I am officially a New Adult genre addict…again. And it comes as no surprise given the phenomenal writing style that makes this author’s books so impossible to put down, placing them into a category all of their own, somewhere between ‘when-I-grow-up-I-want-to-write-like-this’ and ‘how-many-times-can-I-reread-a-book-before-it-becomes-unhealthy’. After The Hook Up, I didn’t really think I could enjoy a college romance more than Drew and Anna’s captivating love story, but I was wrong. Gray and Ivy are two characters that we fall in love with on the very first page, their playful banter making us grin like lunatics, and as their story progresses, their every facet makes us love them more and more. This is the type of read I will always be in the mood for and cannot recommend it highly enough to anyone seeking a feel-good, confidently written, sweet but achingly sexy friends-to-lovers tale that makes you want to read it in a single sitting.
“I just like her. I really like her. She’s the first person I want to talk to. Every day.”
They might have bonded over a bubblegum-pink Fiat 500 and the shenanigans that may and may not take place inside this powder-puff car, but it was clear from the very beginning that Gray Grayson and Ivy Mackenzie would become best friends. Their friendship started before they ever even met, their endless text messaging and ability to open up to one another unreservedly thus weaving a rare thread of affection and trust between them that had been missing from both of their lives. So, when they finally meet, the awkwardness their expected to encounter between them immediately dissipates, leaving in its wake a heart-warming feeling akin to coming back home.
“I’ve just officially met Ivy Mackenzie, and I realize I’ve missed her for what seems like years.”
But being best friends with the only person in your life who has ever made you wish of things you never thought you would want, proves to be a constant challenge for both of them. The world might see him as a popular jock, the larger-than-life star player on a championship-winning football team, but there are so many sides to Gray Grayson that no one but those closest to him ever get to see. Highly intelligent and innately talented in much more than just playing football, Gray is determined to live life to the fullest by pursuing a career in a sport he truly loves, his motto of working hard and playing hard allowing him to always live in the moment and never needing to look forward to anything in his life…until Ivy.
“Am I really living for the moment? Or am I running away from reality?”
Ivy grew up surrounded by sports legends, her lack of ‘fan-girling’ tendencies making her a rare sort of female in Gray’s life. Her no-nonsense attitude and ability to see through his macho act make her the first girl to see the real Gray. Her hidden vulnerability awakens the natural protector and carer in him, his need to look after her as strong as his aching desire to be taken care of by her. Their unique bond grows exponentially each day, their easy communication making them utterly addicted to one another and to each other’s opinions, but when that addiction starts blurring the lines of friendship they so carefully drew between them, it becomes apparent that those self-imposed boundaries might have been nothing more than ‘lines in the sand’ they were destined to cross from the very beginning.
“…all I wanted to do was kiss her, explore the gentle curve of her lower lip before sucking on it. And Ivy would have flipped out. Because friends do not maul other friend’s mouths.”
I am a sucker for friends-to-lovers romances, and this one might just be one of my all-time favourites now because I loved these characters as friends even before I wished for them to become more. No aspect of their friendship is sacrificed in order to feed the romance storyline, and it is that loving, selfless, honest connection between them that won me over in the first place. The way their friendship is put first, before everything else, and the way they fight to safeguard it, often even against themselves, was a fresh and truly touching angle that I didn’t see coming. When their friendship is finally allowed to evolve into a love affair, my heart was already bursting at the seams, and it is through heart-shaped lenses that we then ‘live’ their romance, regardless of how steamy and utterly mouth-watering it gets.
“Jay-sus, he’s hot. And freaking huge. A veritable mountain of sexy. Seriously, Iv…You could climb him like Everest, make base camp at his cock, and tackle the rest in the morning.”
The faultless character development and the quirky dialogues are what sets this book, as well as its prequel, apart from many books of this type. The greedy reader in me would have wished even more insight into Gray’s problematic family background and the way those relationships then changed, but we were given enough knowledge of those events in order to form a realistic and credible picture of that facet of his personality, and anything more would have just been icing on the cake. I cannot believe I am saying this, but I loved this book even more than The Hook Up, which I adored, and that is all you need to know.
“You’ve owned me from ‘Shenanigans,’ Ivy Mac.”
“How would you want it to go, Mac? If you could have it your way?”
“What?” There’s a protracted half-laugh from her. “Sex?”
“Yeah.” My voice is weak, barely audible, but I have to ask her.
The silence on the other end has a weight that I feel in my chest. “Come on, Mac,” I say. “It’s just me.”
“Why do you want to know?”
“Maybe because most of us guys need a wakeup call.”
*Maybe because I want to know how to please you. Or I’m a dirty bastard who needs to hear your honey-smooth voice talk about sex.* Take your pick.
Anxious yet filled with anticipation, I rub the flat of my belly again. “Tell me,” I murmur. “Tell me how it would be good for you.”
Her breath hitches and for a moment I think I’ve gone too far. But when she speaks, it’s in a whisper that has an edge to it, one that sends heat straight to my cock. Because she sounds excited, tempted. “Just between us?”
My breathing picks up, lighter, faster. God, this is stupid. So f*cking stupid, like opening Pandora’s box. I’ll regret it, I know. And yet… “Just between us.”
She makes a little, strangled noise. “I can’t… Okay, okay. Screw it.” Another soft breath that has me clenching, and then, “It would start out slow. Just kissing. That lazy sort of kissing that goes on and on, all soft and melting, until you’re drugged with it and your lips are all swollen and sensitive. And you’re just kind of breathing each other in, you know?”
I swallow reflexively, my voice totally gone. No, I don’t know that kind of kissing. I’ve never had the desire to go there with any girl. But f*ck, I can imagine kissing Mac that way. Learning her mouth, shaping her lips with mine. My lips thrum with the need to feel hers. To sink into her taste.
Her soft voice glides over my skin. “And then he’d touch me.”
“Are you standing up or lying down when he touches you?” My voice is a rasp, but it’s a miracle I got the words out, I’m wound so tight.
She pauses. “I don’t know.”
“Are you… Are you lying down now?”
“Yeah.” It’s a gentle whisper.
My breath hitches, and I actually shiver. “Then you’re lying down. On your back.” I squeeze my eyes shut, images flooding my head. “Your hair spread out on the pillow. Your eyes on him, watching what he does to you.”
Her soft breath is in my ear. “He runs his fingers along my neck, his touch barely there. But I feel it. Burning a trail over my skin, down to my collarbone. And it gets me so hot, waiting for him to unbutton my shirt.”
“You want him to see you, don’t you, honey?” And, oh, f*ck, I can imagine it, spreading open Ivy’s shirt, exposing her smooth skin.
“Yeah,” she says. “My…” A huff of breath. “My nipples are so hard. Aching.”
Jesus. “And he slides that shirt apart. Exposes your sweet tits to his gaze.”
Mac makes a sound. A moan. My lower gut clenches like a fist. I can’t breathe. Can’t f*cking think. Slowly my hand eases down over my stomach, shivers breaking out in its wake. I shouldn’t do this. I can’t stop.