The Book Barrio

A Blog for Fantasy and Romance Readers


Modern Romance

Kulti by Mariana Zapata


Kulti by Mariana Zapata


“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 twenty-seven-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 that 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.

Nothing could have prepared her for the man she got to know.

Or the murderous urges he brought out in her.

“Sal, please don’t make me visit you in jail. Orange isn’t your color.”

This was going to be the longest season of her life.


Wow. just wow. I read the Wall of Winnipeg and Me by Mariana Zapata and I really liked the author’s brand of slow burn. It totally worked for me so I wanted more and so I read Kulti, which I liked even more.

I would say that Kulti is one of my favorite reads of the year. It sent me straight to book hangover wherein I just had to read the book over and over again for a whole week. It was that good. If you’re a fan of soccer and slow burn romances, this is definitely your read.
Sal plays professional soccer for women. And Kulti is a famous retired player, who is coaching Sal’s team for the season. The characters progress from ignoring each other, to being great friends to falling in love. To me, this story is perfect!
Rating: 5 stars!!!




Review: Sebring by Kristen Ashley


Sebring by Kristen Ashley

Genre: Modern Romance


Nick Sebring has revenge issues. An evil gangster caused the death of his ex-girlfriend, and he wants to take that gangster down. So he woos the gangster’s daughter, Olivia Shade, with the hopes that he’ll get her to trust him and reveal the family secrets. But since this is a Kristen Ashley novel, he falls in love with his enemy’s daughter instead.

I must say that I have followed this author ever since I first discovered the Fantasyland series, and really liked it. You see, when you first experience reading a Kristen Ashley novel, it’s like being a dog from the mountains that suddenly gets its first city experience. Her writing style is light and fun. The heroines are full of nutty personality. And no matter how lengthy and stretched out the story is, you just can’t look away and keep asking for more. Her books are like never ending Happily Ever Afters that you binge read on all the time. That being said, it is unfortunate that this book is the book that makes me want to not read another Kristen Ashley book.

Instead of the usual can-i-please-have-more reaction, I just felt sick of it in the I-can’t-eat-my-favorite-food-anymore way. I’ve read all the other books by this author. And the writing is always superb. But I just did not find anything different or interesting in this book. It is like every other book that she has written. The plot seems like all the other plots she has written. The hero and heroine are just similar to her other characters, except with different names. Nothing makes these characters different. The book is good in the way that a novel by Kristen Ashley is good. It has her unique style and all. But it’s definitely not her best work, and it’s too similar to her past work that I should have just re-read her past work instead.

Rating: 2 Stars 😦


Review: The Score (Off Campus #3) by Elle Kennedy


The Score by Elle Kennedy

Genre: Romance, New Adult


The Score by Elle Kennedy is a College Romance. It is the 3rd book in the author’s Off Campus series. Having enjoyed the other books in the series, I immediately pushed this up on my to-read list. Allie is Hannah’s (Book 1 heroine) best friend. They’re roommies. When Allie decides to break up with her long time boyfriend, she needs a hiding place so she can avoid the stalker ex-boyfriend. Hannah’s boyfriend, Garrett, who just so happens to be on a weekend vaca with Hannah, offers to let Allie stay in his room for the weekend. He gives his housemate, playboy extraordinaire, Dean, instructions NOT to hit on Allie. But of course, Dean does definitely hit on Allie, while she’s drunk and feeling vulnerable from the break up. Hot rebound sex ensues.

What starts from a one night stand escalates into a lust fest between the two main characters. Dean is a manwhore, and Allie is the shy type who has the golden vagina that will change his ways. I swear this book has so much sex scenes that I could probably label it as an almost-erotica. I liked the chemistry between the main characters.

The story is expertly done. Its’s not just all about the sex. We see a couple that starts from being just in lust, into being in love. Nevertheless, this book isn’t as memorable as the first book in the series, The Deal, which remains my favorite. (If you haven’t this series yet, the first book, The Deal is $0.99 on Kindle today.) The Score, won’t get you re-reading anytime soon. But it’s a quick, enjoyable read for Romance lovers who need an HEA fix.

Rating: 3 Stars

Mini Reviews for the Hardcore Romances

Occasionally, we like to read the Romances that didn’t cross over. Here are some of the guilty pleasures I’ve read this week.


Act Like It by Lucy Parker

The hero and heroine are stage actors who have to pretend to date each other for publicity. The hero’s image gets cleaned up, and the heroine gets to have some money donated to her charity, which would be a win-win for all. The author’s voice is authentic and fresh. I like the light-hearted banter and how the characters grow on each other. There aren’t any of those “I’m pretending but I’m not and I’m so confused” thoughts that we usually see in these tropes. They are honest from the moment they stop pretending and really begin seeing each other romantically. The hero is a redeemable alpha-asshole.

Rating: 4 stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon



Cold-Hearted Rake by Lisa Kleypas

Widow falls in love with guy who inherits her dead husband’s estate. There are a lot of parts where the heroine was all, “We can’t because I’m a widow, it’s not proper.” It’s a Lisa Kleypas romance, which means it’s guaranteed to be a good read. I also like how the side character’s stories are set up future books. The ending left me wanting to read the next book because I am very intrigued by the side characters.

Rating: 3 stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon



Forsaking Gray by K.L. Kreig

A Twitter follower recommended this. It’s very heavy soap opera drama. The heroine left the hero because her father sold her to be the wife of some evil guy. Years later, they meet again and she is an emotional wreck about it and can’t tell him why she left. There is a lot of angst and just the right amount of tension. Since I’m an angst junkie, I couldn’t put the book down and I stayed up until 3 am to finish it. I think the love triangle is unnecessary and the ending feels a bit rushed.  (Book 2 is out today!)

Rating: 4 stars

Links: Goodreads | Amazon

Review: The Game Plan by Kristen Callihan

Genre: New Adult, Romance 


A beard-related dare and one hot-as-hell kiss changes everything.

NFL center Ethan Dexter’s focus has always been on playing football and little else. Except when it comes to one particular woman. The lovely Fiona Mackenzie might not care about his fame, but she’s also never looked at him as anything more than one of her brother-in-law’s best friend. That ends now.

Fi doesn’t know what to make of Dex. The bearded, tattooed, mountain of man-muscle looks more like a biker than a football player. Rumor has it he’s a virgin, but she finds that hard to believe. Because from the moment he decides to turn his quiet intensity on her she’s left weak at the knees and aching to see his famous control fully unleashed.

Dex is looking for a forever girl, but they live vastly different lives in separate cities. Fi ought to guard her heart and walk away. But Dex has upped his game and is using all his considerable charm to convince Fi he’s her forever man.

Game On


I really really loved the first book in this series, The Hook Up, so when I heard that there was a new book out, and people were raving about the 3rd book, and saying that they loved it even more than they loved the first book, I was really excited to get my hands on this one. My expectations were very high.

However, let me put it out that I read this book during one of my reading funks. It’s that time when avid readers like me, just don’t feel like reading anything at all. It’s like suddenly losing that crazy book appetite that I usually had, and given all the hype I thought that this was just the book to bring me out of my funk. Sadly, it didn’t resolve my book funk problems, I guess it was too much to ask, but I did enjoy the book.

Ethan Dexter, our NFL star, has always had a crush on his friend’s sister-in-law, Fiona MacKenzie. He’s always admired her from afar but has not made any move to show this. Years after college, Ethan and Fiona happened to be both visiting Ivy and Gray (Characters from Book 2) at the same time. They get re-acquainted with each other and this time, Ethan Dexter is making his move. What follows is a really hot courtship between the two.

Ethan was such a hunky dream-hero. He even gets adorable points for helping to take care of Gray and Ivy’s baby. Fiona, is still finding her way in the world. She is pressured by the successes of her family and wants to be known in her chosen field as well. I really like how Ethan wasn’t really Fiona’s typical type. Since it is a known fact that Ethan is a virgin, he’s the one who doesn’t want to have just a one-night stand. He wants to have a relationship and not just a casual fling. Fiona, is the one who is hesitant, given that they are both based in different places, with different jobs. When Ethan makes himself known to Fiona, his charming ways grow on her and they decide to take the leap.

Being based in different places, the new couple will have to struggle with maintaining a long distance relationship, while still living their chosen lifestyles. I liked how they seemed to understand each other and always make time for each other. There wasn’t any of those “You don’t have enough time me” fights or jealousy misunderstandings that are common in the long distance relationship trope. Here, we find a couple who is just really happy to have the time to see each other and make the most out of that time. Still, life throws some challenges in the way, and it was really nice to see this couple grow into their relationship and support each other all the way.

Definitely a must-read for fans of the series.

Rating: 3 stars

Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Lev (Shot Callers #1) by Belle Aurora

Genre: Modern Romance


From the moment Lev Leokov spots the young woman hiding behind her hair in the middle of the gentleman’s club, he can’t take his eyes off of her.
For the very first time in his life, he is affected. Having been told his entire life that he can’t process or understand emotion, he considers it a big deal.

When Mina Harris gets caught red-handed with a wallet that isn’t hers, she falls apart. She’s tired, lonely and hasn’t eaten in days.

Lev offers her an ultimatum… A nice warm bed, a hot meal and a job, or the cops.

Mina takes her chances with Lev.
After all, a person with nothing has nothing left to lose.


This is actually my first time to read a book by Belle Aurora. I’ve been hearing about her works from the blogging community, so when I saw a new release, read and liked the blurb, I thought I’d give it a chance.

The story starts when Lev catches Mina stealing his brother’s wallet for food because she’s homeless and so hungry. And Lev can’t help but want to help her. His protective instincts were triggered. So Lev offers to help Mina, by letting her stay at his place, and giving her a job at his gentleman’s club. And as they help each other along, they develop feelings for each other. This one’s a bit like a slow burn. It isn’t love at first sight, but more like protective alpha instinct at first sight.

The first half of the book was really good. It was about Lev and Mina getting to know each other. It was about Mina getting back on her feet. From being homeless to someone with a job and friends. You can’t help but sympathize with Mina and want to help her and see her get back on her feet. She’s been in the streets for 7 years after running away from her foster home. In some ways, she’s still innocent and not embittered by what life has dealt her.

Lev on the hand, has some secrets. He has a hard time reading people’s actions. So sometimes, when Mina needs something, she really needs to spell it out for him. He’s also got a kind personality. I was won over the moment he decided to help Mina. And as with every alpha hero, Lev’s protectiveness is hot.

The second half of the book felt more like a very long happily ever after. Here, we see the couple grow into their relationship. They still have issues to resolve about Lev’s family, the business and their circle of friends. We also get to meet Lev’s extended family, which I assume are characters from the other books by the same author. (Romance writers love to create dynasties of couples who know or are related to each other, they can’t help it.)

The secondary characters also provided a good diversion. The most interesting would be Lev’s siblings Sasha and Nas. They’ll probably get their own books in the future, as their stories are hinted at in this book.

One thing I didn’t like though, was that Mina kept calling Lev, “Sweetie” as a pet name. And to me, Sweetie is something a mother uses to call her little girl, and not an uber hot alpha guy. But that’s just me.

Overall, I think it’s a fun, light read. It’s good start to a series. Anyone looking for an instant Romance fix would enjoy this.

Rating: 3 stars

Amazon | Goodreads

Review: Hollywood Dirt by Alessandra Torre

Amazon | Goodreads

Genre: Modern Romance


Cole Masten. Abandoned by his superstar wife, Hollywood’s Perfect Husband is now Hollywood’s Sexiest Bachelor: partying hard and screwing even harder. Watch out Los Angeles, there’s a new bad boy in town. 

Summer Jenkins. That’s me, a small town girl stuck in Quincy, Georgia. I cook some mean chicken and dumplins, can bluff a grown man out of his savings in poker, and was voted Most Friendly my senior year. 

We were from different worlds. Our lives shouldn’t have collided. But then Cole Masten read a book about my small town. And six months later, his jet landed on our dusty airstrip, and he brought Hollywood with him. 

From the start, I knew he was trouble. For our town. And for me. 

Sometimes, opposites just aren’t meant to attract.

What the Barrio liked:

  • Summer (the heroine) – She’s got spunk, and she’s a 100% southern-bred lady. She got mad at the hero just for having bad manners the first time they met. When the hero comes to her little town to shoot a movie about Coca-Cola, he sees the potential to get her involved with the movie. She is also treated as an outcast by the town people after a failed wedding party.
  • Cole Masten – Famous superstar, movie producer and recently discovered his wife cheating on him. Travelling to Quincy was just what he needed in order to save his movie from being taken by his ex-wife in their divorce battle. He meets Summer and thinks that she is perfect for a role the movie. Of course he does this in a totally movie-star arrogant way that the sparks fly between them. Yes, he’s one of those alpha-holes that Romance readers are suckers for.
  • The filmmaking – I’ve rarely ever read something about Hollywood and this was a fresh take for me. I enjoyed reading about the aspects of filmmaking. And the little trivias here and there about the town that got rich due to Coca-Cola are fascinating.
  • Secondary Characters – such as Ben, really make the story interesting. He’s got a lovely personality is a welcome sidekick for Summer.

Overall, it’s a light, fun read.

Rating: 3.5 Stars


Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑

Typical Distractions

distracting the world one click at a time

Ana Spoke, author

It's time to get hella serious about writing!

the bookish khaleesi

Reviews, Tags, and a whole lot of Fangirling

My Midnight Musing

Living Between the Lines

%d bloggers like this: