Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Blog tour: In The Red Zone by Crista McHugh

In The Red Zone The Kelly Brothers # 6 
By: Crista McHugh
Releasing March 25th, 2015 

All-Star linebacker Frank Kelly is as well-known for his off-the-field hits as he is for his on-field ones. When a dance club brawl ends with him in handcuffs again, he’s rescued by a well-connected woman who can get the charges dropped in exchange for a small favor. If he’ll agree to play the part of a doting boyfriend for two months, she’ll keep him out of the slammer and help restore his reputation.

Kiana Dyer may be the daughter of a Hall of Fame football player, but the charity organization she set up in his honor isn’t getting the media attention she’d hoped for. A staged romance with Frank Kelly is just the ticket she needs to get it in the spotlight. As the lines between fake and real start to blur, she begins to wonder if bailing him out was the best call she’s ever made. Just when everything seems to be falling perfectly in place, scandal surrounds her charity, and she’s the one left scrambling to clear her name.


Crista McHugh is an award-winning author of fantasy and romance who writes heroines who are smart, sexy and anything but ordinary. She currently lives in the Audi-filled suburbs of Seattle with her husband and two children, maintaining her alter ego of mild-mannered physician by day while she continues to pursue writing on nights and weekends. 
She is an active member of the Romance Writers of America (including the Greater Seattle Chapter and the Seattle Eastside Chapters), and Romance Divas. 
Just for laughs, here are some of the jobs she’s had in the past to pay the bills: barista, bartender, sommelier, stagehand, actress, morgue attendant, and autopsy assistant. 
And she’s also a recovering LARPer. (She blames it on her crazy college days)
The playful banter continued throughout the meal as he shared stories about his childhood. After they ordered dessert, he grew silent and studied her with his head tilted slightly. “Forgive me if I’m treading on something you don’t want to talk about, but what’s the story with you and Tre?” 
Her back tightened. He’d been so open and cheerful about his family that she envied him. Her family was filled with enough drama and secrets to warrant a reality TV show. “What do you mean?” 
“Well, for starters, he never mentioned you before Saturday night.” 
“I told you. Our father had some trouble keeping his zipper up. He had a fling with my mom while he was married to Tre’s mom.” 
Frank nodded, the light in his eyes telling her he was grasping far more than he dared to say. Her mixed race was something she’d dealt with her whole life. Her mom had been blond and blue eyed, so as soon as people saw Kiana, they knew her father was black. Her mother’s backwoods Georgia family shunned her for her black blood, just like Tre and some members of her father’s family had shunned her for her white blood. She’d grown up caught in the middle of two worlds, never really accepted by either.  
But the man staring back at her didn’t seem to curl his lip in disgust or crack a joke about her nappy hair. To him, it seemed she was more than just her race. He looked at her as though he saw beauty and nothing more.  
“So did you grow up between households?” he asked, making it sound like her parents had been divorced and sharing custody.  
If only it had been as simple as that. Her father spent years denying she was his, only to rescue her when she needed him the most. “No. I lived with my mother’s family until I was eight. Then Dad took me in.” 
“And his wife was cool with that?” 
She nodded, the corners of her mouth rising up into a smile. She’d much rather talk about her relationship with her stepmother than her half-brother. “Denise has a big heart and raised me like I was her own daughter. She told me that she’d forgiven him and wouldn’t hold his mistake against me.” 
“Sounds like a good woman.” 
“She is. She’s as much my mom as she is Tre’s.” 
“Is she active with the foundation?” 
Kiana nodded. “As much as she can be. I think she’s still grieving over Dad, and anything associated with it seems to dredge up old memories.” 
“I can see that.” The serious Frank resurfaced for a moment. “My mom went through something similar after my dad passed away, but it gets better with time. I think keeping busy with her church and bridge club helped.” 
“Not to mention keeping seven boys out of trouble.” 
He laughed and covered her hand with his own. “Are you saying I’m trouble?” 
“Most definitely.” She found herself leaning closer and closer to him until their lips were inches apart.  
“But only the best kind, right?” 
He had no idea how correct he was. She knew the danger of giving into temptation, and yet her lips longed to touch his. Her mind cautioned that one kiss would be the beginning of a slippery slope, but her body decided it would be worth the risk. She closed her eyes and closed the gap between them. 
Frank’s lips were firm and demanding from the start, moving against hers with subtle variances of pressure that heated her blood and sent a thrill coursing through her veins. He kept the kiss in check, though, and that helped to rein in her own desires. They were in a public place, after all, and she needed to maintain her respectable image. 
But damn, if they were behind closed doors, she definitely would’ve indulged in what he had to offer.  
She caught the flash of a camera when she opened her eyes. The jolt chased away the warm, fuzzy feelings elicited by the kiss and left a chill of fear in its wake.  
Frank laced his fingers through the hand he’d been holding and cupped her cheek with his other one. “Relax,” he said in a soft, soothing voice. 
“But someone just took a picture of us kissing.” 
“Um-hmm.” He placed another of those feather-light kisses on her forehead. “Let them. Remember your plan.” 
Part of her wanted to pull away, but she feared what the repercussions might be if she did. “Did you just stage that kiss?” 
“Nope.” But the mischievous twinkle in his eyes told her he might have had something to do with the photographer. 
“Frank Kelly, you are something else.” 
“You don’t know the half of it.” 

I’m a little torn about this book. It was a quick read that I managed to finish during the weekend, and even though it’s part of a series, I had no problem following the story.
It’s a sports romance and I’ve come to love this genre, even though I know nothing about football. :) The hero is a quarterback and a bit of a playboy, too. He’s made himself a reputation on and off the field, and I’ll admit that this was something that turned me off a little, since I’m not particularly fond of womanizers. However, I love reading stories of redemption, and watching the player falling hard and fast for a woman who’ll change him and his ways forever, so I gave Frank the benefit of the doubt.
On the other hand, I liked the heroine, Kiana. I liked her strength and her determination, as well as her mama bear attitude toward her little girl.
The instant attraction worked well in this story, considering Frank’s persona, but I was happy to see that, instead of acting on this attraction, he holds back and tries to behave and treat Kiana right.
What didn’t work for me was that I could never really get hooked or completely connect with the characters. I wanted to read what happened next but I wasn’t really dying to know if they would get their happily ever after. When I reached the end I also felt there was something missing. Kiana’s ex was mentioned in the beginning and throughout the story she felt threatened by his presence, as well as during the final twist involving Kiana’s brother (and Frank’s teammate), Tre, but we were never really told what happened to him. It felt as if he suddenly disappeared without a trace.
I liked the ending, especially since it featured Savannah, but I felt it would’ve been nice to get to read a little more about Kiana meeting Frank’s family for the first time. It was like it ended too soon and it sort of left the reader hanging, wanting for more. I don’t know if this was intentional, because we will be reading more about this in another book, but I really felt like something was missing.
There are a couple of graphic scenes I could’ve done without, but if you’re not bothered by that, you’ll enjoy the story, because all in all it’s a cute tale of a player finally finding The One, and of a scarred woman learning to trust in men and in love again.





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