Tag Archives: Elle Kennedy

Wags Series: Stay by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

I swear that Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy are writing romances inspired by the hashtag notallmen, thought I’m not sure even that’s correct since the men in this series, and a lot of Bowen’s solo work, often behave in a way that is unacceptable, but is supposedly meant to be forgivable because they are nice guys. As my romance twin, Beth-Ellen, said, it’s as though they are defending men and, she added, who is the audience they are doing that for? Stay was a mostly decent romance because Kennedy and Bowen don’t seem to be capable of less, but there were a variety of elements that made me uncomfortable.

Hailey runs a virtual personal assistant business with her ex-husband in Toronto. She takes care of the VIPs personally and one of them is local hockey hottie Matt Erickson. A divorced father of twins, he is a little once bitten twice shy until he meets up with Hailey. Things move on from there, a little precipitously if you ask me given that there are children involved, and soon they are moving forward in their lives together.

Now back to the #notallmen aspect. In the previous book in the series, Good Boy, the hero climbs into bed with the heroine while she is sleeping. In this one…

Hailey has a client called MrEightInches who sends the agency requests with photos such as, “naked except for a stretchy pair of bright blue briefs, barely covering his erection, which lays angled in the briefs, straining the fabric.” Are Hailey and her colleague offended? Do they call him out for this behavior and terminate his contract? No, silly, they find it funny and enjoy his hijinks. They are entertained and gleeful each time he sends them a new request. When they find out the reason behind his, apparently, joking behavior, it all makes sense. See? He’s harmless!

Matt calls Hailey “Hottie” before they even start dating, meet, or talk. Her initials are HTE and he gives her the nickname in their correspondence. She doesn’t object despite the complete lack of respect and professionalism it shows on Matt’s part. He doesn’t mean any harm, so what’s the problem? Matt is a good guy. His presumption is excused.

In an encounter with Hailey’s ex, and before their first real date, Matt establishes their relationship by smacking her ass in front of her ex. “To my disbelief, Matt smacks my butt lightly before strolling out the door. I gape after him, unsure whether to be pissed or amused.” The correct answer is, of course, pissed.

I’m not quite sure what to do with all of my annoyance. I understand that genuine, sincere guys sometimes make mistakes,  behave inappropriately, or cross the line, but I can’t comprehend why it has become a recurring theme in Sarina Bowen’s work alone and in her joint efforts with Elle Kennedy. Can we just not do this? I get enough of poorly judged behavior being excused in real life.

My last note is that I was squicked out by the love scenes in Stay. Matt and Hailey act out a power dynamic that I found creepy: he pretends to be her coach, . “Such a good girl,” he whispers. “The coach is proud of you.” No, nix, nein, nyet, non, o-nay, nope, nay, NEWP! I am extremely uncomfortable with sex with power disparities like this and in particular ones that feign involvement of students or vulnerable people. The second the phrase “good girl” comes into play, I am OUT.

Sarina Bowen’s Catalogue gives an overview of her published works . Her Ivy Years series is particularly strong and includes a classic novella, Blonde Date.

By Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen:
HimLGBTQ, New Adult, love it!
Us LGBTQ, New Adult, liked it a lot
Wags Series:
Good Boy – I can’t decide if I recommend it or not.
Stay – see above

By Elle Kennedy:
Off Campus Books 1 – 4
The Deal – very good, I have re-read it
The Mistake – good
The Score – Entitled, privileged guy gets everything he wants. Granted that describes a lot of romances, but it’s annoying here. He’s a dick in The Goal, too.
The Goal – good, but not my cup of tea

Adult Contemporary:
One Night of Sin – meh
One Night of Scandal – meh
Elle Kennedy and Vivien Arend: All Fired Up – skip it

 Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful or my  streamlined recommendations list.

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Wags Series: Good Boy by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

When the hero of Good Boy was introduced in Us, I referred to him as the World’s Largest Plot Moppet.  I was wrong, clearly he is the world’s biggest puppy. I have seen very mixed reviews of this contemporary romance as there are troubling elements at the same time as it is also frequently charming. YMMV, as the kids today say.

Blake Riley and Jessie Canning hooked up several months ago and while it was mutually satisfying, she isn’t looking for more. Brought together again for her brother’s wedding to Blake’s teammate (Wes and Jamie of Him and Us), Blake is eager to start something with Jess and willing to leverage more casual sex, if that will get things moving for them.

Jess has been a bit lost. In a career experiment she (successfully) planned her brother’s nuptials, but has decided that she actually wants to be a nurse. When she gets into university in Toronto, this contemporary New Adult sports romance moves where it just so happens that Blake is a forward for the hockey team standing in for the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Returning to my puppy analogy, Blake is a big, friendly, loyal, and enthusiastic guy. He’s sincere but not terribly bright and, like your new Great Dane puppy, he tends to do things he oughtn’t and is forgiven by virtue of… I’m not sure what, because Blake does a couple of things with impunity that should be deal breakers  –

  1. After being set up to sleep on the chesterfield (that’s Canadian for couch), Blake climbs into bed with Jess while she is sleeping. She wakes up next to him and slips out of bed without immediately returning to SCREAM HIM AWAKE whilst simultaneously dousing him with ice water. He says he had asked her if it was okay he climb in with her and she said yes while she was half asleep which does not help his case.
  2. Blake sends an unsolicited photograph of his genitals to Jess after she has told him that his attentions are not welcome.

I suspect there’s more, but those two were pretty major. Blake’s interior monologue makes it clear that he’s well-intentioned and he can be a lot of fun. Were Kennedy and Bowen trying to show a hero who does all the things he shouldn’t, but succeeds anyway? Or that not every guy who crosses the line is a jerk? Is Blake the puppy that drives you crazy until one magical moment when he settles in and you realise that all of the growing pains were worth it?

Good Boy had some other story elements that I wondered about, such as the stereotypical gay friend and a truly irrational ex-fiancee, but really it all comes down to where you stand on Blake. I enjoy the occasional big lug, though not necessarily Jethro Clampett, and landed on the charmed side for Good Boy even if it wasn’t a classic.

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Off Campus Series: The Goal by Elle Kennedy

In the fourth, but hopefully not final, book in Elle Kennedy’s enjoyable Off Campus contemporary new adult romance  series, another university student hockey player and lovely young woman find a future in each other as they move inexorably towards adult lives.

Sabrina James has been surviving on ambition, overwork, and very little sleep as she drives herself through her final undergrad year. Determined to make a better life for herself and gain distance from her grinding family life, she is going to go to law school if it kills her. Her upbringing in an unpleasant, complicated family has made her self-reliant to the point of leeriness and incredibly driven. It’s been a long time since I wanted to see a heroine to escape as much as I wanted a better life for Sabrina. Show me a capable woman fighting dream crushers telling her who she is and you have my full attention.

Letting off steam one evening, Sabrina meets John “Tuck” Tucker. He’s a charming member of the men’s hockey team at her university. While she likes athletes, she has sworn off hockey players after a bad experience with one. Tuck’s a temptingly engaging and unassuming guy though, so she makes an exception for him just for one night. Laid-back Tuck finds himself smitten with tough, but sweet Sabrina and he pursues her until – WONDER OF WONDERS AND MIRACLE OF MIRACLES – she tells him she’s not interested and he backs off. (Let’s pause to thank Elle Kennedy for a hero taking no for answer.) When Sabrina realises she’s pregnant, she finds herself seeking Tuck out and things move forward from there.  Tuck is all in.

It’s been three years since I asked this question, but I still don’t have the answer. Should a hero be a perfect guy or the perfect guy for the heroine? Is there a difference? Tuck is pretty amazing. He’s grounded, patient, an enthusiastic and attentive paramour, hard-working, calm, rational, responsible, patient again plus synonyms for it, mature, kind, sensible, fun, good-looking, protective in a non-overbearing way, bearded (to start off with and, admittedly, that may only make him perfect to me), supportive, and financially secure. Tuck gives Sabrina time and space, he participates as much or as little as she wants him to with her pregnancy and its ramifications, and bides his time while she comes around to the same conclusion he did the night they met.

Tuck and Sabrina face almost insurmountable odds in succeeding with the stresses of their relationship, school, baby, and getting established in adult lives and all, I thought, with virtually no sacrifices. I guess that’s where the wish-fulfillment part of these books comes in. Young people having an instant family plot is not my favourite, but Kennedy did a good job with the story and she continues to be very good at writing friendships in addition to the love story. I will be buying all of the other books in the Off Campus series as they are published.

Off Campus Books 1 – 3:
The Deal – very good, I have re-read it
The Mistake – good
The Score – Entitled, privileged guy gets everything he wants. Granted that describes a lot of romances, but it’s annoying here. He’s a dick in The Goal, too.

More New Adult:
Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen: Him – smoking hot
Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen: Us – very good

Adult Contemporary:
One Night of Sin – meh
One Night of Scandal – meh
Elle Kennedy and Vivien Arend: All Fired Up – skip it

Other New Adult romance recommendations can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

 

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Do you ever wonder if its the same three or four guys on all these covers?

New Adult Romances

I’m not sure I had heard of the New Adult subsection of the romance genre this time last year, but I have embraced it wholeheartedly.

Based on what constitutes a grown up in different historical periods, this list by default includes only contemporary settings and is somewhat subjective. The novels often feature folks who are in university, have just finished university, or are athletes.

Recommended books are in bold, reviewed books are linked.

Sarina Bowen’s Ivy Years Series – Recommended, except where noted.
The Year We Fell Down (Hartley/Corey) – start with this, buy the set
The Year We Hid Away (Bridger/Scarlet)
Blonde Date novella (Andy/Katie) CLASSIC
The Understatement of the Year (Graham/Rikker) – LGBTQ
The Shameless Hour (Rafe/Bella)
The Fifteenth Minute (DJ/Lianne) – skip this one, seriously

Kristen Callihan’s Game On Series:
The Hook Up (Drew/Anna)
The Friend Zone (Gray/Ivy)
The Game Plan (Ethan/Fiona) – wonderful

Christina Lauren’s Wild Seasons Series:
Sweet Filthy Boy (Ansel/Mia)
Dirty Rowdy Thing (Finn/Harlow)
Dark Wild Night (Oliver/Lola)
Wicked Sexy Liar (Luke/London) – best of the series
A Not-Joe Not-So-Short Short (Not-Joe/Perry)

Elle Kennedy’s Off Campus Series:
The Deal (Garrett/Hannah)
The Mistake (Logan/Grace)
The Score (Dean/Allie)
The Goal (Tuck/Sabrina)

Everyone else, series or no:
Banner, Darryl Dog Tags (Brandon/Jesse)
Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Him (Wes/Jamie)
Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Us (Wes/Jamie) 
Butler, Eden Thin Love (Kona/Keira) – 1st DNF of 2017
Falkner, Tammy Tall, Tatted, and Tempting (Logan/Kit)
Falkner, Tammy Smart, Sexy, and Secretive (Logan/Emily)
Grace, Aria More Than Friends (Ryan/Zach) – LGBTQ
Harber, Cristin Sweet Girl (Cash/Nicola)
Ivy, Alyssa Rose The Hazards of Skinny Dipping (Reed/Juliet)
Lyons, Kathy Two Week Seduction (John/Alea)
March, Meghan Beneath This Mask (Simon/Charlie)
Milan, Courtney Trade Me (Blake/Tina)
Milan, Courtney Hold Me (Jay/Maria) LGBTQ
Roberts, Holly S. Play: New Adult Sports Romance (Killian/Rebecca)
Schurig, Rachel Ransom (Daltrey/Daisy)
Ward, Tracy Rookie Mistake  (Trey/Sloane)

LGBT romance recommendations, including New Adults, can be found here.

As always, recommendations are welcome.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

LGBTQIA Romances (Exclusively GB)

Most of these romances feature gay and bisexual men. I have read a lesbian romance, but, for me, it don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that schwing. Unless otherwise noted, everything on this list has a contemporary setting. Reviews are linked, recommended books are in bold.

  • Albert, Annabeth Waiting for Clark (Bryce/Clark) Hallelujah, both gay the whole time!
  • Banner, Darryl Dog Tags (Brandon/Jesse)
  • Bettencourt, Rick Marketing Beef (Evan/Dillon)
  • Bowen, Sarina The Understatement of the Year (Graham/Rikker) – New Adult, part of the fantastic Ivy Years series, I really liked it.
  • Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Him (Wes/Jamie) – New Adult, it’s steamy AND heartfelt.
  • Bowen, Sarina and Elle Kennedy Us (Wes/Jamie) – Not-as-new adults, finding their way.
  • Calmes, Mary A Piece of Cake novella (Jory/Sam) – Light and fluffy, mid-series novella
  • Charles, KJ A Seditious Affair: A Society of Gentlemen Novel – (Silas/Dominic) Historical, strong political elements and period details.
  • Dee, Cara Noah  (Noah/Julien) – squicky dynamic
  • Ford, Rhys Sinner’s Gin (Kane/Miki) – Overshadowed by the background story and over-the-top main plot.
  • Frank, Ella Try (Logan/Tate) – Too much sex? Is that even possible?
  • Frank, Ella Trust (Logan/Tate) – It’s possible.
  • Frank, Ella Finley (Daniel/Brantley)
  • Frank, Ella Devils’s Kiss (Jordan/Derek)
  • Gale, Avon Power Play (Misha/Max) – Contemporary hockey romance, quite enjoyable
  • Grace, Aria More Than Friends (Ryan/Zach) – New Adult
  • Hart, Riley Collide (Cooper/Noah) – Decent, I meant to review it, but never bothered.
  • Jaymes, River Brad’s Bachelor Party (Brad/Cole) – Not good
  • Jaymes, River The Backup Boyfriend (Alec/Dylan) – Decent
  • Jaymes, River The Boyfriend Mandate (Memphis/Tyler) – Meh
  • Hawk,Jordan Widdershins (Percival/Griffin) – Paranormal, very entertaining
  • Kell, Amber Attracting Anthony (Silver/Anthony) – Paranormal, weird daddy/son tone
  • Kennedy, Sean Tigers and Devils (Simon/Declan) – Charming, a novel with romance more than a romance novel
  • Klein, K-Lee Lazy Sundays (Devon/Scott) – Very quick read
  • Merrow, J.L Muscling Through (Al/Larry) – Big and stupid (really stupid) meets small and smart
  • Milan, Courtney The Suffragette Scandal (Edward/Free) – It has a small lesbian subplot and a unacknowledged but clear gay partnership in addition to the main M/F romance, but this book is SO GOOD I am including it anyway.
  • Milan, Courtney Her Every Wish (Crash/Daisy) – It’s a M/F historical romance, but the hero identifies as bisexual.
  • Milan, Courtney Hold Me (Jay/Maria) – Contemporary new adult romance in which the hero is bi and the heroine is transgender.
  • Northcote, Jay First Class Package novella (Jim/Patrick) – quick, light read
  • Riley, Sierra Guardian (Titus/Alex) – If you like big, tattooed men, this could be for you.
  • Stewart, Nicole Home for Three (Selwyn/Jack/Kess) – A gay man, a bisexual one, and a straight woman.
  • Walker, N.R. The Weight of It All (Henry/Reed) – Contemporary, enjoyable, sweet, funny
  • Walker, N.R. Learning to Feel (Nathan/Trent) – Contemporary, mostly pretty standard.
  • Walker, N.R. Sixty Five Hours (Cameron/Lucas) – Contemporary, pretty good.
  • Walker, N.R. Imago (Jack/Lawson)- Contemporary, very good
  • Walker, N. R. Imagines (Lawson/Jack) – follow up story only
  • Walker, N.R. Twelfth of Never (Mark/Will)- follow up story only
  • Walker, N.R. Red Dirt Heart (Charlie/Travis) – good, not great
  • York, Sara Pray the Gay Away (A Southern Thing Book 1) (Jack/Andrew)- high school, drama, sweet, the start of a series.

As always, recommendations are welcome.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful or my  streamlined recommendations list.

Us by Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen

A follow-up to the

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new adult romance Him, Us follows up five months later with Ryan “Wes” Wesley and Jamie Canning. Living together in Toronto as Wes skates through a stellar NHL rookie season (doomed to failure and disappointment as the Leafs haven’t won the Stanley Cup since the year I was born) and Jamie is establishing his career as a coach. They don’t get to spend enough time together and when they do, they are constrained by the need to mask their relationship. Wes just wants to get through his first season without becoming known as the first out gay man in professional hockey. The burden of Wes’s travel, hiding their relationship, and lack of time together is wearing on the couple.

Many adults try to figure out how to manage new careers and a serious relationship, but Wes and Jamie’s efforts are further complicated by the arrival of the world’s largest plot moppet in the form of Wes’s teammate, Blake. He moves in upstairs and takes to dropping by at inopportune times to interrupt sex and ratchet up “we can’t tell anyone I’m gay and you’re bisexual and we can’t even be ourselves in our own home” tension before proving he has a heart of gold when everything hits the fan.

The guys are still likable and sympathetic, if not especially well fleshed out characters, and their intimate scenes are still hot, but Us, while it does provide some realistic feeling situations, wasn’t really anything surprising. It’s an enjoyable, but not particularly memorable, trip down a familiar road with some nice guys doing the best they can. Honestly, the most notable thing about the story is the unbelievable suggestion that Toronto Maple Leafs ticket holders would give up their seats, even if only for one game:

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Those tickets are worth their weight in gold!

Note: I have re-read this book a couple of times since posting my review and I feel that I didn’t give it enough credit. It’s a good one and I recommend it if that wasn’t clear. Read its predecessor first.

I highly recommend Sarina Bowen’s new adult romance The Ivy Years Series and suggest you buy the box set, including the classic novella Blonde Date, but skip The Fifteenth Minute entirely. She is an author to watch.

Elle Kennedy’s new adult romance Off Campus series consists of The Deal  (great, recommended), The Mistake (good),  The Score (no), and The Goal (fine).

New Adult romance recommendations can be found here.

LGBT romance recommendations can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

Him by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy who have each published good new adult romances, collaborated on a new one called Him that manages to be enjoyable, well-written, and

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To be honest the

may have overshadowed the story a bit, but I can’t decide how much I mind.

Jamie Canning and Ryan (Wes) Wesley were best friends from the age of thirteen to eighteen after meeting at an elite hockey camp in Lake Placid. One night that last year, things got a little out of hand after a night of drinking and their friendship imploded. Canning never understood what had gone wrong to make Wes cut him out of his life. Four years later, after they meet again at a college hockey tournament, Wes tries to rekindle the lost friendship and ignore the fact that he has always loved Jamie, but good luck with that, Wes. For his part, Jamie has some unexpected feelings for Wes that he decides he needs to explore. They take summer jobs coaching at the hockey camp where they first met.

Jamie and Wes are both amiable, engaging characters, but they could have been more fleshed out.  Wes in particular is presented as a fun, insouciant guy, but this characterization is not followed up on. Jamie is simply a nice, grounded person from a good family. He’s really likeable, but it doesn’t make for much excitement,  but there was some compensating excitement for the reader. Having read a few romances featuring two men, I was really happy that neither of heroes was struggling with his sexuality. Often, like, almost always, there’s a moment of, “I’M GAY and I WANT to WHAT my FRIEND?!” and Him nicely sidesteps it and throws in a couple more clever little twists on standard tropes as well. Ultimately, the challenges Jamie and Wes face are of location and striking the right balance between with their new professional and personal post-college lives.

There is a second book with Wes and Jamie called Us.

Sarina Bowen’s The Ivy Years Series – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED, buy the box set

Elle Kennedy:
The Deal – great
The Mistake – pretty good
The Score – no

New Adult romance recommendations can be found here.

LGBT romance recommendations can be found here.

Links to my other reviews can be found on my complete reading list of books sorted by author or Author Commentary & The Tallies Shameful.

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