Bad Romance: A Stepbrother Novel by Jen McLaughlinBad Romance: A Stepbrother Novel by Jen McLaughlin
Published September 2015
Genres: Contemporary Romance, Forbidden Romance
Format: ARC

Note: I was granted an advanced reader's copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my rating or the content of my review.

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Seven years in the army will change a guy. But after a shoulder wound ends his career as a sniper, Jackson Worthington finds himself back home, fighting a battle that’s all too familiar: keeping his hands off Lily Hastings. She’s still her rich daddy’s little angel, innocent, impossibly lovely, as squeaky-clean as Jackson is dirty. And she’s still his stepsister—forbidden but not forgotten, not after the soul-melting kiss that got him kicked out of the house at eighteen. He couldn’t resist her then. How the hell can he resist her now?

Lily is about to marry a man she doesn’t love, and commit to a high-stress job she hates, all to please the father who controls every waking moment of her life. On top of everything, her teenage crush is back, with a sleek, chiseled body and a trace of the rebellious boy whose lips sealed her fate. Jackson’s timing couldn’t be worse . . . or better. Because Lily’s all grown up, too. She’s aching for another taste. And for the first time, she’s ready to be a bad girl.

Jackson Worthington is back in his hometown in Virginia. A war injury is keeping him from re-onrolling into active duty with the military, and he just needs some time to figure out what to do next. It was ridiculous of him that during that time, he would not cross paths with the stepsister who stole his heart 7 years prior.

Lilly Hastings has had a crush on Jackson ever since their parents got married, and when she finally decided to act on it, Jackson got sent away for “defiling” his stepfather’s daughter. But the crush never really went away. However, she understands that Jackson’s feelings might not have been the same as hers, as he never answered her letters or even bothered to tell her he would be back in town. And as as life goes, Lilly has to focus on other things, since she has her future all drown for her, it seems.

Will Jackson’s return make her want to fight for what she wants instead of being the nice and polite girl she always used to be?

What I loved about this book:

  • Nothing really stood out, sorry!

What I felt needed improvement:

  • The storyline wasn’t mindblowing
  • Most scenes and plot-lines were just unrealistic
  • There is no chemistry between the two main characters and they have very weak personalities

I received this book as an ARC via Netgalley, and I was very keen on reading it since I am a sucker for forbidden romance / in-love-with-the-stepbrother stories. To be very blunt with you, reading this book was ok, but it wasn’t mindblowing, and there were too many details that made the story unrealistic and less deserving of a full 5-star rating. The stepbrother/stepsister plot has been used so many times before, and authors have to be careful to differentiate their stories by adding a little je ne sais quoi but I didn’t find this in the storyline, nor could I find it in the characters.

“I initially tried to hate her on principle, but the thing was, I couldn’t. From my first day here, when she brought me chocolate chip cookies because they were my favorite, till today, she’s been nothing but kind to me.”

What put me off at first was how quickly the reader was thrown into the story. There was very little build-up apart from a short prologue, during which Jackson and Lilly kiss for the first time, right before they get caught by his controlling stepdad and Jackson leaves to join the army. Seven years later, they coincidentally cross paths again, and it happens straight after the prologue. But hey, it wasn’t necessarily a bad way to get the story started and didn’t feel awkward.

The attraction between Jackson and Lilly as they meet again isn’t denied by any of the characters – or at least not for too long. Maybe it would have been nicer to have a bit more of a chase going on between the two of them, or at least a bit more resistance to engage after 7 years and the “sudden” communication breakdown. At least, what made the story interesting was that while both Jackson and Lilly felt attracted to each other, only one of them – Lilly – was intent on acting on it. It was actually nice to see a female heroine be bold and make a move on the guy who is trying hard to be good and to resist the temptation.

Lilly knew what she wanted and was great at coaxing this out of Jackson. However, she was also one of the dumbest characters I’ve ever witnessed in a book. Can you imagine she held tight to her V-Card in the hopes that Jackson (the guy who left her high and dry and didn’t answer any of her letters) would take it from her?And her bold behavior when she’s around Jackson is also in stark contrast to the doormat behavior she has around her father: she literally gives in to each and every one of her his demands, however invasive they may be. Like, oh, I don’t know… marrying some random guy her father picked???

And frankly, the latter is also what makes the storyline so unrealistic. Lilly is being forced to marry a guy she doesn’t even like because that guy’s father’s company can then help her father’s company get back on track. Without the marriage, there is no merger, and hundreds of people would loose their job. Ok, if you’re able to follow me, then I assume that you’ll agree with me when I say that this plot is quite unrealistic . And before you ask, the answer is: yes, this book is set in the 21st century and in the emancipated US of A.

And then, there’s fact that she is hitting it off with her stepbrother Jackson who is literally sweeping her off her feet, but she’s still bent on marrying the other guy for the sake of her dad’s company. Right. And honestly, Lilly is behaving like the doormat she is up until the bitter end (almost) which only made me want to roll my eyes and slap some sense (and dignity!) into her. 

Anyway, there’s a lot of back and forth on the marriage between Lilly and her “promised one” (and Jackson not wanting it to happen), which really brings the book to a stalling point during pretty much a majority of the second half. And I’ll also have to complain about how how annoying it was for both characters to overthink the stepbrother/sister relationship. It didn’t feel like a taboo situation to me at all. They met when they were 15 and 18, and they’re not blood-related. What’s the big deal?

“She should know… that I cared about her. Still did. But it couldn’t be in a romantic way. We couldn’t be together. She still deserved better. Was still made for bigger things.”

Oh and don’t get me started on the drama around Jackson, who thinks he’s some kind of “bad or flawed person” who’s not right for her. Apart from never returning her letters, I don’t see what he did wrong! He’s intelligent, got into Yale without help (just didn’t want to go), fought for his country, and doesn’t sleep around. Sounds like the perfect guy, huh? Yep, and that made him really boring outside of the bedroom, too. There was no chemistry at all between Lilly and Jackson outside of their intimate encounters.

The ending was just as disappointing as the rest of the book. The author was just looking for some trigger event to wrap the story up and it should have been a spectacular trigger event but it was just… lame. It was long drawn out and highly unlikely in real-life. 

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Thankfully, through all that, the writing was okay and based on an alternating 1st person POV. Thank god the steamy scenes were really hitting it for me, or else I would have been a tad bored. But that just wasn’t enough to make Bad Romance a quality read.

All in all, it wasn’t a bad book: it’s the kind of nice and carefree read you like to read to get your mind off things. But if you’re like me, and going through 4-5 of these reads every week, you’re constantly looking for the kind of book that gets your heart rate up and surprises you. But that was just not the case for Bad Romance.

Detailed Rating
1 Stars
2 Stars
3.5 Stars
All the feels
1 Stars
Overall: two-stars