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Series Review: Juniper Falls by Julie Cross

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

Juniper Falls Series

book3

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Off the Ice (from Goodreads):

All is fair in love and hockey…

Claire O’Connor is back in Juniper Falls, but that doesn’t mean she wants to be. One semester off, that’s what she promised herself. Just long enough to take care of her father and keep the family business—a hockey bar beside the ice rink—afloat. After that, she’s getting the hell out. Again.

Enter Tate Tanley. What happened between them the night before she left town resurfaces the second they lay eyes on each other. But the guy she remembers has been replaced by a total hottie. When Tate is unexpectedly called in to take over for the hockey team’s star goalie, suddenly he’s in the spotlight and on his way to becoming just another egotistical varsity hockey player. And Claire’s sworn off Juniper Falls hockey players for good.

It’s the absolute worst time to fall in love.

For Tate and Claire, hockey isn’t just a game. And they both might not survive a body check to the heart.

breakdown

Series: Juniper Falls
Author: Julie Cross
# of Books: 3 (Off the Ice, Breaking the Ice, Book 3)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No,Book 3, to be published
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports, Small Town
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: February 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC

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**This post was originally posted as a Fresh Friday review of the first book of the series. It has now been updated to include the newest publications in the series.**

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Julie Cross is an author I’ve enjoyed in the past and really need to read more by. She just writes consistently great stories.

Having read her other YA sports romance, Whatever Life Throws at You, I knew what to expect with this series. I knew I would be getting a slow burn romance that would take a bit of a backseat to the character development…and I couldn’t wait to dive in!

What I Liked:

–It Focuses on Hockey–

It’s the Canadian in me who adores anything hockey. I’ve read a lot of adult and new adult series dealing with hockey players but not so many dealing with high schoolers. Which brings a different sort of pressure to the character’s lives as they are trying to reach that next plateau for the prospective careers.

We have a slightly different draft system here in Canada (not so much pressure on playing for a college team but more so in certain divisions) so I found that aspect to be interesting as well as this takes place in Minnesota, USA.

–Small Town Romance Vibes–

I’ve really gotten into adult small town romances in the last year or so and this one definitely gave me those vibes. I like the nature of small towns settings in stories. Everyone knows everyone and their business, but there are always these underlying secrets and feelings that always come to the surface. There are also certain expectations and almost stereotypes that people feel like they have to be boxed into. It provides a great stage for character growth to blossom on.

I also find that you get really invested in all the side characters as well. There are a few characters I would love to see full novels from going forward just from the little inklings we got here.

–The Character Growth–

Both Tate and Claire have very interesting character stories. They both have very complex situations to deal with and I liked that they each had their own things to work on. They are also such genuine characters that you really start to get behind them.

This story is more so a coming of age story than straight romance. It’s about these two finding that confidence in themselves, figuring out what they want in life and how they can break out of the molds the small town has put them in for all their lives.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Felt a Little Long in the Middle–

I knew going in that this book would take its time to reach the plot climax and that’s what happened.

It’s not that I didn’t enjoy all the moments leading up. I did. The scenes between Tate and Claire were great and I like that you get all the background info about the town and all the characters.

I guess I just wanted them to work on the issues a little earlier than they did. I felt like we reiterated the same things again and again–which is fine as it did contribute positively to the romance and character growth. It just made this book seem longer than it was. The ending isn’t rushed by any means but I think I would have taken away some of that exposition to have them tease out the various issues a little more.

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

As I said above, I have a few characters I would love to see more from. I’m very excited for the next book though!

updates

–December 31, 2017– Book #2: Breaking the Ice

Again, this book just has the right balance to it. I loved the slow burn romance between these two. They have this fantastic chemistry together that makes their scenes together amazing. I also loved Fletcher–new book boyfriend alert! The character development here is perfect. My only complaint is that it took a little while for the plot line to establish itself. Once it does, it makes for a great read but the first half is a little slower.

>> Read my full review of Breaking the Ice as a part of my Blog Tour for its release here.

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My Rating: 4/5

Off the Ice 4/5 | Breaking the Ice 4.5/5

overall

This is perfect for fans of small town romance and sport romance fans. It has fantastic characters with great character growth and a sweet romance to balance it all off. Just a well-rounded series.

Read if You Like: sports romances, slow burn romance, more character focused
Avoid if You: want more romance focused stories
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Fresh Fridays: Free to Play (Freedom Series #1) by Bella d’Amour

Fresh Fridays: On Friday, I review a brand new series (ie. only has one book released so far) to see if the series is worth keeping up with. Here is this week’s offering:

Freedom Series

Other books in the series:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Free to Play (from Goodreads):

He’s a player and she’s ready to play… but what happens when the fun gets serious?

“Brent, will you be my first?”

Joey is mortified to face Brent the next morning after letting the question slip in a weak moment. She’s shocked when Brent not only agrees but proposes a friends with benefits arrangement. How can she accept when it threatens what’s most important to her: her friendship with his sister, her new job with his football team, her self-respect when an ex-girlfriend is suddenly back in the picture – and her heart?

After years of working hard to fulfill his responsibilities, Brent is finally enjoying his life – with women who want nothing more than a good time. But when Joey asks him to be her first lover, he can’t resist finally getting his hands on her luscious body, one he’d been lusting after for years. Only problem is, once isn’t enough. He’s not ready to give up his hard-earned freedom nor is he ready for a woman to invade his life – or his heart. When demons from his past come back to haunt him, will he let them ruin what he’s found with Joey?

breakdown

Series: Freedom Series
Author: Bella d’Amour
# of Books: 1+ (Free to Play, Free to Live)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: No, Free to Live to be published in February 2018
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Heat Rating: hot
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 27, 2017 – ongoing
Source & Format: Author–eARC | Thanks so much Bella d’Amour!

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a sucker for the “in love with BFF’s brother trope”. I just love all the delicious tension it brings when two people inevitabley fall for each other (if they aren’t secretly in love with the other person already). I wasn’t sure what the case was going to be here, but I was excited to dive into Free to Play.

What I Liked:

–Fantastic Chemistry–

These two had great chemistry from the start! Their attraction to each other is palpable and I loved every moment shared between them. They make such a great pair and part of the reason is that:

–They Actually Talked to Each Other!–

Don’t worry, there are plenty of steamy moments between the two of them. However, they had these great moments of conversation where they discussed their hopes and fears among other topics. I like seeing that emotional connection be established in my romances and this one succeeds beautifully.

–Building Joey’s Self-Esteem–

I love stories where the heroine learns to be confident in herself. Sometimes that’s hard to do in a romance because all too often, the heroine only become more independent by becoming dependent on the hero/their relationship. (I know that’s confusing but I hope you get what I am saying). And while Brent does help Joey build her self-esteem when it comes to her body image, I would say he is a vehicle for her start to see herself in a different light, not the sole reason. He helps her to see herself outside the stereotypes she’s boxed herself into and once that seed is planted, she learns to grow on her own. I loved that.

This isn’t to say that Brent doesn’t have great character development. He too goes on a journey where he grows up and figures out what is truly important in his life and I liked that a lot.

What I Didn’t Like:

–A Tad Too Dramatic Near the End–

I get why certain things happened at the end. They help enhance the lessons of the novel and that’s great. But this novel felt so grounded for so long that I didn’t entirely enjoy all the (slightly) over the top drama that occurs. Again, I know why everything happens as it does, I just wish it didn’t.

However, we have more than enough time to wrap everything up nicely so win!

My Expectations for the Rest of the Series:

I’m super excited for the sequel! I loved Brent’s family and I hope they become the focus of the sequel novels. I already have a hypothesis of who the next book involves so I can’t wait to see if I’m right!

My Rating: 4/5

Free to Play 4/5 | Book 2 TBP

overall

If you love character strong romances, pick this one up!

Read if You Like: sport romances, heroines building self-esteem
Avoid if You: dislike steamier reads, dislike contemporary romance

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Single Sundays: Offsetting Penalties by Ally Mathews

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Offsetting Penalties (from Goodreads):

Isabelle Oster has dreamed of being a prima ballerina her entire life, so when the only male dancer backs out of the fall production, she’s devastated. Without a partner, she has no hope of earning a spot with the prestigious Ballet Americana company. Until hot jock Garret practicing stretches in one of the studios gives Izzy an idea, and she whips out her phone. But does she really want this badly enough to resort to blackmail?

All-state tight end Garret Mitchell will do anything to get a college football scholarship. Even taking ballet, which surprisingly isn’t so bad, because it means he gets to be up close and personal with the gorgeous Goth girl Izzy while learning moves to increase his flexibility. But Izzy needs him to perform with her for the Ballet Americana spot, and he draws the line at getting on stage. Especially wearing tights.

Disclaimer: This Entangled Teen Crush book contains a bit of blackmail, a lot of sarcasm, and an ending guaranteed to melt your heart.

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SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave YA Contemporary 2017
Author: Ally Mathews
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports, Dance
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Date: November 6, 2017
Source & Format: Netgalley–eARC | Thanks Entangled Teen Crush!

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I saw the premise for this novel, I just had to read it! You see, the book that introduced me to the New Adult genre, Crash, featured a football player and a ballerina meeting and falling in love. One of my favourite tropes in romance is when two unlikely people meet and fall in love and this one fit the bill. Throw in a little blackmail, tights and a goth, this is a wicked combination that seemed like it would be both fun and heartwarming at the same time.

The Plot:


I had so much fun reading this book! Not only are Izzy and Garret charming characters but the plot was fun and definitely adorable. I found myself sucked into this book and easily could have finished it in one sitting if I didn’t have to go to work.

What I liked about this book is that it had a great flow and plot progression. It had that great balance between plot development, character growth and sweet, romantic moments. The evolution of Izzy and Garret’s relationship was awesome to watch.

The Characters:

I loved Izzy and Garret from the start. Individually, these two are genuine people who you can’t help but love. They aren’t over-dramatic or angsty teenagers; they react in the rational ways to the various situations they find themselves in. Their characters could easily have been a cliche but they had this edge of individuality to their presentation that separates them from what you expect.

The Romance:

Together, these two are positively adorable! They have fantastic banter and chemistry from the start. The romance had a bit of a slow burn aspect to it as they two take their time to get to know each other a little more. I loved watching them establish that deeper connection.

A big positive for me was the fact that the romance doesn’t cause them to lose their individuality. I like when couples bring out the best in each other and this one succeeds in that aspect without a doubt. This relationship doesn’t consume them and they don’t lose sight over what they want or need.

My Rating: 4.5/5

overall

If you’re looking for a cute contemporary romance about two unlikely teens falling in love while aspiring to make their dreams come true, I highly recommend this book! You will easily get sucked into Izzy and Garret’s story.

Read if You Like: YA contemporary, enemies to lovers, high school romances
Avoid if You: dislike YA contemporary, don’t enjoy sport/dance stories

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Series Review: Pucked by Helena Hunting

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

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booksynopsis

Synopsis for Pucked (from Goodreads):

With a famous NHL player for a step-brother, Violet Hall is well acquainted with the playboy reputation many hockey stars come with. She’s smart enough to steer clear of those hot, well-built boys with unparalleled stamina. That is until she meets the legendary team captain—Alex Waters.

Violet isn’t interested in his pretty, beat-up face, or his rock-hard six-pack abs. But when Alex inadvertently obliterates Violet’s previous misapprehension regarding the inferior intellect of hockey players, he becomes more than just a hot body with a face to match.

In what can only be considered a complete lapse in judgment, Violet finds out just how good Alex is with the hockey stick in his pants. But what starts out as a one-night stand, quickly turns into something more. Post-night of orgasmic magic, Alex starts to call, and text, and e-mail and send extravagant—and quirky—gifts, making him difficult to ignore, and even more difficult not to like.

The problem is, the media portrays Alex as a total player, and Violet doesn’t want to be part of the game.

breakdown

Series: Pucked

Crosses over with the Clipped Wings Series in a novella, Get Inked (#5.5)

Author: Helena Hunting
# of Books: 6 (Full Reading Order Here)

Has a novellas & deleted scenes extras

Book Order: Connected but Chronological Events
Complete?: No, Book 6 TBA
Genre: Adult, Erotica, Romance, Contemporary, Sports, Hockey
Heat Rating: Hot
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: May 2015 – ongoing
Source & Format: Own–eBook

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Disclaimer: I finished Pucked (Book 1 – Review Here) but DNF’d Pucked Up @ 42% and Pucked Over @ 6%. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

Pucked had two things I absolutely love in my romance reads: hockey players and a playboy hero who actually has a heart of gold. Plus, this series is kinda everywhere I look; especially on Kobo where I buy most of my books. So I was definitely curious to see what all the fuss was about.

What I Liked:

–Canadian-isms–

Ok, as a Canadian, it’s a bit of a personal peeve when people use Canadian stereotypes incorrectly in novels. The number of times I’ve seen “eh?” used incorrectly in books has me apologizing on their behalf. It’s painful.

But thankfully Helena Hunting is also a Canadian so she knows how to add the dialogue effortlessly into the story.

–Alex–

Alex is what you want in a “bad” boy (who really isn’t) hockey player to be. As a Canadian who has grown up watching hockey, Alex is exactly what my NHL player dreams are made of. He’s a sweet, down to earth guy who kicks serious ass on the ice. Swoon!

What I Didn’t Like:

–Odd-Ball Heroines–

Honestly, I was in the right mood when I read Pucked because Violet could have easily rubbed me the wrong way. She’s one of those quirky, no filter heroines who can rub a reader the wrong way. Her humour isn’t for anyone and I know that if I was in a different mood, I would have DNF’d it simply for that reason alone. But once I learned more about her character, I started to see the humour in her comments.

However, when I started Pucked Over (Book 3), I felt like I was reading Violet all over again even though it’s a brand new heroine. And this time, I really wasn’t in the mood for it. It felt like a regurgitation of the first book.

–Lack of a Plot–

The main reason I DNF’d Pucked Up was the fact that I was 40% in and nothing was happening. And when I thought back to Pucked, there wasn’t much of a plot either.

Instead of drama or plot, I got pages of the leads describing their attraction towards their partner or sexy times. i wanted more conversations to deepen the relationships or some dramatic twist to keep me interested.

Will I Finish It?

No. I was really excited to read Pucked Up but flet severely let down. And I really only looked at Pucked Over because I had already bought it. I’m ok with leaving these unfinished.

Series Rating: DNF

Pucked 4/5 | Pucked Up DNF | Pucked Over DNF | Forever Pucked N/A | Pucked Off N/A

overall

If you want a romance that focuses more on the sexy times with bad boy hockey players, this is it! Otherwise, look elsewhere.

Read if You Like: erotica, hockey players
Avoid if You: want a stronger storyline
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Single Sundays: Draw Play by Tia Lewis

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for Draw Play (from Goodreads):
Jake:
I can’t believe my coach assigned me a tutor. I’m all that on the field and between the sheets — who cares about my stupid grades?

But Claire doesn’t treat me like I’m dumb. When we’re not busy fighting, she actually encourages me. And with those sexy curves of hers, I know just how to thank her.

Claire:
I hate football players, but I need the money. Jake is just as cocky and arrogant as the worst of them … but his touch sets me on fire.

I have to believe he’s different, that he won’t use me and break my heart. Because I can’t stop wanting him. I just hope I survive the ride.

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Author: Tia Lewis
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Sports
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Date: September 1, 2016
Source & Format: Own (Kindle)–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I was really excited when I saw this as a freebie on Amazon: I’m a sucker for the “in love with the tutor” trope. Add to that, I was looking for a story where a “popular” guy goes for the “nerdy” girl. I wanted some great sexual tension but a sweet romance as well.

The Plot:

What I liked about this story is that both of these characters have self-esteem issues. Claire is worried about her appearance (mostly her size) and how others tend to use her only for her brains; Jake’s academic abilities are overshadowed by his athleticism and good looks. They don’t see themselves as anything other than how people treat them and so they have a lot of growth and learning to do.

When it comes to the plot though, it follows your typical routine formula. They reluctantly meet, they exchange insults, they start to see the other person for who they truly are…and I think you know how the rest goes. And this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It was exactly what I wanted to read at the time. I wanted a cute, quick and sweet romance that I would enjoy reading in one sitting.

The Characters:

Claire was a little overdramatic and I hate to say that because she does have a sad past that does warrant her reactions. There was a lot of potential there but it kind-of fell flat by her irrational actions. I just didn’t warm up to her as much as I had hoped.

I thought Jake had the best character growth. A lot of that is thanks to Claire and her ability to see him as a person and not a commodity. And in turn, he helps her with her self-confidence. I really enjoyed that aspect of their relationship. I like when romances aid in personal character growth.

The Romance:

This was more of a slow burn romance than I anticipated. And for the longest time, I didn’t see how these two would ever fall for each other. They were constantly at each other’s throats. It takes them a while to reach the point that is described in the synopsis I think.

But I really did warm up to these two as a couple and could see why they were drawn to each other.

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My Rating: 3/5

overall

While it personally lacks that little bit of polish, this is a super cute NA sports romance that focuses on getting to know the person, not just getting into their pants.

Read if You Like: sports romances, in love with the tutor trope
Avoid if You: want more plot twists

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Single Sundays: The Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata

Single Sundays: While this blog may be focused on reviewing book series as a whole, we can’t forget about the good ole’ standalone novel! On Sundays, I will review a novel that is considered to be a standalone novel. Here is this week’s offering:

Synopsis for The Wall of Winnipeg and Me (from Goodreads):
Vanessa Mazur knows she’s doing the right thing. She shouldn’t feel bad for quitting. Being an assistant/housekeeper/fairy godmother to the top defensive end in the National Football Organization was always supposed to be temporary. She has plans and none of them include washing extra-large underwear longer than necessary.

But when Aiden Graves shows up at her door wanting her to come back, she’s beyond shocked.

For two years, the man known as The Wall of Winnipeg couldn’t find it in him to tell her good morning or congratulate her on her birthday. Now? He’s asking for the unthinkable.

What do you say to the man who is used to getting everything he wants?

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Favourite Adult Contemporary 2016
Author: Mariana Zapata
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Heat Rating: cool
Point of View: First Person, Single
Publication Date: February 29, 2016
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook

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Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I first came across this book when reading Sils’ guest post @ Dani Review Things in August 2016 when she was discussing her favourite NA Romance Tropes. Like me, Sil shares a love of fake marriages/relationships in her NA reads and The Wall of Winnipeg and Me was her pick for this trope.

I had never heard of this book before despite the fact that it has the Canadian city of Winnipeg in the title (not many things do) and it would have probably never crossed my radar otherwise. I mean, the synopsis doesn’t tell you that they create a fake relationship–and telling you that isn’t a spoiler because it is the main plot point in this very long novel–so I would never have known.

Regardless, this one peaked my interest and when I accidentally resubscribed to Kindle Unlimited, I needed to make my mistake worth it and decided to use this novel to get my money’s worth. And I sure am glad I did!

Is it Adult Contemporary or New Adult Contemporary?

Ok, Sil listed this as a New Adult read and I can see why. It reads very much like a New Adult read in terms of the character conflicts and stories (both have some darker backstories).

But for me, this is an adult read with some NA qualities. My primary characteristic for Adult/New Adult/Young Adult classification is the age of the characters; my secondary “requirement” for NA classification is whether or not it takes place in or shortly after college. In the case of The Wall of Winnipeg and Me, Vanessa is 26 and has been out of school for a couple of years. I usually classify anything with the youngest lead above the age of 25 as adult and because she is out of school, that just reaffirms that for me.

Nevertheless, this book with appeal to fans of both adult contemporary and NA contemporary.

The Plot:

I think this is one of the longest romance novels I have ever read! The Kindle edition is just a little more than 600 pages–that’s crazy! Most Kindle reads average 200-300 pages; especially in the romance genre.

But surprisingly, this book didn’t really feel that long! It has such a constant pacing that it makes it really easy to read and get involved in the story. New plot points or events are added along the way that keeps everything fresh and the plot moving.

The Characters:

The characters really make this story I think. I really got addicted to seeing how these two interacted with each other. Vanessa was strong and determined; Aiden you just instantly love and want to see succeed.

But what I truly enjoyed about these characters was their growth. These two are flawed in their own ways but what was fantastic was watching these flaws transform. Vanessa and Aiden both evolve so much from the start to the end of the novel. But at the same time, they still remain the same characters underneath. Meaning they don’t become these unrecognizable characters; they just become better versions of themselves thanks to each other.

The Romance:

If you want an example of a slow burn romance, this novel is the very definition of that trope!

As someone who complains a lot about romances being underdeveloped in stories (more tell than show nowadays it seems), this book was uber refreshing. It was great watching these two slowly develop their relationship. It wasn’t focused on the sex or the passion; it focused on the partnership and friendship which is always important in establishing a believable relationship.

These two learn to love and support each other; and I just love when people finally see what has been in front of them the entire time.

My Rating: 4.5/5

overall

This is the perfect read for adult contemporary enthusiasts who want a taste of a New Adult romance. And if you want to experience a true slow burn romance–look no further!

Read if You Like: slow burn romance, sports, New Adult romance
Avoid if You: want a quick read

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Series Review: Wingmen Inc by Rachel Van Dyken

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for The Matchmaker’s Playbook (from Goodreads):

Wingman rule number one: don’t fall for a client.

After a career-ending accident, former NFL recruit Ian Hunter is back on campus—and he’s ready to get his new game on. As one of the masterminds behind Wingmen, Inc., a successful and secretive word-of-mouth dating service, he’s putting his extensive skills with women to work for the lovelorn. But when Blake Olson requests the services of Wingmen, Inc., Ian may have landed his most hopeless client yet.

From her frumpy athletic gear to her unfortunate choice of footwear, Blake is going to need a miracle if she wants to land her crush. At least with a professional matchmaker by her side she has a fighting chance. Ian knows that his advice and a makeover can turn Blake into another successful match. But as Blake begins the transformation from hot mess to smokin’ hot, Ian realizes he’s in danger of breaking his cardinal rule.…

breakdown

Series: Wingmen Inc
Author: Rachel Van Dyken
# of Books: 2 (The Matchmaker’s Playbook, The Matchmaker’s Replacement)
Book Order: Connected but Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
Heat Rating: warm
Point of View: First Person, Single (Playbook); Alternating (Replacement)
Publication Dates: April – August 2016
Source & Format: Kindle Unlimited–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I’m a huge fan of Rachel Van Dyken’s Ruin Trilogy. She writes some great New Adult series that don’t follow the typical plot-line pathways. Meaning, I’m always surprised at the stories we get in her books. They make you feel a little bit of everything; you laugh, you swoon, you may even shed a tear. She just writes consistently great stories and I have quite a few novels by her on my TBR.

When I accidentally resubscribed to Kindle Unlimited, I made sure to fit this series in. The concept of The Matchmaker’s Playbook sounded like a lot of fun. I love when people unexpectedly fall in love with someone they shouldn’t. The plot also reminded me of the 90s movie “She’s All That”, where the “it” boy falls for the frumpy girl he is to transform. It’s a premise you don’t often see and so I couldn’t wait to see what she did with it.

Image result for she's all that gif

The Concept:

I just want to briefly touch on the “dating service” Ian is running. I don’t want people to focus too much on the “makeover” aspect of the synopsis. It makes it sound like he makes these girls into a set mold that guys find attractive and in turn, the girl becomes someone she isn’t. Rather, Ian works on building her self-confidence by making her see her self-worth. He’s not telling them to only act a particular way all the time in order to land the guy. Of course, new clothes do come into play but I think what you wear influences your confidence so it goes hand in hand.

I hope that makes sense! I just don’t want people to get the wrong idea from the get-go!

The Plot:

I thought these books were a lot of fun but at the same time, very heart-warming. While you have these matchmaking schemes happening you get to watch these two guys come to terms with what they want out of a relationship. It’s a little cheesy, but it reminds the reader that you just need to find that one person who can change your perspective on things.

What I also liked is that these novels weren’t needless dramatic. All the drama worked for evolving the story and that made for an enjoyable read.

The Characters:

If you don’t enjoy stories with a jackass for the male lead, I think you will want to stay away from this series!

Not that I thought the guys were particularly crude, but they do make some somewhat rude comments on occasion. They are also players to the extreme so I know that can be a bit of a turn off. I myself have a particular soft-spot for jerk male leads who get shown their place so it was a highlight for me, but I know that some people will not see it that way.

As for the girls, I really liked them. Despite not having the alternating POV in Matchmaker’s Playbook, I thought Blake’s character development was solid from start to finish. The heroine in The Matchmaker’s Replacement was fantastic.

The Romance:

The sexual tension in this series was great! What I really liked is that sex isn’t the main focus because of the slow burn approach to the romance. Everything just builds and builds until that big reveal. It was just nice not to read a story littered with sex scene upon sex scene.

I did want a little more out of the romance in The Matchmaker’s Playbook. I just wanted their relationship to evolve a little more. It seemed a little to “insta-love” to me even though no one is spewing “I love you” super early. I just wanted their connection to be teased out a bit. The Matchmaker’s Replacement does a better job developing the romance I think thanks to the alternating POV and the flashbacks.

Movie!:

Apparently these books have been optioned for film! Which is great because they do remind me of those great 90s rom-coms that we don’t really get nowadays.

Series Rating: 4.5/5

The Matchmaker’s Playbook 4/5 | The Matchmaker’s Replacement 5/5

overall

If you can handle charming jackasses, this is the perfect series for you! It’s light on the sex but has a great dramatic story that will have you laughing and eagerly reading to see what happens next!

Read if You Like: jackass playboy heroes, 90s rom coms, sexual tension
Avoid if You: want more sexy times
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Series Review: Players by Mackenzie Crowne

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for To Win Her Love (from Goodreads):
To win the game, they’ll have to risk losing their hearts…

When a bizarre child custody stipulation pits popular sports blogger Gracie Gable against football superstar Jake Malone, losing the battle for her twin nieces isn’t the only thing Gracie has to worry about. Forced to live for three months under the same roof as the sexy tight end, will she fall prey to his flirtatious pursuit? Or worse, will the skeletons in her closet destroy her chance for the love and family she so desperately wants?

Neglected by his parents as a boy, Jake doesn’t believe in happily ever after. Yet living with Gracie and the twins might be enough to change his mind—and his womanizing ways. But when the press unearths a scandal from Gracie’s past, will he lose the one woman he was ready to open his heart to?

breakdown

Series: Players Trilogy
Author: Mackenzie Crowne
# of Books: 3 (To Win Her Love, To Win Her Trust, To Win Her Heart)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Sports
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: Third Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: August 2015 – April 2016
Source & Format: Own–eBook

thoughts

Disclaimer: I read To Win Her Love in its entirety but opted not to pick up the next 2 novels in the series. Find out why below…

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I don’t recall how I found this series. I think Kobo had a sale and I saw the cover and decided to check it out. I adore stories where two people who initially dislike each other fall in love so that’s what drew me in. However, the premise of a custody battle sounded like a refreshing one I haven’t come across in a contemporary romance before.

Sure, the premise is a lot like the plot for the 2010 movie Life as we Know It where a single guy and girl find themselves the unexpected guardians of their best friends young baby. But the circumstances in this novel greatly differ and I liked the bigger sports spin this novel had.

photography kid romance lovely josh duhamel

What I Liked:

–The Premise–

Like I just said above, the premise was what really drew me to this novel. I thought it was a lot of fun even if it is a touch realistic. I mean why is the decision left to two 6 year old girls to decide who their guardian should be? I remember how wish-washy I was when I was 6 about what candy I wanted–a life altering decision like guardianship shouldn’t be left in a child’s hand even if I appreciate the sentiment.

But I liked that this story was about these two coming together to create a family and finding out what they want in life. They had some really cute moments with the kids that absolutely melted my heart.

–Gracie Knows Football–

I find the heroines in sports novels usually know nothing–or next to nothing–about the sport of their romantic interest. Every once in a while you’ll get a girl who is in touch with her sporty side and understands the world but it’s not a common occurrence. I loved that not only did Gracie understand football but that she actually works as a blogging analyst on football. Awesome.

What I Didn’t Like:

–Third Person POV–

When it comes to my romances, I prefer first person POVs. I just like getting that insight into a character by being directly in their head. I feel so far removed from characters when they are presented in third person. And while I appreciate the fact that it being third person keeps some of the secrets these characters have as secrets, I also found it hard to follow at times. I get a little out of practice with third person reads sometimes because I mostly read first person.

–Slow Moving Plot–

I would classify this romance as a slow burn romance for sure. And normally I don’t mind that because it gives these characters time to get to know each other in a more meaningful way besides sex. But here, I didn’t think that was the case. I wanted their connection to be elaborated on more, especially earlier in the novel when the plot focused more on setting up the circumstances of getting these two together. Which was rather slow in my opinion.

Will I Finish It?

While I enjoyed To Win Her Love, the next two stories don’t really interest me so it’s a pass.

Series Rating: 3/5

To Win Her Love 3/5 | To Win Her Trust N/A | To Win Her Heart N/A

overall

This is a cute story but I just wanted a little more from it.

Read if You Like: sports, family based stories, slow burn romance
Avoid if You: dislike third person stories, want erotica

similarreads

  • The Charlotte Chronicles by Jen Frederick (The Jackson Boys #1)
  • Game for Love by Bella Andre (Bad Boys of Football Trilogy #3)
  • Rush Me by Allison Parr (New York Leopards Series #1)

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Series Review: English by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Dirty English (from Goodreads):
A scarred fighter.
A girl with rules.
One night of unbridled passion.

There are three things you need to know about Elizabeth Bennett: she’s smart as a whip, always in control, and lives by a set of carefully crafted rules. She’s learned the hard way that people you love the most always hurt you in the end.

But then she meets Declan Blay, the new neighbor at her apartment complex.

A tattooed British street fighter, he’s the campus bad boy she’s supposed to avoid, but when he saves her from a frat party gone bad, all her rules about sex and love fly out the window.

She gives him one night of unbridled passion, but he longs for more.

With only a cardboard-thin wall separating their bedrooms, he dreams of possessing the vulnerable girl next door forever.

One night. Two damaged hearts. The passion of a lifetime.

*A modern love story inspired by Pride and Prejudice*

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Fave New Adult 2016
Series: English
Author: Ilsa Madden-Mills
# of Books: 2 (Dirty English, Filthy English)
Book Order: Connected
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary, Sports
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: October 2015 – July 2016
Source & Format: Kindle/Kindle Unlimited–eBook

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

I bought Dirty English when I it popped up on the “Hot New Releases” in the Kindle Store one day. Like most, I’m a sucker for a good British (bad) boy and this one looked promising. The reviews were mostly positive and I was really curious to see how it was inspired by Pride and Prejudice.

The Concept:

Each novel is inspired by a famous love story. Dirty English is Pride and Prejudice while Filthy English is Romeo and Juliet. As someone who enjoys both of those classics, it was a lot of fun for me to try and see the parallels in each novel. But by no means do you have to be overly familiar with either to enjoy these works.

The Plot:

I like that these novels are just as much a romance story as they are a coming of age. All these characters have their flaws and they try their best to navigate them as they fall in love. Plus, there’s some great drama thrown in that isn’t unnecessary, rather it is entertaining and adds to the overall story.

These novels also had me laughing out loud as I read them (Dirty English more so). I just had fun with these!

I have to say though that Filthy English seemed rushed at the ending. I wanted a little more to it but overall I still enjoyed the story.

The Characters:

Do Declan and Dax actually exist somewhere? Please, I need to know! I loved these two. While I know Madden-Mills likes to write alpha males, I didn’t find these two to be over the top with their male-dominating tendencies.

I also liked their leading ladies. They were strong females who had tremendous growth as they overcame their pasts and issues.

The Romance:

I felt like the romance was stronger in Dirty English because it had a little more substance to it. It was really easy to see why these two would be drawn to each other besides physical attraction. In other words, it mirrors Pride and Prejudice very well.

Filthy English though gets a bit of hit against it because it is inspired by Romeo and Juliet–the ultimate love at first sight story. Why they liked each other–besides fantastic sex–took a longer time to surface I thought. I still liked them together, I just wanted a little more and I was a little underwhelmed by their story.

Series Rating: 4/5

Dirty English 5/5 | Filthy English 3/5

overall

If you want fun but touching New Adult contemporary romance check these two out! Did I mention they have British “bad” boys with hearts of gold? If that doesn’t convince you…

Read if You Like: stories inspired by classics, contemporary romance
Avoid if You: dislike new adult contemporary

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Spin-off Saturdays: Kick, Push by Jay McLean

Series Review: Is this series worth your time? Does it get better as the novels progress? Or does it get worse? Find out below:

booksynopsis

Synopsis for Kick, Push (from Goodreads):
There’s a single defining moment within every skater.
It lasts only a second. Two if you’re good.
Three if you’re really good.
It’s the moment you’re in the air, your board somewhere
beneath you, and nothing but wind surrounds you.
It’s the feeling of being airborne.

The sixteen-year-old version of me would’ve said it was the
greatest feeling in the world.
Then at seventeen, I had my son.
And every single second became a defining moment. Even the ones that consisted of heartbreak when his mother left us.

Seventeen. Single. Dad.
That’s what my life became.
Yet, every day, I managed to find that feeling of being
airborne.
Or at least I convinced myself I did.
But I lied—to myself and to everyone around me.
Until she showed up; Tanned skin, raven dark hair, and eyes the color of emeralds.

You know what sucks about being in the air?
Coming down from the high.
Sometimes you land on the board and nail the trick.
Then kick, push, and coast away.
Other times you fall.
You fall hard.
And those are the times when it’s not as easy to get back up, dust off your pads and try again.
Especially when the girl with the emerald eyes becomes your drug…
And you become her poison.

breakdown

SERIESous’ Top Picks: Must Read Author
Series: Kick, Push — or Road

There is a prequel novel about two side characters called Where the Road Takes Me. Together, all 3 novels make up the Road Series.

Author: Jay McLean
# of Books: 2 (Kick, Push; Coast)

See above note regarding Where the Road Takes Me

Book Order: Chronological
Complete?: Yes
Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Dark, Sports
Heat Rating: really warm
Point of View: First Person, Alternating
Publication Dates: August 2015 – June 2016
Source & Format: Read It Review It–eARC (Kick, Push); Kindle Unlimited (Coast)

disclaimer

(Note: I only received a copy of Kick, Push for review. I read Coast via Kindle Unlimited)

Note: Where the Road Takes Me will be reviewed separately.

thoughts

Why I Picked it Up / My Expectations:

When I saw Kick, Push on the list of upcoming New Adult Club Read It Review It titles, I was excited! I’ve really enjoyed Jay McLean’s work in the past for its addicting quality. While reading the More Than Series, I laughed, I cried, I got angry, I swooned–basically all the feels you can possibly feel while reading a book and I love that.

What really stood out to me about this book was the premise of a single dad. I don’t read a lot of single parent novels but when I do, they are mostly second chance stories where the mom has raised the baby without the dad knowing and they reunite–or something of that tone. But most of the time they are single moms; which is great but what about all the single dads out there? Plus, I’ve never really read a story about a skateboarder before.

The Concept:

While I don’t think any parent should abandon their child, I feel like women who do get a lot of flack compared to men who do. Maybe society is just more comfortable with the man leaving than the person who carried the child, I’m not sure. However, I don’t like this stigma that all women are expected to be instinctively maternal. So I was worried that this series would relay that stigma throughout its narrative. But I am happy to say that I never really felt like the book took that approach. While you will likely side with Josh once you know the whole story, I didn’t feel like it shamed or glorified the situation in any way and I truly appreciated that.

The Plot:

The story is just as much about Josh as it is Becca and I really enjoyed that. Both have so much growth and depths to their characters that I liked the balancing act between their stories as you read. The mashing of romance, character development and drama make this an addicting series to read.

And like Jay McLean’s other novels, there are just enough twists along the way to keep things interesting and exciting. I didn’t expect this story to go the way it did and I loved it!

The Characters:

Josh is an absolute sweetheart so it doesn’t take much for you to root for him. His heart is in the right place and I loved reading his story.

Becca, wow, what a story she has. It’s heartbreaking and she’s so sweet that it causes you to shed a few tears on her behalf.

Everyone else was great as well. I found the supporting characters did their job to a T and added a depth to the story that makes it so much more enjoyable.

The Romance:

When I first read the synopsis and started the book, I was confused about the line:

“Especially when the girl with the emerald eyes becomes your drug…
And you become her poison.”

Everything starts so sweet and light that when the shit hits the fan, it becomes a huge mess. So the romance definitely leans to towards the darker side of love BUT, I love how it is elaborated on and becomes an integral part of the story. It isn’t there for shock value–it’s there because it is a part of their story and it adds to the depth of who these characters are as people.

Series Rating: 5/5

Kick, Push 5/5 | Coast 5/5

overall

If you want a book series that will make you feel every emotion, look no further my friends!

Read if You Like: New Adult romances, darker romance
Avoid if You: want a lighter, happier story, don’t want to cry

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