Overachiever River Purcell was never supposed to be a struggling single mom, working double shifts just to make ends meet. Nor was she supposed to be abandoned by her high school sweetheart, breaking her heart into a thousand jagged pieces. Now Vaughn De Matteo is back in town, his sights set on her...and River is in danger of drowning a second time.
No one believed Hook's resident bad boy was good enough for River. Not even Vaughn himself. But he'll fight like hell to win back the woman he never stopped loving, to keep the daughter he never expected, and convince himself he's worth their love in the process––even if he has to rely on their fierce and undeniable sexual chemistry.
But even as River's body arches under his hungered touch, the demons of the past lurk in the shadows. Waiting for Vaughn to repeat his mistakes one last time...
Each book in the Made in Jersey series is STANDALONE:
* Crashed Out
* Thrown Down
* Worked Up
* Wound Tight
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Read an Excerpt
A Made in Jersey Novel
By Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2016 Tessa Bailey
All rights reserved.
Vaughn De Matteo rested his forehead on the steering wheel of his truck and counted to ten. And then he did it again. The process hadn't been necessary since his early twenties — before the army had wrung the hair-trigger temper out of him — but he slipped back into the calming countdown without missing a beat, attempting to ease the anger jabbing into his gut like splinters.
Not anger at the girl — now a woman — he'd left behind in Hook, New Jersey. Jesus, anger and River Purcell didn't even belong in the same vicinity. No, this rage was directed at something bigger than the both of them.
Fate? Nah. Such a lofty title gave the cosmic fuckery too much credit. Karma, maybe. Although, if finding out the woman he'd left behind — for her own damn good — had borne his child, reared his three-year-old child alone ... if this was his comeuppance for touching River in the first place, he deserved it.
"Go ahead, karma," Vaughn muttered. "Do your worst."
His laugh was humorless. As if the situation could get any worse. It had taken him twenty-four hours to absorb the shock wrought by the letter sent by River's brother, Sarge. Twenty-four hours he couldn't really afford, considering the damn piece of correspondence had been sitting in his PO box for months, collecting dust. Although, what was one more day compared to four years, right?
Still numb head to toe, he'd managed to phone his employer for whom he worked as private, armed security detail, relinquishing the steady job he'd fought to procure. The job that allowed him to maintain his empty, colorless lifestyle in Baltimore, nursing whiskey and haunted by memories in a functional one-bedroom apartment overlooking a rail yard. The kind of place he belonged.
After quitting, he'd been on the road within the hour, driving back to Hook, crossing the town limit he'd never thought to darken with his shadow again. Now he sat in the parking lot outside the Kicked Bucket, mere moments from laying eyes on River again, and ... fuck. Fuck. After not allowing himself to feel anything for so long, after self-medicating with liquor every time the pain got too intense, there was no easing into the idea of being close to her again. Just knowing the filthy stucco structure in his rearview mirror had the nerve to contain River, he could feel the dangerous heating of his blood.
She shouldn't be in there. She shouldn't be in this shitty goddamn town at all. Unknowingly, he'd left her without a choice, though, and now nothing would stand in the way of him repairing the damage, starting with entering the lounge and calmly asking River to speak with him in private. He could handle that, couldn't he? Could manage the task of entering the premises and conducting a reasonable conversation, even though a primal roar had been building in his throat since he'd opened the letter from Sarge.
His River. A mother ... an abandoned single mother.
And therein lay the reason Vaughn couldn't make himself leave the truck. Because she had to hate him. Hell, she had every right. But living with the memory of her crying on their motel bed — the same bed where he'd taken her virginity — had been painful enough to live with. Adding hatred to heartbreak might just kill him.
No choice, De Matteo. Move.
If Vaughn's reluctance to respond even to his own command wasn't a testament to his passionate dislike for authority, he didn't know what was — one of the main reasons he hadn't been a good fit for the army, no matter how often his superiors had attempted to tell him differently.
"Enough stalling," Vaughn said to his own reflection in the driver's side window, before pushing open the door and exiting. His boots weighed seven tons apiece as he traversed the trash-strewn parking lot, gazing out at the surrounding high-rise apartment buildings. The Kicked Bucket was in a shitty part of town, the nearby residences lacking care. But hey, at least those people could afford a place to raise a family, right? At least they were trying. More than he could have done for River, that was for damn sure.
A few yards from the entrance, he was brought up short when one of the vehicles caught his eye. River's red Pontiac. She still had it? Why did that make him feel as though his intestines were being sucked out through a straw?
Probably because he'd made love to River so many times in the backseat, her tight body riding him, those bee-stung lips wide open as she moaned, they'd happily lost count. Ungrateful for the punishment of his memory, Vaughn slapped the lounge door open with more force than intended. He gave a humorless laugh when none of the regulars so much as flinched. Even though he'd walked in out of the dark, Vaughn's eyes had to make a different kind of adjustment. Smoking might have been outlawed in New Jersey, but the owner had apparently thrown out his ability to give a fuck along with the state regulated No Smoking signs.
Vaughn peered through the white haze to the stage beyond, where a man performed with an exhausted voice, singing about small town love affairs and tragedy. Tables were scattered in no apparent pattern throughout the joint, filled by amorous couples, or by groups of men, most of them ignoring the musical act in favor of playing cards. Or just plain getting drunk, if the number of empty shot glasses rolling around were any indication.
Shot glasses slowly being collected ... by River.
Forty-nine months and three days.
That was how long it had been since he'd seen her.
Vaughn swayed to the right, his shoulder slamming up against the wall. Then he kind of just hung there, counting forward and backward from one to ten. Not helping. Not helping. His stomach pitched at the sight of River walking through the drunks, like a nurse walking among the wounded on a battlefield. She could still knock his lights out on sight. Not that he'd doubted it for a second. But God, if it were possible, she'd grown even more beautiful over the last forty-nine months. Her blonde hair was tied up in a ponytail, a pencil stuck through the base, in a way he remembered well enough to make his throat go raw. In a short black skirt and fitted white T-shirt, River tried to look the part of indifferent barmaid, but didn't pull it off. Not by a stretch.
Eyes Vaughn knew were just a shade darker than cornflower blue flitted to each table, and her fingers tugged on the skirt's hem self-consciously every time she approached a new one. When she fumbled with the notepad, recovering with a nervous laugh, a choked sound left Vaughn. "Riv," he whispered.
She looked up so fast, he might as well have shouted. The sudden impact of having River's focus on him after such an extended period of time without it released a rushing sound between his ears, blocking out the sad lounge act ... and apparently someone asking if he needed a table. Because when Vaughn snapped back to reality, a man he towered over by at least a foot was in his face. Snapping his fingers.
"I wouldn't ..." Vaughn shook his head to clear it, experiencing a resurgence of anger, this time for having his attention diverted from where he needed it to be. On River. "I wouldn't advise snapping your fingers in my face again."
"Why's that, huh?"
A toss of blonde hair snagged Vaughn's gaze as his angelic ex-girlfriend zigzagged through the crowd, drawing more than just his notice. Ah no, quite the opposite. She was putting on an unwitting show for every man in the room, attracting lecherous looks by virtue of being her beautiful self, light in a dark tunnel, same way she'd always been.
Fingers snapped in front of his face. Again. "This is my place and I asked you a question."
"This is your place?" Vaughn asked. God, one hour back in Jersey and already his accent had thickened from water to oil. "You hired River Purcell?"
Vaughn plowed a fist into the underside of the man's jaw, watching him fall backward onto the sticky concrete floor with detachment that slowly morphed into satisfaction. So much for calm, he thought, shaking out his right hand. Within his chest, he could feel the familiar dark satisfaction that came from fighting. He'd always had it inside him, never gone a day without it. That born and bred edge — passed on by generations of De Matteo men — that should have repelled a young River back in high school.
But no. No, she'd been drawn, instead. As she was now, swerving around tables, coming closer to where he stood, still just inside the entrance. She wasn't the only one, either. Men were standing up, cracking their knuckles in the New Jersey state signal for shit-is-about-to-go-down. In the corner of his eye Vaughn saw the owner rousing on the floor, noticed him gesturing to the apparently lazy security staff, who also headed in Vaughn's direction. So he did what every levelheaded man would do in a situation where he was outnumbered about two hundred to one.
He lifted his fists, pounding one of them against his chest. "Come on, then," he called out. "Don't be shy as well as stupid."
River's voice was breathless as she reached his side, making everything inside him expand like an inflating raft. His fists shook in the air, so he tightened them. Don't look at her yet, just get her out. "You got a purse you need to grab or somethin'?"
An expulsion of air came from her lips. "You can't just —"
She broke off when he sent her a look. The look. It said, come on, you remember how I roll. Can't isn't part of my vocabulary. Placing his attention on River was a mistake, however, because now it couldn't be dragged away by a dozen ox. Oh Lord. Those big, sweetheart eyes were tired. Of course, they were. If everything in the letter from Sarge was accurate, she'd been working day shifts at the local factory, in addition to slinging drinks at night.
Yeah, his actions were going to cost her this job. Maybe he'd walked into the joint fully aware of that fact. But regret refused to appear. If fifty years had passed since they'd shared oxygen, he would have done the same thing. River belonged in the Kicked Bucket like a virgin belonged in a brothel. As in, she didn't. And he was a presumptuous fucker for assuming the responsibility of that decision, but he'd never claimed to be otherwise. "Hiya, doll."
This was where she coldcocked him. Screamed at him, scratched his eyes out, and told him she hated his guts. I'm not ready, I'm not ready.
Turns out he really wasn't ready for what happened next.
River's lips lifted in the bright, class president smile he remembered like the back of his hand. So angelic, the other angels in heaven had probably banded together to kick her out. Right onto his unworthy lap. "Hey there, Vaughn." She reached out and patted his shoulder. "Guess you haven't changed much, huh?"CHAPTER 2
River had never considered a career in acting, but realized now she might have been shortsighted. Even after months of preparation for Vaughn's return — yes, she'd gone back to blonde and refused to apologize — she hadn't really expected to pull off a warm greeting. After all, this was the man who'd left her broken, bleeding, and sobbing on her knees while he sped off into the night. A woman could take a lifetime to recover from something like that, but in River's case, she thought it might take three. Because while she stood there, smiling up at the son of a bitch, a metal crowbar was doing its damnedest to pry her ribs apart.
Why did he have to be so ruggedly gorgeous? His dark blond hair was finger combed, longer than the last time she'd seen it, when he'd rocked an army crew cut. Scruff darkened his cheeks, only adding gravity to his soulful, deep brown eyes. Vaughn had always been in good shape. She remembered watching him do pull-ups on the doorframe of her bedroom, pushups on the floor beside the bed, on nights when he snuck in through the window, or afternoons her parents weren't home. Burning energy, he'd called it. Later, she would realize he was working through a reservoir of sexual frustration, but he'd never once pressured her, never made her feel guilty for his painful condition.
River shook the bittersweet memory loose. Yes, Vaughn's arms had always been carved in marble, but they'd expanded beneath the woven together tattoos, barely fitting into the sleeves of his gray T-shirt. His body had settled into manhood with a vengeance, maturing in ways that were not convenient when River needed to remain focused on the plan.
Right, the plan. Get Vaughn to turn around and leave Hook, secure in the knowledge that his presence wasn't needed. Free to go about his business, whatever it was.
He'd fallen off the face of the Earth forty-nine months and three days prior. Unreachable. A lot like he'd been, even when standing right in front of her, all those years ago.
When they'd met in high school, Vaughn's closed off nature had been mysterious. Then she'd graduated Hook High and spent two years taking night classes at the local community college while Vaughn fixed cars to make money — before he'd surprised her by enlisting in the army, staying away for two more years, before returning to Hook and leaving her for good, on the very night of his homecoming. That air of mystery had grown stale by then, but she'd been too stubborn to quit attempting to reach him. To beat those walls down with love.
Vaughn rolled his neck, a lot like a boxer entering the ring. If River didn't move soon, one of two things would happen. The crowbar would finish the job it was doing on her ribs, and she'd collapse like a corpse on the floor. Or Vaughn would take on the entire lounge in the most unbalanced fight of the century.
"I know it goes against the De Matteo code," River started, "but I'd appreciate you living to fight another day."
He rolled his big shoulders, appearing to evaluate the approaching men in order to decide on his first victim. "Why is that?"
"I'm the one who cleans up the blood here." She swallowed hard, feeling her mask slip a little. "And I need this job, Vaughn."
"You clean up ..." He trailed off, taking a long, shuddering breath. "Riv, I can't let you stay here. You know that, right? You know two decades from now, I still won't be over seeing you in this disgusting place."
His gaze was half apologetic, half uncompromising. "Either you quit or I take on all comers. Either way, the mother of my kid isn't working in this place."
Thank God her boss chose that moment to interrupt, because River could hardly breathe under the first acknowledgment of them having a child together. Two invisible pillows pressed against her ears, muffling the bar sounds. Vaughn must have experienced the same shift of gravity, because the intensity radiating from him was palpable.
But it had nothing on the low, brutal hum of guilt that had existed in River's breast since the night Vaughn left.
Focus. She could make up for her impulsiveness if she just stuck to the course of action she'd laid out.
"I thought you didn't have a boyfriend, River," her boss said, in an unfortunate choice of words. At least the man staved off the encroaching wave of customers by holding up a staying hand.
"River having a boyfriend is none of your concern, now is it?" Vaughn massaged one his wrists, the tension packed around him like an aura, growing stronger by the millisecond. "Not that I wouldn't mind hearing an answer myself."
"Don't hold your breath," she sputtered.
Her boss huffed, pacing back and forth behind River. "It is my concern when that boyfriend comes in and assaults me."
"Whatever we are, it's past the boyfriend-girlfriend stage." Vaughn ran a tongue along his bottom lip. "What's it going to be, Riv? We getting out of here?"
What choice did she have? Standing back and allowing innocent — okay, that was pushing it — customers take a beating when she could prevent it would be petulant. With smoke about to whoosh from her ears, River skirted around her boss to retrieve her purse from behind the bar, leaving her apron beneath the register for the morning waitress. Walking back toward Vaughn, she felt time slowing, and molasses churned in her belly. Don't you dare look at me like that, she longed to scream in reproof. His dark eyes took in every detail of her appearance in one swoop, that gaze heating considerably the closer she came, as if they were going outside to get sweaty in the Pontiac's backseat, just for old time's sake.
Excerpted from Thrown Down by Tessa Bailey, Heather Howland. Copyright © 2016 Tessa Bailey. 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
Love river and vaughn...hope this series continues
I love all of Tessa's books and this one did not disappoint. Vaugh is just...wow. I don't even have words for how much I love his character. I love my hubby, but I so want a Vaughn of my own!! And River was such a likable character too. I loved how Tessa mingled the story of their young love into their developing adult love. It was beautiful and so well written. And did I mention how amazing Vaughn is??? So alpha and sweet at the same time. Perfect male lead!!
Absolutely loved this book. The love between River and Vaughn was dreamy and beautifully tragic. All I can say is awesome book!
3.5 stars - Four years ago, Vaughn De Matteo drove out of town without looking back, away from everything he'd ever wanted or needed. It ripped his heart out, but he knew it was the right thing to do for the love of his life, River Purcell. Vaughn had nothing to offer her, as her father pointed out to him when he blackmailed Vaughn into leaving. He believed what everyone said - he wasn't good enough for her, and so he left. River finally had to accept the lie Vaughn told her when he walked away - that he no longer loved her. But now her secret is out, and Vaughn is back in town to reclaim the woman he left behind and the beautiful little girl they created together. He missed the first four years of his little girl's life because he didn't know about her . . . he will not let anyone or anything stand in the way of him being her daddy now. Vaughn is on a mission to prove himself to River and Marcy. Thrown Down is a good second chance romance - one with lots of repressed feelings and more than its share of dirty talking sex. I liked Vaughn as the resident bad*ss badboy - raw, gritty, possessive, sexier than any man has a right to be. He roared back into town to claim what was once his - and while he knows they need to talk, he's okay with relying on their "off the charts" sexual chemistry if it will bring her back to him. River isn't so easy to convince, although she can't deny her burning desire for Vaughn - sex has never been the problem - but the same can't be said about trust, honesty, and talking. If Vaughn can't/won't open up to her, she'll share his bed but he'll never win back her heart. In typical Tess Bailey style, the sex in Thrown Down is dirty, hot, erotic, and sinful as it sets the pages ablaze. It's also sensual and heart touching to watch as this couple reconnects. I do think there could have been a little less dirty talk, (shocking, I know!) as it becomes distracting and a little over the top - almost negating some of this couple's very real love & romance. The dialogue comes across a little awkward and forced at times. Having said that, the story is a good one as this couple works to overcome obstacles tossed in their path on their way to happy ever after. A Must Read!
Vaughn was my hero & so hot!!!!!,
Ever since reading book one in the series, Crashed Out , I've been anxious for River and Vaughn's book--and rooting for Vaughn, even though I hadn't even met him yet, really. River wasn't my favorite person throughout much of Crashed, so I knew she had her work cut out for her in this one. Fortunately, she did a decent job of pulling it off. Though I still didn't agree with all of her choices, she was definitely a more sympathetic character in her own book and she did much to atone for prior actions. Vaughn too made some great strides--because his earlier actions (which we see through flashbacks) left much to be desired as well. In all, this was a well done second chance at romance, and I enjoyed reading it very much. My only complaint (and it's a "complaint again"--I can't believe it!) is that the sex and dirty talk got to be a bit much (!) I know, I know--but it was actually distracting at times. And his nickname of "doll" for her was not my favorite. (And he was "buck" at one point, which was just...wrong.) I actually skimmed through at least two scenes to get back to the actual story faster--though I'm willing to go with the "it's not you, book, it's me" theory here, because it's been a busy few weeks school-wise and I'm feeling the crunch. So it's entirely possible that no one else might feel this way and it really is all me. Still, I'm anxious to see where this series is going next. Duke of all-the-newly-unmarried-sisters clearly needs his own story, even if it might cut into his cute babysitting scenes... ;) Rating: 3 1/2 stars / B+ I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.
When I saw the cover of this book an alarm bell went off in my head for two reasons. A) its an Entangled Brazen and B) its Tessa Bailey To me, that means without a shadow of a doubt its going to be a 5 star read. I was not disappointed in the least. Thrown Down is the story of Vaughn De Matteo and River Purcell and is the second of the Made in Jersey series. Vaughn is alpha.. soooo very, very alpha. He's always been a fighter, the underdog. He's never been good enough for River. He had to leave to let her have a chance at the great life that she deserves. The life she would never have with him. River is a struggling single mother. She would never ask anyone for help or even admit that she needs it, but sometimes she wonders what life would be like if Vaughn hadnt left. Oh the feeeeels with this book. I think maybe because there is a child involved. It was so much deeper that what I am used to feeling with a Brazen story. It was really beautiful. Add the second chance romance, the big burly alpha hero with a filthy, FILTHY mouth and BAM... 5 stars, baby. All day, everyday. This will be on heavy rotation in the re-read pile for me. Heavy rotation. I enjoyed it that much. Vaughn is on my short list of naughty talking BBFs now and I have a feeling he wont be displaced anytime soon. I give Thrown Down 5***** WIckedGoodStars and appreciate the opportunity to read/review this book! *ARC was given in exchange for an honest review*
River and Vaughn see each other again after almost 4 years apart. River had Vaughn's baby but he never knew until now. River didn't bother trying to find Vaughn because other people looked for him, including her brother, and no one could find him. Once Vaughn learns about Marcy, he charges into town looking for River and to meet his daughter. Circumstances caused Vaughn to leave and he knows that River has every right to hate him. River just wants Vaughn to leave and not have to deal with the feelings he brings up in her. Vaughn finally realizes that he wants to be a family and sets about proving himself. When Vaughn finally opens up about part of the reason he left, River takes it with grace and compassion. When the whole truth comes out, River and Vaughn have to decide if they can stand together to make a future and don't let anyone or anything get in their way. It was nice to see the growth and self-confidence coming back to Vaughn and for River to understand that, even if Vaughn leaves again, she can stand on her own two feet. It was well done and flowed well.
***Review posted on The Eater of Books! blog*** Thrown Down by Tessa Bailey Book Two of the Made in Jersey series Publisher: Entangled Brazen Publication Date: April 4, 2016 Rating: 4 stars Source: eARC from NetGalley ***Warning: this is an adult book, and for the eyes of mature readers*** Summary (from Goodreads): He has one last chance to deserve the girl of his dreams... Overachiever River Purcell was never supposed to be a struggling single mom, working double shifts just to make ends meet. Nor was she supposed to be abandoned by her high school sweetheart, breaking her heart into a thousand jagged pieces. Now Vaughn De Matteo is back in town, his sights set on her...and River is in danger of drowning a second time. No one believed Hook's resident bad boy was good enough for River. Not even Vaughn himself. But he'll fight like hell to win back the woman he never stopped loving, to keep the daughter he never expected, and convince himself he's worth their love in the process?even if he has to rely on their fierce and undeniable sexual chemistry. But even as River's body arches under his hungered touch, the demons of the past lurk in the shadows. Waiting for Vaughn to repeat his mistakes one last time... What I Liked: I love Tessa Bailey's books. There is something about them that keeps me coming back. She writes some of the hottest romances, and well-rounded characters, and different types of stories. You're always going to read something different and new when you pick up a Tessa Bailey book. I think this is my tenth Bailey read, and I really enjoyed the book! Crashed Out was Sarge and Jasmine's story; Rough Rhythm was James and Lita's story. Thrown Down is Vaughn and River's story. River is Sarge's sister, and Vaughn is her ex-boyfriend who left her about four years ago and enlisted in the Army. Vaughn had no idea that River was pregnant, and nine months after he left, she had Marcy. Four years later, Vaughn is now hearing of his three-year-old daughter, and he's back. River won't let him back in her life easily, but Vaughn won't give up on River, and especially not his daughter. I adore second-chance romances! I was a little nervous about this one. Crashed Out hinted at this story, with the ending of the book showing Vaughn's return. I had nothing to be worried about! I loved seeing Vaughn and River interact, after four years. Both of them were guilty of something that night four years ago - both of them kept things from each other. But Vaughn is the one that left, and River won't let him march back into her life, and into Marcy's life, so easily. Usually I dislike it when both people are to blame but only one person is working towards forgiveness, but that wasn't quite the case here. For one, River does give Vaughn the chance to slowly come into her life and Marcy's. I think the author handled this aspect of the story well - there is no way River would have just let Vaughn into Marcy's life, like, surprise, this is your dad! And I like Vaughn's reactions to meeting his daughter - panicked, but then slowly getting more used to fatherhood. River and Vaughn together are sizzling! They never lost their heat, and if anything, they are even more steamy together than before. Read the rest of my review on my blog, The Eater of Books! - eaterofbooks DOT blogspot DOT com :)
3.5 stars Thrown Down was a heartwarming second chance love story. Both River & Vaughn were passion and likable characters who loved hard but needed to learn how to communicate with words and trust their love for each other. I really enjoyed Thrown Down but there was a couple of things that stopped me from rating it higher. I found the dirty talk a little too much, it took away from their hotness and these two were seriously hot together. Also this might be a bit trivial for most readers but I wished we had more Vaughn and Marcy time. I was really looking forward to Vaughn getting to know his young daughter, and her getting to know him. The few scenes with them together melted my heart as they were some serious swoon moments ;) Overall this was a heartfelt & emotional read with believable and relatable characters that will touch your heart with their second chance love story.
Bad Boy And His Girl Vaughn De Matteo is confronted with his past. After getting a letter from River’s brother about what he did to his sister, he’s more than determined to finally claim her. Four years ago, the town bad boy left River thinking she’d be better off at a chance for a life without him. He never knew he left her pregnant with his child. River Purcell’s always loved Vaughn since they were highschool sweethearts. She’s kept a secret about the last night they were together. I admired River for her fortitude and determination as a single mother, and she finally stood up for herself at the end. I’ve always enjoyed Tessa Bailey’s books where I know to expect a dirty talking hero and lots of steaminess. Thrown Down did not disappoint in that aspect. This story is filled with angst, emotion and steamy passion. It’s a classic theme of bad boys grows up and claims his good girl. Both River and Vaughn are determined to have their happiness in spite of what others do to keep them apart. Very romantic and an enjoyable read. Copy provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. My rating: 4
Thrown Down... Where do I begin? It was pretty stinking good, and Vaughn is rivaling all the other dirty talkers out there for the championship. This was my 20th Tessa Bailey read, and I still love every moment of her books. I await each new release as if it were the first, and when the book matches my expectations every single time? That is the sign of one talented writer. Vaughn and River... hot tamales are they explosive! I was excited to see what River's story would turn out to be after meeting her in Crashed Out. I was also excited to meet the adorable Marcy beyond the small moments in the first book. The storyline revolving around Vaughn meeting Marcy and introducing himself as her father was perfect, and it paired so well with the sparks flying romance between River and Vaugh. Tessa Bailey utilizes flashbacks to when Vaughn and River were first together. It totally worked for this story, only seeking to add even more layers to the rich story. Basically, Thrown Down hit all the high notes for me. There were a few moments that seemed to jerk me out of the moment of the plot, but overall, it was smooth sailing. Another win from Tessa Bailey
This book is definitely a bit of an emotional rollercoaster. There is so much to the story between River and Vaughn, it’s completely tangled together in a mess of events. Vaughn is definitely a damaged/tortured hero. He was pretty much your typical, young, bad boy. In an industrial town where there really is no wealth to be found, there are still “the haves” and the “have nots.” The difference is that most of the “have nots” resort to criminal behavior, and such was the case with Vaughn. He was angry at his circumstances and lashed out, but it only furthered his self-loathing and opinion that he was dragging River down with him. After a tour in the military, the demons were compounded and eventually, with a little persuasion, he let them drive him away. Leaving River devastated …and pregnant. He’s grows up and matures, doing his best to put them behind him. I wish I knew if he would have gone back to River on his own eventually. However, he finds out about the daughter he didn’t know existed and returns to claim them both. Vaughn is definitely an alpha, especially in the bedroom. As usual with Tessa’s books, I was reaching for the ice water. These two burn! But, Vaugh also shows humility and a willingness to be led, instead of taking the charge (on some things). His self-doubt wore on me a little though, I felt like it dragged on in the story when it wasn’t needed. River was a tough nut for me to crack. I couldn’t decide if I liked her, not that I went the other way exactly. I just felt at times like she was too much of a doormat and even worse, she was living in ignorance. River’s dad heaped negativity on Vaughn, feeding his already almost non-existent self-worth. Never standing up to her dad and finding out why he had such animosity for Vaughn might have gone a long way in preventing the events that kept them apart. As an adult, she mulls over it still, but again, she doesn’t confront the situation until it comes to a head. The “misunderstanding” trope is always a hard one for me to swallow. If people would act a little more rationally and actually communicate, they could most often be avoided. Now, sometimes I understand why emotion takes over and talking things over isn’t considered. In this case, I can’t say for certain that Vaughn wouldn’t have eventually left anyway. But, if he had opened up to River about the talks with her dad, both of them, again, it might have changed the course of events for the better. The author definitely took an interesting path for this book. The circumstances of these characters are incredibly real. They struggle with jobs, bills, and day-to-day living. There is no “fix-all” where they are suddenly financially stable and able to ride off into a fairy-tale sunset. Vaughn didn’t go away and become rich. River didn’t go to college, get a good job, and become completely independent (all though, she certainly does her best and it’s admirable). And, if they get together in the end, they’ll continue to live the life that most of us know. Struggling and working hard to get what we want and make our dreams come true. It definitely made the characters more real, however, at times, it was a little discouraging. Especially when it comes to the town they live in and the references of not being able to get out of it. There is always a way to move on, no one is completely stuck anywhere. I would have liked to see them leave the town and its memories behind. But, to each their own and the author clearly didn’t s
Thrown Down was my first story by Tessa Bailey and it was a good read. I didn't love it, however. It was well written, and I liked that the characters were real and you got a glimpse of their everyday lives. But, while the dirty talk and sexy times were good, they overshadowed the story for me bit. I think this was a little more angsty than I generally like my romances, so maybe that was part of it too. I'd be interesting in reading more from this author, but maybe not in this particular series. ARC provided by NetGalley
3.25 stars---THROWN DOWN is the second full length installment in Tessa Bailey’s contemporary, adult MADE IN JERSEY erotic, romance series. This is single mom River Purcell, and former US soldier Vaughn DeMatteo’s storyline. We were first introduced to River in book one CRASHED OUT. River is Sarge’s sister. THROWN DOWN can be read as a stand alone without any difficulty. Any important information from the previous story line is revealed when necessary. Told from dual third person perspectives (Vaughn and River) using present day and some memories from the past, THROWN DOWN is a second chance story line for our leading couple. Four years earlier Vaughn De Matteo walked away from the only woman he would ever love but the circumstances behind his disappearance are never known until present day. Enlisting in the army then working specialized security upon his return, Vaughn soon becomes aware that the life and the woman he left behind is everything he ever wanted, and so much more. What ensues is a quick rekindling of a relationship between two people who never stopped loving one another throughout the years. The relationship between Vaughn and River is one of second chances; a love between two people that was interrupted by circumstance and threats to which only Vaughn De Matteo was willing to agree. River, a single mother to her three year old daughter, finds solace in the knowledge that she has done everything and protected the daughter Vaughn knew nothing about. The rekindling of the romance is sexually graphic with intense language and numerous $ex scenes. Vaughn likes to talk dirty both in and out of the bedroom. We are introduced to Vaughn’s buddy Duke, and his four divorced sisters who are all about looking after Vaughn and River’s daughter. I am hoping for HEA for Duke. The world building continues to focus on the blue collar jobs and the local factory of Hook, New Jersey-the people, the town, the night life and the color. Everyone is struggling to make a name and survive. THROWN DOWN, like CRASHED OUT book one, is a story line with graphic sexual language and text. The numerous $ex scenes are somewhat distracting from the story line premise- the rebuilding of the relationship between Vaughn and River gets lost between the erotic language. For all of River’s independence and ability to be strong in the face of adversity, she is quick to accept Vaughn’s return with little to no over-arcing anxiety; easy to forgive and forget about the previous four years. The premise is quick to build although predictable; the characters are somewhat superficial and perfunctory-sadly I felt very little emotional attachment to the leading couple; the romance is a prelude to $ex, and a happily ever after.
What can I say about Vaughn and River (and Marcy!)?! This little family belonged together, and I was so glad to see their story play out. River and Vaughn were high school sweethearts (of a sort), and they were from opposite sides of the tracks. Vaughn was a delinquent, cast off by his parents. River was the beloved class president, big sister to Sarge (from book 1), and all around golden girl. Vaughn always had feelings of inadequacy, both in life itself, and, most especially, with River and their relationship. He never felt deserving of her, and that's partly what made him leave her after returning from military deployment. There were several other reasons too, which I won't go into here. But, it all boiled down to his perceived inadequacy. He lied to her about why he was leaving. River got pregnant on their final night together, and she never tried to find him or tell him. She felt like she deserved the punishment of doing everything on her own, since she wasn't totally honest with him either. He shows back up in town, due to a letter Sarge wrote him (back in book 1, which River is still mad about). Once they're back in the same town, much less the same room, their chemistry is undeniable. They both describe their time apart in number of months, which makes it seem even longer. 49 months and 3 days without each other. That's true, abiding love! They have many issues to face and work through, but you can feel their yearning to be together as the driving force in both their lives going forward. I truly loved this book (and this series) and I can't wait for the next one. Duke!
I loved this one! It was a fantastic sexy love story and the blurb on this book doesn't do it justice. After reading the blurb I thought I would hate Vaughn but this dirty talking bad boy stole my heart from the very start of this book. After leaving River a broken hearted mess 49 months and 3 days ago, he's back in Hook to set things right and claim the one thing he's always wanted - River and his daughter, his family. Convincing River he's back for good may be the hardest thing he's ever done but he's determined and intends to use every trick he knows to win her heart again. An amazing read you don't want to miss. I highly recommend it.
3.5 stars There were several aspects about this story that I liked, and some I didn't care for as much. I liked River's character a lot. A single hardworking mom, she's learned to take care of her daughter and herself all on her own. She's happy with the life she's made, and when Vaughn shows up again, she's not willing to jump into his arms and let bygones be bygones. He's going to have to prove himself to her, and right up to the end of the story she constantly makes him work for her trust and forgiveness. I liked her badass attitude and her strength. Vaughn did what he thought was best before, but he knows he made mistakes. He's trying to fix them, and he wants to be a father to the daughter he didn't know he had. He's determined to show River that he's going to stick around, and looks for work back in his home town again. He feels bad for not being there for River during the pregnancy and birth, and early years of their daughter's growth. Truly I didn't feel like it was his fault for not being there (despite his own guilt complex) and he makes good strives at repairing their relationship. He also suffers with some issues from PTSD, that definitely have affected his decisions between leaving the military and now. He's sorting through that while trying to gain River's trust again. So what didn't I like? Well, this is one of those stories where there is an external influence (in the form of River's father) who is causing them both grief. A little communication and honesty up front would have made things completely different for them. Even in the second half of the story, I felt frustrated that Vaughn didn't come completely clean with River about his true reasons for breaking up with her in the first place. Most of all, I just got tired of the sex. Now, Tessa has always been my go-to author for dirty talking, her Line of Duty series being among my favourites. But somehow in this story, the sex just took up way too much storytime, and overshadowed the rest of the plot for me. Truthfully, I just don't believe that every time a couple gets together for sex, that there is this level of over the top dirty talking, no matter how much the couple in question go for that kind of interaction. Some of the language used even in describing the reactions of their body parts gave me raised eyebrows. This might be the first time where I was actually skimming sex scenes, just to get to more of the story. I wanted to see them connecting more on a friend level, and less on the bedroom level. Overall, I'd rate this as a 3.5. I liked seeing River and Vaughn get their happy ending, and I was happy with how it ended (and intrigued about certain other characters brought into the story). It's certainly not going to stop me from reading more of this series in the future, and I just hope to see more balance between the character growth and relationship dynamics versus the lust-filled scenes.
My rating 3.5 stars On the surface Thrown Down is your standard romance. Bad boy, good girl , second chance, etc. Digging deeper however exposes a story of self doubt, yearning and examines painful truths. I received an ARC of Thrown Down by Tessa Bailey in exchange for an honest review. River and Vaughn allowed the opinions of others to shape how they felt about each other and themselves. Thrown Down is about confronting the past so that history does not repeat. A little slow but still a good bet.
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