Lucky Number Eleven by Adriana Locke

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Lucky Number Eleven by Adriana Locke

People say not to believe the things you read in magazines, but you know what? Most things you’ve heard about me are probably true.

I totally banged the reporter in the locker room after the championship game last year.

Those pictures in Expose from last summer? Those were not modified.

I’m also not really six-foot tall. (But let’s keep that between us.)

Now, I know you’re wondering about that last Expose headline—the one about me and my teammate (and ex-best friend) Finn Miller’s sister, Layla James. That one is a little more complicated.

Here’s the thing: I’ve played football my whole life. If there’s one thing I know, it’s how to adjust when the game changes. And if there’s one thing I always do, it’s find a way to win.

Granted, the stakes are higher. The playbook has changed. There’s more on the line than (another) MVP title. But guess what hasn’t changed? Me. I’m still Branch “Lucky” Best and I’m not about to fumble this one.

Grab a seat and a subscription to Expose. I’m about to make some headlines. (Again.)

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When I started reading this book, it reminded me, immediately, why I love reading sports romance. Adriana Locke has this uncanny ability to let the characters connect while also making you laugh and grin and smirk as you read. Within the first few chapters, I was giggling and felt like I was right in the story. That feeling is one of the reasons I love to read.

Layla and Branch meet one weekend, when Layla and her friend, Poppy, show up to a family cabin in Illinois. Unbeknownst to them, Finn, Layla’s brother, and Branch also went to the cabin for a weekend break. Finn and Poppy have an off and on again thing happening. But Finn tells Branch that his sister is strictly off limits. But the chemistry between Branch and Layla is undeniable.

Layla is really spectacular and I loved the way her character was written. As a reader, it was easy for me to see why Branch was attracted to her. I don’t mean that just through looks, but from her actual personality. She’s funny, intelligent, and isn’t afraid to push Branch back a bit. But I also loved seeing the side of her that was serious, that had stresses. I feel like in a lot of sports romances, the heroine can be a bit sharp, in terms of fighting the relationship or thinking the guy is just a playboy athlete. I felt like the author kept a really good balance going, where we see Layla’s caution but we also see her still being carefree and letting herself fall for Branch.

Branch’s character was just…I don’t even know. I loved him so much. Again, you can see why people fell in love with him. He’s hilariously funny, charismatic, but yet when his serious side comes out, he really shines. Branch has been a star for awhile, and he knows immediately what people see when they look at him, especially women. He might seem like a jerk in some instances, but he’s incredibly self-aware and thoughtful.

I’ve been a big fan of this author for awhile now. One of my favorite parts of this book are the little nuggets from her other books. They are really subtle and thrown in inconspicuously. If you just opened this book and had never read anything from the author, you’d be none the wiser. But if you’ve been a longtime fan, you get treats from a past character popping in, or a sports team showing up. I appreciate the way this author does this for a few reasons. First, I love seeing past characters. When you really love a book, you start to miss those characters. But I like that the author brings them in so subtly. Do you ever read a book and there are so many characters swirling around and you can’t keep track of them, and then you start to feel like you’re missing something? This doesn’t happen here. The author keeps it casual and the longtime reader is delighted to see their favorite characters pop in, but it never ends up being a big production where you’re trying to keep track of a zillion people.

If you love sports romance, you should definitely read this book. If you’re also looking to laugh, and maybe cry, and feel like you’ve never felt, then you should pick this book up.

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Island Kisses: A Billionaire Love Story by Krista Lakes

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Island Kisses by Krista Lakes

After hundreds of catastrophic dates, she never expected to find love.

Harper Thomas loves bad dates. She goes on hundreds of them a year, and then blogs about them online to make her living. When her sister signs her up for a new dating service, Harper’s not expecting to find anything other than more ridiculous men. She certainly isn’t planning to meet him…

Gabe Honors is one of the billionaire owners of Kindling Dating. He also happens to be Miami’s most eligible bachelor, but his search for love has never been successful. That is, until he decided to use his own dating service. The first time he meets Harper, he knew that she was the one. However, in order to make sure that it really was love, he kept his identity a secret. He soon finds out, secrets never mix well with love…

Can a billionaire CEO finally stump this bad-date-blogger? Can Harper look past the money and find the man? Or will they only be left with memories of their island kisses?

Island Kisses is the ninth book in a series of standalone billionaire romances. If you like sweet stories on the beach, then you’ll love this story of a regular girl and a handsome stranger falling in love.

Just to be totally upfront, I am on Krista Lakes’ ARC team. And when I first signed up, my blog was newer. I mean, it still is really new, but she was one of my earlier posts and I had even less of a clue on what I was doing then as opposed to now. But it was one of the best things I have ever done.

Don’t get me wrong, I love a good, hot, sweaty, steaming romance. But I also truly do love the love story. And whenever I read Krista Lakes, it reminds me of the same happiness that I get from reading two of my other favorite authors, which are Susan Mallery and Samantha Chase. I enjoy seeing the main characters have that true love connection and the physical connection just adds more fuel.

Harper is absolutely hysterical. I actually found myself feeling for her with both her mom and her sister nagging on her about finding a man and settling down. Even though they drove me crazy, it really made me wonder how many other young women have family members doing something similar to them as I type. The fact that Harper was able to keep her cool with both of them meddling a fair amount was incredibly impressive. I would have cracked a long time ago.

We also meet Cora, who is Harper’s best friend, and she is just as funny and even more lovable. I have a few friends in my life who could easily be my own Cora, and that made the story even more authentic and easy to identify with. It was funny because before I finished this book, I was joking with a friend through facebook messenger about wanting her to hook up with a model and the more I was trying to be funny, the stupider stuff I said. And she laughed. Or she laughed via messenger, and I assume she is laughing when she says “LOL”. None of the below! Haha.

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So the synopsis lets you know that both Gabe and Harper are not necessarily hiding things from each other, but they aren’t entirely forthcoming. The way Krista spun this was not what I expected. I know I say that frequently, but I honestly expected Harper to keep dating other guys just the blog and then Gabe to find out. That was instantly where my mind went.

In fact, I was so dead set on that happening that I kept getting nervous as the story went on because I was waiting for Gabe to find out. Mini spoiler alert: I was super wrong. Not even in the ballpark. No end zone. Fantasy league mega failure here.

Gabe is just fantastic. One thing that Gabe does consistently is that he respects Harper. Even in Harper’s internal monologue, she takes notice that he is respectful of her. He wasn’t trying to gain a one-night stand from her and he was interested in getting to know her. I found it fascinating with Harper’s past failed dates, the guys are so clearly not interested in her. It made me think back to men I had dated before I was married and when I looked back, I realized how not interested in me they were. (I mean, that’s obvious since I’m not married to them but you know hindsight is always 20/20).

I am truly happy that I discovered Krista Lakes. Her books are light and she balances the drama with the love story flawlessly. I don’t say “light” and mean they aren’t serious or silly. They just always leave me in a good mood. I’m ecstatic for the characters when things work out and heartbroken right along with them when things don’t go as planned. I would recommend any of Krista’s books for anyone who wants to relax with a great story and just enjoy themselves while reading.

As a side note: you may note this title is listed in the Kisses Series. These books can be read as a standalone, so if you haven’t read anything from Krista before, you could easily start here and be perfectly fine.