Thursday, September 15, 2016

"The Replacement Crush" by Lisa Brown Roberts

The Replacement Crush
by Lisa Brown Roberts

The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Roberts is currently on tour with Chapter by Chapter Blog Tours. The tour stops here today for my review, an excerpt, and a giveaway. Please be sure to visit the other tour stops as well.

True love can’t be strategized.
After book blogger Vivian Galdi’s longtime crush pretends their secret summer kissing sessions never happened, Vivian creates a list of safe crushes, determined to protect her heart.
But nerd-hot Dallas, the sweet new guy in town, sends the mission and Vivian’s zing meter into chaos. While designing software for the bookstore where Vivian works, Dallas wages a counter-mission.
Operation Replacement Crush is in full effect. And Dallas is determined to take her heart off the shelf.

“You look quite well for a man that’s been ‘utterly destroyed,’ Mr. Spock.” ~ Captain Kirk
Monday, August 25
“What’s with the outfit, Viv? Did a librarian and a hooker have a fight in your closet?”
“Love you too, Jaz.” I glared at my best friend. I knew my outfit said hot date way more than first day of junior year, but I didn’t want my mom to notice.
My mom glanced at my tight jeans and cropped tank top. And the boring gray hoodie I’d wrapped around my waist in case I chickened out.  She raised a questioning eyebrow. Wrapped in her faded plaid flannel robe, her dark curls as messy as mine, Mom looked more like my big sister than a mother. She didn’t look mad so much as confused since my outfits were usually unremarkable, just like me.
“Have some sugar.” I waved a donut in Jaz’s face, hoping to distract Mom from my clothes.
“Thanks,” Jaz said. “My mom never buys donuts.”
“Tradition,” Mom said. “Part of the first day of school ritual.” She pointed to the poster board propped against a cupboard. “Speaking of traditions…”
I didn’t have to look at the fluorescent orange cardboard to know what it said: “Vivian Galdi. First Day of Junior Year,” decorated with flowers and smiley faces. Mom wouldn’t let me leave until she’d photographed me holding the poster like one of those street corner dancers waving gigantic signs pointing toward the nearest sub sandwich shop.
“You gonna do this in college, too?”
“Yep.” Mom stood up, tucking her wayward curls into a loose bun. “I’ll make you pose in front of a frat house with your poster.”
I tugged at my shirt imagining Jake’s eyes skimming over my outfit. Jake, who’d suddenly noticed me this summer after years of barely acknowledging my existence. Jake, who’d lured me to a marathon of secret, after-curfew beach kissing sessions.
Jake, who I’d been keeping a secret from my mom. My body flushed just thinking about his body wrapped around mine like a second skin.
Mom frowned. “You okay, Vivvy? You look as if you have a fever.”
Jaz snorted and I shot her a death glare. She was sworn to secrecy about Jake. I hoped he’d ask me out for real now that school was back in session, and then I could tell my mom about us dating.
Since my parents had divorced when I was eight, Mom and I were tight. She knew as much about my boring life as most of my friends did. Keeping Jake a secret had weighed on me these past few weeks, but there was something about him that made me hesitate to tell anyone about our secret hookups, except Jaz of course. Seeing the concern in Mom’s warm brown eyes as she studied me sent a fresh wave of guilt snaking through me.
“Let’s go.” Mom reached for the poster and grinned wickedly. “You too, Jasmine. Some day you girls will thank me for documenting your passage from girlhood to womanhood.”
“That’s pathetic, Mom,” I pretend-grumbled, following her down the worn deck steps. I actually thought the poster ritual was sweet, but this was a tradition, too: me grumbling, Mom insisting.
“Assume the position.” Mom pointed to the rose trellis.
I stood under the sweet smelling arch and held up the poster to block my face. “How’s this?”
“Very funny, Vivvy.”
I lowered the poster, thinking of all the moments like this captured in the collage frame in our kitchen. The photos showed my metamorphosis from a chubby little girl with big brown eyes and a mess of dark curls to a curvy girl with the same big eyes and curls I still struggled to control. Along the way, I’d suffered through braces and a few bad haircuts. Most days I still felt like that pale, chubby kid hiding in the shadow of Jaz’s oversized personality.
“Smile, sweetie.”
I stuck out my tongue. The shutter clicked as I laughed and she kept snapping. Jaz joined me and the poses got even sillier while Mom snapped away, laughing.
Mom liked to think of herself as an amateur photographer, but her real jobs were writing a semi-famous series of mystery novels and running her bookstore, Murder by the Sea.
Mom and I were obsessed with books.
Her obsessions included writing complicated psychological mysteries that gave me nightmares and running the only bookstore within a fifty mile radius of our town. My obsessions focused on reading – romances, mostly – and blogging about them. Hardly a day passed without us engaging in passionate and funny debates about what we were reading or had tossed aside in frustration.
“We should go.” Jaz brushed crumbs off her vintage Aerosmith concert t-shirt. Jaz loved those old shirts, even though they were usually covered in fur from the stray cats she rescued.
I felt another twinge of guilt as I returned Mom’s extra long goodbye hug, wondering if she’d guessed my outfit might have something to do with a guy. I knew she was relieved I hadn’t had any serious romances. Yet. “Guys shouldn’t become an obsession,” she’d lectured more than once. “Think of them as sprinkles on the donuts of life. Fun, but not necessary.”

Easy for Mom to say. She had a long-term sprinkle situation going with Paul, the owner of the surfboard shop. Since Paul adored my mom and loved her weird author quirks, I approved. When Mom was so wrapped up in writing that she forgot about their date nights, he just laughed and whisked her away to fancy dinners, still dressed in her uniform of yoga pants and a faded sweatshirt. One time she left the house in her slippers and he didn’t tell her because he thought it was cute. On top of all that, he was good-looking in a pony-tailed, leathery old surfer kind of way, and his son Toff and I had been friends forever.
While I packed a few donuts for the homeless guys I knew we’d see on our way to school, Jaz tried to hug our cat Hiddles goodbye, but he hissed and bared his claws. Jaz had forced the rescue cat on us, naming him after Tom Hiddleston, but our cat had none of the actor’s charm.
I gave Mom another quick goodbye hug, and then we headed for the raised, paved path that paralleled the water, Jaz on her gazillion-speed mountain bike, me on my old beach cruiser. It was the slowest way to school but the most scenic, and you never knew who you might see jogging along the beach. Occasionally, movie stars escaped L.A. to head up the coast and hide out in Shady Cove. The unwritten town code was to ignore the celebs, which was easy for me but harder for Jaz.
Jaz claimed that celebrity stalking was her one weakness since as an artist she had to stay aware of pop culture. But we both knew the truth was she lusted after hot actors.
“I don’t really look like a hooker, do I?” I asked as we navigated around speed walkers and joggers. I was going for sexy cute, not slutty.
Jaz laughed. “Nah…you’re just showing some skin. Usually your outfits are kind of boring. No offense.”
“None taken.” Unlike Jaz, I didn’t have a trademark style; I mostly wore leggings and sweaters or t-shirts. The aura of bookishness clung to me like a musty cape, probably because I spent half my life in my mom’s bookstore.
We stopped at the overlook so Jaz could scan the beach for hot celebrities. I dug extra donuts out of my backpack and wandered over to the homeless guys hanging out on the bench.
“Thanks, darlin’” said Reg, one of the regulars. Reg was a sweet guy; he’d fought in the first Gulf War and had a daughter somewhere up in Oregon. He and his friends were as much a fixture of our town as the seagulls circling over the water.
Every once in awhile, new residents to Shady Cove floated the idea of chasing them off with anti-loitering laws, but sympathetic long-time residents like my mom quashed those movements pretty fast.
After Reg and I agreed that donuts without icing and sprinkles were a sad excuse for a pastry, I rejoined Jaz. “Any luck?”
She shook her head, then flashed me a grin. “So how’s my outfit? First-day worthy?”
“Your eye shadow matches your shoes and your nails. I don’t know how you do it.”
She giggled. “I looked everywhere for nail polish in this shade of gold. Finally I gave up and used my acrylic paint.”
I laughed, noticing that she had accidentally dipped a tuft of hair in the stuff. “Remember when we wanted to trade hair when we were little?” I asked.
Jaz laughed. “My mom accused me of ‘rejecting my Korean heritage’ when she caught us with the hot rollers, just because I wanted curly hair.”
I was envious of Jasmine’s perfectly straight, shiny black hair. “I wish I could reject whatever heritage gave me Slinky hair.” When we did the required elementary school family history potluck, I brought Italian and Swedish cookies. Mom said that was close enough.
“I think you should rock what you got,” Jaz said. “I love your curls. They’re so bouncy and cute. They’re my favorite thing to draw.”
“After hot actors,” I said, and she stuck out her tongue, making me laugh.
We resumed our ride along the meandering path, Jaz still scanning the beach for celebs, while I watched the Tai Chi practitioners moving in fluid synchrony.
As we intersected with the main road that fronted our school, we braked to let traffic pass. Once upon a time, the buildings that held our school had been a Spanish mission housing priests. The adobe walls and red tile roofs drew a lot of picture-taking tourists, especially because the place was supposedly haunted. Every Halloween someone freaked out and claimed he’d seen something creepy, but Mom suspected the rumors were spread by our town’s tourist office to drum up more visitors, which she was all for.
Jaz leaned over to untangle the hair sticking out of my bike helmet. “Don’t worry about how you look today. Your outfit’s great and your hair’s awesome. I bet Jake loved running his fingers through it.”
Since we’d grown up together, Jaz knew all about my insecurities. I’d survived the childhood nickname Chunky Monkey, but part of me still cringed when I remembered crying to my Mom that I wished I were prettier. “But, Vivvy,” she’d said, looking crestfallen, “you look just like me.”
“Come on,” Jaz said, jarring me back to the present. “He’s probably waiting for you.”
My heart rate skyrocketed as I searched the crowd for a glimpse of Jake. I hoped he’d put his arm around me, casually letting everyone know we were together. A kiss would be even better.
After we locked up our bikes, I tugged at my shirt which was barely in compliance with the dress code. I wondered if I’d be able to get in and out of class without my teachers staring at my stomach. This was definitely a new style for me. Maybe my outfit hadn’t been such a good idea.
“There he is.” Jaz tilted her head toward a crowd of surfers. We didn’t hang out much with the hard-core surfers, but we knew them, mostly because of Toff. In a town this small, we’d all grown up together. It was only when we started high school that the groups splintered off as we mingled with students from neighboring beach towns who commuted to The Shady Cove Academy of Self-Actualization and Success. SCASAS. Of course, everyone called it Suck Asses.
Our school was funded by wealthy old hippies and retired movie people. The wealthy donors gave out a lot of scholarships, which was cool since it meant we were pretty diverse for a private school. And in spite of the name, the school didn’t suck.
My tiny boost of sugar and caffeine-induced confidence plummeted as I watched Jake laugh with a suntanned girl tossing long blond dreads over her shoulder. She oozed sexy in an easy, beach girl way that made me feel extra pale and chubby.
All those years of love-your-body yoga classes I did with Mom at the Herb Cottage were supposed to brainwash me, but some days I still battled my internal voice whispering “Chunky Monkey” like a lyric stuck on repeat. I reassured myself that Jake seemed to like my curves just fine, based on our time at the beach.
Jaz squeezed my shoulder. “Go say hi. His tongue will be down your throat in seconds.”
A blush warmed my cheeks as a guy walking by glanced at me, probably wondering whose tongue Jaz was referring to. Embarrassed, I shot him a mind-your-own-biz glare. He cocked an eyebrow, then his eyes narrowed briefly behind black-framed hipster glasses before he moved on.
Was he new? He must not be from Shady Cove; I’d have seen him around town by now.
“Go on. Rock that hooker librarian thang like you mean it.” Jaz hip-bumped me.
Why was I so nervous? Just because we hadn’t texted or met up this past week didn’t mean things had changed between Jake and me. Every time I’d met him at the bonfire, his eyes had lit up as he pulled me down onto his blanket for mind-blowing kissing sessions.
He’d wandered into our bookstore a few weeks ago looking like an alien scouting a new planet. “Hey, Viv,” he’d said, those midnight blue eyes boring into mine. “Can you help me out?”
Of course I’d helped him. I’d collected a stack of previously loved (we didn’t call them used) paperbacks for his grandma who was at his house recuperating from surgery. I’d even added one of my mom’s books, autographed in her secret pen name.
“You’re awesome, Viv,” Jake had said. As I’d nervously counted out his change, I’d glanced up, startled to catch him giving me the full-body scope. Then I’d almost fainted at the next words out of his sexy mouth: “What are you doing tonight?”
That night, and every night after for nine days straight, we’d burned as hot as the bonfire. Well, maybe not quite that hot because I wasn’t ready to go nearly as far as Jake wanted to. But he’d said it was okay that last night together when I’d pushed on his chest and told him to stop, though his “Whatever, Viv” hadn’t exactly been supportive.
The morning chimes sounded and suddenly Jaz and I were swept up in the laughing, noisy crowd swirling toward the main doors.
“Chicken,” Jaz teased. “You just lost your shot at some morning tongue action.”
“Shut up.” I glared at her, accidentally bumping into a tall, solid body as we navigated the crowd. I glanced up to see the same guy I’d noticed earlier, who’d now overheard two embarrassing tongue-related discussions in approximately three minutes.
His lips quirked, then he disappeared into the crowd.
Jaz grabbed my arm. “Who was that guy?”
“I don’t know. He must be new.” I frowned at her. “He’s not your type, though. Glasses.”
She rolled her eyes. “I didn’t think you were that shallow, Viv. Haven’t you heard of nerd-hot?”
That stung. If anyone knew about nerd-hot, it was me, the pasty bookstore girl and romance book blogger. “I know all about nerd-hot,” I whispered, sliding into a desk next to Jaz in homeroom, tugging down my skirt. “And that guy wasn’t it.”
Jaz waggled her eyebrows at me. “Are you blind? Think Clark Kent. Super sexy hiding behind glasses and geeky clothes.” She leaned in close. “Like Henry Cavill. Be still my heart.”
I loved geek-turned-superhero as much as the next girl, but Jaz was making a big leap. “Celebrity deprivation is affecting your vision.”
“Settle down everyone.” Ms. Kilgore’s glare landed on us, so we stopped whispering. She tossed out names, marking attendance on her iPad. I zoned out, doodling Superman capes in my notebook until Ms. Kilgore threw a verbal flamethrower that caught my attention.
“Jake Fontaine,” Ms. Kilgore said as she glanced up over her reading glasses. My head snapped around.
“Present-ay,” Jake drawled from the back row, smirking.
I drank in the sight of him, all messy dark hair and sculpted perfection. I willed him to look at me, which he finally did. I smiled, feeling my whole body blush as I imagined his lips on mine.
But instead of returning my smile, he stared through me like he didn’t even know me.
[Want more? Click below to read a longer excerpt.]

Praise for the Book
"Roberts has written another smart, charming teen romance, this one featuring plenty of amusing commentary on the genre itself, including Viv and Dallas riffing on romance hero categories ... An entertaining, nicely nuanced depiction of teen relationships and challenges." ~ Kirkus Reviews
"Avid readers will appreciate the many literary threads Roberts weaves into the story: she gives Viv and Dallas jobs in Viv’s mother’s independent bookstore, her mother writes 'a semi-famous series of mystery novels' under a pseudonym, and Viv is a book blogger and runs a romance book club. Though the novel sticks to a fairly predictable course, it’s upbeat and entertaining throughout." ~ Publishers Weekly
"A light love story, full of fun, flirty, and friendly characters. Teens will see themselves in these characters and will root for a Dallas/Vivian match from the first chapter. A recommended choice for romance shelves." ~ School Library Journal
"Oh goodness, I'm not sure there are enough words in the English language to articulate how much I loved this book. It was all the romance of Lisa Brown Roberts in true form, sprinkled with a Gilmore Girls and The O.C.-like crossover setting, and a nerdy love interest that reminded me of Dylan O'Brien with glasses. Yes - this book was spectacular." ~ Moriah Chavis, A Leisure Moment
"In short, I loved it, from beginning to end. I read it in one sitting, and I couldn't put it down - it was that good." ~ Sophie, Where are the Books

My Review

By Lynda Dickson
Viv and her mother love books: her mother owns a bookstore and writes murder mysteries under a pseudonym, while Viv runs a romance book club and blog. Viv has been having a secret summer romance with Jake, but he won't even acknowledge her existence now that they're starting their junior year of high school. To try and get over her obsession with Jake, Viv needs to find the perfect replacement crush. The thing is, so that she doesn't get hurt again, she's going to channel her inner Spock and find a guy with no "zing". Viv sets to work on the RC list, together with her celebrity-stalking best friend Jaz and her book club buddy Amy, even though they don't think it's a good idea. But things get complicated when Dallas, the nerd-hot guy who wears Star Trek t-shirts, comes to town.
Each chapter starts with a relevant Star Trek quote by Captain Kirk, Spock, or Dr McCoy, and some chapters feature Viv's fictitious book reviews as featured on her blog. While it focuses on romance and friendship, the book also deals with heavier issues, such as rape culture, slut-shaming, and bullying. Viv and Dallas are supported by a cast of interesting characters: Jake the Snake, dreadlocked surfer-chick Claire, romance-mad little old lady Mrs Sloane, GBF Iggy, drama geek Drew, rock-star-in-hiding Fink, and over-protective Toff. Full of cute bookish references, this is the perfect read for total book nerds like me.
Absolutely adorable or, should I say, "adorkable"?
Warnings: coarse language, sexual references, underage alcohol consumption, drug references.

About the Author
Lisa Brown Roberts still hasn't recovered from the teenage trauma of nearly tweezing off both eyebrows and having to pencil them in for an entire school year. This and other angst-filled memories inspire her to write YA books about navigating life's painful and funny dramas, and falling in love along the way.
Her almost forever home is Colorado, though she occasionally pines for the days when she lived within walking distance of the Pacific Ocean. Her house is full of books, boys, four-legged prima donnas, and lots of laughter.

Enter the tour-wide giveaway for a chance to win some great prizes (1 winner takes all; US only): signed copy of The Replacement Crush by Lisa Brown Robersts, nerd glasses necklace, button, signed poster, bookmark, and Spock Funko Pop! figure.