I received this book for free from Xpresso Book Tours in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.It Started With a List by Tinia Montford
Series: Pacific Grove University #1
Published by 735 Emerald Press LLC on January 25, 2022
Genres: NA Contemporary Romance
Source: Xpresso Book Tours
A BUCKET LIST. THE POPULAR GUY. A LONER. WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
Time’s up for Vassa Blackwell.
With her college graduation looming, Vassa reflects on the past four years. After a devastating betrayal from her closest friend leaves her ostracized, she trusts no one. Now she is mega disappointed. No wacky misadventures, no drunken nights, and no regrettable mistakes that you can NEVER tell your parents. Work and class, class and work. That’s it. College is supposed to be the best years of your life… Right?
Vassa feels as though she’s cheated herself out of a full college experience. Notable with romance and boys and stuff. So, she makes a college bucket list. Then the worse thing ever happens. Her list falls into the hands of Lazarus Gilbert. King of the baseball team, sworn enemy (in her opinion), and her annoying upstairs neighbor. He thinks he’s found something fun to do. She thinks she’s in trouble. That’s until she discovers there’s more to Lazarus than he lets on…
With the pressures of post-college decisions and failing classes, can they complete the bucket list before the semester runs out? Are Vassa and Lazarus just too different to get along? Will they both come out winners in the end, or will she retreat to her safety-zone? Is it too late for her to learn to live and let live, and let love enter her heart?
Craning her neck back, she looked at the sign. “Crooked Cloud Lounge. Sounds like a brothel.”
Lazarus threw his hands up. “Karaoke!”
Vassa shook her head. There was no way. She wasn’t drunk enough for that. She turned around when he pulled her arm. “C’mon, you can do it.”
Vassa shook her head. No, no way. She sang off-key in the privacy of her shower. He dragged her into the establishment anyway. The place was empty. Just a bartender and a bunch of standing tables. In the corner was a couple, a sleeping security guard, and a random businessman on his phone. He brought her to the table in the middle with a thick binder.
“We’re not leaving till we each do a song.”
Vassa shook her head still. She was the audience. The one that clapped and cheered for the people that were obviously horrible, but had self-esteem (and liquor) through the roof.
“We should just go home; it looks like it’s about to close, anyway.” Vassa looked around.
“How about Smashing Pumpkins, or are you feeling Michael Jackson at the moment?” Lazarus flipped the page.
“I’ll watch you do it. I need more liquid courage,” Vassa said.
He frowned. “You have to live, Vee. When are you ever going to get an opportunity like this again? A nearly empty karaoke bar and me?”
She tried to ignore how he was kinda making sense.
“Let’s get this over with.”
Lazarus smiled. “Now we’re talking.”
Flipping through the binder, she felt overwhelmed by the selections. Should she pick something classic? Off the Wall or Slippery When Wet? Or something modern?
“I’ll get us shots while you look.”
He left and Vassa looked around the room again. At least she didn’t know anyone here. They would only know her as the stranger who couldn’t hold a note.
“Did you pick yet?” Lazarus sat the shots down onto the table. Six shots. Three for him, and three for her.
“Three shots at once?” Her liver was crying.
He rubbed his hands. “We can’t do this sober, can we?”
“What is it?”
Vassa made a face. “No vodka?”
“They were out.”
She resigned herself and reached for the lime and salt. “You’re going to have to pick me up off the floor.”
“Someone might have to pick me up,” Lazarus muttered and passed the shots to her. “Back-to-back, no stopping.”
She placed the salt on the curve of her thumb and picked up the first shot. Lazarus counted down. On three, she licked the salt and took the shot. She shivered as she swallowed, the liquor burning every tastebud on the way down. She tried to ride out the burn for as long as she could before biting into the lime. She looked at Lazarus, and he looked as winded as she did.
“That was one,” he gasped.
Vassa steeled herself as they tossed back the next two shots.
“What did you pick?”
He closed his eyes leaning against the table. “It’s a surprise.”
They let the bartender, who was also serving as the DJ, know what their songs were. Lazarus grabbed another round of shots. The TV on stage turned on and the strobe lights whirled. The first cords of the song played and Vassa didn’t recognize it at first, but then she looked at Lazarus, who moved toward the stage.
“No, you didn’t.”
He winked before jumping onstage. Vassa covered her face. No, he wasn’t doing this. Peeking through her fingers, she saw him roll his shoulders back like he was getting into a fight. The beat of “I Will Survive” by Gloria Gaynor started.
Vassa shook her head at him. No, he really wasn’t doing this. He pointed at her and shook his hips. This was not happening right now. The tequila was kicking in because she was hot and her body felt loose. She swayed to the beat and clapped as he hit the chorus. Lazarus pranced across the tiny stage. It was like a reject strip show.
He didn’t care that he was singing off-key. The couple cheered for him. Even sleeping security guard woke up. He jumped down from the stage and walked around the empty tables, dancing. He looked at Vassa and made a come-here motion with his finger. She shook her head as she laughed. When the song finally ended, he did a bow. Vassa cheered for him. He passed the couple, and they reached out to high five.
Lazarus took a shot at the table once he came back.
“I don’t know what to say.” Vassa blinked slowly, her hands on her face.
“There’s nothing to say. You just saw a master at work.”
“If baseball or event planning don’t work out for you, maybe you could be a drag queen?”
This book started out really good! It had great characters and a great storyline. There were a few moments that did not make sense to me as I read though and it was a little longer than maybe was needed? But there really was a lot of things going on this story. And I mean that in a mostly good way. Both characters had their issues. And I enjoyed both of their sides of the story. Although I did totally connect with Vassa’s introvert side, there was a few things she did that I didn’t. Like saying dogs were bad because they “rolled around in feces”. Um, yeah, once in awhile if you let them get out in a yard and they find something, but it rarely happens. So not sure wtf that came from. Then they went on a bunch of errands and went to the grocery store first? That’s not realistic, anything cold, especially after you go to a bookstore AFTER the grocery store? And then there was a bit of slut shaming from her, although I think maybe she did kind of take it back a little later. But I don’t think someone can say they are modern or an up to date person and say that people who “hook up” are crazy. It was around this point that my enjoyment of the book took a little dip. However I didn’t give up, and a little bit further, about two-thirds of the way through, I got reinvested in the story. I do love the line I hear people say that really makes sense to me, “I feel some kind of way.” Towards the end I didn’t feel she was overreacting at all about a certain situation, especially when one part seemed to come out of nowhere and not really have been introduced at all as a part of the story before. And of course the Young and the Restless fan in me loved the mention of Genoa City.
Overall a good story with some dips in the middle, but if you keep going past those, you’ll be glad you read this one!
About the Author
Tinia (TUH-NIA) Montford is a Pisces who’s a sap for romance, especially when there’s (tons of) kissing. Loves eighties sitcoms and will consume anything with chocolate. She graduated from the University of San Francisco with a degree in English and Graphic Design.
She is a world traveler having climbed a volcano in Nicaragua, scaled Angkor Wat in the blistering sun, and roamed the Acropolis of Athens. Oh, she also dabbles in short stories occasionally.
If you can’t catch her writing, you can bet she’s overindulging on poke bowls, listening to the same four songs, or chilling with her adorbs doggie. She is currently pursuing her MFA in Fiction.
Tour-wide giveaway (INT)
- Paperback copy of It Started With a List + character art