The Play, by Karina Halle

The Play

Grade: A+

Doing it at: 33%

Catnip: Hot Scot, A Foreign Affair, Puppy Love, Tattoos, Beards, Strong Female Lead, Big Brooding Hero, Brogue, Hot Scot, Rugby Players, Epic, Deep Dark Secrets, Shower Sex, Dual Narrative, #DISP, #TeamAnal

Shame Scale: Not a drop, The Play is a big, sweeping romance that will break your heart and you will feel fine recommending to anyone (no machetes in this one!)

Fantasy Cast: Tom Hardy, Kristin Kreuk

Book Description:

A troubled Scottish rugby player who doesn’t play by the rules.
A vivacious man-eater who’s given up on love.
When it comes to Lachlan and Kayla, opposites don’t just attract – they explode.

From the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today Bestselling author of The Pact and The Offer, comes The Play, a standalone spinoff and contemporary romance about taking chances and rescuing hearts.

Kayla Moore has always been comfortable with her feisty, maneating reputation. At least it was fine until she hit her thirties and saw her best friends Stephanie and Nicola settle down with Linden and Bram McGregor, leaving Kayla to be the odd one out. Tired of being the third wheel with nothing but one-night stands and dead-end dates in San Francisco, Kayla decides to take a vow of celibacy and put men on the backburner.

That is until she lays her eyes on Linden and Bram’s cousin, hot Scot Lachlan McGregor. Lachlan is her sexual fantasy come to life – tall, tatted, and built like a Mack truck. With a steely gaze and successful rugby career back in Edinburgh, he’s the kind of man that makes her want to throw her vow right out the window. But Lachlan’s quiet and intense demeanor makes him a hard man to get to know, let alone get close to.

It isn’t until the two of them are thrown together one long, unforgettable night that Kayla realizes there is so much more to this brooding macho man than what meets the eye. But even with sparks flying between the two, Lachlan can’t stay in America forever. Now, Kayla has to decide whether to uproot her whole life and chance it all on someone she barely knows or risk getting burned once again.

Sometimes love is a game that just needs to be played.

Mary: By now you all probably realize that we’re a little evangelical about Karina Halle new releases. We’re fan girls and it’s hard for us to have any chill. But this book, you guys. This was the best thing I’ve read all year. Ridiculously sexy, achingly evocative, this one dragged us all over the emotional map.

PLUS: $1 from every preorder/release day sale is going to save-the-puppy charities, which is so fucking generous you guys – it’s a $3 book. And I’m not saying that a month of rescue dogs flooding my news feed sparked the start of a long-con on my husband so that we can get a puppy, but I will say that I will probably have a doggie by Christmastime.

Cleone: Rescue pups play a big part in the book, and this one had me hugging my pup extra tight (for support while I cried). AND looking at local dogs for adoption, for Mary ostensibly.

M: The Play is huge; it’s really two novels in one. Karina Halle generously sent us ARC’s for early review, but we got it in two chunks, roughly two weeks apart. So we read the first half and then tried to live normal lives even though we were basically dead inside, waiting for the second half. We could really do this whole review via text screenshots.

Play hangover

play hangover 1

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Racing the Sun, by Karina Halle

racing the sun

Grade: A+

Doing it at: 53%

Catnip: Italian Stallion, A Foreign Affair, The Nanny, Jane Eyre, Italian Pillow Talk, Banging the Boss, Lady Boner, Motorcycles, Sexual Healing

Shame Scale: Zero. Zero shame.

Fantasy Cast: All the people we were thinking of for this one came up shy. But this all pretty much nails it.

What do we taste like?: So sweet. Dolce.

What does he taste like?: Like the honey tones of scotch and of faded smoke and mint

Book Description:

It’s time for twenty-four-year-old Amber MacLean to face the music. After a frivolous six months of backpacking through New Zealand, Australia, and Southeast Asia, she finds herself broke on the Mediterranean without enough money for a plane ticket home to California. There are worse places to be stuck than the gorgeous coastline of southern Italy, but the only job she manages to secure involves teaching English to two of the brattiest children she’s ever met.

It doesn’t help that the children are under the care of their brooding older brother, Italian ex-motorcycle racer Desiderio Larosa. Darkly handsome and oh-so-mysterious, Derio tests Amber’s patience and will at every turn—not to mention her hormones.

But when her position as teacher turns into one as full-time nanny at the crumbling old villa, Amber finds herself growing closer to the enigmatic recluse and soon has to choose between the safety of her life back in the States and the uncertainty of Derio’s closely guarded heart.

CleoneWe love Karina Halle. Mary and I think she’d be fun to get drunk with and *semi* stalk her on social media. So, we’d been greatly anticipating this release.


Mary: I have the hugest fantasy friend crush on Karina Halle. She has a gorgeous instagram feed that’s a joy to follow, and it’s nice to feel like you know something about the person writing the stories you love. And her books sound like love letters to places we really want to visit. The travel writing is incredibly evocative, and this one transported me straight to coastal Italy.

Her heroines are the most relatable women ever, they remind me of some of my closest friends – with the lusting and the swearing, and their life choices in general, and Halle manages to capture the feelings of being in your 20’s like no one else. And Christ, she writes the hottest men. Karina – I love your taste in fantasy men! We’d have so much fun texting each other! Do you want to join mine and Cleone’s group text? We send each other funny screen shots, and creeper pics of hot meter men and kindergarten teachers and playground dads. I think you’d love it. Also – I feel like I can say this Karina, because I don’t know you IRL: your husband is kind of a fox.

C: Karina, if you’re reading this and Mary’s fangirling is creeping you out, I can promise to keep her 100 feet away from you at all times.

M: I was really looking forward to this book. It’s the follow-up to Where Sea Meets Sky, which was fantastic (emphatic recommendation from the Bookshame Ladies). This book picks up with Amber, after she leaves Josh and Gemma in New Zealand.

C: Amber has been backpacking across Europe, staying in hostels and keeping a travel blog, trying to prolong returning to her life in the states for as long as possible. She’s made it to Positano, Italy (google it, Italy is beautiful and we should all move there), where due to funds she finds she can travel no more. She doesn’t even have enough money to buy a plane ticket home. Amber is spunky, and funny, and hapless at times. I liked her immediately:

And so here is Positano. I’d been so busy closing my eyes and praying that I’d never really gotten a good look at the town.

It’s fucking charming.

C: Girls who swear copiously are girls after our own hearts.

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Revved, by Samantha Towle


Grade: B

Doing it at: 39%

Catnip: Race Car Drivers, A Foreign Affair; Emotional Unavailability; Irish Brogue; Daddy Issues; Aftercare; Banging the Boss

Shame Scale: A little shame just because the cover makes it pretty obvious that it’s a doing it book.

Fantasy Cast: Adriana Lima; Max Irons

Book Description:

Race car mechanic Andressa “Andi” Amaro has one rule—no dating drivers. With a good reason behind the rule, she has no plans on breaking it. 

Carrick Ryan is the bad boy of Formula One. With a face and body that melts panties on sight, and an Irish lilt that leaves women on their knees, begging for more. He races hard and parties harder. The youngest driver to ever sign with F1, he’s still at the top of his game five years later, breaking hearts on and off the tracks. 

When Andi is offered her dream job working in the glamorous world of F1, she leaves her home in Brazil, positive she can handle working for Carrick. But she’s not prepared for the off-the-chart sparks that fly the moment they meet. 

Now, Andi has a crush on the one man she can’t have, and her resolve is about to be put to the test, because Carrick has decided he wants Andi, and he plans on testing her to the very limit… 

Mary: Raise your hand if you’re like me and bought this book because it has a great cover.

Cleone: The cover was the major selling point for me too, I had it bookmarked before I saw you pop it into the family library (thanks for that you stunning little sunflower).

M: The fact that it’s about an Irish race car driving manwhore was icing. Also: I used to date a guy with the last name Towle. I have googled Samantha Towle no less than three times to double check that she wasn’t a relative of his, because her name just seems really familiar to me (she does not appear to be).

The book starts out with a young Andressa (Andi) watching her Formula One race car driving dad die in a horrible explosion. I normally can’t stand books that do flashbacks in kid voice, but this one was not overly twee. Fast forward 14 years, and Andi is now a gifted mechanic, off to work on Carrick Ryan’s Formula One team with her uncle John. When she shows up, she realizes that Uncle John neglected to mention that she’s a woman, “because they wouldn’t have hired her if they knew.” Uhhh, John, even if it’s true, you’re not supposed to admit that out loud.

C: Well, its not because she’s a girl and they think girls can’t be mechanics, in Uncle John’s defense.

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First Position, by Melody Grace

first position

Grade: D- (for no D)

Doing it at: n/a NO Doing It :sob::

Catnip: Ballet; A Foreign Affair; Virgin; Breaking the Rules

Shame Scale: Shame on this book for invoking Dirty Dancing and then having no sex.

Fantasy Cast:  No cast for a disappointing short book

What do we taste like?: Chocolate sweetness

  Book Description:

A man dances the same way he f*#ks. His stamina, his rhythm, the slow grind of his hips. Some people are born to it, others learn through years of careful study. And dancers? We f*#k best of all. The moment I saw her, I knew. Her innocence is intoxicating. My lust is fierce. Primal. To watch her dance is to know the torment of true temptation. She will be mine.

I have a thing for male ballet dancers, I blame Julian Marquet, and the release of this video a few months ago:

I asked Mary if we had anything in the treasure trove of smut that is our family library that featured a male ballet dancer and she sent me back First Position. And I was so pumped guys, its a serial, but I figured with talk of being the best of all at fucking in the synopsis I’d get some good down and dirty toe-shoes action. It let me down, you guys.

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About Last Night, by Ruthie Knox

about last night

Grade: A

Doing it at: 17%

Catnip: Opposites Attract; A Foreign Affair; Beta Hero; Fake Relationship; Deep Dark Secret; Dual Narrative

Shame Scale: I loved this book a million, it had character development and excellent dialog, I have the lowest shame and it’s only related to that cover, it’s not a public transportation cover.

Fantasy Cast: Michael Fassbender; Nora Zehetner

What do we taste like: Deliciously of bacon (new favorite)

Book Description:

Cath Talarico knows a mistake when she makes it, and God knows she’s made her share. So many, in fact, that this Chicago girl knows London is her last, best shot at starting over. But bad habits are hard to break, and soon Cath finds herself back where she has vowed never to go . . . in the bed of a man who is all kinds of wrong: too rich, too classy, too uptight for a free-spirited troublemaker like her.

Nev Chamberlain feels trapped and miserable in his family’s banking empire. But beneath his pinstripes is an artist and bohemian struggling to break free and lose control. Mary Catherine–even her name turns him on–with her tattoos, her secrets, and her gamine, sex-starved body, unleashes all kinds of fantasies.

When blue blood mixes with bad blood, can a couple that is definitely wrong for each other ever be perfectly right? And with a little luck and a lot of love, can they make last night last a lifetime?

I liked About Last Night so much that I probably can’t be impartial or feel like I’m doing it justice. This is the fourth of Ruthie Knox’s books that I have read (surprise surprise I haven’t read them in publication order), and I’ve been charmed by all four. Do you suddenly want to think that beekeeping is sexy? Please go read Truly! Have you always kind of wanted to travel cross-country with a hot guy you hardly know? Seek out Ride With Me! Want to read about a bad girl making good? Here’s About Last Night.

Cath is a transplant to England from Chicago, following a whole mess of shit going down in the states that has made her seek a completely fresh start. Everything in her life is boring and predictable, right down to the commuters she sees taking the train every morning. She knows Emo Boy, and Bus Purse, and Old Guy in Fedora by sight and by schedule. And City, the cute, suited up, straight-laced banker; she knows him by site and by schedule, too. She’s got a strict set of rules for herself that basically boil down to “if you really want something it’s probably wrong, and you can’t have it.” Which means no dating, she’s got a two-year long dry spell and no intention of breaking it any time soon. Until a frenemy has a piece that Cath desperately wants for an upcoming exhibition at the Victoria and Albert museum where Cath works in curatorial (the piece is a hand knit straitjacket which sounds very freaking cool); and she’s only sharing it IF Cath agrees to go on a blind date with her cousin. She’s not thrilled about the idea, but decides it’s just ONE date and logically what can actually go wrong?

Well, obviously, everything. Cath wakes up in a strange bed, with no initial recollection of how she got there. She’s mostly dressed, appears unmolested, and the previous evening starts to come back to her in bits and pieces. The boring date, the one drink too many…running into City on the wharf and being so drunk that he brought her home. Home to his home, into his big wooden bed. Cath is embarrassed but feels safe, because anyone could tell that City is one of the good guys, he’s boring and nice, and would never take advantage of her.

City has left her a towel, a toothbrush, and has an apartment that smells tantalizingly of bacon. This is kind of the ideal situation to wake up in when you’ve woken up in a strange bed, as we all have (unless you haven’t- good for you- lets not gloat).  Cath cleans up, goes in search of him (and her clothes which have gone missing), and finds him painting. Not exactly what she was expecting. She isn’t expecting the perfect body to look so good in a t-shirt either, or his shark smile to make her feel all tingly in her bits.

Smiling, City didn’t appear altogether safe.

To her dismay, he lit her up like a pinball machine.

It doesn’t take much time or convincing for City to roll Cath into his bed and show her how spectacularly good he is in there. Cath has Very hot sex with a man whose name she still doesn’t know, and is feeling not too awful about it (hard to feel awful after multiple orgasms with a delicious gent), when his brother shows up and manages to make her feel tarty and unwelcome so Cath scampers out before City can put up a fight.

Only City really likes her, and he thinks he’ll like her out of bed just as much as he likes her in bed. So, Nev (that’s his actual name, Neville Chamberlain, very proper) pursues Cath. He waits for her at the train station, and when she won’t agree to a real date he woos her on the commute itself with chocolate bars and bags of crisps.

Nev’s mouth curled up at the corners, and he lowered his voice, leaning closer. “Of course I’m trying to get you back in bed with me. I loved having you in my bed. I’d like to chain you to my bed.” He trailed a finger down her bare arm, leaving a trail of sighing nerve endings. “But I’d also like to have lunch with you.”

Cath tries to be strong in the face of his charms. She has rules and walls and goals. But Nev is her Kryptonite and she agrees to hooking up with him;  ONLY hooking up mind you. Lovely hooking up with take away dinners, and hot sex, and cuddling, and laughing. Hooking up that very soon involves real feelings.

Knox does a bang up job of making their growing affection for each other seem real. There’s not insta-love over a two-day sex-cation. Cath is prickly and City is sweet and steady and nice (but not too nice dammit) and thinks Cath is worth an effort. He’s treading carefully around the minefields of her hidden past and slowly insinuating himself into her life. Even with all of her self erected barriers Cath can’t stop herself falling for him, though letting him in is a different story, she hasn’t even told him where she lives. I found myself  wrapped up in the characters, waiting for the house of cards to fall, and for someone to get their heart wrecked. And when everything did go wrong I actually felt myself tearing up; all the feels in my cold dead heart.

I gave About Last Night a solid A, Knox’ dialog is leagues above many romance authors, and her sex scenes are hot without veering in to gratuitous.The secrets that Cath has been keeping are actually bad enough to make you think “well, I might want a new life, too.” Which was a delight because deep dark secrets in books usually elicit eye rolling over how very lame they are.  There is just enough sex, just enough humor, all the happy ending a girl could want. I loved this and really want you to read it so you can join me on the City “squeeeeeee” train.

Check it out on Amazon: