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Vital Signs #1

Before Girl

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She's the girl next door. He's the guy who's loved her from afar.
They're in for an unexpected tumble into love.

She'll juggle your balls.
For Stella Allesandro, chaos is good. She's a rising star at a leading sports publicity firm. She's known throughout the industry as the jock whisperer—the one who can tame the baddest of the bad boys in professional sports without losing her signature smile.

But Cal Hartshorn is an entirely different kind of chaos.

He'll fix your broken heart.
This ex-Army Ranger and now-famous cardiothoracic surgeon fails at nothing…except talking to a woman he's adored from afar. Whether on the battlefield or operating room, he's exacting, precise, and efficient, but all of that crumbles when Stella is in sight.

Cal always knows—and gets—what he wants, and now he wants all of her. His forever girl.

But Stella isn't convinced she's anyone's forever.

314 pages, ebook

First published November 12, 2018

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About the author

Kate Canterbary

50 books3,725 followers
Kate Canterbary doesn't have it all figured out, but this is what she knows for sure: spicy-ass salsa and tequila solve most problems, living on the ocean--Pacific or Atlantic--is the closest place to perfection, and writing smart, smutty stories is a better than any amount of chocolate. She started out reporting for an indie arts and entertainment newspaper back when people still read newspapers, and she has been writing and surreptitiously interviewing people—be careful sitting down next to her on an airplane—ever since. Kate lives on the water in New England with Mr. Canterbary and the Little Baby Canterbary, and when she isn't writing sexy architects, she's scheduling her days around the region's best food trucks.

To get in touch with Kate, please email (kcanterbary@gmail.com) or find her on Facebook or Twitter.

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5 stars
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Displaying 1 - 30 of 608 reviews
Profile Image for Isabella. R.
737 reviews1,328 followers
January 4, 2022
4 Not Part of the Plan Stars ⭐

Love life. What a funny phrase. I had a life and I could catch a dick whenever I wanted but love…that didn't enter into the equation anymore.

I felt anxious while reading Before Girl. Cal Hartshorn and Stella Alessandro connected immediately if not awkwardly, and everything happened quickly. Whilst Cal was instantly lovestruck, I was scared his bubble would be burst and his heart smashed to smithereens. All because it seemed a little one sided since Cal had been crushing on Stella for 8 months while she was completely oblivious.

"Can we start over? Please? You're so beautiful and I can't think. I've wanted to talk to you for the longest time and you'd think that would've been enough to decide on something smooth to say but nothing is coming out right."

Stella leads a tidy yet hectic lifestyle. She has spent years perfecting the art of commandeering and keeping men at a perfect arms length. To say she was bowled over by Cal is an understatement, especially since she can't find it in herself to resist him. Even though she thinks she should.

I was developing feelings—feelings!—for a man after nothing more than an eye blink in time. But this wasn't feelings. This was adrenaline. Shock from the scare, the fall. None of this was real. Couldn't be.

I adore romances with mature characters set in their ways. Cos when romance strikes they're left floundering and forced to change their style of play. This story was sexy and swoony. Doctor Cal is definitely my favourite contradiction. A man who is shy but bold and wonderfully pervy. As for Stella, you need to appreciate a ballsy woman who easily brings a man to his knees. ~ahem~
Profile Image for Alex ♈.
1,568 reviews1,140 followers
December 13, 2018
3.95 stars

Well said, Leonor!

I loved the idea of the heroine, who enjoyed sex and wasn't ashamed of it.
Not enough such women in romance!

"I can blame my work. I can blame my past relationships. I can blame my upbringing. But the truth of the matter is that I don't want to assign any blame. I don't have to. I'm allowed to enjoy sex. I don't have to be broken or fucked up."


Till the main conflict and hero's childish behavior, I floved the book.
He was a great guy till the point he threw his tantrum.
Loved how he loved her. But he deserved a slap at the end, with a good love-making after *lol*.

Still...
I did, do and will support experienced women in books.
Virgins and celibate nuns have enough fans, human women need our support ;-)
Profile Image for Bibi.
1,282 reviews3,322 followers
July 6, 2020
3.5 stars

Our hero, Pascal, is a 42 yr old surgeon who falls in love at first sight with, Stella, our 35 yo heroine and what we get is a mature extremely funny story that'll warm your heart.
November 15, 2018
Absolutely crazy ott sweet hero, he fell for her from the moment he saw her, he waited 8 months to talk to her because he didn’t know how to talk to women. He would get flustered and he would blushed. He was not a manwhore.

I liked the heroine also. She was more experienced than him! How often do we get an experienced heroine? Because it seems nowadays that every where you look there’s a young virgin heroine paired with a manwhore.

I also liked that they were both older MCs, he was 42 and she was 35. You don’t know how happy I was with this.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for London.
725 reviews
December 25, 2018
My fucking feminist romance dream.

I fucking loved this book. To all the other romance authors out there that keep writing about heroes that bang other women, heroines that stay celibate for years or only have good sex with the hero...THIS ONES FOR YOU. This is how you fucking write a romance meant for women. I’m so damn sick of reading about pathetic weak heroines that are either virgins that get with man whores or stay celibate during a separation while the hero is banging the world. I also hate when the heroine does all the chasing or has been pining for the hero.

I’m so damn happy to finally get a romance where the heroine is a strong ass independent woman and the hero is the one that’s been pining for her forever. I loved it. Btw cheers to this author for knowing how to write a hero that can claim a woman while understanding boundaries. This is how you write an alpha minus the creepy rape culture vibes.

I loved the hero so much. I’d love to get a sequel to this story just so I can get more of Cal.
Profile Image for Starr (AKA Starrfish) Rivers.
898 reviews260 followers
November 21, 2018
I really liked this book. I like it most of all for Cal. Where, oh, where, are you Cal???

I'd give this 4.5 stars rounded to 5 for the pure unrealism of Cal. I know he's a fictional Hero - this is why I read romance right?? But he's also too real for me to believe it, since I've known a couple of hot doctors and let me tell you - if you're a doctor, you're male, and you're hot, you DON'T behave like Cal. Just too good to be true.

I rounded up bc my real life experiences shouldn't get in the way of a good book.

I almost (oops, DID take) it down another half star because of Stella not breaking things off with her other just-sex relationships even tho she's been more than enjoying Cal for a month, and I know some readers felt like he took it too far with his hasty departure when he saw texts come through from one of her sex partners, but guys - HE'S SOOOOO IN LOVE WITH HER! He's been in love with her forever and has been clear with her from DAY 1!!! And yes she's told him all the rules, but come on! Imagine if you were in Cal's shoes (which I did), and you're so insanely in love with this woman, and you've given her everything in your heart and body and soul, and you get texts from her phone from another guy she's been hooking up with (before you, but she never bothered to end it) asking when she'll "meet up" with him next. HEARTBREAKING!!

I think I might have shouted at Cal while I was reading that to chuck the damn phone at Stella. I know I would have. But he's a man and he holds in his pain. And he sooooo readily forgave her and apologized for his behavior too. Too good to be true, I tell you!

I thought Stella and Cal were perfect for each other, but I did really hate Stella there for a few minutes, so I can't give this book 5 stars after all.
Profile Image for Ⓐlleskelle - That ranting lady ッ.
982 reviews766 followers
August 9, 2020
DNF @32%
I truly cannot reconcile a hero not only shy enough to blush at the tiniest smile from the heroine but who couldn't even talk to her months after months crossing her path on his morning runs, with one one bold enough to issue smarmy, creepy innuendos and grotesque sex invitations the minute they finally meet and talk. So out of character and gross.
I liked the blurb, the premise sounded actually cute despite the whole running trail stalking, I just couldn't make sense of the hero utterly bizarre behavior : flirting was it? To me it felt like reading about those rude and abhorrent drunk dudes that hit on women at bars/parties regardless of their refusal.
I couldn't feel a connection between Cal brand of courtship and solo infatuation and Stella overall indifference and feminist manifesto.

Additionally, the hero calling her repeatedly "sweet thing" was my undoing. I'm not a huge fan of terms of endearment to begin with but this one rubbed me the wrong way. Every time the hero used it I cringed.

I'm really bummed about this one, I had just previously finished a book by Canterbary and loved it. (Boss in the Bedsheets)

More reviews and book talk at :

You can find me here too ☞
Profile Image for Dilek VT.
1,531 reviews1,350 followers
February 23, 2021
The first half of the book:

1. I didn’t like the heroine
2. I didn’t like the hero
3. I didn’t feel it at all
4. The parts about colleagues, work and friends were too boring

The second half of the book

1. I stopped disliking the heroine
2. I stopped disliking the hero
3. I started to believe in their feelings but I still didn’t care much about them
4. The parts about colleagues, work and friends were still too boring so I had to skip most of them

*********************************************

The Plot:

Cal watches Stella from afar while they are running their trail in the park. He is obsessed with her but cannot dare to speak to her until one day she stops suddenly and he hits her by accident. Then they start to talk and it is too weird. He is too shy one moment and too brazen another moment.

When she says something good about him, he blushes (yes he does) but then he goes and says he wants to marry her on Day 1, while talking in a café. Or she asks a casual question and he answers with a dirty one but it’s not good dirty, it’s the kind of dirty I don’t like.

He is so much obsessed with her that it is annoying and unattractive. I like possessive and obsessive alpha men in romance books but this one is weird – really weird and pathetic.

And all along the book, he calls her “Sweet thing!” I cannot tell you how much I hated that endearment. Is it me only??? It sounds so weird when a 42-year old man says it to a 36-year old woman all the time. I don’t know, maybe it’s me, I would say it to a cute dog, maybe and such.

Even the first time they get intimate is weird. It is all about him biting her ass for minutes and minutes until it is all red and hurting. He then gives her an oral and after that, he puts ointment on her ass so that it hurts less. But, well, it hurts for days and she has to sit on a pillow. Not that she complains, though.

Stella has had two bad experiences in the past and then decided she wouldn’t do relationships any more. When she meets Cal, she is seeing 3 men at the same time but it is not dating. She has a chart for them that says when she will meet who and when she meets those guys, they just have sex and that’s all about it.

When Cal and Stella meet, although they are feeling the same attraction, Stella resists it for a while because Cal is intense and obsessive while Stella wants casual and easy. He wants more and she wants less.

After a while, she confesses to herself that she, in fact, wants more, too.

The process of Stella coming to terms with the idea of a serious relationship is what the whole book is about.

*********************************************

Safety:

Neither of them is intimate with anyone else after they start to speak to each other when he hits her by accident in the park.

There is only a 2-week separation during which they stay celibate.

*********************************************

Recommendation:

Well, first of all, it was boring for me. I had to skip a lot or the other solution was DNF’ing it.

However, the most important problem was that I didn’t like the characters much and that made me less connected with the book and their story.

The max I can give this book is 2.5 stars but not 3, sorry.

* I read “Boss in the Bedsheets” from this writer and it was a 5 star-book for me… Just saying.

I mean, in case you want to try this writer, then, read that one, “Boss in the Bedsheets”.

*********************************************

Some QUOTES from the book

"I talked to her."
"Talked to who?" he asked, his thumbs flying over the screen.
"Her," I replied. "Her name is Stella Allesandro and I talked to her."
He dragged his gaze up to meet mine. He stared at me for a long moment, disbelieving. Hell, I barely believed it. "The girl from the park? You spoke actual words to her? Not just in your head? Or out loud when she was half a mile away? Because we've talked about this, Hartshorn. It doesn't count if she can't hear you."

***

"Marry me, Stella. Marry me and bear my children."
His hand skated up my arm and over my shoulder to cup my face, and just like that, I was kissing a man I'd met an hour ago.

***

He looked away and blew out a breath. "I thought you were ignoring me," he said, "and I panicked a little. A lot."
"Why?" I asked. His lips moved over my jaw, down my neck. "Why would I do that?"
He shook his head from the crook of my shoulder. "I was late. I tackled you to the ground yesterday and I kept talking about beavers. I've asked you to marry me repeatedly. I had to leave last night. Now this. I don't know. I've given you enough reasons."
"None of those are real reasons," I said, laughing, "and you only asked me to marry you that one time."
He leaned back and pointed to his temple. "In my head. I asked repeatedly in my head. I feel a little possessive when I'm around you, like I want to keep you and never let go."

***

"There are a few men I see on a regular basis," I said. "It's casual and easy, and completely free from emotional attachments. No families, no friends involved, nothing too personal. There's some mutual fondness, sure, but no one is asking where it's going because it's not going anywhere." I glanced up at him, witnessing the exact moment when he turned to stone. If it was possible, even the morning sunlight shining down on him dimmed. "Everyone prefers it that way."

***

I could lose her. All this time, all this waiting could end with her choosing someone else. Choosing no one. After all, she didn't belong to anyone. I loved her and I could lose her.

***

Stella broke me and I'd asked for it. I cut a wide swath around her, calling over my shoulder, "You can let Harry know you're free this week."


***

* You can follow my instagram page from here
Profile Image for Emma.
122 reviews89 followers
November 22, 2018
I loved the male MC since Riley's book, he had a crush on our heroine for months and was too awkward to approach her, his obsession was so endearing. he was an amazing character when he wasn't behaving like a horny teenager. His outburst was understandable if it happened a bit sooner and not after her love confession. The female MC was that successful, independent and charming woman, and let me tell you, she deserves to be obsessed about. I would've enjoyed the story more if it was more fast paced, I think the book suffered from its length considering the little that happened in it.
Profile Image for Antonella.
3,100 reviews418 followers
January 8, 2021
pro;
*older leading characters
* strong heroine
*steamy moments

con;
* nothing really happens in this book
* contradiction in hero's character
* nothing really happens in this book
yes, I know I said it twice but really it needs to be mentioned twice, there is not much of a plot
which can be a plus if you are looking for low angst but a steamy novel so there is that

Profile Image for Jan.
860 reviews161 followers
November 26, 2021
Shy growly grumpy Cal, ex-Army Ranger who's now a Boston surgeon, and the warm and lovely Stella, who works with pro athletes. In many ways she is so confident and independent, but secretly she is quite insecure about relationships after being burned in the past. There is a lot of chemistry between them (and some steamy scenes - so be warned if that's not your preference).

I liked the way their story unfolded, and I look forward to the new book coming out in a few weeks, about Dr Stremmel, The Worst Guy.

This book is a spinoff of The Walshes, and there are some nice scenes with some of the Walsh family and their partners, for those who've read that series.
Profile Image for Ivy Deluca.
2,128 reviews271 followers
November 16, 2018
description

There’s ALOT that I enjoyed about Before Girl, and the Firsts for Cal and Stella are fantastic. I don’t mind a bit of insta in my romances, as long it’s part of the journey, not the entire trip. Before Girl may start with some insta-love but we get to see Cal’s longing for Stella, and Stella’s fascination with Cal, watch that spark of hotfire love grow and deepen while wrangling with each other’s issues, so I was happy with that...for the most part.

Also, I really appreciated a heroine who has had sex before the hero (gasps!) and didn’t hate it, but rather has a very healthy attitude towards physical relationships. Add to this the fact that she’s a true plus size but she’s not obsessed with it, doesn’t let it rule her life, and I was giddy as a schoolgirl. My favorite quote is:

“To be clear, I had plenty of insecurities. A laundry list of them. But I didn’t speak these insecurities. I didn’t put that noise out in the world because it didn’t need any validity.”


A-FUCKING-MEN. That's my motto, so I love her just for that.

What else I loved? When Cal got together with his friends, talking about their lives but mostly arguing about whose specialty was more important, which was pretty funny. Their conversations were genuine and realistic, and really helped flesh out this 'verse. It gave me a little glimpse of some fave's HEA while also teasing me with what's to come - oh yeah Stremmel, I'm talking about you. Sigh.

What I didn’t love….was using that healthy attitude towards physical relationships and using it as the final obstacle. It was clear that it was going to happen, and I’ve gotten so used to being surprised by Ms. Canterbary, or having a “typical” scenario tweaked to allow the reader to come at it from a different angle, that it just fell a little flat for me.

Having said that, there’s so much more about the story that I did enjoy that it far outweighs my lack of love for that final bump in the road to their HEA. And Stremmel? He is the grouchy, grumpy, broody hero I am waiting for, so I will sit here patiently while Ms. Canterbary gets to his story...hopefully soon. *crossing fingers, looks at watch* Real soon. Pretty please?

**ARC provided by author for review**

For more reviews, visit


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Profile Image for AJ.
2,804 reviews913 followers
November 16, 2018
4 smitten alpha stars

I loved this book! A fun, sexy and flirty read with two fantastic characters and a chemistry-filled romance that is full of fast-paced quips and banter, and is seriously funny. If you love a smitten alpha hero, you will love Cal ”the man-brick” Hartshorn.

Fan’s of Kate’s will know heart surgeon Cal. As a colleague and close friend of both Nick (from The Spire) and Alex (from Preservation). At 42 years old he has risen to the top of his field, and he is dedicated and confident in his abilities. What he is not so confident with, however, are his skills with the ladies. Oh, he knows what to do once he gets his hands on one, but for eight months he has been lusting after a woman that he sees on his daily jog every morning, but he’s never had the nerve to approach her.

Stella Alessandra is 35 years old and is strong, sassy and married to her career in sports promotion and management. She is a creature of routine, and her usual morning walk takes an interesting turn when she is plowed down by a gorgeous “man-brick”, and is swept up into his arms and carried back to his car so that he can tend to her wounds. The chemistry between them zings from the very first moment and the flirtation begins.

"Okay, let's start over." I reached across the table, my hand outstretched. "I'm Stella Allesandro and I zone all the way out on my morning walks. I blame *NSYNC."
Cal laughed, but he didn't release my hand. "I'm Cal Hartshorn and I approach women by mowing them down to see if they like being underneath me."

For all that he’s a big manly, alpha with wicked thoughts about his secret crush, Cal is adorably uncomfortable talking to Stella. He is insta-smitten and it’s super cute, and creates some laugh-out-loud, highly inappropriate (and therefore hilarious), almost cringey moments, but Stella counters him, and watching them together is a real treat.

"I'm not really a flowers-and-proper-dates girl," I said, fully aware of his thigh muscles
tightening under my hand. "I'm more of a burgers-and-football girl, to be honest. Baseball or hockey since we're in the off-season. Basketball too. Burgers, sports, nothing proper. I'm not proper."
Cal rested his forehead on my shoulder with a quiet groan. That sound, it was more intimate than a kiss. It belonged to private spaces where no one else could listen in. But we'd already forgotten about the rest of the world. We were alone here, me and Cal, and I wasn't smitten. I wasn't lovestruck. "Marry me, Stella. Marry me and bear my children."
His hand skated up my arm and over my shoulder to cup my face, and just like that, I was kissing a man I'd met an hour ago.

Stella has no interest in relationships. She has very well-defined hook ups that are governed by rules and she doesn’t want to get involved with anybody, but from the very beginning Cal pushes her boundaries, and she’s powerless to stop him. They begin to spend time together, and it’s really intriguing to see how things develop between them. Definitely not what I was expecting, but it was so much fun seeing a guy so incredibly devoted and fighting for the girl he wants.

I was connected to Stella in ways I couldn't see and barely understood but I knew it changed everything.

This woman was all kinds of headstrong, and I walked a line between admiring the shit out of it and wanting to club her over the head and drag her back to my prehistoric cave.

And Stella is just fabulous! She’s bold and confident, she knows what she wants and she doesn’t take any crap. And her narration is so freaking funny!

If all I wanted was for Cal to take me to Pound Town, we would've checked that box earlier this morning. Right there in the back of his SUV, nice and proper like the goddamn lady I was.

And together they are fantastic. Sometimes I find that characters who hold back in relationships are annoying, but Stella’s feelings are balanced really nicely with Cal’s intensity, and it creates a really fun dynamic between them as they tease and banter their way from sexual attraction to friends-with-sexual attraction, to passionate lovers, to… something. The flirting is filthy, and Cal’s dirty mouth is all kinds of hot which, with all of that intensity, translates into super steamy sexy time. But it’s not always easy, they want different things, and they have a lot to figure out, and I loved watching their journey as they do just that.

“I want more than tonight.”
“It was never tonight,” I replied, the words quick and rough. “You didn’t come here for tonight.”

You don’t need to have read any of Kate’s other books to enjoy this one, but Walsh lovers will love seeing Nick and Erin, Alex and Riley. I loved catching up with them, and all of the characters interacting is a real highlight.

Written with Kate’s trademark wit, humour and heart, this is a fun read with loveable characters, great dynamics and a sexy, passionate love story. Cal and Stella’s story is gorgeous and I loved it!

4 stars.

An Advanced Review Copy was generously provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.


Profile Image for Bookgasms Book Blog.
2,717 reviews1,267 followers
November 14, 2018
I have been a huge fan of Kate Cantebary for years and have been a huge fan of #manbrick even before it was an official story, but an amazing weekly episodic type serial the author had us addicted to. Of course this story is slightly different and expanded upon, but one thing remains the same: I was eating out of her hands then and am just as addicted now. Cal and Stella are absolutely everything!! I loved how real and relatable both these characters were and could not stop reading!

When months of seeing his dream girl on the running path ends in a literal collision, world renowned cardiothorasic surgeon Cal Hartshorn could never have expected Stella Allesandro to be the one to knock him on his behind instead. Gah!! This story was all types of swoony and sexy. Cal was quite the match for the independent and sassy Stella and his long game in making Stella his ticked all my feel boxes.

While I did think Cal's feelings for Stella were more insta than what I'm used to his dirty mouth more than made up for it, and after reading this book and seeing his devotion to Stella, we all know that Manbrick has no chill. Stella was the asset he was working to win and she was in his crosshairs from the day one. Once again this author has gifted us with her magical words and I for one am dying for her next one. Bravo! 5 stars! ~Ratula
Profile Image for Anne OK.
3,402 reviews436 followers
November 20, 2018
There are SO MANY good reviews -- I'll take the hit and say it must just be me. But this one didn't hit on any cylinders for me. And I was really expecting it to be an above average read for me because the main characters were 42 and 35 instead of the young college age types. He's a heart surgeon; she's a sports-agent. She has no desire to find a "forever" type of love after having experienced a couple of bad breakups (as in engagements) in her early twenties. He's been "stalking" her for 8 months trying to get up his nerve to say hello. Okay -- set-up is okay, I guess.

But somehow it didn't mesh with me. He is 42 years old and a cardio surgeon, a former Army Ranger and acts like a horny teenager approaching Mrs. Robinson on his first sexual encounter. And then he's balls to the walls and asking for forever. WHAT? And she's a bit too rough around the edges in my opinion, while on the other hand sets up all kinds of protective barriers for permanent relationships.

Too many cheesy sexual innuendos and not enough story development and relationship building. The editing could have used a final proof as well. Frivolous and nothing at all like I expected -- could have been just another young adult angst-filled romp if you weren't aware of the ages here.
Profile Image for Princess under cover.
517 reviews238 followers
November 20, 2018
4.5 stars rounded to 5. Cal is the absolute best! (And does not exist in real life, therefore, he must be what fantasy Heroes are made of!)

I really liked this book. I like the premise - shy, awkward, very hot, very confident, very successful guy who falls in love at first sight essentially with the woman.

Both H/h are mature characters, he's 42, she's 35. I LOVE mature (real) relationships! I love that despite how successful and hot Cal is, he can count the women he's been with on his fingers. GOOD MAN!! And he's been obsessed with Stella for months and months before he accidentally knocked her down and talked to her.

I like Stella well enough. I feel like she deserves Cal, but I really didn't like that she never ended her other sex partners (tho she didn't cheat) even after she'd become a regular with Cal. She KNOWS him. She knows he's devoted, 100% in love with her. And she still didn't end any of her other string alongs. That I did not like and of course, it blew up in her face.

That's what the 0.5 star minus is for, and also for the fact that I didn't read every single word. On the one hand, it was because the story between Cal and Stella is so good I skipped the other bits. On the other hand, shouldn't the whole book make me want to read every page? Even the parts that didn't directly involve the 2 of them but built more around their character development?

Anyway, I skipped. So 0.5 stars off for Stella's stupidity and the not so critical words that I skipped.

Overall, I still very much enjoyed this. The sex scenes were real LOVE scenes. Raunchy, but very much LOVE scenes. Which I love!

Highly recommend to adult contemporary rom readers!!
Profile Image for Syndi.
2,799 reviews616 followers
May 13, 2019
This book is not typical romance book. It does not have that over the top alpha male or damsel in distress characters. Does not have that angst. drama, cheesy swooning etc. This book is more about what happen when 2 people feels attraction and what to do then? Are they compatible? Should they just consume their lust and move on? And what happen when the feeling becomes more deep? Should they commit? Should they label girlfriend boyfriend?

How to build trust between them? How do you know that the attraction is not just lust? This book is about that journey step by step going from first meeting until that HEA. But this is more realistic story. There is a lot lot of dialog and banter between the characters. The story is not my thing. But I still enjoy OK. I don't hate it but I don't love it either. Plus, Cal is so sweet. He is so patience and he can blush.

3 sweet thing stars
Profile Image for Carol.
1,292 reviews220 followers
January 9, 2022
4.5 stars.⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

I am currently in the middle of a run of really great Kate Canterbary books....and the emotional High from reading is amazing!!!

This woman can write and I am perfectly happy to keep on reading these fabulous and delicious stories...my endorphins are going strong and I have a huge smile on my face ....maybe I will even get around to organizing my closet today something I have been putting on the backburner for quite a while now .

I so loved Stella and Cal.
Cal...we have here a man who is patient and willing to let a woman decide what she wants while still clearly knowing what it is that he wants....and Stella..a woman who is independent with a career, not sure about relationships...liking her sex without strings arrangements that she has going on when Cal stumbles into her life... but Stella is not jaded either, she embraces life and has a sweet and kind nature.
I really loved this book ...so uplifting...also sexy and fun.💜
Profile Image for Steph.
73 reviews
November 16, 2018
I'm gonna be honest here. I got this one on kindle unlimited, read 12% of the book and was not impressed. Can I first of all say that this almost never happens to me. Sometimes I might start reading a book and not be all that into it but I'll still finish it Because I hate leaving books unfinished but this one... I could NOT bring myself to continue reading. Cal is so weird, honestly I don't mind that he fell in love at first sight with stella. My problem was that when he finally met her he first acts shy and embarrassed but then flips a switch and starts with his sexual innuendos out of nowhere. It slapped me so hard I got whiplash lol

Stella on the otherhand has a funny personality and comes up with some good witty banter, which I love. But the small snippet of her character was not enough to keep me entertained. Its definitely a pass for me, just continue what u were doing and don't bother.
Profile Image for ✴ Cindy ✴  .
391 reviews
December 11, 2018
💥💥💥💥
Plot: Cal first sees Stella on his morning run. He becomes fixated on her in a shy awkward kind of way. They literally collide one morning, thus beginning their road to love.

Hero: Cal is ex Army Ranger/medic and current Cardio thoracic surgeon. I loved his internal conversations. They were sweet. Every girl needs a Cal. He knew he wanted Stella and stopped at nothing to make her his.

Heroine: She was an independent woman and I LOVED that. She had self worth and wasn’t afraid to say what she wanted. No simpering idiots in this book.

No, I wasn't putting on my ass-kicking heels or barging into any hospitals. That wasn't my style. I didn't wait on men and I didn't wait for them either. I had my pick of dicks if I needed one and I didn't need one today....


Opinion: Light hearted story about finding love in your 30’s and early 40’s. I smiled through many parts of the book. The end had a little conflict, but not enough to mess up their relationship. I think a conversation would have avoided the misunderstanding. It also seemed odd that Cal would go through so much to get Stella to give him a chance and when she falls in love with him, he decides now is the time to doubt her. It didn’t seem logical, but who said love was logical.

Kate Canterbary, the author has a glorious way with words. Just check out this beautiful imagery. WOW.

This was no simple chemical reaction. This wasn't a basic attraction. There was a string tied between us, a fine thread drawing us together. It reminded me of the old transatlantic telegraph cables, the ones originally laid in 1858. They ran from Valentina Island in western Ireland to Heart's Content, Newfoundland. Those cables reduced the travel time of communication from ten days via steamship to minutes. Those cables shrunk the world. They changed everything. That was how I felt right now. Like I was connected to Stella in ways I couldn't see and barely understood but I knew it changed everything....


The push/pull: Cal pursued the relationship from the beginning. He was relentless until the end.

Safety/Experience level: Both were experienced. I think she had more than him. She currently rotated 3 men in casual hookups. It was stated he hadn’t had time or interest in women in a while. But it didn’t say how long or how many.

Ending: HEA, married and baby on the way.

Would I read again? Maybe
Profile Image for Anna.
1,070 reviews7 followers
July 25, 2021
4,5 stars

Great heroine, she had 3-4 fuck buddies, every one with his own agenda, she had just a calendar for them, LOL...

Hero was awkward, but so much dirty talker, oh my god! Just this mix...

Great story, a lot of funny situations
Safe
Profile Image for Rachael*Caribbean*girl*bibliophile.
1,591 reviews310 followers
Read
November 16, 2018
note to self........


This wasn't me. Not at all. Not how I rolled. I didn't get lovestruck or smitten. I didn't fall for guys.
I had a healthy handful of men in my life and each of them understood the name of the game. They'd have to after the lengths to which I went to establish expectations up front. Stephen, Leif, Harry. I didn't have the time or interest in cultivating a relationship with any of them but I did have a color-coded Google calendar reminding me of my meetups. I wasn't dating them. They weren't my boyfriends. They barely qualified as friends with benefits.
Harry and I met up once a week and we'd been on that program since last fall. We didn't have any mutual friends and shared few interests but our evenings together didn't require any of those things because he was a big believer in the two-to-one ratio and he didn't get his until I got both of mine. Leif traveled a solid forty-five weeks out of the year but we managed to get ourselves in the same place about once every other month. He had a few kinks that didn't interest me but he always came with his A game and I admired that. Stephen lived in London but his firm shipped him off to Boston for a week each quarter. The man was a beast in bed but drier than a week-old biscuit.
Those guys didn't need relationships, exclusivity, feelings. They were predictable and reliable, and I never worried about my world collapsing because I figured out all the important things a minute too late.
Profile Image for Fiona Fog.
1,305 reviews69 followers
December 23, 2019
Stalker

An awesome read, Cal is just WOW!

He’s a sexy and strong character who’s shyness at the beginning of the story has pushed him up there a potential book boyfriend. He’s mature and he knows what he wants. Even if it took eight months to get there. Watching the woman walk around the pond he’s come to think of her as his. Now he just needs to work up the courage to speak to her.

Stella knows about heartbreak, she’s not looking to get a involved. She’s content with the arrangements she has in place, a friends with benefits thing. No mess, no emotions it’s easy until him. Cal literally knocks her down then asks her to be his all in the space of a few hours. But Stella is wary and she’ll make him work for it.

For me this story was refreshing, the leads are older. The slow build was perfect. The chemistry off the charts. It moved at a pace that I enjoyed and could lose myself in.
Profile Image for Diane (Books and Tequila Blog).
1,336 reviews58 followers
December 1, 2018
I love, love LOVE Before Girl! Possibly my new favorite story by this author, but that’s hard to say because I think I feel that way after each new KC book I read!

Cal has wanted Stella from afar, he even asked her to marry him on their first meeting.

“Yes, I'll marry you tonight.
Yes, you can name our babies whatever you want. But not Melvin, please. ...
No, I don't think any of this is moving too quickly.”

Kate Canterbary pens the absolute best “rumbly-grumbly”, rough, gruff, dirty talking heroes!! I completely melt into a puddle of goo just thinking about Cal!!
-5+ Stars!-
Profile Image for Corinne [semi-hiatus].
412 reviews85 followers
March 9, 2022
March 2022 update: after 1 month I forgot almost the entire plot

===
2 - 2.5 stars

While entertaining, funny and cute for the most part, on the medium to lower side of angst and really steamy, this book is plagued by a lot of issues that were problematic for me.

Tropes:
- insta-love
- rom-com
- hero falls first
- plus size heroine
- misunderstanding as conflict
- HEA

---
Boston.
Cal - former Army Ranger, former war vet, actually cardiothoracic surgeon (nickname Man-brick)
Stella - publicist for athletes (nickname Sweet thing)

Cal and Stella have the same morning exercise routine. He runs, she speed walks and for 8 months, he lightly stalks her, working up the courage to talk to her. One morning they end up colliding with one another on the trail, she gets injured a bit, he patches her up, says the most inappropriate things, she invites him for coffee, they go, he says even more inappropriate things (dirty talk), they kiss, he asks her to marry him.
Stella is a feminist, doesn't do relationships, has friends with benefits and after 1 day of madness, she puts on the breaks hard. So this instant cosmic love, fizzles to a friends to lovers affair.
---
I loathe insta-love. I've said it times and again. Didn't hate it here though because, in the beginning, I found Cal to be endearing in his light stalker ways, awkward and indecent comments. What helped was that the characters are on the older side. He's 42 and she's 36.

But this guy, when he's around Stella, all he thinks about is sex, he makes a lot of sexual innuendos and he's all possessive even if they're not together. He's nice and saves lives and all that, but it's still a bit creepy.

And Stella, she is all about her independence and her color-coded schedule and her friends with benefits sex life and she just pushes him away because of her belief that she is never the One but the one before the One. She actually wants it all (family, kids) but she's too afraid to get hurt so she decides not to get involved in anything serious in the first place. And is that annoying or what?

So this is the book, him chasing after her, inserting himself into her life and convincing her they're meant to be. And at some point there's a lot of sex. And that's great cause it stops some of Cal's innuendos and dirty thoughts.
And the conflict is a big misunderstanding! Gah! Hate those!

Another thing... if you want to have 5+ sex scenes in a book, that's fine. But don't recycle your sex scenes in the same book. You can do that from one book to the next. Not the same book cause people are bound to catch on to that. There were 2 scenes almost word for word in this book with a slight variation. Talk about embarrassing!

---
What I liked:
- heroine is plus sized but it's a non issue; he loves her body
- the commentary on rural medicine practice
- the commentary on athletes lifestyle and struggles with fame and success before and after being in the spotlight.
---

Safety: no cheating, a lot of dirty talk, 5+ explicit scenes
TWs: none for me
Profile Image for Kimberly Carrington-Fox.
701 reviews158 followers
July 19, 2022
Nuestra reseña en A la cama con... un libro

Para todo hay una primera vez y esta es la mía, DNF en el 39%. Le doy una estrella porque ni hay menos.
Lo he intentado pero me ha sido imposible conectar con el libro, los protagonistas… Todo en general. Y yo soy de esas personas que no deja un libro ni aunque le paguen pero de verdad que la lectura de esta historia ha sido un sufrimiento constante desde el primer momento.
El protagonista ya sale en otra serie previa y ahí ya está que bebe los vientos por una chica que ve todas las mañanas cuando sale a correr pero el mozo es muy tímido y no es capaz de decirle.nasa. Vamos, una premisa con pintaza. Por eso no entiendo nada en absoluto que en el mismito comienzo de este libro la conozca y ya le diga cosas dignas de un stalker (pero de salir corriendo a buscar a la policía, vamos). Tampoco deja pasar la oportunidad de decirle cosas guarras, pedirle matrimonio y comerle la boca.
Y ella es superfeminista, independiente, chingadora sin ataduras con agenda ñiquiñiquil pero, vaya por Dior, este hombre le hace gracia y no solo deja que le coma la boca en el primer día.
Es todo de una incongruencia que te deja muerta. Ellos no dejan de repetir que no son así, que eso no les ha pasado nunca, pero no dejan de comportarse como idiotas. Bueno, idiotas no sé pero ya tienen pelos en los bajos (ambos rondan los cuarenta) y se comportan como si estuvieran en plena pubertad. Él especialmente será muy médico de la leche pero se ha pasado este 39% pensando como un macaco en celo de la protagonista, que su culo, su delantera… (Y la llama “sweet thing” desde el primer momento, por favor que me viene el potamiento🤢”).
Además, tampoco sé muy bien qué nos quiere contar la autora más allá de que la protagonista no quiere una relación y obviamente el macaco del maromo quiere justo lo contrario. Tal vez las cosas mejoren en lo que ni he leído pero, sinceramente, no tiene el más mínimo interés para mí ni logra picarme la curiosidad como para seguir leyendo.
A otra cosa, mariposa.

(Peeeeeeeero he de reconocer que el que quería leer es el siguiente de la serie y soy tan masoca que no se me han quitado las ganas, así que, cuando me olvide de este, lo haré. Total, también está en KU, así me duele menos si lo abandono 😆)
Profile Image for Lauren Reads Romance.
376 reviews46 followers
January 9, 2022
3.75 stars

After eight months of gazing longingly across a trail path every morning, Dr Cal Hartshorn literally crashes headfirst into his secret crush, Stella Alessandro. Up close, she turns out to be as sexy and intriguing as he’s fantasized.

Cal is obviously a dream man. One that is hot, a brilliant and accomplished heart surgeon, adorably awkward and shy, but also appropriately filthy in bed?! Wtf, nope, not possible.

Stella is a great example of a modern woman. I love that she is fully in control of her life (that is, before Cal comes along!) and isn’t afraid to get pleasure however it works for her. Big problem though; Stella doesn’t do normal relationships with feelings, mutual friends and marriage—only regularly scheduled sex with multiple guys—which the very opposite of what Cal wants.

This was not a ground breaking romance, but it was delightful and sweet, with just the right amount of spice added in.
Profile Image for Cassandra.
390 reviews
January 4, 2022
I loved, loved, loved book 2 in this series (The Worst Guy) and I adore Cal in this book. So why only 3 stars?

Because I just couldn't vibe with Stella. I tried. I really did. I understood where she was coming from, I dug that she had her calendar guys and was afraid of her feelings for Cal. But he deserved better.So, so, so much better then the weak shit she handed to him as attention.

Nonetheless, I'm off to read the Walshes...
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