Review: Top Secret by Sarina Bowen & Elle Kennedy
Note: An advanced reader copy (ARC) was provided by the authors via Nina Bocci PR.
Nobody has ever gotten under my skin the way he does. Nobody has ever needed me the way he does.
Not one person.
I love Sarina Bowen's writing, as I do Elle Kennedy's. These two women are awesome storytellers, but somehow, when they team up and put pen to paper (or fingers to the keyboard), something doubly magical happens, and I, for one, was thrilled when I learned that they had a top secret project slated for release in May and that I would be able to get my greedy hands on it via an advanced copy in April. The title of said project? Top Secret and now that the secret is out because it's officially the book's release day, it's time for everyone else to dive in and see why this book has been as awaited as it is, and why I'm about to go all fangirl and gush about how much I adore LobsterPants and SinnerThree, aka Keaton Hayworth III and Luke Bailey--both twenty-one, both college juniors, both members of the same fraternity who are absolute opposites who happen to also absolutely dislike each other.
If you look at them on paper, Keaton and Luke are as different as two people could get. Keaton is an only child who came from money and has two very involved parents in his life. He's part of the football team and has had a steady girlfriend for a number of years. He's friendly and outgoing and should be a shoo-in to become president of Alpha Delta. On the other hand, Luke is what you'd call a townie; born and raised in Darby, Connecticut, he left home to get away from his mother and older brother, both of whom see Luke as nothing more than a source of money. He's on a full scholarship and is working two jobs in order to make rent, have food to eat, and simply get by day to day. Their interactions have been limited, but it's clear that there isn't a whole lot of love lost between them. And then they have a whole different kind of interaction that could become the beginning of something...seductively secret.
For the record, this book is an M/M college romance. Yes, Keaton has a girlfriend and what triggers the whole LobsterPants and SinnerThree match-up on the app is Annika's birthday request of a threesome. Does cheating occur? Well, I guess that depends on your definition of cheating, but it isn't a no-go for me, so on I went with reading and enjoying the story. I don't want to give too much away, but suffice it to say that Keaton and Luke's story held a lot of surprises, particularly with how their relationship played out. Their respective back stories, as well, were quite interesting, and it just goes to show that you don't know what someone could be going through unless you dig deeper and they allow others to see beyond whatever facade they have in place. Both Keaton and Luke had their struggles and burdens that they were dealing with on the inside, adding further dimension to them.
This may sound weird but I'm glad that this wasn't a gay-for-you (GFY) romance. There's been a plethora of GFY books over the past few years, and while I have nothing against them--I've actually enjoyed more than my fair share--I think I just have a greater appreciation for stories that have main characters who explore and accept their sexuality, regardless of when they discover they're not as straight as they thought they were. Sarina Bowen and Elle Kennedy, as far as I can tell from reading the five novels they've worked on together, work seamlessly together and I love that Keaton and Luke's story is fresh and has a different flavor to it compared to their past stories. I absolutely enjoyed every single second I spent reading this novel, and that bonus epilogue was what made this tale shift from a happy-for-now (HFN) to a happily-ever-after (HEA) for me. Top Secret is a five-plus-starred must-read. ♥
Release Date: 07 May 2019
Date Read: 23 April 2019