Sunday, October 27, 2013

Book Review & Spotlight: By Referral Only (Whitman University #2) by Lyla Payne

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By Referral Only
Whitman University #2
By:  Lyla Payne
Published:  July 1, 2013
Source:  Author

GR's 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.

Whitman University Series:

*To Read My Review on Broken at Love Click HERE

My Thoughts:

I am excited to feature and spotlight Lyla Payne on A Bookish Escape today.  I was part of her Broken At Love Tour and enjoyed the first segment in the Whitman University Series. Now that I have also read, By Referral Only, which is the sequel and is Ruby's story, (Emilie's best friend), I look forward to continuing with this great series.  Ruby attends Whitman University, belongs to the Delta Epsilon Sorority, and has ambitions of moving to New York and pursuing acting after she graduates from college.  Her heart was broken her freshman year of college when she was rejected after her boyfriend's parents didn't approve of her because she came from "New Money."  Ruby came from a family that had poor beginnings, but then became wealthy through the innovation of her father in the computer industry.  She constantly feels judged, and like she is looked down upon because of her background.  So, she just has flings with guys, and has no intention of having a serious relationship until she graduates.  When one of her sorority sisters takes the "walk of shame," one morning and complains about her date, Ruby begins discussing, along with other sorority sisters all of the shortcomings they've had to deal with as part of their dating and sexual experiences.  Ruby gets the idea that in order to help other women at her college she should start a referral system where women anonymously rate the men from 1-5 stars and then answer yes or no to if they would give them a referral for their sexual prowess.  

When Ruby is checking her referral database, the one man that comes up with the worst ratings, and least amount of referrals is Cole Stuart.  Ruby ends up meeting Cole in her required speech class.  They are instantly attracted, and can't stop staring into each others eyes.  After class, Cole asks Ruby out.  She is attracted to his beautiful green eyes, swimmer's body, scottish accent, and charming demeanor, but turns him down based on his lack of referrals and low ratings.  She decides to have a fling with her co-actor Liam Greene who she has been attracted to for quite a while.  Unfortunately, Liam is a total disappointment. In the meantime, Ruby's director, Geoff, has her volunteer to teach Shakespeare and acting to a group of kids at the Coterie.  The board of directors includes professionals that can help Ruby's acting career.  Cole is also on the board.  Pretty soon Cole and Ruby are around each other constantly, whether from school, volunteering to teach acting to kids, or when their sorority and fraternity get together for social gatherings.  The more Ruby gets to know Cole, the more she can't understand his poor ratings, and the more she realizes that she is falling for him.  It becomes evident that Cole harbors a secret, and Ruby is scared to let her guard down, and get her heart broken.

I  really enjoyed By Referral Only.  It was an entertaining, simple, sweet, and fast paced story about falling in love, not prejudging others, and taking chances.  The story was romantic, fun, and true to life.  It reminded me of how horrible being in the dating circuit can be, getting your heart broken, and the process of finding yourself in the college years.  I was glad to see how great Emilie and Quinn's relationship continued to be, as well as how close of friends Emilie and Ruby were.  My favorite secondary characters in this story were Cole's siblings Audra, Gavin, Law, and Nox, and one of Ruby's little acting pupils, Caroline.  They added to the story, and made me relate to my own siblings, how close and overprotective we can be, but also how we love teasing and embarrassing each other.  This story was light hearted, and I would read it, if your looking for a non angst filled book that is fun, romantic, and easy reading.  

My Rating:

I give By Referral Only 4 charming, romantic, sweet, and dreamy stars!  You will fall for Cole, a gorgeous, sweet, and romantic guy with a sexy Scottish accent.  He teaches Ruby about self love, confidence, and how special she is.  He makes Ruby see things in a different light, question her own prejudices, re-evaluate her beliefs, and how she lives her life.  He frees her, and the love he gives her is empowering, and beautiful.  

My Favorite Quotes:

"I think, Ruby Cotton, that you should expect everything from any man who spends time with you with romantic intentions.  A man who will please you and be proud of you."  (eARC, Loc. 2222)


"My heat pounded.  I knew now that I hadn't ever been in love.  I'd never felt the way I did in Cole's arms, or when I saw him waiting for me after class, or just the way being with him made me feel worthy of my own skin."  (eARC, Loc. 3094)


"No.  There are no other girls, as far as I'm concerned, and there never will be.  When I look into the future, all I see is you, and us, and a million more moments like this."  (eARC, Loc. 3713)


Book Excerpt:

“You know what’s sad, is that I have a better story than that,” Ginny interrupted, rescuing her roommate from yet another lecture from me about the follies of saving herself for a someday guy who would not fucking appreciate it.

“I do not see how that’s possible. I just made out with a twenty-one-year old guy whose penis doesn’t work.”

“Hear me out. Freshman year I was having sex with this guy and he quit in the middle. Like, didn’t finish, just stopped, said he was really hungry, put his clothes on, and left.”

“That is an unprecedented turn of events,” Larissa mused. “Did you hear from him again?”

“He texted to tell me some dumbass story about the person in line in front of him at Taco Bell, but other than that, nope.” Ginny pulled her long, dark brown hair into a bun. “Like, what is that? He didn’t even finish.”

“And it goes without saying that you didn’t either,” I observed dryly.

Larissa snorted. “You do not even want to know how long it’s been since a guy coaxed an orgasm out of me. You’d think it was easier to wrestle a Coachella invite away from a Kappa.”

“Where did you find this loser?” I wanted to make sure and steer clear, not that I hadn’t managed to find plenty of dick nuggets at Whitman on my own. Guys who slobbered, or came before I could even think about it, or thought it was cute to sneak out before dawn.

“Frat party. Seemed totally normal until he ditched sex for fast food at one in the morning.”

If I really thought about it, none of this seemed all that funny. Emilie and Quinn apparently had some kind of mind-blowing sexual connection that I needed to hire Gandalf to find. Guys had it so easy; they needed somewhere to stick it for five minutes and they got off, went home, and bragged to their friends over cheap beer or whatever. I would bet my mother’s entire fitness empire that they weren’t sitting around the frat house whining about how disappointing any of us were in bed.

“I ran into Chaney doing the walk of shame a few minutes ago, and she looked like she’d been through a horror show at the hands of that Scottish Lambda Phi she’s been out with a few times.”

“Cole Stuart?” Ginny nodded. “He’s hot, and that accent makes my panties just evaporate into thin air, but it seems like I’ve heard other girls complain, too.”

Girls knew all the dirty secrets. If campus relationships were a stage production, we were definitely in charge of casting. We should be auditioning these idiots, or at least asking for resumes. “Life would be so much easier if guys had to wear nametags with their shortcomings printed on them so we all knew what we were getting into.”

They all laughed at my suggestion, trying to one-up each other adding to my stupid idea.

“Fucks like a rabbit.”

“Doesn’t go down.”

“Nipple abuser.”

“Slobbers in ears.”

Ginny shrieked. “That sounds like a Native American name!”

The potential monikers grew sillier until none of us could talk over the sound of our laughter, only Brooke sitting quietly, gaping at us in horror. Clearly, the guys at Whitman were totally slacking in the bedroom pleasure department, probably because they were all rich and mostly good-looking, which meant they’d never had to work for it. I, for one, wasn’t interested in increasing my number or saying another twelve Hail Marys without some kind of assurance.

That thought gave me an idea. It might have been as stupid as the nametags, but this one didn’t require a method for tackling boys and forcibly attaching stickers bearing their relationship failings. No one knew what belonged on those tags better than the girls who had been forced to endure their sloppy advances, and if I knew one thing about girls, it was that they loved gossip.

If flings were what I had to look forward to, why not expect them to be decent?

I said goodnight and wandered across the hall to my room, gears grinding in my brain as I brushed my teeth and slipped into my pajamas. The best approach seemed to be going with what I knew, which meant starting where I started every time an audition announcement went up for a new production, either in the school theatre or community—a résumé. Complete with referrals.

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About the Author:

Lyla Payne is a USA TODAY bestselling author. She has long had a love of stories. A few years ago she decided to put them down on the page, and even though Lyla has a degree in film and television, novels were the creative outlet where she found a home. When the idea for Broken at Love (her first New Adult title) arrived, Lyla couldn’t wait to try something new – and she’s hooked.  In her spare time, Lyla watches a ton of tennis (no surprise, there), plays a ton of tennis, and dedicates a good portion of brain power to dreaming up the next fictitious bad boy we’d all love to meet in real life.

Lyla Payne is represented by Kathleen Rushall at Marsal Lyon Literary Agency. 


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  1. This series keeps getting better with every successive book. I'll be keeping my fingers crossed!

  2. Man, the characters in this book sound like they could be heading for trouble. I wonder if Cole knows about the rating system and his own rating.

    Thank you so much for the post and giveaway! I'd love the chance to win, so fingers crossed. :-)

  3. Ruby was my favorite character in Broken at Love. I'm really excited to read this, hopefully soon. Especially with a leading guy like Cole.
    Great review, Lindy!

  4. I was wondering if there's any author that Lyla aspires to be like? Thanks for the giveaway!


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