It’s bad enough to be in love with your best friend, a guy who’s never looked at you like you’re swimming in the dating pool. But when that same best friend is dating your sister, you know that any happily ever after is going to come with its own pile of complications — assuming the ending isn't just sad and disappointing. And that’s the big boat of worst case scenario that Chloe finds herself in.
Michael came to Texas to find out more about the father he never knew he had, and he wouldn't mind having a little fun with the girl taking tennis lessons from him. Too bad she’s dating the half-brother who doesn't know he exists. And that she plays it flirty before backing away every time she sees him. But her sister, he notices, seems to be harboring an unrequited crush of her own, and if he can get in good with her, he’ll have an inside track into family of the man who left his mother pregnant and alone so many years ago.
The Verdict: Chloe is the ugly ducking to her sister Kristin’s swan, so in some ways, it’s easy to see why Devon picked her — at least from where Chloe sits. But that doesn't change the fact that she’s been pining for him forever. Unfortunately, he went for picture perfect over witty conversation, and so Chloe buries her head in books and her heart in sarcasm rather than let anyone know how she feels. But she’s not quite as invisible as she thinks.
The new super-hot tennis instructor is just the kind of guy she thinks her sister should be with, and it’s obvious he turns on the charm every time Kristen is around. But it’s against the rules of life to go after your sister’s guy, so Chloe has no choice but to wait on the sidelines and hope that Devon will open his eyes and come to his senses. Of course, if Michael can come between the couple, then Devon’s back on the market, and all bets are off. Michael quickly recognizes that Chloe is longing for a man who is off limits, and since that man is part of the story that left his mother pregnant and single, there’s nothing on his conscience to stop him from trying to lure away his girl. Pairing up with Chloe to pull it off seems like a smart move, but before he knows it, there’s something more between them than he counted on.
Chloe is by no means unattractive, but she’s been in the shadow of her seemingly perfect sister for so long that she doesn't see herself clearly. She’s sure that when compared to Kristen, she’ll always come in second, and that certainly seems to be the case. So while Michael is being nice to her, and they’re pretending to couple up as part of their grand scheme to work together to get what they want, her mind separates attraction from emotion. It’s really kind of sad watching her give up on herself in that way, but at the same time, it’s perfectly understandable.
With Michael, it’s easy to recognize his growing feelings, and it seems like he’d give into them a little more fully if he didn't have the distraction of his newly discovered father to keep him on track. I haven’t yet read the first book in the series (but you can bet I will now!), so I can’t compare him then with the person he becomes in this book. But while in the first few pages, he definitely rubbed me the wrong way, it wasn’t long before I was a little bit in love with him myself. For all his scheming and denial of his feelings, he’s obviously a really great guy who has made some mistakes and doesn't want to hurt anyone who hasn't hurt him.
I won’t say how it all plays out or give away the OMG-you-have-to-read-it scene when he finally faces the man who fathered him, but I will say that Crushed is a well-written, thoroughly entertaining story, and while the Ugly Duckling thing has been done countless times before, Lauren Layne certainly does it right. It’s funny, sweet, and pretty damned sexy, and once things get going with Michael and Chloe, it’s impossible to put it down. Crushed is perfect for New Adult Romance lovers, so if you haven’t started the series yet, join me in grabbing the first book and binge reading!