The Kissing Game

The Kissing Game

by Marie Harte

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"Sexy, sweet, and thoroughly satisfying."—LAUREN LAYNE, New York Times bestselling author

She's one kiss away from finding Mr. Right!

Rena Jackson is ready. She's worked her tail off to open up her own hair salon, and she's almost ready to quit her job at the dive bar. Rena's also a diehard romantic, and she's had her eye on Axel Heller for a while. He's got that tall-brooding-and-handsome thing going big-time. Problem is, he's got that buttoned-up Germanic ice man thing going as well. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Rena's about ready to give up on Axel and find some other Mr. Right.

At six foot six, Axel knows he intimidates most people. He's been crushing on the gorgeous waitress for months. But the muscled mechanic is no romantic, and his heart is buried so deep, he has no idea how to show Rena what he feels. He knows he's way out of his depth and she's slipping away. So, he makes one crazy, desperate play...

"I bet you a kiss you can't resist me."
Game on.

Praise for New York Times and USA Today bestseller Marie Harte:
"Blends humor, heart, and heat to deliver a top of the charts performance."—Night Owl Romance, 5/5 Stars, Top Pick! for Zero to Sixty
"A blazing hot, emotionally intense love story...from an author on the rise."—Kirkus Reviews for A Sure Thing
"Funny, addicting, and full of hot sex scenes."—Booklist for How to Handle a Heartbreaker
"Another exceptionally red-hot romance by Marie Harte with a strong yet sweet hero!"—Fresh Fiction for Just the Thing

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781492696995
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Publication date: 02/04/2020
Sold by: Barnes & Noble
Format: NOOK Book
Pages: 320
Sales rank: 8,751
File size: 2 MB

About the Author

Caffeine addict, boy referee, and romance aficionado, New York Times and USA Today bestseller Marie Harte is a confessed bibliophile and devotee of action movies. Whether biking around town, hiking, or hanging at the local tea shop, she's constantly plotting to give everyone a happily ever after. Visit and fall in love.

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The Kissing Game 3.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
gaele 8 days ago
4.5 Stars, Rounded Rena has a bunch of friends, a loud, comical and very protective extended family, a dream and shelves FULL of romance books. She wants the “dream” of a Prince Charming and his white steed, sharing and loving one another until the end of time. In addition to that, she’s working at a dive bar where fights and beers are doled out regularly, along with a dash of “white power” wanna-bes and their associated crap. But the bare is simply a stepping stone to opening her own salon, and she’s soon moving on to being a business owner with all of that. And still, the “Viking-Like” Axel attracts and confounds her regularly. German by birth, his long hair, moustache and beard and taciturn nature leave her uncomfortable – well that and his fights. He’s ALWAYS seeming to be fighting just when she’d hoped there was more. Axel has yet to truly deal with his grief and guilt after his mother’s death. A successful body / paint shop with a few key employees, always trying to ‘draw’ him into more activities and life, a tension between he and Rena’s cousin Del and her shop, and a crush on Rena that leaves him tongue-tied and feeling unworthy of her affections leave him flummoxed. And getting from one-word responses and fists flailing to actually ‘getting the girl” is a path full of laughter, outright hysterics (I reference the “singing telegram” – you have to read it to believe it), and honor bound to ‘protect’ those he cares for. A bit intimidating, there’s a soft heart and lots to offer under the Viking-good looks and stone-faced expression. And it will take Rena, the entirety of her crazy, loud, devoted extended family, her friends and his, and several moments that steam the print off the page to get there. I LOVE that Harte brought in ‘real world’ struggles to this couple – from the overt racism and threats to the battles Axel had with his brother and father, the rescued cat, the opening up of his shop to those who were “unemployable’ because of their criminal histories, and Rena’s determination to know “all” of him, good, bad and indifferent. And let’s face it – the daily presents that ranged from creepy and not quite right to outright laughable singing and dancing telegrams, troll dolls and a poorly chosen video from the guy down the street just played with my emotions in ways I never expected. From laughter to “aww so sweet” every move Axel makes, and several were heavy handed, was made with the intent to protect, and even when he was wrong in the delivery – his intentions are always clear. And Rena’s patience and determination that he understands the need to talk about his past, and share it all with her allowed them both the opportunity to grow beyond their issues coming into the relationship, as they work to grow together. A favorite for the family, the laughs, the heart and the characters – giving me a sense of the small section of the city they’ve made their own. I received an eArc copy of the title from the publisher via NetGalley for purpose of honest review. I was not compensated for this review: all conclusions are my own responsibility.
eleventhirteenpm 4 days ago
DNF at 36% I got sucked in by that adorable cover and the synopsis promising a fun sounding, banter filled story. Sadly it didn’t come close to delivering. I didn’t care for either of the characters. Rena and Axel both waiver so much and often to the extreme. She will be enjoying a conversation with him and then immediately think about how she wants kids and decides he’s not The One. This was on the first date. He’s prone to saying random words in German and storming off. Together there’s absolutely no chemistry. Oh, and he’s often referenced as “tall, dark, and handsome” when it’s stated that he’s blond with fair skin. Plot wise, it was a hot mess. There are loads and loads and loads of characters and I found out from other reviews that this book is a companion to another series....which is why it made sense that it immediately felt like I was dropped into the middle of the story. Tons of push and pull and an obsession with Valentine’s Day made this a struggle to keep reading. I did get to 36% and then skipped around, skimming for anything that would interest me. I found some violence, hate slang words, and talks of domestic violence. I didn’t read any of the racism and hate crime scenes, but I’ve seen other reviews mention it. Overall, it was a cute cover, but the story definitely didn’t match. **Huge thanks to Sourcebooks Casablanca for providing the arc free of charge**
EileenAW 5 days ago
I enjoyed Rena and Axel’s love story in The Kissing Game by Marie Harte. Rena Jackson has been searching for Mr. Right with little success. After working in a dive bar for years she is ready to open her own hair salon but will miss seeing Axel Heller. Mechanic Axel has that tall, brooding, handsome thing going for him but is also a buttoned-up Germanic who doesn’t talk much. At six foot six, Axel is intimidating to most people. He has had a crush on the beautiful Rena for months but not being romantic he has no idea how to approach her. He has no idea to show Rena what he feels and is afraid she’s slipping out of his reach. With Valentine’s Day approaching, Axel makes a crazy, desperate attempt to get his chance with Rena. He corners her away from the crowd and says "I bet you a kiss you can't resist me." May the games begin!! I liked these two. Axel might have been quiet and brooding but when he had something to say you wanted to listen. Whether owning his own garage, house, or Rena, Axel knew what he wanted and went after it. Now he had to prove to Rena, by Valentine’s Day, that he deserved of her love; despite making lots of mistakes. Rena needed to relax her unrealistic expectations of love, learned through reading her romance novels. She also needed to open her eyes and realize how hard Axel was trying and how much he wanted to protect; especially from the skinheads harassing her and causing damage to her salon. Ms. Harte wrote a wonderful, funny and sexy story that should not be missed. She provided a tale rich with sexual chemistry, humor, and endearing characters giving Axel a chance to prove he truly loved Rena and that they a happy ever after future together. I highly recommend The Kissing Game to other readers. I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this book.
MkMason 5 days ago
I was underwhelmed with this romance, contemporary novel. It was an easy read, but it just didn't do much for me. I felt there were several main issues with the novel. Rena and Axel like each other, but neither has made the first move. Axel has some deep-seeded daddy issues and doesn't think he could be good enough for Rena - he gets into a lot of fights and can be violet. Real macho stuff here. Rena is your cliched "wants a Valentine and husband" girl and makes no secret of that. She worries Axel just wants a fun night and not to love her forever so they make a bet, Axel will win her over by Valentine's day (about a month away). There is an audience for this book I am sure, but I wasn't it. Just not my cup of tea!
Christie_Savage 11 days ago
I had high hopes for this book as I tend to really enjoy a good rom-com. However, this one fell a bit short for me and I was a bit disappointed. It seemed as the book continued on I found myself less interested. The plot had a lot of potential, but personally I felt the male love interest was a bit unlikable. I would probably read another book by this author to give them another shot since I think parts of the story were good. I would like to think netgalley and the publisher the opportunity to read this in exchange for an honest review.
Kasey_Baril 13 days ago
**Disclaimer: I received an advance review copy for free, and I am leaving this review voluntarily.** I wish I was more witty to come up with some pun about how I didn't like this game, but I'm not. Unfortunately, "The Kissing Game" is a hard pass for me. PROS + Attempt at diversity??? + Fun and cute book cover, but it doesn't help the story in any way. CONS + Too many tropes (and I'm a sucker for most of the cliches) + Axel is described as tall, dark, and handsome, but he's blonde-haired and blue-eyed? + Again, they just accept that they're head-over-heels in love with each other. I didn't really see a point in the story because we know from the beginning that they like each other/ will end up together? All-in-all, I had to DNF this book. I was not having fun nor was I engaged in the story.
FadedPages 16 days ago
2.5/5 stars I had very mixed feelings while reading this story. First, the cover was misleading and seems more rom-com than what it really was which was a biker bar/autoshop/hair stylist story with dirty talk and multiple sex scenes. This can be misleading for some folks. Second, I believe I would have enjoyed this story a whole lot more by reading her previous series and have already formed connections with past characters. It would've bumped up the rating in my estimation at least and increased my enjoyment while reading. There were so many different characters, over fifteen, so it was hard to focus or care about specific ones. Also, every character and couple seemed to have something else going on storyline wise and it almost felt like this book was trying to be a platform for about five other spinoffs - firefighters, Axel's body shop, Del's body shop, hair stylist shop, gangsters, etc. As a reader, I just felt my attention pulled in way too many directions. I did feel I connected with the main characters, Rena and Axel, on most occasions. Rena was a little bit of a worrier and overthought things entirely too much while Axel wasn't much of a talker and was the ultimate macho guy with a soft heart. There were two things about Axel that bothered me though. One was that he was described as German, spoke German and everyone kept referring to him as a Viking. The second issue was that he didn't talk as much in the beginning, but the more he did throughout the story it was extremely broken English and threw me off a bit reading it. This story was not a slow burn and seemed to get to the sexy scenes pretty quick. I'd say too quick on one occasion. It generally bothers me when there's a fight or argument, then quick sorry which instantly evolves to sex without a clear discussion of what happened in the first place. It felt very jumbled and rushed in those instances. There were definitely good examples of communication within this story too, although most were towards the end of the book. Overall, the small glimpses of chemistry witnessed here and there as well as the hilariously horrible Valentine presents were the saving grace of this story. These are the main reasons why it gets rounded up to a 3. *Thank you to Sourcebooks Casablanca for gifting me a copy of the arc in exchange for an honest review.
Pineknotter 16 days ago
Axel ingenuously negotiates the pitfalls of wooing his Valentine This book has its pluses and minuses, but overall I really liked German hero Axel and his awkward attempts to win Rena's affection. His pre-Valentine's Day courtship campaign, a type of "Twelve Days of Christmas" gift giving in the weeks before Valentine's Day, included some trite, some kitschy, and some wildly risque presents and I was looking forward to each day's unwrapping. Axel starts out the glowering strong and silent, brooding muscleman but I liked his transformation as the story progresses. Aah, kids and animals really do know who the good ones are! And, yes, their romantic encounters include some serious heat. This romance, despite its bumps, has an upbeat vibe, mostly thanks to Axel's enthusiastic and ingenuous moves to please Rena. I also liked the subplot involving Rena's relationship with her mother. I did not feel Axel's backstory with his father and brother was quite as successful. On the less positive side, there are a passel of characters and pre-established relationships that were difficult to keep straight since I had not read about any of them previously. For me, the sheer number detracted from my ability to focus on Axel and Rena. And the whole turf war thing did not quite work for me. I read a complimentary advance copy of the book; this is my voluntary and honest review.
nelriv 16 days ago
I enjoyed the book, however I have a lot of reviews that readers were not happy about the secondary characters, and yes this is written as a standalone however we do have a lot of again the secondary characters were characters of previous book, and since I read those and enjoyed those I liked touching base with them. We have Rena which I remembered here from Donavan's book and was wondering when she would get hers and she finally got. Rena is a romance reader and lover of the genre so she dreams of her happily ever after, and she finally gets her chance with Axel who has been crushing on her for a while. They are little rough, a little problem with communication but give them a chance.. rcvd an ARC at no cost to author..Voluntarily reviewed with my own thoughts and opinions.
Anonymous 17 days ago
Boy meets girl. Boy likes girl. Girl likes boy. Neither of them do anything about it for a long time. Then, one day, he finally wagers a "kiss", and things take off. I'm a sucker for romances, and so I expected going in that I was going to like this story about a boy named Axel and a girl named Rena. Unfortunately, I found many parts of the book boring, and it was difficult at times to get into Rena's head and find the context behind her actions/reactions when she spent time with Axel. The obstacles their budding relationship faces check a lot of boxes I'd usually find interesting, including a mixed race relationship, racism and its impact, and difficulty dealing with strong feelings and past trauma. The way in which these topics were written and how they meshed with Axel and Rena's budding relationship didn't click for me, much as I wanted them to. Long story short, it's unlikely that I'll read this one again, even though there's nothing particularly wrong with the book or its characters. This one just wasn't for me.
Sandy-thereadingcafe 17 days ago
3.5 stars--THE KISSING GAME by Marie Harte is a stand alone, contemporary, adult, erotic, romance series focusing on auto body shop owner Axel Heller, and hair stylist / shop owner Rena Jackson. THE KISSING GAME is connected to the author’s McCauley Brothers, and Body Shop Bad Boys series with the inclusion of several characters crossing over for familiarity and history. Told from dual third person perspectives (Rena and Axel) THE KISSING GAME follows auto body shop owner Axel Heller, and hair stylist / shop owner Rena Jackson. Rena Jackson is a romantic at heart wanting her own happily ever after but there are no available prospects on the horizon, yet the one man that makes her heart flutter, is the one man who struggles in the romance department. Now that she is opening her own beauty salon, Rena has decided to step out on her own, but Axel is hoping to be the man by her side. When their mutual friends place bets on the demise of their building relationship, quiet but determined Axel must step up his romance game in an effort to win the girl of his dreams. What ensues is the building romance and relationship between Axel and Rena, and the potential fall-out as Axel struggles with sins of the past. Axel Heller, of German/Bavarian descent, battles between head and heart knowing his temper could be the destruction of everything he loves but when Rena, a woman of color, is threatened Axel finds himself on the offensive to protect the woman he loves. Rena Jackson’s dreams have come true with the opening of her own beauty salon but threats of violence, and a disruption to her shop find Rena negatively focusing on Axel’s need to protect more than the threats against her life. Meanwhile the Heller family dynamics will come into play as Axel struggles to move on from the past. From a dysfunctional and abusive family, Axel doesn’t want a repeat of everything that happened when he was a young boy, and in this Axel battles with his own self-doubt. The relationship between Rena and Axel is a sort of-friends to lovers that has been building for several months. Rena has no idea why Axel has not asked her out, while Axel struggles right from the start. Rena is a woman who likes to read romance books, and Axel is determined to woo the woman who has stolen his heart. The $ex scenes are intimate, erotic and intense without the use of over the top, sexually graphic, language and text. There is a large ensemble cast of colorful and energetic secondary and supporting characters, most of whom were introduced in the author’s McCauley Brothers, and Body Shop Bad Boys series. If THE KISSING GAME is part of one of the aforementioned series, I am hoping the author makes a connection one way or the other. THE KISSING GAME is a story of family, friendships, racism and love. The cover screams romantic comedy but I have to question the choice and direction as there is limited humor throughout the story; as well as the blurb that proclaims our hero to be tall, dark and handsome, who is definitely not dark but Viking blonde-perhaps the darkness is the demons that creep up from the past. The premise is interesting; the characters are animated; the romance struggles with preconceived notions and ideas of romance and love.
FaeScot 17 days ago
Finally we get Heller and Rena's story from The Body Shop Bad Boys series! All of Marie's fans have been begging her for this story and she finally found the time to bring it to us! It was SO worth the wait and you can tell it's been simmering for a while in her talented writer brain. It is laugh out loud good at times and Marie can sure write dark brooding hunky heroes. Axel is so much a guardian protector type hero with a teddy bear heart. These guys are my favorite type of hero and Marie writes them so well. Then she wove humor into this story with the tight community of friends and family and I just couldn't put the book down. More, I want more! Axel Heller is a 6 foot 6 inch German who looks like he stepped off a Viking romance book cover. He's the owner of an auto body and paint shop that we met in Marie's previous Body Shop Bad Boys series. He and Dell's garage share auto painter savant Lou Cortez between their shops. Axel recently lost his mother and has been going back and forth between Seattle and Germany settling her estate. His father Jannik Heller and look alike older brother Maksim run Autoteile, a million dollar car & parts business in Germany & the US Northwest. Axel has little to do with them as his dad is abusive and Maksim is his father's heir. Axel came to the US when his mother left to get away from Jannik. Rena Jackson is a bartender at Ray's Bar that we met in the series. She's finally opened her hair salon and is quitting the bar. Lou's sister Stella works with her. Axel has been in love with her since he first saw her over a year ago but won't talk to her as he's afraid he'll mess it up. He's been keeping everyone away from dating Rena and everyone knows he's staked his claim. Rena is looking at her 35th birthday and is tired of being alone and wants romance in her life like she reads about in her books. She's put word out she's ready to start dating again. Heller finally gets up the nerve to ask her out for a date before he looses her. Rena works hard to get Axel to open up to her so she can see who he is. Their chemistry is off the charts. Axel is afraid to fully open up to his feelings because he has anger issues that can rage out of control just like his dad. I loved seeing how Rena got to Axel so he reached for help. I voluntarily read and reviewed an advanced readers copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own.
MBurton 18 days ago
I've been following along with these families and friends for a while now. I'm the kind of reader who loves when characters constantly show up in book after book, so I can easily say that I really enjoyed seeing everyone again. I've gotten to know both Rena and Axel as side characters. I'm always amazed how different a side character from a previous book can be once they become a main character. Axel was a very good surprise. I adored him in this book. You get a lot of Axel's pov. The way he feels about Rena was something that just melted me into a puddle. The fact that he is this big, Viking-like guy who doesn't talk that much and can come off a bit scary, could show that shy, crush-like personality just slayed me. I loved him. The problem with me loving Axel so much, is that I really wanted to knock Rena in the head. A lot. All I can say is if I had this Viking God courting me, I would die a happy woman. Despite wanting to shake Rena a few times, I did truly enjoy this book and seeing all my favorite side characters again.
SaraOxo 18 days ago
The Kissing Game by Marie Harte a five-star read that will find wunderbar. This started and I nearly DNF’d I would have given it a two star at most, but it got so good. I adored Rena Minerva Jackson and the strength of fight she has, she took some time to warm to but honestly once I did, I would fight the world for her, much like the Viking Ice-man. Axel Heller is that Ice-man, and I can see why some people have issues around him, he is an enigma in himself, but as you read into him and try to get deeper into his story you see hints of him, he doesn’t warm for a long time, so its difficult to fall for him for a long time. Bu once you do, you will be wishing for your own Viking. This does have some issues to the story, and not all of it makes sense, I almost felt that this was part of a series and I hadn’t read the previous stories, but there is a good story if you just go with it and keep up you will have a good story in the end.
Shanrock19 18 days ago
First off, the red cover with the dancing people doesn’t fit the story at all. This is a steamy, sexy romance that deals with things like racism and anger management; it’s not some chick lit, easy, light romance. It is a sweet story with some fun times, but the cover is just too saccharine. Also, this book is set in/near Seattle, but the author should’ve just made up a city because the Seattle in this book is very little like Seattle in real life. I’ve lived in Seattle forever, so that was bothering me as I read. Axel, a German, owns a car body shop and has had a big crush on Rena for about a year. Apparently, he’s a really scary looking guy that others want to fight for some reason, so people are constantly being weird around him. Rena, a black woman, is ready to open her own salon and she’s also had a crush on Axel for a long time. She’s a romance fanatic; which became really annoying at times, and has issues with her mom. They start dating, but insecurities from both parties, racists, and some antics from their friends cause some issues for the new couple. Loved the passion between Rena and Axel. Love how much he supports her and knows right away that she’s the one. Axel has a difficult past, so he’s dealing with a lot but he is so sweet and loving with Rena. I’m back and forth on Rena, she felt too needy for my liking and overly emotional at times, but she has a good heart. She was pissed at Axel for not asking her out, but when he does, she’s rude to him. Still loved their connection though. This story features lots of characters from some of the author’s past series; some I’ve read and some I haven’t, so you may want to start with those other books but it’s not absolutely necessary. This story does stand on its own. It’s fun to see what some of the other characters are up to, but it was a bit much. Also, there were times that they were kind of jerks to the new couple. Overall, an entertaining read with a sweet romance.
Lashea677 18 days ago
Harte entertains readers by flirting with their hearts. The Kissing Game makes a little bit naughty feel so very nice with a tempting sense of humor and a couple of saucy main characters. Rena is a firecracker. She knows her mind and speaks her heart refusing to hold anything back. Axel is an alpha that has a short fuse and a soft heart. The Kissing Game packs a slow burn with long lasting results.