About the Book

Title: Beautiful Bastard (Beautiful Bastard #1)
Love and Other Words
Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating
Twice in a Blue Moon
The Honey Don’t List
Published: 2013

A few of our favorite books by Christina Lauren

Sub-genre: Contemporary
What To Expect: Wholly-Realized Female Protagonists, Serious Issues, Rom-Com Situations, Swoony Male Leads, Friends-to-Lovers, Enemistry, First Love

The Deal:

Christina Lauren is actually the pen-name of Christina Hobbs and Laura Billings, best friends-turned-writing partners who got their big break when their erotic Twilight fan fiction, The Office, did big numbers online. Simon & Schuster bought the rights to it, the story was rewritten and published as Beautiful Bastard, and the pair have been churning out best sellers ever since.

I (Stephanie) began to notice a formula after reading my third Christina Lauren book, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. These are true romantic-comedy movies in book form. So in a way, they’re kind of soothing to read. Things will work out. There will be fun and unique contemporary settings. Their female leads will feel like real people, with trust issues and anxieties and hopes and dreams. Their male leads will be swoony and sexy, and ALSO have their own hopes and dreams. These books are great palate cleansers and the perfect vacation reads!

From Fancy Dress To Fabio:

Christina Lauren books rarely require a brown bag when reading in public. More times than not, their covers are colorful, contemporary, and fun – they really are bookish rom-coms! The Beautiful Bastards series is the exception to this rule, unfortunately. Nothing screams “this book has banging in it” like a faceless hot dude playing with his cuff links on the cover. (I really think Beautiful Bastard is the exception to a lot of Christina Lauren rules, actually.)

Beautiful Bastard (Beautiful Bastard #1) (2013)

Meet Cute:

Nope, this book gets right to the action with some major sexy times in chapter one, followed by major sexy times in each chapter after that. It’s really more sex than plot, if we’re being honest. But we eventually learn that Chloe Mills was a business intern for a man named Elliott Ryan until his son, big business-slash-beautiful bastard Bennett Ryan, returned to town and became Chloe’s boss. The hot-headed pair had near explosive enemistry from day one and when it finally reaches a head (ha ha ha) these two turn into an HR nightmare real quick.

The Leading Lady: Hot-Tempered Hottie

Chloe is an intern with ambition on her way to an MBA (can’t relate). She wears garter belts and lace-trimmed, thigh-high stockings with seams down the back to her office job (can’t relate). But her ambition translates well to the bedroom, this girl has NO FEAR of public sex (can’t relate).

The Leading Man: Beautiful, Overbearing Bastard

While there may be some question as to which came first, beautiful bastard Bennett Ryan is a product of the early aughts fetishization of stalkery hot dudes. Bennett Ryan is Christian Grey is Edward Cullen. He rips panties off and keeps them in his desk drawer (!), but you know, he’s got a soft spot for Chloe.

Risque Ranking: 9

I (Rosemary) made the hilarious mistake of listening to this audiobook at my co-working office and OH MY GOD. When the first dirty sex scene, on a conference table no less, happened within 10 minutes of starting the book, I had to double check to make absolutely sure that I hadn’t accidentally started halfway through the book. Then I had to obsessively check to make sure that I was hearing these words quietly in my headphones and not accidentally blasting the X-rated narration all over my office. Then I had to turn it off until I got home because I just could NOT listen to this in public.

This book is porn on the page. But! I have to knock off a point for the simple fact that I’m kind of over the stalker-y Edward Cullen types.

Ms. Perky’s Prize for Purplest Prose:

The part of me that hated him was dissolving like sugar on my tongue, and the part that wanted everything he had to give me was growing, hot and demanding. “Just tell me.” He leaned forward, sucked my earlobe between his lips and then gave it a sharp bite. “I promise I’ll give it to you.”

Was It Good For You?

Rosemary: Beautiful Bastards was the second Christina Lauren book I read, after The Unhoneymooners, which was more PG-13 rom-com than actual, literal sex book. Which is why I had to check multiple times to make sure that I hadn’t accidentally downloaded a Beautiful Bastards sample that started in the middle of the story. From page ten on, this book is pure smut. There’s little character development, and even less story. But that isn’t to say that it doesn’t serve a purpose. If you want sex, and lots of it from start to finish, it delivers. If you’re over asshole stalker-types in questionable positions of power, skip this one.

Kate: Now, I’m ALL for take-charge women who aren’t shy about knowing what they want and going after it, but I’ll admit, I clutched my pearls a few times at this one! Yes, it’s sexy, but at what cost?  I love a good romp, but I couldn’t 100% enjoy it without some semblance of plot other than “hot boss gets off on being controlling.” There were definitely some nice racy passages, but overall, Bennett just didn’t do it for me.

Kandis: I have not read this book and obviously need to download it immediately, because I am shamelessly not over the Edward Cullen types, or smut.

Love and Other Words (2018)

Meet Cute:

After the death of her mother, 13-year-old Macy’s dad is insistent that they need a getaway, a place to relax and leave the rest of the world behind, so they call a real estate agent and head out on the hunt for a weekend home in Healdsburg, California. It’s at an open house that Macy walks into a bedroom closet and finds neighborhood nerd, Elliott Petropoulos, reading a book. CUTE INDEED. Macy and Elliott become best friends on her weekends in Healdsburg, sharing books and reading quietly in the closet. But as the years pass, their relationship turns more intense, barrelling toward a tragic ending that splits them apart. Ten years later, Macy’s a doctor in Berkeley, engaged to someone else, when she runs into Elliott in a coffee shop, and the two are forced to finally face the thing that tore them apart all those years ago.

The Leading Lady: Broody Cutie

Macy is introspective, sweet, and smart. She is without a doubt the most reserved Christina Lauren heroine I’ve read, and I really loved her a lot. In the “Then” chapters when Macy is a teen, she’s coming to terms with the loss of her mother but slowly starts to come out of her shell around Elliott. In the “Now” chapters, it’s clear that Macy’s been through something horribly traumatic and that Elliott’s impact on her life has left some major scars.

The Leading Man: Bookish Babe

Teenage Elliott Petropoulos has always got his nose in a book, he knows he’s smart as a whip, and he toes the line between complete nerd and over-confident, annoyingly smarmy boy. He adores his new friend Macy, and their friendship is cute as shit, because they’re so honest and open with one another. If teen Elliott is dreamy, adult Elliott is the stuff of legend. He’s still reading all the time, writing books about dragons, wearing skinny jeans and glasses, and just as in love with Macy as ever, while still being respectful and giving her the space she needs.

Risque Ranking: 6

The two timelines in Love and Other Words means that the reader is along for the ride as  Elliott and Macy navigate the painfully awkward world of sex and fooling around for the first time as teenagers. They experience lots of firsts with the same sweet openness and honesty that makes their friendship so wonderful, but I wouldn’t exactly classify it as risque. As adults, there’s a chasm between them that means trust, and therefore sex, has to be earned. Christina Lauren makes them, and thus the reader, work for it, but manages to deliver a satisfying ending.

Ms. Perky’s Prize for Purplest Prose:

He grunts out some unintelligible words when he feels me through my underwear. And then his fingers slide up my navel, carefully digging down inside the lace, and I push up to my knees above him, helping give him access to the place I need his touch more than I need anything else in the galaxy.

“Are you wet like this for me?” he asks, pulling back to look up at my face. His fingers push into me, thumb stroking. “This is me?”

Was It Good For You?

Rosemary: While this isn’t the steamiest romance novel I’ve ever read, it’s certainly a favorite. Elliott is top shelf book boyfriend material, and I love any dual timeline that lets the reader experience double the swoon. It gives you the sexy times you’d expect, but the focus is really on the wanting, which is sometimes just as sexy as the having. I also loved that both timelines built to dramatic climaxes almost flawlessly – there was one glaring plot-hole detail that bugged me, but not enough to keep me from loving this book. It will be a for-sure reread in the future.

Kate: Cosign Rosemary’s thoughts about the wanting. I absolutely adored this book, primarily for how it took me back to a time when I felt SO MUCH, ALL THE TIME. Elliott is way more my speed than Bennett was, and is truly a top contender in my Manic Pixie Dream Boy Hall of Fame. The hot parts of this book are hot because of just how well the story builds to the climax, not because of content. The romance feels well and truly earned.

Josh and Hazel’s Guide to Not Dating (2018)

Meet Cute:
Josh and Hazel have two meet cutes! The pair first met at a college party where Hazel announced that she had the hots for Josh, then barfed on him. Fast forward a decade, and Hazel is at a party with her new co-workers, talking loudly about cock and her boobs, as one does, when Josh appears and the two are reunited. At the behest of Josh’s sister, Hazel’s best friend Emily, the two start hanging out and become fast friends who attempt to set each other up on a series of blind dates that get exponentially worse as Josh and Hazel’s feelings for each other grow.

The Leading Lady: Hot Mess Express
Hazel is ~quirky~ you guys! If you don’t pick up on that immediately from her Homer Simpson house shoes and array of weird pets, you are told that Hazel is quirky on almost every page. She’s weird, she’s different, she’s not like other girls! 

The Leading Man:  Humdrum Hunk
Josh is the straight man to Hazel’s adorkable weirdo, and while I liked Josh, he almost seemed a little *too* straight at times. Maybe it was because Hazel was so out there that he seemed boring in comparison, it’s hard to say. His girlfriend treats him like shit and at first he seems pretty disinterested in his own life. But Josh isn’t without his good qualities: hottie with a body, business owner, good brother to his sister Emily, great son to his Korean parents, and a great friend to Hazel.

Risque Ranking: 7
While the swooning is mostly in the build-up here, when Josh and Hazel eventually do give in to their horniness for each other, it is incredibly hot. This book is a perfect balance of making you wait for it, then delivering it to you in a very satisfying way.

Ms. Perky’s Prize for Purplest Prose:

In the morning, I’ll tell myself it’s okay that I scream into his ear when my orgasm hits me with the momentum of a train. I’ll tell myself it’s fine that I bite his shoulder when I surprise us both and melt beneath him again. But right now, I only want to think about how warm he is, how good he feels moving inside me. I want to focus on how his hair slips between my fingers and how he babbles about soft and skin, how the words fucking and wet sound both filthy and reverent in my ear.

Was It Good For You?

Rosemary: I read this book in a day. While I found Hazel’s weirdness a little forced, she and Josh had great chemistry. I never doubted that he really loved her, and I never thought *he* thought she was weird. The friends-to-lovers trope is always a favorite, so by the time Josh and Hazel gave in to their desires, I was R E A D Y. My biggest complaint was the last, like, two chapters of the book. I wouldn’t say the ending was a dealbreaker for me, but it definitely went in a direction I never expected…or really wanted.

Twice in a Blue Moon (2019)

Meet Cute x2:

Tate and Sam meet in London over dinner with their families. Tate has never met such a strapping, sexy farm-boy like Sam, who’s earnest and sweet personality is only topped by his impeccable biceps. The two bond star-gazing in the hotel garden. Ah, young love.

But life isn’t always that smooth. After a major heartbreak and betrayal, Tate and Sam reunite fourteen years later on the set of a movie that Sam wrote. Can sparks fly twice?

The Leading Lady: Hollywood Heiress

Tate is the daughter of Ian Butler, a super famous movie star (think Brad Pitt or Tom Cruise levels of fame) who disappeared with her mother from her father’s life when she was eight after a contentious divorce. All that hiding in a sleepy little resort town in Northern California has Tate longing for fame and adventure in the great wide somewhere.

The Leading Man: Foxy Farmer

Sam is the guy that most of us wish could be our first boyfriend. He’s polite, funny, sexy, introspective without being too dour. He longs to be a writer, but has to help take care of the family farm, which he, of course, is happy to do because his family is so awesome.

Risque Ranking: 5

Christina Lauren’s standalone novels seem to be more tasteful nudity in R-rated rom-coms than raunchy romps, but Tate and Sam do get it on in the backseat of a pickup at one point, and while it isn’t explicit, you can certainly use your imagination…

Ms. Perky’s Prize for Purplest Prose:

“The door slams shut behind him, and he’s too big for the space but he doesn’t seem to care. On his knees, he slides the skirt of my dress up over my hips, pulls down my underwear, and looks at me like he wants his mouth just there, right there, but there isn’t room for him to lay me down, stretch out between my legs.”

Was It Good For You?

Stephanie: I liked Sam, and it was tough to put myself in Tate’s shoes and figure out if I, personally, would’ve been able to forgive him after his youthful discretions. There was also way less contact between adult Tate and Sam than I was expecting. If it wasn’t for the beginning stages of the book focusing so much on the “first love”, I’d hesitate to even call this a romance.

Kandis: Other than the unbelievable coincidences that led adult Tate and Sam to reconnect, I enjoyed this book. But unlike a lot of romances, it didn’t simply have a misunderstanding that kept the two characters apart, Sam committed an outrageous betrayal. And even though he may have had a somewhat good reason for doing it, like Stephanie mentioned, it’s hard to decide if it’s forgivable. My favorite part of the story is really just the movie set. I think I maybe just need a vacation?

The Honey Don’t List (2020)

Meet Cute:

Carey and James, assistants to the famous home decor / DIY couple Melissa and Rusty Tripp,  already know each other, albeit not very well, when the book opens. But their bonding kicks off over their shared discovery of Rusty going to pound-town with a woman who is NOT his wife, Melly.

The Leading Lady: Alluring Artist

Carey has worked for the Tripps since she was sixteen and they had one simple store in Jackson, Wyoming. Her creativity and talent with drawing/designing is what helped put them on the map, but going from sixteen to twenty-six with the same bosses has given Carey a skewed idea of what a healthy working relationship should look like. She suffers from dystonia, a condition I had never heard of before this novel, which makes fine motor movements difficult.

The Leading Man: Dreamy Designer

James will be the first to tell you he is NOT an assistant, thankyouverymuch. He was hired as an engineering consultant, but he hasn’t been designing so much as grabbing coffee and keeping Rusty’s wandering eye and alcoholism under control. James seemed like a nice, normal dude, which made the romance kind of refreshing? No alpha tendencies and no drama. Imagine!

Risque Ranking: 5

Carey is working on her assertiveness in all areas in her life…including the bedroom. She tells James in no uncertain terms what she would like him to do to her, and he’s more than happy to comply.

Ms. Perky’s Prize for Purplest Prose:

“But then he leans forward again with a smile, and in the space of a gasp we’re kissing like we need to: lips and tongue and the occasional dirty drag of teeth. His hands move down to my waist, holding me to him, and when he presses forward, I lift my legs, weightless, wrapping them around him.”

Was It Good For You?

Stephanie: As a person who likes home DIY and has watched her fair share of HGTV, I loved all the not-so-subtle nods to Melissa and Rusty being Joanna and Chip Gaines stand-ins (although I hope for THEIR sakes that Joanna and Chip have a much healthier real-life relationship). I was annoyed for a brief second with Carey and her reasoning for being mad at James during the end of the novel, but I loved that some of the other characters called her out on it. This book was basically exactly what I thought it was going to be, but it was super fun to read nonetheless.

Yellow cover with palm leaves, hibiscus and a toucan

The Unhoneymooners (2019)

Despite being identical twins, Olive Torres and her sister, Ami, are total opposites. Olive has terrible luck, while Ami always wins. Ami’s so good at winning, in fact, that now it’s her wedding day and she’s managed to pay for her entire wedding and honeymoon through earned freebies and contest winnings. Including Olive’s hideous, green satin monstrousity of a bridesmaid dress and the seafood buffet-catered reception. But the twins’ luck seems to be reversed when every guest at the wedding comes down with an extreme (and extremely disgusting) case of ciguatera toxin, including the bride and groom. Everyone, that is, except Olive, who skipped the buffet because of her shellfish allergy, and Ethan, the groom’s brother/best man who refuses to eat from buffets because he considers them to be a hotbed for bacteria.

*

Worst of all, Ami’s all-expenses-paid honeymoon in Maui can’t be rescheduled, and she insists that Olive and Ethan pretend to be the newlyweds and take the honeymoon she can’t. The only problem? Olive and Ethan have hated each other from the moment they met years ago. But Ami insists, and Olive figures once they get to the resort, they can spend most of their time avoiding each other.

*

So Olive and Ethan board a plane and head to Maui, where all sorts of delightful challenges await them: a honeymoon suite with only one bed (of course!), pre-booked couples massages, Olive’s new boss, AND Ethan’s ex, just to name a few. Olive and Ethan realize that not only will they be unable to avoid each other, they’ll have to spend much more time than planned pretending to be newlyweds. And the more they pretend, the harder it is to tell the difference between what’s real and what’s fake.

You can read our full review here. 

Was It Good For You?

Stephanie: I’m always interested in fake relationship tropes! This was cute overall, though I did feel it got QUITE dramatic at the end, almost too much so, but I persevered. I can really see this one as a movie.

Rosemary: I’m with Stephanie, the whole time I was reading this, I was envisioning a rom-com starring Gina Rodriguez. It’s VERY cinematic, but also pretty PG-13 in the grand scheme of things. It was cute, and a fun read, but left me a bit, uh, wanting in some respects.

Kandis: Yesss, fake relationships are the best. For me, this book suffered from the same problem as Twice In a Blue Moon, with the unbelievable coincidences. But a fun tropical setting makes up for a lot, and I found myself less interested when these two had to go back to their real lives.

Kate: This is a great “beach read” book. Did I buy the sexual chemistry between Olive and Ethan? Not totally, but enough to sell the basic premise. Could I tell some of the twists from a mile away? Of course! But sometimes, that’s exactly what you want from a good romance. Sweet and funny, but I could have done with a bit more sizzle.


Do you have a favorite Christina Lauren book not mentioned here? Let us know your faves in the comments!

FTC Full Disclosure: We did not receive money or Girl Scout cookies of any kind (not even the lame cranberry ones) for writing these reviews. All of these books are available now.

Rosemary lives in Little Rock, AR with her husband and cocker spaniel. At 16, she plucked a copy of Sloppy Firsts off the "New Releases" shelf and hasn't stopped reading YA since. She is a brand designer who loves tiki drinks, her mid-century modern house, and obsessive Google mapping.