5 Stars / Contemporary / Review

Review: Beauty and the Baller by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Beauty and the Baller Ilsa Madden-Mills Cover

An NFL quarterback turned small-town coach gets sacked by a Texas beauty queen in this swoony, passionate romance from Wall Street Journal bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills.

Gorgeous, talented, and brilliant, NFL quarterback Ronan Smith has the world in his hands. But after losing his career and his fiancée in a car accident, he falls into a pit of grief and bad choices. When a mysterious girl shows up to his party, he feels drawn to her and makes her his…for one night.

Former beauty queen Nova Morgan is on a mission. Scantily clad as a princess from a galaxy far, far away, she sneaks into a high-profile party to capture the attention of her favorite quarterback. But her hopes crash after an awful one-night stand.

Fast-forward two years. Broke and desperate, Nova returns home to Blue Belle, Texas, where, by a cosmic twist of fate, her broody neighbor is none other than Ronan, the shiny new football coach everyone adores. But he has no idea who she is.

The booster club keeps shoving women at Ronan to keep him in town. His solution? He proposes fake dating to Nova. But things heat up for real under these Friday-night lights when he realizes she’s the one who slipped away.

Has this jaded beauty found her forever baller, or will his past keep them apart?

Title:Beauty and the Baller
Author:Ilsa Madden-Mills
Series:Strangers in Love (Book 1)
Trope(s):One Night Stand
Fake Relationship
Neighbours to Lovers
Small Town Romance
Sports Romance (American Football)
Workplace Romance
Point of View:First Person, Present Tense, Dual Viewpoint (H & h)
Release Date:29th March, 2022
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An absolute delight

I am a card-carrying member of the Ilsa Madden-Mills fan club so I was so excited to hear she had a new, adult contemporary romance out. This is a standalone story and not connected – as far as I can tell – to any other book or story. This story is also a second chance romance (my fave!) with a touch of enemies to lovers, neighbours to lovers and workplace romance. Happy sighs.

Ronan and Nova have a history which is where our story starts. It’s then fast-forward 2 years where circumstances have changed dramatically for both of our couple. They are now in a small town and living next door to each other – and still shooting sparks off each other.

I don’t think I can clearly express how much I adored Nova and Ronan as a couple. They were absolutely perfect for each other – both in their differences and similarities – and I just felt their connection. They have the kind of relationship that is the stuff of dreams and, gah – I just want to bang on and on about how much I loved them.

While together is where they shine, both Ronan and Nova were great, individual characters. Ronan has a lot to work through and has put up walls to protect himself. He’s been on a single-minded track for such a long time that he finds it hard to see he’s in his own way. I wanted to wrap him up in a big ol’ hug. Nova, on the other hand, is pure kindness and light, wrapped up in a slightly sarcastic, often snarky package. Her quips and banter with Ronan made my day and I was pleasantly surprised by just how funny this book was on top of everything else. Nova also has a lot to deal with but I loved how she faced her issues head on. She’s just someone I would like to be – or at least like to be friends with.

“[Ilsa Madden-Mills] brings me everything I could ever want from a romance novel…”

Alongside such an exceptional pair, we also get a great host of secondary characters that felt well-rounded and real but never took over the story. Sabine gets a special mention as being a great sister sidekick for Nova but I liked them all – at least those I was supposed to like!

In many ways I found this a gentle romance in so much as the love story built gradually and with such emotion added in with each layer. With that said, there was also such a spark surrounding Nova and Ronan – and such joy – that I was constantly on edge, wanting to read more and more and more of them. In fact, after finishing the book, I wanted so badly to read more about them. I could easily have wallowed and swum in this story until my fingers went all pruny.

There’s sex in the book and it’s the good stuff. Nice and hot but also with laughter and a true connection that made my heart happy.

I have to mention that there are sad and poignant parts of the book. I’m not going to say that these aren’t rough – and I obviously cried, because I’m like that – however it felt real but not in an overwhelming way. Everything worked out exactly how I would have wanted it to and I was satisfied with it all. And that’s coming from someone that shies away from the tougher emotions in her books (and probably in life, too!).

All said, this is an absolute delight of a romance and another clear winner for Ms Madden-Mills. She brings me everything I could ever want from a romance novel – relatable and well-rounded characters, emotional depth, humour, a teensy bit of angst and a massive helping of love that’s built to last. If you hadn’t already guessed it – this is a highly recommended 5-star read and one my favourites of the year so far.

* I received this book in exchange for my honest review *

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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Strangers in Love Series

Beauty and the Baller Ilsa Madden-Mills Cover

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