Publisher: Plain Jane Books
Publication Date: July 13, 2021
Series or Standalone: VIP #4
Links: Amazon – Barnes & Noble – Goodreads
Why is writing reviews for books you love so hard? I’m struggling to find the words to express just why I love Exposed by Kristen Callihan so bear with me if this is a little rambly!
Overall, I’ve really enjoyed the VIP series (well except for book one, which I’ve tried to read three times and can never finish), and this one might knock Managed from the top spot. There is something so incredibly raw and vulnerable to the emotions portrayed in this book that really resonated.
Exposed is book four in Callihan’s VIP series. You can read it as a standalone, but I think you get more out of it if you’ve read the other books in the series as you’ll have more backstory and context on the antagonist nature of Brenna and Rye’s relationship.
Rye and Brenna have been butting heads for ages. Everyone in the band Kill John, of which Rye is the bassist and Brenna is the PR manager, knows it. When Brenna privately confesses to a friend that she wants to find someone she can be intimate with but not have the trappings of a relationship, the one person she doesn’t want to overhear it, Rye, does. Rye immediately offers up his service for a no-strings-attached, friends with benefits relationship. He can’t help himself because, despite the constant bickering, Rye has always wanted Brenna. Sleeping together might be what Brenna claims she wants, but Rye intends to show her that he can give her more, but doing so could get messy and ruin their friendship.
I loved this book so much. Brenna and Rye are perfect for each other if only they would both let their guard down to let the other in. Brenna has built so many barriers around her heart to protect herself in the male-dominant music industry – she has to be tough and cold to get by. She’s also not going to let Rye in easily given a situation in their past that shattered her trust in him. Rye also has his own walls up, but for different reasons. At the beginning of the book, he’s suffering from severe hand cramping that could put his career on the line. Music is his life, and he keeps his problems close to his chest to protect himself and those around him.
Both Brenna and Rye are terrible at expressing their emotion and being vulnerable. Both tend to run away when the emotions get too real or the going gets tough. They’re honestly two sides of the same coin in that regard. One of the things I loved the most about watching the romance develop between them was seeing them embrace vulnerability and expose themselves to each other. The emotional journey you go on with both Brenna and Rye felt so open, honest and raw. Letting someone in and trusting them can open yourself up to pain, and both Brenna and Rye want to avoid them. Watching them take those big emotional steps felt so real. I feel like this book gave my feelings a walloping at times. My heart hurt so much for Rye and Brenna at different points in the story when they decided to take the risk and be vulnerable with their emotions, only for them not to get the outcome they expected. The emotional beats in this story were spot on, and Callihan knows how to tug on your heartstrings. Chapter 25 and 26 literally were sucker punches to my gut.
With any friends-with-benefits type story, you know how the conflict in the romance will play out, and things will get messy as feelings get involved, yet Callihan managed to make this story feel new and refreshing. I was sucked in incredibly quickly and so invested in Rye and Brenna’s relationship. I loved how far gone Rye was for Brenna as I feel like you’d expect the rockstar guy to be the one who would need the convincing to make it real. This book is also super hot! There are quite a few sex scenes in this book, and, boy, can Callihan bring the steam.
The emotional arc of Brenna and Rye, plus their romance, really drives the story forward. Callihan also weaves in some other storylines tied to Brenna’s career and Rye’s future seamlessly, and both really added to the story and characters’ emotional arc.
Outside of that, I also loved seeing cameos from the rest of the boys of Kill John. I nearly died when Scottie was playing matchmaker since he’s the last person you’d expect to do that. That boy has got a heart of gold under the tough exterior. Killian, Jax, Scottie and Whip are like family to both Rye and Brenna so It was great seeing them rooting for them to get together even if Brenna wanted to keep it a secret.
I honestly could keep gushing about this book as I truly loved every minute of reading it. The emotional depth of this book is really something special. If you’re looking for a romance that will hit you in the feelings and leave you feeling exposed (see what I did there?), this is the one for you.
I cannot recommend Exposed enough! I know this is a story I will go back to when I’m in the mood for a book that packs an emotional punch and I’m already looking forward to doing a reread of it at some point. It strikes the right balance of heartache in the romance that left me feeling all the emotions – from happy to sad. Add this one to your TBR if you haven’t already!