Series: Oxford #1
Published by Loveswept on October 6th 2015
Genres: Contemporary, Romance, Sports
Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Meet the men of Oxford magazine! In the first captivating spin-off of Lauren Layne’s Sex, Love & Stiletto series, a not-so-friendly battle of the sexes turns into a scorching office romance. Hotshot sports editor Cole Sharpe has been freelancing for Oxford for years, so when he hears about a staff position opening up, he figures he’s got the inside track. Then his boss drops a bombshell: Cole has competition. Female competition, in the form of a fresh-faced tomboy who can hang with the dudes—and write circles around them, too. Cole usually likes his women flirty and curvy, but he takes a special interest in his skinny, sassy rival, if only to keep an eye on her. And soon, he can’t take his eyes off her. Penelope Pope knows all too well that she comes off as just one of the guys. Since she’s learned that wanting more usually leads to disappointment, Penelope’s resigned to sitting on the sidelines when it comes to love. So why does Cole make her want to get back in the game? The man is as arrogant as he is handsome. He probably sees her as nothing more than a barrier to his dream job. But when an unexpected kiss turns into a night of irresistible passion, Penelope has to figure out whether they’re just fooling around—or starting something real. Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
I’m still working my way through Lauren Layne’s backlist, but I am having so much fun doing it. And this new series, a spin-off from her Stiletto series, is one of my favorites so far. I had so many notes and feelings on this one. Constantly rewinding and re-listening to parts.
I haven’t read the entire Stiletto series, so I wasn’t prepared for the men of Oxford magazine. Cole Sharpe and Penelope Pope both applied for the same job as sports editor at Oxford. My first impression of Cole was frustration. I wasn’t sure I was going to like him. He’s been working at Oxford as a freelancer and is pretty confident he’s going to get the position. He has no idea that Alex Cassidy, the head of Oxford, was interviewing anyone else for the position, and he’s not happy when he finds out. He goes to a Yankees game specifically to scope out the competition. He spends the entire time watching the attractive woman who is also sitting in the owner’s box scribbling notes in a notebook. He’s also trying to figure out which of the other people in the box could be his competition. Well, Cole, let’s see. There’s only person in the entire box you don’t know, and she’s studying the game and scribbling in a notebook. Gosh, who could it be? What a mystery. It just never occurred to him that she could be his competition. My note here says “There is no way I’m going to be able to listen to an entire book of ‘women sports writers ha ha ha'”
I really should have had more faith in Lauren Layne. Cole is not that guy. In fact, no one in the Oxford or Stiletto family is that guy. Cole is a little condescending to Penelope at first (“Are you taking notes to try and figure out the game?”), but once he realizes that she’s his competition, he treats her like competition. The fact that she’s a woman doesn’t factor into it at all. The fact that she’s standing in the way of something he wants is the only thing he focuses on. In fact, he pulls a few stunts during the interview process that I thought were a little over the top, but nothing specifically directed at Penelope’s gender. In fact, he helps her out quite a bit before her own interview. An interview that he rudely interrupts when he assumes (correctly as it turns out) that her interview is going well. But Cole is so charming that I ended up on his side anyway.
I loved Penelope. Penelope Pope was exactly what you think a woman named Penelope Pope would be. I liked that she went by Penelope and didn’t shorten it to Penny or something. And I was really happy to see that by about halfway through the book, Penelope’s sexual insecurities were getting to Cole as much as they were getting to me. Penelope was strong and confident in very other aspect of her life, but any time it came to her looks or anything sexual, she was an insecure mess. There wasn’t any reason for it as far as I could see. The guy she left Chicago to get away from, Evan, didn’t reciprocate her feelings, and he screwed her over professionally, but he didn’t do anything to specifically make her think she was inadequate romantically. In one of my favorite scenes of the book, Evan comes to New York, ostensibly to pick Penelope’s brain about a new direction his magazine in Chicago is going, but really to get her to give him some ideas again. Penelope and Cole go to dinner with him, and Penelope was just being such a wet dishrag. I kept talking to my iPhone, saying, “Come on, Penelope. Get a backbone! Tell him to fuck himself!” And then – she did. It was wonderful. Cole was so proud of her, I was so proud of her, I think I actually whooped in my office. I could understand Penelope being wary of getting involved with someone who is also involved in her professional life, but her personal insecurity was probably really tiring to be around. I was really happy when Cole called her out on it.
This was a great story. I love Lauren Layne’s work. I’m so happy to have found her, and so happy to have more of her backlist to get through. Her work is so charming and so real. Just like Cole and Penelope, her characters are real, they’re complicated, well-developed, and have as many facets as people you know. You recognize her characters, even as you wish you could pull them out of the pages of the book and have dinner and a drink with them. If you haven’t checked her out yet, do yourself a favor and get on it.