Release Day: Excerpt & Review: Anything But Broken by Joelle Knox

After five years, tragedy brings Hannah Casey back to Hurricane Creek to bury what’s left of her family. She’s flunking out of college, haunted by scandal, and the only person who cares is Sean Whitlow, an irresistible bad boy with a soft spot for her. The problem? He’s her dead sister’s ex.

Sean doesn’t bleed red, he bleeds motor oil. During the week, he struggles to turn his auto repair shop into a profitable business. But when Saturday night rolls around, he’s the reigning stock-car king of the local race track. He doesn’t know how to lose–or how to walk away and leave Hannah alone with her grief.

Between her grades and her wealthy family’s dark secrets, Hannah’s barely holding her life together. And the last thing Sean needs is to get tangled up with another Casey girl. As the attraction between them spins out of control, they’ll either find a love with no limits–or go up in flames.

Expected publication: August 25th 2015

I don’t stay in bed. By the time Sean comes knocking on Evie’s front door, I’ve washed my face, brushed my teeth, and torn through my room, kicking dirty clothes into the closet and wondering how I made such a damn mess when I don’t even have all my things with me.​ 
I’m at the door before I remember I forgot to change, and it’s too late now. So I answer the door in my pajamas—cotton shorts and a tank top that feels transparent right now. 

“Hey. Come on in.”

“Good morning.” He actually did something, one of the bright blue boxes from the bakery down the street from the boutique, and he hands it to me as he walks in.

“Thank you.” I carry the box into the living room, where my quilting supplies are spread out on the floor in front of the TV. Evie helped me sort scraps last night, and I went to bed without putting anything away. “Are you thirsty? I can make coffee, or we have some Cokes.”

“The bakery thinks of everything.” He tilts his head toward the box, and I open it to find two covered cups of coffee nestled inside along with the pastries.

“You’re going to spoil me,” I tell him as I sit on the couch. The coffee table is another of those pieces that looks either cosmetically distressed or lovingly salvaged—only now I know which. Evie finds them at flea markets and yard sales, dropping ten dollars on pieces of furniture no one wants, only to turn around and make them beautiful.

Just like Sean and his car—or me with my scrap quilts, I guess. Maybe we’re all obsessed with rescuing broken things.

Sean takes one of the coffees and sprawls out beside me, one arm looped casually around my shoulders. “Got any plans for today?”

Just the hospital later, but I don’t feel like bringing it up. So I reach for one of the pastries instead, breaking off a corner to nibble. “Not really. I need to open up my laptop and actually deal with some of my email, I guess.”

“Sounds fun.” He wrinkles his nose as he leans his head back and closes his eyes. “I left Gibb alone at the garage.”

I should probably feel guilty about that, but it’s hard to when he’s here, next to me, and I get to snuggle into his side as I eat breakfast. “I’m sure he can handle it. He seems really good at his job. Evie says he is, anyway.”

“She’s right.” Sean tilts his head my way and opens one eye. “You look good.”

My cheeks aren’t the only part of me that heat at the compliment. I abandon the pastry and coffee in favor of curling closer to him, because every point of contact means another giddy spark of anticipation.

It’s easier to flirt with him in text messages, but I try to capture a hint of that mischief as 

I smile at him. “I stayed in my pajamas just for you.”

“I like it.” The back of his hand brushes my bare thigh.

An accident? I don’t want it to be. Holding my breath, I shift closer, chasing his fingers. 

But he hasn’t moved, so I wind up rubbing my leg against his hand.
Sean is watching me now. “Does Evie come home for lunch?”

I don’t think I’ve been here long enough to know for sure, and I can’t remember right now, anyway. Because that’s not what he’s really asking. This isn’t safe like the lake, with people nearby to keep us from going too far.

Whatever too far means. 

“I think she might be meeting Sawyer for lunch,” I tell him, because I know she talked about it. Was it today? God, I hope so, because I can’t think with Sean watching me.

He slides his free hand into my hair and cups my neck. He doesn’t say anything, but he’s utterly focused on my mouth, and he draws in a sharp breath when I lick my lips.

It’s the reminder I need—that I’m not the only one caught in the grip of needy hunger. I press my hand to his chest, splaying my fingers wide. Not to hold him back, but to brace myself as I lean in.

He lifts me into his lap instead, his steely grip a shocking reminder of his strength. I end up perched on his thighs, my knees riding alongside his hips. Straddling him, and it’s nothing like the lake. We might be wearing more clothing—well, he is—but there’s no darkness or water to hide behind.

He can watch my cheeks flush, and he can watch that warmth spread. My tank top is too thin to hide the tightening tips of my nipples, so I crush my chest to his and kiss him before reality can catch up with me.

But it isn’t reality that crashes into me a heartbeat later. It’s sensation, the tightness spreading into a deeper heat as his tongue slicks over mine, and his fingertips edge beneath the hem of my tank top.

I want to melt. Everything inside me is screaming for it, but I break away and pant against his cheek. “I should tell you. That I still don’t—that I’m not ready—”

“For sex?” His voice is low, hoarse. Filthy. 

I never thought anything could weaken my resolve. But I didn’t know I could feel like this—flustered and turned on and achy. Empty, and just thinking that makes me feel debauched. “Can we still do other stuff?”

His chest rumbles beneath mine, and his hands slide higher up my back. “Hell, yeah.”

My Review:
As soon as I heard Kit Rocha was writing a new series under a new pen-name Joelle Knox I was so excited. I love the hell out of their books and even though they promised something different from the Beyond books I knew whatever it was I was going to love it. Anything but Broken is the first in a gritty New Adult series that hits you with a dose of harsh reality.

We are introduced to Hannah Casey. She is returning to Hurricane Creek after years away to bury her parents. Hannah is failing out of school in Atlanta and for the first time in her life, doesn't have someone telling her what she should do or be. In the first chapter we see what she uses to deal with her grief—alcohol. It's not talked about as much as it should be, especially for kids her age, because most peoples mindset is "they're in college, they're having fun" but "fun" can turn into an addiction quick. While Hannah is at the bar, we meet Sean *sigh*

“The voice alone makes me shiver. I haven't heard it in five years, but I'll never forget it. I sure as hell wasn't expecting to hear it tonight, but maybe that's what happens when you go chasing ghosts. They start popping up all over the place.”

Sean Whitlow is Hannah's sister—Cait's ex-boyfriend. Sean is the dreamy bad-boy that we all wanted to date when we were younger. He owns his own mechanic shop and races cars every week. And he might do a little fighting here and there, just to let off some steam :)

“I meet his eyes for the first time, really meet them, and this is why girls can't stop looking at Sean. Because he's rough around the edges and exudes bad boy, but when he notices you, even just for a few seconds, you're the center of his world, and you know things aren't as bad as they seem.”

Sean is pretty much perfect. He tries to be there for Hannah and help her deal with everything she's going through, without repeating the kind of relationship he had with her sister. There are a lot of sexy-times in this book, and let's be honest, they're the best part! Sean is patient and careful with Hannah, but he's also sure of what he wants and isn't afraid to take it.

“He kisses a path down to my throat, though calling them kisses is an understatement. He's dragging his open mouth over my skin, and the slick friction of his tongue is a thousand times dirtier than a kiss could ever be.”

We also meet Sean's best friend Gibb, who I absolutely cannot wait to read about! His book is next, along with Evie, Hannah's old friend. Both Gibb and Evie were important characters to this story and I can't wait for them to get their happily ever after.

All in all this book wasn't what I was expecting, and I think that's why I loved it so much. It dealt with a bunch of uncomfortable but extremely realistic issues. Steamy romance, but what else would you expect from this writing duo? Excellent book and one of my favorites of the year!

*I was provided an ARC of this book in exchange for an honest review.

About Joelle Knox:
Who is Joelle Knox?
Joelle Knox is the penname of co-writing team Donna Herren and Bree Bridges. Best friends for years, they’ve been collaborating and publishing together since 2008. As Kit Rocha they write the award winning dystopian erotic romance Beyond series, and as Moira Rogers they’ve penned dozens of paranormal novels, novellas and stories.

Anything but Broken is their first contemporary romance and their first new adult romance.

Why so many pennames?
So readers know what they’re getting–and what they’re not.

Where do I find you?

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