Dirty Past, by Emma Hart

emma hart

Grade: B

Doing it at: 43%

Catnip: I’m With the Band; Tattoos; Holding Out for a Hero; Dirty B; Dangerous Stalker; Reformed Bad Boy; Sexual Healing; Bassists

Shame Scale: Low shame, like most of what we read now that we’re openly blogging about our romance addiction.

Fantasy Cast:  Jared Leto (ala 30 Seconds to Mars); Katie Cassidy

Book Description:

Walking out on my wedding wasn’t my best idea.

Neither was throwing my cell in the lake and taking a job as PA for Dirty B, America’s favorite rock band, complete with every teen girl’s dream man, the eldest of the Burke brothers.

Tate Burke is pure sex. Women actually throw their panties at him during shows. And Ella Dawson is the lucky little thing that gets to escort their fangirling butts out when he’s done with them.

Yay.

He’s a cocky son of a bitch, but there’s more to him than meets the eye. Every now and then Ella gets a rare glimpse of the Tate behind the “bad boy” act, and it attracts her in the most annoying way. The most annoying, heart-thumping, panty-wetting way.

When her abusive ex turns up at the hotel room Ella and Tate are sharing, raging mad, she knows she’ll need more than just a little protection. Tate sees red, and Ella can’t help but lean on him, despite his bad-boy ways.

And now? Now, he’s in a whole lot of trouble.


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Cold-Hearted Rake, Lisa Kleypas

cold hearted

Grade: B

Doing it at: 73%

Catnip: Historical, Forbidden Romance; Bareback Riding; Strong Female Lead; Dual Narrative; Reformed Rake; Lords and Ladies; CoHo Exception

Shame Scale: I dare anyone to try to make me feel bad about reading a book whose title is a play on a Paula Abdul Song, come at me bro.

Fantasy Cast:  Yael Grobglas; Joseph Fiennes (Circa Shakespeare in Love)

Book Description:

A twist of fate . . .

Devon Ravenel, London’s most wickedly charming rake, has just inherited an earldom. But his powerful new rank in society comes with unwanted responsibilities . . . and more than a few surprises. His estate is saddled with debt, and the late earl’s three innocent sisters are still occupying the house . . . along with Kathleen, Lady Trenear, a beautiful young widow whose sharp wit and determination are a match for Devon’s own.

A clash of wills . . .

Kathleen knows better than to trust a ruthless scoundrel like Devon. But the fiery attraction between them is impossible to deny—and from the first moment Devon holds her in his arms, he vows to do whatever it takes to possess her. As Kathleen finds herself yielding to his skillfully erotic seduction, only one question remains:

Can she keep from surrendering her heart to the most dangerous man she’s ever known?


I’ve spoken more than once on the blog about how historicals were my first romance book-love; I had a summer job watching kids whose mom inhaled paperback romances. She always had a giant bag of them in the living room that I would dip into, for an “education.” She was very into Sandra Brown historical’s, mostly set in the old west, and I still vividly remember a scene where the virginal heroine was titillated by watching the hero wash himself in just his britches from her bedroom window. And also Iris Johansen whose books I rediscovered last year, and loved all over again. The Johansen reread was a big part of my nosedive into full time romance. Anyway, this rambling introduction is just to lament how few historical romances I’ve been reading lately and to tell you I was really excited for Cold Hearted Rake, because Kleypas is pretty much the best historical fiction author working today.

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Overtime, by Toni Aleo

Overtime

Grade: B

Doing it at: 47%

Catnip: Hockey Players, Beards, Second Chance Love, Hate to Love You, Addiction, Serious Problems, Sports Stuff, Strong Female Lead, Brother’s Best Friend, Reformed Bad Boy

Shame Scale: Super low shame, the cover is obviously romance, but look at that guy.

Fantasy Cast: The glorious and sadly unknown to us man on the cover, Charlize Theron

Book Description:

Down and out with an injury keeping him away from the game, Assassins’ defenseman Jordie Thomas lives for the blades of his skates on the ice and the feeling of oblivion off it. With no choice but to heal, he’s forced away from the sport that runs through his veins. With everything at stake and darkness setting in, he quickly finds himself spiraling even further out of control. As his life begins to come crashing down around him and his contract with the Nashville Assassins on the line, he’s given an ultimatum. Ready or not, Jordie is forced to face his past, the fears that consume him, and the one woman he let walk away. 

Kacey King had her professional dreams come true, yet her heart was battered and broken. With an Olympic gold medal around her neck, she’s ready to look forward to the future but without the one man she wanted in it. She’s missing the key pieces of her heart she left months ago with the only person who was capable of destroying it, causing her to falter in all her plans to move on. 

In the game of life, there are winners and losers, and neither Jordie nor Kacey want to be on the losing bench. If only Jordie could convince Kacey he’s a changed man and that he wants her right by his side as his MVP for the biggest and best parts of a life they build together. With emotions running high and the game on the line, can two proud people find happiness with each other, or will their hearts and souls be left in the cold? Will they see that sometimes having someone by your side who knows the good, bad, and broken is better than going it alone and losing everything through the back of the net? They are out of time on the game clock and fighting for the win of their lives. 

But overtime was made for an Assassin like Jordie. 


Mary: Full disclosure. We bought this book for the cover model. 100%. Look at him:

Overtime

I don’t even want to admit to the lurid, depraved, bottomless depths of Tumblr I have explored, trying to find a dirty lookalike for this guy.

Dear Toni Aleo, *Slow Clap* Also, how about you HABO (Help A Bitch Out) and tell us who this model is so we can stalk him incessantly on Instagram.

Cleone: Seriously, this is maybe our best cover model of all time, if we didn’t want to avoid angering Jay Crownover we’d tweet this at her RE: this is how you do it (plus she redeemed herself with #HotCop).

Overtime 11

M: And also, hockey is kind of hot. I guess. I’m not really a sports person, but I think out of all of the sports, hockey has some of the better looking players (not counting the dental issues).

C: Hockey has Henrik Lundqvist. It is definitely hot. Plus I adore the Rachel Gibson Chinook series, so hockey has serious catnip for me.

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Gage, by Tess Oliver

gage

Grade: B-

Doing it at: 65%

Catnip: Lumberjack; Opposites Attract; Cowboys; Reformed Bad Boy; Trouser Snake

Shame Scale: Medium shame, Tess Oliver’s books are addictive New Adult that you probably aren’t advertising to strangers and elderly relatives that you’re reading

Fantasy Cast: Henry Cavill; Taylor Swift

Book Description:

After nearly losing his friend in a logging accident, Gage Barringer is convinced now more than ever that he needs to find a different job. But his side business of breaking colts at the small Montana ranch he inherited from his grandfather doesn’t earn him enough money. He has his mind set on running The Raven’s Nest, a popular bar and restaurant near his ranch. The original owner has died and Gage is waiting for it to be put up for sale. But there is a five-foot-four, brown eyed, obstacle in his way, an obstacle with lips made for sin and a voice made for breaking hearts. And Summer Donovan is one road block Gage Barringer won’t be able to find a way around.

The hero in this one is LITERALLY a lumberjack and a cowboy. So, no way was I not reading Gage. Have you google image searched Hot + Lumberjack lately? If the answer is no, change that. I have read a bunch of Tess Oliver’s other books, she was one of the first new adult authors I discovered when I started to devour trash, and since her first novel I think her writing has really improved. If I had to compare her books I would say they’re comparable to Jamie McGuire’s or Abbi Glines, we aren’t sure WHAT makes them so addictive but the stories are eminently readable.

Summer lives in L.A. with her boyfriend who is also her band mate, and is on the verge of a really big recording contract. It’s something she’s been working towards since she was a teen. Everything is looking like sunshine and rainbows, until the sleazy record label guy propositions her and she finds out that her boyfriend has been giving it to her best friend for who knows how long. So, Summer does what any reasonable young lady whose life is in flux would do, she moves to Montana to take over her dead grandpa’s restaurant in a tiny logging town.

Gage, our lumberjack, cowboy, manwhore hero wanted to buy the restaurant so he could stop working on the logging crew since it’s dangerous, exhausting work. Now, Summer has thwarted his plans and he doesn’t intend to be impressed by her. But of course he is, because what the fuck kind of depressing book would this be if he wasn’t?

Our protagonists don’t spend too long pretending to hate each other, Gage is a gentleman and helps Summer out with her car when it runs out of gas, keeps local rough neck douches from molesting her, and generally makes her feel safer and more welcome in the little town. Plus he’s a mountain of a mountain man and his charm isn’t lost on Summer. I’d describe Gage as an Alpha, but like a gentle non-asshole Alpha. An Alpha who likes baby kittens. Oliver’s character building is getting better book by book and I found myself rooting hard for these two.

The bedroom rodeo picks up right at our not at all arbitrary 65% mark cut off, and much is made of how much heat Gage is packing:

He was massive everywhere. His erection glistened with the dew of sex.

She released a throaty groan as she impaled herself lower and lower over my erection. “god, when does it end,”

They *almost* have sex in the hay loft of his barn, but sadly he teases her about rats and carries her naked across the property to ravish her in the house instead. I mean, it was still hot, but hayloft sex would have been a marker on my imaginary smut book bingo card. Just because it’s not real doesn’t mean I don’t like yelling bingo.

The drama in Gage is light, and resolved pretty tidily. This book was a quick read that didn’t require much thinking (a Compliment, I swear) and put a smile on my face. If you haven’t read any of Oliver’s books, this might be a good one to start with, and we get his dare-devil, smart-mouth brother next book. Nothing not to like about that. Plus, I reiterate, hot lumberjacks.

lumber sexual

All Broke Down, by Cora Carmack

all broke down

Grade: B

Doing it at: 67%

Catnip: Reformed Bad Boy; Opposites Attract; Dual Narrative; Boys In Uniform; Strong Female Lead; Handcuffs; Friday Night Lights

Shame Scale: Very low shame, like the other Rusk book we reviewed this one is just sexed up YA. There aren’t even any tell-tale abs on the cover

Fantasy Cast: Tyler Kitsch and Diana Agron

Book Description:

In this second book in New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cora Carmack’s New Adult, Texas-set Rusk University series, which began with All Lined Up, a young woman discovers that you can’t only fight for what you believe in . . . sometimes you have to fight for what you love

Dylan fights for lost causes. Probably because she used to be one.
Environmental issues, civil rights, education–you name it, she’s probably been involved in a protest. When her latest cause lands her in jail for a few hours, she meets Silas Moore. He’s in for a different kind of fighting. And though he’s arrogant and not at all her type, she can’t help being fascinated with him. Yet another lost cause.
Football and trouble are the only things that have ever come naturally to Silas. And it’s trouble that lands him in a cell next to do-gooder Dylan. He’s met girls like her before–fixers, he calls them, desperate to heal the damage and make him into their ideal boyfriend. But he doesn’t think he’s broken, and he definitely doesn’t need a girlfriend trying to change him. Until, that is, his anger issues and rash decisions threaten the only thing he really cares about, his spot on the Rusk University football team. Dylan might just be the perfect girl to help.
Because Silas Moore needs some fixing after all.

In our continuing series of pretending books are Friday Night Lights story lines, I bring you the second Rusk University book, All Broke Down. This is our Tim Riggins novel, and we LOVE Tim Riggins. He’s the bad boy of our dreams because inside he’s a marshmallow. And it’s not his fault he’s bad, he had a troubled childhood! Silas, our book protagonist, had a rough childhood as well. The novel opens with him encountering his mom for the first time in years, his slutty-neglectful-bleached blonde mom; who his friends cat call because they think that she’s one of Silas’s hook ups. After sending mom on her way, Silas goes to meet an old friend in a bar and ends up getting into a fist fight with him. Which lands Silas in jail, where he meets Dylan (all the girls in this series so far have names I can not get behind). Dylan has been arrested for refusing to disperse from a protest at a local homeless shelter the city is closing. She’s wearing her bleeding heart on her sleeve, living a prim and proper life in all other ways, and very into this boy with a bruised face and bloody knuckles who is hitting on her from the other holding cell. This is Dylan’s big YOLO moment.

Silas, in a rare kind of selfless move, bails Dylan and her friend out of the pokey, and drives them back to his house to enjoy the party that’s raging there with the rest of the football team. This was when I learned that driving a stick shift can be hot.

“He pulls the stick down, and it comes much closer to the seat than I anticipated, which means Silas’s hand is between my thighs, his knuckles grazing my skin until I widen my legs another inch”

The two end up in the bathroom at the house party, making out – very un-Dylan-like behavior – and are pretty close to some much hotter action when they are interrupted. Cora Carmack seems to realize that Bad Boy Heroes require more sex than the nice guy we had in All Lined Up. We say thank you for that. Once Dylan leaves the party she doesn’t think she’ll see Silas again. This was just a one time thing, bad boy football players are NOT for her. Except when she goes to his house to tell him this, he’s just had the worst day of his life after his reckless behavior got him kicked off the football team. Silas asks Dylan to help keep him on the straight and narrow, and teach him to be a good guy, so that he can learn to be a leader for his team and not wreck everything he’s tried to build for himself. And since he’s cute and Dylan wants to do him (essentially) she agrees.

Silas and Dylan are doing wholesome activities, like helping to rebuild houses for the elderly and volunteering at the animal shelter. He is well, and quickly, on his way to becoming a better man and the kid of guy Coach would want on the team. He is also quickly fucking Dylan. As no one would be surprised to hear the platonic portion of their relationship doesn’t last very long once they’re spending this quality time together. Silas is very into Dylan, he’s making it clear to his roommates and teammates that this girl isn’t just another hook up.

All is going well until the pair run into Dylan’s uptight society pillar parents at a campus alumni party. And Dylan is a cold bitch and acts like she and Silas are just barely acquainted. Her justification is that she thinks she’s doing it to protect him from their meddling and questions. Of course he doesn’t see it this way, and you can’t really blame him for thinking she’s ashamed of him, when he’s been trying so hard. Silas also has to deal with his mom trying to get money from him (I don’t know what money she thinks a college student has but OK), and a bad situation with a fellow member of the football team. I ended up liking Silas so much, despite his introduction in book one of Rusk University being incredibly douche-y.

We get our HEA along with the set up for the next book with a very realistic handling of a real life college campus problem. Carmack takes her character seriously, there’s nothing cringe inducing in these books, just cute guys and sweet romances. Full Eyes, Clear Hearts, P in the V, Can’t Lose.

Asa, by Jay Crownover

Asa

Grade: A

Doing it at: 29%

Catnip: Reformed Bad Boy; Guilt; Southern Boy; Cop and Criminal; Bar Sex; Handcuffs; Marked Men; Crownover

Shame Scale: I’m not ashamed of this. Are you ashamed of this? (note from Cleone: No Shame)

Fantasy Cast: Joel Kinnaman and Danneel Harris

Book Description:

Jay Crownover’s New York Times and USA Today bestselling Marked Men series continues with the much anticipated story of southern charmer and certified criminal Asa Cross.

Starting over in Denver with a whole new circle of friends and family, Asa Cross struggles with being the man he knows everyone wants him to be and the man he knows he really is. A leopard doesn’t it change its spots and Asa has always been a predator. He doesn’t want to hurt those who love and rely on him, especially one luscious arresting cop who suddenly seems to be interested in him for far more than his penchant for breaking the law. But letting go of old habits is hard, and it’s easy to hit bottom when it’s the place you know best.

Royal Hastings is quickly learning what the bottom looks like after a tragic situation at work threatens not only her career but her partner’s life. As a woman who has only ever had a few real friends she’s trying to muddle through her confusion and devastation all alone. Except she can’t stop thinking about the sexy southern bartender she locked up. Crushing on Asa is the last thing she needs but his allure is too strong to resist. His long criminal record can only hurt her already shaky career and chasing after a guy who has no respect for the law or himself can only end in heartbreak.

A longtime criminal and a cop together just seems so wrong . . . but for Asa and Royal, being wrong together is the only right choice to make.


We’ve got a crush on Jay Crownover. Her books make us stupid, like: googling “clip on cock piercing” (<– NOTE: Does not exist), “excellent male butts,” and youtube videos of “men with hot Southern accents.” This is the last book in her Marked Men series, and to say we were excited for it is an understatement. We stayed up late on release night to download, neglected our children and work, and generally checked out of life and into Fantasy Denver for awhile.

Mary: This is definitely her hottest cover model. I feel like he’s an apology for Better When He’s Bold. If I hadn’t read any of the other books in this series, I still would have bought this one because of that smolder. Congratulations to whoever dug up this guy. And his mother.

Cleone: I kept going back to the home screen to look at the cover model, until M suggested Joel Kinnaman at a *very* opportune book moment- then my brain switched into over drive. Asa text 1

M: Since this book is part of a series, we had been introduced to Asa way back in Jet, and he was pretty despicable. I don’t want to ruin anything because I think everyone who likes trashy books should read these ones, but I pretty much wrote the character off as irredeemable. I was picturing him as an Alex Pettyfer with the personality of Sick Boy from Trainspotting. I definitely needed the three book buffer for my feelings to mellow on him. When this book picks up, he has been on the straight and narrow for a year or so, and it definitely helped for us to actually see him earning that in Rome, Nash, and Rowdy, not just picking up with his story after some truly heinous shit and asking us to trust him straight away.

C: The way they have time pass in this series always pleases me, we get to check in on the characters from the previous books AND the characters personal growth feels a lot more believable when it didn’t just happen over a three-day sex-a-thon.

M: This one starts off with Hot Lady Cop Royal (yes, every single character in this series has a weird name) having an emotional breakdown over her partner being shot off of a building. Like shot with a gun, then he fell. He’ll live though! She’s consumed with irrational guilt and looking to self-medicate with some vitamin D. Specifically Asa’s D. Royal and Asa have been dancing around each other for a while. Asa keeps turning her down because she’s a cop and he’s a newly reformed criminal who’s certain he’ll relapse, and because he’s trying to be a nice guy, and he’s pretty sure she’ll regret him when she’s gotten her head straight.

They push and pull, and when they finally get to the hokey-pokey, its glorious. Jay Crownover writes some hot smut. I bookmark like crazy. Asa’s strategy for brushing off her advances for good is to lure her into the bathroom where she can see that he’s jacking it in a steamy shower instead of taking her up on her many offers. Because that’s obviously a logical plan.

C: I don’t usually think of being stared at while a guy jerks off as being particularly hot, but Crownover proved me wrong. She does know how to write the smut, and I bet she’d be very fun to get drunk with and talk trash.

M: Their relationship is easy-ish, with most of the drama revolving around Asa’s terminal guilt for his past misdeeds, and his absolute conviction that he will fuck up everything nice in his life, including Royal. It’s like he has preemptive guilt. Honestly, it’s a little over the top.

“She lathered up her long hair either unaware of or purposely ignoring the fact that I was a boneless, shaking mess behind her. I had never had anyone offer something up without expecting something, usually more, in return. I couldn’t get my erratic heartbeat under control so I could put all that emotion her selfless actions had awoken in someplace safe.”

Her selfless actions causing this emotional upheaval are of course, a blow job. LOLOLOL

C: The Crownover books don’t usually provoke eye rolling, but that definitely did it, I refuse to believe that a boy who is crazy charming, super pretty, and has been around the block has never before received a blow job without the quid pro quo. Also:

“He was filling me up with his emotion and his impressive erection”

That one made me laugh so suddenly that I bit my tongue a little, and Mary informed me she highlighted the same line, possibly my new favorite romance line ever. It kind of sums up the genre, no?

M: I don’t feel like I’m spoiling anything by saying that there was a breakup, and it was dumb. I hate to criticize Jay, you know she’s my girl, but I can think of a dozen more interesting/plausible reasons for them to break up.

Asa text 2

C: Yes, without being spoilery, or defaming our main writer squeeze, the drama in this one could have been way more interesting or scandalous. We made a list but it is kind of spoilery, so I guess email us if you want further ramblings.

The ending was very sweet, and gave us a nice update on where everyone else in the series is in their life. We’re going to miss the marked men with their tattoos, pierced dicks, and feisty ladies. Luckily Crownover is doing a new series in their expanded universe, and maybe the new gents have cock piercings!

(Note: We’re 80% certain that after reading this series, we can convince the Paperback Purist to convince her husband to get an erotic piercing and report back to us on whether or not these books were being accurate.)

“No one has a headboard made for handcuffs in the real world.”

They don’t, but they should, we are #teamhandcuffs

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