Series: Rusk University #3
Published by William Morrow on May 12th, 2015
Genres: Contemporary, New Adult, Romance
First person in her family to go to college? CHECK.
Straight A’s? CHECK.
On track to graduate early? CHECK.
Social life? …..yeah, about that….
With just a few weeks until she graduates, Antonella DeLuca’s beginning to worry that maybe she hasn’t had the full college experience. (Okay... Scratch that. She knows she hasn't had the full college experience).
So Nell does what a smart, dedicated girl like herself does best. She makes a "to do" list of normal college activities.
Item #1? Hook up with a jock.
Rusk University wide receiver Mateo Torres practically wrote the playbook for normal college living. When he’s not on the field, he excels at partying, girls, and more partying. As long as he keeps things light and easy, it's impossible to get hurt... again. But something about the quiet, shy, sexy-as-hell Nell gets under his skin, and when he learns about her list, he makes it his mission to help her complete it.
Torres is the definition of confident (And sexy. And wild), and he opens up a side of Nell that she's never known. But as they begin to check off each crazy, exciting, normal item, Nell finds that her frivolous list leads to something more serious than she bargained for. And while Torres is used to taking risks on the field, he has to decide if he's willing to take the chance when it's more than just a game.
Together they will have to decide if what they have is just part of the experiment or a chance at something real.
As soon as I heard that All Played Out would be about the studious Nell and hilarious goofball Torres, I was absolutely desperate for this book. I want more humor and hilarity to accompany my sexy NA – and with Cora Carmack, you know she’s bringing the sexy. All Played Out was a fun, romantic read, but one that still left me a tiny bit disappointed.
There’s no question that my expectations for this book were rather high. And on a lot of counts, Carmack delivered. Torres is a funny, fun guy, for sure, and him falling for the sweet, studious girl was pretty adorable. However, I didn’t like that he also had to have a “traumatic” past. His reasons for falling for Nell were called into question, and I felt like it made the ship kind of rocky. Plus, he was on many counts a stereotypical jock, which I’m growing a bit tired of (I’ll get to that later).
It was easy for me to find a connection to Nell, because I was also the studious, reserved one in high school and college. I planned for the future and perhaps didn’t spend enough time living in the moment. So when Nell is confronted with this fact and decides to make a bucket list of typical college things to do before she graduates, I could definitely see the reasoning behind that. It led to some hilarious escapades, especially when she teams up with Torres, but I did feel like she fell for him and strayed out of her comfort zone just a bit too easily. See, I connected to Nell as a fellow bookish introvert, and, at least in my case, if I do push myself out of my comfort zone to do unexpected things, I may have fun in the moment, but I am exhausted afterwards. It felt like Nell had no trouble at all – which admittedly helps to keep the tone of the book light and fun – but that made me kind of lose the connection that I had to her. Introverts don’t just stop being introverts. The character depth was missing and/or didn’t feel very genuine.
As much as I absolutely hate to say it, I feel like I’m gradually falling out of love with Cora Carmack. Losing It and Faking It were so near perfect for me that after that I marked her down as an auto-buy author. But every book since then has been straying away from the tropes and character growth that I like, and more towards the NA clichés that I dislike. She seems to be relying more and more on insta-attraction: when the ship lays eyes on each other, it’s pretty much a done deal. And I don’t like her guys as much. Maybe it’s just the football players here in the Rusk University series, but I find myself rolling my eyes at their toughness, their over-the-top masculinity, and all the “dirty talk” that comes on top of it. Seriously, reading male POVs that are constantly commenting on “tits” and “ass” – and how hard they make them – kind of removes like half the swoon factor. These books would work so much better for me if they just had the girl POVs.
I like sex in NA. I like hot scenes. And Cora Carmack can write some of the best ones out there. But I don’t like this more coarse and profane vein of sex that she’s now leaning towards. It makes it so much more about the physical chemistry between the main characters, and it cheapens the emotional aspect. And maybe it wouldn’t bother me so much either if it weren’t the same in every book. I thought this one would at least be somewhat different, with a bookish, studious, more prude main character, but it really wasn’t. I may just be disillusioned after the massive disappointment of Inspire. But I want more sweeping, romantic, gradual transitions of ships. I want more Cades and less Silases. And I want the focus to still be on character growth. I feel like that’s fading out too.
I still enjoyed this, sure – I don’t lie or artificially boost my ratings. The thing is, I claim this is one of my favorite authors, but her books haven’t been hitting it out of the park for me for quite some time now. There’s fun and romance, and certainly with Nell’s studious nature, there are parts that I could relate to. It’s a quick read, with adventure, swoon, banter, nicknames, some drama, a great budding friendship between Nell and Stella, and some planning-for-the-future NA woes. But it won’t be a favorite for me.