ARC Review: All Lined Up (Rusk University #1) by Cora Carmack

Pub. Date: May 13th, 2014
Publisher: William Morrow & Company
320 pages

Synopsis from Goodreads:

New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Cora Carmack follows up her trio of hits—Losing It, Faking It, and Finding It—with this thrilling first novel in an explosive series bursting with the Texas flavor, edge, and steamy romance of Friday Night Lights.

In Texas, two things are cherished above all else—football and gossip. My life has always been ruled by both.

Dallas Cole loathes football. That's what happens when you spend your whole childhood coming in second to a sport. College is her time to step out of the bleachers, and put the playing field (and the players) in her past.

But life doesn't always go as planned. As if going to the same college as her football star ex wasn’t bad enough, her father, a Texas high school coaching phenom, has decided to make the jump to college ball… as the new head coach at Rusk University. Dallas finds herself in the shadows of her father and football all over again.

Carson McClain is determined to go from second-string quarterback to the starting line-up. He needs the scholarship and the future that football provides. But when a beautiful redhead literally falls into his life, his focus is more than tested. It's obliterated.

Dallas doesn't know Carson is on the team. Carson doesn't know that Dallas is his new coach's daughter.

And neither of them know how to walk away from the attraction they feel.

The thing at the top of my ‘what I have love the most about Cora Carmack books list’ is her insanely witty, entertaining dialogue. I’m always a little worried when an author I adore starts a new series. There’s a little bit of fear that the new won’t live up to the old. But within the first pages of All Lined Up, I knew there was nothing to worry about.  All Lined Up lives up to high wit and character bar that Cora’s Losing It series set. The first page introduces us readers to Dallas and her best friend Stella, and I couldn’t help but compare them to Bliss and Kelsey from Losing It. Like Kelsey, Stella’s character shows that while you may not currently be the star of the show (or I guess more accurately, the star of your own book!), if Cora created you, you’re bound to make a lasting impression. I hate finishing one of Cora’s books because I know I’ll have a wait for the next, but All Lined Up only reinforced how worth the wait Cora’s books are. 

All Lined Up has one of the most adorably hilarious ‘meet-cutes’ ever. I found it so refreshing that from the first meeting, Carson (who quite literally has the girl of his dream fall into his lap) and Dallas are honest and vocal about seeing something in the other person that they like. There is so little of romance’s typical will they won’t they drama, and when it is there, there’s an actual reason behind it.
While it’s definitely not easy, Dallas and Carson’s relationship is as swoon-worthy as the characters themselves. Both have a heck of a lot going for them, and I loved that whether it came to their relationship, or something in their non-relationship lives, they worked their butts off to meet goals, and they worked hard to hold onto the things that matter to them the most. I really liked each character individually, but I loved what they were able to achieve, and how they were at their best, when they were together.

The one part of the novel that didn’t necessarily work for me was the relationship between Dallas and her father in the first half. I couldn’t help but feel resentment and anger towards Dallas’ father on her behalf because of how he constantly squashed her aspirations. At the same time, I got increasingly annoyed with how easily Dallas acquiesced to her father’s ‘because I said so’ rulings. She maintains complete devotion to him, never even really getting angry, when he is blatantly controlling her. Maybe I don’t understand the relationship between a father and daughter when there’s no other family in the picture, but I couldn’t understand how Dallas could fight so hard to gain or achieve something in every aspect of her life, and then lose all that fight the moment after her dad says no. Thankfully throughout the novel their relationship shifts and changes, but even after the feeling was no longer warranted, I had a hard time getting over the resentment I initially felt towards Coach Cole.  

I cannot wait to get my hands on book two in the Rusk University series. There are so many ways the story can go, and knowing one of the most stoic and unlikeable characters from All Lined Up is the lead, makes me very excited to see how Cora is going to warm the audience to his story (because we know she will!).

Rating 4.5/5

** I received a copy of the novel from the publisher to read and honestly review. I was in no way compensated. 

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