Actress Tess McKenzie is performing in the Tenth Circle of Showbiz Hell-dinner theater. All she really wants is to start a theater of her own. Then Tess receives an offer she can't refuse. She'll get her funding...if she pretends to be the fiancée to her nemesis, Texan property tycoon Hunter Dade. If she's going to pull this off, she'll need all the luck she can get. Break a leg, indeed.
On the verge of a big business deal, Hunter needs to hire a fiancée. He hasn't quite forgiven Tess for ruining his wedding, but when their chemistry goes from combative to straight-up lust, the "no sex" clause in their mutually beneficial arrangement is tested. Which is a serious problem, because if Tess isn't careful, she'll go from breaking a leg to breaking her heart...
Each book in the Tall, Dark, and Texan series is a standalone, full-length story that can be enjoyed out of order.
Book #1 Even The Score
Book #2 Taking the Score
Book #3 One Week to Score
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Even the Score
A Tall, Dark, and Texan Novel
By Kate Meader, Liz Pelletier
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2015 Kate Meader
All rights reserved.
Peering at her skanky reflection in the tiny mirror of the tiny dressing room at the Bella Sera Playhouse, Tess McKenzie arrived at the only possible conclusion:
The universe hates me.
The lace peekaboo neckline, aided and abetted by a faux corseted waist, left so little to the imagination she risked a wardrobe malfunction before the night was through. Over her ass, frilly tulle layers revealed a provocative band of bare thigh above black stockings.
"Five minutes to places, people."
Shit. The stage manager's sharp call lit a fire under her. With a last minute adjustment to the pink ribbon-trimmed garter, she straightened to a wobbly stand. Heels were so not her thing, especially five-inch stilettos, but creepy Derek, their esteemed director, insisted she wear them. Can't be a French maid without the fuck-me shoes, he'd added with a leer.
What a fine use of her —
"What a fine use of my theater degree," Amy chimed in — friend, co-worker, and brain twin. In the month since Tess had joined the cast of Chicago's premier murder mystery dinner theater show, A Taste for Murder, they had repeated this refrain before every performance. It might have started out as a joke, but as time went on, it felt more and more like the gods were playing a cruel prank on them. For classically trained actors, dinner theater was the equivalent of Gordon Ramsay slumming at Arby's.
That's okay. You weren't using your soul anyway.
Nudging Tess aside, Amy adjusted the beechwood rosary around her neck. It made a startling contrast against the full nun's habit blanketing her from head to toe.
Tess sighed heavily and pulled down the strip of material masquerading as a skirt. "At least you're not showing enough skin to make a career on the pole look like a viable alternative to acting."
Amy gave a sympathetic smirk. Bitch knew she'd lucked out. "In some cultures the words for actress and stripper are one and the same." She bared her teeth and used her forefinger to wipe away a smudge of Sister Mary Margaret's scarlet lipstick. It was that kind of show. "Or maybe it's actress and hooker?"
Clenching her eyes shut, Tess punched the negatives into submission and dialed up her happy. She was employed in her chosen profession, playing Claudette, the saucy French maid with more shocking secrets than she could shake her feather duster at. Five days a week and twice on Saturdays, she strutted across the boards with a flirtatious dose of ooh la la while old dudes and teenage boys ogled her ass.
"Remind me why I'm here again, Ames," she gritted out.
"Because the money is half decent, and it takes you one step closer to the dream, babe."
The dream. A theater storefront where Tess, Amy, and their talented but poverty-stricken actor crew could work on the projects of their hearts. Since earning their expensive degrees from Northwestern, they'd experimented with life. Some had moved to New York and L.A. Some were playing the late-night improv circuit while flirting with management jobs at Starbucks. Some had given up.
Tempted to pack it in, she had stayed the course fueled by Gran's cheerleading. The woman, more of a mother to Tess than her own, had been a ball of sunshine to the end even while her body slipped further into oblivion. Fucking cancer.
Oh, Gran, I miss you so much.
After a ten-month hiatus taking care of her grandmother in Terra Haute, Indiana, Tess had returned to Chicago and found her core posse still here, living on ramen and crazy ambition. As soon as they made enough to fund their theater's first year, they were going to grab their dreams by the balls.
And speaking of nuts ... The door to the dressing room was thrown open, and in strode Director Derek and his scene-stealing leather pants.
"Where's Millie?" he snapped while his lascivious gaze ate up Tess with a slimy spoon. Instinctively, she stepped back. Derek had a flasher-in-a-raincoat proclivity for brushing those leathers against her hips while trying to engage her 34Cs in deep conversation.
Millie blew out of the bathroom, pulling up the triple strength support hose that was part of her costume as the Countess Radwanska, an aging Polish noble who has a pretty strong motive for bumping off her husband.
"Did you knock, Derek?" Millie grabbed her elegant cigarette holder. "Or did you waltz in, hoping to catch an exposed nipple or something a little juicier?"
Visibly affronted, Derek flushed an ugly shade of red. "Not sure what you're implying, Millie, but — "
"Just that you're a perv, Der."
In sisterly solidarity, all three of them glared at Derek until he backed up under the weight of their collective disapproval.
"Chop, chop, ladies," he sputtered, underlining his shaky authority with a clap of his undoubtedly sweaty hands. "We've got a full house tonight, so go sell some booze."
Tess tamped down a budding growl. The worst part about this gig was the actors — the freaking talent — had to serve the audience while staying in character before the official showtime. Slinging cardboard chicken and soggy fettuccine to tourists was yep, a fine use of her theater degree. But the tips were good, especially for the French maid who twitched her tail and turned the accent up to onze.
"What's that again about the words for actress and stripper being the same in some cultures?" she asked Amy, who was tying her rosary beads around her waist, trying to give the sack she was wearing a shape.
"Actress and hooker, babe."
Tess shook her head. Another day, another piece of her soul down the drain.
"'Allo, mes amis, what can I get you this eve-ven-ing?"
The response? A tableful of blank stares from a family of five — mom, dad, and three surly teens.
She tried again. "Zee wine, zee cocktails, zee Perrier?"
Tourist Dad's jaw practically grazed the hardwood floor, but his eyes stayed locked on her corset-enhanced rack. That's right, bud, they're breasts and your wife has a pair.
"George!" the woman beside him snapped. She nailed Tess with a keep-your-mitts-off-my-husband glare. As if, lady.
"The Robert Mondavi Pinot Noir," Tourist Wifey said primly, lifting her sharp gaze from the skeletal wine list. Two reds, two whites, and a rosé for the truly adventurous. "Is that any good?"
"Zee best of Napa." And at the outrageous fifty dollars a pop the Bella Sera playhouse was charging, at least a ten dollar tip right there if these guys didn't stiff her at the end of the night.
Awesome sauce. She was now measuring her worth in Robert Mondavi jug wine.
Order taken and smile pinned on, she turned quickly.
On her deadly spindles, she tottered and felt the slippery hardwood give from under her. The room tilted. Like something out of a French farce — oh, the irony — she fought to keep her ass from making a painful meet-cute with the floor.
Going, going ...
But just as her right heel missed finding purchase, two strong hands, tucked beneath her elbows, broke her fall.
"Careful now, honey," she heard in a whiskey-rough drawl.
A flicker of recognition pinged her chest just as warm, callused palms righted her balance and turned her deftly toward her savior.
It couldn't be. Not here. Not now.
Even with the added height, which gave her five-four frame a solid boost, she still had to look up. Into the darkest midnight eyes she had ever seen.
She knew those eyes.
She knew that jaw.
And by the looks of that grim slash of a mouth, he knew who she was, and worse, he remembered exactly what she had done to him.
Thank you, universe. You're the best.
"Well, if it ain't Miss Weddin' Wrecker herself," Hunter Dade said, still with a country twang, backed up by a Texan oil field's worth of heat.
The man who had vowed to put her over his knee the next time he saw her was back — And he was as ticked off as ever.
He'd had sixty seconds of heaven from door to catch before he realized his mistake.
To think that the sugar sweet ass Hunter was admiring as he made strides to his table belonged to Tess McKenzie. Covered in frilly layers, she'd been leaning forward just enough to give a tantalizing glimpse of smooth, peachy skin above her sexy stockings. In those heels, damn, her legs were so killer he was already imagining the myriad ways he would get those stockings off.
Fast, fast, and faster.
Zeroing in on her ass, his pulse had quickened when the best thing imaginable happened: the honey fell right into his arms. Unfortunately, this particular sweetness came laced with strychnine.
Tess was the menace responsible for the worst day of his life. Her interference a year ago had cost him a deal, a wife, and a hundred and fifty thousand dollars in vendor fees for the wedding that never happened.
"Hey ..." she said, uncertainty in her voice. That'd be a first. The woman was a snob, an artsy free spirit who hated his roughneck ass from the moment she laid eyes on him after one of her theatrical efforts. His then-fiancée and Tess had been college roommates, and Hunter knew it was important to his future wife that he make an effort.
Making an effort was one thing; lying his balls off was another. So he didn't know dick about "the Arts" and his ignorance showed like a nasty rash on his skin. He might have commented that Tess's show was a particularly special brand of bullshit. Some crap about women in ancient Greece punishing their men by withholding sex. It had hit all his buttons, and he had no problem speaking his mind. Neither did Tess and they'd — Well, they'd gotten into it good.
That argument had been the most fun he'd had all year.
Back in the present, his hands still cupped her smooth, silky elbows. He needed to release her.
Every day as a partner in Score Property, one of the fastest-growing real estate development companies in the U.S., he made whip-fast decisions, yet now he had a crystal clear choice before him, and he couldn't think for shit. That enticing freckle on her left breast, an alarmingly half-exposed left breast, was fogging his brain to mush. What would it taste like, that freckle?
Nothing. Freckles don't taste of anything, but the scent invading his nostrils told him this woman's skin would taste so fine. Dangerous, not-coming-back-from-it fine.
His hold had drawn her into the cage of his body, leaving her no choice but to palm his chest right over his nipple. The one that was hardening with each passing second. The touch of her slender hand was light, but not so much it wouldn't hold its own fisting and stroking and working his — how in the hell had his brain gone there?
He let go.
Pausing as he ran the play in his head was a mistake. It signified weakness, and she stepped right into the gap, wresting back any advantage he had in surprising her.
"So how've you been, cowboy?"
"Just fine, princess."
He kept his response flat, giving nothing away. If she looked down, she might have noticed his emotion was distilled to his uncomfortably tight jeans. What the fuck was happening here? So it had been a while since he'd released his pent-up energy inside a woman, but this was Tess McKenzie. They despised each other. The last time they'd been this close, he had been losing his ever-loving shit on her, a memory he conjured with ease and not a small amount of embarrassment.
More than a little pissed by his body's reaction to her, he aimed for the jugular. "Still playin' at your hobby then?"
Jackpot. Two spots of color lit high on her cheeks. For someone with such a fancy education and acting pedigree, this dinner theater gig didn't seem up to her usual standards.
"It pays the bills," she said, a proud jut to her chin that, along with the widening of those beautiful green eyes, was the only signal she was affected by his mockery. Aw, shit. The answering lurch in his chest felt like pettiness.
"I should ..." She gestured with raised eyebrows that she needed to get back to it. Fine with him, they were all caught up. With his eyes locked on hers, he stepped aside, giving her more than enough room to thread her smoking body through as she walked past. Still with that chin and nose high in the air. The woman had spirit. He'd give her that.
A few more steps and he had found his party. He slumped to his chair, one of four seated around a cabaret style table about twenty feet from the stage. Flynn Cross, his business partner, drinking buddy, and the guy he could rely on for a pickup game at two in the morning, eyed him with interest.
"Is that ...?"
The clip to Hunter's tone should have been enough to shut it down, but "leave well alone" and "personal space" were not part of Flynn's vocabulary.
"Well, I'll be." He squinted in what Hunter assumed was Tess's direction. "She looks hot. Wonder if she does private shows in that costume."
"Are you ogling the talent again, hon?"
The stunning blonde to Flynn's left ran a finger along his jaw and turned it to face her. Flynn broke into the shit-eating grin he had been wearing since she agreed to become Mrs. Cross six months back. They were here seeing this junk that passed for entertainment because Flynn wanted to take Becca out to do something touristy for her visit to Chicago. She was completing her OB/GYN residency at Baylor but planned to move here to set up house with Flynn when she finished in eight months.
Flynn kissed her softly. "I only have eyes for you, Becs. I was thinking about my boy's needs."
Becca curved her skeptical gaze around Flynn to take in Hunter. "Handsome, wealthy, and Texan is its own calling card. You don't need my man's help."
Hunter tipped an imaginary hat. "No, ma'am, I don't."
"And polite, too." Her assessing gaze turned soft with compassion he neither wanted nor needed. If he had a dime for every well-meaning look he'd received in the last year, he'd have a motherfucking load of dimes. "The right girl's just around the corner, Hunter."
"Or how about the wrong girl at the other end of the bar?" Flynn gave an unsubtle chin jerk in the direction Hunter was no longer looking. There could be a five-alarm fire happening over there, and he'd be ignoring it.
Becca wasn't ignoring it, but as she had seen Tess only once before, Hunter felt safe the interfering maid of honor would pass without comment. On his wedding day, Tess had looked positively demure in a jade gown that set off to perfection her auburn hair and those eyes the shade of melted shamrocks. "Demure" and "Tess" weren't even in the same zip code tonight.
"We can do better than that for Hunter," Becca said dismissively as she perused the playbill for the show. "I know just the girl. Vassar, Rotary Club, child psychologist. She's the complete package."
Right. So was Jenna, his former fiancée. A bluestocking Chicago socialite, a charity doyenne, perfect on paper. These days, Hunter was done with overeducated, careerless, rich girls who liked to play tourist with guys from the wrong side of the Mason-Dixon line.
Flynn leaned in and whispered, "Is this the first time you've seen her since the day she got all up in your business?"
Hunter nodded, not trusting himself to speak. After so long, his fury at her should have faded. He never lost control, not since he'd been a punk-ass teen. But that day — his wedding day — raw emotion had done a number on his granite tight grip, and he'd gone apeshit on Tess. Strange, when the woman he should have been blaming was the beautiful bride who had elected to jilt him at the altar in a church filled with four hundred guests. But getting mad at Jenna was impossible. She was so pure and innocent that the sight of her with tears streaming down her porcelain cheeks had melted the hot fist of anger in his chest. He had loved her wholesome regality, how she would make the textbook society wife. His reward for crawling out of the dirt of a hardscrabble upbringing in a run-down trailer park in Texas.
But all that changed in a heartbeat when the maid of honor pulled him aside ten minutes after the ceremony was supposed to begin. Snooty Princess Tess had loved being the bearer of that particular piece of news.
Thinking on that stalled his brain, so he was glad for the interruption, even if it was a guy sporting a penguin suit and a monocle, asking him what he wanted to drink. Jesus H. Christmas.
Excerpted from Even the Score by Kate Meader, Liz Pelletier. Copyright © 2015 Kate Meader. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Upon finishing, my initial reaction: I think I could spend the rest of my days reading fake engagement/fake relationship stories and never get sick of it. Ever. And that includes this adorably sexy read. My Thoughts (full review): This book features two tropes I adore: the fake relationship/engagement AND enemies to lovers. Since I hadn't read the synopsis until right before I started, I was pleasantly surprised and excited times infinity to get started. The book drew me in immediately and I was consumed by Tess and Hunter's story. Tess and Hunter have a past--one that involves Tess convincing his fiancee and her best friend to not marry him. When they run into each other again for the first time since that unfortunate wedding day that didn't happen, the tension is still there. But a new tension develops that neither expect that includes an unexpected desire between them. Hunter proposes the idea of her pretending to be engaged to him so he can gain a property he really wants and she accepts. They try their best to only "act" like they're involved around the people they need to, but it becomes impossible to resist when they're alone. But is it all an act, or is it for real? Even the Score was romance perfection in a book. I loved the sexual tension, the desire, the lust, the romance, everything. It had the right blend of banter and sexy. I couldn't get enough of Hunter and Tess. I thoroughly enjoyed how the story progressed and how the truth behind Tess ruining his wedding day came to light. I cannot wait to read more by Kate Meader! My Rating: Exceptional
Even the Score is a book about a strong opinionated woman who is a bit down on her luck and an alpha male business man looking to exact some revenge. Tess is a struggling stage actress looking to start her own theatre company. Hunter is a big business man who needs a woman to pose as his fake fiancée to seal a big business deal. When Hunter unexpectedly crosses paths with Tess at a dinner theater he decides that fate is working in his favor and decides to hire Tess to play his fake fiancée and exact a little revenge on Tess for ruining his wedding. Two birds with one stone, or at least that is the plan. What neither Tess or Hunter count on is that for all their arguing they actually have a lot in common and even more surprising they have a sexual chemistry that is of the charts. This was a great book to read; fun, funny, real and sexy. I think this is the perfect summer read. It will hook you from the first page and will keep you hooked through the last. The bonus of this book for me was the supporting characters who will make you laugh out loud. I cannot wait to see what Ms. Meader does with the rest of the books in this series but I know one thing for sure they will all be fantastic.
Tess and Hunter first met when he was about to marry her best friend. Calling off the wedding, Tess was blamed since someone had to tell Hunter the bride left. Now, when they see one another again there is more than surprise in store. Hunter had no idea the woman he grabbed before she could fall was responsible for his years of misery. He only knew she felt like she belonged there in his arms. Since she is an actress, she is the perfect one to ask to be his fake fiance. This is a great start to a very sexy series. The banter is really good. The pace of the story moves along nice and steady. The sexy times are just burning the sheets hot. This is a great read. ***This copy was given by Netgalley and its publishers, for an honest review only.
ARC kindly provided by Entangled Publishing in exchange for an honest review. Review 'Even the Score' was just fantastic! I am completely and absolutely in love with this short read! It's not a full length novel (more of a novella, really, at 200 pages) but sure gets your blood rushing, heart pumping and emotions spiriting out of control! For those in search of a short, emotion-filled, sexy read, I couldn't recommend this any higher! I am seriously, down-to-earth and on-cloud-nine in love with the romance reads published by Entangled Publishing! They publish such sweet and romantic or hot and sexy reads that I could abso-FREAKING-loutely NOT give each novel I've read so far a FIVE star! There is something wonderfully enchanting about their publications that I cannot resist! This novel was spectacularly written! Such great story-telling and elegantly simple language that I cannot describe how much I loved this read! The Kate Meader has captured my heart, soul and mind with her touching and heartfelt first novella in the 'Tall, Dark and Texan' series! Each word was full of emotion and meaning. Reading this novella was like diving head first into the sizzling romance between Hunter and Tess! And BOY was there romance passionate and intense! Whew! I loved, loved, loved their chemistry together! It was beyond explosive as made for quite the steamy read! But what made it best was the authentic problems that the characters had to encounter and prove victorious over. Their romance was unbelievably challenging but made the whole reading experience so much the better because it brought around this whole BUCKETLOAD of deep emotions that basically permeated the entire novella. I cannot recommend this novella enough and must commend the author on her spectacular first volume in the new series! Congratulations to Kate Meader on publishing a sexy, romantic and completely authentic read! I can't wait for book two! Rating Plan 1 star : Strongly did not like the book, writing and plot was bad. Idea of the book was against my liking. 2 star : Didn't like it, didn't find it interesting or gripping. Seemed to drag on to me. 3 star : An average book. Wasn't bad or good. Everything else was well done. Original idea. 4 star : Like a 3 star but has potential to it as a series or the book grew on me as it progressed and certain scenes captured me. I Enjoyed it and read it in one sitting. 5 star : I LOVED IT! I stayed up late until 3 am. Author is a genius, characters, plot, idea, development, EVERYTHING was EXCELLENT. Nothing else can possibly be said except that its 5 STAR!
Cute, fun, outragiously steamy, enemies to lovers trope.
I loved Kate Meader's Hot and Bother series. Could not get enough, but with Even the Score, she had me hot, bothered and begging for more. Tess McKenzie is an actress, the daughter of a famous actress mother who she has had very little to do with because of the way that her mother treated her after her step father made a pass for her. On her own, refusing to take her mothers money, Tess works in a small dinner theater until she can scrap up enough money to open her own theater with her friends and work on the project that they love. What she never counted on was walking into the man whos wedding she ruined 5 years ago, Hunter Dade, or the burning desire that she still feels for him with just one look. Hunter Dade never expected to see Tess McKenzie again. After convincing his bride to be to head for the hills, the last thing he wants is the reminder that the boy from the wrong side of the tracks, the boy that grew up in a trailer park with an alcoholic mother is not enough for someone like Tess. But he cannot deny the chemistry that burns for her even now after 5 years. Needing a fake fiance for a weekend in order to close a big land deal, Hunter hires Tess for the job, but what starts out as pretend starts to feel oh so real before the weekend is over. Secrets about the past and misunderstandings could throw this couple off course before they reach their HEA. What I loved about Tess and Hunter is that they both stand up for what they believe in. Hunter is very protective of Tess, even after he screws up, he cannot help by what to make sure that she is safe, taken care of, even if it is from a distance. Tess shows true love and protectiveness for Hunter. Even after learning about his past, about his mom and sister, she still stands by him, wanting to love, protect and share the burden if he will only let her. I fell in love with these characters and look forward to more in this series. I give Even the Score 5 sexy stars.
Pretending stories are one of my very favorite tropes, so when I saw this one I had to read it. It wasn't as good as I'd hoped. For me, a pretending story is good when the couple are forced to act like they love each other and discover there's some serious heat when they tough. The trying to resist each other is part of the fun. This one didn't feel that way to me. They gave in early and then tried to back track. It just wasn't right to me. I did love these characters. Hunter is a self-made man. Growing up in a trailer park with an alcoholic mother, no know father and a sister that...well you'll need to read it for that part. But he chose to work hard and get out of that life. And he has the protective streak as wide as Texas. He knows Tess as the best friend to his bride in the wedding that didn't happen. Yeah, Tess may have talked the bride out of marrying Hunter at the last minute. So no love lost here, right. Really, though, it was kinda a marriage of connivance and Hunter was more upset about the business deal that went wrong with it. I really couldn't reconcile him wanting to marry Jenna that way and who I learned him to be. But I did love him. Tess doesn't really get her side of that wedding story out until the end. I kinda didn't like her until I knew the why of it. But she's a strong women who has this inner sexpot. She's down for this acting job playing Hunter fiance but she wants some action too. Once she quit hating on Hunter and started trying to protect him as much as he protected her, I finally liked her. Here's my real issue with this book. There are all these pretty private conversations that happen in front of groups of people between Hunter and Tess. They're either talking in each others ear or whispering low. I just found it so odd. How many people have LONG whispered conversations about things they don't want others to hear IN FRONT of those people. It wasn't a phrase or a word, no it was a conversation. It just kept happening too. People. Go in another room or wait till later. You do not do this. AND it's more likely that someone will hear you but they didn't. Strange. Anyway, if the pretending issue I had isn't a problem for you and you can set aside that little whisper conversation issue, then you probably like this one. It's sexy hot and has a lot of story. It just wasn't quite as good as I was thinking it would be. - See more at: http://www.stuckinbooks.com/2015/07/even-score-by-kate-meader-review.html#sthash.HKgLmRXw.dpuf
I quite like Kate Meader's books and her style of writing, especially when I am in the mood for a relaxing and romantic read with a pinch of humor, heartbreak and hotness. And this new story definitely didn't disappoint. The writing s very good and intriguing and the story and characters in themselves are quite entertaining :) Especially considering the tall, dark Texan and his smoldering looks :) Hunter is definitely a hottie you have to meet :) He is pantie melting hot and with his southern looks, stubbornness and somewhat dirty mouth, this alpha is definitely smokin' :D. And somehow he fits perfectly with Tess. They are just like made for each other, even if their favorite past time is to fight with each other and test who is going to break first :D As a result you get some quite funny and other quite hot scenes :D Even though the story line is one, I've encountered before, I still found the book quite entertaining and interesting. It was simply fun to read and sometimes we all know we need that in our lives ;) And let's be honest, the smoking HOT Texan is reason enough on his own ;) So, in a few words, this is a great summer read. Perfect to relax with during your holiday or a hot summer night at home when you need to escape from your everyday life with an entertaining read :) So if you are looking for some humor and fun combined with a sweet romantic story, this is the perfect read for you :) You only have to #oneclick it :) This review was originally posted at Living In Our Own Story Book Blog. I received an ARC of the book in exchange of an honest review.
What would you do if you found yourself in a position of power and influence over someone who once ruined your life? Probably exactly what Hunter Dade would do: take advantage of the situation and try to get some of his own back. The property tycoon from Texas wants to get his hands on a piece of land that has personal significance for him. Problem is, the man who owns it is traditional to the core and will expect Hunter to be in a committed relationship, which he isn't. Yet. Tess McKenzie is wasting her acting talents in a two-bit dinner theater, biding her time until she can open her own some day. When Hunter Dade reappears in her life a year after she broke up his wedding and encouraged his bride-to-be to ditch him at the altar, Tess wants nothing to do with him. Until she hears his offer: pretend to be his significant other for a long weekend, and in exchange, have the funding she'll need for her new theater. One caveat: No sex. Hunter isn't the commitment type. Telling herself that's fine will only work for so long. Entangled Publishing's Brazen imprint presents the sexy contemporary erotic romance novel EVEN THE SCORE by Kate Meader. Readers will appreciate Tess as a representation of everyone who's ever had to fight his or her way to the top. Her fierce determination and independent streak juxtaposed against a mostly internal snarky attitude make her extremely likable, worth rooting for. It's always easiest to cheer for those who are sacrificing everything to pursue their dreams. Hunter seems the more tortured of the two, but perhaps that has to do with the grudge he holds against Tess for destroying what would have been a socially advantageous marriage for him. His pride and ego, more than anything, were the victims of her interference, and he isn't going to be the one to let her live that down if he can help it. And then the attraction between them, banked for a while, flares and sizzles back to life with their close proximity. And what is it, really, about setting "no touching" limits that makes staying out of bed absolutely impossible? Scintillating, funny, poignant, this novel strikes all the right notes. # # # Author: Kate Meader Title: EVEN THE SCORE Publisher: Entangled Publishing (Brazen) ISBN: 978-1-63375-333-4 Disclaimer: I received a complimentary copy of this work from the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest, though not necessarily positive, review. The opinions I have expressed are my own.
4.5 stars Even The Score was such a good read! This book ticked all the boxes for me, I couldn't put it down. It was fast-paced, fun, sweet, romantic and sexy. Loved both Tess and Hunter, they had amazing chemistry, great banter and some serious swoon worthy moments. I highly recommend this book, can't wait for the next installment in the Tall, Dark, and Texan series by this very talented author Kate Meader.
"Holy Channy Taytay...the man put the awe in awesome." I was so excited to see that Kate Meader had a new series--Tall, Dark, and Texan--and even more excited to get a chance to read it :) Ms. Meader starts this series off with a bang--Tess and Hunter's story has both a fake engagement and an enemies-to-lovers vibe...bonus! The two can't exactly claim a meet-cute (though they make a few fake ones up as part of their cover), since shortly after meeting him for the first time Tess plays an instrumental role in stopping Hunter's wedding to her best friend Jenna. Understandably, Hunter was a bit miffed about it. Jump into the future, and their paths cross again--this time Hunter gets the bright idea that he will Even the Score (see what we did there?) by hiring the "Hollywood Princess" to play his fiancee for a weekend to help him close an important business deal. Tess, feeling not a little guilty over her role in ending his marriage before it began and desperate for cash, agrees. Aaaand...you know where this is going to go, right? ;) Fortunately, the journey there is a whole lot of steamy, sexy fun. Hunter and Tess have undeniable chemistry, and Ms. Meader's trademark banter is here in spades. The sex scenes might make you feel the need to turn up the A/C, and the hero might have you contemplating a geographic move to see if you can find your own tall, dark Texan. Overall, it's a great series start. It does have a bit of an angstier feel than the other books I've read by Ms. Meader, since both Tess and Hunter are operating under some pretty heavy-duty sources of internal conflict. More than once I wished for the ability to sit down with one or both of them and explain just how wrong their perceptions of the situation were. That, or smack them upside the head until they got those ridiculous notions out of their heads. One or the other. After a heart-wrenching fake/real breakup, their reconciliation was pretty quick and mostly painless--but also adorable and heavy on the happy feels, leaving me more than content with how their story played out. Not to mention anxious for more from this series! Hunter does have two hunky and single business partners, after all... Rating: 4 stars / A- I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
This was a laugh out loud romcom. I love when the story not only has angst and love, but throw in a large dose of humor and you get amazing results. This was an amazing story and I hope you enjoy it as much as I have.
Kate brings humor and HEAT to Even the Score. Reviewed for Read Your Writes Book Reviews by Kim Confession time...I’ve known Even the Score was coming out for awhile now. Being a fan of Kate Meader, I couldn’t wait. I’ve heard bits and pieces about the story. From those bits and pieces, I was concerned I wasn’t going to like the heroine, Tess McKenzie. I mean come on, the woman convinced her friend to not marry the hero, Hunter Dade on their wedding day. The man was actually left at the altar in front of hundreds of people. That’s a little hard to get over. Kate Meader brings her classic humor which I love her for to Even the Score. She also brings the heat which I think is more than she usually writes. I went into reading this story with a preconceived idea of what the characters were like. I was totally wrong and I’m so happy for that. Tess McKenzie is an underpaid stage actress (read broke), chasing her dream of opening her own theater company. She refuses to take the easy way out and ask her mega-star mother to help her. She’s brass, sassy, and has her own dirty mouth. I totally love her! But for her, she’s been playing a part her whole life and she isn’t too sure who she really is. Hunter Dade is an alpha through and through. He’s a sweet and dirty talker with a protective streak that’s a mile long. For all the good in him, Hunter is running from his past and has regret eating him up. I can't remember the last time a character had my heart breaking for them. Hunter needs to purchase a piece of property in Texas, but in order to do so, he has to show he’s in a committed relationship. At the offhanded suggestion by one of his business partners, Hunter offers Tess the money she needs for her company if she plays the part of his fiancee for a weekend. With explosive tension and serious chemistry between them, these two are like longhorns circling each other and preparing for battle. Hunter has a violent and tragic past which rules his life. Tess’ past isn’t all smiley faces and hearts like people think. Together they bring out the best in each other, resulting in fake feelings becoming a little too real. Tess and Hunter show that when you set out for payback and to even the score, you get more than you bargained for. *The book contains violent flashbacks.* **Received a copy from Entangled Publishing in exchange for an honest unbiased opinion. I also personally purchased the book.**
4.5 Stars! I absolutely adore Kate Meader's writing, so much that I have to read anything she writes! Sometimes snarky, always witty, always humorous and always sexy, she writes smart aleck-y and bold characters who hide their dreams, insecurities and fears under tons of attitude and EVEN THE SCORE is no different. Actress Tess McKenzie comes from theater royalty, with an award-winning actress mother and she aspires to start her own theater. With no well-paying jobs on the horizon, Tess has taken to performing in dinner theater to save money towards her dream. Dinner theater is the lowest of low in the world of acting, but the pay is good and Tess is determined to hang in there rather than accept financial help from her mother, until she gets an irresistible offer from Hunter Dade. Hunter is a successful property tycoon (why are rich Texans always called tycoons and all others moguls or millionaires? Random, I know) on the verge of clinching a big business deal and he needs a fiancee for the for the weekend. Tess fits the bill, so they strike up a bargain. For a hefty contribution to her dream fund, she gets to play fiancee and help him land the deal he's angling for. Contract terms include ice cream and foot rubs and no sex. Never mind that they can't get within a few feet of each other without steaming up the air between them. The success of the plan is doubtful because not too long ago Tess's best friend left Hunter standing the altar on his wedding day, a decision that Tess may have had a hand in and Hunter hasn't forgotten about her role in the drama. Hunter and Tess have always been attracted to each other for a while and in such close quarters, they go from fighting hard to loving hard and there is nothing polite about it. But when they realize that the attraction between them is real, what happens? EVEN THE SCORE is a lot more than a sexy and steamy romance. In spite of the combative nature of their relationship, Hunter and Tess are very alike and struggle with their feelings of inadequacy, a need for validation and overcoming the misconceptions they have of each other. With a past filled with poverty, abuse and loss, Hunter clawed his way up and into success, but on the inside he's still the boy from the wrong side of town, on a quest for acceptance. Like Hunter, Tess unsuccessfully sought her mother's approval and is her own person these days. And she's just the person to teach Hunter that he deserves happiness and that his mile-wide protective streak can be put to good use - giving her foot rubs. This was so much fun to read and has me chuckling, gasping and fanning myself in turns and I definitely recommend it. Disclaimer: I received this book for free from the Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Talk about a fine line between love and hate! And a side dish of intense sexual foreplay! The chemistry between Tess and Tex, I mean Hunter, was combustible. Grab a fire extinguisher! I loved the nickname she gave him, very snarky but fierce. They both gave as good as they got. This was a great storyline that I enjoyed from the beginning to the end. There was never a dull moment. Hunter had such a way with words and Tess had a way with her actions. Their scenes were smoking hot and full of grit. The book was very fun to read and I looked forward to what they would do to each other next. It was great seeing them explore the bottom layers of each other and feel protective of one another. And I loved the healing power they provided together. I received this book in exchange for an honest review from the publisher.
EVEN THE SCORE is the first installment in Kate Meader’s contemporary, adult, Tall Dark and Texan erotic romance series. This is high powered, Texas businessman Hunter Dade, and stage actress Tess McKenzie’s storyline. Told from dual third person perspectives EVEN THE SCORE is a fake fiancée storyline wherein Hunter needs a fiancé as he attempts to make a business deal with a man who is more concerned that his much younger trophy wife attracts too much male attention. When Hunter runs into Tess at a local dinner theatre presentation, Hunter sees more than red but an opportunity to ‘even the score’. One year earlier, Tess was the maid of honor at Hunter’s now infamous almost-wedding wherein Tess was the bearer of bad news telling Hunter that he was all wrong for the woman he was about to marry. Fast forward one year and Hunter makes Tess an offer she can’t refuse but in doing so sets up a game where Hunter hopes to destroy Tess in the end. Both Tess and Hunter’s personal histories and backstories are filled will heartbreak, regret, abuse and neglect. For two people whose pasts are both damaged and dark, Tess and Hunter will find peace in one another’s arms, as long as the damage that was previously done doesn’t lead to open wounds or further scars. Alcohol and abuse play a major role in both of their earlier lives. The relationship between Tess and Hunter is one of immediate attraction. There is no denying the sexual chemistry; the palpable energy between our leading couple but Hunter’s anger towards Tess adds fuel to an already raging fire. Hunter is a man determined to bring Tess to her knees for the betrayal he believes cost him his almost-wife, but in doing so, will lose his heart to a woman whose past is almost as destructive as the life from which he came. The $ex scenes are erotic, intimate and seductive; some of Hunter’s actions are fueled by anger and thoughts of betrayal and revenge. The secondary and supporting characters include Tess’s fellow actors at the local dinner theatre company, as well as Tess’s mother who makes an appearance albeit one that is not necessarily on Tess’s top ten list of wants and needs. We are also introduced to a couple of Hunter’s business partners whose stories have yet to be told. Hunter’s mother and sister are motivating factors behind his latest business venture, and in this, the heartbreak will come full circle. EVEN THE SCORE is a well written, engaging story about chances-so to speak- for Hunter and Tess. Hunter’s chance at happiness and self-forgiveness, and Tess’s chance to make amends to the man with whom she is falling in love. The premise is familiar; the characters animated and intense; the romance is a rocky road to love and a happily ever after. Kate Meader is a wonderful story teller.
ARC requested through NetGalley and kindly provided by Entangled Publishing in exchange for a honest review. This was my first time experiencing the literary works of Ms. Meader, and I am totally kicking myself for not making time to read one of her books until now! The story line captivated my attention right from the start, and I was quite pleased with how easy it was for me to fall right into the story, for which, I attribute to her flawless writing style.. For me, the best written stories are the ones that tap into your emotions and truly make you feel the words on the pages, and this one DEFINITELY does that, and then some! Tess McKenzie is a struggling actress who is down on her luck and waiting for her big break to come along, when her sexy sworn enemy, Hunter Dade waltzes into her life and offers her the acting gig of a lifetime. All she has to do is pretend to be his fiance for the weekend and in return he'll pay her for her time, along with some other added benefits. Thinking she can play the part without complications, she takes him up on his offer not realizing she is in for A LOT more than she bargained for ... The chemistry between these two is undeniable from the start, and their feisty and playful banter helped initiate some very hot and spicy encounters that left me blushing quite a few times. They also unexpectedly connected on a emotional level, and discovered they had more in common than they originally thought, which formed an unwritten bond between them. Both characters were very well developed and the authors descriptions of each of them not only gave me a good mental picture of them, but also made them seem very realistic and relatable. I always enjoy reading a good enemies to lovers story and this one DEFINITELY hit the mark! Highly recommend this book, it will satisfy all of your reading needs...and then some!
Funny, sexy, and completely entertaining! Tess McKenzie and Hunter Dade know each other. At least they think they do. She did, after all, ruin his wedding! When they meet up a year later in a dinner theater of all places, Hunter can't believe his bad luck. Or maybe, if she agrees to his deal, his good luck! It seems they both need something. He needs a fake fiancee, and she needs money to get her own theater up and running. After spending a little time together, they are both coming to realize that maybe they don't know each other at all. I thought this one was great! Loved the writing, story, and pace of the book. The chemistry between Tess and Hunter was off the charts and it came through the pages. This is one I definitely recommend.
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Even the Score by Kate Meader Book One of the Tall, Dark, and Texan series Publisher: Brazen Publication Date: July 21, 2015 Rating: 5 stars Source: eARC from NetGalley ***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers*** Summary (from Goodreads): He'll make her an offer she can't refuse... Actress Tess McKenzie is performing in the Tenth Circle of Showbiz Hell-dinner theater. All she really wants is to start a theater of her own. Then Tess receives an offer she can't refuse. She'll get her funding...if she pretends to be the fiancée to her nemesis, Texan property tycoon Hunter Dade. If she's going to pull this off, she'll need all the luck she can get. Break a leg, indeed. On the verge of a big business deal, Hunter needs to hire a fiancée. He hasn't quite forgiven Tess for ruining his wedding, but when their chemistry goes from combative to straight-up lust, the "no sex" clause in their mutually beneficial arrangement is tested. Which is a serious problem, because if Tess isn't careful, she'll go from breaking a leg to breaking her heart... What I Liked: This is definitely one of my favorite Brazen books ever! I don't think I've ever rated a Brazen with five stars, but this one deserves it. It isn't super long - under 300 pages - but it is magnificent. I loved it from start to finish. Certain aspects really jumped out at me, and I urge anyone who enjoys adult contemporary romance and/or Brazen's titles to read this one in two weeks! Tess is a struggling actress that wants to start her ow theater, on her own terms. When Hunter Dade crashes back into her life with a huge offer, Tess finds it difficult to refuse. Play fiancee for a weekend, and get a one hundred thousand dollar check. But there is history between these two - Tess was Jenna's best friend, Jenna being Hunter's former fiancee and bride-to-be. On Hunter and Jenna's wedding day, Jenna left him at the altar, and Tess was the one that broke it to Hunter. Tess and Hunter don't like each other - but that changes very quickly as things between them unexpectedly heat up... I had my doubts about this one, initially. The guy is going to fall for his former fiancee's best friend/roommate/maid of honor? That seems odd to me, even if it was a year ago (I think it was a year ago). BUT. Here's what I found out: Hunter is a Texan business, buying properties for a living, and his marriage to Jenna would have been a political-type one. A business arrangement, sort of. Which is why Jenna left him at the altar - she had been cheating on him for a long time. Neither of them loved each other, but Hunter really wanted the marriage, for the connections, as well as to have a socialite wife. Hunter is a complex guy. He grew up in a trailer park and sometimes still considers himself Texan "white trash", which is why he wanted a socialite wife. But Hunter is know a very rich businessman who buys properties. He's trying to buy a specific property from a man he knows, but he will have to procure a fiancee to convince the man that he is living a stable life (and isn't after the man's wife - which Hunter isn't anyway). I like Hunter a lot - he has a good heart, and he is persistent. Also, he is one sexy guy. Dirty talking, smooth, and super hot. He knows how to turn about the heat! Tall, dark, and Texan, he sure is. Read the rest of my review on my blog, The Eater of Books! - eaterofbooks DOT blogspot DOT com :)
3.5 stars If you are looking for a quick, fun read you need to check out Even the Score. Tess and Hunter had a rough introduction, she was the maid of honor in a wedding that never was and she was the one to give him the bad news. A year later they cross paths again. She is a struggling actress looking to start a theater company and he is a wealthy land developer who needs someone to act like his fiancée to close a deal. The instant connection between these two just about jumps off the page and the sexual chemistry sizzles. They also have an emotional connection that adds to the story. Meader does a great job of having both main characters grow emotionally as individuals so that their relationship can move forward. My only complaint is that due to the length of the book, some of the plot points seem a little rushed and there were a couple of places where I wondered what happened. None of this was enough to detract from the overall enjoyment of the book. Tess and Hunter are definitely a hot couple, it would have been nice to have just a little bit more of them. *Review Copy provided by Net Galley in exchange for review*
This fun and sexy romance is the story of Tess and Hunter. When Hunter's wedding to his socialite fiancée ended in disaster, he blamed Tess the maid of honour for scaring off his bride to be. Encountering Tess months later in a dinner theater where she is the only bright light in an actor's hell he offers her something she can't refuse - a surefire way to earn some money she desperately needs by pretending to be his fiancée to secure a business deal, while at the same time atoning for what he sees as her grievous mistake in wrecking his wedding. But the animosity they had for each other back then was just a mask of their true desire for each other, and now that they've got to pretend to be intimate, it's not long before pretense becomes the real thing. When Hunter realizes that his assessment of Tess has been wrong from the start, will he be man enough to admit his mistakes and secure a real future with her? I really enjoyed this story! Both of these characters were really likeable right from the start. Tess is a warm, friendly, spirited woman. She's not afraid to speak her mind and tell it like it is, though hurting Hunter had never been something she'd ever planned to do. She'd rather he never know the truth about the woman he planned to marry, even if it means he thinks the worst of her. She never thought she'd be in Hunter's vicinity again, but his deal is too good to pass up. Hunter is equally engaging as this strong, confidant, man's man. Their chemistry sparks from the get-go and before long they are giving in to temptation. They share several steamy scenes together ( and whew, this author can write those well!) but at the same time, they start to open up with each other too, sharing deep intimate secrets that lead them both to realize that things between them won't be so easy to quit when their agreement is over. Both of these characters have some serious baggage from their pasts to overcome if they want to be successful as a couple now. Hunter's relationship with his alcoholic mother shows a vulnerable and caring side of him that Tess finds very compelling. He's a protector through and through and when Hunter realizes that Tess's shows of bravado covers a more vulnerable façade, he is quick to take over this role for her too. I loved how the story played out, how sweet Hunter really is, and how when he realized he was in the wrong, he did what he needed to do to make things right again. It was a really lovely, funny and sexy story and a great introduction for this author into the Brazen world. 5 stars.
This was so great! Everything I love in a story was in this plus the edition of a super sexy cowboy. Awesome read! I loved both Tess and Hunter and the friction between the two. Characters that bicker and have great animosity are a personal favorite of mine. It created amazing chemistry between them and a lot of heat. I loved their growing connection and the development of them coming together. I thought there was an excellent pace and it was well developed. It was entertaining with funny parts and sweet, sexy parts plus a bit of drama and emotion. It was just a fantastic and fun read. Let's not forget it was super hot! It was sensual, passionate, and steamy! Sexy cowboy is an understatement and I loved his dirty talking mouth. Even the Score is just one of those books that's totally enjoyable. The right blend of everything to keep you interested and on your toes. Solid read from start to finish with great characters. Light, sexy, fun, and hot! Loved it! Complimentary copy received for honest review.
Even the Score is a sexy read that is immensely entertaining. My favorite parts of the story are the tug of war between these two characters. Each has a strong personality and have to prove that they have the upper hand. Although they drive each other crazy, there is a strong pull of attraction. Will Hunter and Tess prove to be each other's saving grace or their own worst enemy? I received an ARC of Kate Meader's Even the Score in exchange for an honest review. Refreshing, funny and worthwhile.
5 - Perfection times heaven. Stars! Sometimes you pick up a book with no expectations and no real idea as to what you are going to get. I hadn’t read anything by Kate Meader prior to Even The Score, and to say it grabbed me from the first page would be an understatement. I am naturally quite a quick reader, but I found myself slowing down with this one, because the writing is just that good, I wanted to make sure that I hadn’t missed anything. Kate has also managed to mix snark, sarcasm and wit perfectly between Hunter and Tess, that when the emotional aspect of their pasts and their developing relationship comes to the fore of the story it makes it all the more poignant. He had a lifetime of darkness nipping his heels, and she was the first flush of dawn. Hunter and Tess, were really, really likeable characters, both strong and pretty confident personalities, who are used to dealing with their own issues and getting on with things the best they can, but they also have massive pre-conceived notions about the other, that as their weekend together as fake lovers progresses, they both start to realize just how wrong about the other they were, and how right they might actually be together. Being the first book in the Tall, Dark & Texan, Series, I have to say I am pretty effing excited right now, nothing gives me more of a rush than discovering an author that ticks every box I have in relation to my romantic reading requirements, and Kate Meader has certainly done that, and then some, with a little bit more on top for good measure! ”I love your dirty mouth, Hunter Dade, and you can use it on me anytime.” ARC generously provided by Entangled Publishing, and it was my absolute pleasure to provide the above honest review.