Release Day Blitz and Reviews: Business and Usual: Denise Grover Swank

Business As Usual Cover

Business As Usual
Off the Subject#3
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Lexi Pendergraft has given up on finding love after a disastrous encounter with her last boyfriend. Instead, she focuses on two things: One, setting up a summer program for underprivileged middle-school aged students. And the second, getting to the bottom of her brother Reed’s recent strange behavior. His secret is destroying his relationship with his fiancée Caroline, and Lexi will do anything to help him save it. Especially after he gave up his dream to give Lexi a chance at a semi-normal college experience, something her parents threatened to steal from her after her rape a year ago. 

Ben Masterson is determined to make it through his final semester of his senior year at Southern University. After recently losing his full ride scholarship, he’s suffering from sleep deprivation while trying to keep up with his mechanical engineering courses and working three part time jobs. He thinks he’s lucked out getting a job in the university math lab. The only problem is his boss—Reed Pendergraft.

As part of a role in a community theater play, Lexi wears a black wig and feels a confidence she hasn’t experienced in over a year. When she wears it to a bar close to the theater, she doesn’t think Ben, a bartender there, recognizes her. While Ben’s intrigued about what she’s up to, he’s smart enough to stay far away from his overprotective boss’s sister. Until fate forces him to help her, but why won’t she tell him her real identity?
The song ends and I look across the room, hatred filling every pore of my body for the person who’s putting Alexa through this charade. Tina’s watching us with amusement. I look down into Alexa’s face and she steps away from me. Our song is done. Our commitment is up.

Only I’m not ready to let her go yet. Maybe I can save her at least part of her embarrassment.

I cradle her cheeks and stare into her eyes, looking for any sign that she finds my touch revolting. But her breath comes in short bursts and her pupils are dilated. My thumb strokes her right cheek bone, and it amazes me how smooth her skin is. I should stop prolonging my torture, but I don’t want to hurry this moment. I want to sear it into my brain.

I lower my face to hers and her mouth parts in anticipation. Our lips touch lightly and I run my tongue along her upper lip. Her hands return to my shoulders as she takes a step closer, pressing her chest to mine, her mouth parting as she sighs. My tongue accepts the invitation, twining with hers.

Her arms tighten around my neck and I slide a hand behind her head. Blood rushes to my groin and the way she’s pressed against me, she has to know I’m getting a hard-on, yet she doesn’t step away. She presses closer instead.

Still, I take my time with the kiss, making it last. I want more, so much more, but we’re on a dance floor, surrounded by at least thirty people, being watched intently by a group of perverts in the corner. I want to keep this pure. I want to take the thing Tina meant as a punishment for Alexa and turn it into something meaningful. At least for me. But the way Alexa clings to me tells me the experience has power for her too, even if it’s just because she’s sacrificing herself for some other guy.

I finally lift my head and stare into her lust-filled eyes and I want to curse the gods who put her in my path only to take her away.

“Thank you,” she breathes out with a sigh.

“Do think that was enough to appease her?”

Her eyes cloud with momentary confusion. “Oh…yeah.”

“If it’s not, I want you to promise me that you’ll ask me for help.” I sound like a pervert myself, but the thought of someone like Tattoo Guy pawing her nauseates me.

She seems to understand my intention because she gives me a grateful look. Tears fill her eyes. “Thank you.”

I want to kiss her again, to take her out the back door and away from Tina and her vile crew, but that’s not what Alexa wants. I step back and interweave my fingers with hers. It takes every ounce of fortitude in my body to take her back to that table. When we get there, I pull out her chair to show this table full of disgusting low-lifes how to treat a woman.

Tina claps her hands. “I think there might be hope for you two yet.” She waggles her eyebrows at Alexa, then looks up at me. “I told you Reed’s—”

Alexa leans forward, her eyes wild. “I think I need another drink.”

I stare at her in disbelief. She’s trying to interrupt Tina because she thinks I don’t know who she really is—Alexa Pendergraft, baby sister to that asshole Reed Pendergraft. And with a sigh, I realize it’s better this way, all around, because I would throw everything away to get one shot with this girl.

"But I'm broken."
"I'm broken too. I'm a total f***ing mess. So, we'll be broken together."

Lexi Pendergraft is still recovering from a trauma that changed not only her life, but her brother’s life as well. They moved to a new college and started over. Reed found his love there and is now engaged to Caroline.

But Lexi is not fairing as well. She is having trouble with intimacy and has failed at her latest relationship. She cannot seem to let go of the past. She is working hard on a summer program for kids and teens in conjunction with her college and charity. She donned a new look for a play and it gave her sass, confidence, and a chance to be different. It gave her a boost in letting go of some of her baggage and trying new things.

Ben Masterson’s life imploded and now he is working three jobs to cover tuition and be able to stay in school. One of his job introduces him to Lexi, while another has him working for her over protective older brother, Reed. Therefore she should be off limits to him. But they keep getting drawn together. She thinks she is living this dual identity and he has to be cautious so it gets complicated.

Their lives have more similarities than are apparent on the surface. Ben has his own past issues and secrets.

Her brother, Reed is also keeping secrets from his girlfriend, Caroline and Lexi and pushing everyone awayHe is keeping them in the dark and behaving differently.

Their lives are all intersecting in various ways. Hidden agendas and mysteries cause tension  and intrigue. In trying to help, others are hurt. It is a convoluted situation with many involved. There are toxic people causing issues. And the past does not always stay in the past and continues to leak into the present.

I liked Lexi’s initiative and spunk. She had been through so much but tried to make a difference in others’ lives. She truly had a giving heart and cared about those around her. But she was battling demons,  insecurities and felt trapped by her life.

Ben had been hurt and labeled too. He had no time for a relationship and had been burned in the past. But he got sucked in despite so many complications.  He was sweet, protective, understanding, and willing to fight for her. But he had no idea who all he would need to fight.

I really liked them together and found myself rooting for them. And for Reed and Caroline as well. I really hated to see Reed and Caroline struggling after finally getting it together in Redesigned. It all comes down to trust for both of the couples. And trust is not easy when people have been hurt in the past. And full disclosure sometimes comes with a price. 

This was another engaging installment in this series. The characters are well developed and have interesting and complicated back stories. It is told in both points of view allowing full disclosure of the secrets they were not sharing. I enjoyed getting more with Reed and Caroline (Redesigned) and Scarlett and Tucker (After Math). There were a few other intriguing characters. One woman I really disliked but obviously has more of an underlying story, Tina. I have a feeling we many see her again in the future. There were some more friends too….Sylvia, Austin, and Noah. I look forward to more in this series in the future and catching back up with these characters as well.

Thanks to Denise Grover Swank for providing with a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. 

As the book opens, Lexi is trying to put her past behind her and live like a normal college sophomore a year after being raped and moving to Tennessee with her brother. That doesn’t mean she had an easy time of it, or even a smooth transition since leaving Boston. After breaking up with her last boyfriend because she couldn’t stop the panic attacks that happened while they were intimate, Lexi thinks she’ll never be able to have a real relationship. Living with her overprotective brother makes it difficult to try to live like a normal college student, and Lexi often resorts to sneaking behind her brother’s back in order to go out with friends without him hovering over her. 

Ben is still adjusting to the effects of a false accusation that caused him to lose his full-ride scholarship and led to a fight that cut him off from his father, and more importantly, his little brother. He is working 3 jobs to make ends meet, at least until the end of the semester when he graduates. Those 3 jobs, plus a full load of classes, means he doesn’t have time for a full night’s sleep, let alone time to let loose. 

Together, they seemed to settle each other. Lexi feels safe and less anxious than she has since she arrived at Southern, while Ben starts to see a silver lining to his own situation. But Ben doesn’t tell Lexi everything about his situation, which leaves him wondering what will happen when he tells her WHY he lost his scholarship. 

Reed was so overprotective and overbearing when it came to Lexi that his own relationship suffered. I haven’t read Redesigned, so don’t know all the details of his and Caroline’s beginnings, but watching him seemingly sabotage his relationship took protecting his sister to a whole other level. Caroline was the perfect bridge between Reed and Lexi, and a great friend to Lexi despite Reed’s actions. 

This was a great, fun, light read. There was a bit in the beginning where I was waiting for the story to pick up and Lexi and Ben to actually meet and start to get to know one another. But after the first third was up, the pacing picked up and I was hooked into the story. While I haven’t read the first two books in the series, Lexi and Ben’s story did not suffer for that lack. There was enough background information reviewed that, while things weren't always crystal, they were clear enough that I never felt lost. And there wasn’t so much information given to make me feel going back to read the first two books not worth my while, and they have already been added to my TBR list. 

Thanks to Denise Grover Swank for providing with a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review. 
After Math (Off the Subject #1)
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Kim's 4.5 star review

Scarlett Goodwin’s world is divided into Before and After.

Before she agreed to tutor Tucker price, college junior Scarlett was introvert, struggling with her social anxiety and determined to not end up living in a trailer park like her mother and her younger sister. A mathematics major, she goes to her classes, to her job in the tutoring lab, and then hides in the apartment she shares with her friend, Caroline.

After junior Tucker Price, Southern University’s star soccer player enters the equation, her carefully plotted life is thrown off its axis. Tucker’s failing his required College Algebra class. With his eligibility is at risk, the university chancellor dangles an expensive piece of computer software for the math department if Scarlett agrees to privately tutor him.Tucker’s bad boy, womanizer reputation makes Scarlett wary of any contact, let alone spending several hours a week in close proximity.

But from her first encounter, she realizes Tucker isn’t the person everyone else sees. He carries a mountain of secrets which she suspects hold the reason to his self-destructive behavior. But the deeper she delves into the cause of his pain, the deeper she gets sucked into his chaos. Will Scarlett find the happiness she’s looking for, or will she be caught in Tucker’s aftermath?

Redesigned (Off the Subject#2)
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Kim's 5 star review

While fashion design major Caroline Hunter may have been born economically unlucky, in college, she’s been lucky in love. Until her senior year at Southern University. She’s gone from a serious long term boyfriend to a string of crappy dates.

Then she meets mathematics grad student Reed Pendergraft.

Reed is everything she’s not looking for. Serious. Headed for a low paying university job. Boring. Caroline spent the first eighteen years of her life wondering where her next meal was coming from. She sure wasn’t getting trapped in that life again with a man living on a professor’s salary.

An encounter with Reed in a club proves she might have pegged him wrong. He brings out a lusty side she never knew she had. But just when she’s about to give in to her hormones, Reed makes a fool out of her. 

Cathryn Farley PhotographyDenise Grover Swank 
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Denise Grover Swank was born in Kansas City, Missouri and lived in the area until she was nineteen. Then she became a nomadic gypsy, living in five cities, four states and ten houses over the course of ten years before she moved back to her roots. She speaks English and smattering of Spanish and Chinese which she learned through an intensive Nick Jr. immersion period.  Her hobbies include witty Facebook comments (in own her mind) and dancing in her kitchen with her children. (Quite badly if you believe her offspring.)  Hidden talents include the gift of justification and the ability to drink massive amounts of caffeine and still fall asleep within two minutes. Her lack of the sense of smell allows her to perform many unspeakable tasks.  She has six children and hasn’t lost her sanity. Or so she leads you to believe. 

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