Release Blitz, Reviews, and Giveaway: 21 Stolen Kisses: Lauren Blakely

21 Stolen Kisses 

Lauren Blakely
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Expected May 26, 2015

When I first met him I resisted.
Like any forbidden love, I told myself he was a crush, and it would pass.
That was a lie. It never faded.

And I never expected he would fall for me just as hard. 

There were so many reasons that should have kept us apart, least of all, the decade that separated us.
Growing up in New York City, I learned early on that love is a double-edged sword.
Love broke up my parents, love took away my friends, and love -- the big, intense, never-been-like-this-before love -- landed me in therapy.

Now I'm heading to college, and it's time to give love a clean slate again. But, can I really start over when he's still in my life?

Because the one man I've always wanted, is also the only guy I absolutely can't have…
And he wants me just as fiercely. 

Can I settle for anything less than the love of my life?

He inhales sharply. The look in his eyes says we’re crossing into the danger zone again. It’s the only place I want to be with him. Because when we’re there, nothing between us feels dangerous. Everything feels right.

“I turn eighteen in a few more weeks,” I say, like my birthday is an open invitation for us to slam back into each other.
He nods. “I know.”
A breeze blow by and rustles his hair. A lock falls out of place. Instinct takes over. I raise my hand to reach for his hair.
But he’s faster. He grasps my wrist, and the second he does, the moment expands. It stretches and unfolds into the thing I will replay tonight and tomorrow and the next day. I stare at his hand clasped around my wrist, flashing back to all the times he held my hand, touched my wrist, and ran his fingers along my arm. I shiver as the memories collide, the past slamming into the present.
I look up from our hands to his eyes. Blazing, full of heat. Full of all that restraint from him that I know so well.
"Can I give you a stolen kiss, K?"
"You don't have to steal it, because I'll give it to you freely."

This is the story about a spark, a deep connection, and a love that should never have happened but at the same time was inevitable. It is about Kennedy, a seventeen year old young woman with more maturity than her peers. The way she was raised and the situations she dealt with shaped her views on love and the world around her. And also about a twenty-five year old man who was stuck between his career, right and wrong, and the young woman he can't forget. He is her mother's agent and friend this making the situation even more difficult.

Theirs is a love out of time. It is complicated by their intertwined lives, the secrets they keep, and how their relationship would appear to and affect others. It is a forbidden romance, but one that I was totally invested in and believed in. He was a good guy. He was protective, respectful and had a conscience. And she was mature, worldly, and wise beyond her years. They shared such a connection, understanding, and common interests. I loved Noah. He never felt like he was taking advantage of her even though there was an eight year age difference. Their passion was a slow burn and could be felt through small touches, kisses, and feelings and did not need to be exploited to be felt. 

He is the puzzle piece that slides into place in my heart, filling all the sad and empty spots inside me.

With Kennedy, I  was anchored. She filled all the lonely spaces inside of me with her laughter, and her wry and witty humor, with everything we had in common.
Their relationship was gradually revealed to us throughout the pages with dual point of view, flashbacks, and portions of letters. So it was a mix of past and present, attraction and resistance, happiness and heartbreak, and stolen moments and kisses.

A girl who grew up living in a world of lies ends up having to construct her own in order to be with the one she wants. And a man trying to live with what little he can have of her since he can't resist her, but also cannot fully claim her as his own and will not push her. But they complete each other and understand each other in ways that they cannot explain.

They become entrenched in secrets and lies that build and taint their beautiful love story. But it was a love and connection that I felt and rooted for. It was also really Kennedy's journey to find herself, make amends, provide full disclosure, and figure out what she needs and wants. There were side stories of her relationships with her parents and friends that she was dealing with as well. Her internalized feelings, her reactions, her fears, her guilt, and her need to change things help her make her choices. So a lot focuses on her decisions about life, love, and relationships. But her choices affect both of them. And he is man enough not to only to honor her wishes, but also be willing to risk all for her as well. But she in turn has to decide if he is worth the risk. 

The characters were well developed with complicated back stories that affected their present. The side characters added depth and drama to the mix. There was even a fun cameo and mention of other Lauren Blakely characters from other series. The setting also brought in the buzz of New York and Broadway, as well as art and famous love letters that provided more background and interest. This was a sweet, romantic, heartwarming story of love, friendship, and hope with a taboo twist and some emotional pitfalls. 

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

This is the story of a love that shouldn’t have been. A love that built through a connection, understanding, conversation, and stolen moments. But a love that shouldn’t have been because she was 17, he was 25, and he was her mother’s agent and friend.

I wasn’t sure I could like this story, let alone love it. It’s a personal thing -- I have a hard time when there is an age difference between the characters and one character is technically a minor. I say technically because though Kennedy is only 17, her life experiences give her a maturity beyond most 17 year olds. And this line caught me and had me reconsidering my initial hang-up:

“I considered what was coming next, and whether I was going to step over the line. I wasn’t a teacher falling for a student, I wasn’t a doctor tangoing with a patient, but I wasn’t immune to risk either.”

And with that statement, my hesitation about Kennedy and Noah was put to rest. Both because another year older for Kennedy and it wouldn’t catch my attention as strongly, and because in the beginning Kennedy was the stronger pursuer in the relationship. Noah was very conscious of the fact that he was interested in and dating someone that could have serious repercussions for him, and as such, their relationship progressed very slowly physically.

Just because I was no longer hesitant to read the book did not mean things were entirely comfortable. No, 21 Stolen Kisses challenged me. Kennedy finds herself in a spiral of lies, a spiral of her own making, a spiral she has been warned to avoid, but she makes those choices regardless. Noah is not her only secret, and very few people in her life truly know everything there is to know about her.

As she continues on her journey to right perceived wrongs and stand up for herself, both Noah and Kennedy must face the taboo of their relationship and what they are willing to do in order to keep it.
While this is loosely tied to Lauren’s Caught Up in Love series, it actually reads more like a complete standalone than a spin-off. Matthew and Jane (Far Too Tempting) make a couple appearances, as Matthew and Noah are friends, and Davis Milo (Playing With Her Heart) is referenced in regards to Broadway productions, but none of the back stories from any of those characters are needed to enjoy Noah and Kennedy. I enjoyed not having to remember how a variety of characters were related, and could instead focus completely on the story itself.

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

Lauren Blakely
Lauren Blakely writes sexy contemporary romance novels with heat, heart, and humor, and she has had seven books on the New York Times Bestseller list and eleven on the USA Today Bestseller list. Like the heroine in her novel, FAR TOO TEMPTING, she thinks life should be filled with family, laughter, and the kind of love that love songs promise. Lauren lives in California with her husband, children, and dogs. She loves hearing from readers! Her bestselling series include Caught Up in Love, Seductive Nights, No Regrets and Fighting Fire. She recently released Forbidden Nights, a standalone novel in her New York Times Bestselling Seductive Nights series that became an instant New York Times Bestseller. This summer she'll release Consumed by You, her next title in her NYT Bestselling Fighting Fire series about sexy firemen and the women they love, and Sweet Sinful Nights, the first book in her new series Sinful Nights. She also writes for young adults under the name Daisy Whitney. To receive an email when Lauren releases a new book, text BLAKELY + your email address to 678-249-3375(please use the actual + sign).

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