I am absolutely thrilled to bring you the Review & Excerpt Tour for Cora Carmack’s ALL PLAYED OUT! ALL PLAYED OUT is a New Adult Contemporary Romance and is the 3rd book in the Rusk University Series, published by William Morrow, an imprint of HarperCollins.
About ALL PLAYED OUT:
First person in her family to go to college? CHECK. Straight A’s? CHECK. On track to graduate early? CHECK. Social life? …..yeah, about that….
With just a few weeks until she graduates, Antonella DeLuca’s beginning to worry that maybe she hasn’t had the full college experience. (Okay… Scratch that. She knows she hasn’t had the full college experience).
So Nell does what a smart, dedicated girl like herself does best. She makes a “to do” list of normal college activities.
Item #1? Hook up with a jock.
Rusk University wide receiver Mateo Torres practically wrote the playbook for normal college living. When he’s not on the field, he excels at partying, girls, and more partying. As long as he keeps things light and easy, it’s impossible to get hurt… again. But something about the quiet, shy, sexy-as-hell Nell gets under his skin, and when he learns about her list, he makes it his mission to help her complete it.
Torres is the definition of confident (And sexy. And wild), and he opens up a side of Nell that she’s never known. But as they begin to check off each crazy, exciting, normal item, Nell finds that her frivolous list leads to something more serious than she bargained for. And while Torres is used to taking risks on the field, he has to decide if he’s willing to take the chance when it’s more than just a game.
Together they will have to decide if what they have is just part of the experiment or a chance at something real.
I’ve always gone out of my way to avoid situations that might stir up that kind of reaction. When I was getting picked on in middle school, I found a teacher willing to let me eat lunch in her classroom during her off period. I didn’t really do much dating in high school, because the few times I tried, I couldn’t handle the stress of not knowing what would happen next. The mere possibility of embarrassing myself was always enough to make me run in the other direction. I didn’t take any chances. Not that kind at least. And now it seems as if my social life is not the only department where I’m playing catch-up.
Welcome to Humiliation. Population: Me.
Thankfully, I’m so miserable that the next few minutes only occur in bursts and patches for me. When I next lift my eyes, Dylan is there, and we’re inside the apartment. I blink, and I’m in my room. It’s dark, only the lamp by my bed providing light, and she’s dabbing at my forehead with a damp cloth that feels like heaven.
“Why did I do this?” I groan. “Why does anyone do this?”
She doesn’t laugh, though I can tell she wants to.
“Hindsight is twenty-twenty.”
“I hate that saying.”
“But it’s the truth.”
“I hate the truth.”
She does laugh then.
“Why did you do it?” she asks. “I tried to ask Matt, but he sounds like a yeti when he’s this drunk. I couldn’t make out anything he said.”
“I hate yetis,” I mumble.
“Yes, well, before you say you hate water, drink this.”
She tilts my head up to meet a glass, and half the water ends up running down my neck. And I do, indeed, hate water.
The only thing I don’t hate is sleep. Sleep will take away the churning in my stomach, and the awful taste in my mouth, and the flushed heat I know is still marring my skin.
Maybe I’ll wake up, and this will all have been a dream. I won’t have thrown up in front of the people I’m trying to make my new friends. I wouldn’t have told the most attractive guy to ever show any interest in me that I’m a virgin.
Maybe I’ll wake up to find that this whole list thing was a long, elaborate dream, and I can go back to being blissfully weird and antisocial and ...
Somewhere between one forced sip of water and the next, I must fall asleep, because I wake up after what feels like hours to the sound of my door closing. Probably just Dylan checking on me, but I’m struggling to find the motivation to move my head the six inches it will take to confirm this suspicion.
Eventually, my bed shifts, slanting to one side, and my head ends up turning of its own volition. I decide I’m dreaming when I see who’s seated beside me, because there’s no way Torres would be in my room after everything that just happened. I’m sure Dylan wouldn’t even let him in. I decide that this must be my subconscious, trying to give me one last good-bye, unreal though it may be.
“I brought you some food,” he says.
I groan. My dream can’t even do me the courtesy of giving me a pleasant last memory. Or is it normal to be drunk in your dreams when you’re drunk in real life?
He breaks the corner off a bread stick and holds it up to my lips. I don’t open.
“Trust me,” he says. “I know you’re tired and probably miserable, but this will help. And the more food and water we get into you now, the less you’ll hate yourself in the morning.”
“Already hate myself,” I say, but I take a bite of the bread stick he’s offering. It takes me forever to chew it, and when I’m done, he holds up another. Grudgingly, I eat it.
“That’s my girl.” And now I know it’s a dream.
He offers me water, and I take it, if only to wash down the bread.
“What happened to our deal?” he asks, and he sounds almost angry. “If you’d waited for me, I could’ve taken care of you. Made sure you didn’t drink too much.”
Since it’s a dream, I don’t see the point in being dishonest.
“I don’t want you to help me with the list.”
“Why not?” Yeah. He’s definitely angry.
“Because I don’t want you to think I’m a loser.”
“Damn it. I think a lot of things about you, Nell. Some of them are certainly not nice, but trust me, they’re all complimentary.” I shake my head, too tired to pick out the meaning of his words. “You’re not a loser, Nell. And I’m going to help you with that list whether you like it or not. I didn’t like coming into your apartment and seeing you with that guy. I don’t like that he’s the one who you shared this first with. I want your firsts.”
Mateo Torres has been so fun to read about from the moment he stepped onto the page in All Lined Up, the first book in the Rusk University Series. I've always wondered about him and what made him who he was. I wasn't expecting to find his story so fascinating as well as entertaining. And the woman who made him better and vice versa is not one I would've expected him to need, but Nell turned out to be the perfect foil for him.
I really liked Nell. I understood the pressure on her and what was driving her. I also understood her mixed emotions when it came to Silas and Dylan, both the confusion and the yearning for what they had. I thought she was extremely brave for making a list that would take her out of her comfort zone and then doing them with hesitation sometimes, but throwing herself into them completely. I really admired her for her attitude. I loved how she was able to see beneath the surface when it came to Mateo. Speaking of Mateo, I liked him, and adored him at times, but sometimes he frustrated me. I do think he was just what Nell needed.
The story itself is really interesting. Football, life beyond college, and their pasts play an important role in their interactions with one another. I was surprised by how much the past impacted Mateo. It really messed him up and his perception of things needed to be. Even though he had bad moments, there were times when the things he said and did made me want to swoon. Mateo was the perfect mix of bad boy and good boy, especially once he figured everything out.
I think the Rusk series is getting better with each successive novel. I loved seeing Carson, Dallas, Dylan, Silas, Stella, and Ryan again. I'm so excited there will be another book in this series and I'm really looking forward to reading more about Stella. Cora Carmack has written another great page turner that is thoughtful, thrills, and entertains.
*Thank you to the publisher for providing a copy via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. All opinions are my own and I was not compensated for them in any manner.*
And don’t miss the first two books in the Rusk University Series…
ALL LINED UP, Book 1
ALL BROKE DOWN, Book 2
About Cora Carmack:Cora Carmack is a twenty-something New York Times bestselling author who likes to write about twenty-something characters. She's done a multitude of things in her life-- boring jobs (like working retail), Fun jobs (like working in a theatre), stressful jobs (like teaching), and dream jobs (like writing). She now splits her time between Austin, TX and New York City and spends her days writing, traveling, and spending way too much time on the internet. In her books, you can expect to find humor, heart, and a whole lot of awkward. Because let’s face it . . . awkward people need love, too.