Better When He’s Brave, by Jay Crownover

Better When He's Brave

Grade: A

Doing it at: 47%

Catnip: Hot Cop, Cop and Criminal, Hot Cars, Dangerous Criminal Villain, Bathroom Sex, Hate to Love You, Fake it Till You Make It

Shame Scale: No shame, this is a good one, guys.

What Does He Taste Like?: Warm cleanness that was somehow simply Titus, he tasted like he looked, strong, sure, and potent.

Fantasy Cast: Henry Cavill, Adelaide Kane

Book Description:

In New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Jay Crownover’s third novel in her sexy, thrilling Welcome to the Point series, a woman’s search for repentance leads her to the one man from her past she can’t forget as they join forces to save their city—and the explosive love neither can live without.

Titus King sees the world in black and white. Right and wrong. Which is why as a teenager he left behind the only family he’d ever known to make a better life for himself. Now a police detective in one of the worst cities in the country, he can’t deny his life has turned into a million different shades of gray. 

The new criminal element in The Point has brought vengeance and destruction right to Titus’s front door, and the difference between right and wrong is nothing compared to keeping those he loves alive. To add to his already strained moral compass, the beautiful and mysterious Reeve Black has made her way back to town, and she might be as dangerous to Titus as the guy trying to destroy the Point because he needs her—in more ways than one.

Reeve knows all about how ruthless this new threat to destroy The Point can be… and instead of running away, she wants to help. She has a lot to repent for and saving the city, plus the hot cop that she hasn’t been able to forget might just be the only way she can finally find some inner peace.

With an entire city poised on the brink of war, Titus and Reeve stand in the crossfire—and it will take two brave souls to fight for the ultimate love.

Cleone: We have been counting down to HOT COP for months, basically since the second we finished Better When He’s Bold. Mary and I are Crownover fan girls and we are of the opinion that she just gets better every book.

Mary: All of her books are great, but I think we fell hard when we hit Nash and they’ve only gotten better since then.

C: She especially got better on the cover for this one:

better 1

M: The Race cover model. Our favorite 80’s frat boy from Revenge of the Nerds. He was an outlier in an otherwise impeccable series of cover boys.

C: We met the main characters in this one, Reeve and Titus, in previous Point books. Reeve was a villianess in Bax’s story and Titus is Bax’s police officer brother. Titus might be the one genuinely good guy in all of the Point. Which is why Reeve goes to him when she rolls back into town with secrets and scores to settle.

M: Also, maybe because she has a teeny bit of a crush on him. As one would. Tall, dark, rough – I’m imagining a little bit of taco meat peeking out of the one-button-open collar of his shirt because I don’t think it was specified and this is my fantasy you guys – and a stickler for The Law. Did this book give me a temporary fixation on Hot Cops and have I spent an inordinate amount of time looking into the feasibility of getting a Hot Cop stripper for my next favorite ladies party? I’m not not saying that.

hot cop

“Open up. It’s the police.”

Back story: Reeve was the one who ratted out Dovie to the really bad guys (not the bad guy she was hitting the sheets with), leading to her kidnapping and torture. So we really didn’t like Reeve. But Crownover is great for a redemption story, and we got on #TeamReeve pretty quickly.

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In the Fast Lane, by Audra North

In The Fast Lane

Grade: B

Doing it at: 65%

Catnip: Race Car Drivers; Southern Boy; Fake Relationship; Strong Female Lead; Boxers Boner

Shame Scale: Light shame. The heroine is a total alpha and it’s refreshing to see a book about a woman with the cool catnippy job.

Fantasy Cast: Oliver Hudson; Eliza Dushku

Book Description:

Racing cars is in Kerri Hart’s blood–literally, since it’s the family business. But Hart Racing is in dire financial straits, and as the only female rookie driver, Kerri’s sponsorship offers always tend to be of the unzipped racing-suit variety. It’s a message she’d rather not sell to her young fans. But how can she afford not to?

Ranger Colt knows how to make a woman’s heart race. But when his voice pops up on Kerri’s headset–while she’s in mid-tailspin–she’s in no mood for his charms. Colt Hardware now has a significant stake in the Hart family business, and Kerri has no choice but to work with him. But when her ex-boyfriend makes a very public, tabloid-fodder scene that threatens to tarnish her image, it’s Ranger who comes to the rescue. Pretending to be engaged to generate some good publicity seems like a good plan. In fact, it works–all too well. What begins as a ruse is revving up to feel a whole lot like the real thing. Will Kerri and Ranger’s fake-lationship take a wild turn. . .and lead them toward the finish?

This is a quick story (170 pages) about Kerri, a gorgeous, confident race car driver, and Ranger, the new owner of her family’s racing team. Hart Racing has been struggling financially, and Kerri has a PR problem – as one of the only women in racing, she’s painted by the media as a diva, and hounded for things that are dismissed for the other male drivers. Ranger’s father bought Hart Racing, and sent Ranger down to prove himself by turning the team into a success.

The story opens when one of Kerri’s ex’s runs onto the track during a practice run, almost causing an accident, with a giant banner proposing to her. There are spelling errors. Ranger sees all this happen, and is all, “No big, we’ll just pretend we’re engaged and that will solve everything.” Kerry is predictably outraged, because her family legacy was just sold out from under her, and she’s in the middle of a media storm from a doofus ex boyfriend, but she’s taking the blame, being portrayed as a man-eater. She sees the logic in Ranger’s solution, but I love how she refused to let anyone mansplain to her:

“Settle down, now, and hear -”

“I swear to God, if anyone tells me one more time to settle down, I will gut him with a socket wrench.”

Violent, but effective. He made what he hoped was the right decision and simply shut up.

They decide to get things off on a professional start with some hot “practice kissing,” and predictably they have amazing chemistry. Nonetheless, they try and keep things on a platonic level, with occasional kissing for the cameras. We all know where this story is going – both of them want to fuck each other into the mattress, but try and hold off to keep things on a business level. In other words, fantastic tension. Ranger is worried to start anything with Kerri since he’ll be leaving in a few months to go back to his dad’s company, with a big promotion and he doesn’t want to break Kerri’s heart. But Kerri is all, “Maybe I just want to use you, bro.”

And the sex was a good blend of playful and hot, our favorite:

“Shit, Ranger, your cock is really big.”

The whispered words nearly shut him down, and he half laughed, half groaned through is teeth. “God, sugar. No offense, but I’m gonna need you to be quiet for a little bit if you need this to last more than ten seconds. Give or take five.”

I really enjoyed Kerri as our heroine. She’s working hard to empower young girls, and it was great to read a book where the girl gets the cool job. North does a good job highlighting inequities in how the media treats women vs. men, and Ranger was happy to sit back and let Kerri live dangerously. In a genre where overprotective men are celebrated, this was an immensely refreshing change.

This one comes out on July 14, click to view on Amazon:

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:

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


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.


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?”


“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: