Monday, September 21, 2015

Blog Tour & Review: Bad Romance by Jen McLaughlin

Bad Romance
Stepbrother Series #1
By: Jen McLaughlin
Releasing September 15, 2015  

In this explosive novel from bestselling author Jen McLaughlin, a good girl falls for the ultimate bad boy: her stepbrother. Perfect for fans of Sabrina Paige, Caitlin Daire, and Krista Lakes, Bad Romance proves that passion can be so wrong it’s right.

Seven years in the army will change a guy. But after a shoulder wound ends his career as a sniper, Jackson Worthington finds himself back home, fighting a battle that’s all too familiar: keeping his hands off Lily Hastings. She’s still her rich daddy’s little angel, innocent, impossibly lovely, as squeaky-clean as Jackson is dirty. And she’s still his stepsister—forbidden but not forgotten, not after the soul-melting kiss that got him kicked out of the house at eighteen. He couldn’t resist her then. How the hell can he resist her now?

Lily is about to marry a man she doesn’t love, and commit to a high-stress job she hates, all to please the father who controls every waking moment of her life. On top of everything, her teenage crush is back, with a sleek, chiseled body and a trace of the rebellious boy whose lips sealed her fate. Jackson’s timing couldn’t be worse . . . or better. Because Lily’s all grown up, too. She’s aching for another taste. And for the first time, she’s ready to be a bad girl.

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“It feels nice,” I said, trying to smile. Her thin legs flexed as she moved her feet in the water, brushing her toes against mine. It wasn’t something we hadn’t done before. Soft touches like that. But tonight . . . it made me suck in a breath. I cleared my throat and tried to think of something, anything, to say. “I’m not even going to get to swim in it. Even if your dad refuses to admit it, I’m out of here for the army soon.”
“I know.” She sipped on her Coke, her gaze off in the distance. She looked . . . sad. Which inexplicably made me sad, like our emotions were tied together or some shit like that. Her small, delicate features looked flawless in the late-afternoon sun. For some reason, I couldn’t stop staring. I was going to miss her when I was gone, but that wouldn’t stop me from going. Nothing would. “I’m sorry he’s such a jerk to you. You deserve better.”
And that was why I liked Lilly; she was always on my side. She was the only one in this ridiculous family that cared about me. I lifted my own Coke and shrugged. “Whatever. I don’t care.”
“Yeah. You do.” She rested her hand on my thigh, and I tensed. I had board shorts on, so she didn’t touch skin, but still. It felt . . . intimate. And good. “I can see it in your eyes.”
No eighteen-year-old guy liked to hear his feelings showed in his eyes. So I scoffed. “Yeah, sure. Whatever.”
“It’s true,” she said a bit defensively.
No. It. Wasn’t.
I didn’t care about Walter, or his wife, or anyone but myself . . . and Lilly. She was the one exception. And I’d show her that, right here. Right now. Her hand was still on my thigh, so I covered it with mine. “The only person whose opinion matters to me in this house is sitting right next to me, and I mean it.”
She licked her lips and shifted closer. “I care about you very much, Jackson.”
“Yeah.” My heart sped up, and I smiled. “I know.”
A laugh escaped her, and she bumped me with her shoulder, her gaze focused on my lips. “Cocky much?”
“Yep.” The way she looked at me, as if she wanted nothing more than to see what it would feel like if I kissed her . . . well, there was only so much a guy like me could ignore. And I was leaving, and I wouldn’t see her again, and man, I wanted to find out what she tasted like so damn badly. Just one small, tiny, innocent kiss. That was all I wanted. No one would ever know. Not even Walt. “Know what I see in your eyes?”
She parted those soft pink lips and stared at me as if I was some sort of god or something. It made me feel a little bit ill, but also as though I could rule the world, if I had her by my side. “What?”
“You want me to kiss you,” I said, some unknown, greedy man taking over my actions. I trailed my hand up her bare arm, leaving goosebumps in my wake. “To be your first kiss. The one you remember for the rest of your life. To touch you.”
She trembled and licked her lips. “How did you . . . ?”
Curling my hand over her chin, I grinned. “Go ahead. If you’re brave enough to do it, to take what you want, kiss me. No one will ever know you kissed your stepbrother but us. It’ll be our little secret . . .”
I knew she wasn’t going to, no matter how much I might wish otherwise. It was why I left it up to her. I didn’t have qualms about it. Didn’t think it was wrong, or dirty, because she wasn’t my damn sister. But there was no way she had it in her to—
“You know what?” Crawling into my lap, facing me, straddling my thighs, she cupped my face and stared into my eyes. I got lost in hers, and some sinking suspicion told me that I was staring at the person I was meant to live the rest of my life with—which was crazy. “I know you think I’m too young, or too good, or too scared to do it . . . so I’ll prove you wrong. And guess what? You’re going to like it.”
And then she did it. She kissed me.
And she was right. I did like it.
Her soft, sweet lips closed over mine, and she tightened her grip on my cheeks. And, God help me, I finally found out what she tasted like. She smelled like vanilla, sunshine, and innocence, and she tasted like heaven. . . .
And bubblegum.
Moaning, I took over the kiss, pressing her perky, soft breasts against my chest and skimming my hands down her sides. When I gripped her ass and arched my erection up against her, she gasped, giving me access to her mouth. I took it. . . .
And then I took some more.
My tongue found hers, and she gripped my shoulders, digging her nails in as she pressed down against me, obviously wanting to feel my dick up against her core again.
And for the first time . . .
I thought I’d finally found a home.
Burying a hand in her hair, leaving the other on her sweet ass, I deepened the kiss, taking it to the next level. Warning bells went off in my head—this was getting too hot, too fast—but I ignored them, because she just felt way too fucking good. What had started off as a lighthearted flirtation backfired, because she was kissing me, and I didn’t want to stop. Having her in my arms made me feel as if I wasn’t alone.
As if we were meant to—
“Son of a bitch,” Walter growled from behind me.
I stiffened and broke off the kiss, my hand still on his daughter’s ass, and knew I’d fucked up. I’d forgotten to listen for anyone coming. “Shit.”
“Daddy, I—” Lilly started to say, scrambling to climb off me.
“Don’t talk to me. Go to your room immediately.”
Lilly gave me one long, panicked look, but did as told.
She always did.
“And you?” Walter grabbed me by the arms and yanked me to my feet. “How dare you defile my baby girl? Get out of this house, and don’t come back. You’re cut off. Not welcome here. Out of this family.”
I forced a careless grin, even though watching Lilly run from me was like watching my own heart leap out of my chest and sprint for the door. “It’s about damn time. I never wanted to be in it, anyway.”
Yanking free, I walked past the man I hated more than my own father. Walked right past my mother, and didn’t even look at Lilly, who stood paralyzed halfway up the stairs. If I looked at her, I’d waver. I’d want to stay, for her. And I couldn’t afford to do that. Not anymore. So I walked right out the door. . . .
And I didn’t look back.
Not even once.

Bad Romance was an enjoyable read. The relationship between Jackson and Lily has existed always to an extent. When Jackson entered her life, through their parents marriage, Lily was a goner. But the moment she acted on impulse, things took a turn and Jackson was gone while Lily was left floundering without understanding.

Lily is the epitome of the good daughter, doing what her father wants, even when it goes against her own dreams, wants and wishes. She's been the follower for so long, its ingrained down to her very soul, but when Jackson returns to town, Lily finds it hard to be who she thinks she should be.

Jen McLaughlin took on a task in writing this book, not only is there a taboo for step-sibling romances, but also she has a character who makes choices and decisions that are hard to understand and hard to not judge. Lily wants to be herself, and do what she wants, but she also doesn't want to hurt anyone. She's been told from birth who she should be and molded into that person, and its hard to break free of a mold once its been set. While I found myself wanting to smack some sense into Lily throughout the book and often wanted to scream at her, I could also commiserate with her feelings, because she was only doing what she thought she should; what she had been taught she should do. She was definitely torn between two halves of herself.

Jackson went through a lot, both before joining the military and after his return, it was not hard to see how much he was affected by his past as a whole. Jackson was lost, hurting and being way hard on himself when he first returned, not that he would admit it. I enjoyed watching as he worked through his own issues and allowed himself to grow closer to Lily, though the odds were stacked against them.

Bad Romance was written very well, pulling you into the story and struggling with the characters, but leaving you hoping for a happy resolution. Lily could annoy you with what some would view as wishy-washy behavior, but looking beyond her choices, to her reasons for them, you could see how torn up inside she was and that it was hard on her to do something she felt would deliberately hurt someone, but she also couldn't risk hurt to herself. Jackson was a great guy, rough on the outside, but also strong with a good core. The romance between the two of them worked for me and though it took a lot for them to figure things out, it was well worth the journey.


Author Info

Jen McLaughlin is the New York Times and USA Today bestselling author of sexy books with Penguin and Random House. Under her pen name Diane Alberts, she is also an USA Today bestselling author of Contemporary Romance with Entangled Publishing. Her first release as Jen McLaughlin, Out of Line, released September 6 2013, and hit the New York Times, USA Today and Wall Street Journal lists. She was mentioned in Forbes alongside E. L. James as one of the breakout independent authors to dominate the bestselling lists. She is represented by Louise Fury at The Bent Agency.

Though she lives in the mountains, she really wishes she was surrounded by a hot, sunny beach with crystal-clear water. She lives in Northeast Pennsylvania with her four kids, a husband, a schnauzer mutt, and three cats. Her goal is to write so many well-crafted romance books that even a non-romance reader will know her name.

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