Leaving Amarillo, by Caisey Quinn

amarillo

Grade: B

Doing it at: 63%

Catnip: I’m With the Band; Drummers; Deep Dark Secret; Brother’s Best Friend; Forbidden Romance; Adorable Nicknames

Shame Scale: Leaving Amarillo has some flowery language that made me a bit cringe-y, but a strong story and a cute cover puts this at low range shame.

Fantasy Cast: Matthew Goode; Clare Bowen

What do we taste like?: Better than ice cream

Book Description:

Dixie Lark hasn’t had it easy. She lost her parents in an accident when she was young and grew up in a ramshackle house on a dirt road in Amarillo with her ailing grandparents and overprotective older brother. Thanks to her grandfather, Dixie learned to play a mean fiddle, inspired by the sounds of the greats—Johnny and June, Waylon, and Hank. Her grandfather’s fiddle changed Dixie’s life forever, giving her an outlet for the turmoil of her broken heart and inspiring a daring dream.

Ten years later, Dixie and her brother Dallas are creating the music they love and chasing fame with their hot band, Leaving Amarillo. But Dixie isn’t enjoying the ride. All she can think about is Gavin, the band’s tattooed, tortured drummer who she’s loved since they were kids. She knows he feels the connection between them, but he refuses to see her as more than his best friend’s little sister.

Convinced that one night with Gavin will get him out of her system, Dixie devises a plan. She doesn’t know that her brother has forbidden Gavin from making a move on her-a promise he swore he’d always keep . . . a promise that once broken will unexpectedly change the future for Dixie, Gavin and the band.

Here’s a shameful, non-book-related, Cleone secret: I’m a closet country music fan. I blame my hillbilly roots, my pappy left me his Hank Williams records (Hank I thank you very much not Jr.) in his will, and Friday nights at my grandparents were spent watching The Statler Brothers. I love the TV show Nashville, have seen the deeply underrated The Thing Called Love multiple times, and was pretty pumped to read Leaving Amarillo – a reference to a Bob Willis song that I knew before finding this book.

Dixie Leigh Lark (that name is exactly what I would have wanted to name a character in a romance set in Texas so even though its twee we are letting it go) plays the fiddle in a country band with her brother, Dallas, and their childhood friend, Gavin. She’s the youngest of the three and used to letting her brother boss her around and have his way for the most part. This includes her not pursuing a romantic relationship with Gavin even though she’s had a crush on him since she was nine and he was ten, since the very day they met at her parents funeral. Dallas, age twelve, forbid Gavin to EVER touch her if he wanted to be their friend.Which, I don’t know, are twelve-year-old boys concerned with people touching their nine-year old sisters? I’d ask my older brother but he’s a jerk.

Gavin promises to never touch Dixie,  a promise he upholds to the letter for ten years, he never touches her despite being a flirty manwhore with almost all other women. He never touches her despite his eyes holding what Dixie calls his “I’d really like to take your pain away, take you to bed and make it all better with my dick” Look. Dixie’s reaching her breaking point with the sexual tension with the band’s super hot drummer. She’s prepared to make a move if he won’t, her brother be damned.

Her move making corresponds with the band getting a big break and being entered into the line up at the Austin Music Fest. Now not only is Dixie stuck with her brother and her object of secret desire 24/7; her grandpa is sick and she’s worried being so far away from him, she’s trying to decide if she wants to continue on with her college education, and Dallas has signed the band with a manager that doesn’t seem crazy about her.

Gavin agrees to spend one night with Dixie, one night to get each other out of their systems, and then they’ll move on and never mention it again is the plan. Because that ALWAYS works. Once the deal is made things start to change between Gavin and Dixie: they share kisses, he gets openly angry when the lead singer of another band on the festival flirts with her, and her brother almost catches them going beyond the friendship boundaries in her hotel room. Do brother’s dislike their best friends licking ice cream off their little sisters stomachs and then giving them oral sex? Probably. That one seems more likely than the twelve-year-old cockblocking, I’d ask my brother but I reiterate he’s a jerk.

The writing in Leaving Amarillo is an interesting mix of really excellent dialog and extremely flowery prose:

He’s white-hot, burning flames licking up everything in his path. And I’m just a little bluebird flying dangerously close to the fire.

Like a flower cast out in the darkness, I withered day by day, withdrawing into myself and into the girl I likely would’ve become if Gavin Garrison hadn’t wandered up onto my grandparent’s porch the day of my parent’s funeral.

Gavin blocks the glinting sun and it shines around him, creating an angelic effect around my tattooed, tortured soul mate.

The over the top romance writing was so well-balanced with the good writing that I could forgive almost all of it:

“What have you got in store for me, little Bluebird? Some Fifty Shades fantasy** you can’t wait to play out with a willing participant?”

My heart quickens its pace at his naughty suggestion. “Gavin Garrison, have you been reading mommy porn?”

“I’m glad you came,” I whisper.

“I’m glad you’re wearing my shirt,” he says evenly, leaning back in the chair as his chin lifts slightly. “Now take it off.”

….

I bite his lower lip and he growls. “You can bite me as hard as you want to. I like for it to hurt.”

This one night of really hot sex does nothing to ease the desire that Gavin and Dixie feel for each other, they’ve known each other too long and have too many connections outside of sex for this to be a clean and easy one night stand. Gavin had a terrible childhood, that led to him accumulating some dark secrets he hasn’t fully disclosed to Dixie. He may not recognize that he loves Dixie, but it is pretty obvious to the reader that he does. He’s gentle with her, and extremely protective. Standing up for her to his best friend can’t be easy, and it can’t be easy risking the relationship with basically the only two people he has in the world to pursue a romance with Dixie, either.

Bad boy manwhore drummer with a heart of gold is basically my ultimate catnip, you guys. And have we talked about how he calls her Bluebird? We LOVE when our book people have adorable nicknames for each other, it’s why Mary and I are in each other’s phones as Shortcake and Plum. I was rooting really hard for Gavin and his Bluebird to figure out their shit and get together.

Sadly, Quinn ends Leaving Amarillo on a cliffhanger, book two was released 6/15 but it is Dallas’ story and oh my God you are killing me smalls! I will read however many books it takes to get to a Dixie and Gavin HEA, but I won’t be happy about it, making readers wait is cruel, when said readers have limited patience and the desire for instant gratification.

If you’re also a secret country music fan, or you also love the brother’s best friend trope, or if you too have drummer catnip pick up Leaving Amarillo and join me on my HEA wait, we can internet glare at Caisey Quinn together!

Check out Leaving Amarillo on Amazon

**I’m delighted to report the book sex in Leaving Amarillo is way better than the book sex in Fifty Shades.

Love Her Madly, by Christie Ridgeway

love her madly

Grade: B

Doing it at: 48%

Catnip: Girl Next Door; Best Friend’s Brother; Twins; Deep Dark Secret; Fake Relationship; Rock Stars; Tattoos; Drummers; Light Bondage; Emotional Unavailability; Dual Narrative; Floor Sex

Shame Scale: This story had way better sex than I was anticipating and several moments of Jeez I hope no one looks over my shoulder, but the real shame here comes from the cover. That model reminds me of the man who claims to be so beautiful he’s illegal in his country or some nonsense like that, and bathed in a ridiculous ethereal light. Cover SHAME.

Fantasy Cast: Ian Somerhalder and Rachel Bilson

Book Description:

“Years ago, Rolling Stone magazine dubbed the nine collective children of the most famous band in the world “Rock Royalty.” Now all grown up, the princes and princesses are coming back to L.A.’s Laurel Canyon to discover if love can be found among the ruins of a childhood steeped in sex, drugs, and rock ‘n’ roll. “Bad twin” Bing Maddox has wanted his brother’s BFF Alexa Alessio for months, but he’s stayed away because she’s too hearts-and-family for his jaded soul. Ever since a good deed turned to a dark regret, he’s buried his guilt in a series of forgettable flings with women who wanted nothing more. But when delicious Alexa needs a plus one to some upcoming wedding events, he gives in to his urges and goes all out in pursuit of getting her into his bed. Alexa Alessio doesn’t know how it happened—one moment she was being smart and keeping herself separate from seen-everything, done-everything, wildly sexy Bing Maddox and the next she was agreeing he could be her date. Sure she wants back-up when her cousin marries Alexa’s own stolen ex, but Bing’s made it clear he wants her on her back. Her heart says yes—but her common sense tells her it might be the very thing broken when commitment-phobic Bing moves on. She can have him, but can she hold him?”

The synopsis of this one has so much catnip for me: bad boy, weird rock star parent past, best friend’s brother, fake relationship, and a big wedding. I’ve never read anything by the author, or heard of her, so I was a little worried this might be a book with either no buttering the biscuit or really lame buttering the biscuit. Luckily my fears were dispelled by page 10 when I got this snippet:

He wondered what she’d do if she knew how bad that pose made him want to flip up her skirt, rip off her panties, then shove her thighs apart to taste her honeyed heat. The tip of his tongue would slide between her soft folds teasing out the button of her clit.

Once I knew no prude-ery was in store for me, I plunged right in to enjoy the story. Bing Maddox (I know I KNOW) and his twin brother Brody, are the children of a rock star, brought up pretty much feral with the seven other offspring of the band members. They indulged very heavily in the rock’n’roll party life style of their father until their 18th birthday when SOMETHING BAD happened; and they fled to start new slightly more wholesome lives. The twins ended up living in bungalows on either side of sweet, good as gold, pretty as pie Alexa. Alexa and Brody are buddies, they run together most mornings, drink beer and chat, and have zero sexual chemistry. Bing, on the other hand, Alexa tries to completely avoid because even though he’s Brody’s identical twin her feelings for him are completely different. She wants to do all the dark dirty things with Bing. And unbeknownst to Alexa, he wants to do those dirty things right back to her.  The two manage to avoid each other until Alexa mistakes Bing for Brody and spills how her evil cousin has stolen her fiance, is marrying him herself, forcing Alexa to play the happy bridesmaid, AND stealing all the wedding ideas that Alexa was going to use at her own wedding. This cousin Drea sounds real fun right? Alexa ends her rant by demanding that Brody go with her to wedding functions to have her back and prove to the family that she isn’t some pining, heart sick loser. Only its not Brody who agrees, its Bing. I think we all see where this is going, right?

Bing and Alexa think they can go about their arrangement, fool her family, and not give into the desires they have to rip each others clothes off. Alexa because she is scared of how much she wants him, and because she thinks she wants a nice steady boring type guy. And Bing (that name ladies, you just don’t ever stop thinking its ridiculous) because he thinks he’s dirty and irredeemable and would soil Alexa by being with her for real. Of course, their attraction proves to be too much and when Alexa goes to find Bing after a bad night when she fears he may be battling demons they give in to their desires and have hot dirty sex on the floor of what is basically a finished basement. Bing’s Bing’ing her and thinking how he could never get enough and he’ll have to go against his life-law of never sleeping with a woman more than once; and Alexa rolls off him and is all “OH! Thank goodness we got that out of our systems and will never have to have the sex again.” He’s disappointed but figures its for the best and that he’s too big and bad and full of secrets for her anyway.

When we finally find out his DEEP DARK secret, it’s pretty non shocking, as I figured it would be because this is an easy soft kind of New Adult read. I mean that in the best possible way, the characters are likable, the dialog is believable and funny, and the HEA comes before the author wears out her welcome with waffling and drama. The sex scenes were better than I was anticipating; not too heavy on bad metaphors for female moisture and with some light bondage thrown in for good measure. Bing plays the drums and after this and Play, I’m becoming concerned that I might have a legitimate “thing” for men and their sticks. I read this on a sunny, lazy weekend and it was the perfect book to go with the weather. Love Her Madly is the second book in the Rock Royalty series, and I’m already pretty solidly decided on reading the entirety of the series.

Play, by Kylie Scott

play

Grade: A+

Doing it at: 64%

Catnip: Rock Stars; Tattoos; Drummers; Limo Sex; Stage Dive; Funny Guys; Beta Heroes; Fake Relationship; Gateway Books

Shame Scale: All of the Stage Dive covers are pretty shame-y. A hot tattooed torso stretched across a bed is pretty much not going to belong to anything but a sex book. The plot is real though! And I love the dialog in this one, and would recommend it to a romance newbie I was trying to bring to the dark side. Low-medium shame.

Fantasy Cast: Chris Hemsworth (his giant Thor arms are from drumming in this fantasy) and Rose Leslie

Book Description:

Mal Ericson, drummer for the world-famous rock band Stage Dive, needs to clean up his image fast–at least for a little while. Having a good girl on his arm should do the job just fine. Mal doesn’t plan on this temporary fix becoming permanent, but he didn’t count on finding the one right girl.

Anne Rollins never thought she’d ever meet the rock god who plastered her teenage bedroom walls–especially not under these circumstances. Anne has money problems. Big ones. But being paid to play the pretend girlfriend to a wild life-of-the-party drummer couldn’t end well. No matter how hot he is. Or could it?


Malcolm Ericson might be my favorite book boyfriend of all the trashy romance books I have inhaled this year. There have been a lot of obsessive, possessive, alpha boys– wooing girls into bed with martial prowess and relentless libido. But Mal doesn’t fall under that category. Mal is just really really funny. Mal will make you giggle until you just jump him. He will Literally Charm. Your. Pants. Off.

literally

Basically what I’m trying to say is that this will not be an objective review of Play, maybe Mary could do one, but I wanted to sell everyone on reading this and witnessing the glory.

Anne works at a book shop, she had a shitty adolescence, and has zero romantic life to speak of; minus a big crush on her boss. Until she meets Mal at a Stage Dive party she’s attending with her friend Lauren. She’s having a bad day, her room-mate moved out like a thief in the night leaving her with debt and simmering anger, she is not in a party mood even though she is a BIG Stage Dive fan. More specifically she is a BIG Mal Ericson fan (this book is the first time I’ve ever seen the appeal of a drummer, I tell my daughter all the time Never Date a Drummer). When she meets him in real life she gives him what Mal deems “the crazy eyes”, and he decides that they should pretend to date, for the good of them both. But while Anne knows why it’s good for her– he’ll pay her rent and buy her a new couch and he’s Mal freakin’ Ericson and she’s been in love with him 4Eva– he won’t tell Anne what’s in it for him. In fact he doesn’t want to talk about anything serious, he just wants to keep everything light and funny. And very very flirty.

“Your cheeks have gone all rosy. Are you thinking rude thoughts about me, Anne?”

“No.”

“Liar,” he taunted in a soft voice. “You’re totally thinking of me with no pants on.”

I totally was.

“That’s just gross, dude. A massive invasion of my privacy.” He leaned in closer, his breath warming my ear. “Whatever you’re imagining, it’s bigger.”

As these book fake relationships go, Mal and Anne decide that it will be all business, no sex, no feelings, they’re just FRIENDS. Except Mal is bad at boundaries and Anne really does want to see him without his pants on, she can’t stop having the Crazy Eyes. Mal doesn’t like Anne’s boss, Reece, who she has been quietly lusting after for years. Reece dates A LOT, lots of girls who aren’t Anne, but he likes having Anne as his eternal back up plan. Always good for a hang out, or to cover an extra shift at the book store, always when its convenient for Reece and never when its convenient for Anne. When Reece shows up at Anne’s apartment at 5 am on Mal’s second night in residence, smelling of alcohol and some other girl’s perfume (but with donuts!), Mal is distinctly displeased with how Reece treats Anne:

“A?” asked Mal, crossing his arms over his chest. He turned and winked at me. “You call her ‘A? What, saying her whole name’s too much of a commitment for you?”

And Anne seems to realize for maybe first time that Reece isn’t the dream guy she’s convinced herself he can be, especially when he tells her that she could do way better for a hook up than Mal:

“Shit, Reece, how can you even…” I stared at Mal, frowned, and cocked my head. So much skin. I looked and looked until I hit the dusting of dark blonde hair leading down from his belly button, heading straight for No-Anne Land. He had a treasure trail. A map to hidden delights. The donut box trembled in my hands.

What I like about Anne is that she pretty quickly knows that Mal’s hidden delights trump Reece’s donuts, hands down. And even though we don’t get doing it until 64%, we get a pretty awesome bathtub make-out at 57% and a bed breaking scene before that. They’re not technically having sex when they break the bed, but it’s a great scene anyway. And back to that bath tub scene? Fully clothed Mal climbing into the tub with Anne, neither caring that they’re essentially flooding the apartment just does it for me. Despite my rational brain knowing how not sexy wet jeans are in real life, in books they’re just fine and dandy. When the doing it does happen (“Hello Anne’s clitoris. It’s me, Malcolm, your lord and master”) both characters agree that they’re not faking it anymore, this is real and they want to see where it will go.

The last 30% of Play gives us the inevitable book break up and reconciliation, it wouldn’t be a shame book without one, all the couples have to battle for their HEA. I love Mal and Anne so much that I didn’t have any moments of not rooting for them, and very little annoyance and eye rolling. This is my A+ read, it’s fully mybookshame endorsed, and if you’ve got  a friend you’re looking to ruin it would make a fantastic gateway book.

Check it out on Amazon: