Review: The Year We Fell Down (The Ivy Years #1) by Sarina Bowen

the year we fell downTitle: The Year We Fell Down
Author: Sarina Bowen
Series: The Ivy Years #1
Rating: 4.5 stars
Genres: contemporary sports romance
Links:

Blurb:
he sport she loves is out of reach. The boy she loves has someone else.

What now?

She expected to start Harkness College as a varsity ice hockey player. But a serious accident means that Corey Callahan will start school in a wheelchair instead.

Across the hall, in the other handicapped-accessible dorm room, lives the too-delicious-to-be real Adam Hartley, another would-be hockey star with his leg broken in two places. Heโ€™s way out of Coreyโ€™s league.

Also, heโ€™s taken.

Nevertheless, an unlikely alliance blooms between Corey and Hartley in the โ€œgimp ghettoโ€ of McHerrin Hall. Over tequila, perilously balanced dining hall trays, and video games, the two cope with disappointments that nobody else understands.

Theyโ€™re just friends, of course, until one night when things fall apart. Or fall together. All Corey knows is that sheโ€™s falling. Hard.

But will Hartley set aside his trophy girl to love someone as broken as Corey? If he wonโ€™t, she will need to find the courage to make a life for herself at Harkness โ€” one which does not revolve around the sport she can no longer play, or the brown-eyed boy whoโ€™s afraid to love her back.

My Review:
I’ve had this on my Kindle for months but I only picked it up after I read another book by this author (Coming in from the Cold) and I loved her writing style so much that I couldn’t wait to get stuck into another one of her stories.

Corey is an amazingly strong MC. She’s been through the wringer and back but she doesn’t let it beat her down. Determined to forge a new path in life, she enrolls at Harkness and meets Adam Hartley on the first day. Adam is hot but he has a really really really (yes it deserved three reallys) annoying cow of a girlfriend. The only bright spark was the fact that she was going on a sabbatical to Paris for a semester so we didn’t have to put up with her too much. Yay.

Corey and Hartley hit it off and become firm friends, though her lingering crush is developing into something much deeper. They bond over their disabilities (hers permanent, his temp) and their love of hockey.

There are some great side characters in this novel too – Dana, Bridger, Daniel in particular.

The plot wasn’t overly original and there weren’t any major shockers – I was pretty much expecting the reveleations that come out in the second half of the book. I knew there was some reason why Hartley was putting up with that idiot Sasia, and there were enough hints on the family drama to give it away. The beauty is in the exemplary execution of the story and the flowing, fluid writing style.

I really connected emotionally with both mains and I felt Corey’s pain and heartache and Hartley’s fear of rejection.

Hartley lost some bonus points from me after Sasia returned from her Paris trip. He knew she was screwing around with some other dude but was prepared to overlook that? ( I know they had a ‘deal’ but still) Also, he just spent the night with Corey and then allows Sasia to kiss the face off him in front of her? So not cool. I was hopping mad with him, but he redeemed himself in spectacular fashion so I forgave him.

The disability storyline was sensitively handled and Corey had a very pragmatic approach to her limitations. I’m not sure how realistic that was though, but I can’t comment as I don’t have a disability or know anyone that does. I would have expected it to take her longer to come to terms with her changed circumstances and at least experience some prejudice, but neither was the case here. I thought for sure that Sasia would throw that at her when Hartley dumped her, but that didn’t materialize.

All in all though this was a fanstastic read. If the two books I’ve just read by Ms. Bowen are any indication, she is fast becoming a new favorite author. I love character driven books that aren’t afraid to tackle sensitive moral or emotional topics and ones that delve deep into the psyche of the characters. Ms. Bowen has shown clear talent for snuggling deep under her characters skin and we gain well developed, complex characters as a result. I will definitely be checking out more of her work.

Blog Tour: Tough Love by Lori Foster

TL Review_Excerpt Banner
I am so happy to be part of the blog tour for Tough Love By Lori Foster. I’ll share my review with you today and an excerpt from the book. There’s also a tour wide giveaway.

Book 2_Tough Love by Lori Foster_coverTitle: Tough Love
Author: Lori Foster
Series: Ultimate #3
Rating: 4 stars
Genres: Contemporary Romance/ Sports Romance
Links:

Blurb:
She’s playing hard to getโ€ฆ to win the MMA fighter of her ultimate fantasies in a sultry new novel from New York Times bestselling author Lori Fosterโ€ฆ

Vanity Baker loves a good, clean match, but she’s not above playing a little dirty. She’s wanted Stack “The Wolf” Hannigan from day one. Seems as though the best way to corral the famously commitment-phobic fighter is to insist on keeping it casual. And her plan worksโ€”deliciously wellโ€”until Stack’s past steps out of the shadows.

Stack learned early to stay free of attachments. But with sexy, forthright Vanity, he’s the one always left wanting more. Then his troublemaking family comes back into the picture, threatening everything Stack cares aboutโ€”Vanity included. Suddenly he realizes they’re much more than friends with benefits. He’s ready to go to the mat for herโ€ฆbut will it be in time to protect the woman who’s tamed him for good?

My Review:
This was a great read and I adored the world-building and thoroughly entertaining characters.

Vanity has it bad for Stack, but he’s notoriously commitment-phobic, so she comes up with a grand plan to seduce him and hook him for life. And it succeeds fabulously until he becomes aware of some cards she was holding close to her chest, and then it kind-of falls apart.

I loved Stack’s mad dysfunctional family and the network of MMA fighters he surrounds himself with. One of the things I especially liked was the close male friendships that Vanity has developed with some of the fighters. It’s a refreshing change and one I could relate to. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I had way more male friends than female friends. Though my mom will tell you they were all in love with me (that’s Moms for you) I never thought that, and I totally believe it’s possible to have platonic relationships with guys. Most books dispute that notion so I liked that we got to see a different side of it in Tough Love. That’s not to say that Leese didn’t admit to an attraction to Vanity, because he did, but the fact is he was a great friend to her and I loved that.

I struggled a little with the first 10/15% of this book – I felt it dragged a little and that some of the dialog between Stack and Vanity was a little stiff and unnatural. Thankfully, those concerns melted away after that. I also struggled to reconcile Vanity’s behaviour regarding her financial position. It didn’t feel natural that she would tell Stack’s family about her wealth in such an open way. To me, it would have been way more natural for her to be cagey about it. Anyway, it’s a relatively minor complaint and it didn’t deny my enjoyment of this book.

I’m interested in Yvette and Cannon’s story and I’m definitely going to read that book. I also can’t wait to read about Armie and Merissa, and Leese’s story when it releases. I warmed to all the guys in this book and they were all intriguing in their own unique way.

The writing style is decent, and while it didn’t blow me away, it’s solidly written and very well edited.

In summary, this was a great book and I look forward to reading more of this series.

I received an ARC of this book via the publisher and Inkslinger PR in exchange for my honest review.

Tough Love Available Now

Excerpt:
The breath she held came out in a gasp as he pulled her against him, locked an arm around her waist and took her mouth with hot, incredible greed.
Whoa. And here she thought sheโ€™d been on the ragged edge.
He was so much bigger than her in every way, he made her feel tiny and feminine and fragile. In all other situations her independent soul might have rebelled, but not now. Not with Stack. She trusted him one hundred percent, and wanted him even more than that.
Flattening her hands on his chest, she smoothed over the solid wall of his pecs, up to those rock-solid shoulders. Heat poured off him, andโ€”oh Godโ€”he smelled so good. With his big hands opened on her, his mouth eating at hers, she forgotโ€ฆ everything.
The music and the conversation of other guests faded away. She tunneled her fingers into his hair and tried to get closer still.
Someone bumped into them; Stack didnโ€™t stop kissing her. If anything, his tongue became bolder, exploring, tasting.
Laughter, probably from his friends, sounded nearby, and still he didnโ€™t stop. He gathered her closer.
Jarred back to the here and now, Vanity pressed against him. A true gentleman, Stack immediately eased up.
Her lips tingled. Shoot, her whole body tingled. She drew in a shaky breath. โ€œWow.โ€
Proving he hadnโ€™t, in fact, forgotten they stood in the middle of the floor at a friendโ€™s wedding, he whispered against her lips, โ€œLet me get you someplace private.โ€ A softer kiss of persuasion. โ€œIโ€™ll give you reason to be wowed.โ€
Such a tempting promise.
Oh, how she wanted to haul him to the nearest quiet closet. But that would be dumb. What she wanted, what she hoped he ultimately wanted, would require hours, not a few frenzied minutes.
Voice filled with regret, Vanity explained, โ€œI canโ€™t go just yet.โ€
His rough growl proved his impatience.
โ€œVery soon, I promise.โ€ Adjusting their embrace, her arms around his neck, his hands at her waist, she put some space between them. โ€œLetโ€™s dance while you cool down and Iโ€”โ€
โ€œDream on.โ€ But he eased his hold and fell into step with her. Gaze burning over her, then lingering on her cleavage, he asked, โ€œHow much longer do I have to wait?โ€
Vanity didnโ€™t pretend confusion; she knew exactly what he meant, exactly what he wanted. โ€œOne dance. Then I need to get the bouquet out of the fridge and gather up some presents andโ€”โ€
He groaned again, prompting Vanity to laugh.
โ€œLetโ€™s talk.โ€ Maybe casual conversation would help cool his jets and give her a needed opportunity to regroup.
โ€œOkay.โ€ He leaned in. โ€œI canโ€™t wait to taste youโ€”all over.โ€
All over?
โ€œAnd to get you under me. Or over me. Your preference.โ€
โ€œStack.โ€ Her shaky voice sounded weak. โ€œLetโ€™s talk about something that isnโ€™t provoking.โ€
โ€œLike what? Because honest to god, darlinโ€™, after weeks of your verbal foreplay, Iโ€™m feeling pretty damned provoked.โ€
The smile came slowly. Teasing Stack was a true pleasure.

Tough Love promo

Tough Love is part of the Ultimate series.

The full series includes the following stories:
– Hard Knocks (Ultimate #0.5)
– No Limits (Ultimate #1)
– Holding Strong (Ultimate #2)
– Tough Love (Ultimate #3)
– Fighting Dirty (Ultimate #4)

Lori-Foster-Covers_415

Donโ€™t miss the earlier books in the Ultimate Series!
Hard Knocks (Ultimate #0.5)
No Limits (Ultimate #1)
Holding Strong (Ultimate #2)

Lori - Dec 2014About the Author:
Since first publishing in January 1996, Lori Foster has become a USA Today, Publisherโ€™s Weekly and New York Times bestselling author. Lori has published through a variety of houses, including Kensington, St. Martinโ€™s, Harlequin, Silhouette, Samhain, and Berkley/Jove. She is currently published with HQN.

Lori hosts a very special annual โ€œReader & Authorโ€ event in West Chester, Ohio. Proceeds from the event have benefited many worthy causes, including the Hamilton County YWCA Battered Womenโ€™s Shelter, the Animal Adoption Foundation, The Conductive Learning Center for children with spina bifida and cerebral palsy, and The One Way Farm, Childrenโ€™s Home.

Each year Lori donates all proceeds from one book to charity. You can see the benefit romance books here: http://lorifoster.com/benefit-books/

Links:

And there’s a tour wide giveaway! Enter the rafflecopter below for a chance to win:
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