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Tessa Bailey Storms Into New Adult With the Hot, Emotional, Unfixable

18 Apr

Unfixable by Tessa Bailey (Entangled: Embrace, April 14, 2014)

When this woman writes, she writes.

Anyone following hot new authors in the area of contemporary romance knows Tessa Bailey, whose Line of Duty series is filled with so many strong feisty women and dominant, dirty-talking men that you need to read them with a tall pitcher of ice water next to you.

The first book in that series, Protecting What’s His, told the story of the jaded, homicide cop Derek Tyler and how he falls hard for his sexy new Southern neighbor, bartender Ginger Peet who, together with her younger sister, Willa, is running from their heroin prostitute mother to make a good life for themselves in Chicago.

In the follow-up novella, Protecting What’s Theirs, Derek and Ginger are dealing with the emotional distance between them caused by Derek’s job, which, when combined with Ginger’s unexpected pregnancy, puts a strain on a relationship forged in a fragile trust. In that story, the brilliant, mouthy Willa is off at college pursuing her photography degree while Derek and Ginger work through their problems to become even stronger.

Now in Unfixable, Willa has a couple years of college under her belt and her previously unforgiving Goth style has softened into a woman with a natural hair color but who still retains her hard edges. She’s recently broken up with her high school boyfriend, Evan, exhausted by his patient demand to work through her troubled upbringing and open herself to him. Tired of being something she’s not and having to fit into his world of helicopter parents and tough choices like where to go for spring break, she’s determined to find Willa again no matter what it takes. Having won a photography contest with the prize of one month in Dublin, Willa is eager to capture a city Willa-Peet style. Immersing herself in her art is the perfect solution to mending her broken heart.

Protecting What’s His (Line of Duty #1 – Derek and Ginger’s story) by Tessa Bailey (Entangled Brazen, February 2013)

What Willa does not expect is the gorgeous blue-eyed inn owner, Shane Claymore, to meet her at the airport with her name on a card and a chip on his shoulder the size of the island she just landed on. But in a battle of wit and hostility, no one outdoes a Peet, something she quickly proves when she ditches him and makes her own way to the hotel. She discovers that Shane’s family is a broken crew of a dotty mother, an optimist sister tired of her life and a fascinating man who ran years ago to pursue Formula One racing – with great success – until the death of his controlling father. The heat between Shane and Willa is undeniable, but knowing she’s only there for a month – and that anyone as angry and beautiful as Shane is a danger to her barely healing heart – Willa vows to steer clear of him. Too bad running away from a race car driver only incites him to chase harder.

Christ on a cracker. Shane is scorching hot with his anger and assumptions about Willa, who is so convinced that love will require her to become something she’s not that she shies away from what she is feeling for Shane, even though it’s clear to everyone else that he thinks she’s perfect the way that she is. The build up to sex is classic, fan-your-face Tessa Bailey and Shane is a lovely dirty talker who only wants Willa more with each layer of her past that he peels back. The secondary characters are outstanding and while I might have been worried about her decision at the end of the book if it was another nineteen year old, Willa Peet has had half a lifetime of pain under her belt, so I thought her choices to fit Willa and her future perfectly.

Protecting What’s Theirs (Line of Duty #1.5 – Derek and Ginger cont.) by Tessa Bailey (Entangled Brazen, March 31, 2014)

This book is Bailey’s first step into the world of New Adult romance, hence the use of Entangled’s Embrace line, and it certainly fits the bill with Willa’s stage in life and the demise of her relationship with her first love, Evan. Bailey employs the use of the first person throughout the book, a point of view I usually dislike, but in the hands of this phenomenal writer it was effortless to read. Deliciously, we get the epilogue from Shane’s perspective which, combined with seeing Ginger and Derek and their new baby, makes for a pretty phenomenal ending.

The authenticity of Dublin and the Irish characters became clear when reading Bailey’s acknowledgements and thanks to her in-laws – it seems Tessa Bailey had the intelligence to marry an Irishman so she clearly wrote from experience. There is no requirement to have read Derek and Ginger’s books to understand this story, so feel free to recommend it to all your friends whether or not they’ve indulged in the Line of Duty series.

Keep in mind also that this book falls under Entangled’s policy of new promotions being only $.99 for the first couple of weeks, so it’s a phenomenal bargain and one that would be worth six times the price. Snap it up and do yourself a favor and read Willa’s sister’s story to get your full dose of Peet if you haven’t yet had the pleasure. These ladies are always terrific to spend time with!

Happy reading! 🙂

Against the Ropes by Sarah Castille Takes You To Hot, Sexy, Slightly Disturbing Places

3 Sep

Against the Ropes by Sarah Castille (Sourcebooks Casablanca, September 3, 2013) – great cover although it’s missing Max’s phenomenal tattoos

In the world of romance, the only thing better than a hot, underground MMA fighter is a hot, millionaire, underground MMA fighter and that’s exactly what we get in Max “Torment” Huntingdon, the hero in Sarah Castille‘s fabulous novel, Against the Ropes.

Yet the entire book is told from the heroine, Makayla’s perspective, one that begins with her trying to help her best friend at the underground warehouse which serves as the training center and an official fight location for this local, unsanctioned MMA ring. Despite Makayla strong physical reaction to witnessing violence, the EMT in her can’t help but reach out and help when people get hurt. That she is wrestling with some very traumatic issues from her childhood regarding violence, makes this reaction easy to understand and the reader instantly comprehends Makayla’s bravery in entering into a relationship with Max despite his personality which craves the show of strength he gets by doing MMA.

Max is an irresistible yet flawed individual who you end up loving because of his flaws as much as due to his caring nature. He makes a lot of mistakes with Makayla (as she does with him) but you root for the two of them to make it work since they each give each other way more than they take. Love – true love – always creates more than the sum of two people, and this couple shows how that can become a reality. Castille’s sex scenes between Max and Makayla practically cause the pages to burst into flame and it’s not shocking she’s won numerous contests in the erotic romance category.

Should you be interested in beginning your own underground fighting ring, please note that the actual equipment can be rented easily (although I imagine you’ll have to pay extra for cleaning off all the blood).

It’s tough to go too much into the plot with a typical summary since this book lives inside Makayla’s head. There is a distinct progression in their relationship and if you like possessive alpha males you will have noooooooo problem with Max, particularly when you discover why he might be a tad hypervigilant. Makayla is also dealing with insane student loan issues (and I confess to thinking this was the most unrealistic part of the novel – underground millionaire MMA fighter with venture capitalist firm, no problem, but harassing phone calls with threats to repossess your parent’s house for YOUR student loans, not freakin’ likely). She is however, surrounded by good friends and plenty of male interest, and in the middle of trying to figure out what she wants to do with her life (she was pre-med at the top of her class). Perhaps because of that element, and since Castille uses the first person to tell this story, I actually feel that there were a lot of factors which place this novel in the “new adult” category, if that’s an interest of yours.

Castille’s writing is outstanding in the sense that this is an insightful, deeply psychological novel that delves into the heroine’s head and sifts through some pretty deep stuff. Makayla doesn’t initially realize that she craves the dominance Max offers her (although her body understands pretty quickly). Yet her hot, steamy, highly erotic encounters with him often trigger flashbacks to the violence in her childhood. At first it’s unbelievably disturbing and I found myself, like Makayla, resisting the idea that she could be sexually turned on by something that would dredge up these memories. But by the end of the book it’s clear that this tension exists because Makayla’s brain is helping her reconcile her memories of violence done out of anger by an unhealthy person with the reality in front of her – namely that Max’s violence is controlled and strategic, born of a desire to protect the people important to him.

The MMA part of this was smart – fans of Kele Moon’s Battered Hearts series would find a lot to love here – and Castille writes every character with respect and depth, no mean feat! I hate the first person (it takes an amazing author like Charlotte Stein to get me to get past that hurdle) but I loved Against the Ropes don’t plan on fighting the purchase of any future Sarah Castille books which are going right into my “must read” list.

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