Publisher: Entangled Publishing, LLC (Brazen)

Scoring with the Wrong Twin by Naima Simone

Scoring with the Wrong Twin by Naima SimoneScoring With the Wrong Twin by Naima Simone
Series: WAGS #1
Published by Entangled Publishing, LLC (Brazen) on January 15th 2018
Pages: 236
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one-star

Shy, awkward Sophia Cruz has a hard time telling her vivacious identical twin “no.” But when her sister begs her to swap places for a modeling shoot, she caves … again. Then Zephirin Black walks onto the set. The brooding, aloof, and gorgeous tight end for the Washington Warriors. But she can keep it professional… She has to. Because the adorkable Cruz twin has no luck with guys once they compare her to her sister.

After a bad break-up, Zeph hasn’t been big on second chances—and even less with trust. But he finds himself giving please-call-me-by-my-middle-name-Sophia both. The woman he’d dismissed as a spoiled cover model is different from the first time he met her. Quirkier. Funnier. Definitely sexier. What started as one night turns into another…and another…and another…

Still, Sophia can’t go on keeping her secret from him. But telling Zeph the truth will mean losing him for good.

Giving a 1-star review to a Naima Simone book is shocking even for me, particularly because I do like Simone’s writing and her play of emotions that tends to jump out at every turn of the page.

Where do I even start?

I went into ‘Scoring with the Wrong Twin’ knowing that deception was going to play a part in this story, though I’d hoped it wouldn’t be the primary source of the conflict that carried the plot. Or that the story would have taken a different turn after their one-night stand, where Sophia admitted early on that she simply wasn’t who she was.

Unfortunately, this turned out exactly the way I wish it didn’t, as Sophia allowed her identity deception to continue for a multitude of reasons, all of which that had to do with her supposed inability to be comfortable in her own skin and her low esteem that badly needed bolstering by a celebrity football player who would apparently, otherwise, have never turn her way. If I’d initially felt sorry for her, as the girl who’d been left in the shadow of her more glamorous model sister, my sympathy turned into irritation when she deliberately led Zephirin on, without having the courage to face up to her lie. Having the self-awareness of her own guilt, then ignoring it just made matters worse for me.

Too many times have such ‘heroines’ given such excuses and as time goes on, I’ve found myself getting more and more intolerant of behaviour that was simply too irksome to ignore. In fact, Sophia irked me so much that I couldn’t continue reading, leaving me sputtering at not just her delaying telling him the truth, but also her justification of her behaviour after her apologies, even after finding out that what she’d done was to strike precisely at Zeph’s achilles heel.

I stopped reading there and then; how Zeph and Sophia finally patched things up simply didn’t interest me anymore, especially not with a ‘heroine’ I merely thought of as cowardly and defensive.

one-star

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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three-stars

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?

three-stars

Best Friends with Benefits by Candy Sloane

Best Friends with Benefits by Candy SloaneBest Friends with Benefits by Candy Sloane
Series: Most Likely To, #1
Published by Entangled Publishing on March 14th 2016
Pages: 167
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two-stars

Valerie Barkin and Alec Rogers survived bullies, awful parents, and seriously shitty social standing the only way best friends can—together. But with the unexpected sexual tension suddenly flaring between them, surviving their ten-year high school reunion might be a different story…
Val hasn’t changed. She still feels like the stringy-haired band geek the popular kids teased, but Alec has definitely changed. He’s now the front man for the Grammy-winning rock band Chronic Disharmony, with the sexual reputation to match. And he’s more than willing to help Val rock the reunion.
And then it happens—a drunken game of Seven Minutes in Heaven—and their fourteen-years-long foreplay comes crashing to the forefront…changing everything.
Seven minutes turns into a weekend of mind-blowing, no-strings-attached sex. But these best friends won't be able to leave their hearts out of it forever, not when the most meaningful benefit could change their relationship for good....

Alec Rogers embodies every single dirty cliché of rock-star living, and his mousy best friend in comparison, shouldn’t be anywhere near that league. Even when a high-school reunion (complete with juvenile antics that were more befitting teenagers than adults) changes that status quo, I only feel regret for what could have been, because I would have loved the more naive, needy couple Al and Val would have become and not this version of a man who uses women like napkins. Until of course, jumping into bed with Val somehow magically reforms him.

While I love every iteration of the geek with the popular boy/girl, it’s difficult to flick off the sense of distaste given the setting and the best-friends-turned-lovers bit ten years later because so much of it felt dishonest, yet narratively stereotypical. Candy Sloane’s solid writing makes the book an easy read, but there isn’t much I liked about this pairing that didn’t quite fit now – yet would have a decade ago.

two-stars