BLOG TOUR REVIEW AND EXCERPT: In the Crease by Toni Aleo

Jensen Monroe is a unicorn. As handsome as any model, as polite as can be, a goalie of unmatched skill, and the best friend anyone could ask for. But he longs for a particular special someone to make his life complete. He’s been in love with Wren since he was a teenager, but as his best friend’s sister, she’s always been off-limits.

Wren Lemiere has prided herself on being a love ’em and leave ’em girl her whole life. She’s all about equal opportunity in the battle of the sexes. Why should guys like her brother and his best friends get to be the only ones allowed to play the dating game? One wrong move, however, and she finds herself in violation of her own rules.

In need of a fake husband and baby daddy for her unexpected bundle of joy, Wren finally accepts Jensen is the logical one to ask for help. Except he has a counteroffer…one with so many strings attached, they may just find themselves wrapped up in ties that bind. Forever.

Review

It’s a good thing that Jensen Monroe loves the “slow burn and the big explosion” because for the past 15 years, he’s been pining away for one of his best friend’s little sister, burying his feelings for her because he didn’t think he was man enough for her…because she always seemed to look past him, never truly seeing him for who he was/is.

But when Wren Lemiere finds herself in need of a fake husband and baby daddy, everything between Jensen and Wren speeds up in intense and complicated ways, and while Jensen is all in from the beginning, completely willing to help Wren in every way, unless Wren goes all in with him, there’s no way to know if their relationship will end imploding and destroying their years of friendship or if it will end up being something that allows Wren to stop running and closing people out of her life because with Jensen, she can finally be herself without fearing that he will leave her like everyone before him.

Wren Lemiere, in some ways, is a walking contradiction, in part, due to her profession. She’s the Nashville Assassins team therapist, but she refuses to help herself by facing her insecurities, her self-esteem issues, or even the way she allows men to use her for sex, knowing that they’ll never commit to her. Wren is one hot mess, and I have a feeling that her thoughts and actions will not set well with some readers. I’ll admit…at some points in the story, I didn’t really know if I liked Wren because of her indecisiveness and her need to revert back to her old ways, even when she knew from the beginning that Jensen needed and wanted Wren to give their marriage a real shot. But through Jensen’s perceptions of the ‘real’ Wren and his defense of her to anyone who cuts her down, the Wren she wants to be…the one beneath her harsh and dramatic surface breaks through, and as Jensen continues to lift her up, reinforcing everything he wants her to believe about herself and their relationship, readers will see the changes that Wren goes through…will witness her self confidence blooming…will recognize all the ways that Wren is trying to be a better person…the one Jensen has always seen.

Jensen Monroe absolutely seems like the perfect man/gentleman, but perhaps his biggest imperfection, at least at the beginning of the story and according to his friends, is his unwavering commitment to Wren. She definitely doesn’t seem deserving of Jensen’s devotion and forcing things to work out between them appears to set him up for failure and heartbreak. But as their story continues, readers see that Jensen is simply an honorable and devoted man – one who loves fiercely and protects everyone he cares for, even when it might hurt him in the end. He’s always been Wren’s champion, and he continues to stand by her despite the fact that she might break his heart.

There are so many layers to who Wren is, and it’s clear that she has been shaped by her parents’ neglect. Their mistreatment has forced her to take care of herself, in part, making her seek out shitty men because she’s never felt wanted or good enough, which has also forced her to find easy fixes instead of working through things the right way even if they’re difficult. And, in order to reprogram the chaos and self-loathing that is in Wren’s head, those who love her need to stand up for her and she needs to do that for herself as well, which will be a long process, but so worth it in the end.

The bond between Jensen, Vaughn, and Wells is an important aspect of In the Crease. There’s nothing these three wouldn’t do for one another and that is clearly illustrated in a number of ways, not just when it comes to Jensen’s relationship with Wren. There is a large amount of drama in Wren and Jensen’s story, and while their relationship is the central plot line, the other conflicts add another dynamic to the text and help to reinforce how essential all of Wren and Jensen’s families and friends are, not just to who they are together but to who they are as individuals and what they need in order to not get lost in their insecurities and bad choices.

In the Crease is a powerful story about the need for people to be secure in who they are and what they need from those who love them. People’s hearts and minds are delicate, even fragile, at times, and recognizing that idea and taking the steps to ensure that no one feels unworthy can be the only thing that gets through to someone who desperately needs to feel loved and appreciated.

4.5 Poison Apples

Excerpt

Brie snickered as Vaughn went on. “I know this is going to be hard. Like, really hard on you. But, buddy, I’m sorry to say, we bought a house.”

Jensen just stared back at him. “Okay? Why is this hard?”

“Because you’re not moving with us.”

He rolled his eyes. “Jo, we haven’t lived together for six months since you moved in with Brie.”

“I know, but we were across the hall.”

Jensen laughed. “I’ll be fine without you guys—”

“Now, I know this comes as a shock, but we’re having a baby, and we need space for us and the baby.”

“I know—”

“Now, Jenny, I know this is going to be difficult, putting space between us—”

“You know we lived apart for years, right?”

But Vaughn went on. “Just know I will always and forever love you as my brother, and nothing will change. Not the space, the new ball and chain, or the baby.”

“Are you done?”

Brie apparently thought this was hilarious since she was basically choking she was laughing so hard. Which wasn’t anything new. Vaughn might be an idiot, but he was a funny one. As always, Vaughn was unaffected as he said, “We’ll never be done, Jenny, never.”

“Okay,” Jensen said, rolling his eyes again. “Listen, this is awesome. I’m happy for you guys, and let me know when we need to start moving stuff.”

“You’re such a good man,” Vaughn proclaimed before clapping his hands together. “This weekend good for you?”

Laughing, he just shook his head at Vaughn’s antics. “Yeah, man.”

“Thanks, Jensen.”

He smiled over at Brie. “Anytime.”

Rolling his eyes, he went back to eating as a grin played on his lips. He wanted nothing more than for his friend to grow and be in love. Brie was that for Vaughn. They were moving and having a kid, and it was great. Vaughn needed that. So did Wells, who was getting married the following month. Both his best friends were living life, happily and to its fullest. Meanwhile, Jensen was stuck.

He didn’t know how it happened, or even why, but it had. He wasn’t interested in anyone he met, and he didn’t just want to fuck around. He wanted someone to love him for him. The quiet, weird guy in the corner. The one who would lay down his life for anyone he loved. He had redeemable qualities, but for some reason, no one wanted them. They just wanted to have sex.

He didn’t want Netflix and chill; he wanted Netflix and breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and more.

Hmm, he should copyright that.

Taking a huge bite of his chicken, he felt his phone start to vibrate. He pulled it out, seeing that it was a text from Wren, as he chewed. Like always when she texted him, his heart sped up, and his palms went clammy as a lump formed in his throat. Or maybe that was the chicken, he wasn’t sure. Either way, he slid the notification over so that his text thread with her opened up before he read her message.

Wren: Are you free anytime this week?

My name is Toni Aleo and I’m a total dork.

I am a wife, mother of two and a bulldog, and also a hopeless romantic.

I am the biggest Shea Weber fan ever, and can be found during hockey season with my nose pressed against the Bridgestone Arena’s glass, watching my Nashville Predators play!

When my nose isn’t pressed against the glass, I enjoy going to my husband and son’s hockey games, my daughter’s dance competition, hanging with my best friends, taking pictures, scrapbooking, and reading the latest romance novel.

I have a slight Disney and Harry Potter obsession, I love things that sparkle, I love the color pink, I might have been a Disney Princess in a past life… probably Belle.

… and did I mention I love hockey?

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