Blog Tour: Boarded by Love: Toni Aleo

by - Friday, September 19, 2014

Boarded by Love (Bellevue Bullies #1)

Jude Sinclair here, hockey player for the Bellevue Bullies and lover of all ladies. Hockey’s in my blood and, not to sound full of myself, but I’m good at it... really good. The draft is within my reach—it’s mine to take—but that’s not the only reason people know my name. They know me because of my way with woman. They know the score, and I aim to please. I just tend to stay away from repeat performances. In other words, I don’t do relationships above my family and friends. I’m happy with life. However, I should warn you that my story and how I see it playing out is about to change due to a certain redhead on campus.

She’s beautiful. Stunning. Breathtaking.

She’s my game changer.

He’s trouble from the moment I see him. I don’t know what I’m thinking, but from the moment I meet his gaze, I’m his. It’s a scary feeling.

I’ve never trusted anyone outside my aunt and uncle—and even that took months. I didn’t have it easy growing up. My mom was usually strung out, and she didn’t give me a second thought. Drugs and the men who paid her were most important. It was horrible, but I’m stronger today. Because of my past, security is what I need most. Money assures me that I can take care of myself today, tomorrow, and next month. I don’t want to ever be hungry or go without again, so I work hard for every penny.

Oh, by the way, I’m Claire Anderson. I’m a hard-studying sophomore at the University of Bellevue, dancer for the school team, and a burlesque dancer at a club, but that’s my secret.

You may think you know how our story ends, but you have no clue. It’s not easy falling in love, or living happily ever after. At first, it may seem so, but when is anything worth having ever won without a fight?

Especially, when you’re boarded by love.

graphics from author's facebook page

Claire Anderson had a rough childhood and was a troubled teen, but it improved once she came to live with her Uncle Phillip and he fell for her dance teacher, Reese (Breaking Away: Assassins#5). She is now a college sophomore at University of Bellevue, working towards a degree, teaching dance classes for Reese, and also has a sketchier night job as a Burlesque dancer/choreographer. She keeps the burlesque dancing hidden to most but she feels like she needs the security and money that it provides while also giving her choreography experience that will help pave her future. But she knows protective Uncle Phillip cannot handle it she also and prefers her anonymity.

Jude Sinclair is the hockey captain of the Bellevue Bullies. He is charming, cocky, funny, determined, and has a rep of being a total man whore and not going back for seconds. But as soon as he sees Claire, he is hooked. 

They have a fun rapport and chemistry that won't quit. She calls him trouble. He thinks she is his game changer. Soon they find themselves giving in to their chemistry and then trying out a relationship to see if it is something that they can both handle. 

Jude was so cute. Him trying to figure out how to a be a boyfriend vs. a man slut was priceless. He was completely adorable, charismatic, and sexy. Every girl on campus wanted him, but once he decided what he wanted, he was set. He did not care what others said or how everyone reacted to his change. He knew she was worth changing for and that just made him more endearing. 

Claire was tough and independent, but he made her more girly and giggly. Once she let someone in to her circle of trust, she was sweet, caring, and devoted. But she had scars from her past that made trust difficult and made her think that she always needed a back up plan. And fears of being left or disappointing those she loved made her make some questionable decisions. 

They fell hard and fast and did not care about the consequences. Yes it was definitely insta-lust and turned insta-lovey, but I bought and felt it due their interactions and connection. It was that kind of young, all consuming, impulsive first love where you want nothing more than to learn everything you can about each other and spend every moment together. They were such a sweet, fun, natural couple who really challenged each other and showed such growth together. But with each of them having such baggage, trust is tested. There are people trying to come between them and secrets that have the potential to ruin it all. 

But when everything is out in the open and trust is broken, can they deal with the fall out and find their way back together or will they just end up with a memory of their first love?

I will admit that this was my first Toni Aleo book. Tammy loves the Assassins series so I figured this new series was a good way for me to dive in. Even though this spin-off is directly tied to the story of Phillip and Reese and Claire in Breaking Away (Assassins#5), I was able to gather enough knowledge of their history from their book, connect fully with the characters,  and read it as a stand-alone. (Edited to add that I admit that after I read this I went on a total Assassins binge and read the entire series over a weekend. So now I am a total fan of that series).

Toni writes with detail, emotion, and depth that draws you into the story and connects you to her characters. She took two young people with fears and pasts, thrust them together to become a loving couple, then threw challenges and heartbreak their way. It was funny, sweet, steamy, romantic, frustrating, painful, and emotional all at various times. It was told in both Claire and Jude's points of view with a few chapters by Uncle Phillip. The characters were complex, lovable, and intense. But they also had real fears and doubts that affected some of their decisions. This couple was one that I loved from their first interaction and I was completely invested in them throughout. I was tense and hopeful that they could navigate through the difficult situations, trust issues, and differences  in their impending  futures. 

Although I had not read Phillip and Reese's book beforehand, I fell in love with them too. They were such a strong couple providing unconditional love to Claire who had been through so much. This is more of a new adult series focusing on college students and college hockey, but also has cameos of other couples from the Assassins series as well since they are all part of Claire's extended family.  I also loved Jude's brothers Jayden and Jace. They had fun personalities and are both hockey players and and college aged so would be great heroes for upcoming books in this series. 

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 

This ended up not being as much of a sports centered plot as I had anticipated. Yes, the backdrop of hockey is there -- Claire is a hockey fan, fitting since her uncle plays professionally, and Jude plays for his college team, the Bellevue Bullies, but the main points of the story have nothing at all to do with hockey. It is more about the characters and their personal journeys than their extracurriculars. 

I loved Claire’s fierce independent streak and spunk, even as it tended to create more problems for her than if she relied on those around her. She had a rough childhood, but has moved beyond in most things. But even after having lived with Phillip and Reece for years, she still fears being left alone. Thus, she is so focused on her dancing, both at Reece’s studio and at the burlesque club, that she doesn’t stop to consider what Jude or Phillip might feel if they found out about her secret second job. 

Jude’s overconfidence made for several grin-inducing moments, as he never second guesses anything he does. A strong hockey player, his focus is entirely on prepping for the NHL draft at the end of his second year of college. He has a string of women, with very few repeats, rather than a relationship with a single woman. He is a self described man-whore. 

This ended up being far more emotional than I was prepared for as the secrets were forced into the open. I knew the moment was coming, had seen the moment coming from very early on, but the fallout hit harder (for me and the characters) than I could have imagined. 

Boarded by Love is everything that is great about a spin-off. This was a great place to jump into an established world of characters. I haven’t read the Assassin’s series, so didn’t have any background knowledge about Claire, Phillip or Reese, but the way this is written, none is needed. Everything that is important about Claire’s past is explained in such a way that I didn’t feel like I was missing pieces. It also felt like an amount that wouldn’t feel redundant to those who are already familiar with the parts of Claire’s story that overlaps Phillip and Reese. It also gave me just enough that I have added the Assassins series to my TBR list for future down-time reading.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

I think y’all will totally love Toni’s new hockey series. I know I did. Once I got past the eye rolling moments, I'm really not a fan of insta-lovey dovey stuff; therefore, this is one of those it’s me not you cases, I enjoyed Boarded by Love a lot. I found myself smiling big time and flipping the pages with enthusiasm.

Jude and Claire were wicked cute together. My quick attachment took me by surprise; I was pretty certain I wouldn’t be a fan of the beginning of their story (past experience with this author). Claire’s character made me nervous and hesitant to start the book. If you have read any of my reviews for Toni’s Assassins series then you know I usually have a horrible time liking her heroines, but Claire is unique; she is the first Toni Aleo heroine I have ever fully adored from start to finish. I couldn't help but be intrigued by how her past scars were shaping her into the woman she thinks she has to be vs. the woman she truly wants to be. Claire often appeared sassy and independent, but underneath those layers she was vulnerable and broken, too scared to trust and truly open up. I loved how the author had her struggle with this; it gave her character more depth, allowing me to connect with her on a more personal level.

Ohemgee, for a college man whore, Jude won me over instantly. I have to say it was definitely entertaining watching this man navigate something so foreign to him as simply being someone's boyfriend. Once again, Toni provided us with her typical written male. Jude is patient, charismatic, doting, thoughtful, persistent, bold, etc. He knows exactly what he wants and doesn't hesitate for a second to go after it. Seriously, I don't think there was a moment throughout this book his character didn’t intrigue me. I remember messaging Kim and asking her if we could make him older so it wouldn’t feel so wrong perving on him. I can’t really nail down the exact moment Jude won me over, maybe it was his displays of cockiness and determination or maybe it was the fact that everything out of his mouth made me either giggle or sigh. I truly don’t know; however, what I do know for sure is that he was an all-around total heartthrob. For a twenty-year-old man, Jude gave Toni’s Luke, Shea, and Tate one hell of a run for their money. I have to say it was definitely entertaining watching this man navigate something so foreign to him as being a boyfriend.

Not only were Jude and Claire a game changer for each other, they were a game changer for me as well. This couple is the perfect example of why I continue to pick up Toni’s books. I totally love that in a world where I cannot even stand to open a new book anymore, Jude and Claire kept me up until four in the morning with the need to finish their journey. I found so much to love and adore about these two, individually and together. I highly recommend them to others, especially if you are looking for an enjoyable hero and heroine with lots of witty banter, steamy chemistry, and minimal angst. Boarded by Love is a light new adult read with a great mix of romance and friendship. 

Thank you, Toni Aleo, for providing me with a complimentary copy of Boarded by Love.
Although Boarded by Love is the start of a spin off series revolving around college students in Bellevue Bullies#1, Claire's story and that of her Uncle Phillip and his love, Reese begins in Breaking Away (Assassins#5). However, Boarded by Love is still easily read as a stand-alone.

Breaking Away (Assassins#5)

BREAKING AWAY is a story of loss, healing, and love… where unexpected turns and heartache lead to passion.

To Nashville Assassins’ leading scoring center Phillip Anderson, playing hockey has always been easy… as natural as breathing. His life is no different. That’s until his world is turned upside down by the death of his sister. While mourning his loss, Phillip has to find a way to make his very angry sixteen-year-old niece, Claire, happy. Now, as her guardian, he discovers the only thing that seems to heal her lonely heart is dance class. But what he didn’t count on was the attraction he’d feel towards her drop-dead sexy dance teacher.

For Reese Allen, dancing has always been part of her soul. After having her heart broken in New York, she comes home with the determination to make her dance studio one of the best in Tennessee and succeeds. When she sees Claire dance for the first time, she knows the girl is bound for greatness and takes the troubled teen under her wing. Using dance as therapy, she suddenly finds herself bound to the young woman… and her hot-as-sin uncle.

However, Phillip and Reese are happy in their single lives. It’s simple. They do what they want, who they want, and how they want, but from the moment they meet, the attraction is undeniable. Soon, they are more than willing to spend just one night tangled in the sheets. But, one night turns into two, and two turns into three, until they find themselves in a repeated dance of “One Last Time” that has the potential to be something more… if only Reese and Claire allow it.

Can Phillip find a way to thaw the hearts of both the women in his life, or will he be forever trying to break them away from their pasts?
Toni Aleo Website | Facebook | Twitter | GoodReads
Toni Aleo is the author of the Nasvhille Assassins series: Taking ShotsTrying to ScoreEmpty Net, Falling for the Backup, and Blue Lines.

When not rooting for her beloved Nashville Predators, she’s probably going to her husband’s and son’s hockey games and her daughter’s dance competitions, taking pictures, scrapbooking, or reading the latest romance novel.

She lives in the Nashville area with her husband, two children, and a bulldog. Read more about Toni here.

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