Have you ever read a book, and it just… completely starts off on the wrong foot? That initial stumble flavors your entire reading experience, and then suddenly all of these other little things start to bug you. That’s how this went for me. There’s a lot of good stuff going on in the story – a fake dating scheme, a small town feel, discussion of grief and healing, playfulness – but that sense of disconnect never abated and I found myself skimming. I’m usually a big fan of Madden-Mills’ work, but this just couldn’t recover from the initial issues.
The story follows Ronan, a former football player grieving the loss of the woman he loved. When he meets a sexy stranger at a party, Ronan feels a connection that he never expected. They share one steamy evening that devolves into the worst one night stand ever. A few years later, Nova runs into Ronan again… but he doesn’t recognize her. Disheartened that the night truly meant so little to Ronan, their relationship in present day is full of tension. Ronan is now the star football coach in their small town, Nova is his neighbor, and they just keep running into each other. In an attempt to get people to stop playing matchmaker, Ronan asks Nova to fake a relationship with him. She seems to be the only woman in town who is immune to his charms, and that both intrigues and infuriates Ronan.
I typically love Madden-Mills’ books, so I was both surprised and disappointed that this one just didn’t work for me. There’s nothing overly bad about the book (beyond an excessive amount of OW and OM drama), but there also wasn’t enough swoon to overcome that initial fumble either. There’s playful banter and some heat, but not a lot of intimate moments – the plot gets distracted by so many other characters. What was so bad about the start? Well, this opens with a sudden, vaguely described one night stand between strangers, and Ronan is so drunk that I questioned his ability to consent. The fact that he doesn’t even recognize Nova when they meet again a few years later makes the whole interaction feel really slimy. From there, I struggled to connect, and the parade of women throwing themselves at Ronan didn’t help. I liked the lighthearted, small town feel, but would’ve appreciated more focus on Nova and Ronan’s connection without everything else getting in the way.
I switched to the audio in an attempt to connect to the story better, but it didn’t help and I ended up going back to the text version. Not a reflection on the audio quality though – it’s narrated by Sebastian York and Savannah Peachwood in dual narration, so no complaints there. The runtime is about 10 hours and it’s easy to speed up a little if you want to finish in a shorter length of time. It’s a good choice for a workday listen – there’s a hint of steam at the start, then a slow burn romance. The upbeat vibe keeps the angst low, and the small town feel works well in the format.
An NFL quarterback turned small-town coach gets sacked by a Texas beauty queen in this swoony, passionate romance from Wall Street Journal bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills.
Gorgeous, talented, and brilliant, NFL quarterback Ronan Smith has the world in his hands. But after losing his career and his fiancée in a car accident, he falls into a pit of grief and bad choices. When a mysterious girl shows up to his party, he feels drawn to her and makes her his…for one night.
Former beauty queen Nova Morgan is on a mission. Scantily clad as a princess from a galaxy far, far away, she sneaks into a high-profile party to capture the attention of her favorite quarterback. But her hopes crash after an awful one-night stand.
Fast-forward two years. Broke and desperate, Nova returns home to Blue Belle, Texas, where, by a cosmic twist of fate, her broody neighbor is none other than Ronan, the shiny new football coach everyone adores. But he has no idea who she is.
The booster club keeps shoving women at Ronan to keep him in town. His solution? He proposes fake dating to Nova. But things heat up for real under these Friday-night lights when he realizes she’s the one who slipped away.
Has this jaded beauty found her forever baller, or will his past keep them apart?
About the Author:
Wall Street Journal, New York Times and USA Today best-selling author Ilsa Madden-Mills is best known for her angsty new adult romances and romantic comedies.
Eight of her eleven novels have placed in the Amazon Top 10 Best-seller List: Dirty English #1; Fake Fiancée and I Dare You #2; I Bet You, Filthy English, and Very Bad Things #6; Boyfriend Bargain #8; The Last Guy, her collaboration with Tia Louise, #4.
A former high school English teacher, she adores all things Pride and Prejudice, and of course, Mr. Darcy is her ultimate hero.
She’s addicted to frothy coffee beverages, cheesy magnets, and any book featuring unicorns and sword-wielding females. Feel free to stalk her online.
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