Review: Mouth to Mouth by Tessa Bailey

Reviewed by Caitlin

I’ve read a handful of Tessa Bailey books. They’re easy to read and mostly fun. I do believe if you think too hard about them, they can get problematic — and since there is so much fun, easy romance out there that isn’t problematic, there isn’t really an excuse for it — but the ones of hers I like manage to avoid my worst triggers. I especially enjoyed The Major’s Welcome Home and Getaway Girl. Her collaboration with Eve Dangerfield in Captivated is lovely (but then again, I love Eve Dangerfield).

Mouth to Mouth‘s blurb should have been a warning to me. It’s just that I’d had a tough day, and it was on Kindle Unlimited, so I thought I’d give it a try.

Rory Prince is 24 years old and from the wrong side of the tracks. He’s got tattoos. He has a motorcycle. He’s got an anger problem. He beat someone so bad once that the police had to pull him off, and he did time for that crime. He works at the bar his family owns and he lifeguards as well. He’s a townie in a beach town that is full of rich people in the summer. And he is a total ladies’ man. He is a walking bundle of Bad Boy Tropes.

Olive Cunningham is rich. She is 18, a virgin, and book smart. She was homeschooled and unbelievably sheltered. She is young and naive and vulnerably sexy and wears glasses and sundresses and white shorts. She likes milkshakes for breakfast. She came to Long Beach for the summer to take a class for her psychology major before the school year started.

When Olive almost gets hit by a bus because she’s too engrossed in the book she’s reading, Rory saves her life. And he saves her life again in the ocean. And again when she’s near where a fight breaks out. They each fall in love at first sight. He calls her sunbeam. She thinks he’s the most handsome man who doesn’t understand how good his own heart is.

Sunbeam. He calls her sunbeam. The whole book.

Sunbeam.

Sunbeam.

Fine, we’re leaning into tropes. Fine. I can work with that.

Rory has a brother named Jamie. Jamie is gay. We find out Jamie is gay because when Jamie cleans up a cut Olive sustains, they’re interrupted by Marcus, who decides that Jamie being alone with a woman means he “change[d his] mind about liking dudes.” I almost wish we had Jamie introduce himself to Olive as “Rory’s super gay brother,” because it would have been the same level of awkward expository clunk.

Some authors think the hero telling the heroine she’s wearing something too revealing is romantic. I’ve also seen over-the-top jealousy used as proof that this love is so real. I hate both of those tropes, but Bailey obviously does not share my disdain for them. Seriously, boyfriend wouldn’t care if I walked out the house naked as long as I came home to him, and I’d much prefer seeing heroes view women’s bodies and choices that way.

Bailey LOVES a possessive, jealous alphahole. Some books it works okay, like when the heroine is older and already sexually and romantically experienced. Olive literally just graduated high school. 

Oh! If you’re wondering whether Rory’s jail time and all-consuming guilt is warranted, well, it’s not. 

Jamie was being attacked by five men for being gay and Rory beat the shit out of one of them until the cops came.

This jail time was the reason he stayed away from his mother for years. He was ashamed for being a hothead. Look, if you’re going to have a hero being violent like that and trying to be a better man after the fact, at least make the reason he feels shame be somewhat ambiguous. Rory’s Big Mistake was so obviously justified that it makes all his worries about not being good enough for Olive seem like an eye-rollingly obvious plot contrivance.

At the end of the novel, after some silly obligatory made-up road block from Olive due to some very-quickly-overcome insecurities, Rory promises to never leave her again, even if she breaks up with him. Some light stalking is treated as very romantic, despite their love story taking place over the course of a month, and the fact that Rory is possessive and jealous and so full-on, and keeps making a big deal about how young and innocent Olive is, means that the only feeling I’m left with when I finish this novel is the idea that this relationship is toxic. Get out, Olive, he’s seriously bad news.

If you want something light, fluffy, and fun, there are some very cute romances out there that have a lot of fun with romance tropes. I would not recommend this one.

Rating: D+

Click to purchase: Amazon

Mouth to Mouth
by Tessa Bailey
Release Date: November 12, 2018

Review: Misadventures with a Professor by Sierra Simone

Reviewed by Caitlin

I’m a big Sierra Simone fan. I think she’s a fantastic writer, even in her stories I don’t love quite as much, and she’s one of the great erotic romances putting out work today. I was floored that I had missed this book when this came out.

The first two-thirds of the story are lovely, but I’m still disappointed in the final third. While I will likely revisit this book in the future (seriously, she writes some really great sex scenes), I’m bummed this book’s ending didn’t fulfill its promising beginning.

[Read more…]

Review: Best of Luck by Kate Clayborn

Reviewed by Caitlin

Best of Luck is the third novel in Kate Clayborn’s Chance of a Lifetime trilogy. The series centers around three best friends friends – Kit, Zoe, and Greer – who drunkenly decide to play the lottery one night and win. Best of Luck is Greer’s story, and it’s my favorite of the series.

Greer Garson Hawthorne (her mother is an actress and a BIG personality) sees her portion of the winnings as her opportunity to finally go to college and get her degree so she can become a social worker. She’s never had much freedom because she was sick for so much of her teen years, and her family still worries about her health and safety. The money they spent on surgeries drained the family’s savings account, so two of Greer’s siblings and Greer herself were unable to go to college. Now that she won the lottery, college is her opportunity to gain independence. Unfortunately, she made a mistake on her courses and won’t be able to graduate without an art credit. She already has a job lined up, but she needs the degree and she can’t afford to wait a few more months. [Read more…]

Caitlin’s Favorites of 2018

by Caitlin

I read some really wonderful romances (and some romances that I did not love quite so much) in 2018. Some of them were novels that came out this year, while sometimes I caught up on an author’s backlog (Jennifer Ashley and Elizabeth Hoyt come to mind for that).

There were also a few books that got some much-deserved heat this year – like Cat Sebastian’s Unmasked by the Marquess and Talia Hibbert’s A Girl Like Her – but both of those authors made my list for different books they published this year.

For my money, the most underrated romance this year was Meredith Duran’s The Sins of Lord Lockwood. Duran’s books are all incredible, but I’m especially floored this came and went without the pomp and circumstance it deserved. A sort of retelling of Count of Monte Cristo with a heroine who needs an heir (as opposed to the hero who needs it) and a historical romance where the heroine inherits her own lands and is genuinely powerful in her own right, Lockwood was an angsty masterpiece. Lord Liam Lockwood is brooding and a little broken and very sexy when the book starts and a sweet little puppy dog during the flashbacks. He is the best of both worlds. Lady Anna Lockwood is a role model with close female friendships and the weight of the world on her shoulders. I would recommend this book to literally anyone.

[Read more…]

Review: A Gentleman in the Street by Alisha Rai

Reviewed by Caitlin

When I first started reading romance, I noticed a lot of “enemies-to-lovers” stories involved the hero being shitty to the heroine for no reason, so she responded by standing up for herself. It’s too bad, because I typically love that set-up, but it was frustrating to watch the hero be so much shittier than the heroine and still have it play out like they were both equally at fault.

The reason for this, of course, is that we (me included! I’m working on it!) are much more willing to forgive our male characters and root for their redemption arcs than we are our female characters. A female character who is unapologetically sexual and selfish and abrasive is more difficult to root for than a male character with the same traits. [Read more…]

Review: Merrily Ever After by Jenny Holiday

Reviewed by Caitlin

Merrily Ever After is a novella in Jenny Holiday’s lovely Bridesmaids Behaving Badly series. It follows the story of Elise and Jay, who are the couple getting married in the first book One and Only and whose actual romance is told in the (free!) novella Once Upon a Bride (which I very much recommend).

Merrily Ever After might be a bit more women’s fiction than actual romance since it deals with overcoming an obstacle in a marriage rather than two people falling in love, but it does have a lovely HEA and is a great entry into a wonderful series, so I think it’s close enough. Any fan of Jenny Holiday should absolutely read this novella. [Read more…]

Review: Never Better by Charlotte Stein

Reviewed by Caitlin

Never Better is the third in the Dark Obsessions trilogy, a new adult romance series by Charlotte Stein. I didn’t like it quite as much as Never Sweeter, but I still thoroughly enjoyed myself reading it. It was darker and heavier with (*slight spoiler*) an ending that’s a little bit more ambiguous than most romance novels, but I still ate it up in about a day and a half.

Lydia, Letty from Never Sweeter‘s best friend, is dealing with the fallout of almost being raped when two men invaded the house where she was babysitting. One of the home invaders assaulted her and held her down when the other one shot him in the head and made sure she was okay before disappearing. [Read more…]

Review: Bound to be a Groom by Megan Mulry

Reviewed by Caitlin

“Bound to be a Groom” is a historical polyamorous romance novella by Megan Mulry. This is my first Mulry venture, and I can’t decide how I feel about it. I really liked seeing a love story with four people in it (I am very into polyamory stories, although this was my first time reading one with multiple women in it and not just multiple men), and I especially loved that it was historical, but I’m not sure I really connected to it. There was a factor that was just, frankly… missing for me.

The novella starts in Badajoz, Spain in 1808 with Anna Redondo trying to seduce Sebastian de Montizon at a wedding. Even though she’s a virgin, she clearly has a dominant personality that immediately asserts itself with the much more knowledgeable Sebastian, who appears to be a natural submissive. He is immediately entranced with her, and she feels guilty because she appears to genuinely like him too. [Read more…]

Review: Mating the Huntress by Talia Hibbert

Reviewed by Caitlin

A Talia Hibbert novella is the perfect antidote to a reading slump or a terrible week or anything bad ever in your life. The heroine is going to be tough and not particularly interesting in being likable. The hero is going to be big and strong and a total fucking cinnamon roll. And the romance is going to be sweet and sexy.

“Mating the Huntress” was Hibbert’s first paranormal story, but it was a typical Hibbert story in every other way. The heroine, Chastity Adofo, is a total badass who can handle herself in a fight. She comes from a line of werewolf hunters, but because of a prophecy that predicted “her first kill would rip out her own heart.” [Read more…]

DNF Review: Love Online by Penelope Ward

Reviewed by Caitlin

I absolutely loved Never Sweeter by Charlotte Stein and decided to check out books that were similar. Sexy contemporary romcoms sounded like just the thing, and I’d seen the name Penelope Ward a few times before so I decided to check her out. This book had hundreds of four- and five-star reviews, and I liked the idea of a relationship starting out online before turning physical.

If this is reflective of her work, I think I’ll pass.

She’s not a bad writer. I just hated her hero and was not particularly impressed with the chemistry. Or the casual racism. [Read more…]