Tuesday, April 7, 2015

review || CRUSHED { blog tour }

Crushed by Lauren Layne

Publisher: Loveswept: Flirt (4/14/2015)
Series: Redemption, book 2 
Genre: New Adult
Source: NetGalley / Tasty Book Tours
Purchase links || Amazon | B & N | iTunes | Kobo || add to goodreads

Rating: ★★★

Lauren Layne’s latest novel about the healing power of redemption tells the story of a crush gone wickedly wrong, proving that what you want isn’t always what you need.

Growing up in New York, Michael St. Claire never expected to spend his twenties wearing cowboy boots. But that was before he learned about his real father, a total stranger with a family in Cedar Grove, Texas. Once in the Lone Star State, Michael meets Kristin Bellamy, who is exquisitely refined and everything Michael always thought he wanted in a woman. The only problem is that Kristin is dating Michael’s new half-brother, Devon.

Kristin’s mouthy, curvy sister Chloe has always been in love with Devon Patterson. So when Michael offers to help Chloe break up Devon and Kristin, Chloe agrees to a deal that seems too good to be true. Before long, Chloe finally gets her man, only to make a startling discovery: She no longer wants the guy she had to fight for—she wants the one who stood by her side.

After all he and Chloe have been through, Michael swears he’s damaged goods. Can Chloe convince him that love is worth the risk?


about Lauren  || Lauren Layne is the USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance.

Prior to becoming an author, Lauren worked in e-commerce and web-marketing. In 2011, she and her husband moved from Seattle to New York City, where Lauren decided to pursue a full-time writing career. It took six months to get her first book deal (despite ardent assurances to her husband that it would only take three). Since then, Lauren's gone on to publish ten books, including the bestselling Stiletto series, with several more on the way in 2015.

Lauren currently lives in Chicago with her husband and spoiled Pomeranian. When not writing, you'll find her at happy hour, running at a doggedly slow pace, or trying to straighten her naturally curly hair.

Connect with Lauren Layne || Goodreads | Twitter | Facebook

{ excerpt } .
Normally, I’d be more than happy to be late to my next lesson in order to scratch Mindy’s second itch of the day and help her forget that she’s married to a high-powered judge with a potbelly.
But Mrs. McLaughlin has one unavoidable disadvantage working against her.
Today is Wednesday.
And on Wednesdays, I have a client I want more than Mindy McLaughlin.
After a few more failed come-ons, Mrs. McLaughlin finally gives up, although I know she’ll be coming with her A-game next week. Her skirt shorter, her lips glossier, her invitations more blatant.
I check out her ass on principle as she walks away, running the towel over my face before finishing a bottle of water in three gulps.
One more lesson before I can escape to Pig and Scout, the dive bar where I sometimes work nights. Generally, I count the hours until P&S; it’s a welcome break from all the pretension.
Although . . .
Today is Wednesday. And on Wednesdays, I’m not in such a hurry.
Despite what the other guys think about their athletic skills, I know we “tennis pros” are merely the pool boys of the country club. We’re supposed to be ripped, a little bit dangerous, and not clinging too closely to our morals.
I have no problem with any of those, especially the last one, even if it does get old after a while.
But my hour a week with Kristin Bellamy makes it all worth it.
I see Kristin approaching out of the corner of my eye, but deliberately don’t turn to check her out, even subtly.
See, forty-two-year-old women like Mindy McLaughlin are forever afraid they’re “losing it.” They need the confirmation that they’re still worth looking at.
But twenty-two-year-old girls like Kristin Bellamy know they’ve got it.
The trick to reeling those in is making them wonder if you’ve noticed.
“Hey, Michael.”
I turn to face her, keeping my expression indifferent. “Kristin.”
Yeah, I definitely notice her.
She’s wearing only a white sports bra and a tiny white tennis skirt. I’m pretty sure the club has some sort of policy requiring members to wear a little more clothing, but considering the place is run by a bunch of doddering old dudes, I doubt they’re going to order Kristin to cover up her tanned, toned stomach and perky tits.
My eyes don’t linger, returning quickly to her face, and she appears not to mind that I don’t check her out.
It’s a game we’ve been playing for weeks now.
For the life of me I can’t figure out who’s winning.
I only know the endgame. Her. Me. In bed. Or wherever.

{ review } .

Before I dive into the review of what is, hands-down, my favorite in this Redemption series, I just need to say...

Every time I see this title, I get Beu Sisters' CRUSHED in my head. Every. Time. 

Don't know who Beu Sisters is/err, were? Yeah, they aren't active anymore, but I loved them. You know the opening title song to HOW TO LOSE A GUY IN 10 DAYS (which, speaking of Lauren Layne, makes me think of the Love, Sex, and Stilettos series)? That's CATCH ME IF YOU CAN by these sisters.

Ok, on to what is my favorite of this series. Heck, it may even be my favorite of Ms. Layne's, and can I just remind you how much I loved Sophie and Gray?

Everything about this story just did it for me. I loved Chloe's sass and spunk, even though she used it to cover up insecurities. I loved Michael's honesty, even though his reason's for being in Texas were kept mum. Michael and Chloe were like match and tinder. They both talked back to one another, and eventually things blew up.

Chloe has a thing for Devon, her sister's boyfriend. Chloe and Devon had been best friend's for years, so when Kristin gets upset about Devon's plans and learns that Chloe's known them all along, Kristin goes all uppity-witch on her sister, accusing her of things she hadn't done.

Michael, meanwhile, wants to get close to Kristen as a way to get in with Devon and his family -- Michael recently learned that Devon was his half-brother. However, he keeps this information to himself. He wants to hate the guy, after all.

When Chloe ends up at Kristin's tennis lessons, Michael can't help but notice her -- but not in a good way. Where Kristin is thin and beautiful, Chloe is...

Well, Chloe's not.

She's curvy and has wild hair; is mouthy and in a word, a mess. But as Michael thinks, she's quick to make the jokes about her weight before anyone else does.

I loved every bit of these two. Even when they hardly know one another, Michael's always getting his hands on her (my absolute favorite scene is when he's wrangling her curls into a ponytail); that and they bicker (I do love my bickering bantering couples):
"Yeah, I'm sure you have all sorts of problems with the ladies. I mean, your body is just repulsive." I say with a general wave over his sculpted perfection. "And I bet the women just hate that keep away I'm dangerous vibe you've got going on."
"You'd be surprised. It's not always about looks."
I give him an Oh, come on look over my shoulder before I start to head in the direction of the clubhouse.
It's always about looks. Only gorgeous people say that it isn't.
[...] "Listen, Beefcake," I say, with an exaggerated sigh. "I appreciate you trying to help the little fat girl, but quit messing with me, okay? You've assess the situation for about sixteen seconds. I've been assessing it for sixteen years. And guys like that do not fall for girls like this." I gesture down to myself.
[...] "Don't take this the wrong way, but you're too young not to be fit."
Hurt rolls over me. I know I'm not thin, but it stings, and I start to give him a piece of my mind.
But before I can lay into him, a big hand closes over my mouth, our eyes locking as he physically stifles my retort. "Note, I didn't say thin or skinny. I said fit. Healthy. It's not what's on the scale; it's about what's up here. It's about getting in control of your life." 
I love that they pretend to detest one another (oh, they probably do at first):
Back in New York, there are people that seriously hate my fucking guts.
I have no doubt they're talking some serious shit behind my back.
But who needs them?
Because I have Chloe Bellamy telling my to my face that I'm not good.
Chloe Bellamy is different.
And I mean that in an I could strangle her way, not I'm intrigued.
Gosh, if only you could see just a little bit in the future, my friend Michael.

Their relationship takes a turn when Michael offers Chloe the chance to practice her kissing on him. 
...it was way fucking hotter than it was supposed to be.
Gee, Michael, you didn't see that one as a bad idea? Of course he did -- he didn't realize that he actually liked the loud girl.

Without giving away even more of the story, because I totally could do that without realizing, if I had to give one word to this particular story, this 'ugly ducking turned beautiful swan' story, it would be loved. I love that Michael first knows Chloe as a 'curvy on a good day, plump on a bad', mouthy, messy girl, and while he isn't helping her to change so she's "thin and pretty" but healthy, he appreciates the changes. He's there to help her through the mind battles that take place with weight change; he's there to help her with her confidence -- which, let's be honest, she had in spades but with the changes to her body, her confidence alters a bit (can't joke about being the fat girl when you're no longer the fat girl). 

While Chloe becomes comfortable around Michael due to their friendship, she's able to be her normal open self. She's comfortable showing him her bikini body because, c'mon, it's Michael St. Claire, tennis teacher/pool boy extraordinaire. Besides, her eyes are on Devon. 

Chloe becomes Michael's lifeline, someone that he can count on -- and that's something he hasn't had in a long time.

I loved the slow progression of their relationship. I love that he knew her pre- and post-change, and what he truly loves about Chloe is her -- her spunk, her quirk, her wit. He likes her messy (so much that when she straightens her hair, it literally grates at him) and loud -- and that she's oddly quiet when they're 'mhmm'ing. 

Chloe can be herself around him... and vice versa. And for these two, that's the best thing that can happen for them.

One of my favorite scenes (well, besides above mentioned hair wrangling...) is the end when the gang is all together. I love Paul and his comments, I love Steph and her quirkiness. I love how Ethan just grins and deals with Steph ("I don't even..."). Just love it, and love this group.

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