Mini Book Review: Blind Side by Kandi Steiner

Blind Side (Red Zone Rivals #2)
Pub Date: 15 June 2022
Genre: Contemporary (Sports) Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

The hottest college football safety in the nation just asked me to be his fake girlfriend.

And I just asked him to take my virginity.

Clay Johnson has the abs of Adonis and the deadly smirk of the devil, himself. There’s hardly a day he’s not headline material during football season, and never a day he isn’t a bullseye target for every girl on campus.

He used to be the easiest of all the players for me to wrangle as the Public Relations Coordinator, but after a nasty breakup with his high school sweetheart, he’s a mess.

And a complete pain in my ass.

We meet to discuss his behavior and review media relations standards. But when he witnesses how I fall to pieces in front of my guitar-toting crush, his wheels start turning. And he cooks up this absurd plan.

He helps me get noticed.
I help him make his ex jealous.
All by pretending to be in a relationship.

What he doesn’t realize is that this bookworm is a virgin, and far from versed in seducing a musician. So, to sweeten the deal, I convince him to help me — not just to get my crush’s attention, but to knock his socks off once I have it.

But the more I come unraveled at the hands of Clay Johnson, the more trouble I have discerning what’s fake and what’s undoubtedly real — particularly, the way my heart flutters every time that breathtaking man touches me.

We set the rules. We put the safeguards in place.

But they say rules are meant to be broken.
They probably should have added that hearts are, too.

Blind Side is a fake dating college sports romance with “lessons” and opposites attract. It is a complete stand-alone.

TL;DR: This had the fake-dating and popular jock/bookish virginal nerd tropes with a good bit of angst and a whole lot of funny, swoony and steamy moments in between! This was my first book by Kandi Steiner and I’m glad to say that I really enjoyed it! Blind Side was simply a good-time read and with how much I enjoyed it, I’m looking forward to checking out more by this author.

I really liked Giana and Clay together and I loved how their relationship evolved from something surface-level to something deeper and much more romantic. It’s so great when couples develop a strong friendship and the level of openness and trust that forms between these two made their romance that much stronger. There was a genuineness to their interactions that made this romance feel a lot more realistic!

Giana was an absolute sweetheart and a romance-loving bookworm. She’s shy and doesn’t see herself as anything special coming from a family of overachieving siblings but I loved how she grew confident in herself as the book progresses. She is an ‘innocent/virginal’ FMC but I don’t feel like she comes off as “not-like-other-girls” and actually, it was great to see her actually open up sexually (also thanks to romance novels)! I loved Clay and my heart went out to him in his situation. He’s a typical jock in many ways but he also has a people-pleasing side and would do anything to help the people he cares about even if it means putting himself last. It took him a while to get to a place where he’d put himself first and it did generate a fair bit of angst but it didn’t get overly dragged out and I loved the support he got from his friends and teammates to get him there. That grand gesture at the end was so swoontastic and honestly, sickeningly sweet and I loved it! 😍 Their chemistry was off-the-charts and the steamy moments were fire-hot thanks to Clay reading Giana’s romance novels and taking notes on what she likes! 😉🔥

Overall, this was a really fun sports romance though it did have a few more serious moments dealing with a toxic parental relationship and a bit of romantic angst at the end. Giana and Clay were really great characters who more than deserved their HEA and I’m already really looking forward to the next book in the series.

Have you read Blind Side or is it on your TBR?

ARC Review: Off the Ice by Jaqueline Snowe

Special thanks to the author for providing a digital ARC via Grey’s Promotions in exchange for an honest review!

Off the Ice (Central State #4)
Pub Date:
11 October 2022
Genre: Contemporary (Sports) Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 stars)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Falling for the hopeless romantic was never part of the plan…

Elle Van Helsing wants to start her life away from home. Constantly living under the shadow of her brother, she plans to find romance and survive on her own: even if it’s financially harder than she thought. Getting a job at a dive bar three doors down from her new place is the perfect solution. Well, it was until the owner has a family emergency and asks his nephew to help out in his absence. The guy she used to have a crush on until he ruined it.

Cal Holt might be a legend on the ice, but off it? He’s alone and likes to keep it that way. It’s easier to protect himself when he’s always a jerk, but the one person who gets under his skin is Elle. Torn between wanting to get to know her and pushing her away, he’s surprised when he learns she hates him. She looked at him differently the year before, and now that they’re stuck managing a bar for a few weeks, tensions rise.

She’s a hopeless romantic who wants grand gestures and sees the world through rose-colored glasses. He’s a grumpy cynic with a permanent scowl. She dreams of love, and he wants a one-night stand. She plans to build a life on campus, and he plans to leave and head to the NHL. Complete opposites in every way, they shift from enemies to friends…but Cal refuses to fall in love, and Elle deserves more. For the girl who never felt enough, and the guy terrified to feel, fear might ruin their chance at finding love.

⚠️ CONTENT/TRIGGER WARNINGS

death of parents (off-page)

📚 BUY A COPY
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Book Review: Consider Me by Becka Mack

Consider Me (Playing for Keeps #1)
Pub Date: 22 March 2022
Genre: Contemporary (Sports) Romance

Panda Rating:

(3.5 pandas)

📖 SYNOPSIS

Carter Beckett is the NHL’s resident badboy, top player both on the ice & in the bedroom, and quite possibly the sexiest man to ever grace my field of vision. But worst of all? He knows it.

He’s arrogant, self-centered, and the man doesn’t seem to know what a filter is, let alone how to use one. He’s had everything served to him on a silver platter, including endless strings of women, and apparently, I’m up next.

His only problem? I have no intention of falling for his shi—um, charm.

I have the solution to all my sexual frustrations in a drawer at home, and it’s far less complicated than Carter Beckett. Sure, he may be pretty, but he’s also a walking, talking reminder for you to wrap it before you tap it.

But then I start letting my guard down, and he starts showing me pieces of himself I had no intention of seeing. The bricks surrounding me may be tumbling down one by one, but I’m not sold yet, which means for the first time in his life, Carter’s the one begging.

For my time, my trust, for a single chance.
For me to just…consider him.

TL;DR: This is an ultra corny, cheesy sports romance that I wasn’t sure would work for me at the start because of some of the things the MMC was doing/thinking/saying, but Carter’s frantic golden retriever energy really grew on me by the end! This was a pretty angsty romance filled with plenty of drama (including OW drama) and it honestly could’ve been shorter but I had a lot of fun reading it! I’m really excited to read about the other guys on the team already—especially sweet, sweet Adam! 😍

What I Liked:

  • This was an all-around good time. Were the characters, interactions and dialogue OTT sometimes? Yes. But I genuinely laughed out loud several times and often had a grin on my face while reading. This friend group was definitely awesome even though they were slightly messy at times!
  • The chemistry was intense!✨ Carter and Ollie had an amazing connection that jumped off the page and only served to heighten the sexual tension as they circled each other and their feelings. This was pretty steamy (featuring a dirty-talking hero who loves to eat! 😉) and there were a lot of steamy moments but I think the author balanced all of it well with the sweeter and more romantic and swoony moments.
  • Speaking of swoony… When Carter falls, he falls hard! This man is an absolute SIMP for Olivia and of course, we loved to see it. If you love a simp hero that will do anything for his heroine, then you’ll definitely love Carter. He adored spoiling Olivia in the most loved-up ways, and though he’s goofy AF most of the time, when he decides to get romantic, he holds absolutely nothing back. It’s really cute and reading about how much he loves Olivia was swoontastic to the max! 😍
  • You’ll enjoy this if you’re a fan of sports romances, particularly hockey romance. I loved that this is set in Canada (the second one I’ve ever read!) but I also really loved the team dynamic between the guys. Carter, Emmett, Garrett and Adam had such great chemistry and their banter was everything I love about the team aspect of sports romance—they had me cracking up!
  • This brings me to the friendships and other relationships in this story and I loved all of them! The guys were a great group and I appreciated how they could genuinely count on each other’s support and also be vulnerable with each other. Ollie’s bestie, Cara, was *a lot* and I felt her character was slightly exaggerated at times, but she was a true ride-or-die bestie and I loved how you could feel that through the writing. The relationship between Carter and his mum + sister was hilarious and definitely made me understand where his goofiness came from, plus, I really liked Ollie’s dynamic with her brother Jeremy and his family (Alannah is adorable!).
    • However, my fave relationship was between Hank and Carter. OML, Hank was an absolute GEM and I would protect him at all costs. I love how he became a pseudo-father/grandfather figure to Carter when he lost his dad and their dynamic was just perfection! Even better, he loved his steamy romances and even formed a mini-book club with Ollie! 😂 It was too cute.

What I Struggled With:

  • Carter says he’s not immature and he’s just goofy but there were moments when that line was very thin, very blurred or just wholly demolished. I wish he took things a little more seriously at times but I suppose when it really counted, he was. His thoughts about Ollie would also sometimes start out very sweet but end very weirdly sexual—like, it was too much and it felt weird to read it.
  • This romance was very swoony but sometimes also trod the line of being overly cheesy for me. I do enjoy cheesy romance but it got a bit much for me here when the characters kept repeating the same mushy things and continued to spout endless professions of love mostly because they kept repeating it over and over again!
  • The drama was a lot and it was mostly OW drama—which I hate—and I didn’t really see the point of it. Why was this woman such a horrible human being and fully obsessed with ruining their relationship when she already had a hockey bf but decided to ruin her own relationship too? It only served to fuel Ollie’s insecurities and to bring up Carter’s past but it felt unnecessary!

Have you read Consider Me or is it on your TBR?

Cover Reveal: Off the Ice by Jaqueline Snowe

Hello, friends, I’m excited to be sharing a cover reveal with you today for Off the Ice by Jaqueline Snowe! This is the fourth book in her Central State series and I’m really excited to see where Snowe takes this couple after meeting them in the previous book, Take the Lead. I have a feeling things are going to get angsty and heated and we’re so here for it! 🔥 Check out my reviews for From the Top (#2) and Take the Lead (#3)!

Now without further ado… The cover! 😍

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Book Review: Beauty and the Baller by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Goodreads: Beauty and the Baller (Strangers in Love #1)
Published: 29 March 2022
Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

Gorgeous, talented, and brilliant, NFL quarterback Ronan Smith has the world in his hands. But after losing his career and his fiancée in a car accident, he falls into a pit of grief and bad choices. When a mysterious girl shows up to his party, he feels drawn to her and makes her his…for one night.

Former beauty queen Nova Morgan is on a mission. Scantily clad as a princess from a galaxy far, far away, she sneaks into a high-profile party to capture the attention of her favorite quarterback. But her hopes crash after an awful one-night stand.

Fast-forward two years. Broke and desperate, Nova returns home to Blue Belle, Texas, where, by a cosmic twist of fate, her broody neighbor is none other than Ronan, the shiny new football coach everyone adores. But he has no idea who she is.

The booster club keeps shoving women at Ronan to keep him in town. His solution? He proposes fake dating to Nova. But things heat up for real under these Friday-night lights when he realizes she’s the one who slipped away.

Has this jaded beauty found her forever baller, or will his past keep them apart? 

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Book Review: Blind Pass by Teagan Hunter

Goodreads: Blind Pass (Carolina Comets #2)
Published: 27 January 2022
Genre: Contemporary Sports Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)

What happens in Vegas doesn’t always stay there.

I would know. I’m coming home with a brand-new ring on my finger.
My wife? Ryan Bell.
We’re polar opposites.
She’s sunshine and happiness.
I’m grumpy and scarred—literally.

We could get it annulled and no one would be the wiser.
Only problem? We posted about it online, and it’s already making headlines.
I can’t afford to get that kind of attention and tank my career, and Ryan needs my help too.

We make a plan: stay married for one year, play our roles, and divorce amicably at the end. No harm, no foul.
Besides, there’s no way the beauty is going to fall for the beast…

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ARC Review: Take the Lead by Jaqueline Snowe

Special thanks to Jaqueline Snowe for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Take the Lead (Central State #3)
Published: 28 June 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4 pandas)

Falling for my fake girlfriend was never part of the plan…
Daniella Laughlin might seem put together in her dance gear and captainship, but on the inside, she’s figuring out who she is without her mom’s beauty pageant influence. Constantly being critiqued and set up by her mom, she dreads going home for the holidays.

Enter her best friend’s older brother, hockey captain Gabriel Van Helsing. Dani and Gabe have been friends for two decades, and sure, she’s harbored a secret crush on him forever, but she never acted on it because his sister would’ve killed her. Gabe’s a player, on and off the ice, and the longest relationship he’s had is with his hockey stick. He offers to drive her home for Thanksgiving break and proposes the most bonkers idea—they should fake date until New Year’s to get her mom to leave her alone.

Gabe might wear the C on the ice, but he’s always been passive. Here for a good time, never rocking the boat. But after his latest hookup wouldn’t take a hint, he uses Daniella’s predicament for the perfect solution: if he was unavailable, people would leave him alone.

Things begin easily with their friendship, but with every touch and fake kiss, Daniella can’t hide her feelings anymore. And for Gabe, who sets deadlines for every fling he’s ever had, he struggles to fight for what he wants. When their timeline is up, Daniella’s insecurities clash with Gabe’s inability to commit. For two people terrified to take a chance, they must risk their decade-long friendship for a shot at love.

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Romance Mini-Reviews: Enemies-to-Lovers/Hate-to-Love Edition

Hi, friends! I’m excited to share two mini-reviews for romances I’ve read and loved in the last few weeks. I picked up Moon Shot on a whim because I’ve enjoyed the few Tara Wyatt romances I’ve read so far and this was so much fun! Falling for the Enemy is the second book in Katie Golding’s Malibu Millionaires series and I loved it. It’s a bit more on the erotica side of romance but I liked the balance of steamy + heartfelt.

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Cover Reveal: Take the Lead by Jaqueline Snowe

Hello, hello, friends! I’m so excited to be sharing a cover reveal with you today for Take the Lead by Jaqueline Snowe. I read into the hints that the author dropped for this couple in From the Top, the second book in her Central State series, and I’ve been looking forward to their romance ever since! I have a feeling it’s gonna be a fave!?

Related: Check out my review for From the Top!

Now without further ado… Check out this awesome cover! 😍

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ARC Review: Everything for You by Chloe Liese

Special thanks to Chloe Liese for providing an ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review!

Goodreads: Everything for You (Bergman Brothers #5)
Publication date: 10 May 2022
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(4.5 pandas)


Gear up for an all-the-feels, steamy slow-burn in this enemies-to-lovers sports romance about fighting for love when life’s taught you it’s a losing game.

Gavin
We’ve been teammates for two years, but it feels like a lifetime that Oliver Bergman’s been on my last nerve. A demanding captain and veteran player, I’m feared and friendless, while he’s the beloved rising star, all sunshine smiles and upbeat team spirit. To make matters worse, he’s obscenely attractive. In short: he’s genetically designed to get under my skin. Avoiding Oliver has been my survival tactic on and off the field. But when Coach drops the bomb that we’re now co-captains, avoiding him becomes impossible, and keeping the truth from him–let alone my distance–is harder than ever.

Oliver
Life was great until soccer legend Gavin Hayes joined the team and proved he’s nothing like the guy I grew up idolizing. Instead, he’s a giant–albeit gorgeous–grump who lives to rain on my parade. I’ve sworn off pranks since entering the public eye, so rather than settle our differences the Bergman way, I’ve had to settle for killing Gavin with kindness. There’s just one problem: killing him with kindness is killing me. To make matters worse, Coach gives us an ultimatum: put an end to our enmity or say goodbye to being captains. I’m prepared to be miserable while we meet her demands and make nice, but the last thing I expect is to discover an explosive attraction we can’t help but act on, and worse yet, to realize the man hiding beneath Gavin’s gruff exterior is all I’ve ever wanted.

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