Kulti by Mariana Zapata, narrated by Callie Dalton

female soccer player in mid kick against dark backgroundWhy I read it:  Lots of my friends enjoyed this one so I bought it.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  “Trust me, I’ve wanted to punch you in the face a time or five.”

When the man you worshipped as a kid becomes your coach, it’s supposed to be the greatest thing in the world. Keywords: supposed to.

It didn’t take a week for 27-year-old Sal Casillas to wonder what she’d seen in the international soccer icon – why she’d ever had his posters on her wall or ever envisioned marrying him and having super-playing soccer babies.

Sal had long ago gotten over the worst non-break-up in the history of imaginary relationships with a man who hadn’t known she’d existed. So she isn’t prepared for this version of Reiner Kulti who shows up to her team’s season: a quiet, reclusive shadow of the explosive, passionate man he’d once been.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Kulti is a slow burn, enemies to friends (well, at least one enemy anyway), then friends to lovers story and it is fabulous. Sal Casillas is a professional soccer player. She’s a woman so of course, she doesn’t get paid as much money as her male counterparts and her team doesn’t draw huge crowds but she’s as talented and skilled and dedicated to her sport as any man. Sal has a job doing gardening and landscaping work as well as playing soccer.

Crosstown Crush by Cara McKenna

impressionistic picture of the face of a woman of colour (probably of Persian origin if the cover is true to the text)Why I read it:  I’d been meaning to buy this book for ages and finally took the plunge. Then, I actually read it (this is uncommon – I buy far more books that I will never read. It’s a thing that happens).

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  When he’s working, Mike Heyer is all business—every inch the alpha male, with the hard, capable body to back up his persona. But at home he can be a different man entirely, harboring appetites only his wife gets to glimpse…

When Samira first learned of her husband’s fantasies, she was reluctant, even alarmed. But after witnessing the way they set him on fire, she yielded, and happily indulged. As their games have intensified, so has the rush. And now so has the risk—they’re poised to take Mike’s indecent desires to the next level, by opening their bed to a sexy, brazen stranger. A man seeming custom-made to grant every last one of Mike and Samira’s sinful wishes.

Welcoming someone new into their lives was always a dangerous proposition, but the couple imagined if anything was at stake, it was their privacy…not their hearts.

Spoilers Ahoy – what I want to talk about involves spoilers. The book has been out a while so I don’t feel bad about that. Still, be ye warned.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Crosstown Crush is a fairly unusual book for a mainstream romance publisher (Intermix) because it involves a husband with a cuckolding fetish. For Mike Heyer, he gets off on the idea of his wife cheating on him with another guy – a taller, more muscly guy with a bigger dick. A guy who, in the fantasy at least, is better than Mike. Samira, Mike’s wife, has been indulging her husband’s fetish via fantasy for a little while. She comes home late, smelling of the cologne of another guy (she stops at a shop and samples, there is no actual other guy at this point) and Mike confronts her. Samira then makes up a story about how she cheated and who she cheated with for her husband’s pleasure. Samira doesn’t get off on the kink herself but she does get off on how much her husband gets off on it. When the book begins, Samira is at the point where she’d be willing to explore actually having sex with another guy to indulge Mike’s kink. There is a bit of a lack of self-awareness here because Samira thinks it’s mainly for Mike, not really acknowledging to herself that thinking about other guys gets her hot and bothered too. She’s not a cheater by nature so for her to be willing to have sex with another guy just for Mike’s pleasure did not really fly with me. It was obvious from the beginning that Samira requires some kind of emotional connection with her sex partners. And that, in the end, is what causes all the trouble.

Summer Skin by Kirsty Eagar

hot pink cover with author's name and title appearaing as cutouts showing a girl's face laughing (I think - she could be screaming but I think she's laughing).Why I read it:  I have been waiting for ages for my library hold of this book to come in because books are too expensive in Australia.

Summer Skin is not available to US readers unless they get the paperback from the Book Depository but the good news is that Ms. Eagar has recently announced it will be published in the US so that will change – but not until 2018 unfortunately.

What it’s about: (from Goodreads)  Jess Gordon is out for revenge. Last year the jocks from Knights College tried to shame her best friend. This year she and a hand-picked college girl gang are going to get even.

The lesson: don’t mess with Unity girls.

The target: Blondie, a typical Knights stud, arrogant, cold . . . and smart enough to keep up with Jess.

A neo-riot grrl with a penchant for fanning the flames meets a rugby-playing sexist pig – sworn enemies or two people who happen to find each other when they’re at their most vulnerable?

It’s all Girl meets Boy, Girl steals from Boy, seduces Boy, ties Boy to a chair and burns Boy’s stuff. Just your typical love story.

What worked for me (and what didn’t):  Summer Skin is a book which worked for me on a visceral level. There was something about the… vibe of it which bypassed my brain in some ways and got me straight in the feels. That’s not to say this is an entirely id vortex book. I don’t think it is. I’m just saying that if I were to examine the text and pull it apart, I could come up with all these things to say about how there wasn’t much to the relationship between Jess and Mitch. Summer Skin evokes that suffocating feeling of desperate want overlaid with the scary uncertainty of navigating a relationship where the ground under your feet is liable to shift at any time. It’s all there in between the words (h/t CS Pacat). So much of it was subtext and feel. I’m a reader who often doesn’t get subtle so I guess Kirsty Eagar is able to tap into the part of me which does.

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