Release Day Reviews: STAY: Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy

Stay (WAGs, #2)
Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy
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Release Date June 20, 2017
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Can you fall in love with someone you've never even met? 

Hailey Taylor Emery has a hunch that her favorite client at Fetch—an anonymous virtual assistant service—is actually hockey star Matt Eriksson. 

Although it's against the rules for her to check his file, she's 95% sure she spends at least part of each day texting with her lifelong crush and catering to his every need. Still nursing a wounded heart thanks to her recent breakup, Hailey is perfectly content with some harmless online flirting... until she has to meet her client. Face to face. Cue: utter panic.

Matt Eriksson is no stranger to heartbreak. He's still not over the destruction of his marriage, and it sucks to be the only guy on the team who knows the truth—that hockey and long-term relationships are a toxic mix. He barely sees his kids, and dealing with his ex makes him feel insane. The only person in his life who seems to understand is someone who won't show her pretty face.

But it's nothing that a pair of fourth row hockey seats can't fix. Hailey can't resist the offer. Matt can't resist Hailey. Good thing he doesn't have to. Fire up the kiss cam!

Warning: Contains rabid hockey fans, misunderstood dick pics, hockey players at the opera and exploding ovaries. 
Matt Eriksson's life took a bad turn when his wife left him and  limited his time with his twin girls. He is a busy hockey player and to help him with his daily needs he uses a virtual personal assistant service called Fetch, Inc. His assistant there, HTE or HoTtiE in his mind does anything he asks of her and has been a positive person to reach out to in the online world. 

Hailey Taylor Emery is the co-owner of Fetch, Inc. along with her ex-husband/long time friend. She has taken a personal interest in Sniper87. And although it is supposed to be anonymous and she really never cheated to see if this client is Matt, she has used deductive reasoning to figure out there is a good chance they are the same person. A little anonymous online interaction is often the highlight of their days.

But eventually they will meet face to face. She is sweet, sassy, and funny, but he turns her into a bumbling ball of mush, Her own personal history has made her lose confidence. But Matt is definitely someone that sparks her long dormant interest. His ex wife has also done a number on his sense of self worth. He is charismatic, caring, generous, sexy, and has a good sense of humor. But he has been trained to feel like a failure in relationships. And his hockey schedule and kids will always be his priority.

These are two people whose past relationships have shaped how they feel about themselves and the possibility of love. It is not easy due to professional ethics, schedules, and opinionated exes. But this is not only about their connecting and relationship building, but it is also about them finding themselves and their confidence again and pushing themselves out of their comfort zones. They had a great dynamic and chemistry. I totally loved these two together.

There is a crazy group of friends that we already know and love from these authors' other works: Jamie and Wes, Blake and Jess, and other team mates Lemming, Hewitt, and O'Conner. They bring in the fun, humor, and sometimes the crazy. Her sidekick, Jenny is a great girlfriend to push her when needs it. And of course the other WAGS come into play. There was a bit of a tease with Will O'Connor so I cannot wait to see how that plays out.

I love these authors writing styles and they flow together seamlessly. This was an engaging, humorous, sweet, sexy, story with two people who come with baggage. They both have some fears, insecurities, and issues to work out. But it is low angst in regards to relationship drama. Most of their struggles are their internal ones or external drama. I really enjoyed their banter and shared love of hockey. The characters were easy to like and to root for.  The kids and dog made me smile. It was just really a cute, heartwarming, feel good story. I can't wait for more from Sarina and Elle--truly a dynamic duo! 

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review. 
The arrival of a Sarina Bowen book on my Kindle is always a cause for me to squee like the fanboy I am, even when it’s not a M/M pairing, and because I enjoyed her first three collaborative efforts with Elle Kennedy, the arrival of their latest novel, Stay, yielded a similar response. And upon finishing it, I liked it for largely the same reasons as their other titles.

Stay is a cute, light, and sweet story of two broken-by-divorce people finding each other and getting their mojo back. Hailey Taylor Emery is co-owner of a company that provides concierge services though a mobile app, and while she can’t be certain without breaking company policy, she’s pretty sure one of the company’s clients who she attends to personally is none other than the Toronto hockey star she’s had a mad crush on for years, Matt Eriksson. While both are successful in their careers, their romantic lives have been essentially nonexistent since each got divorced. For Hailey, it was an amicable split—she still sees her ex-husband all the time as co-owners of the business—but it rocked her confidence. Add that to her lack of dating experience and she feels like she doesn’t know where to begin. Matt’s ex, on the other hand, is not only controlling but she blames the failed marriage entirely on him and his hockey schedule, a point she rubs in by rarely letting him see his young twin daughters. The result is that he doesn’t think he’s relationship material.

I really liked watching these two work through their individual struggles in order to get to a place both individually and jointly where they realized that it could work for them. I also enjoyed that these struggles weren’t just things in their pasts but largely involved who they are now as well. While they come with plenty of baggage, the story is not deep or angsty. It’s a sweet, often humorous, and sexy story with two characters that I liked equally well. The cast of delightful secondary characters, some from the previous books and some new ones, added to the light, positive, and supportive tone of the story as a whole.

As has been the case with all their books jointly (as well as the several books of Sarina Bowen’s that I’ve read before... one day I need to read one of Elle Kennedy’s books… someday), Stay is a wonderfully crafted and engaging story with smooth prose and natural dialogue. It’s a style that always results in books that read quickly and are difficult to put down, much to the detriment of my sleep schedule. Their collaborative writing style is so seamless that not only are the characters’ voices clear and distinct, but it’s impossible to distinguish how the writing duties were split. It’s just as a collaborative effort should be, it’s as if it were written by only a single author.

I do wish that the story had stretched out the development of Matt and Hailey’s relationship a little more, though, because I wanted to feel it a bit more. There are plenty of sexy scenes, but it felt like they outnumbered the scenes where they were developing their friendship and where their romance was developing. As such, the fact that the story line was simple and a bit predictable left me wanting for some more depth. I’m also not entirely certain about the inclusion of one of the side plots in the story (the blurb refers to it as “misunderstood dick pics”) because, in spite of being humorous, it really didn’t add anything to the development of the characters individually or their relationship together, so I would have gladly traded that for an extra relationship-deepening plot.

While Stay takes place in the same universe as the previous three books these two authors have written together, it probably can be enjoyed as a stand-alone story. Though, like I said in my review for Good Boy, the other three books are good too, so why would you only read this one? No matter how you choose to enjoy it, though, the journey of Hailey and Matt rediscovering their individual worth and accepting themselves and each other for who they are is one that will make your heart feel warm when it’s done. It’s a solid read that I recommend for any fan of romance.

The authors generously provided me a complimentary copy of Stay in exchange for this fair and honest review.
Holly Emery is pretty sure she’s been texting with her hockey crush, Matt Eriksson. As the owner of an anonymous personal assistant company, Holly prides herself on respecting her client’s requests for privacy, and extends that privacy even from herself. But clues from their interactions lead her to believe the man she has been helping (and flirting with) is none other than her favorite hockey player.

Matt Eriksson has had a rough couple of years as he finds a new normal after his divorce. He relies on the services of Fetch and looks forward to his conversations with HTE when he finds himself in a bind. As their flirtations continue through messages, he realizes that with all the crazy in his life, he knows she understands and can help him find a solution, if she would only meet him in person.

I loved watching these two flirt online and begin to gain confidence through their interactions. Each is carrying baggage from previous relationships, and the online texts give them a safe medium with which to practice flirting again.

Though the situations surrounding each of their divorces were different, I appreciated both the way the characters handled the changes in their lives with maturity, and the way the authors crafted the circumstances. There was nothing expected about either character’s reactions to their divorces and it showed in the way they each approached a new relationship.

The whole group of teammates these two authors have crafted return in supporting roles to add to the entertainment. I love watching the men and women interact, especially as they continue to add more representatives to the WAGs side of the group. The next character is shadowed briefly, and I’m interested to see where his story goes.

Once again, Sarina and Elle have created a story that moves quickly, keeping readers entertained and engrossed.

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.
Good Boy (WAGs, #1)
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Our 4 to 4.5 star reviews

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.

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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