All Lined Up by Cora Carmack
Series: Rusk University #1
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
Publication date: May 13, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow
Format: eARC, 320 pages
How I got it: Edelweiss
Add it: Goodreads
Buy it: Amazon | Barnes & Noble
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cora Carmack follows up her trio of hits—Losing It, Faking It, and Finding It—with this thrilling first novel in an explosive series bursting with the Texas flavor, edge, and steamy romance of Friday Night Lights.
In Texas, two things are cherished above all else—football and gossip. My life has always been ruled by both.
Dallas Cole loathes football. That's what happens when you spend your whole childhood coming in second to a sport. College is her time to step out of the bleachers, and put the playing field (and the players) in her past.
But life doesn't always go as planned. As if going to the same college as her football star ex wasn’t bad enough, her father, a Texas high school coaching phenom, has decided to make the jump to college ball… as the new head coach at Rusk University. Dallas finds herself in the shadows of her father and football all over again.
Carson McClain is determined to go from second-string quarterback to the starting line-up. He needs the scholarship and the future that football provides. But when a beautiful redhead literally falls into his life, his focus is more than tested. It's obliterated.
Dallas doesn't know Carson is on the team. Carson doesn't know that Dallas is his new coach's daughter.
And neither of them know how to walk away from the attraction they feel.
Ok, I’ll admit it. I have been putting off writing this review forever because I know no words can do this book justice. If it were up to me, I would just gush endlessly about how much I love-love-loved everything about this book and the story and the characters in lieu of a review. My review will probably be more of a ramble than anything resembling a coherent review, so stick with me while I go total fangirl on you.
“In Texas, two things are cherished above all else – football and gossip. My life has always been ruled by both.”
I was absolutely thrilled to learn that one of my favorite new adult authors was writing a series about football, Texas and love. Because, does it really get any better than that? I’m a total football addict. On Saturdays during football season, you can expect to find me camped out on the couch from noon until at least 10 PM watching game after game after game. I watch Sportscenter at the gym. I follow a TON of my alma mater’s players (and former players) on Twitter. I watch the draft. Friday Night Lights will always be one of my all-time favorite shows. Yes, my name is Kim and I am a football addict. So, of course I was ecstatic to find out about this series, especially once I realized Cora’s a coach’s daughter and would bring that perspective to the book, making it even more real.
“I don’t know that dancing fixes anything. I don’t feel magically happy because of it. My problems don’t disappear when the music ends. But I understand life better when I dance, and understanding is half the fight of surviving.”
“You really want to have a conversation about what’s not healthy?” She leans on the high-top table next to me and mimics, “Oh, Stella, he’s so sweet and so nice. And I think I really like him. OH… JK HE PLAYS FOOTBALL. HE’S DEAD TO ME.”
If you asked me what I loved most about All Lined Up, I wouldn’t even begin to be able to narrow it to one thing. If I had to, however, I would say it was the characters. They feel more like friends than characters in a book. They were all just so realistic and multi-faceted and amazing. I would totally be friends with them in real life. The ladies of Rusk University are strong and sassy and among some of my favorite in NA lit. First off, you have Dallas, the dancer, reader, no-time-for-other-people’s-bullshit, coach’s daughter who hates football. I connected with Dallas. Hard. Minus that whole football-hating thing however, but even that made sense to me. I could understand her mixed feelings about football and the players. It would be expected. Her best friend Stella was all kinds of awesome. She’s the life of the party, constantly trying to get Dallas to break out of her shell and loosen up. She reminded me so much of my best friend and roommate – except for the obvious differences like her being a tiny Asian pixie and him being a 6’3″ gay man. Other than that, they could be the same person.
“I’m kidding, little lioness. I’m not looking to hook up with you. I just find your honest refreshing. That makes you better company than every person I’ve run across tonight.”
The guys of Rusk U are nothing to sneeze at either. Of course, Carson is my favorite. I fully suspect I’ll change favorites at least twice as I read the rest of the series, but Carson will always have a place in my heart. The best part about him? He wasn’t a stereotypical football player! Yay! Whether this is because he’s second string or because he worked hard to get where he was, or just because he was a down home country boy who was raised right, I don’t know. But he was unlike the other football player characters I’ve read in other books and I loved it. He was sweet (and hella sexy) and driven. He had goals and took nothing for granted. Ryan is probably my second favorite male in the story. The team manager who is smart, funny and cute. He’s a charmer and he’s right up my alley. Levi, the starting QB and Dallas’s DB (douchebag not defensive back) ex, is someone who will have to work pretty hard to redeem himself in my eyes, but if he doesn’t, I’m ok with that. The other bad boy of RU, Silas, has me all kinds of curious. I have a wee bit of a crush on him and I can’t wait for his book.
“And I… I’m still stuck. In my father’s shadow. In Texas. In this lame state school with a joke of a dance program. And now I’m stuck at my first frat party with the ex who broke my heart. Yay college.”
In All Lined Up, Dallas is away at college, trying to make a name for herself and find herself. It’s not easy when you live in the shadow of a football coach father. While she would be beyond content to stay home and read or watch a movie, her friend Stella insists on dragging her out to a party. It’s at that party she not only runs into her ex, but is hit on by a total player and ultimately winds up meeting Carson in an attempt to escape from the other two. They forge a quick connection without really knowing much about the other. Carson is trying to stay focused, which of course means staying away from girls, but something about Dallas makes him rethink that. Dallas learns he’s a football player and has mixed feelings because she swore she’d never date another football player, but there’s something special about him that makes her want to give him a chance. What happens between them? Well, you’ll just have to read and find out.
“My voice is little more than a growl as I say, “You cannot do things like that, Daredevil, and expect me not to pull you onto my lap and kiss you senseless.”
“I can’t walk away from you because I don’t want to. There are a thousand things I want and need to do, but you trump all of them. You drive me to distraction, and all I want to do is get lost in you. All I want to do is make you lose it, too.”
I think it could go without saying that I absolutely loved Dallas and Carson together, but there, I said it anyhow. They made a fantastic pair. They had a TON of chemistry and it went beyond just the physical stuff. If you’re looking for really steamy scenes, you won’t find an abundance of them in this book. The ones that are there do have a fair bit of heat though. There was no doubt to me that what Dallas and Carson was real and worth fighting for, if both of them could get out of their heads long enough to give in and let it happen. Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a book that’s overly dramatic or riddled with angst. Thank goodness. I don’t think my heart could have taken it. It still gave me a huge case of the feels though.
“I loved the way one person could start a chant, and soon a stadium of thousands had picked it up and were screaming in unison. I loved that kids who didn’t give a crap about school were suddenly belting the school song from the top of their lungs. I loved those tense moments before the start of a play when everyone is wishing and hoping exactly the same thing, and the whole stadium holds its breath.”
The world-building in All Lined Up was fantastic. I felt like I was back at college, especially during the football game and party scenes. I was completely into the world of Rusk and nearly ready to trade my old gold and blue Mountaineers gear for maroon and gray. It didn’t feel like I was reading about these characters and this fictional university. It felt like I was living it, or at the very least, watching it on a big screen.
“God, do they make WD-40 for flirting? Because I am rusty.”
All Lined Up has the humor and heart I’ve come to expect from Cora. There were quite a few lines that made me literally laugh out loud and even more that left me grinning. There are some phrases I have decided I need to incorporate into my daily life (“dear, sweet Jesus riding a unicorn” anyone?). I know this story is personal and special to Cora and her passion for it came through in every word. Make sure you read the “behind the book” portion after you’ve finished the story. I think it will give you an even deeper appreciation for how she put herself out there with this book and that glimpse into her background made the book that much more meaningful to me.
“No easy days.”
I seriously can’t recommend this book highly enough. There’s a little something for everyone in All Lined Up. With characters I adored, great friendships and sweet and sexy romance, all built around a sport I love in a fictional setting that felt beyond real, it was the total package for me. I will reread this one for years to come, particularly during my least favorite months of the year (you know, the off season) when I’m desperately looking for anything to hold me over until football is back. To say I can’t wait for the next book in the series would be a HUGEmungous understatement.
“Go Red. Fight Red. Bleed Red.”
I received a copy of this book from the publisher, via Edelweiss, in exchange for an honest review. Quotes come from the review copy and may differ from the final version.