All In by Nell StarkAll In by Nell Stark is a gem just waiting to be discovered. This is a romance with a touch of gambling and it was so well meshed together that I can’t believe it hasn’t been done before.

Annie Navarro (supernova) is a math whiz. She has won a number of internet poker championships and loves nothing more than the thrill of winning. When she goes to withdraw her significant winnings to buy a house she finds her money is gone. The Feds have cracked down on internet gambling and effectively put her out of business.

Her sponsors give her a chance though, they will continue to fund her if she wins a bracelet at one of the live events of the World Series of Poker. That is not as easy as it sounds. With little choice and feeling shaken by the events Annie heads to Vegas with a small bankroll and big hopes. Online poker is an entirely different game to live poker. Online Annie can play a number of hands at once making it fast paced and it’s entirely about maths. No poker face needed and no reading other people. This puts her at a serious disadvantage in Vegas where the world’s best poker players are gathering for the tournament.

Vesper Blake is ambitious and one of those super professional, work and no play kind of women. She owes Annie’s sponsor a favour and so she puts Annie up for free at the hotel in her Casino. At first Vesper is unimpressed with Annie who loudly declares that one of the games of chance is a complete crock with terrible odds for the player. After berating Annie, the two women find an uneasy truce.  But slowly Vesper sees the determination and drive in Annie and begins to respect what she is there to do.

Even though there is a definite attraction between the women you never actually know if they will be willing to give up their lives as they know it to give romance a try. Will either of them be willing to gamble their hearts?

The Characters

I adored the cast of characters in this book.

Apart from Annie and Vesper there is an adorable young man, T.J. who met Vesper when he was a teen and is super loyal to her now. I love when there are great male characters like him. His storyline was so sweet and it gave a new dimension to Vesper’s character.

Priscilla Beauregard is the widow of an incredibly wealthy man who was a frequent guest where Vesper works. Despite being courted by all the Casino’s in Vegas, Priscilla decides to give Vesper a try, but she isn’t going to make it easy on her new host.

All the characters interweave into the story in such a way that they have their own storylines and yet it comes together in a most satisfying conclusion.

The Writing Style

Nell Stark writes well. The story was complex enough to keep me interested, but simple enough to follow that even with a cast of several characters I could keep up with who was who.

The Narration

Hollis Elizabeth was a good choice to narrate this one. Her male and female voices were distinguished enough that I knew who we were dealing with. The pacing was good and kept me interested and not once did I find my mind wandering.

The Pros

This is an absolutely fantastic audiobook. I loved everything about it and think you should get it right now.

The Cons

If gambling is a nope for you then you probably won’t like this. I found it fun to learn all sorts of things about poker and Stark has convinced me that Poker is by far the coolest thing ever.

I don’t like the cover. I don’t think it represents the story well. So just ignore the cover and get the audiobook anyway. I guarantee you will enjoy it.

sheena's favouriteThe Conclusion

I loved this audiobook from beginning to end. The characters were tons of fun to follow, the pacing and writing style kept me totally captivated and the narration was flawless.

The romance was believable and the chemistry was awesome.

All in all, I think Tara and Lise may have to wrestle me for any new Nell Stark books from now on.

Excerpt from All In by Nell Stark

Nova tried to stand up, but a strong hand held her in place. “Wait right there, miss.” Nova wanted to rip the arm away but stopped herself when she saw the badge and gun. She slumped against the rail. Other security guards showed up and started diverting the crowds away while tournament managers saw to the players.

“I’ll take it from here, Brady,” a firm, feminine voice declared.

Nova looked up and stopped cursing her luck. The woman in the golden suit was even more beautiful from up close. A pair of low heels showed off her slim, toned legs and well-manicured toenails. The gentle swell of her hips and breasts made Nova’s palms ache. The pale blue shirt below her jacket was open to the second button, and the skin at her throat was smattered with freckles. Sun-kissed.

When Nova realized she had just given the woman a blatant once-over, she blinked. Hazel eyes met her own, a chameleon swirl of brown and green and just the barest hint of gray.

Nova dropped her gaze to look for the nametag she’d spotted earlier, but it was partially obscured by the suit’s lapel.

“May I speak with you for a moment?” The woman’s smile was practiced and pleasant, but there was an edge to her voice.

Nova felt a little dizzy, as though her skin had absorbed the margarita. When the woman extended her hand, she reached out to take it…only to realize that her fingers were as sticky as her backside. Quickly, she scrambled upright. “Sure.”

The woman led her out of the press of humanity, toward an unoccupied place along the wall. After a glance around the room, she met Nova’s gaze. “I understand you’ve been experiencing some frustration this afternoon. The spilled drink was unfortunate, but I could see it was an accident. Why don’t you take a break for a while to cool off?”

“I’m freezing already. The AC is blasting in here.” Nova flashed a grin other women had claimed to find charming. “But if you want to come upstairs, maybe we can warm up together. Room 2074.”

A light flush bloomed along the stranger’s cheeks. “You’ve mistaken my intent. I’ve received complaints about your commentary from several players. I’d like to request that you keep your disparaging opinions to yourself throughout the remainder of the tournament.”

Nova recognized bullying when she heard it. Resentment flared, and she braced one hand on the wall to lean in closer. “I was explaining the game to a drunk guy. Last time I checked, this was still a free country.”

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Bits and Bobs

  • ISBN number: 9781626390669
  • Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
  • Audiobook Publisher: Bold Strokes Books Inc
  • Narrator: Hollis Elizabeth

Nell Stark Online

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About the author

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Sheena is the founder of The Lesbian Review.

She discovered lesbian fiction when she was 19. Radclyffe and Karin Kallmaker soon became favourite authors and she spent a large part of her hard earned income on shipping books from to her home in South Africa.

Over the years she became frustrated with purchasing mediocre lesbian fiction feeling like it was a waste of her money and time. And so she decided to share only the best books and movies with lesbians who are looking for only the best. And so, The Lesbian Review was born