Breaking Away, by Toni Aleo

breaking away

Grade: B

Doing it at: 21%

Catnip: Hockey Players; Beards; Tattoos; Dancers; Secret Lovers; Shower Sex; Strong Female Lead; Dual Narrative

Shame Scale: Low Shame, but since I’ve come out of the romance closet I’m experiencing less book shame in general

Fantasy Cast:  Brooks Laich*; Ginnifer Goodwin

Book Description:

To Nashville Assassins’ leading scoring center Phillip Anderson, playing hockey has always been easy… as natural as breathing. His life is no different. That’s until his world is turned upside down by the death of his sister. While mourning his loss, Phillip has to find a way to make his very angry sixteen-year-old niece, Claire, happy. Now, as her guardian, he discovers the only thing that seems to heal her lonely heart is dance class. But what he didn’t count on was the attraction he’d feel towards her drop-dead sexy dance teacher.

For Reese Allen, dancing has always been part of her soul. After having her heart broken in New York, she comes home with the determination to make her dance studio one of the best in Tennessee and succeeds. When she sees Claire dance for the first time, she knows the girl is bound for greatness and takes the troubled teen under her wing. Using dance as therapy, she suddenly finds herself bound to the young woman… and her hot-as-sin uncle.

However, Phillip and Reese are happy in their single lives. It’s simple. They do what they want, who they want, and how they want, but from the moment they meet, the attraction is undeniable. Soon, they are more than willing to spend just one night tangled in the sheets. But, one night turns into two, and two turns into three, until they find themselves in a repeated dance of “One Last Time” that has the potential to be something more… if only Reese and Claire allow it.

Can Phillip find a way to thaw the hearts of both the women in his life, or will he be forever trying to break them away from their pasts?

Breaking Away is my second Toni Aleo read, its the fifth book in her Assassin’s Series, which I am (of course) gleefully reading out of order. And you know what I’m really liking about her book boyfriends? These boys are all in, the hedging and mixed feelings are coming from our heroines. It’s a genuine delight to read about guys who aren’t scared of their feelings.

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All Lined Up, by Cora Carmack

all lined up

Grade: B-

Doing it at: 88% – which, since there’s an excerpt is really 98% into the book, no sex until the absolute very end

Catnip: Football Players; Dancers; Dual Narrative; Strong Female lead; Beta Hero; Secret Romance; Kissing in a Tree

Shame Scale: Pretty low shame here, this is like reading a slightly sexed up YA novel, cover and all

Fantasy Cast: Zach Gilford and Aimee Teagarden

Book Description:

“In Texas, two things are cherished above all else—football and gossip. My life has always been ruled by both.

Dallas Cole loathes football. That’s what happens when you spend your whole childhood coming in second to a sport. College is her time to step out of the bleachers, and put the playing field (and the players) in her past.

But life doesn’t always go as planned. As if going to the same college as her football star ex wasn’t bad enough, her father, a Texas high school coaching phenom, has decided to make the jump to college ball… as the new head coach at Rusk University. Dallas finds herself in the shadows of her father and football all over again.

Carson McClain is determined to go from second-string quarterback to the starting line-up. He needs the scholarship and the future that football provides. But when a beautiful redhead literally falls into his life, his focus is more than tested. It’s obliterated.

Dallas doesn’t know Carson is on the team. Carson doesn’t know that Dallas is his new coach’s daughter.

And neither of them know how to walk away from the attraction they feel.”

I was talking to Mary about how much I liked Cora Carmack, I read her Losing It series (but not in order), and she asked if I had read The Rusk University series. When I said I hadn’t it was a whole lot of of “what is wrong with you?” which I get a lot, and then she informed that the second book is basically Tim Riggins from Friday Night Lights and I was very very sold. However THEN she smut nazi’d me (smazi’d) and told me I needed to read them in order. Reading book series in order is something I almost never do if they’re connected stories in the same bookverse, but not actually the same couples’ story being told in every book. Generally if a #2 or #3 in a series intrigues me I’ll read that one first and work backward or forward from there, I’m a rebel. But, Mary was insistent and told me this is pretty much just Saracen and Julie, so I easily caved on my series reading convictions and now I present to you All Lined Up.

Dallas’ daddy is the new head coach for the Rusk University football team, Dallas wanted to go away to school somewhere WITH a good dance program and WITHOUT her dad and asshole ex-boyfriend, Levi. She got over ruled and the book opens with her being dragged to a frat party by her best friend, Stella, where she runs into her ex for the first time since coming to campus. Dallas can’t avoid him forever, nor can she avoid his cute team mate who aggressively hits on her, and then lets her over hear him asking Levi for tips on getting into her pants. Dallas is mad a lot, but not so great at expressing it, so after hearing this charming exchange she hides on a balcony and frustration screams into the night. She’s not expecting anyone to holler back, but Carson can’t resist a gorgeous redhead yelling from on-high and flirting ensues. When Levi’s buddy (Silas for future reference) is closing in on finding Dallas, she leaps from the balcony and into Carson to escape him. Well, not so much into him as ON TO him. Carson doesn’t mind, though its making it hard for him to be a gentleman like he said he would. The two end up making out up against a tree –this is mybookshame’s inaugural tree make-out!– and Carson nicknames her Daredevil; which steady, careful Dallas loves.

Carson and Dallas exchange numbers, but then Carson stops responding to Dallas’ texts (idiot, boys are idiots) because he’s in the midst of a life plan that he has put a lot of work into. He is a walk-on player on the Rusk football team, not on scholarship, and from a family who can’t afford to just pay for his college. Schoolwork isn’t his strong suit, he needs to keep his grades up, he also needs to practice hard and play hard to try to earn a permanent spot on the team; he’s a quarterback and Dallas’ ex is the first string QB. So girls aren’t in the plan right now, he tells himself he has to forget Dallas despite how very very much he likes her. Carson’s resolve lasts just long enough for a frustrated Dallas to run into him on campus and let him know what she thinks of him ignoring her texts. She does not pull her punches. And he convinces her that they can be “just friends”. Of course this is all before either of them learn that she’s the football coach’s daughter and that he’s on the team. That revelation is its own fresh set of drama.

When Levi has a personal catastrophe, Carson gets promoted (?) to starting quarterback, and there’s a good bit of football action and discussion. If you, like me, have zero interest in this you can do what I did and skim past it while letting your mind drift to other things. Doing this will not hinder your understanding of the story one little bit.

Nothing particularly shocking happens in All Lined Up, it was a quick read that I enjoyed. Carmack writes believable characters, good dialog, and her boys always seem like they’d be cute and charming if they were real. The HEA came in the right amount of time, without any of the last minute waffling that I was afraid was coming. I’d almost always rather have 20 pages of reading about the couple dealing with an external challenge together than read a third or fourth (or however many) break up and reunion cycle. “Just get together already!” is my frustrated battle cry.

Carson and Dallas don’t have sex until the very very end of the book, it almost had a mybookshame mandated D for no D rating. Cora Carmack’s romances are pretty close to reading regular fiction in terms of quality; and now I can read #2 without any guilt from Mary about doing things out of order! Bring on the bad boy, please.