The Tough Boy's Tender Kiss (plus: Hot Boy) by Melanie Marks
Reading Level: Young Adult
Release Date: June 27, 2016
Pages: 279 pages
Reviewed By: Kate McMurry
Ms. Marks has written a series of books about high school hockey players. Walker is one of those hockey boys. This is a novella about him written from the point of view of both the male and female lead characters. It is a G-rated, young-adult story with no swearing, sex, drugs or drinking.
Walker has been interested in Stormy, an innocent teenager, for several years, but they have never dated. Stormy has recently broken up with her handsome boyfriend because he cheated on her. Unable to accept that she would dump him, rather than the other way around, her ex is behaving in a manner very close to being a stalker. In order to convince him, once and for all, that she is through with him for good, she impulsively claims that Walker is her new boyfriend, grabs Walker, and lays on him what she hopes will be a convincing fake kiss. Much to her surprise, Walker doesn't simply pretend to kiss her to do her a favor. Instead, he enthusiastically participates in the kiss as well as firmly and believably backs up her boyfriend lie. Afterwards, Stormy can't stop thinking about him and that scorching kiss. Walker feels the same way, and this is the story of him "wooing" her--his term--in order to convince her to become his girlfriend for real.
This is a cute story, and a nice change from the many dark and often PG- or R-rated YA books flooding the market these days, both from indie authors and mainstream publishers. Walker is a very sympathetic character in the main portion of the story, especially in his relationship with Stormy and her younger brother, in spite of the fact that the author makes it clear in his backstory, some of which is presented on stage, in flashback form, that unlike the heroine, he is anything but a virgin. In fact, the author clearly implies he has had sex with multiple girls, even across a long period of time when he is secretly crushing on Stormy. So there is a bit of an old-fashioned double-standard in the story of a pairing of a quite sexually experienced male with a virginal female.
There isn't a lot of romantic conflict, mainly that Stormy sees Walker as too "tough." It would have been an obvious choice to up the romantic conflict by having Stormy concerned that Walker has been sexually promiscuous in the past, given the fact that her previous boyfriend cheated on her. However, since this is a novella, it was not necessary for there to be a great deal of romantic conflict to sustain the short plot.
Overall, I enjoyed the story because I liked the main characters and I was not craving any increase in the amount of dithering angst the heroine might feel that would keep her from ultimately reaching a HEA with Walker.
This novella recycles the plot of another one of this author's books, His Kiss. I purchased that book three years ago and did not pay close enough attention when I bought this ebook to realize it was very similar to that story. However, I think that the two leads in this story are different enough from the two leads in His Kiss that I felt I got my money's worth with this rendition. In fact, I appreciate very much that this author is always honest with her readers about the fact that she frequently takes a book she has already written and rewrites it again with different characters. As an avid romance fan, I have personally experienced over the past few decades that many mainstream-published romance authors do the same thing, without ever admitting that they are, and they manage to create a very successful, prolific writing career in that manner.
In addition to this novella, this ebook compilation includes information on many other ebooks by Ms. Marks as well as the bonus of a full novel called “Hot Boy.” That book is also a rewritten story. The author states that it is a paranormal version of her previously published book, High School Boys. Teens who enjoy paranormal romance will very likely enjoy that story as well.
I rate Tough Boy's Tender Kiss as follows:
Romance Plot: 3.5
I rate Hot Boy as follows:
Romance Plot: 3