Wednesday, April 22, 2015

Crushed by Lauren Layne Blog Tour

Lauren Layne’s latest novel about the healing power of redemption tells the story of a crush gone wickedly wrong, proving that what you want isn’t always what you need.

Growing up in New York, Michael St. Claire never expected to spend his twenties wearing cowboy boots. But that was before he learned about his real father, a total stranger with a family in Cedar Grove, Texas. Once in the Lone Star State, Michael meets Kristin Bellamy, who is exquisitely refined and everything Michael always thought he wanted in a woman. The only problem is that Kristin is dating Michael’s new half brother, Devon.

Kristin’s mouthy, curvy sister Chloe has always been in love with Devon Patterson. So when Michael offers to help Chloe break up Devon and Kristin, Chloe agrees to a deal that seems too good to be true. Before long, Chloe finally gets her man, only to make a startling discovery: She no longer wants the guy she had to fight for—she wants the one who stood by her side.

After all he and Chloe have been through, Michael swears he’s damaged goods. Can Chloe convince him that love is worth the risk?

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Book 2
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Normally, I’d be more than happy to be late to my next lesson in order to scratch Mindy’s second itch of the day and help her forget that she’s married to a high-powered judge with a potbelly.

But Mrs. McLaughlin has one unavoidable disadvantage working against her.

Today is Wednesday.

And on Wednesdays, I have a client I want more than Mindy McLaughlin.

After a few more failed come-ons, Mrs. McLaughlin finally gives up, although I know she’ll be coming with her A-game next week. Her skirt shorter, her lips glossier, her invitations more blatant.

I check out her ass on principle as she walks away, running the towel over my face before finishing a bottle of water in three gulps.

One more lesson before I can escape to Pig and Scout, the dive bar where I sometimes work nights. Generally, I count the hours until P&S; it’s a welcome break from all the pretension.

Although . . .

Today is Wednesday. And on Wednesdays, I’m not in such a hurry.

Despite what the other guys think about their athletic skills, I know we “tennis pros” are merely the pool boys of the country club. We’re supposed to be ripped, a little bit dangerous, and not clinging too closely to our morals.

I have no problem with any of those, especially the last one, even if it does get old after a while.

But my hour a week with Kristin Bellamy makes it all worth it.

I see Kristin approaching out of the corner of my eye, but deliberately don’t turn to check her out, even subtly.

See, forty-two-year-old women like Mindy McLaughlin are forever afraid they’re “losing it.” They need the confirmation that they’re still worth looking at.

But twenty-two-year-old girls like Kristin Bellamy know they’ve got it.

The trick to reeling those in is making them wonder if you’ve noticed.

“Hey, Michael.”

I turn to face her, keeping my expression indifferent. “Kristin.”

Yeah, I definitely notice her.

She’s wearing only a white sports bra and a tiny white tennis skirt. I’m pretty sure the club has some sort of policy requiring members to wear a little more clothing, but considering the place is run by a bunch of doddering old dudes, I doubt they’re going to order Kristin to cover up her tanned, toned stomach and perky tits.

My eyes don’t linger, returning quickly to her face, and she appears not to mind that I don’t check her out.

It’s a game we’ve been playing for weeks now.

For the life of me I can’t figure out who’s winning.

I only know the endgame. Her. Me. In bed. Or wherever.

Reviews by the Wicked Reads Review Team

While Crushed is the second book in the series, I was able to enjoy it as a stand-alone read. Ms. Layne does a wonderful job of imparting the information about Michael’s past as it needed to be revealed as the book progressed (parts of which I assume played out in Broken). With that said, I suspect that my enjoyment of Crushed would have only been enhanced had I read Broken first and had already connected to his character – then again, maybe not because Michael insisted on reminding Chloe that he was an @$$hole so he may not have been all that likeable in the first book. Regardless, Crushed was an angst-filled read that is consistent with my reading experiences of the New Adult genre, and yet it managed to stand out from the crowd by taking the clichés so often found in the genre and pairing them with delightful characters.

Michael is the typical misunderstood and damaged male lead, but he has good reason to be the way he is. We learn that in the span of a day, he lost the love of his life (who was his best friend Ethan’s ex, Olivia) and learned that his father wasn’t the man who raised him. So he does what any distressed twenty-something does when his life begins to fall apart around him – he moves to Texas with the intent of meeting his biological father. Despite all of his bravado and “man-up” attitude, Michael isn’t nearly the bad guy he believes he is and he finds that “storming the gates” in Texas is easy in theory, but much harder in reality. This is one of those times in the book where Michael’s true nature shows up and what made me fall for him despite his bluster – the big reason he didn’t approach his father was Michael didn’t know if his father and his father’s wife were happy and he didn’t want to be responsible for disrupting their relationship if they were. A bad guy doesn’t care if the revelation of his existence will hurt his unknown-to-him stepmother and Michael cared. So he sets out to find out more about the family by getting close to the girlfriend of his half-brother in hopes that Kristen can give him insight into Devon and his parents. Because Michael is still smarting from Olivia’s rejection, seducing Kristen is an added bonus and gives him a chance to stick it to his brother for seeming to have a better childhood than he did. But with the summer break and Kristen’s tennis lessons comes Kristen’s sister Chloe and I absolutely LOVED Chloe.

While Kristen is the “pretty one,” Chloe is the “funny one” of the Bellamy sisters and boy is she ever! Chloe is that person who is funny without trying to be because her brain-to-mouth filter doesn’t always function properly and is downright hilarious when she is trying to be funny. I enjoyed how Chloe and Michael became one another’s projects – he helped her get fit (NOT skinny – which I loved that Michael stressed that difference) and she befriended the broody new guy. Despite using the “ugly duckling to beautiful swan” cliché, it was Michael and Chloe’s inability to let go of their respective time-honored and deeply ingrained crushes that kept Crushed from being overly predictable. Did they get their happy ending? Pffft, it’s a romance, so of course they did. But their journey (which is why I read romances) was filled with the kind of angst, obstacles, and hair-trigger emotional time bombs that I was in the mood for; that Ms. Layne saw fit to include plenty of laughs and some steamy sex just made it that much better. And even though I didn’t know them, the appearance of Ethan and Olivia and their respective significant others was a wonderful inclusion in the book and something I am sure readers of Isn’t She Lovely and Broken will appreciate. I loved that it made Michael realize that he did have people in his life who loved him – and Paul’s stunt was a pretty good one and merely strengthened my desire to read Broken. Crushed was an enjoyable read and I look forward to checking out more of Ms. Layne’s word the next time I need a new adult fix.

Also Available in the Redemption Series

Book 0.5
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo

Book 1
Buy Links

Amazon US  ~  Amazon UK  ~  Amazon Au  ~  Amazon Ca
B&N  ~  iTunes  ~  Kobo

Lauren Layne is the USA Today Bestselling author of contemporary romance.

Prior to becoming an author, Lauren worked in e-commerce and web-marketing. In 2011, she and her husband moved from Seattle to New York City, where Lauren decided to pursue a full-time writing career. It took six months to get her first book deal (despite ardent assurances to her husband that it would only take three). Since then, Lauren's gone on to publish ten books, including the bestselling Stiletto series, with several more on the way in 2015.

Lauren currently lives in Chicago with her husband and spoiled Pomeranian. When not writing, you'll find her at happy hour, running at a doggedly slow pace, or trying to straighten her naturally curly hair.

Connect with Lauren

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Reviewers on the Wicked Reads Review Team were provided a free copy of Crushed (Redemption #2) by Lauren Layne to read and review for this tour.

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