Boyfriend Bargain (Hawthorne University Book One) by Ilsa Madden-Mills

Book Blurb:

Top 8 Amazon Bestseller: #1 Sports Romance, #1 New Adult and College Romance
Wall Street Journal bestselling author Ilsa Madden-Mills returns with an all-new swoon-fest of a novel about what happens when you take a chance on love.

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 this boyfriend bargain end in heartbreak?

 ★★★★★”Steamy and emotionally intense, Boyfriend Bargain is the perfect new adult sports romance! Ilsa Madden Mills has done it again with this sexy must read!” — Melanie Harlow, USA Today bestselling author

My Review:

If I was to tell you that this book is a classic new adult love story about a star hockey player who falls in love with a shy, but quirky girl who isn’t into hockey and after a turbulent journey they get their happily ever after, you would think that you have read this story before. Throw in a bargain that the main characters have, to pretend to be in a relationship since, the male lead doesn’t believe in commitment and the female needs to benefit from his fame, and then you can see that it is a little different but has still been done before. But let me tell you now that these classic labels do not do this book any justice, it is so much more and then some! You will fall in love with this book and I wouldn’t blame you because I did too.

Zack ‘Z’ Morgan looks like he has the perfect life. He is in his final year of college and has already been signed to go pro in the NHL, but he decided to stay and play hockey for his college team to try and help them win the championship after losing last year, whilst also finishing his school work. Zack lives and breathes hockey and trains hard to be the best. Other than school and spending time with his best friend Eric and brother Reece, everything he does is hockey. He is not interested in the social standing that comes with being famous, in fact it is something that he runs away from. He has women throwing themselves at him be he doesn’t want any form of commitment. He is well known for having a woman of the month and is happy to let them think that this is true so they know he can’t offer women anything long-term. In reality Z has pain and heartbreak in his past which make him think that he is not deserving of love and so he shies away from it. But all of that changes when he think he sees a ghost from his past, when really she is actually his future.

Sugar Rae Ryan has most definitely not had an easy life. Her mum and dad did not have a normal relationship, in fact her dad was already married with two other children leaving her and her mum as his dirty little secret. Then when she turns eight years old and his wife finds out about the affair, Sugar’s dad pays them to leave town so as to not cause his family more pain. This tore Sugar and her mum up and she didn’t agree that her mum kept letting him back into their world whenever he called. But no matter what happens, he never actually acknowledges Sugar as one of his children and she never takes his name. Then as a teen her mum passed away leaving her alone and she was taken in by her mums best friend Mara, who owns a strip club. Sugar dreams of becoming a lawyer and wants to go to Vanderbilt, one of the best law schools in the country and also the school that her father and all his family attended. It is her way of saying that she really is good enough even if her Dad does not want her. But then despite having near perfect test scores she gets wait-listed and her world comes crashing down. She needs a plan and finds out that the Dean of admissions has a passion for hockey and is looking forward to Zack Morgan joining the team that he supports. This is when Sugar devises a plan to ask Zack to be her fake boyfriend and take her to the admissions meal for wait listed students, to help change the dean’s mind. The only problem is that Zack Morgan doesn’t even know that she exists. So she goes to his known hangouts in the hopes of meeting him and when they do meet it starts a chain of events that they can’t undo. But the number one rule of their boyfriend bargain is that they can’t fall in love. Will they be able to stick to their own rule and do they even want to?

Oh wow, do I love Z and Sugar’s relationship so very much. I challenge anybody to read this book and not to fall in love with Z. He is tall, sexy and powerful. He goes after what he wants and is possessive over what is his. But there is a darkness to him and he is heartbroken over the past, but hearing about his past and the guilt he feels was heart-breaking. I loved seeing how he deals with his issues and despite letting them get the better of him for a while, he does not let them beat him. I found it refreshing that the alpha male in the book was portrayed as dealing with mental health issues and wasn’t just living a life where everything came easy. This not only made him more real and relatable but actually I was attracted to him a lot more. Plus I love how he takes charge during sex and who doesn’t love a bit of dirty talking!

I also really liked Sugar as a character. She was funny, quirky and a bit of a loner. She has allowed her past and her experiences to influence her ability to trust people to prevent herself from getting hurt. This distrust is made worst by her musician ex of two years, who cheated on her for not attending every concert of his. Sugar is determined to stand on her own and be her own person. She doesn’t want popularity and is happy with the couple of friends that she has. When doubt is thrown her way about Z she knows that she shouldn’t believe it but her struggles with trust and men runs deep. She is determined not to get hurt even if that means walking away first and not giving things a chance. At times I wanted to physically shake her and make her realise how much Z loved her but it was obvious that she needed to get there on her own.

Overall, I loved this book so very much. The love that they have is beautiful and shines so bright that it is enough to keep both of their dark past at bay. I loved the secondary characters that we are introduced to in this book. Eric is gorgeous and hilarious. Reece is just as tortured and brooding as his brother, so he deserves a bit of love away from living in the shadow of his big brother. Boone is such a sweetie and his idolisation of Z is great, I would love to see more of his story. I also loved Sugar’s friends Taylor, Julia and Poppy. I think there are good stories available for all of them, particularly Julia. Although I suspect that Julia’s story cannot be told without Eric. Either way, I can honestly say that I am looking forward to whatever book Ilsa Madden-Mills produces next, because I can guarantee that I will be reading it. As for this book it is full of heartbreak, drama, anxiety, laughter, friendship, hockey and some hot as sin sex; what more could you be looking for in a book. I cannot recommend this book more and am sure I will be reading it again very soon!

Note: I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review

This book is available for Free on Kindle Unlimited or can be purchased here:

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