The Lie, by Karina Halle

the lie

Grade: A

Doing it at:  58%

Catnip: Second Chance Romance, Guilt, Cheating, Hot For Teacher, Scottish Brogue, International Romance, #assbiting, Desk Sex, Sexual Healing

Shame Scale: Less than Zero (who’s RDJ & who’s McCarthy?)

Fantasy Cast:  Michael Fassbender, Jenifer Lawrence

Book Description:

Their love led to a lie
Their truth led to the end

Brigs McGregor is crawling out from the ashes. After losing his wife and son in a car accident and his job from his subsequent downward spiral, he’s finally moving forward, getting a prestigious teaching position at the University of London and a new life in the city. Slowly, but surely, he’s pushing past the guilt and putting his tragic past behind him.

Until he sees her.

Natasha Trudeau once loved a man so much she thought she’d die without him. But their love was wrong, doomed from the start, and when their world crashed around them, Natasha was nearly buried in the rubble. It took years of moving on to forget him, and now that she’s in London, she’s ready to start again.

Until she sees him.

Because some loves are too dangerous to ever indulge.
And some loves are far too powerful to ignore.
Their love just might be the life and the death of them.

Cleone: Let’s kick this off by talking about how Karina Halle has the best book boyfriend muses, last time it was Tom Hardy, and this time we got Mr. Big Swinging Cock himself, Michael Fassbender. #swoon

Mary: I think the phrase is Mr. Big Swinging Dick? Googling Big Swinging Dick vs. Big Swinging Cock does not route you to any grammar pages, just FYI! Ugh. This is the only stuff we fight about. Either way, if you’re the kind of gal who has painstakingly looked up every dirty Fassbender gif that the internet has to offer, all that work is going to pay off for you when you read this book and have the perfect mental library to back it up. (#TeamPervert) (All of those are NSFW by the way)


C: I mean any Halle book is going to be 100 shades of scorching, but picturing Fassy sure doesn’t hurt! We were singularly excited for this one.

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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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Kilt Tease, by Melissa Blue

kilt tease

Grade: B

Doing it at: 48%

Catnip: Panty Sniffing; Kilts; Fake it Till You Make It; Rugby; Foreign Affair

Shame Scale: There’s some blush inducing sex in this one, and that cover isn’t family reunion friendly.

Fantasy Cast: Richard Madden; Gugu Mbatha-Raw

What do we taste like: Strawberries and champagne

Book Description:

Kate Campbell promised to have an affair with a Parisian, says yes more than she says no and sin so she can actually have something to repent on Sunday. As a way to honor her grandmother’s wishes, she takes a job as a traveling nurse so that she can see Europe–a trip they had once planned on taking together. She never bargained on meeting a sexy Scot who makes bad look so, so good, and he needs her help.

Quinton Baird, a retired, high-profile rugby player, has spent over a decade surrounded by people who all want something from him. From his former coaches to the groupies. He now has two rules for anyone he deals with: Don’t talk to the press. Don’t talk about him to anyone. Ever. His rules are the only way to protect himself from people wanting him to be their meal ticket. No matter how much he likes the sweet, sassy nurse, he can’t believe she’ll help him while asking for nothing in return.
The deal between them is simple. All Kate has to do is pose as Quinton’s girlfriend in public. In exchange for helping him salvage an important business deal, Kate gets many opportunities to say yes–in bed and out of it.

Then reality, and the press, threaten their fictional romance. Quinton will have to trust that Kate’s feelings for him are genuine or risk losing her for good.

Just look at that cover, how’s a girl not going to snap up Kilt Tease? As per usual, I didn’t care that this was the fourth in a series that I hadn’t read the first three of, I fly by the seat of my pants! The description was also hitting all my sweet spots: Scots, fake relationship, good girl looking to sow some oats. It was pretty much a guarantee that I would like this slim book.

Katherine has come across the pond from America to fulfill her grandma’s dying wish that she live a little, damnit. Since Kate isn’t an heiress she actually has to work in order to take her grand tour of Europe. This was immediately refreshing, nice to have a heroine that isn’t rich or just magically possessed of endless funds. Kate has a budget. In Scotland she has found work as the care worker for a stubborn older man who recently had a heart attack. He doesn’t want to accept her help, but she wears him down with charm and grit. Kate has a backbone and a smart mouth, she’s entirely likable. I rolled my eyes at her zero times the entire book. I can’t say for sure, but that may have never happened before (BINGO!).

Kate meets Quinton her first night on the job, in the pub her now employer owns, he’s suddenly sitting right next to her and Kate didn’t see him coming on several levels. Quinton, a recently retired pro rugby player, is hot. He’s heavily muscled, and has tousled auburn hair, and the Scottish accent and killer charm. Kate knows she’s a goner before they’re even properly introduced.

Quinton is similarly charmed by the lovely kitten with claws, Katherine, but is all “Oh, I better keep my distance, because I’m rich and secretive and trying to repair my image so I can buy this jewelry store and get on with my post-rugby life.” Lets all guess how long that lasted. Did you pick not bloody long? You’re so smart.

For reasons involving his reputation, the aforementioned jewelry store, and a nasty ex girlfriend; Quinton and Kate enter into a fake relationship deal. She’ll pretend to be his girlfriend for a few weeks for the paparazzi. They’ll pretend to ignore their serious chemistry for about two minutes.

Kilt Tease has some great banter, which is generally my favoritest part of romance novels (even trumping the doing it sometimes):

“Ditto, my lass.”….”I like that we have so much in common, since you’re my girlfriend and all.”

She smiled and his heart stuttered at the way it beat back in the shadows in her eyes. “I bet you say that to all the girls.”

“Kate, I can attest that you’re my first and I pray to the Virgin Mary my last, pretend girlfriend.”

Her smile went naughty. “I promise to be your best then.”

Aye, she probably would be. Daft. He was fucking daft.

I loved the dual narrative in Kilt Tease, because Quinton’s came with his Scottish brogue.

“You want to know if I’m the kind of man you think I am. Pushy when I want to be. Charming when I want to be.” His mouth tilted up. “Cocky, always.”

Since this is a relatively short book, the relationship, and inevitable third act break up happened at an accelerated speed. This was fine, no depth was lacking, all the characters felt flushed out and I found myself slowing down around the 85% mark to make the story last a bit longer. Katherine is black and Quinton is white, this is addressed only in physical descriptions of the characters and is in no way an impediment in their relationship. African Americans seem under represented in the romance book world, so it was lovely to get one where there was zero drama attached to our heroine’s color. Kilt Tease is sweet and hot, a charming little book that I can endorse wholeheartedly.

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Beautiful Secret, by Christina Lauren

Beautiful Secret

Grade: A+

Doing it at: 75%

Catnip: Office Romance; International Romance; Exquisite Sexual Tension; Divorcee; British Accents; Beta Hero; Outercourse; Dual Narrative

Shame Scale: Low shame, it’s really good! But if you’re reading it in public and someone asks you what you’re reading, you’re definitely going to blush.

Fantasy Cast: Lee Pace; Jennifer Lawrence

Book Description:

AN UPTIGHT BRITISH EXECUTIVE. AN ADVENTUROUS AMERICAN NEWBIE. A SEXY INTERNATIONAL SCANDAL IN THE MAKING. New York Times and #1 internationally bestselling author Christina Lauren’s Beautiful and Wild Seasons series hook up in Beautiful Secret for an erotic intercontinental romp that celebrates the best of both worlds! When Ruby Miller’s boss announces he’s sending her on an extended business trip to New York City, she’s shocked. As one of the best and brightest young engineers in London, she knows she’s professionally up to the task. The part that’s throwing her is where she’ll be spending a month up close and personal working alongside—and staying in a hotel with—Niall Stella, her firm’s top urban planning executive and The Hottest Man Alive. Despite her ongoing crush, Ruby is certain Niall barely knows she’s alive…until their flirty overnight flight makes him sit up and take notice. Not one for letting loose and breaking rules, recently divorced Niall would describe himself as hopeless when it comes to women. But even he knows outgoing California-girl Ruby is a breath of fresh air. Once she makes it her mission to help the sexy Brit loosen his tie, there’s no turning back. Thousands of miles from London, it’s easy for the lovers to play pretend. But when the trip is over, will the relationship they’ve built up fall down?

Ugh, I LOVED this book. Christina Lauren (the Christina Hobbs and Lauren Billings writing duo) books just keep getting better and better. I thought nothing could be hotter than the hot-from-the-start, banging-the-boss boardroom scene in Beautiful Bastard. But then came Ansel, and we LOOOOVE Ansel. He’s a top 3 for us. But this one. I could not put it down. Hey Ladies! Since there’s two of you, maybe you can give us good books twice as fast please?

Remember how it used to feel to meet a guy and spend weeks making out and feeling each other up, back before you became an adult who has sex on the first date? Not that we’re ladies who race to the finish line or anything… This book brought us back to that place. Where waiting is more exciting than not waiting. Cleone and I went absolutely post-midnight texting bonkers over it. (Spoilers, #sorrynotsorry)

Cleone: They haven’t even done anything and this book is hot.

Mary: I KNOW.

The doin it isn’t until like 75%, but I didn’t miss it at all

What part are you at? When they’re on the subway, and he’s all crotch in her face…

C: Not there yet!!!

Only at 30%

M: This book is the total opposite of Dirty Rowdy Thing And I LOVED it

C: He just came to her hotel room and they’re both a little tipsy. I’m pausing to tell you how hot it is.

M: Oh god, did he *just* get there, or has he been there a few min?


C: Just got there. I’m going to pee and go back in.

M: Ok. Cheers. Enjoy.

C: I’ll report back.

That was so hot. I’m so tired but I want to keep reading

M: I couldn’t stop. I had to finish it.

C: I’m giving myself till 1

I can’t read this knowing I’ll never have sex again

M: Oh stop 🙂

Did you get to the subway part?

C: Yes. And I just read him masturbating and recording it, so I’m dead

M: Did you read what he did with it? T

his book is so hot, I don’t even understand it

All they’re doing is like looking at each other and brushing up against each other

C: I think he’s sending it to her?

M: JUST WAIT Oh my god, you can’t go to bed.

C: It’s that old school thing. All the flirting.

I’m so hungry, if I don’t go to sleep I’ll have to fetch food.

M: There’s the taped fap fap, then some lipstick, gahhhhh it’s so good!

C: Fuck. I’m reading 20 more minutes and I’ll see where I’m at.

M: I don’t know what it was about the subway.

When he was just standing there with a half chub. That was one of my top 10 hottest book moments

C: It’s because we love bulges.

This book is so hot Seriously.

Fuck. I have to go to sleep. Damnit.

Hand jobs are super hot

Ok, I’m going to sleep. They’re quite fond of each other. Fingering is super hot. SEE PEOPLE STILL DO IT

Giving blow jobs in offices is also HOT

Wake up already and talk to me about this book

He is NOT going to talk to his ex wife about getting back together.

I have to go to breakfast. I’m going to punch everything

M: That book! Do you love it?

C: I love it so fucking much.

I read most of it, through reunion and now I’m going to finish the last like ten pages then head out.

Niall Stella is the hottest.

Oh, you’re barely in the door, I’d like to eat you out on the floor now

Ruby is an engineering intern at an urban planning firm in London. She’s had a crush on Niall Stella, one of the firm’s VP’s for months – but he doesn’t notice she’s exists until they’re assigned to travel to NY together to attend a month long conference. They’re both painfully awkward around each other – her because of her long-time crush, him because he’s a recent divorcee (his ex is named Portia, the perfect name for a shrewish British ex-wife) with almost no experience with women. He’s the anti-ladies man. Married at 19 to his high school sweetheart, Niall has only been with one woman – and can I tell you how refreshing this is? I ADORE a good beta hero.

They share an awkward-cute flight from London to NY – she falls asleep and drools on his shoulder, he peeks at her diary – culminating in the most endearingly awkward skirt-tucked-in-g-string wardrobe malfunction. By the time they arrive, Niall has taken full notice of Ruby, and they tentatively start to banter and flirt. Ruby eventually admits that she’s had a crush on Niall forever, and Niall admits that he wants her, he just isn’t sure of what he wants to do with those feelings.

The action in this one is so. deliciously. slooooow. Words. Looks. Lingering touches. Niall wants to go slow. He wants to be in love when he has sex, and awww, you guys! But it’s not a prudish book. For a book that takes it’s time to get to the doing it, I’d argue that it’s one of the sexiest books I’ve read in months. Basically 75% of the book is foreplay, and it’s amazing. Think outercourse that will have you reaching for some ice water, and the best use of lipstick as a prop pretty much ever.

Most of the action in this one is from Niall’s perspective – a subtle detail that somehow makes this all so much hotter, maybe because he’s so repressed and this is his sexual awakening of sorts? And oh my gawd can these ladies write a sex scene:

I could feel the tension building in my thighs, the need to shove up and fuck, and take, and let go. I could feel this raw beast, clawing out of me, wanting sex like I’d never had but always needed: uninhibited and sweaty and hard.

She watched as I began to lose my mind, lose my heart. I didn’t know myself in this moment: this man who kneeled between her legs and held her hips in my hands to keep from fucking her across the floor.

I hardly recognized the man who told her,

Watch Look right where I’m fucking you

You’re soaked so wet so soft

Fucking hell you’re so warm and wet you feel fucking perfect

BRB, I’ve got to go wash my hair. Buy this book.

*Note from Cleone: Please buy and read this, the flirting and the jean jamming and the everything but doin’ it is the sexiest thing I’ve read in ages. Plus it gave me feels. You will not regret Niall!

Check it out on Amazon: