5 Stars / Contemporary / New Adult / Review

Review: Boyfriend Bargain by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Wanted: one hot guy with rock-hard abs and a big stick…

Broke and desperate, Sugar Ryan has no use for arrogant, bad boy athletes… until she’s forced to bargain with the cockiest of them all.

If only he knew she was alive.

Her mission? Get on this hockey player’s radar any way possible.

Zack Morgan is the king of the ice and the bedroom—but nothing prepares him for the mystery girl who shows up everywhere he does—frat parties, his favorite bar, and finally his front door with an offer he can’t refuse. The only rule in her boyfriend bargain: no falling in love.

But after one (um, two) smoking-hot hookups, he’s done with pretending and vows to make their fake relationship real. Too bad she can’t trust a player with a reputation for breaking hearts.

Will this hockey star score his forever girl or will their Boyfriend Bargain end in heartbreak?

Title:The Boyfriend Bargain
Author:Ilsa Madden-Mills
Series:Hawthorne University (Book 1)
Genre(s):Contemporary, New Adult
Trope(s):Opposites Attract
Sports Romance (Hockey)
Point of View:
Release Date:18th August, 2020
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Holy emotions, Batman!

I love Ilsa Madden-Mills – her writing, her storytelling and the characters I am guaranteed to fall in love with. I’ve mostly read her new adult romances but this story is adult contemporary with 20-something hero and heroine. But fear not, it’s every bit as good as – if not better than – her younger NA books.

This is the first book I’ve ever read by Ilsa Madden-Mills – I’m a newbie to the NA/YA genre for some inexplicable reason – but it definitely won’t be my last. And this is despite the fact that she took my heart, ripped it to tiny pieces then stomped on it, before handing it back to me just when I thought all was lost. Seriously, this book. All the emotions. I really wasn’t expecting it and I’m not sure when I’ll get over it.

There’s a little bit of angst almost from the get-go with this book. There’s a foreboding of something that will end up being quite a big part of the book. It’s obvious that it’s going to get intense – and for me, not knowing what that is, or what part it’s going to play, is infuriating and makes me wish I could read faster!

I loved Sugar from the very first. There’s just something about her and the way she’s written that makes her jump off the page. I don’t think I can describe her any better than the way Zack does: “…tall, feisty, a bit of a sexual deviant, quirky to the point of awkwardness and a sugar fiend.” She’s got a vulnerability to her that’s wrapped up in a cloak of kick-ass. Issues from her childhood give her a fear of abandonment or not being good enough – which makes you empathise with her or even feel a kinship with her. The perfect kind of heroine.

“Ooooft – it’s hot. And I mentioned the dirty talk?”

And Zack (or Z as he’s called for most of the book – which I’m still not sure is said Zed or Zee!). He’s everything. No really. He is such a damaged hero and he couldn’t have been more perfect if he tried. Perfect for Sugar at the very least. Despite his reputation as a womanising, arrogant hockey player, Z is sweet, kind and funny. Oh and don’t forget cocky, arrogant, sexy as hell and a dirty talker to boot. And I do so love a dirty talker. Oh, and I have to give major book point for the cover of the book being Z to a T! It’s him. And he’s wearing his necklace, too. Who doesn’t love it when the cover model fits the character? It’s surprisingly missing from most books these days.

As soon as our main characters meet, they shoot major sparks off each other. Despite them being from different sides of the tracks – and probably from different social circles – there’s little to no mention of that. Just a coming together of two people who have an instant connection and who get right to it in consummating that connection. Ooooft – it’s hot. And I mentioned the dirty talk? Well, it’s backed up. A lot. And I loved every moment. Yum!

Zack’s anxiety is ongoing throughout the book and, as a fellow sufferer of that and panic attacks, it’s written with sympathy and a realism that’s refreshing and terrifying at the same time. Kudos to Ms Madden-Mills for putting something so honest in her novel and for treating it the way it deserves to be treated. I don’t want to get too preachy (as I am want to do regarding mental health issues) but I hope that Zack’s struggles prove that you can overcome and rise up despite everything.

The focus of the novel is definitely on Z and Sugar – it’s told in dual viewpoint in first person, present. Having said that, there are some secondary characters that I want – nay, need – to see more of. Eric the big-hearted, redheaded, smooth talking Viking? And then Julia? And Taylor? And Poppy? And maybe even Reece – even if he peed me off at times during this book.

All in all this book had me on the edge of my seat with its push and pull of emotions. The writing is exemplary and engaging in a way that was both refreshing and exhilarating. I’m a new fan of Ms Madden-Mills and I look forward to reading more from her. I feel Zack and Sugar will stay with me for a long time – and I couldn’t be happier. 5 stars.

Wall Street Journal, New York Times, and USA Today best-selling author Ilsa Madden-Mills is best known for her contemporary romances ranging from new adult angst to romantic sports comedy.

Seven of her ten novels have placed in the Amazon US Store Top Six Best-seller List: Dirty English hit #1; Fake Fiancée and I Dare You hit #2; I Bet You, Filthy English, and Very Bad Things all placed #6 in the Amazon US Store. The Last Guy, her collaboration with Tia Louise, hit #4.

A former high school English teacher, she adores all things Pride and Prejudice, and of course, Mr. Darcy is her ultimate hero.

She’s addicted to frothy coffee beverages, cheesy magnets, and any book featuring unicorns and sword-wielding females. Feel free to stalk her online.

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