Book review: Boarded by Love by Toni Aleo


When womanizer Jude Sinclair meets sexy dancer Claire Anderson, sparks immediately fly.  It might seem like these two were meant for each other, but Claire’s keeping a secret and Jude’s rocky family life makes things difficult.  Although Claire and Jude love each other fiercely, is love enough to make their romance last?

Okay, that’s about as much PR-style writing as I can possibly muster up for this absolute mess of a book.  I don’t think that there was one thing that I liked about it.  Let me give a more honest summary:

Our hero is the “campus manwhore” who “gets more ass than a toilet seat.”  Claire is “not like other girls” and has some serious intimacy issues.  She’s also never felt a single emotion for a man.  Their eyes meet across campus and they have a heartwarming conversation about how Claire’s friend has crabs – yes, the STD.  Somehow, this conversation is incredibly arousing to Claire and Jude, and they immediately fall into the most cringy, cheesy instalove I’ve ever read.

Please be aware that, while I’m not going to give away any of the major plot points, there will be some minor spoilers below.

My initial impression, from about the first 3% or so, was that Jude is a cocky jerk.  I didn’t understand what Claire saw in him, and honestly, having finished, I still have no idea.  I’m not sure whether Jude is supposed to seem immature, but he does.  He is incredibly immature.  At one point, he says, verbatim:

I love riding my bike, though. It’s probably my third favorite thing to do after hockey and sex.

Because that screams twenty-year-old womanizer, right?  Certainly not twelve-year-old-trying-to-sound-cool.  And let’s talk about this womanizer thing for a second, okay?  I don’t have a problem with the fact that Jude has slept with the entire campus.  What I do have a problem with is

  1. His attitude about it, and
  2. Everybody else’s attitude about it.

Because Jude can’t understand that he was a jerk.  He went around telling girls it was just a one night stand, but if he ever decided to start dating, that he’d call them. Apparently, he said this to every girl.  And now he can’t understand why these girls are upset that he’s dating somebody else.  He says, and excuse me, but I almost threw the book across the room at this point:

“I said if I started dating I’d call, but I never promised it.”

I’m sorry, are you eight years old?  Like someone got upset with you on the playground and you said, “IT’S NOT LIKE I EVER PROMISED I’D PLAY WITH YOU!” The worst part of this is that it seems like we’re supposed to take Jude’s side in this confrontation.  The girl he’s talking to makes absolutely valid points.  You don’t lure somebody into bed with the possibility of a future relationship if that’s not something you’re actually interested in. Jude is an entitled, sexist jerk.  If you don’t believe me yet, just wait.  There’s more coming.  But for now, let’s move on to the next point: everybody else.

I’m not sure what kind of college Bellevue is supposed to be, but apparently, everybody knows everybody else’s business.  Jude actually has to change his phone number to stop getting texts from every girl he’s ever slept with.  People come up to Claire at all hours of the day to discuss her boyfriend’s sexual history.  How everybody knows that Jude is her boyfriend, and, on top of that, how everybody knows about his sex life is beyond me.  I mean, I went to a huge university.  There were over 40,000 students, so to think that I might know about some random girl’s boyfriend is insane.  Maybe this would make sense if Bellevue were a tiny college – but they can’t be too tiny if they have such great athletics.

But even setting the suspension of disbelief aside, the idea that random people would come up to you in class or while you’re at work or while you’re walking down the street just to tell you that your boyfriend has had a lot of sex?  That’s weird.  Is that a thing that people really do?  Do you, personally, see a girl walking down the street and think to yourself, “Oh. My. God. I think she’s that girl from Jude’s Facebook picture. I should tell her about his sexual history!”  No, you don’t, because you’re not insane.  It’s just this weird, unnecessary drama that adds nothing to their relationship other than a minuscule bit of tension – because Claire legitimately doesn’t care.

Anyway, let’s talk about Claire.  Claire is, I suppose, an infinitely better character than Jude.  She’s strong.  She’s independent.  She’s not afraid to put herself first or to go after what she wants.  But Claire is a huge hypocrite.  She absolutely derides her deceased mother for her life choices while living a life that’s not much different.  Her mother was a stripper, a drug addict, and slept around a lot.  It’s understandable that a kid might have a complex from growing up with that.  I get it.  But Claire works as a burlesque dancer, and while she doesn’t take her clothes off for money, she does perform sensual dances for horny men while wearing only underwear.  She used to sleep around with older men and do drugs but changed her life a couple years back.  So what I’m getting at here is that Claire got help, something her mom didn’t have.  She got clean and she stopped putting herself in dangerous situations.  But, given that she experienced all of that, shouldn’t she have some compassion for her mother?  Or, even if she doesn’t have compassion, maybe she could hate her mother for treating her poorly or for constantly putting her at risk.  Not for her occupation.

Claire’s major characteristic, aside from her “banging body,” is the fact that she’s “not like other girls.”  Now, what makes her “not like other girls,” you might wonder.  Well, you see, it’s the fact that when Jude watches her dance team practices, she’s in shorts and a t-shirt.  Maybe he thinks that girls do their athletic practices in ball gowns and high heels, I don’t know.

This book was so bad.  Just so, so bad.  I’m sorry that I have to subject you to that in this review.  Please feel free to stop.  I know I wanted to DNF this book so many times, so I can’t expect you to read a review about that is bound to be about as long as a full-length college essay.

Can we move on to the plot for a second?  Now, in general, I have no problem with the premise.  I actually really enjoy sports romances when they’re done right.  I don’t mind reading about bad boys being tamed by the right girl, and I think by now everybody knows that romance is kind of my thing.  But the plot is so disappointing.  I saw all of the major twists coming, so even the climax of the book felt boring.  When I was about 10% in, I made a note in my Kindle that “I bet this book ends with an engagement or a baby,” because I would expect nothing else from this type of book.

The writing here is a little off as well, which surprised me since most of the reviews I’ve seen have praised it for being so well-written.  Well, I’m here to tell you that if you have opinions about grammar and sentence structure and the use of super as an adjective, you should probably think twice about reading this book.

So, there are weird chunks of the book where the word “ya” is substituted for “you.”  Like, just randomly. I’m originally from Wisconsin, so this makes me read the book in a midwestern accent, and I know that’s not what the author intended.

• “I’ll text ya when I’m done”
• “I guess you can say I missed ya”
• “Yeah, whatever, don’t tell him I told you that or I’ll push ya next time”
• “Wonderful to meet ya”

I just… no.  And then the supers.  I wish I’d been counting the supers from the beginning because there are just so many of them.

• “I’m supertired since I didn’t get in till late”
• “That was superlow, Rach”
• “I’m going to make love to you. Probably superfast.”
• “That was supercorny”
• “Mrs. Sinclair, Lucy, Angie, and Jace were amazing, good people and superfun”
• “You are a superconfident man.”
• “They are superhot. You should wear them to bed one time.”
• “He’s a supercool dude. He can’t hate me – I’m a cool dude!”
• “Lol! U dork! Say hi, he’s supernice.”
• “He is great! Superawesome!”
• “Each guy is looking at me like I’m trying to steal her virtue, and all the women are looking at me like I’m a piece of cake. It’s superweird.”
• “You’re actually super-romantic.”
• “He’s fast, though. Superfast.”
• “Okay, well, Reese is supertired, so we’re going to go.”

Um, so, adjectives other than super do exist.  There are words like really and very and extremely and so and quite and overly and utterly and excessively and should I go on?  I think you get the point.

There are also weird anachronisms that don’t make much sense.  For example, there’s this scene where Claire texts Jude to ask him if he knows “Don’t Matter” by Akon.  I’m not sure if there’s an American millennial in existence that doesn’t know that song, but Jude’s all like, “LOL no! I’ll download it!”  It’s hard to tell whether Jude is supposed to be too young to know it (in which case I’ll cry at my old age) or if this book was written a while ago and just took some time to be published. Regardless, “Don’t Matter” becomes their anthem – the first of many.

A few more points on the writing and then I’ll move on to something else I hated.

I think I’d like to talk about euphemisms now.  This is a difficult thing in romance writing, because the very clinical “then I got an erection and put my penis in her vagina” is not sexy, and on the flip side, something like, “then I got excited and put my love rod in her woman cave” is just cringy.  It’s a fine line that can make or break a book.  Well, when Jude’s narrating, he has this habit of saying things like, “Everything inside me is hard.”  We all know what you’re talking about, Jude. You’re not fooling anybody.  It’s not like your intestines have calcified.  Your dick is hard.  I was rolling my eyes so much at the sex scenes because they’re just so over-the-top.

And jumping over now to the responsibility side of things, I want to talk about safe sex.  Now, both Claire and Jude have had a lot of sex.  There is nothing wrong with that.  I want to reiterate this – there is nothing wrong with couples who have extensive sexual histories.  But when these characters have known each other for mere days, when they know about each other’s past and decide to become intimate, I expect them to use a condom.  That’s the bare minimum that you can do while still being responsible.  So, sure, Claire and Jude use a condom the first time.  And then never again, because they “trust each other.”  You can trust somebody and still use a condom.  Heck, you can be married to somebody and still use a condom.  It has nothing to do with trust and everything to do with being a responsible adult.

What kind of message does this kind of writing send?  The message that if you’re really horny, nothing bad will happen if you forgo the condom, provided you really, really trust the person you’re having sex with.  NEWSFLASH: Anybody can say, “Don’t worry, I got tested last week and I’m clean.”   Anybody can say, “Don’t worry, I’m on the pill.”  Anybody can say, “You’re the only person I’ve ever done this with.”  It doesn’t make it true.  Especially when it’s someone you’ve only known for a few days.  I absolutely despise this trend, which seems to happen primarily in new adult romances.  This attitude is so damaging and I really hope that it’s not seeping into real life.

Alright, remember how I said, like 1500 words ago, that I’d get back to Jude’s sexism?  Buckle up, because here we go.

“I’m the man – I drive.”

Jude actually says this to Claire about her own car.  Like, he won’t even let her drive the car that she owns.  It’s not like he’s being possessive of his vehicle, or even saying that he’d prefer to drive her around in his car.  Nope, he’s literally telling her that, as the woman, she should get in the passenger seat of her own vehicle.  I’m sorry, I thought we were in the 21st century.  I must have forgotten that we went back to the 1950s.

“Taking a step toward her, I expect her to take a step back or even run from me, but I forget that Claire isn’t like other girls.”

Okay, setting aside the once again problematic “not like other girls” trope, let’s focus on the other part of this.  The fact that a very angry Jude takes a menacing step toward Claire and expects her to run from him.  The fact that he wants her to be afraid of him.  This is not loving behavior.  This is not sexy behavior.  This is unhealthy.  This is wrong.  And I’m glad that Claire stands up to him and doesn’t run, but then I’m also not because three seconds later, they’re in a full-on makeout session, which just reinforces Jude’s awful behavior.

“You’re basically your mother. Better pick up the crack pipe since you have the stripper part down.”

This is our hero… talking to our heroine.  Somehow this is supposed to be okay since his feelings are hurt.  Since he’s just lashing out in pain.  But he doesn’t even apologize – Claire has to apologize to him!  I cannot believe that, in the 21st century, this is the kind of behavior that I have to be subjected to.

I’m just so done.  I’m not going to read the other books in this series. I’m not going to read anything else by this author.  I am so, so disappointed in this book, which somehow has a higher average rating than some of my absolute favorites.  There are people that think this book is cute.  There are people that think the relationship between Claire and Jude is sweet. That it’s #goals.  I can’t help but feel like those people read an entirely different book.

I honestly could keep going – my review was originally eleven pages (single spaced) of quotes, rambles, and inappropriate GIFs – but I’ll stop here.

If you’re looking for a good hockey romance, try Elle Kennedy’s The Deal.
If you’re looking for a good instalove story, try Ruthie Knox’s Madly.
If you’re looking for a good college romance, try Tiffany Truitt’s Seven Ways to Lose Your Heart.

A lot of people have loved Boarded By Love, but I’m not one of them.

Final rating: ★☆☆☆☆

5 thoughts on “Book review: Boarded by Love by Toni Aleo

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