Appealed by Emma Chase is a juicy, well-written, well-paced, romantic comedy that’s perfect for all romance readers, especially if you’re looking for a strong male lead!
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
[For Mature Audiences; Some Spoilers]
I first read Appealed over a year ago when it was released. I’d been seeing tons of flails about Emma Chase and her ability to write the steamiest romantic comedy with very convincing male narrators. Appealed is the third book in her Legal Briefs series, but I was assured that I could start with the last book with little confusion.
Within the first five pages of Appealed, I was cackling like a crazy person. And as the story unfolded, I swooned repeatedly, laughed even more, had my heart broken a little, only to have it put back together in the most sexy way. The fact that the story plays out in the backdrop of the legal profession adds a level of suspense and drama that elevates the story even more. As I reread Appealed this weekend, I fell even more in love with this novel. Though I’ve read the first two books of the Legal Briefs series (Overruled and Sustained), I can say unequivocally that Appealed is the best of the bunch!
Brent Mason is born with a silver spoon in his mouth. Despite his family’s wealth, he’s made it a priority to build a real life for himself. Brent loves being a defense attorney, and, even better, he gets to share his passion and build a legacy with his best friends at their firm Becker, Mason, Santos, and Shaw. Brent works hard and also plays hard, and refuses to be tied down to any one lady. However, very early on in the book things take a major turn when Brent runs into Kennedy Randolph at a family function. Despite growing up together and being best friends, Brent and Kennedy haven’t seen each other in 14 years. A traumatic experience in high school, for which Kennedy blames Brent, causes her to leave the DC/Maryland area and she doesn’t return.
After kicking ass in college and law school, and taking down mafiosi as a U.S. Attorney, Kennedy is back home. Brent is instantly attracted to her, and if he’s being honest with himself, he’s loved her since high school. Yet, Kennedy still feels pretty resentful and isn’t going to give Brent the time of day. Things get even more complex when they realize that they’re going to be facing off against each other in their next case. You know how they say there’s a thin line between love and hate? Well, going toe-to-toe in court heightens the sexual tension for Brent and Kennedy. But it’s even more than that. Over time, he realizes how much he’s missed her in his life. Brent is determined to hash out what happened in high school and convince Kennedy they can build something real.
Brent POV is the best POV and the fact that the entire book is from his perspective makes it even better. It’s beyond me how Emma Chase can totally inhabit a dude’s mind and articulate it for readers in a way that sucks us in. Just marvelous! Brent is HILARIOUS. He’s smart, witty, self-aware, and genuine. Getting to know Brent is a real treat.
At the same time, I adore Kennedy. She’s such a ball-buster. Kennedy won’t let Brent get away with anything. She speaks her mind, stands her ground, and challenges him. We (and Brent) love it! Early on we learn that Brent loses his leg in a childhood accident and has a prosthetic ever since. From their youth, Kennedy has never pitied him, and this is something Brent appreciates more and more as they are rivals in court AND as their relationship takes a romantic turn.
Ultimately, it leads to the most glorious banter:
“Word around the country club is you’ve gone into business on your own,” she comments casually. “Got yourself a law firm with your name on it.” Her tits are pretty phenomenal too. A little on the small side, no more than a B cup—but I just bet they’re firm and perky and magically delicious. The kind that can forego a bra, so her nipples poke against her shirt when she’s turned on. I love that look on a woman.
“Yes, almost two years now. We’ve built quite a name for ourselves.”
“You must be so proud.”
She lifts one shoulder. “I think it’s pretentious as hell.”
My eyes snap to her face. “I beg your pardon?”
“It’s a farce. The brave young defense attorney, giving up the big-paycheck firm to serve the little people.”Her voice turns derisive. “It’s easy to be brave when you have Great-Grandpa’s money behind you.”
My brow furrows. “That’s pretty presumptuous of you.”
“No, what’s presumptuous is thinking you can walk over here, ogle my tits and ass, and assume I won’t call you on it.”
Guess I wasn’t as discreet as I thought. “Is ogleable a word? Cause if it is—you’re it. A lot of women would take it as a compliment.”
She faces me head-on. “A lot of women are idiots. And not as knowledgeable as I am about what a selfish, immature little prick you can be.”
Little? I resent that—particularly in such close proximity to the word prick.
“What’d you do to your face?” she asks, folding her arms.
I touch my chin. “I grew a beard.”
“Well ungrow it. It looks like a vagina from a 1970s porn film.”
My lips twitch—because, fuck, the things that come out of her mouth. That always did.
“I’m starting to get the impression you don’t like me anymore, sweetness.”
Challenge rises in her eyes.
“You’re assuming I actually liked you to begin with. You know what they say about people who assume, ass.”
I square off against Kennedy. Game on.
I am cackling! And once Kennedy and Brent get to court, the back-and-forth gets even better!
When I first read the book I was pretty critical of how Kennedy holds on to resentment about something that happened in high school. At the time, I wondered if it was realistic that a 32 year old super successful woman would still place such importance on events from when she was 18? But upon my most recent reading, that critique totally falls by the wayside.
I enjoy that we get the opportunity to see Kennedy and Brent’s relationship through it different phases, as young children, as teens, and now as adults. And those teenage years are rough. Through flashbacks we learn that Kennedy endures significant and sustained bullying from Brent’s circle of friends. And yeah, he might have loved her, and Brent doesn’t actively participate, but he doesn’t defend Kennedy either. There’s one moment in particular that is so devastating that Kennedy really must leave for the sake of self-preservation. And this continues to shape her relationships and ability to trust men. Since all this begins with Brent, he knows he has a hell of a job to get Kennedy to open up to him. But damn it, Brent is determined to try:
Swallowing some brandy, she coughs.
“Goes down kind of rough, doesn’t it?” I say.
“Yes. Not to be rude, but if this is your good stuff, I’m afraid to find out what your cheap liquor tastes like.”
I smile. “It’s not the good brandy because of the taste.” I crook my finger, drawing her closer until our arms brush, and I’m able to detect the scent of peaches on her skin. Then I hold up my glass, swirling it gently.
“Do you see the light brown color—how soft it looks, like crushed velvet?”
Kennedy peers at the glass and nods.
“But there’s a deeper brown in there too, giving it more complexity. A richness.”
“And then there’s the golden hue over the whole thing that makes it almost ethereal. Like it’s lit from the inside.”
“Yes.” She nods again.
I stop swirling the glass. And say softly, “That is the exact shade of Kennedy Randolph’s eyes.”
Her breath hitches—almost a gasp.
“That’s what I thought the first time I drank it, and it’s what I’ve thought every time I drank it since.”
I turn to face her, my voice dropping lower. “I’ve never forgotten you, sweetheart. Not even close.”
“I’m sorry, Kennedy.”
Whatever she was going to say is lost in a breath. And there’s a softening in her features, the slight curve of her mouth, the relaxing of her jaw that tells me she’s relieved. That even if she didn’t realize it, she’s been waiting for this. Wanting the words.
“I should have stuck up for you. And I will always be sorry that I didn’t. I was selfish and stupid, and you deserved better.”
She looks away, like it’s all too much. But when her eyes turn back to me, there’s a peace in them that I haven’t seen for a very long time.
…her gaze washes over me in pure, breath-stealing brandy-colored beauty. And even though she didn’t know I’d be here tonight—I want to believe it’s for me. Some kind of sign. Because those eyes are mine—the girl behind them, once, was mine. And maybe she’s willing to be mine again.
It takes awhile for Brent and Kennedy to get on the same page, but when they do? *INSERT FIREWORKS GIF* There is SO much hotttttness… I could quote pages and pages of the most sultry, scorching, panty-melting sexytimes. Instead I will highlight one of my FAVE moments:
Ten minutes later I slam into Kennedy’s office—locking the door behind me and snapping the blinds down.
She smiles brightly from behind her desk, hands folded. “Hey.”
My scowl weighs on my face. “Do you not understand the concept of ground rules?”
Kennedy’s smile goes from bright to bewildered.
I stalk her slowly, purposefully. “You’re a Yale graduate, so you must understand the concept. The only conclusion I can come to is that you purposely broke those rules this morning.”
I lean over her, and the pulse at her neck thrums faster. “And broken rules have consequences, little rebel.”
She fidgets nervously under my gaze, but there’s excitement in her eyes. Anticipation. Lust…
…Then in one quick move, I hoist her out of her chair and plant her ass in the middle of her desk.
She doesn’t say anything else. She can’t, because I slip my tie between her teeth and knot it behind her head. Not too tight, of course—just secure enough to keep it in place. And muffle her sounds. Can’t have anyone hearing us. Professional image and all that.
“Apparently I didn’t make myself clear enough yesterday.” I reach under Kennedy’s skirt and yank her panties off, shoving them into my pocket.
“I’ll remedy that now.
”I push her legs apart, drag her forward, and drop to my knees. My tongue touches her first, tracing her already slick slit. My lips quickly follow, kissing and sucking that pretty, pretty pussy. Kennedy leans back, moaning low and long, one hand braced on the desk behind her, the other burrowing through my dark hair. I make love to her cunt with my mouth, the way I wanted to when we woke up this morning. And I fuck her with my tongue—’cause I’d wanted to do that too…
…”I grip my dick at the base, lean forward half on top of Kennedy, and thrust inside her to the hilt. She feels fucking beautiful around me. I pump into her without mercy and her eyes slide closed. She rests her forehead against my jaw. I release her hands to hold her hips, pulling her closer. You’d think she’d take off the gag, but instead her arms wrap around me, holding on for the ride of her life. It only takes a few minutes to build her back up—till I feel the telltale pulse of her muscles, hear the high-pitched keen of her breath that says she’s about to get off.
And my hips grind to a halt. She tries to do the job herself—jerks up against me—but in her position, that’s not going to get it done.
“If I wake up and you’re not next to me, I’ll tie you to the goddamn bed.”
The needy, desperate thread in my voice diminishes the effect of my threat.
“And I’ll do this for hours. I won’t leave you hanging, because I’m not that mean. But I’ll make you beg, and I’ll make you scream before I let you come. And that’s a fucking promise…”
…I pull out just an inch and nudge my hips forward, teasing her.
“Just say please, Kennedy. For both of us. It’s gonna be so fucking good.”I
feel her lips on my cheek. Against my neck. “Please, Brent. Oh . . . please.”
And that’s all it takes. I pound into her, hurling us toward the edge and plunging straight over. We come together, groaning and grasping, like two wild, mindless things. It’s frigging awesome…
… “Last night was the best night of my life. I would’ve told you that this morning, if you’d bothered to wake me up before you left.”
Her anger melts away, changing into something that looks more like cautious glee. I kiss her forehead and step back, licking my lips—still tasting her.
“I’ll see you in court, Counselor.” I give her a wink and walk out the door, a much happier camper than when I entered it.
LAWD, I had to reread that one several times. HAVE MERCY, it’s so juicy!
But there are also some really sweet and romantic moments where they start to overlap their lives–Brent caring for Kennedy’s three cats, Edward, Jacob, and Jasper (*SNORT*, it all comes back to Twilight!!!), Kennedy hanging out with Brent’s partners and their families, both Kennedy and Brent trying to manage their interfering mothers.
Things take a turn when a serious threat arises from a previous case, one that puts Kennedy in harm’s way. We get some suspenseful moments, especially as Brent’s attempts to protect Kennedy seem to drive her away.
With that said, there is a wonderful HEA, that’s made even better when we get an extended epilogue at least ten years into the future. We see that, not only Brent/Kennedy, but also Stanton/Sofia (Overruled), Jake/Chelsea (Sustained), and their families are living happy and fulfilling lives. We even witness the potential for the romances of the next generation, and that’s super sweet.
I recommend Appealed to ALL romance readers. It’s well-written and moves at a pace where there isn’t a single boring or “down” moment. Furthermore, if you’re specifically looking for a novel that features a male narrator, something with a legal backdrop, and/or friends-to-enemies-to-lovers, Appealed is for you.
Many thanks to the publisher for an advanced review copy.