Author: Lauren Blakely

Hard Wood by Lauren Blakely

Hard Wood by Lauren BlakelyHard Wood by Lauren Blakely
Published by Lauren Blakely Books on October 21st 2017
Pages: 191
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Women often say a good man is hard to find. And a hard man is even better.

That’s why I’m quite a catch— good, hard, loaded, and wait for it…I’m ready to settle down too. But the woman I want to pitch my tent with lives clear across the country. Neither of us wants to get lost in those woods. All I have to do is resist her for the week she's in town.

I try. I swear I try. But yeah, that doesn't work out.

And after one fantastic night with Mia, I’m ready to give her years of nights under the stars. What's a few thousand miles when love's involved? But there’s a hitch in my plans — she just hired my adventure tour company. If there’s one thing I’m committed to, it’s running a squeaky clean business. Number one on my list of iron-clad rules?

Don’t screw your customers.

But what's a guy to do when she's so hard to resist? How hard can it be to keep our hands off each other for a quick group tour down the hills and over the trails? I’m about to find out, and I have a feeling I’m going to need a new badge of honor because things are about to get very hard in the woods.

The friend of a friend of a friend, whose numerous siblings (throw in twins to make things more complicated) also have other friends who might or might not hook up with one another is pretty much how this whole series of stories go. I’ve probably lost track of who’s who and who’s actually related to whom, to be honest.

But all these books are standalones, and while some have been hits while other were misses, one thing they have in common is the smug, cocky male POV that’s sustained through this series with a title which is styled deliberately to be a double entendre. And all of it is something to get used to as these have become defining trademarks of these books; otherwise, that’ll only prove to be a stumbling block.

Lauren Blakely’s ‘Hard Wood’ is the next in line as Patrick and Mia get their HEA and as always, it’s mostly angst-free, with gently rolling hills for obstacles instead of the high peaks and valleys that can make a story hard to get through. It’s a very easy read as well—easy enough that it can be done in a single sitting—especially with Zeus the Adventure Cat stealing the show, though I shouldn’t be forgetting that ‘Hard Wood’ is also a sweet story with flirty sparks flying long before the characters hit the bed.


The Knocked Up Plan by Lauren Blakely

The Knocked Up Plan by Lauren BlakelyThe Knocked up Plan by Lauren Blakely
Published by Lauren Blakely Books on June 23rd 2017
Pages: 225
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There are three little words most guys don’t want to hear on the first date. Not those…I mean these… “knock me up.”

This single gal has had enough of the games, the BS and the endless chase. I know what I want most, and it’s not true love. It’s a bun in the oven, and I’m not afraid to hit up my sex-on-a-stick co-worker to do the job. Ryder is gorgeous, witty and charming — and he’s also a notorious commitment-phobe. That makes him the perfect candidate to make a deposit in the bank of me.

I won’t fall for him, he won’t fall for me, and there’s no way baby will make three. Right?

****There are four words every guy wants to hear on the first date — “your place or mine?”

When my hot-as-sin co-worker makes me a no-strings-attached offer that involves her place, my place, any place — as well as any position — I can’t refuse. After all, my job is like a coach and my latest assignment for the good of mankind is to create a fail-safe, battle-tested, proven guide of what to do or say to get a woman to fall into your bed — I mean, fall for you. So when Nicole says she’s game to work through my list in a hands-on way, I take her up on her deal even with her one BIG condition.

There’s no way I’ll want more from one woman than any position, any where, any night? Except . . . what if I do?

Pregnancy and baby romances aren’t my cup of tea and that’s my straight-out admission about my whole stance on the issue. Make it the central plot around which a relationship is built and I’m out of the door quicker than my own shadow can cringe and wave goodbye. But Lauren Blakely can offer something good (Blakely can be a mixed-bag author for me) and this is why I’ve picked up the story—to be planted straight in chick-lit zone, even if it’s just pure fiction indulgence, more so than ever.

Honestly, I was squeamish. And got even more squeamish as the pages went on.

‘The Knocked up Plan’ is a title that says it all: a plan to have children, with or without a man, simply because a woman can do it on her own the way Nicole believes. Except that the sperm donor that she wants is a friend and a colleague and the arrangement has to be exactly what it is—a transaction that has has Ryder uninvolved past the process of knocking Nicole up. But the catch is always coming—minus the distancing sterile environment of a sperm bank and the gift that anonymity presents, and no matter how much fun in and out of bed both of them have, feelings will and do get in the way. Basically, what Ryder and Nicole think might be a good idea is a bad idea all around and it’s plainly obvious to all but the protagonists themselves because if there’s actual sex in the mix between two people who like and respect each other, it’s just a sweeter deal.

It was easy to power through the book nonetheless, because there’s a confident woman who can easily be the representative for the independent 21st century feminist and a somewhat broken man who’s more real than many of the protagonists I’ve read about recently. There’s minimal angst really, unless you count the hormonal mood swings of pregnancy, and there’s a tooth-achingly sweet HEA that Blakely drives home.

Some parts do read laughably like pure exaggeration (making it too clear that this is a woman writing a romance for woman, imagining a man’s thoughts) and I do cringe at some descriptions that seem to take the metaphors of sex way too far. But Ryder isn’t a clueless, emotionally-challenged idiot and neither is Nicole a clingy soul and the lack of drama along with the dual POVs go a long way in making the entire book a sweeter deal for me.


Joy Ride by Lauren Blakely

Joy Ride by Lauren BlakelyJoy Ride by Lauren Blakely
Published by Lauren Blakely Books on May 1st 2017
Pages: 300
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Let’s be honest, ladies. A good man is a lot like the perfect car. You want a hot body, an engine that purrs, and superior performance under the hood...for the best joy ride of your life.
I’m at your service. Ready to go all night long.
But then a wildly sexy brunette appears in my life and throws a wrench in all my plans. She’s fiery, she’s talented, she’s gorgeous, and I’d really like to know what makes her engine hum.
Henley also happens to be my biggest rival, and now we’re forced to work together every day on the most important custom car build of my career. The trouble is I can’t quite figure out if she wants to kick me in the lug nuts or beg me to give her a good, hard fuel injection. Until one night that question is answered on the hood of a sports car when she calls out my name three times. And we can’t seem to put on the brakes.
If sleeping with the enemy is a bad idea, how much more dangerous would it be to fall in love with her?

‘Joy Ride’ is an entertaining read, though not quite something I could take seriously, to be frank. In the latest in the series of books featuring the male POV written in first person, Max Summers (the proud king of one-night stands—ugh) finally falls in lust with a rival whom he’d fired from his shop five years ago because she’s irresistible and presents the greatest challenge to his concentration and his dick. Forced to work with her on a big-time project, it’s a guarantee that everything will blow up in their faces, if it hasn’t in bed already. In ‘Joy Ride’, the setting ensures that there are tons of racing and sports metaphors, complete with innuendoes and a goodly amount of hate sex after Max’s uncontrollable lust reaches boiling point.

The male perspective being written from a female author’s POV is a highlight of this series especially when it first began, as I began to suspect it was pretty much what women want to really hear—it’s fun fiction with a huge load of imagination after all—and what they want to read. And it’s this strange meta that assails me each time I come back to this series as gender discourse and narratives styles do loops through my head. The amount of reflection Max does on objectification and the reaffirmation of how men act irrationally because of their attraction to women do seem like confirmation of the reading desires of the independent, twenty-first-century contemporary romance reader after all.

Yet there’s also this laddish, cocky, arrogant tone throughout that simultaneously makes me roll my eyes and cringe at the frequent ‘male’ thoughts of sex, women, sports and cars that run through these protagonists’ minds along with the inadvertent realisation of all the male shortcomings that readers typically love. After having been through a few of this series however, I do find it hard to differentiate Max Summers from any of the other heroes that have come before him; the similarities in their voices have brought me to the point where it seems that these characters could have been interchangeable…and I wouldn’t have known the difference if not for their names and the varying details of their occupations.

On the other hand, I found myself liking Henley very much. Strong, determined and with a take-no-prisoners attitude, I loved her single-minded effort in working her way to the top of a male-dominated business, then loved her more for excelling at it and not compromising her femininity and her personality quirks while doing so. In short, the woman comes out on top, even the man also wins the object of his lust/affections at the end. Forgive the meta that comes through each time I take on this series: ‘Joy Ride’ ensures that the heroine’s never short-changed, while guaranteeing that her man is an equal pillar of support. It’s a win-win resolution, I imagine.


The Hot One by Lauren Blakely

The Hot One by Lauren BlakelyThe Hot One by Lauren Blakely
on February 27th 2017
Pages: 218
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Ever notice that sometimes a guy will do something really stupid, like let the love of his life slip through his fingers?
Yeah. I'm that guy. But the moment I run into the woman I once loved madly, I’ve got one goal and one goal only—a second chance. The plan? Go big or go home.
Fine, at first glance, stripping naked at my ex-girlfriend's place of work might not seem like the brightest way to win her heart again. But trust me on this count—she always liked me best without any clothes on. And you've got to play to your strengths when you're fighting an uphill battle. As a lawyer, I know how to fight, and I'm prepared to fight hard for her. Because sometimes you need a second chance at first love.
He's the one who got away . . . The nerve of Tyler Nichols to reappear like that at my job, showing off his rock-hard body that drove me wild far too many nights. That man with his knowing grin and mischievous eyes is nothing but a cocky jerk to saunter back into my life. Except, what if he's not . . .? I've tried like hell to forget him, but maybe I'm cursed to remember the guy I fell madly in love with eight years ago. Lord knows I’m not over him, so what's the harm in giving him a week to prove he's changed in the ways that matter?
After all, how do you resist the hot one…

I’m starting to think that I’ve got a love-hate relationship with Lauren Blakely’s books. One the one hand, they’re mostly angst-free, exaggerated to the point where romantic comedy kicks in and pretty much a guaranteed easy read with a HEA. On the other hand, there are times when I find myself rolling my eyes at the overly done descriptions of uncontained lust – it’s 8 years of separation between this couple and a world of hurt, but all it takes apparently is a hot body to get it all going – and how that drove the near re-instalove that reignited between a pairing which up until a week ago, never quite gave each other more than erotic thoughts in their fantasies.

This is one of those times. In fact, I’d call ‘The Hot One’ a unbelievably batty read, which went so far past my ability to suspend disbelief that this book seemed to encapsulate what I hate about the second-chances/reunion trope. In fact, I detested everything about Tyler: the cocky arrogance and the self-absorbed behaviour that suddenly propelled him to winning a woman back that he hadn’t actively sought out for 8 years, as well as the assumption that Delaney would be a doormat to his all-conquering behaviour. Everything about him seemed desperately reactive as he lurched from grand gesture to grand gesture in a bid to convince Delaney that they would be good together again.

While I do admire Delaney’s honesty about wanting him, I couldn’t fathom how she pretty much rolled over at his impulsive drive to get her back permanently (would he have done this without the random meeting?) and then confessing her love near after a week of intensive dating. It was ever harder to swallow that Delaney seemed to take a little of the blame of their separation on herself while all Tyler did was feel a little remorseful about the past, justifying that he couldn’t undo anything now.

Not my type of read, unfortunately, mainly because it didn’t appeal to my innate sense of ‘romantic justice’ somehow, if there ever is a right word for it. So I skimmed and skipped so much and was actually thankful when it was over.


Full Package by Lauren Blakely

Full Package by Lauren BlakelyFull Package by Lauren Blakely
on January 9th 2017
Pages: 300
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I’ve been told I have quite a gift.

Hey, I don’t just mean in my pants. I’ve got a big brain too, and a huge heart of gold. And I like to use all my gifts to the fullest, the package included. Life is smooth sailing....

Because scoring an apartment in this city is harder than finding true love. So even if I have to shack up with my buddy’s smoking hot and incredibly amazing little sister, a man’s got to do what a man’s got to do.
I can resist Josie. I’m disciplined, I’m focused, and I keep my hands to myself, even in the mere five-hundred square feet we share. Until the one night she insists on sliding under the covers with me. It’ll help her sleep after what happened that day, she says.

And even though we agree to return to roomies-without-benefits, I quickly realize I want more than someone to split the utilities with. Now all I want is to spend every night—and every day—with my gorgeous roommate.

Did I mention she’s also one of my best friends? That she’s brilliant, beautiful and a total firecracker? Guess that makes her the full package too.
What’s a man stuck in a hard place to do?

The masculine POV—or at least envisioned by the female author—is notoriously difficult to get right and the jury’s still out on this one but Lauren Blakely definitely makes the book a heck of an enjoyable one. It’s that specific combination of smug, arrogant, hyper-self-aware and funny that makes it’s eye-rollingly predictable yet hilarious in some way and sustained mostly throughout the book with very small recipe inserts by Josie, I’m starting to think that Blakely has the market cornered on this one because I haven’t come across any like this so far. Whether it’s truly reflective of the male mind (I do honestly think many men are more happily oblivious to most things emotional) isn’t the point anymore I guess, but because it’s a reflection of what women probably want to read of a male mind is what makes this book works.

The ‘Full Package’ this time is Chase Summers, the upbeat doctor who seems quite the guy: is able to fall in love, isn’t hard up about denial of feelings, isn’t commitment-phobic, yet does the usual things that most virile male characters do, so in short, a fairly decent one to grace the romance genre. Even if the story’s rather predictable (best friends who become housemates who become more, though not without the angst of losing the friendship after the irrevocable turn happens), I still had a good time reading it.

My only tiny issue is that I think Blakely should label these books a series, even if they can sort of function as standalones; the sheer number of ‘interlocking’ and interdependent couples of this huge ‘friends’ group from the rest of her Big O books do make it a series of sorts.


The Only One by Lauren Blakely

The Only One by Lauren BlakelyThe Only One by Lauren Blakely
Published by Evil Eye Concepts, Incorporated on December 6th 2016
Pages: 140
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Let’s say there was this guy. And he gave you the most mind-blowing night of sex in your life. And you never saw him again.Until ten years later.Now, it turns out he’s the ONLY ONE in all of Manhattan whose restaurant is available the night of my charity’s gala. The trouble is, he doesn’t recognize me.

***This woman I’m working with is so damn alluring. The first time I set eyes on her, I’m captivated and I can’t get her out of my mind. Even if it’s risky to tango with someone I’m working with, she’s a risk I’m willing to take.The trouble is, she won’t give me the time of day.But I’m determined to change that.

Some books are a hit for people, a complete miss for a very, very small minority – the latter group of which I clearly belong to. I’ve enjoyed a few of Lauren Blakely’s books this year, but this one turned it right around and into the pits for me.

The second-chance reunion trope has always been a tricky one for me to swallow hook, link and sinker unless the circumstances that led to separation, the reunion as well as what the characters did during that time are written ‘ideally’. But throw a playboy, womanising chef in the mix who whored around as his fame rocketed (who suddenly feels it’s easy to give up other women after seeing the woman he’s supposedly always wanted) however, and I was ready to toss the story to the side, even if an honest mistake led to the split.

Suddenly, Penny and Gabriel are soulmates after the brief deception goes by, and they are two people who would never look at others again…simply because they had the time of their lives in a very short 3-day affair a decade ago. It was painfully ridiculous to me (clearly I lack a romantic bone in my jaded body?), exacerbated by my own issues with womanisers and female characters’ inability to keep their quivering body in line when a hot man they’ve compared everyone else to walks past. Gabriel’s charm, so much so that it’s embedded into his identity as the sexiest chef who has droves of women after him (which he clearly takes advantage of), comes across as sleazy rather than endearing. That he tries to deny his reputation in one instant, then acknowledges it in another makes him all veneer with little depth for me. I couldn’t see much past their lust for each other, let alone accept the proposal of marriage after 2 months together…when a decade of other people just couldn’t do it for both of them.

Lauren Blakely has writing chops, no doubt. But in the attempt to elevate Penny’s and Gabriel’s connection, almost beyond the bounds of reality to the descriptions of how they make each other feel, all it merely did was to make me dislike the book a lot more…to my chagrin.


Out of Bounds by Lauren Blakely

Out of Bounds by Lauren BlakelyOut of Bounds by Lauren Blakely
Published by Bloomsbury Spark on November 22nd 2016
Pages: 150
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The first rule of football--don't screw with a streak.
My career is finally looking up, and I'm leading a new pro team down the field every Sunday. No way will I mess with that. But when I meet the most stunning and captivating woman I've ever seen, I tell myself one night will have to be enough.
But it's not. And now I can't get her out of my mind. Even when I'm playing. Even when I need to focus. Even when I’m on the hottest streak of my life.
And it turns out, she's not just some random woman I met. She works for the team. My team.
I only have one goal this season--do my part as the team's lawyer to keep them out of trouble. Help rebuild their reputation on and off the field. There's no room for error and certainly no room for a secret tryst with a player . . . even if he's the quarterback.

‘Out of Bounds’ differs immediately from the usual sports romance that I’ve gone through (and left mostly unimpressed) simply because both lead characters aren’t in any way defective, terribly flawed or lugging around a chip on their shoulders that would take the whole book and mountain loads of angst to resolve. There isn’t any of that here but a deliciously slow burn of flirty promises touches that escalate until the sexual tension gives.

Drew and Dani do indeed have all their faculties tied together and their careers in place and Lauren Blakely skilfully shows how a story of such a put-together pairing can still function and function perfectly in a setting that seems to frown at a relationship between an attorney and a ball player. In fact, the maturity of the characters had me blinking in disbelief which for a large part, does contribute to the low angst level of the book as well as how mind-bogglingly easy a relationship can be – a prominent feature in itself when so many stories are built on the premise on opposing personalities and mitigating circumstances.

The short length of the story doesn’t compromise character depth or development either and for someone completely unfamiliar with American football, the story thankfully doesn’t go into specifics that require a detailed understanding of the sport to work. So if this is Blakely’s idea of a sports romance, I’m already in queue for her next one.