Author: Tessa Bailey

Wound Tight by Tessa Bailey

Wound Tight by Tessa BaileyWound Tight by Tessa Bailey
Series: Made in Jersey #4
Published by Entangled: Brazen on December 5th 2016
Pages: 162
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When CEO Renner Bastion walks into a room, everyone keeps their distance. Well, everyone but the sarcastic, tattooed, Boston-bred security guard whose presence has kept Renner in New Jersey longer than intended. As if the unwanted attraction isn’t unsettling enough, Renner finds out his protector isn’t as unavailable as originally thought.
Milo Bautista just came out to his wealthy, ultra-confident boss, a man he secretly respects and admires…in more ways than he’ll admit. Worldly, experienced Renner would never look in his direction, let alone share some of that confidence he wears like a cloak, so Milo has set his sights on someone else to be his first.
Until Renner offers him private lessons in seduction...

Seldom do I venture into M/M territory but when I do, the stories have never failed to disappoint me. Tessa Bailey’s first M/M story surprised me and yet didn’t, in so many ways, and because I’ve always hankered after Renner Bastion’s story, I was curious to see how he’ll close the entire ‘Made in Jersey’ series with his own HEA.

But I never quite expected him to be paired with the unlikeliest of guys: the ex-military security guard who isn’t too sure if he likes women or men, or both, until Renner shows him the possibilities and helps cement what Milo Bautista needs. Hence, Bailey’s road to their HEA is a convoluted path of discovering boundaries, class, sexuality and identity, even if it’s not as fluid as she makes it out to be. There are in essence, lessons to be learnt, hot sex to get past and well, world enough and time for lust to turn to love, even if I’m not entirely sure how that switch was made.

As with every Bailey book, there’s always some kind of exaggeration and contortionist sex as characters suddenly spill their dirtiest talk while getting down hot and dirty. Honestly, it made me laugh at times when I try to imagine how it all goes down (pun fully intended), but for some reason, Renner/Milo made it a tad more believable than the previous pairings in this series. The happiest of epilogue is probably found here as well, with a hilariously teasing ending line for the readers…that is, HEAs will prevail up until their progeny begins the cycle of angst all over again.


Worked Up by Tessa Bailey

Worked Up by Tessa BaileyWorked Up by Tessa Bailey
Series: Made in Jersey #3
Published by Entangled Publishing on August 1st 2016
Pages: 182
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Factory mechanic Duke Crawford just wants to watch SportsCenter in peace. Unfortunately, living with four divorcee sisters doesn’t provide much silence, nor does it change his stance on relationships. But when a fellow commitment-phobe stumbles into his life, getting him good and worked up, he can’t deny his protective instincts.
Samantha Waverly’s brother just put her in an impossible situation. The only way out? Marry huge, gruff, gladiator look-alike Duke—for show, of course. She doesn’t make promises—she knows too well how easily they can be broken—and this is no exception.
As the blistering attraction between them grows, the lines around the no-strings relationship blur. But Duke and Samantha’s marriage is only for show…or is it?

‘Worked Up’ is classic Bailey: always a little strange and quirky in the way the characters think and speak, the abundance of dirty talk, the sudden, alpha cock-blocking behaviour, the exaggerated heaving breaths and the impossible sex that they have after an impossibly short period into the book. It’s 21st century bodice ripping, wrapped up in coarse, dirty language that can be simultaneously hot and weird, complete with animal metaphors and references when the male is always walking around with a hard on and is close to coming.

At least it’s how I’ve felt about the more recent Tessa Bailey books, after it all went through Twilight zone erotica for me.

This book is all that and more. Both Duke and Samantha are not quite the typical hero and heroine of any other romance or erotica novel – the commitment phobic trend aside – and like insects under a microscope, I couldn’t help but want a closer, longer peek at these strange characters who sometimes behave more like caricatures than three-dimensional ones. But they’re interesting and good for hours’ worth of entertainment, if not altogether to be taken that seriously.

Physically, Duke isn’t perfect at all and the closest I’ve ever seen to resemble the ordinary man in a genre that elevates physical perfection and reduces flaws into ‘distractions’ that readers find ‘acceptable’; Sam on the other hand, steers a little closer to the romance-book heroine while holding the damsel-in-distress card a little too strongly for my liking. Yet I also thought Duke made Sam weaker than she could have been, coddled her when she needed to step out and say what she wanted. It was frustrating not because he was that overbearing, but that Sam simply wilted under that sort of intense pressure and turned wimpy when it mattered for her to fight back. But all of this simply showed and fleshed out Duke more than Sam as a character that’s worth remembering, even if it made Bailey’s characterisation somewhat unbalanced and skewed towards the males she tends to favour.

But then, who am I to complain, when Duke is quite possibly, one of the better (and real) ones that have been churned out of Bailey’s troves?


Raw Redemption by Tessa Bailey

Raw Redemption by Tessa BaileyRaw Redemption by Tessa Bailey
Series: Crossing the Line #4
Published by Entangled: Select Suspense on June 13th 2016
Pages: 304
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Disgraced cop Henrik Vance is having a shit year. Banished to a derelict undercover squad, he’s been tasked with hunting down the daughter of Chicago’s most dangerous criminal. His obsession with saving the beautiful girl destroyed his career. And this time, it might cost his life.
Ailish O’Kelly doesn’t need a hero. She’ll save herself from her father’s violent criminal dynasty, thank you very much. Unfortunately, the sexy as sin cop who crashes her hideout isn’t hearing reason—especially not after the kiss that becomes much more.
His boss wants her as an informant. Ailish wants Henrik to keep whispering filthy things against her skin. But she knows too well the evil they’re up against, and when it comes down to protecting the man who owns her body and soul, she only has one choice...

I think I’ve only just been able to pin down what exactly bothers me about Tessa Bailey’s books of late that have rubbed me raw the wrong way: it is her penchant for over-exaggeration which is, oddly enough, in part due to her clever ability to write in a way that pushes the envelope straight out of the pocket. The case for instant lust and inexplicable actions done in the name of men thinking with their dicks, I think the dirty talk is starting to bore me as well simply because the sheer extravagance of language catapults every steamy sex scene into the realm of unbelievable rather than hot.

And yet, I go back for more each time, hoping for a plausible story that will rend my composure apart, bring out my deepest sympathies for the H/hr – because Bailey can do that if she wishes to – only to get disappointed every time.

That being said, Henrik and Ailish are still one of the ‘better’ characters in this series and that isn’t saying very much about the rest of those who have bypassed the grey areas and slipped into questionable ones here. Anti-heroes they may all be, but I’m yet to be convinced that they are even heroes in their own books.


Too Hot to Handle by Tessa Bailey

Too Hot to Handle by Tessa BaileyToo Hot to Handle by Tessa Bailey
Series: Romancing the Clarksons #1
Published by Grand Central Publishing on May 17th 2016
Pages: 336
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When rescue looks like a whole lot of trouble . . .
The road trip was definitely a bad idea. Having already flambéed her culinary career beyond recognition, Rita Clarkson is now stranded in God-Knows-Where, New Mexico, with a busted-ass car and her three temperamental siblings, who she hasn't seen in years. When rescue shows up---six-feet-plus of hot, charming sex on a motorcycle---Rita's pretty certain she's gone from the frying pan right into the fire . . .
Jasper Ellis has a bad boy reputation in this town, and he loathes it. The moment he sees Rita, though, Jasper knows he's about to be sorely tempted. There's something real between them. Something raw. And Jasper has only a few days to show Rita that he isn't just for tonight---he's forever.

This started out rather amusing, like a dysfunctional family comedy that veered off into an accidental romance which I couldn’t quite buy into because of the glaring instant love element that smacked me straight into a wall, as well as the lack of believability of the romantic leads.

I never quite felt the connection between Rita and Jasper who seemed to get together in order to put their own personal ghosts to bed: Rita needing to forget her failure in the culinary business and Jasper for his desperation to shrug off his tramp-like reputation in the small town where he’d been seen for a long time only a joke – with the first outsider to come along. Even if I could admire Jasper’s eagerness to pull himself out of that rut and make a name for himself, I felt that Rita/Jasper’s relationship seemed to happen out of serendipitous convenience and unbeatable lust rather than a shared history, bewilderingly compounded by the fact that it took only 72 hours for Jasper to somehow determine that Rita was the one he wanted to marry.

But to be fair, I’d readily admit that the instant-love trope would work definitely better for others than a sceptic like me.

Tessa Bailey’s writing certainly isn’t in question here and all her hallmarks are found in abundance in this book: the dirty-talking hero, the novel way her steamy scenes are constructed, the strong element of quirk that’s present in all her characters that they can almost be caricatures in some comic-strip and the extreme flaws that either make them tear-jerkingly sympathetic or absolutely abhorrent. Or maybe even both.

Personally, I’m simply not too convinced by the start of this series however, and I’ll remain on the fence with this one for now.


Boiling Point by Tessa Bailey

Boiling Point by Tessa BaileyBoiling Point by Tessa Bailey
Series: Crossing the Line, #3
Published by Entangled: Select on January 26th 2016
Pages: 352
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Falling for a con man is the most dangerous game of all…
Con artist Austin Shaw’s been in disguise so long he’s not sure where his fake identities end and he begins. Now that he’s been strong-armed into working for a specialized undercover unit working with the Chicago police—criminals with unique “skills”—the last thing he needs is to risk his iron control. Especially when it comes to a certain stunningly sexy hacker who tempts him with every look of disdain.
Polly Banks will never, ever trust a con man. On the trail of a ruthless crook who destroyed the only family she’s ever known, Polly is unnerved by the shadow who follows her every move. The one who makes her pulse pound and breath short with lust. Austin. He’s infuriating, enigmatic, and pure sex appeal, and she’s determined to resist him.
But an untrustworthy man of disguise can become anyone he wants…including a man that Polly must trust if she’s to escape their dangerous game alive.

Austin Shaw’s number is up, and his allegiance to the undercover squad is only a thin veneer, as long as he gets what he wants: a glimpse of an illegitimate daughter of a woman he’d fleeced and slept with a few years back, his former partner…and more recently, Polly Banks, who has her own reasons for going after that same partner he used to have.

Frankly, this was tortuous to read and I’m excruciatingly aware that this is an opinion that clearly places me in the 0.0001% of the number of reviewers here. The lack of direction and shallow character depth are issues that I have with this story, but as with an increasing number of Tessa Bailey’s books, main characters tend to allow raging sexual need to overrule good sense. Consequently, the sheer number of explicit sex scenes detracts from – and diminishes – the entire story and its characters.

But mostly it’s the anti-hero himself who has tanked this story for me. I hadn’t warmed up to Austin (of whom I couldn’t get a mental grasp) and even if Ms. Bailey has done a credible job of making his slippery personality so ingrained that all he can do is move and talk within nebulous shades of grey, his insistence on living half-truths irked me when all it did was obscure a depth of character we could have plumbed. Even for an anti-hero, he was difficult to get behind when all I felt was revulsion for his con-man deeds, his bizarre stalkerish behaviour, leaving only a nagging feeling that he couldn’t quite earn his redemption in this tale that straddles the lines of morality.


Need Me by Tessa Bailey

Need Me by Tessa BaileyNeed Me by Tessa Bailey
Series: Broke and Beautiful, #2
Published by Avon Impulse on April 21st 2015
Pages: 288
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When Honey Perribow traded in her cowboy boots for stilettos and left her small Kentucky town to attend Columbia University, she never expected to find a dirt-cheap apartment or two new best friends. No stranger to hard work, Honey is completely focused on her medical degree … until she sees newly minted professor Ben Dawson, and her concentration is hijacked. Honey is fascinated by her gorgeous young English professor and vows to find a crack in his tweed-wearing, glasses-clad exterior.
At an off-campus party, an accident lands Ben in a dark, locked closet with a sexy-sounding Southern belle … and their chemistry is explosive. But when he discovers that the girl in his arms is the same beautiful student he can't stop thinking about, he is stunned. Student-teacher relationships are strictly forbidden … yet no matter how hard he tries, Ben can't stay away from Honey.
And when his attempt to fight their attraction nearly ruins the best thing that ever happened to him, Ben will do anything to prove how much he needs her.

I think Tessa Bailey just brought my dirty, secret fantasy to glorious life with Ben Dawson, only that my own professors weren’t ever that hot all those years ago. (And that she’ll have a stellar career writing handbooks on how to teach men to talk dirty, if she wasn’t already putting that underrated talent to good use in all her books) A five-year age gap isn’t the world’s most unsurmountable one, but it means everything with the forbidden line drawn between students and teachers. And that exactly, is what Tessa Bailey tries to overcome in this book. There are many obligatory mistakes made along the way, mostly by the professor who’s desperately running from the childhood demon poking its pitchfork straight into his shoulder the moment Honey sails into English class with her perfect essays and her golden eyes.

Ben and Honey do that strange but very compelling student-teacher dynamic in Need Me – ok, so it’s probably my fetish speaking. There is some literary flair, at least of the soaring, idealistic kind that peppers NA narratives, but self-reflexive enough to reference the wonders of the literary language, woven so cleverly into the passages expounding Ben’s frame of mind that I couldn’t help but mentally categorise this as a favourite halfway through the book.


Risking it All by Tessa Bailey

Risking it All by Tessa BaileyRisking it All by Tessa Bailey
Series: Crossing the Line, #1
Published by Entangled: Select on January 27th 2015
Pages: 400
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NYPD detective Seraphia Newsom will avenge her brother’s death at any cost. Even if it means insinuating herself into a rough, Brooklyn street gang and going so far undercover, she’s not sure she’ll be able to get out. Every minute she spends in their midst means the clock ticking down on her life, especially when she overhears something that could get her killed.
Bowen Driscol is the heir to a crime enterprise. He never asked for the job, but with his father behind bars, he has no choice but to step in and keep the operation running. But when the NYPD blackmails him with a piece of damning information in exchange for aiding an undercover cop, he finds himself on the other side of the law for the first time in his life.
Bowen knows the danger Sera is in, and keeping her safe trumps saving his own ass. The problem? She can’t know he’s on her side. And there's the matter of the seriously inconvenient heat sparking between them that's incinerating his resistance. But Sera only sees Bowen's past, and men like him are the reason her brother is dead. If they're to get out alive, he'll have to risk exposing the man beneath, and hope to hell he doesn't blow the whole operation in the process.

There’s a lot that’s shaping up to be commendable about the Crossing the Line series, if I’m to be grudgingly honest. As the series suggests, these aren’t squeaky clean H/h we’ll be reading about but characters with dubious moral centres who have generously dipped their feet into criminal activities. The ultimate dilemma for them, if I’m to guess where this is going for every book, would be how they could redraw their own moral boundaries and allegiances and come out stronger for it (and on the better side) by the end of the book.

With much angst and hard, near-acrobatic sex along the way.

As always, Tessa Bailey’s strength lies in her deft handling of relationships; in fact, she excels in crafting and drawing out twisted ones in which obsession and lust fuel the sex scenes that later also tend to get mistaken as love. I did enjoy the depth Ms Bailey attempts to give Bowen but Sera feels too innocent, naive and swayed by her emotions to be a believable undercover cop. 3 years on the force despite the buttoned-up and repressed burdens of a Catholic upbringing would surely have toughened her beyond giving into nipple-swelling moments each time she shared a smouldering look with Bowen?

I’m rather disappointed however, to find that there’s little deviation from the formulaic alpha male that I’ve seen repeated across her books: hot, dirty-talking, sexually forceful and dominant – only that they skirt the fine lines between right and wrong here. A virginal heroine is also like a hark back to the early versions of Mills and Boons where heaving bosoms and hysterical mood swings are the precursors to the all-important deflowering moment. Please, Ms. Bailey, give us a conflicted man who doesn’t see the need to screw everything in sight because he can’t commit or a controlled heroine who wears fluff bunnies to bed but not in her head.