Bench Player

Pub Date:   |   Archive Date: 31 Mar 2020

Member Reviews

This is the first book I have read by Julianna Keyes but it certainly won’t be the last. Bench Player is book 2 in the Charleston Thrashers Series but it can certainly be read and enjoyed as a stand-alone, I know this because I haven’t read the first in this series although that will change as soon as time permits. If you love sports romances with a few twists and turns you will want to one click this gem.
A bad season for the Charleston Thrashers has the new general manager looking for scapegoats so he tries to fire Allison Whyte the head of PR. Allison is desperate to save her job and the only option she sees is to make Connor Whitman the Star he once was before that fateful season that saw him going to jail for 2 years for insider trading .......what Allison doesn’t realise is whatever she does will not be enough because there is never a chance Connor will get his place back on the team.
Sparks fly as this couple spend time together and the enemies soon become lovers but what will Connor do when he finds out the real reason Allison is trying to help him get his place on the team back, will he walk away or will he fight for the love of his life.......
I’m looking forward to read8ng book 1 and hopefully more books from this very talented author.
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After reading Team Player, I didn't see how Julianna Keyes could top it but I shouldn't have doubted her. Bench Player is a fundamentally different type of romance with a very different feel yet I loved it even more. The only thing the two books have in common is that they are both love letters to baseball and to the players who step out on that field every season and give their all. The first book was fun and flirty, this book is almost melancholy and reflective. There is some occasional banter, but both Alison and Connor, the main characters, are facing crossroads in their lives. Both have lost their direction and need to figure out what's really important to them and how to obtain it. 

For Connor, it's all about regaining his career and being able to continue playing the game he loves for the team that he feels is his family, two years after he was convicted of insider trading and sent to prison. He's taken responsibility for his actions, owned up to his stupidity, and has paid his debt. Now all he wants is to get back on the team. As the team's PR manager, Alison has given her her life and energy for the last 12 years to the team, but now that the team ownership has changed, she's been told that her contribution is not valued and she needs to figure out how hard she's going to fight to save her job. In order to get what they want, they need to work together, but since they are both somewhat difficult and prickly, that's easier said than done. As for their relationship, no one is more surprised than they are when they are blindsided by a mutual attraction that they just can't resist. I hope Julianna decides to write more books featuring the team, but if not, I know I love whatever book she decides to write next.
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4.5 STARS!
I love Julianna Keyes and couldn't wait to get my hands on this book.
When the former left fielder went to jail for insider trading is released from prison, it's publicist Allison's job to reform his image and get him back in the game. With all of the things around them not going in their favor, namely Connor is a pain in the butt, the general manager doesn't want to sign him back on the team, AND Allison is fighting to keep her job in the process, we don't know if she will be able to succeed in getting this grumpy loner back to doing what he loves...playing ball.
What these characters don't expect is to see something in each other that the other had never seen before—that undeniable chemistry that just pulls them together—and oh that sexiness is just so delicious, I could not put this book down. Allison can't tell Connor that his chance to get back on the team is pretty much zero but watching Connor's hope and drive to get there coupled with her seeing the genuinely nice guy underneath that toughness just made my heart so happy. I loved being a part of their journey... the struggles, the laughs, all the feels... this book had it all.
As an aside I loved her relationship with her grandfather and seeing Connor's teammates felt like seeing old friends. I love this series and can't wait for more from Keyes.
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This was a cute sports romance that I really enjoyed! It was a pretty easy read, and I flew threw it. It was told in alternating perspectives of the two main characters, so we really got to know them and fall in love with them. I did feel like the ending was a little abrupt though. I wanted just a little bit more to wrap things up. Overall, it was a great book that I would definitely recommend. 

4 stars
I received this book for free in return for an honest review.
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I am always looking for a great second chance/redemption story and this one did not disappoint! This book is everything I needed this week  The writing was filled with witty banter. The story was a great blend of smart, sexy, funny, and emotional moments. Keyes is a new author for me but certainly won't be my last book by her. Five chilli peppers of hotness! 

I received a free ARC from the publisher in exchange for my honest opinion. All thoughts are my own.
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Oh my god this book was so good. It’s rare to find a book that makes you laugh and cry, let alone a romance novel. This one did it for me.

I read this in the midst of the coronavirus quarantine. It successfully distracted me, but also made me more sad than before that baseball is postponed.

Allison and Connor need each other professionally. He wants to redeem himself after two years in prison and get a chance to play professional baseball again. She wants to keep her job as head of PR for the Charleston Thrashers. Of course in the meantime they grow closer, that is to be expected. Where Keyes’ talent shines Is the well rounded developed nature of this journey. Thrasher teammates, Allison’s grandfather, and the evil boss are people that you’ve known, they’re real to the point of tangible. This book revolves less around the actual game of baseball than the last, but the scenes that do take place on the field are, as I’ve said before, the best baseball scenes I’ve ever read.

Just like at the end of the last book, I cannot wait for the next story in the Charleston Thrashers series. TBD on whether I want to see Denzel or Jorge first (it’s definitely Jorge).
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4 1/2 stars

I have to say I really enjoyed Bench Player.  I think I was impressed that the author didn't just redeem one character but two.  I felt like Connor and Allison were both misunderstood characters in Team Player.  Connor is in prison for insider trading and refuses to see his best friend, Ty, every time he comes to see him there (which is frequently).  That pretty much made me think he was a selfish piece of work.  Allison puts forth an image to everyone in the Thrashers organization that she's heartless and a workaholic with no feelings.  To get to see the true side of both of these characters in Bench Player was pretty eye-opening.  They were very different from what you expected.  What was even more fun was to see them realize that their perceptions about each other were also "way off base."

Connor comes out of prison with hopes of rejoining the Thrashers baseball organization.  He's been gone for two years and the club is now under different management.  Allison is fighting to keep her job under a boss that doesn't respect or love the game - he only cares about the money it can provide.  Allison is trying to help Connor rehab his image when they discover they have the potential to have more than a professional relationship with each other.  There are feelings there and they have to decide if it's worth the risk for both of them with so much on the line.

Thank you to NetGalley and Julianna Keyes for this ARC in exchange for an honest review.
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Review will post 3/25/2020

I remember finishing the first book in this series, Team Player, and hoping that I’d get to meet the man who went to prison and caused all the upheaval with the professional baseball team this series features. Well… it’s here! LOL

Connor Whitman has just been released from prison after 2 years for insider trading. He knows what he did was wrong and that he messed up in a lot of ways. Now he just wants to get back to a semi-normal life and hopefully, find a way back onto the Thrashers roster. He just doesn’t know how to do that. Enter Allison, the public relations manager for the team. She needs to rehab Connor’s image and get him back on the diamond, not only for Connor, but also to save her job. 

I really enjoyed Connor and Allison. They had this chemistry that just drew me in and kept me reading. I’m a big fan of sports romance so I was on board anyway, but add in a touch of grumpy meets stern/bossy with what felt like just a little bit of enemies to lovers and I’m all in. 

These are mature (30’s) characters and were dealing with a lot of real to life issues. And while the story could have felt heavy and bogged down with the main plot, this author did a wonderful job of giving readers just enough humor, tender moments, and fun interactions between Connor and his teammates and Allison and her grandfather to keep it balanced. Also, Allison and Connor have some nice, steamy love scenes. Really nice. 

Even if you haven’t read the first book in the series I feel like you can dive right in easily and not be lost. I really enjoyed Bench Player and hope to see more in this world.
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It’s hard for me to write a review that is as enthusiastic and upbeat as this book deserves, because things are so tough everywhere right now. But that means when I tell you it transported me out of my home and made me extremely happy for a few hours of coronavirus social distancing, you should take it as even stronger of a recommendation. I’m harder to distract and relax now than ever, and it’s great praise to say Julianna Keyes’ Bench Player thoroughly accomplished both.

Connor Whitman was on top of the world as the right fielder for the Charleston Thrashers - at least, until an ignorant stock deal landed him in jail for two years for insider trading. Now he’s out again, but a thirty-four-year-old ex-con isn’t exactly prime baseball material. Connor needs an image rehab.

Allison Whyte is the PR manager for the Thrashers, and the latest victim of blame-shifting by the idiot GM Kimball Dean, who has inherited his dad’s team. In a Hail Mary to save her job, Allison tells him she can do the impossible and get Connor’s poll numbers up. Although Kimball sends her to try, it’s with the guarantee that Connor isn’t up for a spot on the team. Spring Training is the best he can hope for - which Allison decides not to tell Connor.

The author tells this story in alternating first-person perspective chapters, and this is the rare case where it doesn’t just work, but actively enhances the story. We first meet Allison from Connor’s point of view, and she is utterly awful. I could not imagine how this woman could turn out to be the heroine. Then we get a couple of chapters from Allison’s point of view, and not only was I suddenly completely empathetic to her, but now I wanted to shake Connor for his stubborn resistance to her advice. Over the course of the book, their perspectives gradually converge, until each point of view shows the other as appealing and attractive. That’s remarkable writing.

Allison’s deal with Kimball is of course the looming Big Mis, but Keyes surprised and delighted me by pulling the trigger on that storyline early and making Allison and Connor work their way back from it. I also loved the sex scenes. Connor is one of those grumpy, taciturn heroes who are utterly focused on their partners, and yeah, that’s a weakness of mine.

I appreciate an older character written to be a person in their own right, not just to push the plot for younger people, and in this capacity. I loved Allison’s grandfather Biff, a legendary baseball player of the 1950s. Yes, Biff helps Connor get perspective, but given the rarity of major league ballplayers, that makes sense. Other supporting characters, like the flashy Ibanez or a behavior-challenged rival for Connor, are also well developed and credible.

I also love a well-developed setting. The author is clearly a huge baseball fan, and she makes sure Connor acts like a pro athlete, working out and watching his diet. She understands the nuances of the process of making a team, and how the American MLB works, with its minor league affiliates and seasonal schedule. Although her protagonists so far have been white Americans, she has a diverse supporting team, which is accurate to the league (I want to read about both Ibanez and the South Korean pitcher, Jae Hwa Kim, who talks smack through his locker room interpreter). Similarly, Allison’s PR world is developed, and I liked the idea of the whole team living in terror at the click of her shoes in the hallway.

What could be improved? While I understood that Connor is supposed to have completely accepted his guilt and worked through it, a man coming out of prison could have had at least one scene where he expressed opinions on/anger at the system (he got two years for insider stock trading but, say, Brock Turner got three months for felony sexual assault, and sentences for people of color for minor marijuana offenses can be over a decade). I like to think that once he got his career back on track, Connor became involved with employment advocacy for ex-cons.

Also regarding the ending - for a very long time, I wasn’t actually sure how the story was going to end, and I really enjoyed that suspense. The ending that Keyes settles on is satisfying, but maybe a bit too neat.

Bench Player is the second book in the Charleston Thrashers series. I hadn’t read the first, Team Player, but it didn’t matter for my reading experience. Despite the fact that the protagonists of that book are planning their wedding in this one, their reappearance isn’t saccharine and purposeless, which is rare in sequels. That being said, I immediately bought Team Player after reading this and since it’s excellent, you might as well go and get it and read them in order.

This was my first Julianna Keyes, and the fact that I followed it within an hour with my second should tell you how much I enjoyed it. I strongly recommend both books in the Charleston Thrashers series.

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This is the second book in the series and though I did not read the first one you really do not have to. The story mostly about Connor who is a star outfielder and had everything going good until he is arrested during the teams run in the World Series when they were up three games to one. After his arrest, the team lost the next three games and for the next two years while he has been in prison it has been so good for the team of him.
  Now released and wanting to play again his idea is to get back with the only team that he has ever played for. The new owner does not want him but will not tell him to his face right away. Enter Allison the PR person who has been doing it for years and now is stuck with a boss she hates who does not know the game and a grumpy ex-con who wants to get back into the game. He did not have a good personality before prison and now she must get him to work with her to fix his rep if he wants a chance at his career.
  She knows it will be tough because she deals with her grandfather who played in the game for years and he is just as stubborn now in the nursing home as he was when he had to go in., she loves him and figures if she can deal with him she can deal with Connor. 
  This actually turns out to be a very good book and without giving to much away this is one that gets better as you get to the end. Really a lot of good moments even the times when Allison was using her ice pick. A very good story, with very good characters I really liked her grandfather. Very much worth the read.
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4 1/2 Stars for this easy read!

After spending two years in jail all Connor wants is to play right field for the Charleston Thrashers again, but the team’s new General Manager has no interest in hiring him. When the new GM tries to fire Allison (the team’s PR person), she makes a deal with him ... if she can get Charleston fans to accept Connor back in the fold, that she gets to keep her job. Even though all the players call her “robot”, Allison starts to have feelings towards Connor as she works with him to improve his image. 

I loved the characters in this book. Connor was quite grumpy at first, but it didn’t take long for his gruff exterior to evaporate. Allison is this badass that has all these tough baseball players scared of her ... loved it! And yet the relationship between Allison and her grandfather just melted my heart. The banter between all the characters was very realistic ... especially the grandfather ... he reminded me of my dad when he was in the nursing home. A great book that shouldn’t be missed.

I received an early copy courtesy of the author in exchange for a honest review.
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Another great book by Ms. Keyes! I have waited patiently for months for Connors story. It did not disappoint! This book is about Connor and Allison. Connor was a baseball player who has been in prison for two years for insider taser. Allison is the PR Director for the Thrashers that Connor played for. 

The book starts with Connor being released from prison. His best friend and star player for the Thrashers, Ty picks him up and takes him to his mountain cabin. Connor was grumpy and not very social before prison. After prison he isn’t any better and his only focus is training to get invited to spring training for the Thrashers. 

Allison is the PR manager for the Thrahsers. She isn’t known for being all that friendly. She is feared by all the guys on the team. She is all business and when she tells the guys to do something they listen. 

Allison shows up at Tys cabin with a plan to get Connor back in the community. She shows ups with a plan on how to get the support of the Thrasher fans. Connors first thought is his worst nightmare has came true. He has know Allison for 12 years and they’ve never been friendly. She did her job and he did his. Since she has arrived at the cabin with her bags they are living together and she is slowly breaking down Connors will to get on board with her plan.

This books is wrote with dual POV, with two strong willed people. This book has it all to me with funny parts, sexy times and self growth with both characters. I really enjoyed how Ms. Keyes included the other Thrashers players  in this book and how they all supported Connor. It showed the true meaning of the word team to me. Read this book, you will not be able to put it down. You also won’t be able to not love Connor and Allison. 

I received an advanced copy for an honest review.
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I received this for an honest review!

My lord, did I love the back and forth between our characters I. This book. It was delightful reading their bickering and then more as it goes on. There is a few sad parts and I must say all deaths are sad, but this one did make me cry. 
This author write about over co,omg a past that is anything but good and showing you how to come out ahead in the other side with determination and faith. It of course isn’t easy and doubts creep in as we read this but it all turns out.
This book contain death, love, friendship and a HEA!
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Even though I have not read the first book in this series, nor am I a baseball fan, I really did love this book.  In fact, when I finished reading it, I bought the first – Team Player.  Bench Player is a standalone so it is not necessary to read the first.  Wonderful characters with both mains having prickly personalities hiding a softer emotional center.  Loved the banter between them too!  Even the secondary characters were strong and likeable.  While there were some sexy times, they seemed almost glossed over as they were not the in depth erotica of some romances.  There were some emotional moments that made me have to wipe my eyes. It was wonderful watching the emotional growth of Allison and Tyler.  Enjoy!
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When I saw this ARC available on Net Galley, I hit the request button immediately. Julianna Keyes is one of my favorite authors, and I had no idea she had anything coming out, much less another baseball book.

This is the story of Connor, the grumpy left fielder who went to prison for insider trading, and Allison, the ice queen publicist. I love stories like this, where two misunderstood people get each other. Allison is trying to rehab Connor's image in an attempt to keep her job, and Connor is trying to get his spot on the team back. They're both trying to win over the team general manager, who sounds a lot like someone currently occupying the white house in temperament. He swears he'll never sign Connor again, but Connor doesn't know that.

The relationship between these two is sweet, and they communicate like adults for the most part. There's no real unnecessary angst or drama. That's not to say there isn't any at all, just that it's not overwrought and that they act like adults about it. Julianna Keyes always hits the sweet spot with it, so that it's enough to make your heart clench but not so much that you feel like a wrung out dishrag afterward. They're good communicators with each other and the resolution makes you feel like they're very much on the same team and looking out for each other. It's nice to see them become best friends as well as lovers.

I'm so glad I came across this, and now I start the interminable wait for her next work. Thanks to Net Galley and the publisher for the opportunity.
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This is the second  book in this series and just as good as the first. So again  I encourage you to read it you will get a better understanding of this cast of characters. So we met Allison in the first book, she was the head honcho in PR, known as a tough woman and I am saying that nicely, I liked Allison because she stood by Gwen and even championed her so she won my loyalty after that. We also knew a little about Connor in last book since he was Ty's best friend, the one in jail. So Connor gets out and his goal is to make it back to the Thrashers but isn't having an easy time reentering society, then comes his nightmare in the form of Allison. Unfortunately for Allison her new boss is incompetent but he is the owner now since his father passed the reigns to him and he has no clue what he is doing so he fires her however she comes up with a plan to get connor to form proving how good she is and he allows it, not really having any intention of rehiring Connor. While they spend time together, yup you guessed it the sparks are flying and they give in to it, but what happens when Connor finds out the real reason Allison is helping? Grab a copy and find out and Enjoy!
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I adored it. What an interesting and  gritty romance. I loved him from the first few pages, he’s a great character.  and Allison?! Wow love her.

I found the relationship with Ty a bit odd it didn’t feel right and I struggled a bit with the whole Kimball fiasco but the baseball was great and it’s a lovely read.

There were a few typos but it’s arc so that’s expected
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This was a really fantastic read. I am definitely fan of the author and appreciate how she crafts well written romances with interesting and realistic characters. Baseball player Connor is a grumpy hero (and we all know I love those) who has just gotten out of jail after two years for insider trading. He has no family and no real friends outside of the Thrashers organization so he desperate to reclaim his spot on the team. Allison needs to help revamp his taciturn image in order to save her own job with the Thrashers so she foists herself on the unsuspecting Connor with a 71 page game plan.  The story is well balanced with humor, tears, and some serious heat as two characters who are very used to being on their own learn to open up to another person. I loved all of the relationships in this book especially any time Biff was on the page. I am so glad I still have the first book in this series to go back and read because I can tell this is a series I am going to love from start to finish. 

I received a copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.
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I loved the first book in Ms. Keyes newest series, and I wasn't sure how she could redeem a jailed/surly/seemed kind of dick secondary character, so I was a teensy eensy bit worried about book two.  But I had faith.  Also, Allison was super badass and I loved her, so...

Anyway, my faith was amply rewarded with this absolute sexy and smart charmer of a book.  I think I liked it better than Team Player?  Don't hold me to that; I'm re-reading it right now.  First off, I don't know who that cover model is, but he's sexy as hell and I was prepared to love him no matter what.  Fortunately, he turns out to be a great guy who made a really bad decision that nearly destroys his life.

In Team Player, Tyler Ashe spends the first part of the book pining for his best friend/brother from another mother/Charleston Thrasher teammate, Connor Whitman.  Readers soon learned that Connor is in jail; after pleading guilty to insider trading, he's serving a two-year sentence behind bars.  He refuses to have any contact with Tyler, or any of his former teammates/friends, and makes it extremely hard for a reader to like him.

Bench Player kicks off with Connor determined to regain the life he lost by making a supremely big mistake.  In his defense, he didn't understand he was committing a crime when he traded on insider information, but what's happened is done, and he just wants to move on.  Connor has a fairly simple vision for his future:  regain his position in the Thrasher line-up.  To that end he plans to train, and train, and train some more.  Fortunately, he still has Tyler on his side; Tyler picks him up from jail and deposits him at his mountain retreat.  Unfortunately, Tyler (and his adorable girlfriend Gwen and her corn) are determined to help him.  They've read all about how to best support Connor post-prison, but all Connor wants is space.  So he tolerates their well meaning efforts to support his reintegration into society, pretending all their efforts to support him are helping, and then he practically pushes them out the door for a planned Mexican get-away.  He thinks he's in the clear to proceed with his train, train, train plan.  Until the doorbell rings.

Allison Whyte is the badass PR manager for the Charleston Thrashers.  Players fear her.  Co-workers fear her. 
 But she gets shit done, and she loves her team.  But when Bench Player begins, Allison is desperate.  The newly installed General Manager (son of the former head honcho) wants to clean house.  He fires her.  Allison, an expert in finding solutions to tricky problems, doesn't panic.  At least, not visibly.  She makes a deal with her boss - promising to rehabilitate the image of Connor Whitman, their ex-con former player, and use the image makeover to generate bigger tickets sales.  IF she can do it, she can save her job.  The GM doesn't plan to add Whitman to the roster - but Allison hopes that if her plan succeeds, he'll have to anyway.

Bench Player is smart and sexy and funny from start to finish.  Connor and Allison struggle to find any common ground right from the get-go; he doesn't want her help, and doesn't even understand he needs it, and Allison can't tell him the truth about his chances with the team, but has to convince him to accept her help anyway.  They butt heads and trade hilarious insults and argue...and it's all delicious foreplay for what's to come once Connor finally gives in and lets Allison 'do her thing.'

I liked both of these characters very much, and once they team up, the novel shines.  Team Player gave readers a glimpse of who Allison and Connor 'might' be - but Keyes kept the details deliberately vague.  I don't want to spoil the story, but suffice it to say, she does a marvelous job proving both of these characters deserved a chance at principal characters, and that those grumpy/tough personaes are simply the masks they wear to keep others at a distance.  Allison is a wonderful surprise, and her relationship with Biff, her feisty grandfather, is a highlight of the novel.  Connor is similarly well-realized, and his emotional growth and maturity as a player/teammate/boyfriend/friend feels organic to the story.  He's extremely likeable when he's not being a grumpy, stubborn jerk, and your heart goes out to him every time he struggles with his re-entry into society.  His fears and anxieties and trust issues felt authentic to the character and the story.

But let's get back to these two as a couple.  From the moment Allison rings Tyler's doorbell (that sounds pervy doesn't it?), it's clear these two have chemistry.  True, they sort of resent/hate each other, but it's chemistry.  I love that the transition to lovers happens suddenly - like, wait a minute, did that just happen? suddenly - but in Ms. Keyes capable hands, things don't immediately go weird and awkward.  Instead, they act like adults and admit they're attracted to each other.  Yes, it causes all sorts of other problems...but admitting they like and admire and desire each other isn't one of them.  The Big Problem, when it finally comes, is totally expected, and no less devastating when it does.  I digress.  Connor and Allison are a super hot couple, and this combination worked for me on every level.

Bench Player deals with heavy subject matter, but Keyes shows a deft hand balancing these issues with lively, funny dialogue, like-able principal and secondary characters, and lots of humor and heat.  Her love of baseball shines through Connor and Allison and this story, and nearly convinced me I might like baseball, too.  I don't.  FTR.

Loved it.  5 stars.
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The story of Connor and Allison.

She is trying to help him out, and also save her own job in the process. Soon she gets to know who he is as a person, and is falling for him.

Great read, looking forward ot reading the rest of the series.
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