Reese King: Olympic medalist, underwear model, Greek god. His body is chiseled from rock, sculpted by the weight room, and refined by water. On a daily basis his skin is completely bare for everyone to see, tan and defined, only covered up by a minuscule piece of spandex. There is no denying his sex appeal. I hate to admit it, but I’m head over heels infatuated with him. There is one HUGE problem though. His achingly gorgeous abs, inked up arm, and cocky swagger belong to my boss, the high-profile, reality star bitch from hell and certified heinous human being, Bellini Chambers. What I think is going to be an easy job assisting a glorified wench turns into a cluster f*ck of epic proportions.
The college degree and her first job out of college was supposed to be the first step toward a seriously bright future and then The Incident happened and in the blink of an eye, Paisley was right back at square one. No job, college debt, and a reputation damn-near beyond repair. Thankfully, Paisley has her best-friend, Jonathan who has supported her through the hard times and managed to wrangle her a seriously crappy entry-level job on a reality TV show. Beggars can’t be choosers, right?
The new job sucks so hard it hangs on but if Paisley hopes to resurrect her reputation and career, she’s going to have to hang on too. She is the assistant to reality star Bellini Chambers and if ever there was a human to describe as an oxygen thief, it would be Bellini Chambers. Paisley has no words to describe the horror that is Bellini but there is one bright spot, Bellini’s “boyfriend,” Reese King.
Reese “Silver Stroke” King is the epitome of alpha male. He’s an Olympic swimmer, a model, and Paisley’s obsession. Ogling Reese isn’t a burden by any means but Paisley’s already on thin ice and sniffing around Bellini’s boyfriend – even if it is only for the cameras – isn’t a smart move. Keeping her lust all to herself seems like a damn fine idea until she realizes, she isn’t just Bellini’s assistant, she’s Reese’s assistant as well. Turns out, Reese isn’t just a pretty face and body, he’s also a sweet guy, something of a philanthropist, and hot as hell for Paisley. Yeah, nothing can wrong here.
Though they both know it’s a train wreck waiting to happen, Reese and Paisley can’t deny their attraction to one another. In fact, after a bit of persuasion and a lot of seduction, Paisley agrees to become involved with Reese as long as no one finds out and her job isn’t threatened. For Reese’s part, he’s thrilled to have Paisley any way he can get her and if he has his way, she’ll be by his side all the way through his last Olympic Games. For the first time in three Olympic appearances, Reese feels like he finally has it all together, the physical and the mental game, and that’s all because of Paisley. As long as no one finds out . . . .
Of course, someone is going to find out and when that moment comes, the blow back is pretty spectacular. There are threats, tears, anguished decisions, and some seriously heinous actions.
The Bottom Line: From the very beginning, I was into this book which suggests a far higher star rating. I was all set for four and half stars right up to the very end and that’s where things went sideways. I completely enjoyed the plot, the characters, and all the delicious naughty bits (Reese is a dirty talker!), but I expected a far better ending than I got. Don’t get me wrong, I was thrilled for an HEA for Reese and Paisley, but Bellini didn’t get near the punishment she deserved. Bellini is a truly wretched and awful character and she deserved so much worse than she got. I was well and truly dumbfounded by this ending and it was enough to significantly lower my star rating. With that being said, there is also some limited information about several of the secondary characters that was just enough to ensure, I’m coming back for book two and three and . . . . well, you get the idea.
From his dirty-blond hair and breathtaking smile, to the abs from heaven and the irresistible V in his waistline, everything about Bodi Olympic-gold-medalist Banks screams hot piece of @$$. Yet there’s more. Dark shadows lurk behind his soulful, serious eyes. I’m enamored. He’s captured me. How can running an art foundation with Bodi Banks turns into a slow-burning, epic romance, even though he tries to push me away at every chance? How can I stay away from a broken, routine-driven man whose soul cries to be forgiven for a crime only he believes he committed? Or is that a lie?
To the outside world, Bodi Banks is a stone-cold killer in the pool. He has dominated every Olympic event he’s competed in, he is a social recluse participating in only the media events he has too, and has a body that a lot of men and most women want. If only the inside matched the outside. On the inside, Bodi is a mess, traumatized by a childhood tragedy that has left him barely capable of functioning outside of his own obsessive compulsive routine. A totally spastic, completely awkward, and totally adorable girlfriend is just what Bodi Banks needs.
Enter, Ruby Hearts . . . .
According to Bodi’s sister, Ruby Hearts is just what her brother needs to help him past, well, his past. Ruby is bright (literally and on several levels!), sexy, outgoing, caring, and totally awkward all the time. All. The. Time. If ever there was a girl who could help a socially awkward man feel comfortable, Ruby would be that girl. From the moment Bodi and Ruby meet sparks fly but neither is really capable is acknowledging those sparks. Ruby rambles on nervously and Bodi scrambles for something to say that won’t offend her. Epic. Fail. Rinse and repeat.
Though Ruby doesn’t know until much later precisely what’s happened to Bodi to cause his anxiety and accompanying issues, she is aware and her natural inclination is to help. Make no mistake, Ruby doesn’t help out of some sense of pity, but with a genuinely kind heart and good intentions. As Ruby slowly discovers, under the tightly controlled façade he presents to the world, Bodi is a kind man with a sense of humor and a dirty mouth that can sink a ship. Wooooo! If only the world knew the real Bodi Banks, Ruby would be fighting women off left and right.
With a lot of trial and error, more than a few speed bumps and, an extraordinary amount of patience and understanding, Bodi and Ruby begin to find their way. For the first time in his life, Bodi feels good, optimistic, and somewhat hopeful. He’s swimming better than he ever has and with Ruby by his side, he feels stronger than ever. Oh, to be sure, there are still moments of extreme panic and weariness caused by his need to hide all his quirks from Ruby, but there is also a happiness Bodi has long thought he doesn’t deserve. Ruby had no intention of falling head over heals in love with Bodi, but the total package is just too much to resist. With Bodi, Ruby’s life is even more colorful than it normally is and that’s certainly saying something. With each and every day they’re together, Bodi seems to improve, but then, the unthinkable happens and Bodi goes completely off the rails leaving Ruby heartbroken and alone with no way to reach Bodi.
The Bottom Line: Hands down, Ruby and Bodi are my favorite Stroked series couple. Yes, I’ve finished the series 🙂 Ruby’s personality, her generosity, her kind and caring soul are a balm to Bodi and for the first time in in his life, Bodi can breathe. In all respects, Ruby is exactly what she appears to be with no subterfuge, no trickery, no façade. She’s just Ruby and she’s perfect for Bodi. Bodi is such a dichotomy with his tough exterior for the public and his far more broken private self. Not that I enjoy human suffering, but Bodi’s story really was beautiful to watch unfold and with Ruby by his side, it proved to be an ultimately heartwarming story. Oh, and there are the naughty bits that are laced through with some seriously awesome dirty talk that certainly balances out some of the darker parts of the read. In all, an excellent read.
He’s hot. Like, stop breathing kind of hot with his killer body, vivid blue eyes, and constant five o’clock shadow. Did I mention his body? Watching Hollis Knightly, Olympic diving gold medalist, man-pony specialist—and cocky bastard—stand up on the diving platform in nothing but a small piece of Spandex? Yeah, I’m beguiled.
And easily seduced. I want to keep things light but he won’t leave me alone. And hell, if he’s not wearing me thin. What is supposed to be a simple summer fling with a very hot man, has now morphed into a f*cked-up mess of feelings, attachment, and dare I say it…love. But I don’t do relationships. And Hollis Knightly does.
As you can clearly see above, I don’t have an actual rating for this read and I don’t know that I’m ever going too. Here’s the trouble: I five-star LOVED one of the characters and one-star hated the other which leaves me at a loss. Here’s the rub:
Hollis: From the moment Hollis appeared in the first book, I knew I would adore him. Hollis is beautiful, sarcastic, funny, sexy, intelligent, and absolutely determined to have what he is certain is his. Since he was a child, Hollis has been focused on his dreams and goals. Under the tutelage of his beloved (and now deceased) coach, Hollis has become the single best diver in the world and has no intention of relinquishing his title. On the personal side, Hollis surrounds himself with good people, with friends he holds dear, and is and always has been a one-woman, long-term commitment man. Unfortunately, the woman he has his sights set on couldn’t give two sh*ts about him. With no hesitation and with his typical dogged determination, Hollis launches Operation Get the Girl.
For months, Hollis lays siege to Melony via text, phone calls, and every in-person opportunity he can finagle. Hollis is relentless in his pursuit and firmly believes without any doubt whatsoever that Melony is meant to be his forever. In fact, Hollis makes it clear to Melony that though he has a terribly dirty mind and mouth (that he isn’t afraid to use!) he intends to treat her like a lady and make her his in the proper and respectful way. Hollis likes to joke and jest but when it comes to his future, he is serious and there is no room for negation. Not even from a stubborn and broken woman who refuses to see the truth.
As you can tell, Hollis is the five-star love 🙂 Then there’s the other one . . . .
Melony: There is nothing on God’s green earth that can make me change my mind about her. From the very beginning, Melony is simply not a good person and she blames all her bad behavior on a past she refuses to seek help for. Hollis is never unclear about his intentions toward Melony and though she says “No” to him time and again, she never cuts all contact and often engages him in banter and sexual innuendo. With each exchange, Melony allows Hollis a bit more hope knowing full well she isn’t equipped to handle the type of commitment he is offering and dedicated to.
Melony has issues that stretch back to her childhood and rather than dealing with them, she has chosen to wallow in self-pity and close herself off completely from the possibility of love. Oh, she likes to get laid from time to time but it’s never more than a one night stand, in and out with no chance of a real connection. Melony constantly acknowledges, at least to herself, that all she really wants from Hollis is a one night stand, but once he works his way into her life, Melony can no longer resist the force that is Hollis and she succumbs to her lust. Oh, I’ll give her some credit for trying to make things work with Hollis, but it is clear that is never going to happen until Melony well and truly acknowledges her past, deals with her emotions, and finds a way to move forward. When the moment finally comes and Melony breaks Hollis’s heart, it is absolutely devastating.
The Bottom Line: While Bodi and Ruby are my favorite series couple, Hollis is by far my favorite character. I liked him at his first appearance and fell slutty in love with him during this read. Hollis may have a mouth on him (oh, how I love that mouth!) but he’s a gentleman through and through and proves that at every turn. Hollis is funny and sweet, sexy and dirty, accomplished and talented and deserved so much better than Melony. My greatest problem with Melony is that fact she refused to help herself until she was lost, desperate, and without the one man in the world who had never, ever lied to her nor treated her with anything other than the utmost respect. Melony’s refusal to help herself or seek help for her issues caused a lifetime of bad behavior and poor choices that ultimately hurt Hollis tremendously. Though the book ends in an HEA, I wanted someone far better for Hollis though I’m certain Hollis would loudly and unapologetically disagree with me.
P.S. There is a second epilogue to this story that many will find quite satisfying. I, myself found it quite satisfying and it resolved the major issue I had with book one quite handily.
When I was in high school I occasionally read books but was consumed by other teenage things so I didn’t take the time to appreciate a good book on a cloudy day, wrapped up in a blanket on the couch. It wasn’t until I received a Kindle for Christmas one year that my world completely flipped upside down. When looking for books I came across the Contemporary Romance genre and was sold and I haven’t turned back since. You can either find my head buried in my Kindle, listening to inspiring heart ripping music or typing away on the computer twisting and turning the lives of my characters while driving my readers crazy with anticipation. I currently reside in beautiful Colorado Springs where the sun is always shining and there is a trail waiting to be hiked on every corner. I share a lovely and warm home with the love of my life and my five, four-legged children.