Release Blitz and Reviews: Good Boy: Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy

Good Boy (WAGs, #1)
Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy
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Released January 31, 2017
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Hosting her brother’s wedding for an MVP guest list is the challenge of Jess Canning’s life. Already the family screw-up, she can’t afford to fail. And nobody (nobody!) can learn of the colossal mistake she made with the best man during a weak moment last spring. It was wrong, and there will not be a repeat. Absolutely not. Even if he is the sexiest thing on two legs.

Blake Riley sees the wedding as fate’s gift to him. Jess is the maid of honor and he’s the best man? Let the games begin. So what if he’s facing a little (fine, a lot) of resistance? He just needs to convince the stubborn blonde that he’s really a good boy with a bad rap. Luckily, every professional hockey player knows that you’ve got to make an effort if you want to score.

But Jess has more pressing issues to deal with than sexy-times with a giant man-child. Such as: Will the ceremony start on time, even though someone got grandma drunk? Does glitter ever belong at a wedding? And is it wrong to murder the best man?

Caution: May cause accidental aspiration of tea or coffee. Do not read in a public place where loud laughter is inappropriate. Contains hot but hilarious hockey players, puppy cuddling and a snarky pair of underwear.

We saw Blake Riley and Jessica Canning share some heated moments in US. And now they are back to start this spin off WAGs series. Oh my! This was funny and quirky, and it made me laugh and smile while tugging at my heart.

Blake is big, bold, obnoxious, unfiltered, and goofy. He's best friends with her brother, Jamie, and his partner, Wes, who also happens to be Blake's team mate. And he is also their interloping neighbor. He has been burned in the past, so does not really trust relationships and has been happy to enjoy himself with his adoring female fans. 

He and Jess shared one hot encounter and then went their separate ways. But now they are face to face again at Jamie and Wes' wedding.

Jess is trying to put up a good front, but is struggling with some decisions. Her self esteem and confidence has taken a hit. She feels like the family screw-up due to her flightiness and frequently changing jobs and goals. She's sassy, stubborn, anxious, and a bit prickly. And Blake knows how to push her buttons to drive her crazy.

He taunts, teases, pushes, and baits her. She fights, fusses, avoids, or rolls her eyes. But under it all is chemistry that seems to combust when in close proximity.

I will admit that in the beginning, I was not sure if I was going to be able to deal with them as a couple. His personality was so over-the-top and hers started out more pessimistic and martyr-ish. Don't get me wrong, the banter was crazy and fun, but I was worried it was going to be just too much. But along the way, I got more and more attached to them. Blake actually stole my heart. Underneath the big, silly, oafish persona is a heart of gold. He uses his own crazy lingo of Blake-isms making him sound a bit nutty or dumb, but really he is often underestimated. He really has good ideas and instincts, persistence, and is protective and generous to those he cares about even to his own detriment. Seeing him show his more vulnerable, serious, and confused moods versus his usually happy-go-lucky self made him even more endearing.

And Jess was really in need of someone not related to her to believe in her so she could believe in herself. And Blake just kind of bulldozes into her world and slowly begins to make her feel special and also makes her see his good points. But she also has things in her own life that need focus, and Blake is very distracting when he wants to be.

I enjoyed the shift  from the more slapstick comedy to the more real feelings. And before I knew it, I was loving how they could complement each other. But they both have their own fears, issues, miscommunication, and mixed signals that make their situation more confusing. From F-buddies to Friend-with-bennies to faking-it to real...it is a bumpy ride with some fight or flight, avoidance, hurt feelings, self-realization, timing issues, and misunderstandings. And not to mention hiding it from some people while exaggerating their relationship to others. They both have a lot to learn about themselves and each other.

There were a few small things that had potential that I would have liked to see flushed out more or added, but I enjoyed their story.  I really was not ready for it to end and was surprised when I hit the last page. But I know we will see more of them in the series.

I was thrilled to get more with Wes and Jamie (HIM and US). I absolutely love them and was glad to get to see farther into their future. I think that the authors did a good job at making this spin off read well as a stand alone transitioning to the new series despite the characters being introduced in US. If I had not read HIM and US, it would certainly make me want to go back and read about Wes and Jamie though. Some other Toronto players, the divorce' Erikkson and cocky Will O'Connor were featured and seemed prepped for their own stories. There were some interesting and quirky side characters. There was an antagonist that drove me crazy. And their wild and crazy families totally made me smile.

This was fun, sexy, sweet, and light-hearted with just enough feels to keep you invested. It was told in dual points of view. I love the combination of Elle and Sarina's writing styles and how they seamlessly flow together. I am looking forward to more in this series. Bring on STAY.

I was gifted a review copy in exchange for an honest review. 
Jess is reinventing herself and starting a new career. Feeling like the black sheep failure of the Canning family, she worries about what those she loves will say about her newest decision.

This book was just so much fun. Blake and Jess are both over the top in intensity and hilarity. Together their easy going, fun natures mean lots of laughs. Neither are fully comfortable with where their lives are, for different reasons, and those reason play out just as differently as their histories. Though Jess jumps from one path to another, she wants to find that thing that grounds her...she just hasn’t found it yet. Blake on the other hand likes to keep things light and easy to avoid attachments and entanglements. But each might just be what the other needs.

Blake doesn't have all fun in his past and has spent the last five years not letting women close as a result. Blake was always the fun character in the background of Jamie and Wes’s books. As their upstairs neighbor and with his enthusiasm for their friendship, he is always in and out of their apartment. Getting to know more about Blake behind his exuberant personality meant getting past the public image he has worked so hard to erect.

I loved the progression of the relationship between Jess and Blake. We knew these two were hot together -- they proved that when they first met. But as they get behind walls that others aren’t allowed to see, they each become vulnerable to other, even without knowing it.

This had me laughing with Blake’s antics. Nothing is serious when he is involved, but at the same time, he also knows when things are serious and has a deep sense of loyalty to his family. Since Wes and Jamie are his family, he is quick to bring Jess into his circle, even as he wants to bring him into his life in a different role. 

As the first book in the WAGS series, this has the extra standard of introducing some of the other single guys, in addition to showing readers all the sweet moments that those already in relationships (Wes and Jamie) are experiencing. For a first novel, it does a great job balancing the primary couple with the side characters in a way that doesn’t detract from Jess and Blake’s story while building the foundation for a whole new set of characters. 
I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.
As the start of the new series that spins off from my favorite duet of M/M books, Him and Us, Good Boy is the next collaboration of authors Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy. Sure, it gives me the long-awaited wedding of Jamie and Wes from the previous two books, but it also contains the mostly light-hearted, fun, and often funny story that mostly lives up to what I expect from this writing team.

There is really only one word needed to describe Toronto hockey forward Blake Riley. He’s big…big physique, big mouth, big personality, big goofball, big cock (which has multiple nicknames in this story), and most importantly, big heart. All but one of these things (the size of the “Blake Snake”) we learned while he was a larger-than-life secondary character in Us, the same place where he meets—and subsequently has fantastic massage-chair sex with…shh! don’t tell!—Jamie’s sister, Jessica Canning. Whereas Blake exudes confidence almost all the time, Jess has an inferiority complex. She’s always felt like the Canning family screw-up. After planning the spectacular event that is her brother’s wedding, complete with the last-minute maid-of-honor stress caused by the best man (yeah, the one and only Blake), she puts the final nail in the coffin of party planning and decides to apply for nursing schools, and it just so happens that just days before the fall term starts, she gets a partial scholarship to a nursing school in—you guessed it!—Toronto! Cue antics and hilarity in 3…2…1…

I know Good Boy is Blake and Jessica’s story, but I must say this first. If you’re a fan of Him and Us, make sure you have some Kleenexes for the happy tears you’ll likely encounter during chapter four. Just sayin’.

I should also mention that while this review keeps mentioning those other two books, Good Boy can certainly be read as a standalone. While I can’t say with certainty, because I have read them (duh, in case you missed that), I believe these authors did a satisfactory job dealing with reintroducing these characters and mentioning relevant past events, namely the interaction between Blake and Jess during her brief stay in Toronto the previous spring. So yes, standalone is fine. But why? Seriously. I digress.

Because Blake plays such a prominent role in Us, those who have read that novel won’t get any big revelations about the type of man Blake is while reading Good Boy, though the event in his past that forms the bit of drama for him in the story does reinforce the reader’s previous knowledge that he is a caring man with a gigantic heart to match the rest of his stature. I have to admit, though, I was a little disappointed that having the first-person perspective of Blake made him a little less fun, less of a fourteen-year-old stuck in a hunky hockey stud’s body, to me than he was before. Of course that’s not entirely bad, but it’s something standalone readers might miss out on. In the same vein, while there are plenty of things that are said in Good Boy that made me laugh, I feel like the authors missed out on some golden opportunities. The biggest of these? WHERE is the sheep prank!?

Granted, the only novels I’ve read from Elle Kennedy have been the three collaborations with Sarina Bowen, but as I’ve grown to expect out of Sarina’s stories, the plot in Good Boy is simple and straightforward, free from contrived drama, and smoothly executed in a storytelling style that does absolutely nothing to hinder the reader’s ability to feel all the great emotions as they happen. The characters’ actions and responses are believable, and the characters themselves are likable and relatable. I must mention, though, that the flow of the relationship at times felt uncharacteristically abrupt. This might well have been a side effect of the fact that Blake and Jess are usually not on the same page at the same time as far as their expectations and their feelings for one another are concerned, but, for example, Blake being content to keep Jess as a friend-with-bennies for so long and then suddenly switching to can’t-get-her-out-of-my-head mode without there being some huge thing to trigger it made it feel like a jump to me. That’s a small complaint on my part, though, as it didn’t detract at all from my enjoyment of the story. On a similar note, some readers may find the ending to be a little abrupt, since it doesn’t contain a happily-ever-after and there isn’t an epilogue. I have a feeling this decision by the authors is mostly because of the nature of the series, that we’ll get more about them in future books, so having an epilogue would have messed with the chronology of the series to some degree. That’s just my gut instinct here.

I have to admit that I had been looking forward to reading Good Boy for several months prior to finally being able to read it. So did it live up to my expectations? Yes and no. I enjoyed the story and loved being able to revisit such great characters, but at the end, it felt like something was missing that I had hoped for, but I can’t put my finger on what it was. Even so, the answer to that question is much more yes, so I am also looking forward to the next book in this series.

The authors generously provided me a complimentary copy of Good Boy in exchange for this fair and honest review.

All co-written books by Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

The story of Blake and Jess gets its start in...

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Released March 8, 2016
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Our 4.5- and 5-star reviews

Can your favorite hockey players finish their first season together undefeated?

Five months in, NHL forward Ryan Wesley is having a record-breaking rookie season. He's living his dream of playing pro hockey and coming home every night to the man he loves–Jamie Canning, his longtime best friend turned boyfriend. There's just one problem: the most important relationship of his life is one he needs to keep hidden, or else face a media storm that will eclipse his success on the ice.

Jamie loves Wes. He really, truly does. But hiding sucks. It's not the life Jamie envisioned for himself, and the strain of keeping their secret is taking its toll. It doesn't help that his new job isn't going as smoothly as he'd hoped, but he knows he can power through it as long as he has Wes. At least apartment 10B is their retreat, where they can always be themselves.

Or can they? When Wes's noisiest teammate moves in upstairs, the threads of their carefully woven lie begin to unravel. With the outside world determined to take its best shot at them, can Wes and Jamie develop major-league relationship skills on the fly?

Warning: contains sexual situations, a vibrating chair, long-distance sexytimes, and proof that hockey players look hot in any shade of green.
The WAGs series

Stay (WAGs, #2)
Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy
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Expected later in 2017

The book will be Eriksson's story. No blurb available yet.

Sarina Bowen
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Sarina Bowen is a USA Today bestselling author of contemporary romance. She lives in Vermont's Green Mountains with her family, six chickens and too much ski gear and hockey equipment.

In 2016, Sarina became a Rita Award winner! The Romance Writers of America honored HIM by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy with Best Contemporary Romance, Mid-Length.

Sarina enjoys skiing, coffee products and a nice glass of wine. She lives with her family, eight chickens and more ski gear and hockey equipment than seems necessary.

Elle Kennedy 

A New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal bestselling author, Elle Kennedy grew up in the suburbs of Toronto, Ontario, and holds a B.A. in English from York University. From an early age, she knew she wanted to be a writer, and actively began pursuing that dream when she was a teenager.

Elle writes romantic suspense and erotic contemporary romance for various publishers. She loves strong heroines and sexy alpha heroes, and just enough heat and danger to keep things interesting!


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