Sunday, February 5, 2017

Series Review: BEND OR BREAK SERIES by Amy Jo Cousins

Bend or Break Series
(6 Books, 2 Novellas)
Amy Jo Cousins

Off Campus


Everyone’s got secrets. Some are just harder to hide.

With his father’s ponzi scheme assets frozen, Tom Worthington believes finishing college is impossible unless he can pay his own way. After months sleeping in his car and gypsy-cabbing for cash, he’s ready to do just that.
But his new, older-student housing comes with an unapologetically gay roommate. Tom doesn’t ask why Reese Anders has been separated from the rest of the student population. He’s just happy to be sleeping in a bed.
Reese isn’t about to share his brutal story with his gruff new roommate. You’ve seen one homophobic jock, you’ve seen ’em all. He plans to drag every twink on campus into his bed until Tom moves out. But soon it becomes clear Tom isn’t budging.
Tom isn’t going to let some late-night sex noise scare him off, especially when it’s turning him on. But he doesn’t want any drama either. He’ll keep his hands, if not his eyes, to himself. Boundaries have a way of blurring when you start sharing truths, though. And if Tom and Reese cross too many lines, they may need to find out just how far they can bend…before they break.
Warning: This book contains cranky roommates who vacillate between lashing out and licking, some male/male voyeurism, emotional baggage that neither guy wants to unpack, and the definitive proof that sound carries in college housing.

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Nothing Like Paris
Bend or Break Series Book 2


Humble pie wasn’t supposed to taste this sweet.
Jack Tarkington’s life is in the toilet. He was supposed to be spending his junior year studying someplace cool like Paris or Rome. Instead, after taking out his anger on the campus “golden boy”, whose dad ripped off his parents, Jack is facing possible expulsion.
Sure, it’s all his own fault, but coming back to the small Iowa town he thought he’d escaped, after crowing about his admission to a prestigious school, has been a humbling experience.
When he runs into Miguel, Jack braces for backlash over the way he lorded it over his old friend and flame. Instead, Miguel offers him friendship—and a job at his growing farm-to-table store and café.
Against the odds, both guys bond over broken dreams and find common ground in music. But when Jack’s college gives him a second chance, he’s torn between achieving a dream that will take him far from home, and a love that strikes a chord he’ll never find anywhere else.
Warning: This book contains a humbled guy who’s on the brink of losing it all, a determined entrepreneur who seems to have it all together, apologies issued through banjo-picking duets, and two lovers who can play each other’s bodies like virtuosos.

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Carra's Review

After getting ticked off with Jack in the first book of this series, Off Campus, I was interested to see how he would be redeemed here in Nothing Like Paris since I did feel a little bad for him once I knew the reason behind his behavior.  Here in his story, at times he is still a bit annoying...but overall I came to like him in the end.  That's what second chance romance does to me ;-)

He and his ex, Miguel, can both be stubborn and they both definitely need lessons in communication.  I loved how dedicated Miguel was to his family-something that puts strain on his and Jack's second chance together.  I liked the two of them together-they sure did still have chemistry-and the drama from this story for me came mostly toward the end as the same issues from their first time together came back again this time around.

4 stars for Nothing Like Paris! 

The Girl Next Door

Bend or Break Series Book 3


When it comes to love, go big or go home.
Charles “Cash” Carmichael traded his high-rise condo and family-firm career for a job coaching soccer for Chicago’s inner-city kids. He’s adjusting to living on minimum wage when his young cousin, newly out and running away from home, shows up on his less-than-luxurious doorstep.
Angsty teens definitely aren’t Cash’s thing. He needs local backup, and there’s only one name he can think of: Stephany Tyler. Back in the day, the bisexual Steph was the perfect friend with benefits until she fell in love with a woman.
To his relief, his former friend steps up to the plate. Soon, though, Cash finds himself feeling the familiar need to keep her in his bed, and in his life. But Steph, burned by the ex-girlfriend and by the absentee dad she’s been trying to connect with, won’t risk her heart again.
Good thing Cash believes in leaving it all on the field. If he can just convince Steph to get in the game, there’s a chance they can both win.
Warning: This book contains ex-friends with benefits crossing boundaries a second time, several steamy encounters on staircases, copious discussions about gay sex from a “straight” guy, a shout-out to magic buttons, and an especially memorable going away threesome.

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Level Hands

Bend or Break Series Book 4


When it comes to love, there’s no such thing as smooth sailing.
Rafael Castro is so far out of his element he can’t even see it anymore. Carlisle College in Massachusetts is a long way from his Chicago home, even farther from his Dominican Republic roots.
The only thing keeping him attached to his last nerve is the prospect of seeing Denny Winslow again. The first time they met, Denny taught Rafi to fly across the water, rowing hard in a knife-like boat. Now, two years later, on the wings of a rowing scholarship, Rafi is attending Denny’s elite college.
Even before the excitement wears off, Rafi is struggling with classes and fending off rumors that Denny’s family, not Rafi’s talent, won him his spot. To quash the gossip, Rafi tries to steer clear of the man he wants. A plan that evaporates in the fire of renewed attraction.
But Carlisle’s academic pressure cooker has Rafi barely treading water. And when a family crisis hits, both Rafi and Denny must pull hard to keep their relationship from capsizing in rough waters.
Warning: Contains a surly Dominican-American guy determined to show no weakness, a golden boy who knows his soft spots, some seriously dirty bachata dancing, and an excellent excuse for voyeurism in the locker room.

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Carra's Review

Oh Rafi, how you frustrated deserve so much, if only you'd believe it yourself and own it.  Rafi is determined to make it at Carlisle, and he wants others to believe he should be there for his talent-not because of his ethnicity or relationship with Denny.  This is overwhelmingly the main source of conflict in the story, coming up over and over again to thwart things between Rafi and Denny.  

Denny tries hard to show Rafi how he feels, and if I was frustrated with Rafi...well, Denny was just as much so if not more.  You can tell though how strong his feelings for Rafi were just by how he stuck things out, always trying to make things work.  It was a little hard on me as a reader with the way Rafi was constantly making their relationship so difficult.

3.75 stars for Level Hands, and a major slap upside the head for supporting character Booger...Boomer...whatever...that guy sure needs it.

Real World

Bend or Break Series Book 5


When talking fails, it’s time to break out the big guns.
Five years ago, Tom Worthington busted his ass to overcome the fear and paranoia that led him to withdraw from the world and nearly lose his boyfriend. He never thought he’d find himself right back there, shutting Reese out, keeping secrets again.
Reese Anders is ready to try anything to get Tom to talk: if he can’t seduce his boyfriend with food, he’ll get Tom to open up in bed. But even Tom’s confession that his dad is getting out of prison soon doesn’t clear the air between them. And as the holidays approach, intensive mentoring from a new British boss creates more distractions, until Reese is keeping secrets of his own.
At a company Christmas party, it only takes Tom one look at Reese’s new boss to figure out how much danger their relationship is in. But he’s not about to let the connection that started all those years ago at Carlisle come to an end. It’s time to deal with their problems like adults. Face to face. Or back to front. Starting in the bedroom.
Warning: This book contains two adorable guys with way too many secrets, conciliatory rigatoni, a bedroom lesson on the power of multitasking, and indisputable evidence on what makes the perfect holiday HEA.

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Carra's Review

I loved Reese and Tom in Off Campus, so I was glad we got to revisit them here in Real World.  It's always fun to have a "where are they now" story to see the challenges characters face once they are solidly together...or so you hope.

I have to admit, this one moved slower for me for most of the story, and I was a bit frustrated by Tom and his keeping everything in and quiet from Reese.  Lack of communication is always a killer in relationships, which naturally led me to worry about where this was headed.  I felt so much for Reese throughout the story because of the way Tom was holding everything in.

There's Tom's father getting out of prison and Reese getting some personal attention from someone at work to add to Tom's stress about his own problems at his's hard to tell where the focus is supposed to be, but in the end I decided it was everything together pressing in on Tom and Reese's relationship meant to show how they could come through to the other side in the end.

The last quarter of the book did make everything worth it, and is the main reason I'm giving this 4 stars.

Love Me Like a Rock

Bend or Break Series Book 6 


In art and in love, it s the rough edges that make things interesting.
Having grown up with artistic implements always in hand, there s almost nothing Austin can t make real. Except for one thing an official relationship with his best friend, rowing teammate and occasional hookup, Vinnie.
The combination of emotional and sexual frustration fuels a spark between Austin and the nude model in his drawing class. Austin isn t used to having trouble focusing; models are merely challenging subjects to be rendered on paper. But the geology TA s direct blue gaze is powerful enough to drag Austin s focus away from his physique.
After a quick and very dirty post-class encounter, all the reasons that Austin has been waiting for his best friend go fuzzy in his mind. Sean is nothing like Vinnie. Sean is persistent, pays attention, and makes it clear he wants to be together.
But if Austin can t get his head and his heart on the same page, he could lose his friend, or his lover. Or both.
Warning: Contains rock geeks, tent sex, a dictatorial cox whose idea of a good time is drawing naked dudes, plus one naked dude who wants to be more than a good time.

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Hard Candy

Bend or Break Series Book 7


How to get over someone? Get under someone else—as soon as possible.
Vincent Lim always assumed his best friend (and occasional hookup) Austin would be waiting for him—that eventually they’d end up together. But now that Austin’s in love with another man, Vinnie is at a loss.
After the world’s most awkward one-night stand with a dance major, Vinnie knows the drill. Minimize the embarrassment by pretending they’ve never met. Yet Bryan’s vibrant spirit and calm center lure Vinnie like a shelter from an emotional storm.
But Vinnie’s thrown off his game by the rest of Bryan’s total package. Vinnie’s a rowing jock with a single-minded focus on living up to his parents’ academic and social expectations. Bryan might as well be outfitted with glittery butterfly wings—with plenty of pride to match. Vinnie’s haphazard attention to a lover won’t cut it this time.
Physically, they can match each other stroke for booty pop. But for the lovers to meet on common ground, they’ll have to find a way to get moving in the same direction.
Warning: Contains one uptight rower, a dancer who can rock a skirt like nobody’s business, yoga lessons, and the benefits of being very bendy.

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Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Bend or Break Series Books 6 and 7


Best friends. With benefits. But everything’s changing now…
Readers met Austin and Vinnie, two of Rafi’s college roommates, in LEVEL HANDS. Find out what happens to them after Rafi and Denny got their Happily Ever After in two novellas about finding love in unexpected places, LOVE ME LIKE A ROCK (Austin’s story) and HARD CANDY (Vinnie’s story).
BETWEEN A ROCK AND A HARD PLACE is the duology containing both novellas. Each novella is also available for purchase individually. If you’re a paperback fan, the duology is what you want. Ebook fans can choose to buy the novellas together or separately!

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About the Author

Amy Jo Cousins writes contemporary romance and erotica about smart people finding their own best kind of smexy. She lives in Chicago with her son, where she tweets too much, sometimes runs really far, and waits for the Cubs to win the World Series again. Amy Jo is represented by Courtney Miller-Callihan of Handspun Literary Agency.

Readers interested in autographed copies of Amy Jo’s paperback books can order them from Chicago’s fabulous independent bookstore, The Book Cellar. They can ship anywhere, and will email me to let me know there are books to be signed if you care to order them!

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