Laid Out – A Review (plus an interview with the author and a giveaway!)

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Today, I’m reviewing Sidney Halston’s Laid Out, and I am really excited about this one. Netgalley provided me with a free copy of this book in exchange for my honest review. In addition to my review of the book, I also have an interview with Sidney, and a chance for you to enter a giveaway to win some great ebooks!

The Book

Perfect for fans of Monica Murphy and Cecy Robson, Sidney Halston’s scorching new MMA romance proves there are no holds barred when it comes to seduction.

Growing up an Army brat, Violet Channing could never meet her dad’s high expectations. But in the eyes of her best friend, she could do no wrong. He even insisted that he should be her first kiss. Now Cain Sorensen is all grown up, hardened by years in special ops and always looking for a good fight. Tall, with striking blue eyes and impossibly blond hair, he’s a modern-day Viking warrior. Of course, Violet’s all grown up, too, and she’s ready to surrender to his every command.

Cain knows he’s bad for Violet. His work is dangerous, and his hobbies are downright deadly. As a private mercenary and a mixed martial arts fighter, he could never let such an innocent soul into his world. And yet his most grueling combat training is no match for Violet’s killer curves, hot touch, and suggestive glances. Now all of Cain’s most explosive fantasies are coming true—but once they cross the line between friends and lovers, there’s no turning back.

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Excerpt-Banner

Hot and sweaty sex, that’s what you need,” Jamie Lynn, better known as JL, said as she threw clothes on Violet’s bed.

Hot sex. Hot sex.”

Shut up, Bird!” Violet’s hands were on her hips as she tapped her foot and scowled at her annoying parrot, appropriately named Bird. “I don’t need sex. I’m perfectly content with my life.”

Perfectly content? Bo-ring,” JL sang out. “There is more to life than ‘perfectly content.’” She pulled out a pair of skinny jeans and a top Violet had bought months before but had never dared to wear. “Oh! This one. This one’s perfect. John will love it.”

Violet loved her friend, but they were so different. Violet looked like a wholesome Texas girl, complete with freckles and a full head of blond curls, while her best friend and roommate, JL, looked like a tattooed pixie, complete with short lilac hair currently spiked up. The only thing they had in common was their southern twang and short stature. “I hope this John guy doesn’t think I’m having sex with him tonight. God, I hate blind dates,” Violet groaned. “What did you tell him?”

That my perfectly content, wonderfully hot, sexually deprived best friend needed a meet-and-greet with Little John.” She held out her hands about a foot apart and winked. “I also told him Big John was invited to attend the date too. But most importantly, I told him Little John better be ready, willing, and able to take one for the team, because your vagina called me last night and begged me to call John for you.”

Vagina. Vagina,” Bird squawked.

Ugh! If you don’t shut it, I’m going to cover your cage!” Violet scolded Bird. “And as for you . . .” She pointed at JL. “I don’t want to meet Little John tonight. I don’t even want to meet Big John.” Violet scooped up all the clothes that JL had strewn across her bed and began to hang everything back up.

What are you doing?” JL asked.

I’m not wearing any of these things. They’re too revealing and too tight. You forget that I’m not a size zero like you.” Violet stopped in midstep, let go of the clothes, and fell back onto the bed with a groan.

Trust me—a little revealing is fine, Vi. And so is a little tight. I assure you, men like your tits and ass better than my bony chest and tiny butt. No offense, chick, but you need a little lift in the wardrobe department. Scrubs with little yellow bunnies aren’t going to get you laid. And anyway, since when are you self-conscious?”

I’m not. Not at all. I’m happy with my body; I just don’t want all the goods on display.” She motioned to her chest. “You know I don’t like to dress like that.” She grabbed a tiny pair of shorts JL had tossed on the bed and flung them onto the floor. “Leave something to the imagination and all that. And I’m not looking to get laid. I’m just looking for a nice guy.” She took a deep breath. “God, I think I’m going to throw up.”

Just shake it off, girl. It’s nerves. It’s been way too long since you dated. You’re the one who’s been whining about not wanting to go dateless to our high school reunion. Prince Charming isn’t just going to knock on your door and beg to go on a date. You need to go out and meet people, especially if you’re going to find a date in two weeks.”

Ugh! I can’t believe it’s been ten years since I’ve seen most of those people, and I can’t believe I agreed to go. I don’t know if I want to go see all those pretentious jerks.”

We’re going. You, me, and Travis. Well, my dear twin brother doesn’t know I’m making him go yet, but he’s coming. We all have to go. You have absolutely nothing to worry about. Travis and I didn’t fit in when we started junior year, so imagine what they’ll think now,” JL said, indicating her tattooed arm. “You’re a nurse. Me, on the other hand, I’m a bartender and Travis is a broke MMA fighter. So suck it up, girlie, ’cause we’re all going. You have a couple of weeks to find a date.” JL placed her palms on Violet’s shoulders. “Take a deep breath.”

Violet followed JL’s instructions.

Tonight’s just a date,” JL continued. “I was just kidding about Little John. Big John’s not expecting anything more than a nice meal at the Pier. I’ll be right there, and so will half the town. I made sure you were at a familiar place, okay?”

Violet closed her eyes and took a shaky breath. JL handed her some clothes; Violet didn’t miss that JL had given her the too-tight jeans and the too-revealing top. “And if it doesn’t work out tonight, that’s cool too. You just go stag. No biggie.”

You don’t think it’s too soon to date?” Violet slumped down onto her bed and began to squeeze into the clothes.

It’s been over three and a half months since your father died. Yeah, maybe that feels soon, but before he passed you hadn’t been on a date in months. Maybe years,” JL said. “And we can’t change the date of the reunion.”

I have dated. Remember Joe?” She was inside her walk-in closet. “Oh, and Tim. I dated Tim too. And there was a Tom and a Rob.”

Do you only date guys with three letters in their name?” her friend teased. Violet tossed a scarf at her. “Seriously, Vi, those weren’t real dates. I’m calling bullshit, honey. It has nothing to do with your dad passing away. Even before that you never committed to enjoying yourself. You have to close your eyes and say to yourself, ‘I’m going to try.’ That’s all I ask, that you at least try. And not for the sake of the stupid reunion but because you deserve happiness.”

Hellooooo? John? Date? Tonight?” Violet waved her arms and then pointed at herself. “That’s me trying.”

Do or do not. There is no try.”

What?”

JL laughed and waved her hand. “Yoda. Star Wars. Never mind. The point is, you better commit to at least two hours, and I don’t want to hear anything dumb, like how he chews weird or has an uneven haircut.

The Interview

 

 

WM: According to your bio on Goodreads, writing was a dream that you decided to finally chase at the age of thirty. What prompted that decision?
 
SH: Hi there! Thank you for having me here today. I’m a strong believer that things happen for a reason. When I had my twins, I had a big life changing issue with my professional life in the midst of having these newborns. Instead of eating my emotions (which I almost did), I just decided to finish the story I had started writing years earlier. Mostly to keep busy. That led to writing the sequal (Seeing Red/Seeing Black) and eventually Against the Cage. Had that not happened, I probably would’ve been stuck in a job I hated instead of writing stories I love and meeting people that have become dear friends.
 
WM: The Worth the Fight series seems very different than your first book, Seeing Red. Do you enjoy writing such variety, or do you think the Worth the Fight series is more in line with what you would like to write all the time?
 
SH: Yes, I like contemporary romance best and I hate to say “never” but I doubt I’ll stray from contemporary romance.
 
WM: How did you come to set the Worth the Fight series in the world of MMA fighting?
 
SH: My husband is a fighter and I was drawn to the camaraderie between these big strong men who beat each other up and can later have a beer as if nothing happened. Plus, I watch MMA fights with my husband all the time and love it.
 
WM: In Laid Out, Violet isn’t a typical romance heroine – she worries about her weight and how she looks, though she does have her moments of confidence. I loved reading her, and watching as she developed from being insecure to gradual full confidence. I found this especially intriguing given that Cain is former military and an MMA fighter, so he’s obviously very fit and confident. Did you feel you were taking a risk by creating a heroine who was slightly outside “normal” or did you think it was time we had a heroine that we could all relate to like this?
 
SH: Yes. It was risky and difficult. I think we all have our hang ups and that doesn’t make us weak. I’ve already had some early reviewers say that she’s weak because she has weight issues or because she complains about it. As a writer, you can’t please everyone so I can just write what I think is best. Personally, I think the fact that she isn’t perfect but has confidence in spite of it (and with Cain cheering her on) makes her stronger.
 
WM: As a reader, I loved the way you built the sexual tension between Violet and Cain with lots of looks, talk, and going right to the brink but stopping before they actually had sex. How did you manage to hold off on letting them have what they so obviously wanted for so long – did you enjoy tormenting them like that, or did you just know it was what you needed to do for their relationship to be the best it could be?
 
SH: If they had sex from the 1st moment they saw each other again, the story would have ended on page 3. The story IS about the slow build, the torment, the sexual tension. Cain had a lot of things to overcome and so did Violet. I knew it had to wait and I also knew some people were going to love this about it and some (a lot) were going to hate it. But if you step back and think about it, if they’d had sex earlier it just wouldn’t have worked.
 
WM: I’m looking forward to going back and picking up the first three books in the Worth the Fight series. Right now, it looks like there’s going to be six books total? Or will there be more?  
 
SH: At this point, I think the series will end with Travis in book 6 BUT you will also meet some new characters in book 5 and 6 that may lead to a spin off (hint hint).
 
SH: Thanks you so much for taking the time to review LAID OUT and for this interview! Xoxo

My Review

Laid Out is hot!

The chemistry between Violet and Cain was incredible, and I found it intriguing that she had ended up with their friend Jeremy at first. I enjoyed seeing how Cain dealt with his guilt over Jeremy’s death and loving Violet, and Violet’s feelings about Jeremy and the relationship she had with him. It gave me insight into their personalities, thoughts and feelings about both relationships and each other without being too in the face about it.

I didn’t realize at first that this was the fourth in a series – which is awesome. I say awesome because first, it means I can go back and read three more books by her and about the same place/people, and second, it means the book works well on its own, without relying on what was written in the past. I always feel that’s an important quality in a book series, so that if people pick up a book later in the series, they don’t feel confused, bored, or irritated by information that seems to be missing but was really provided previously.

I enjoyed seeing characters from previous books (even if I haven’t read those books yet!), and getting hints of the characters that will star in books to come. Oh, and Violet’s bird? I loved him! It was hilarious to see the things this bird kept saying, and her frustration with it.

I also adored the fact that Violet was a plus-sized character. As an avid romance reader and writer of them as well, I know all too well that the typical romance heroine is thin, tall and gorgeous with big breasts, tiny waists, and long, slender legs – oh, and the perfect tan. So the fact that Violet wasn’t what you would typically call “beautiful” was a huge plus in my opinion – I felt like she was easier to relate to, with her doubts about her appearance and her sometimes wavering between doubt and confidence as she found her way.

Halston knows how to write one heck of a hot sex scene, too – especially when it’s a scene that actually includes no real sex at all. She not only wrote great chemistry between Cain and Violet, but also managed to build on the sexual tension and bring it to the breaking point before finally, FINALLY, letting them actually come together physically.

Loved this book, can’t wait to read the previous three in the series, and looking forward to book five coming out later this year!

Buy Links: Amazon B & N | iTunes Kobo

 

Find Laid Out and the entire Worth the Fight series on Goodreads.

Author Info

Sidney_Halston

Sidney Halston lives her life by one simple rule: “Just do it.” And that’s exactly what she did. At the age of thirty, having never written anything other than a legal brief, she picked up a pen for the first time to pursue her dream of becoming an author. That first stroke sealed the deal, and she fell in love with writing. Halston lives in South Florida with her husband and children.

Author Links: Facebook | Twitter | Website | GoodReads

 

The Giveaway

You can enter the Rafflecopter giveaway and win:

One Loveswept Mug

One Flirt Mug

Ebook copies of:

  • JUST A LITTLE CRUSH by Renita Pizzitola
  • CRUSHED by Lauren Layne
  • AGAINST THE CAGE by Sidney Halston
  • POSSESS by Laura Marie Altom
  • AFTER MIDNIGHT by Kathy Clark
  • MAKE YOU BURN by Megan Crane
  • MY HIGHLAND LOVER by Maeve Greyson
  • BREAKING NOAH by Missy Johnson and Ashley Suzanne
  • A FASHIONABLE INDULGENCE by K.J. Charles
  • FORBIDDEN by Jacquelyn Frank

You can follow the rest of the tour here, to read more reviews, guests posts and interviews with Sidney Halston.

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