Review: Playing With Fire by L.J. Shen

Playing With Fire by L.J. Shen
Series: Standalone
Publication Date: September 15th 2020
Links: EbookPaperbackAudibleGoodreads
Source: I received a copy from the author in exchange for an honest review

A broken boy on the path to destruction.
A scarred girl without direction.
A love story carved in secrets, inked with pain and sealed with a lie.

Grace Shaw and West St. Claire are arctic opposites.
She is the strange girl from the food truck.
He is the mysterious underground fighter who stormed into her sleepy Texan college town on his motorcycle one day, and has been wreaking havoc since.
She is invisible to the world.
He is the town’s beloved bad boy.
She is a reject.
He is trouble.
When West thrusts himself into Grace’s quiet life, she scrambles to figure out if he is her happily-ever-after or tragic ending.
But the harder she pushes him away, the more he pulls her out of her shell.
Grace doesn’t know much about anything beyond her town’s limits, but she does know this:
She is falling in love with the hottest guy in Sheridan U.
And when you play with fire—you ought to get burned.

As soon as I read the blurb for Playing with Fire and realized that L.J. Shen was releasing a new adult college romance, I was intrigued. I love college romances and I was so curious to see her write one! I’m happy to say I ended up enjoying Playing With Fire so much – it’s fun, sexy, and emotional. It’s a frenemies to lovers romance between two broken, lonely people who find love and solace in each other.

Grace has scars on her face and body from a terrible fire. She became an outcast after her accident and in college she is still antisocial. She comes across the bad boy of the school while at work at a taco food truck, and they do NOT get along. When they become coworkers, the banter and chemistry ignites. They reluctantly become somewhat friends (which is why I have to say their relationship is a frenemies kind) and I really enjoyed all the quips and teasing – it was a light-heartedness that was very much necessary with all the pain and heartbreak the main characters also experience. The romance is a bit slow but I loved how the relationship developed between Grace and West. Theirs is not an easy romance, but it’s one that’s worth the wait!

It took me a bit to get into this book in the beginning, but West and Grace grew on me soon enough. I really liked their connection, the banter, and the push/pull of the romance. These two frenemies are forced into close proximity while working together at a taco food truck, which I thought was so fun. There are emotional and heartfelt moments as they connect over their traumatic pasts and current loneliness. (I almost cried when we find out West’s tragic past. It. Is. Heartbreaking.) This was an emotional ride with plenty of ups and downs. I’m glad we got a college romance from L.J. Shen, and if you’re a fan of hers, you’re sure to enjoy this newest standalone of hers.



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Top Ten Tuesday {21}: Top Ten Underrated Books

top ten tuesday banner

It’s Top Ten Tuesday, hosted by The Broke and the Bookish! This week’s theme is…

Top Ten Underrated Books:
Books We Enjoyed That Have Under 2000 Ratings On Goodreads

My Review • EbookPaperback • Goodreads

  1. Bittersweet (True North #1) by Sarina Bowen ~ Bittersweet is one of my FAVORITE book of the year!!! I have so much love for this sweet, funny, endearing romance. It’s somewhat of a second chance romance since the MCs hooked up back in college, but now, years later, they meet again and sparks fly. Oh, and Griffin is now a hot as hell farmer! I recommend this one to everyone who loves unique contemporary romances.

Beast in Shining Armor: EbookGoodreads
Ghost Walk: EbookGoodreads

  1. Beast in Shining Armor/Ghost Walk by Cassandra Gannon ~ Cassandra Gannon is a new-to-me author this year, and she’s probably the best author recommendation I’ve ever received, because I’m OBSESSED with her books now. She’s not that well-known, which is a shame because her books are AMAZING!! They’re hilarious paranormal romances with obsessed alpha heroes that I can’t get enough of. Beast in Shining Armor is a sweet, sexy Beauty and the Beast retelling, and Ghost Walk has a ghost hero and a time-traveling heroine determined to clear the hero’s wronged name. If you love PNRs, you NEED to give these books a try!!

My Review • EbookPaperback • Audible • Goodreads

  1. Unbreak My Heart by Nicole Jacquelyn ~ This is one of the few books this year to make me ugly cry! It’s got angst on top of angst, and I absolutely loved it. The heroine falls for her dead best friend’s husband – wrong, but it feels so, so right between them. It’s not an easy read, but if you give it a try, it will so be worth it in the end.

#1 ~ Fly With Me: My Review • EbookPaperbackGoodreads
#2 ~ Into the Blue: My Review • EbookPaperbackGoodreads

  1. The Wild Aces series by Chanel Cleeton ~ This is one of my favorite military romance series – the writing is wonderful, the heroes are swoon-worthy and head-over-heels for the heroines, and the heroines are tough, independent, and kickass. Into the Blue just released today FYI, and it’s an amaaazing second chance romance!

My Review • EbookPaperback • Goodreads

  1. Crashed Out (Made in Jersey #1) by Tessa Bailey ~ This is one of the HOTTEST books I’ve read from Tessa Bailey, which is saying something. It’s got an older heroine and younger rock star hero – and holy hell, was it fun to read about the hero winning over the reluctant heroine. Crashed Out is one of my faves from Tessa – the rest of the series is fantastic as well!

My Review • EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads

  1. Addicted (Outlaws #2) by Elle Kennedy ~ Who doesn’t love friends-to-lovers, right!? Well, this one is set in a post-apocalyptic, dystopian world, and best friends Lennox and Jamie are badass mofos who’ve had each others’ backs since they were kids. I really, really enjoyed this one – and it’s crazy hot too. If you want a friends-to-lovers erotica, this one’s a must read.

My Review • EbookPaperback • Audible • Goodreads

  1. Playing with Fire (Hot in Chicago #2) by Kate Meader ~ A firefighter heroine and a Chicago mayor she hates – this is the perfect enemies-to-lovers romance that I absolutely loved reading. It’s hot, the chemistry is on fire, and Eli’s got a dirty-talking mouth that will make you blush like crazy.

Cuff Me by Lauren Layne
My Review • Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads

  1. Cuff Me (New York’s Finest #3) Lauren Layne ~ Lauren Layne is one of my favorite contemporary romance authors, and Cuff Me is without doubt my favorite of all her books. It’s a friends-to-lovers romance years in the making between homicide detective partners Vincent and Jill. Vincent is a gruff, grumbly hero and Jill is sweet and adorable – it’s opposites attract at its finest.

My Review • Ebook • AudibleGoodreads

  1. The Billionaire’s Favorite Mistake (Billionaires and Bridesmaids #4) by Jessica Clare ~ I’m a sucker for billionaire romances, and Jessica Clare never fails to deliver fun and sexy ones. This one’s a new favorite, with an accidental pregnancy and a groveling hero – it’s SO much fun to read!

My Review • EbookPaperbackAudible • Goodreads

  1. Duke of Sin (Maiden Lane #10) by Elizabeth Hoyt ~ If you love anti-heroes, this one’s a must read. I read it perfectly well as a standalone – it’s wicked, funny, sexy, and one of the best historical romances I’ve ever read. A not-so-good duke who falls for his prim and proper housekeeper – what’s not to love!?

What underrated books do you love?



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Release Day Review: Playing with Fire by Alison Bliss

Playing with Fire by Alison Bliss

Playing with Fire by Alison Bliss
Series: Tangled in Texas #2 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: October 26th 2015
Links: EbookPaperback • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

Nothing ignites a fire like the perfect match…

Anna Weber is every inch the proper librarian–old-fashioned, conservatively dressed right down to her tightly clipped flaming red hair. She’s just moved to a small Texas town, and is determined to spend time with her friend before she has to disappear. Relationships aren’t easy for her. She knows too well what it means to be burned. And the last thing she ever wants to do is fall in love…

Especially not with a fireman who’s hot enough to set the entire state of Texas on fire.

Cowboy can’t resist the fiery little librarian, and he’s determined to make her his. Beneath that prim-and-proper exterior is a woman he very much wants to know–if she’d let him. She’ll test his patience. His control. Hell, his very sanity. And for the first time, Cowboy wonders if he’s found the one fire he can’t control…

This is actually my first Alison Bliss book, but as entertaining as her writing is, it won’t be my last. Playing with Fire is a hilarious, fun, wild read that I really enjoyed. I didn’t completely love it, since some parts of the book aggravated me, but it’s still an entertaining read nonetheless. If you’re a fan of humorous reads with a lovable characters and an intriguing storyline, I’d recommend this one.

The blurb first intrigued me, because the town manwhore falling for the shy librarian? Yes, please! I couldn’t WAIT to see how this librarian would bring the playboy to his knees. And ahhh, what a fun read this was. I really liked how Cowboy, fireman and most eligible bachelor, was so taken away by the sweet and quiet Anna. They are complete opposites and so not meant for each other, but their hot chemistry says otherwise. I loved how the author was able to incorporate both sexiness AND humor into Anna and Cowboy’s growing relationship.

I straightened my spine and took on a chastising tone. “Doesn’t matter. Someone has to teach you proper etiquette.”
“Oh, fuck me,” Cowboy groaned, shifting the bulge in his crotch and shaking his head. “I can’t believe I’m getting all hot and bothered for a woman who acts like an old-fashioned schoolmarm.”

I did get frustrated at how both Anna and Cowboy would always somehow get mad at each other and run away from their problems. Cowboy has the occasional mantrum, which took away from his alpha-ness, but I still liked him in the end. Anna is definitely my favorite of the two – she’s shy, awkward, self-conscious… she’s relatable. I was heartbroken over her tragic past, but she has a strength that she uses to go head-to-head with Cowboy. The two of them have such hilarious banter! I laughed so much while reading.

The romance is so sweet. I wanted to see Cowboy fight just a liiittle bit more for Anna, but the grand gesture at the end totally made up for everything. This former player definitely, to everyone’s amusement, falls head-over-heels for the town librarian, and I loved that once Cowboy saw Anna, there was no one else for him.

“Okay, so maybe I’ve come on a little strong. But when it comes to you, I can’t help myself. I’ve never met anyone like you. You challenge me in ways no other woman ever has.” He lessened the strength of his hold on me. “I want you to give this thing between us a chance.”

I really liked this book. It wasn’t perfect, but I was entertained the whole time I was reading. There’s a little bit of suspense thrown in too, with someone setting things on fire in town. Overall, Playing with Fire is a great read with tons of laugh-out-loud moments and an opposites-attract romance. I really hope that there will be more in the series!

3.5 hearts

Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.

Reading Order: Tangled in Texas series

Rules of Protection by Alison Bliss Playing with Fire by Alison Bliss

#1 ~ Rules of Protection: Ebook • Paperback • AudibleGoodreads
#2 ~ Playing with Fire: Ebook • PaperbackGoodreads


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Early Review: Playing with Fire by Kate Meader

Playing with Fire by Kate Meader

Playing with Fire by Kate Meader
Series: Hot in Chicago #2 (full reading order below)
Publication Date: September 29th 2015
Links: EbookPaperback • Audible • Goodreads
Source: I received an ARC from the publisher in exchange for an honest review

From popular romance author Kate Meader comes the second novel in Hot in Chicago, a brand-new, sizzling series that follows a group of firefighting foster siblings and their blazing hot love interests!

As the only female firefighter at Engine Co. 6, Alexandra Dempsey gets it from all sides: the male coworkers who think she can’t do the job, the wives and girlfriends who see her as a threat to their firefighter men, and her overprotective foster brothers who want to shelter their baby sister at all costs. So when she single-handedly saves the life of Eli Cooper, Chicago’s devastatingly handsome mayor, she assumes the respect she’s longed for will finally come her way. But it seems Mr. Mayor has other ideas…

Eli Cooper’s mayoral ratings are plummeting, his chances at reelection dead in the water. When a sexy, curvaceous firefighter gives him the kiss of life, she does more than bring him back to the land of the living—she also breathes vitality into his campaign. Riding the wave of their feel-good story might prop up Eli’s flagging political fortunes, but the sizzling attraction between them can go nowhere; he’s her boss, and there are rules that must be obeyed. But you know what they say about rules: they’re made to be broken…

I loved reading Playing with Fire! It’s a solid, entertaining read that is just SO good. It’s also seriously hot and sexy – I was totally not expecting the hero, the mayor of Chicago, to be as smokin’ as he was! Kate Meader has written a fantastic enemies-to-lovers romance that I was seriously invested in.

The first thing that attracted me to this book was the fact that the heroine is a female firefighter. I don’t think I’ve ever read about one before, so I was super excited to read about Alex Dempsey. And I loved what I found in her – Alex is a tough, independent, strong woman who doesn’t take shit from anyone, least of all Mayor Eli Cooper. She does what she wants, but that’s not always a good thing… since she doesn’t always think about the consequences of her actions. So one anger-fueled incident lands her right in the lap of the man she loves to hate.

Oh, God, this sexy-hate thing between them was crazy. She felt an overwhelming urge to both punch him and hug him.

Eli Cooper is running for the second term of his mayorship (is that a word?) and he needs the backing of the firefighters, especially the Dempseys, to win the election. Eli is kind of a dick in the beginning of the book – he’s made sexist comments towards female firefighters (which is the first reason why Alex loves to hate him), and he blackmails Alex into pretending to date him for the media. But as I read more, I saw another, better side to Eli, one that’s not as cold and callous as he first seemed. And this change and redemption is all thanks to one fiery, passionate woman.

Eli has wanted Alex since he first saw her, but it seems that with every encounter, they only bring out the worst in each other. The banter, the sharp remarks, the glares – they all serve to light up the crazy-hot chemistry that’s been there from the start. I loved that Eli and Alex are such a perfect match for one another and that they’re able to go head-to-head with neither of them backing down. And oh. my. god. The sex between them is panty-melting H.O.T! Eli’s mouth is the dirtiest thing ever, and I loved it. I loved how alpha he is, how sensual and sexy and dominant he is in bed. You will seriously need a FAN when you read this book!

“I will fuck the ever-loving smart-assery out of you, Alexandra.” He got started on that, pumping in and out, in and out. Deeper, harder. “I’m going to fuck you so good the only word on your lips will be my name. The only answer to every question will be my name. Now say it.”

Eli also has to do some wooing to win the heart of the woman he’s fallen for, and I just about died at the way he goes about it. First he’s a dirty-talking alpha-male, and now he’s sweet and loving? My heart couldn’t handle it. I ended up falling so hard for his character. I loved Alex, but Eli was definitely my favorite character in this book.

“You’re a goddess and I’m not worthy to worship at your feet, but I’m happy to spend the rest of my life trying to be good enough for you.”

This review is littered with firefighter puns, but there’s no better way to describe Playing with Fire than a scorching hot romance you don’t want to miss. It’s a great, satisfying read with fantastic writing and a cast of characters I adore. I can’t wait for more from this series!

5 hearts

Quotes are taken from the arc and are subject to change in the final version.

Reading Order: Hot in Chicago series

Flirting with Fire by Kate Meader Melting Point by Kate Meader Playing with Fire by Kate Meader 

#1 ~ Flirting with Fire: Ebook • Paperback • Audible • Goodreads
#1.5 ~ Melting Point: EbookGoodreads
#2 ~ Playing with Fire: EbookPaperback • Audible • Goodreads
#3 ~ Sparking the Fire: EbookPaperback • Goodreads (Sept. 27, 2016)


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