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Monday, May 2, 2016

Review: Leveling the Field by Megan Erickson

I have a serious love/hate relationship with the last books of a good series. This one is no exception. *sniffles*

Format: .mobi (A copy of this book was provided by the publisher via NetGalley for the purpose of an honest review. )
Publisher: Brazen
Release Date: May 2, 2016

Reclusive magazine exec Ethan Talley is furious when his business partner hires a photographer—a gorgeous photographer who insists on speaking her mind, damn it—to take pictures for an upcoming article. No matter how badly he wants the woman…under him, over him, against the nearest wall…he has reasons for not wanting to be on camera anymore, and his scars are only one of them.

It takes approximately two seconds for Lissa Kingsman to recognize Ethan as the popular YouTube gamer who fell off the planet years ago. But this Ethan is different than the charming man she used to watch, and the crush she had on him then is nothing compared to the way she’s lusting after the brooding man he is today. If sex is all he can give her, fine. Why not use that bearskin rug in her studio for something other than a prop? But she’s determined to put a chink in his armor, no matter how much he resists.

Ethan Talley has been punishing himself for years since a tragic accident cost him almost everything he cared about. The reclusive magazine executive pretty much ghosts his way through each day until his business partner and friend hires a photographer for an upcoming article. Ethan is furious even though he finds Lissa Kingsman attractive and lively. Lissa recognizes Ethan as the gamer she used to watch (and crush on) on YouTube but he’s no longer the same easy going, charmer he used to be. Instead Ethan is rude, a little mean, and hurting. The attraction between the two quickly turns physical and Ethan clearly intends it to be just physical, but Lissa always has her own opinions on every situation.

Ugh, I have just fallen head over heels for this series and I’m sad to see it come to an end but at the same time, I’m glad Megan Erickson left Ethan for last. He was so damaged, angry, and in pain and he needed time to be that way before any kind of attempt to help him was made. I think that by letting readers see glimpses of Ethan in almost every book, it made him more interesting, more sexy, and definitely more heartbreaking.

Surprisingly, I loved this version of Ethan even though the younger, more carefree Ethan was never really shown other than in flashbacks or comments made by other characters. “Before” Ethan was cocky, full of himself and felt invincible but the “After” Ethan was wrecked physically, mentally, and emotionally so it made him much more interesting and gave Lissa a bigger challenge than just a playboy who didn’t want to fall in love. As rude and thoughtless as Ethan could be, I could forgive him almost anything because of what he’d been through.

I really liked Lissa. She had her own family tragedy yet she was the total opposite to Ethan. She grabbed life and lived it on her terms and called things like they were. I love passionate heroines and Lissa was passionate about life, love, and sex. Her confidence level was definitely higher than Ethan’s but she wasn’t without her weaknesses. I’m glad that Lissa was a good example of how to survive tragedy, it kept Leveling the Field from getting in too deep and too serious. She brought the fun, the snark, and the life into every page and really pushed Ethan out of his comfort zone.

Ethan and Lissa were on fire whenever they were together. From their first meeting to the end, they were so clearly meant to be. What I noticed about Leveling the Field was that it was Lissa doing the saving because Ethan had given up on himself and quit living until Lissa pushed her way into his life. It was an interesting reversal and more than just physical connection was being developed without Ethan being aware of it. It was a gradual progression from purely physical to something more touching and healing and I loved how Megan Erickson handled Ethan’s journey and his “Aha!” moment, then tied it into Lissa’s past too.

As with the previous books in the series, Leveling the Field brought the geek/nerd love and made it sexy as hell. Ethan may be damaged emotionally but he is 100% geek and it was great to dive back into this series and see old characters again, like Grant, Chad, and Marley. It was fun catching up with them and it reminded me why I loved this series so much and why it just had to be Ethan who brought it to a close.

Final Verdict: Leveling the Field was one of the best of the series, and while I’m sad that this little motley crew has had all their stories told, I’m also happy that it ended with Ethan. He and Lissa were a sexy, strong couple who had so much in common. I can’t wait to see what’s next for this author.

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