New Adult, New Adult Romance

My Review: Good Boy (WAGS #1): Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Publish Date: December 28th, 2016

Number of Pages: 282 Pages

Publisher: Rennie Road Books

Genre(s): Romance, New Adult Romance

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

If you’ve been following my reviews as they release on my website, you should definitely know by now that if Elle Kennedy and Sarina Bowen write and publish a book together, I’m going to want to read it! They just create amazing work whenever a cover shares their names. In case no one has read anything by them yet, here’s a list of what their works usually include:

  1. College Hockey Players
  2. Sassy and/or Quirky Heroines
  3. Hilariously Witty Dialogue
  4. Equal Amounts of Fluff and Steam
  5. Running Jokes That Always Have a Humourous Conclusion
  6. Adorable Romance

There’s plenty more to add to that list, but that pretty much sums it up. They write such amazing New Adult (NA) Romance books; they have great storylines and relatable characters that go through daily struggles, who don’t don’t simply fit a typical stereotype, or are held back by past traumas that are realistic; I just wish I could learn how the two authors co-write their stories. They’re usually told through dual point of views with the two main characters who are love interests. Do they stick to one character each, or do they just share a single doc and tag each other in? I’d love to find out their method of how they get it done!

Before I go deeper into my thoughts about this story, I feel like I should mention that this book is actually the start of a spinoff series that branches off from the authors other duology that I loved: Him and Us. To be fair, this book is just as enjoyable if you haven’t read those before this, but you do meet both the main characters of Good Boy in these books first, and you do get some context into the relationship between Blake and Jess, so I guess I’ll leave it up to you whether or not you feel like you need to start from the very beginning!

To see my review of Him – Click HERE

To see my review of Us – Click HERE

Personally, I was RELIEVED that Blake was much more bearable in this book compared to Us… He’s still somewhat obnoxious and makes (somewhat) terrible nicknames and phrases, PLUS he kept interrupting sexy time between Wes and Jamie when they hadn’t seen each other in forever, so that rubbed me the wrong way…. no pun intended with that. Luckily, Blake grows on you and becomes much easier to deal with in this book if you weren’t a fan of him in the last book like I was.

As far as this story goes, expect all that you would if you HAVE read their books before with the content, but I don’t think this tale will be anyone’s favorite of these author’s works. It’s not to say this isn’t a good book—it is!—but there wasn’t really anything to make this stand out amongst the other titles of there’s. I think the humor is still there, but I can understand that it may be a bit reaching, and won’t be for everyone. I don’t want to say it’s slapstick humor—I’m sorry, I had to add that in here somewhere—but the humor does still have it’s moments.

I felt like both characters really did have relatable issues, both external and internal, that seemed like real-world issues just about anyone could have to deal with. You definitely also see the two love interests grow throughout the story as their relationship grows with them, and I also really liked their chemistry. There was a subtle hint in the Him duology of the two main characters here had something go down off-screen, or page I guess in this case, so I’m glad I caught that and I was right! I’m getting better at catching small things in every book I read now a days *humblebrag*

What It’s About:

The Official Blurb:

Hosting her brother’s wedding for an MVP guest list is the challenge of Jess Canning’s life. Already the family screw-up, she can’t afford to fail. And nobody – absolutely nobody! – can learn of the colossal mistake she made with the best man during a weak moment last spring. It was wrong, and there will not be a repeat. Absolutely not. Even if he is the sexiest thing on two legs.

Blake Riley sees the wedding as fate’s gift to him. Jess is the maid of honor, and he’s the best man? Let the games begin. So what if he’s facing a little (fine, a lot) of resistance? He just needs to convince the stubborn blonde that he’s really a good boy with a bad rap. Luckily, every professional hockey player knows that you’ve got to make an effort if you want to score.

But Jess has more pressing issues to deal with than sexy-times with a giant man-child. Such as: Will the ceremony start on time, even though someone got grandma drunk? Does glitter ever belong at a wedding? And is it wrong to murder the best man?

Caution: May cause accidental aspiration of tea or coffee. Do not read in a public place where loud laughter is inappropriate. Contains hot but hilarious hockey players, puppy cuddling and a snarky pair of underwear. 

What I Liked:

  1. Even though It’s a Spinoff, It’s Still Enjoyable for New Readers! This story actually continues past the duology I mentioned above, and while there are some instances where there is some context drawn from them too, I say this book is still able to be read if you haven’t read those books! I definitely think you should read them because they’re amazing, but it’s not absolutely necessary for this book!

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Blake Riley’s Cheesy Lines…While his charm took awhile to grow on me, and him and Jess together are amazing, he still has his weird nicknames that he makes up and catchphrases that he thinks are so hilarious and witty… They aren’t actually all that terrible, but I did find myself rolling my eyes quite a bit, and not in a good way at all…

Conclusion:

Another greatly written NA Romance involving Hockey players from Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy; it has just about everything you’d love from anything written by them if you’ve gotten your hands on any of their other titles. While that is true, it’s honestly not their most memorable work, and nothing about it really stuck out to me like their other titles.

Fear not though… If this is what I consider to be their weakest book yet, that in no means makes this not something to check out, because it’s still a sweet, sexy romance that’s still probably a lot better than quite a few of the other titles out there.

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Fantasy, LGBT, New Adult Romance, Romance

My Review: Captive Prince (Captive Prince #1): by C.S. Pacat

Publish Date: April 7th, 2015
Number of Pages: 270
Publisher: Berkely
Genre(s): LGBT, Fantasy, Romance (M/M), New Adult

Total Star Rating: 3.75 Stars

Back around the time when I’d first found this book, I’d made it a point to search for more queer romance stories, specifically of the M/M variety, because why not celebrate my own queerness and read books with my people as the leads, am I right? Doing some research into finding titles, this trilogy showed up quite a lot, like, actually A LOT. Tumblr, Goodreads, lists all over the internet, and Bookstagram all had high praise for this trilogy, and with it being described as a M/M Fantasy romance, added with seeing some amazing fan art (like the one below), I was sold and knew I had to get my hands on them.

Fan artwork of Laurent & Damen, image courtesy of @gabriella.bujdoso on Instagram

Upon reading it, I found out that it’s actually very little fantasy; there’s no wizards, dragons, elves, white walkers or anything magical. It’s considered Fantasy based on the fact that the story takes place in a fictional land, so I almost considered it to just be a period piece, or even just historical fiction to a small degree. It’s set in medieval times, with opposing countries on the brink of war with corrupt and powerful courts filled with deadly secrets and intrigue.

It’s funny to look at other reviews of this title and see that it’s either “OMG I LOVE THIS, IT’S AMAZEBALLS AND ITS SO EFFING GREAT,” or “WHY DO PEOPLE LIKE THIS CRAP? SLAVERY AND TORTURE ISN’T SEXY, THIS IS DISGUSTING & I HATE IT!” …Honestly I was more towards the middle. Yeah, there is some problematic subject matter within the story that may trigger certain readers: there’s torture, slavery, kidnapping, sexual assault & rape, voyeurism, and even some pedophilia (yeah, even I can admit that’s a lot). I personally was not so taken aback by it all, but I understand that other readers would for sure be turned off to any of those triggers to keep them from going near this book, it all makes it incredibly controversial, which is what also made me more interested.

What It’s About:

Damen, a warrior prince and next in line to ascend the throne of Akielos, is taken prisoner when his half-brother seizes the throne with brutal power after their father passes away, and strips him of his identity and has him shipped off to enemy territory in order to hide him away and greedily keep his newfound place of power.

Map of the world of the Captive Prince Trilogy, image courtesy of fuckyeahfictionalmaps Tumblr profile

Damen, now turned slave, is brought to the northern realm of Vere, and becomes a pleasure slave for its Crown Prince, Laurent. Laurent is everything thats vile about the Veretian Court; he’s manipulative, vindictive, pampered, spoiled, sadistic, cruel, but Damen also couldn’t deny that he was absolutely gorgeous.

Trying to survive and find any way to escape back home, Damen soon gets wrapped up in the dark, twisted web of the Veretian Court, and soon discovers that more is going on behind closed doors than he’d ever anticipated. It will require him to find allies in unexpected places, and work together with Laurent in a dangerous chase towards the throne, but keep his true identity a secret when he discovers that Laurent has a reason to despise him more than anyone else…

What I Liked:

  1. It was Character-Driven! There isn’t a whole lot of world-building, but this story mainly focuses on the two main characters, Laurent and Damen, and their developing relationship along with others including guards, royals, slaves and courtiers. It’s funny though: Laurent is absolutely despicable in this book, like, he’s actually portrayed as an elitist human douchestick. Even thought it’s obvious that him and Damen will end up together, you really question it at times like: “What does he see in him? How will they ever actually get together?” He’s an interesting character though; he does some heinous things, but then it turns out later that he was actually helping someone or doing it for the good of the cause, and you slowly turn around on your initial opinion of him. The author does an amazingly job of his development; it’s so fragile and delicate, but again, so well done.
  2. Haters-to-Lovers Trope! Based on how the two interact, you can easily decipher that any sort of romance between them is going to be a slow burn. Damen and Laurent absolutely despise each other right off the bat, but must become reluctant allies when secrets are revealed and they learn they need to work together. There’s sexual chemistry that develops, but it moves at a slower, but realistic pace both sexually and otherwise.
  3. Queer-centric! The vast majority of the cast of characters are male, and everyone is some sort of version of being queer, or at least not straight. It’s funny, but it’s like being straight is the taboo, sinful, forbidden way for people to be, unless it’s simply to create an heir. I found it completely refreshing how it’s never questioned by anyone, it’s a normal way of life which made me sigh at how much I wish we could live in a world like that, where people don’t get so bent out of shape for who they’re attracted to.
  4. Complexity of the Characters! The character work done in this story is incredible. There’s plenty of subplots throughout, and you really start to wonder about the characters and how they operate; why are they like this, what are their true intentions, and what isn’t the author telling us? There’s definitely a feeling that things are not what they appear to be in both the characters and the plot, and that will keep you longing to find out more.
  5. Its Subject Matter is Controversial! This book is trigger warnings galore, and it’s something that quite a lot of people are not going to be able to read. It makes you uncomfortable, it’s unsettling and even kind of perverted in some scenes. Our society likes to shy away from these topics (rape, sex slaves, abuse of all kinds, torture, kidnapping, pedophilia), even censor it entirely like it doesn’t even exist. I say, just because a book has these topics in it doesn’t make it a bad book. Yes, the author has them all within her story, but she does present it in a delicate way and touches on them much care. She doesn’t glorify it or make it seem like its alright; it’s oppressive and heavy, and unfortunately for some that experience it, it’s all they know and it’s been normalized for them. They don’t know any better, and this terrible treatment is expected of them, at least in their minds. It’s sad, it’s depressing, but you know what? It’s not too far off from the world we live in today; things like this are happening, and censoring it and ignoring it won’t make it fully disappear. Exposing ourselves to it allows us to open our minds and make us more aware of the world; maybe not in a good way, but gives us a deeper understanding of it in some way, and that its not a safe place, and if we don’t like it, we should do something to help create change.

What I Didn’t Like:

  1. Politics…I’ve said it before, but I’m not a big fan of politics in works of fiction (It’s just a personal preference of mine), and this book has quite a bit of it. Sure, political intrigue helps further the plot of the story, but when things got to technical in terms of the way the courts are set up, along with rules and societal norms & regulations, I admit I was tempted to skip over it to get the story moving faster during those parts.
  2. Very Little World-Building…The world that the author places this story in is fictional, and there are some references to how it all came to be, but I wish the author went a little more in depth with it and how the world she created developed over history. It seems like there’s a ton of it, but it’s only ever hinted at and never fully explained. It’s funny though, Vere resembles renaissance Italy, where people are dressed in frivolous, campy costumes with intricate detail and shows little skin, but are much more open about their sexuality amongst themselves. Akielos is the complete opposite; they resemble Ancient Greece or Rome where everyone wears barely-there togas and even the architectural style is more open like the Pantheon, but they’re more conservative with their sexuality; it’s kind of ironic if you think about it.

Conclusion:

Overall, this was an incredibly eye-opening book that’s certainly controversial and something that a lot of sensitive readers will not enjoy, which is understandable. I can recognize my own privilege and know that none of the subject matter really upset me all that much (maybe just slightly made me uncomfortable at most), but understand that someone who may have suffered a similar kind of abuse will not appreciate it in this book.

The author has created an interesting world, even if not as much as you’d like is revealed, but the characters and the vague but obvious sense that more is to come really drives you forward. The characters have some unknown depths that you want to uncover more of, and in the climax, it becomes apparent that there’s some sort of plan in motion that thrillingly gives in an air of mystery.

I found myself still hoping for more in a lot of aspects of the story, including the developing relationship between the two characters, but I was definitely entertained enough to want to keep reading, and ***mild spoiler alert*** I can say that there’s so many good things to come in the next two books that will satisfy whoever is willing to stick with the story long enough!

Thanks for Reading!

— Nick Goodsell

Editorial Articles

Fiction Tropes that I Love/Hate

The word “trope” is used to describe commonly recurring literary devices, motifs and clichés in creative. Clichés are usually viewed as a bad thing, but that’s not the case every single time, at least when it comes to tropes. Tropes, as overdone as they are, are usually what keeps the genre going forward in the world of literature and/or entertainment. They’re safe, they’re familiar, they’re comforting, and they’re usually what helps people connect stories to each other, like, when someone goes “If you love ______, then you’ll love _____.”

You’ve probably heard the phrase “The same…but different” before, which basically means that editors and agents of creative fields want something that seems different, but actually has a lot of qualities that have been used before. What I’ve deduced is that people want the same basic plot points to have as a comfort blanket, but they still want a new twist on it that makes it new, exciting, and original. Easier said than done, believe me…

Below here is a list that I generated thats composed of tropes that typically appear in the books/genres that I tend to read: Sci-Fi/Fantasy (both Adult and YA), Romance, a splash of Mystery and a dash of Horror. Some tropes I love and can’t get enough of…but then there are some I roll my eyes at, and hope that something else saves the story, so help me god…

Tropes that I Love:

  1. Fake Relationships. Whether it be to make someone jealous, to have a last minute date for a wedding, or to bring someone home to meet the parents, two people pretending to be in a relationship, then *gasp* unexpectedly falling for each other for real before their deal is up is a romance trope that I can always get behind! I find it amazing when they appear as a new couple in love to the masses, but get snappy once they’re alone, the sexual tension rises oh so amusingly until they reach the climax [of the story].
  2. Enemies-to-Lovers. Instead of Insta-love (which is mentioned down further), the two characters meet and absolutely HATE each other. Whether it be over opposing views, a misunderstanding, or maybe one of them is just a huge asshole; they don’t get along to any degree and readers always wonder “how will they ever get together?” How indeed…this romance trope usually leads to some comedic/touching moments where they have to team up and sort out their differences before they eventually, but inevitably, get to sexy time.
  3. Player falls for “Average Jane.” So, in the past it’s usually the popular guy who falls for the invisible girl, and she’s just entirely clueless to it all. How could he like her right? She’s so weird, so geeky, so not cool, and the guys would give him so much shit for it…Sometimes it’s a bet amongst the bros, or maybe its because she sees a side of him that he never opened up to before; the boy unexpectedly falls hard. Usually, he doesn’t see it until the girl gets a dramatic makeover (ladies, quick reminder that in 2019 you don’t need to change for your man), which is kind of ugh…but I can’t help but swoon when the guy gets that shocked, starry-eyed look in his eyes and he becomes a total sweetheart to her from then on, and maybe all douchey-ness is forgiven.
  4. Forced to share a room/bed. In a lot of romance books, there comes a moment when the two love interests check into a hotel room, or they’re with a group of friends and all crammed into a room, or some other similar reasoning. As it turns out, they are forced to be in an enclosed space together, there’s usually some sexual tension, and there’s only one bed…So, will they or won’t they? I don’t know, but OH it’s so much fun to find out! A similar set up is the ever timelessly popular “trapped in an elevator” together; nowhere to go, the two are forced to acknowledge the elephant in the room.
  5. The Alpha-Hole. The ever-popular “bad boy”: he’s broody, he’s gorgeous, he usually has dark (maybe ruffled) hair, stunning blue eyes, that smirk, plenty of sarcasm, a sketchy past, and loves to irritate the lead female to no end…but I love him, all variations of him. He’s usually one of my favorite characters because he usually has the smartass remarks, the one-liners and doesn’t care what anyone thinks. Dreamy, right?…I know, I’m going to be single forever if THAT is my type…
  6. Fights that lead to Sexy Time. Now, this could mean they have a huge blow up at each other and battle it out in a combat of words, or maybe they go fists flying, literally kicking ass in a Mr. & Mrs. Smith style, but then leads to them hooking up because tensions are high, as are other emotions, and passions consumes them…I just live for the intensity of these kinds of scenes, okay?
  7. Secret Relationships. Kind of like “Forbidden Love” in a way; there’s two people that decide to get together, but they can’t tell anyone else about it. Sometimes it’s the boss-employee set up, teacher-student, opposite social circles/cliques, friends with benefits, wrong for their image, etc. but one person isn’t ready for everyone to know or even admit their feelings to themselves, so they suggest getting in a secret relationship. This trope is fun, especially when the two have to get creative at sneaking around and make hilarious excuses when they’re almost caught together. It’s even better when their friends secretly find out anyways, as the couple always eventually either gets caught, or one of them blabs because they’re in love and want the world to know (i.e: The Friends episode where Rachel and Phoebe try to crack Chandler when he’s been secretly seeing Monica).
  8. Sassy Heroine. Yas Queen, slay…She may not be big and strong, but don’t think that she can’t tear her enemies down with her sharp tongue and those snarky clap-backs. Usually, they are strong though, because usually they’re assassins or warriors that have killed men twice their size and flipped their hair like a queen while doing it. Celaena Sardothien, I’m raising my brow to you, girl. Love her and pretty much every Sarah J. Maas character (3/4’s of her male characters are on my book-boyfriends list (coming soon on here FYI)).
  9. The Second Chance at Love/Reunited Lovers. There is a difference between the two, believe it or not. The second chance is where the couple breaks up, but then gets back together again. Reunited is when they’re torn apart by circumstance, like a job causing one to move away, or one goes off to war, etc. but meet again years later. Either way, it’s way tragic and I swoon at the big scene where they’re reunited all that time later and all is forgiven.
  10. The Quest. In Fantasy books, the reluctant hero, along with his small group of secondary characters, set out on a long and perilous quest with a specific goal in mind. I like this one because it still leaves a lot of potential for something new and exciting because its so broad and open-ended. Anything can happen in Fantasy!

Tropes that I Hate:

  1. The Chosen One…This one feels like its in literally EVERY YA fantasy novel out there, just slight variations of it. It’s where the main character discovers through some prophecy or mentor that they’re incredibly special, and they’re the “savior” with extraordinary power that could defeat evil and change the course of time. It’s not entirely a bad trope/cliché, and it really works for some stories, but for the many that have come out all these years later after Harry Potter and Lord of the Rings, it’s hard to be able to make it seem effective or original in terms of driving the overall story. I could still enjoy stories with this idea, but authors need to get more creative with how they use it in their stories moving forward.
  2. The Main Characters an Orphan…This is usually a package deal with #1, but the main character is usually an orphan who doesn’t have their parents in their lives anymore because they’re dead, missing, or just absent.
  3. Girl doesn’t see her beauty, despite instigating Love-Triangle(s)…She’s awkward, she’s clumsy, she’s mortal enemies with the mean girl (more on that bitch later), and is pretty much the Bella Swan or Lizzie McGuire of fiction in these modern times. She thinks she’s just average or even ugly, usually thanks to the mean girl putting her down with their own inner insecurities, but is actually incredibly attractive and has multiple guys chasing after her anyways. I no longer find it endearing or adorable, I’m just over it.
  4. Kinky, Emotionally Traumatized Millionaires…“Mr. Grey will see you now…” According almost every romance/erotic work of fiction, those readers LOVE the ultra rich, 20-something, gorgeous, brooding CEO of a company or some sort of position of power. Unfortunately, he usually had a pretty messed up/traumatizing childhood which made him get into some really kinky shit, BDSM usually. He also gets incredibly possessive with their love interest, gets upset if they wear too revealing of clothes and probably says these lines: “I want you so bad” “You’re mine” “I’m so hard for you” or something creepier or about their penis…Men, you have a lot to live up to…
  5. The Nerdy Best Friend who’s been in love with the Main Character for years but never said anything…So, the main character is falling for someone else, and things are going great, but their best friend begins to get moody and distant themselves. The main character confronts them about it, and then their best friend comes out and reveals that they’ve been in love with them for years…Usually it’s the smaller, skinny, sensitive guy friend with glasses, and it’s usually at the most inconvenient time. Umm this trope is also inconvenient for me to actually enjoy the story!
  6. Werewolves-vs-Vampires…I just want to give a huge shout-out to Twilight for that and every similar teen paranormal romance book that came out through the years of 2008-2014…thank god that this fad is pretty much over.
  7. Creepy Children in Horror…This one is just a big, fat NOPE. Usually they’ll giggle menacingly, or terribly sing some sing-along song that you loved as a child thats now ruined because of them. Like seriously, Ring Around the Rosie and even Happy Birthday…traumatizing.
  8. Insta-Love…I’ve seen and experienced insta-interest, but can someone really look at a complete stranger and all of a sudden everything but that person pops matters and the rest just fades into the background? It’s just been so overdone, and it’s not even realistic, so authors, lets develop those relationships and watch them grow before the word “love” is even mentioned, yeah?
  9. The Mean Girl…Like a token character, the Regina George wannabe in contemporary YA fiction is just there to be elitist, shallow, and just be the antagonist to the main character. Even worse, there’s literally no reason for them to be mean, they just are…so not fetch.
  10. Faithful Sidekicks…The minor characters that are literally only inserted to pretty much pimp out the main character are just so bleh…The story can move forward without them, they’re just there as cheerleaders, and are usually tokened off as a minority (either gay or as a person of color (POC)).
  11. The Belated Love Epiphany with a Chase Scene…You know the big romantic gesture where the person realizes they love someone, so they chase after them to catch them before they’re gone forever? Like running through the airport to catch the plane? Good luck with that in 2019…
  12. Token Diversity…It’s so offensive to any sort of minority who reads a character in a book that’s just been randomly added into a story just so it’s not all straight, white characters. They feel like an afterthought, and someone who just belongs in the background. It’s 2019, and representation matters so much now, especially in books, even more especially in YA fiction. The voices that feel like they’ve never been heard are the ones that are buying the books with lead characters like themselves so they don’t feel so alone and to feel like they matter, because they do.
  13. Revolution led by Teenager in a Dystopian World…I mean, who decides that a teenager should lead a violent revolution over a cruel and oppressive government anyways? This obviously refers to The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins, who did a tremendous job with that trilogy, but I’m talking about the other titles that came afterwards. For a short time, Dystopian YA was the popular theme that took over for Vampires and Werewolves, but none were really all that impressive or as close to successful with it in my opinion. Its literally just Miss Katniss Everdeen and Tris Prior from Divergent that made it look good, but even the latter had a questioning ending, so I rest my case.
  14. Bumping into Each Other Meet-Cute…Girl is walking the halls, carrying an obviously heavy pile of books, eyes wide as saucers and she’s looking around, overwhelmed at the first day of class in a new school. Girl bumps into someone and all the books topple to the ground, the girl is embarrassed and bends over, the other person helps too, and she looks up to see a gorgeous guy assisting her with his charming smile…I’ll stop because you obviously need time to reminisce all the times you’ve seen this happen before, I get it.
  15. The Black and White Morality Theme…Let me say first that this has NOTHING to do with race or ethnicity, so please put those triggers away, trolls…I’m talking about the obvious line of “Good” and “Evil” in fantasy genre books. There is no in-between; you’re either a beautiful elf that shoots arrows with their hair blowing in the wind, or and ugly AF Orc that looks like a spat out wad of gum from seven years ago. I’m going to go into one of my many Game of Thrones references, but one of the reasons it was so great was because George R.R. Martin wrote many complex characters who all thought of themselves as the hero of their own story. They all had their own sets of morality and integrity, and it either meshed or messed with the others, and they all had their own justified reasons for doing what they did, even when it was downright despicable…that, my readers, helps create an interesting story.

Thanks For Reading!

— Nick Goodsell