Tuesday, July 9, 2013

BY REFERRAL ONLY (Whitmany University #2) by Lyla Payne

An Advance Release Copy of this book was provided by the author, Lyla Payne, in exchange for an honest review. Thank you, Lyla!

AUTHOR: Lyla Payne -- Twitter | Website
PUBLISHED: Self-published May 23, 2013
GENRE: New Adult, Romance
PAGES: 290
SOURCE: ARC from author
BUY IT: Barnes and Noble | Amazon
Find it on Goodreads

*May not be suitable for audiences under 18.*

SUMMARY:
After being unceremoniously dumped freshman year because of her family’s “new money” status, Ruby Cotton has taken care not to put her heart on the line. No matter how enticing Emilie and Quinn make it look, relationships are scary and hard—while a string of flings is easy and fun. That’s what Ruby wants. Easy and fun. The only problem is, when it comes to satisfaction in the sack, most of the boys at Whitman are nothing but pretty window dressing and false advertising.

Ruby takes it upon herself to make campus life more fulfilling, creating a referral database that allows female students to rate their sexual experiences, thereby informing girls of what they’re getting into before agreeing to a date.

When her acting partner, Liam Greene, finally shows some interest, Ruby figures she won’t need to utilize the helpful gossip. He’s handsome, fun, and most importantly, not a guy she’d ever fall for hard enough to let him break her heart.

Not only that, but dating Liam gives Ruby the perfect excuse to say no to Cole Stuart.

As a star swimmer and heir to honest-to-God Scottish royalty, Cole sits at the top of Whitman’s A-list—but he’s also the lowest rated referral on Ruby’s website. The ratings make rejecting his repeated requests for a date a no-brainer, but her real reason for avoiding Cole runs deeper than a string of unsatisfied exes.

He’s gorgeous, he oozes sweetness and charm, and the electricity between them could power half of Whitman, but Ruby knows it will only last until his family or friends convince him she’s not good enough. 

Before she knows it she’s falling anyway, waiting for the other shoe to drop but clinging to a tentative hope that Cole might be as different as he seems. When the secret behind his low ratings comes to light, that hope is torn apart, and Ruby wonders if she was right to give him her heart…and whether she has the strength to let him keep it.

Riding in on the coattails of the USA Today Bestseller Broken at Love, Lyla Payne's second novel set at the fictional Whitman University, By Referral Only, is hot summer read with lots of heart.

This time around, the focus falls on Ruby Cotton, best friend, roommate, and sorority sister of Emilie, one of the stars of Broken at Love.

As a member of Delta Epsilon and a theater major at Whitman, Ruby finds an outcast cloaked in new money  at a school that only the wealthy can afford, and where those with old money are considered to be the most elite. After being burned badly by a boy whose family didn't approve, she's settled upon a romantic pattern that can only be described as nomadic -- she only lets herself settle upon those which she has no intent to settle down with. And while it's caused for some strange encounters and awkward first times, it's suited her ... that is until she meets Cole Stuart.

Cole, a member of Lambda Phi, is among those whose money is the oldest of the old, with riches so storied in history, the have their roots in Scottish royalty. Cole's family actually lives in castle and are members of the nobility across the pound. He's cute, smart, and has a Scottish accent that can make women wither -- but apparently, so can his style of romance. When Ruby finds one of her sorority sisters distressed one evening, after having walked home in the rain post-date with Cole, she is determined to figure out what exactly his problem is.

In the name of women at Whitman, Ruby enlists the help of a computer saavy dude to create a polling website through which girls can rate the men they've dated at Whitman by an anonymous star rating system. She secures his secrecy by promising him to withhold reviews about him and sets forth on adventure to uncover the seedy underbelly of college guys.

The site immediately attracts lots of attention and with it, plenty of reviews about Cole, who receives nothing but low-ball ratings. Yet Ruby, who is casually seeing/doing her co-star, Liam, on the side, can't figure out what the problem is. Every time she encounters him, he's kind, generous, helpful, doting, and quite obviously and painstakingly infatuated with her, even when she pushes him away. For the first time ever, she finds herself thinking of Cole when she is with Liam, and desperately longing for something more, despite every instinct to run in the other direction.

Eventually, Ruby can't deny herself or Cole any longer and gives into her heart, taking life by the reins until the mystery of Cole unfolds before her and she's left wondering if anything about him is as it seems.

Fans of Broken at Love will notice a difference in mood, atmosphere, and intensity in By Referral Only, but not to its detriment. Where By Referral Only doesn't have quite the competitive intensity that Quinn and Emile deliver, it has a lot more character and romance. I loved the story and my opinion, the only improvement that could've been made might have been something written from Cole's perspective, as the entire novel is delivered from Ruby's point of view. But in every other area, it is absolutely satisfying.

By Referral Only is a touch of old fashioned romance, mixed with a lot of character, and given a modern twist with a social media aspect that is, in fact, very real and plausible. I'll be waiting on the edge of my seat for the next installment.

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