Series: True Believers #2
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Berkley Trade
Publication Date: 6/3/14
Rating: 5 stars
Erin McCarthy stunned audiences with her passionate New Adult romance, True. Now she returns with a seductive and touching tale of finding love in all the wrong places…
Jessica Sweet thought going away to college would finally free her from her parents’ constant judgments, but if anything, it’s made her realize she can’t go home and be a hypocrite anymore. Tired of dodging their questions, she stays at school over the summer and lands in an unexpected crash pad: Riley Mann’s house.
Sarcastic and cocky, Riley is also sexy personified with tattoos and biceps earned from working in construction all day. He seems like the completely wrong guy for Jessica, but Riley hides a sensitive side and a family burden behind his self-assured grin. As Jessica helps him get his house in order for a custody hearing, they begin to fall for each other, and she is forced to question what she’s hiding herself.
But when it comes down to showing Riley how she truly feels, Jessica’s fear of rejection may just ruin the best thing—the best guy—to ever happen to her…
"Jess, I've got no business judging anyone. But I can offer you some advice if you don't mind.
"Sure." Though my palms start to sweat anticipating what he might say.
"Never ask someone to tell you who you are. You tell them."
I'm a fan of McCarthy's adult romance novels, so I'm not sure why I was so hesitant to start her True Believers series. Well, that's not exactly true. I was hesitant because I'm more than a bit burned out on a lot of NA, at least those that feel like tragedy porn and use sex to cure all life's cruelties. I know that's a huge blanket statement and not exactly fair, but I also know I'm not alone in those feelings.
ANYWAY. Back to the story at hand...My point is, Sweet is not that type of story and I'm a big dummy for not given it a go before now because I adored this book. Not only do we get a great, slow-burn love story and one of the best book guys ever in Riley Mann, but we also get a story that delivers a much-needed message in regards to women and sexuality. And this, this is very important to me. Maybe it's because I'm so aware of women's issues these days, or because I have a daughter
who I want to grow up to be sure and proud of herself, but I am very drawn to books featuring heroines who face issues regarding their sexuality, who are strong and unapologetic in that way. What turned a lot of readers off about Jessica in True (based on reviews I've read) is exactly why I wanted to read this series. One of the big things I took away from Sweet was, no one was in control of Jessica's body and her feelings about her body and sex, but Jessica. Not her parents, her friends, not even her boyfriend. She didn't allow those around her to shame her, put their ideas of morality on her shoulders, or make her answer to their jealousies. She was strong and sure and I loved that.
"What I'm trying to get you to understand is that I get it that you think of women as fitting into two categories--whores and the Madonna. But I'm neither. I'm just Jessica, somewhere in between, and I love you and want you to accept me.
Soapbox moment aside, I also appreciated Sweet for the heart of it, a love story about two people with strong walls around their hearts. Walls that were brought down, bit-by-bit, by a genuine friendship, selfless actions, and a slow-building love that is stronger than anything that could keep them apart.
Neither of these two wanted love. Jessica wanted to answer to no one, wanted to belong only to herself. She's impossible to know very well, but finds a kindred spirit in Riley. Riley has never belonged to himself. He's spent his entire life dealing with a hopelessly addicted mother, and is now raising his brothers. He's given his whole life to his brothers, not even taking the time for relationships. Riley does, though, fall for Jess. And when she wins him over by caring for him and his family, helping him keep the family together, he goes for more. But Riley-and this is why I love him-wants to take the time to build a strong relationship, slowly. Where Jess is free with what she wants, Riley refuses to make things all about the physical. Riley wants to savor what they have in store, to enjoy each and every taste.
"Trust me, I'm looking forward to it. But it's like cramming a whole ice cream cone in my mouth and swallow it whole. What good is that? It's over and done in a second. I want to really taste it, to lick it slowly. I want to savor the ice cream, you know what I'm saying?"
Guys, for a book that had a lot steam and sexual tension, this book is absolutely not about the sex. So if you're looking for an NA that's more about the emotional than the physical, this is it.
Sweet was such an engaging story, and I truly adored every bit of it. It was sexy and sweet, and it spoke to me in a way that has me thinking about it weeks later. If the rest of the True Believers series is this good, I'm in for such a treat.
"Would you be okay with it if I fell in love with you?"
My hear squeezed and I paused, my mouth a hairbreadth from his as I took in his words, as if I could breathe them into my mouth, my heart, my soul.
"Yeah," I whispered. "I'd be very okay with it."
I couldn't please everyone, there was no way to do that. But I could please myself.
That was my conclusion, and I knew what pleased me. Having the freedom to make my own mistakes, to learn, to grow, to become a better person. Being here, in this house, with this guy, pleased me. My friendships pleased me. My hoodie made me happy. It was all the simplest things that
mattered, and the future didn't have to be decided tonight.
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publication Date: 6/3/14
Rating: 3.5 stars
Playing innocent is easy.After being the quiet, shy girl her whole life, Elise Markham is ready for a mental makeover. She’s done keeping to herself and staying out of trouble—it’s time to break out of her shell and maybe meet someone intriguing in the process. So, on a photography trip to Bluebonnet, she has a whole lot more on her mind than snapping photos, especially when Rome walks into the picture.Playing dirty is fun.The newest instructor at Wilderness Survival Expeditions. has a colorful past, to say the least. Having come from a family of notorious con artists that destroyed his credit and reputation, all before his eighteenth birthday, Rome just wants a decent job and a quiet life in a town where no one knows his name. He’s exactly the kind of bad boy that an innocent girl like Elise should stay far away from.But Elise is tired of doing what’s right. She’s ready to throw caution to the wind—and let Rome show her just how exciting being bad can be…
I have a strange knack for picking books up, mid-series. I've heard a lot of good things about Jessica Clare's books, and when my notoriously picky librarian cousin mentions she enjoys the Bluebonnet series, I decided to give The Virgin's Guide to Misbehaving a try.
It's kind of funny that this is the book I started the series with because a few days prior, I was droning to my friend about how sick I was of "virgin books". I know that makes me sound like an ass. I mean, I hold nothing against the idea of the heroine being a virgin at all, which is a good thing because it's fairly prevalent in NA. I'm just tired of reading about it. I'm kind of over books where losing it is a ruthless mission, or a challenge that's meant to thrill me. In Virgin's Guide, we do have a virgin heroine in Elise, a sweet, painfully shy young woman with awful self-esteem issues, who wants to finally give her virginity. But what made this book work for me was, once she a Rome began to know each other, and fall for each other, it was a journey, not a destination. Meanwhile, Elise begins to step out of the shadows and begin to truly live. And Rome, he finds a woman who loves him whole-heartedly, for the man she knows he truly is.
Another asset to the story was Rome. Here we have a bad boy who's really anything but. Rome is a hard-working, kind man with a rough childhood and an ill-deserved past. He looks dangerous, but has a huge heart and a soft spot when it comes to sweet Elise. And get this...Rome is a pierced, tattooed, motorcycle-riding ex-con who can count all the women he's been with on one hand. Yes, you read that right! If nothing else, knowing that little tidbit would have me picking this book up.
As far as the romance goes, Rome and Elise's relationship was endearing. As I mentioned, Elise has poor self-esteem. She was born with a port wine stain that covered a large portion of her face. She eventually had it removed, though it did leave a faint stain. By that time, she'd also had corrective surgery for scoliosis, leaving her in a cast and scarred. Those differences made her stand out in school, and that cruelty has stuck with her. No matter how beautiful Rome thinks she is, how much respect he shows her, no matter how many times he says it, she still feels like that girl she once was. And wow, Rome was so attentive and took time and care with Elise. I appreciated that the author didn't throw these two immediately into bed. Despite the reason they connected, it was a slow burn.
Of course, Rome and Elise's story isn't smooth sailing. Rome's past continues to haunt him, with his family always showing up to ruin things, and Elise's well-meaning and overbearing brother pushing Rome to make impossible choices about their relationship. This drama was so good and had me turning the pages like mad. The resolution worked for me and I believed in these two as a lasting couple.
The Virgin's Guide to Misbehaving was a fast-paced, endearing and sexy story. If I was going to dive into the deep end of the Bluebonnet series, I picked a good place to start.
A figure jumped out of the trees and headed right for her. She barely caught sight of the tattoos and blue eyes before Rome's large body pushed hers up against a nearby tree.
"Duck," he commanded.
His voice was so urgent that she did, and she felt his big hand mover over the top of her head. She was pressed against his chest, and the plate of cookies she'd brought with her were crushed against her breasts. His big body pinned hers against the tree, and Elise was so startled that the breath escaped right out of her lungs.
Immediately she heard a loud thwack and Rome groaned. "God damn it, Pop, you got me right in the kidney."
"Ha!" called a voice nearby. "You'd better hustle before Dane and his group show up and nail you again."
"You're not supposed to shoot me, Pop," Rome said in a dry voice, and his hand slipped from her hair. "I'm on your damn team."
Elise looked up and was shocked to see Rome's gorgeous face was mere inches from her own. She was close enough that she could see the stubble edging his jaw and the gleam of his lip ring. And what a beautiful jaw it was.
Then he looked down at her, and those impossibly blue eyes focused on her.
"Hey," he murmured, and she watched, fascinated, as the lip ring moved.
Her throat worked and she fought hard to speak. "Hi." It came out as a breathless whisper, but it was a start.
About the authors
Jessica Clare is a New York Times and USA Today Bestselling author who writes under three different names. As Jill Myles, she writes a little bit of everything, from sexy, comedic urban fantasy to zombie fairy tales. As Jessica Clare, she writes erotic contemporary romance.
She also has a third pen name (because why stop at two?). As Jessica Sims, she writes fun, sexy shifter paranormals. She lives in Texas with her husband, cats, and too many dust-bunnies. Jill spends her time writing, reading, writing, playing video games, and doing even more writing.