Thursday, August 13, 2015

review || LAID OUT { blog tour } by Sidney Halson

Loveswept | August 18, 2015 | mmd27
Worth the Fight, book 4


Perfect for fans of Monica Murphy and Cecy Robson, Sidney Halston’s scorching new MMA romance proves there are no holds barred when it comes to seduction.

Growing up an Army brat, Violet Channing could never meet her dad’s high expectations. But in the eyes of her best friend, she could do no wrong. He even insisted that he should be her first kiss. Now Cain Sorensen is all grown up, hardened by years in special ops and always looking for a good fight. Tall, with striking blue eyes and impossibly blond hair, he’s a modern-day Viking warrior. Of course, Violet’s all grown up, too, and she’s ready to surrender to his every command.

Cain knows he’s bad for Violet. His work is dangerous, and his hobbies are downright deadly. As a private mercenary and a mixed martial arts fighter, he could never let such an innocent soul into his world. And yet his most grueling combat training is no match for Violet’s killer curves, hot touch, and suggestive glances. Now all of Cain’s most explosive fantasies are coming true—but once they cross the line between friends and lovers, there’s no turning back.

{ about sidney halston } .

Sidney Halston lives her life by one simple rule: “Just do it.” And that’s exactly what she did. At the age of thirty, having never written anything other than a legal brief, she picked up a pen for the first time to pursue her dream of becoming an author. That first stroke sealed the deal, and she fell in love with writing. Halston lives in South Florida with her husband and children.

{ excerpt } .

She was kicking a rock out of the way when Cain grabbed her hand and pulled her to a nearby tree, causing her to yelp as she struggled to keep her balance. At nineteen, Cain was thin and lanky—all limbs. She was still short and stumpy. He turned her around brusquely and pressed her back against a tree, the bark digging into her. She looked up at him and saw an intensity in his eyes she’d never seen before. His cheeks were flushed and the vein by his neck pulsed. Suddenly she became nervous. He’d never looked at her this way—the way the cute guys looked at the pretty girls.

Lately she’d felt flustered when Jeremy was nearby, with his mess of curly dark brown hair and dimpled smile. Feelings that hadn’t been there before were now creeping in. In fact, she could’ve sworn Jeremy had been flirting with her lately—complimenting her clothes and hair, brushing against her “accidentally,” inviting her to the movies without Cain around. But these brief flirtatious moments were with Jeremy. Not with Cain. Never with Cain. Cain was just her friend. A little gangly, a little quiet, a lot overprotective.

That was until now.

Suddenly there was an awareness that had never been there before.

When he licked his lips, her pulse sped up. A foreign feeling—desire—began to take root. He reached toward her hair, and she flinched a little before he tucked a stray strand behind her ear. The tender action surprised her. For the first time, she noticed how clear his blue eyes were, how his hair was so blond it almost looked white. All of a sudden, he didn’t seem like just this boy who was always around. Unfamiliar feelings began to erupt throughout her body. She felt her cheeks flame and her heart race.

When he finally spoke, his voice shook a little. “I’m your friend because I want to be your friend. Not because of your parents or your dumb threats. I don’t like it when you call yourself fat. You’re not fat.”

She nodded and murmured, “Okay.” She drew her lower lip into her mouth and nibbled as her wide eyes gazed at his. Cain reached over and pulled her lip out of her mouth. “You’re nervous.” It wasn’t a question. He knew her well enough to be aware of her tells.

“I . . . uh . . . what are you doing, Cain?”

“I don’t want you to kiss just anyone to get it outta the way.”

Words failed her, so she just nodded again. There was a moment where neither spoke. He just looked at her as if trying to decide on his next move.

“I should be the first person you kiss,” he finally said as his tongue flicked out a little and wet his lips.

She gasped and looked up into his eyes nervously. His eyes never left hers, but his reddened ears and neck showed that he was also nervous. She too knew him well.

Like a fool, she bobbed her head up and down mostly because the words were stuck in her throat. It felt like he stared at her lips for an eternity until he finally leaned forward, causing her to press herself further back against the tree, her hands gripping the bark. He tilted his head to the side and she imitated the action.

Should I open my mouth? Leave it closed? What about my tongue? What should it be doing?

Softly, almost feather light, his lips brushed against hers. Her eyes instinctively closed tight, and she stopped breathing. It was less than ten seconds but it was forever. In that moment she fell into the category of girls who’d had their first kiss. She kept her eyes closed for far too long, and when she opened them he was standing upright, his face even more flushed. Her own tongue snuck out of her mouth to taste her lips. She swallowed and looked at him, her eyes as wide as saucers.What just happened?

Then, with the same intensity in his expression, he leaned back down, but this time he pressed harder against her lips causing her lips to part slightly. His body moved closer to hers, and then she felt his hands grip her waist and his tongue touch her lips before it moved into her mouth and brushed hers for a brief second, his fingers digging into her skin at her waist. She instinctively melded into him, her body seeking him out.

Again he moved away and looked at her. His expression never changed, and neither did hers. Her eyes were wide; she touched her lips, as if to determine whether the kiss had really happened. They just looked at each other, neither saying anything, her heart beating so loudly she was sure he could hear it. Finally she spoke and said the only thing that came to mind. “Wow, my cup runneth over,” she whispered. It was a phrase he teased her about constantly, but it was exactly how she felt: she could barely contain her happiness.

He chuckled, and the smile did her in: she threw her arms around his neck and kissed him. Hard. He wrapped his arms around her waist and walked them the half step back against the tree again. Their noses bumped. It was awkward, but as first kisses went . . . it was perfect.

“Happy Valentine’s Day, Vi.” It was the last thing he said to her before leaving for war.

{ review } .

When I started this newest WORTH THE FIGHT book, honestly? I forgot that it had anything to do with Worth the Fight (WtF). I was completely engrossed in the two-guys-and-a-girl friendship, the one guy asked the girl out while the other (not so) secretly loved the girl, the one guy dies, and now other guy, who still loves the girl, has so much guilt, he doesn't know what to do with it. Yeah, that story.

That story can be overdone and therefore not done right.

I have to say...

Sidney did it right.

The only other WtF book I've read thus far has been BELOW THE BELT and while I enjoyed the Tony and Francesca glimpses in this book, BELOW THE BELT was not my favorite book by a long shot. I remember reading it and thinking, how am I going to rate this... At that time, I wasn't a "DNF"-er. I was kind in my reviews (heck, I'm still kind). I only gave 3.5s to books that I pretty much skimmed, but hell-llo, those should be 1s and 2s, but I just... I couldn't do it (and 'cause I'm because I'm being honest and all... I still really don't. It hurts me to give a 3.5!).

Again... if I were being honest... When I first requested LAID OUT, I knew that the author was familiar, but couldn't place it. If I had known... There would have been a good chance I'd have passed on this gem.

While yes, there were still things I didn't care for in the writing and editing style (jumps in time, thought processes being rounded out with someone else's dialogue), the story itself -- Cain and Violet (Jeremy too), the WtF gang, Enzo and JL, the dang bird, Cain's fighting (when, oh yeah, I was reminded this was a fighting series), Jeremy's letters and notebooks, the Texas trip, Cain's breakdown -- all of it kept me going, page to page to page.

Cain is a battle-toughened, base-living, Army brat-forever guy who never was much of a talker, but Violet always got him. Violet spent years not feeling 100% about herself because of her military father's words, but she always felt loved when with her two best friends since diapers, Jeremy and Cain. Cain was her first kiss, Jeremy became her fiance. But one thing she had with Cain that she didn't with Jeremy was "Love you/love you, better" and while Violet did indeed love Cain as a friend would, Cain's response of 'better' certainly eluded to the fact that his love for her was far greater than she'd imagine.

I loved Cain. I loved that he knew Violet inside and out, and while he was helping her (and making decisions in the playmaking that had me scolding him for such bad ideas -- surely he could see his faults in these games), his guilt became greater and greater. I just wanted to wrap the man in a hug. Violet, for the most part, I liked. I did think she was a bit weak when it came to Cain -- although it was understandable because he was literally all she had left outside of her new friends. She threatened him again and again that the next time he'd leave, she'd be through, yet again and again, he came back and she ran to him. Even her best gal pal, JL, pointed it out time and again -- but she even pointed out the obvious emotions that neither Cain nor Violet wanted to 'fess up to.

Sidney's ability to pull heartstrings was full force in this book. I found myself tearing up on multiple occasions and while, yeah yeah, I know, I'm a crier, I always feel that if an author manages to pull those strings, (s)he's done something right. On the flipside though (gotta even the field, ya know...), it's easy to recall the good parts and forget the parts that made me bored -- the story line, at points, did drag. I wanted Cain to confess his feelings, I wanted Violet to yell at Cain that she was through with his in and out and oh, by the way, what's the deal with the innuendos and dirty talk when you were the one who pushed me(her) away?! But at about the 55% mark, everything changed.....

Like I said, I'm so glad that I went into this book "blind" because I likely would have passed up one of my favorite books in this little sub-genre to date. I'm not sure how I feel, exactly, about Enzo, but I like JL... So I'll happily read their book.

for more reviews & tour goodies,

{ previous reviews in series } .

BELOW THE BELT 4{ review }

{ giveaway } .