating Game, or at least it wasn’t for me.

This story stars Darcy Barrett who is a wedding photographer who is currently working at a bar, while also living in a house that her grandmother left to her and her twin brother, Jamie, after she passed away. Darcy has never been known to stay in one place for long, but she can no longer find her passport, so she is sort of stuck in the town she has grown up in. Plus, the house that was left to Darcy and Jamie desperately needs to be completely remodeled.

And one night when Darcy is coming home from work at the bar, she realizes that the contractor on the remodeling job is none other that her and Jamie’s best friend, Tom. Who also is the one guy who has been able to get under Darcy’s skin and into her heart, except when she had the opportunity to finally have him, she completely blew it, and now he is engaged to someone else.

Sounds like a pretty good read, right? I actually adored the set up and the actual unique setting of this story. Okay, now that we have the basic premise out of the way, I want to talk a little bit more about Darcy and why she was the main reason I didn’t enjoy this story for the first fifty perfect. For one, Darcy is written to be so edgy and quirky and constantly let’s you know it. I lost count of how many times she or other characters remarked on her short hair and nipple piercing. (Side note, who gets one nipple pierced in 2019? Like, come on.) But basically, this was all super annoying and felt so forced to me.

Next, Darcy is living with a very serious chronic heart condition, which she completely ignores throughout most of the book. This ended up being very triggering for me. I don’t want to make this review about me and my family, but if you’ve seen a few other reviews I have talked about my dad’s heart condition before, and how much it has impacted me, my family, and my anxiety’s life. So, reading about a character that just didn’t give a shit was really bothering to me. Especially since she relies on her twin brother to literally save her life. Trust me, I completely understand depression and not caring to better yourself or take care of your health, but she just chose to rely on her brother and make really poor choices, no matter her mental state. And friends, I promise you, no dick is ever worth your health or your life. I swear to every higher power.

“I’m the client. I’m his best friend’s sister. I’m Mr. and Mrs. Barrett’s weak-hearted daughter. I’m the liability he swore to take care of.”

Okay, let’s talk some more about Tom. I loved Tom, completely. But sometimes Darcy’s over aggression and scary behavior towards him was too much for me. And all the ugly jealously and nasty things she would say about his fiancé? Like, come on, let’s not. Also, Darcy does some very grey-area cheating attempts in this book that made me kind of uncomfortable!

And the last thing that bothered me was the not so great sibling relationship. Plus, Jamie just read so insufferable! You all know my brother is my best friend in this entire world and I just don’t really enjoy seeing not great sibling bonds in stories, even though the story constantly tries to make you feel like they at least had a good relationship for most their lives. Especially since Darcy and Jamie’s dynamic was so weird and I felt like I was missing so much. I really think this book would have benefited from way more actual flashbacks for Darcy, Jamie, and Tom’s childhood. Like, I think it would have improved this book so much.

Oh my gosh, I sound so negative, but I promise I did end up enjoying this read. The sex scenes were 11/10, I won’t lie. And the angst and the payoff felt so damn satisfying. Also, Sally Thorne just knows how to write amazing banter in general. From making me swoon, to making me cry, to making me laugh out loud, this author really can weave words together so damn well. Oh, and I loved Darcy’s best friend, Truly, so much! Like, give me her book please! But only her, you feel me?

Overall, this was a fun read even if it took me a little bit to warm up to Darcy and all the situations she had going on. Plus, I think this was a really fun and unique play on the friends to lovers trope. The writing is great, the pace is fast and fantastic, the banter will make you giggle, and the romance will have you fanning yourself! I for sure think that if you enjoyed The Hating Game that there is a good chance you will enjoy this one, too, even though it really is completely different. But I’m mostly excited to see what Sally Thorne does next!

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The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.

Content and trigger warnings for talk of loss of a loved one, alcoholism, a very serious chronic heart condition (and threat of failure) throughout the entire book, assault (unwanted grabbing of her wrist in a threatening manner in a empty parking lot), and a few questionable comments/jokes made about people’s cultures (like going to bury nametags in the Japanese forest, Aokigahara).

The Queen and the Cure (The Bird and the Sword Chronicles, #2) by Amy Harmon

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1.) The Bird and the Sword ★★★★

“I fell in love with you in pieces. Layer by layer, day by day, inch by inch.”

I loved The Bird and the Sword so much when I read it, so I was looking so forward to the indirect sequel, the Queen and the Cure. But, sadly, I was so let down by this next installment. I didn’t care about the character, the story, or any of the hardships that they were going through. Honestly? The only parts I really liked where when the characters from The Bird and the Sword made brief cameos.

Kjell is the captain of Tiras‘s guard, and is on a mission to find any remaining Volgar. Not only is Kjell a strong warrior and leader, he is also a very gifted healer. But his healing comes at a price; for every life he saves, he gives up a day of his own life. But he stumbles upon a young woman named Sasha who is in desperate need of healing, and he doesn’t even hesitate to save her life.

Sasha appears to be a slave, and as compensation for saving her life, Kjell agrees to let her come on this mission with him and his men. But this is obviously a romance book, so angst ensues! Especially since people in the story might not know the extent of their pasts that others have tried to keep hidden.

But the actions that Kjell and Sasha make throughout this story are just infuriating. They really wanted to make things so much harder on themselves, and not in the good angsty way, but in the annoying and unbelievable way. And this happened over and over, constantly, throughout the entire story and it really made it hard to enjoy and even read. And how this book had to end? Lord, the payoff didn’t even feel good.

Overall, I am so sad that this ended up being a disappointment. Hell, maybe I just overhyped it for myself. I’m always on the lookout for fantasy romances, and I put so much damn faith in this, especially after loving The Bird and the Sword so much.

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Content and trigger warnings for slavery, war themes, talk of past animal cruelty, and animal deaths.

 

The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke, #1) by Tessa Dare

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“Charming princes weren’t always what they seemed. Shining armor went out of fashion with the Crusades. And if fairy godmothers existed, hers was running several years late.”

Wow, The Duchess Deal single-handedly restored my faith in historical romances. Seriously, all of 2018 has been me being disappointed with every historical book I pick up, but this one? Friends, I was laughing out loud, I was clutching my pearls, I was melting into a puddle of goo on the ground. This book made me feel everything, and I can’t wait to read so much more by Tessa Dare in the new year!

The Duke of Ashbury – After coming back from the war, most of his body is completely burned and scarred. It has taken him a long while to recover, but when he does his engagement is broken off from his betrothed. Now, Ash keeps himself mostly locked away on his estate, but he is in desperate need to sire a son.

Emma Gladstone – Seamstress, who made the wedding dress for Ash’s fiancé. Yet, no one paid her once the wedding got canceled. But Emma has been living on her own, and is in desperate need of the money, so she marched right up to the Duke’s estate to ask for it.

“Your days will be yours to do whatever you wish.” His voice darkened. “Your nights, however, will belong to me.”

Yet, the Duke is not only willing to pay Emma for her dress, he is also willing to make her an offer that is very hard to refuse; he asks her to marry him and allow him to make her a Duchess, even though she has been on her own and doesn’t have a name that holds any power. But the marriage offer isn’t because of romance, but convenience. Ash will expect Emma to wed him in name only, but he will come to her every night to try to conceive a child, and once she is pregnant, he will give her a house of her own to raise his heir in. And Emma’s friend secretly needs a place to lie low for a few months, and Emma also realizes that this is an opportunity that could change her world forever.

I only really have two negative things to say. First being that Ash would jump to conclusions a little too much for me. Emma does every single thing to prove she is being sincere, and I get that because of what happened to him that it would be hard to believe, but my good dude was being pretty dumb at times. The only other thing, that completely doesn’t impact this review, is that the cover of this book is a little not cool. I do think Ash’s burns are mostly on one side of his body, but I still think that whoever picked this cover could have done better and given us some really cool representation.

“You’re here…In my heart. Somehow you crashed your way into it when I wasn’t looking. The same way you barged into my library, I suppose. But you’re here now, inside.”

Overall, this was just a treat to read. Every scene with the cat had me giggling out loud. The entire staff that Ash employs are the real MVPs and them just wanting him to be happy really warmed my heart. The banter in this book was perfection! I loved Emma so very much, and she was easily a main protagonist that I just wanted to protect at all costs. And this book was hella steamy. Like, unexpectedly steamy. But your girl was living for it. I can’t wait to continue on with this series and to devour much, much more by Tessa Dare!

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Content and trigger warnings for abandonment, emotional abuse, talk of past war themes, and just for a main character that has very low self-esteem, who is constantly belittling himself.

Buddy read with Julie at Pages and Pens! ❤

And I read this for #smutathon, which is being hosted by Lainey and Riley! ❤

Merry Inkmas by Talia Hibbert

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“…Princesses like no-strings sex just as much as the next girl.”

Oh, friends, please pick this one up for the holiday season! It was so heartwarming, so atmospheric, and brought me so much joy to read! I loved both protagonists, I loved the wintery setting, I loved the Christmas tattoo shop, and I completely recommend this one with my entire heart. And now I need to go and read everything by Talia Hibbert.

This is an ownvoices novel, starting a Black woman that is working as a barista in a coffee shop part-time while she goes to college. And she has a regular customer who makes her pretty weak in the knees with his flirting, even though nothing ever comes from it. That is, until one night, before closing, and Bailey’s friend John comes in, who is homeless and cold. She is trying to warm him up, when her boss comes out of the back and acts like a complete jerk, until the mystery man witnesses it all and takes action.

“Boring guys finish last,” she corrected, pushing the completed forms back to him. “Nice guys finish anywhere they want. Especially when they look like you.”

Cash is a white tattoo artist, who knows how needed a helping hand can be. He not only takes John under his wing, but also offers Bailey a new job at his tattoo shop. Even though they are completely drawn to each other. Bailey and Cash both haven’t had easy lives growing up, and they have such a realistic bond and attraction to each other, and it makes it completely impossible not to root for them. Especially when Cash invites Bailey to his mom’s for Christmas, since she would be all by herself. But Cash has a policy; he only will date a woman for ninety days before he calls it quits, because he refuses to truly ever let anyone in.

“Funny; he’d been a hell of a lot more charming when she was just serving him coffee.”

But the romance in this is seriously perfect. This book is only a tiny bit over two-hundred pages, but I think I was smiling, or crying, or smiling and crying on every single one. This book is funny, this book is swoon-worthy, and this book has so many important themes; from Cash and Bailey starting an interracial relationship, to Bailey also being plus sized, to it also staring a homeless, queer character, to showing that the terrible things that happen to us in the past do not have to dictate what we become in the future, to really celebrating abuse survivors (from physical abuse to neglect), this book is a damn gift to the world. I also think this story has a main character on the autism spectrum, but it doesn’t say the word(s) on page.

Overall, this was just a treat to read. And this epilogue? 11/10. This story was just so sex positive and steamy, so funny and so endearing, so enthralling and so un-put-downable. And Bailey is the female protagonist I’ve always wanted, she’s strong, and brave, and so empathetic! Ah, this book just had it all; I only wish it was longer! This is the best holiday romance I’ve ever read, and I hope you all pick this up this holiday season.

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Content and trigger warnings for talk of cancer, talk of past domestic violence, talk of past child abuse, and talk of past statutory rape.

#Smutathon TBR | Round Two

#Smutathon is hosted by Lainey and Riley, AKA: my two faves! And this next round is starting tomorrow! You all know I love Romance and Erotic books, so I couldn’t resist participating again! And this rounds challenges? Perfection! ❤❄


➽ Enemies to Lovers


Anything You Can Do by R.S. Grey


Friends Spouses with Benefits


The Duchess Deal (Girl Meets Duke #1) by Tessa Dare
Buddy read with Julie from Pages and Pens! ❤


➽ Fake Relationship


The Matchmaker’s List by Sonya Lalli
ARC – February 5th, 2019 by Berkley Books
Buddy read with Amy at A Court of Crowns and Quills! ❤


➽ Slow Burn


Killing Sarai (In the Company of Killers #1) by J.A. Redmerski


➽ Forbidden


Wrong to Need You (Forbidden Hearts #2) by Alisha Rai


➽ Different Worlds


The Queen and the Cure (The Bird and the Sword Chronicles #2) by Amy Harmon


➽ One Night Stand

99 Percent Mine by Sally Thorne
ARC – January 29th 2019 by William Morrow
(This might be a stretch, but I need to get this read in  December! Shhhh!)



Okay, friends! That’s my TBR for #Smutathon! I’m not sure if I will be able to get to all of these, because I also have another buddy read for a fantasy book on the 14th, but I hope to get to many, because I am in such a romance mood! Please, let me know what you plan on reading if you are participating! And I’m wishing you happy reading always! ❤❄

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