Review: By Referral Only

I received this book for free from Author in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Review: By Referral OnlyBy Referral Only by Lyla Payne
Series: Whitman University #2
Published by Author on May 23, 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Pages: 290
Format: ARC
Source: Author

After being unceremoniously dumped freshman year because of her family's "new money" status, Ruby Cotton has taken care not to put her heart on the line. No matter how enticing Emilie and Quinn make it look, relationships are scary and hard-while a string of flings is easy and fun. That's what Ruby wants. Easy and fun. The only problem is, when it comes to satisfaction in the sack, most of the boys at Whitman are nothing but pretty window dressing and false advertising.

Ruby takes it upon herself to make campus life more fulfilling, creating a referral database that allows female students to rate their sexual experiences, thereby informing girls of what they're getting into before agreeing to a date.
When her acting partner, Liam Greene, finally shows some interest, Ruby figures she won't need to utilize the helpful gossip. He's handsome, fun, and most importantly, not a guy she'd ever fall for hard enough to let him break her heart.

Not only that, but dating Liam gives Ruby the perfect excuse to say no to Cole Stuart.

As a star swimmer and heir to honest-to-God Scottish royalty, Cole sits at the top of Whitman's A-list-but he's also the lowest rated referral on Ruby's website. The ratings make rejecting his repeated requests for a date a no-brainer, but her real reason for avoiding Cole runs deeper than a string of unsatisfied exes.

He's gorgeous, he oozes sweetness and charm, and the electricity between them could power half of Whitman, but Ruby knows it will only last until his family or friends convince him she's not good enough.

Before she knows it she's falling anyway, waiting for the other shoe to drop but clinging to a tentative hope that Cole might be as different as he seems. When the secret behind his low ratings comes to light, that hope is torn apart, and Ruby wonders if she was right to give him her heart...and whether she has the strength to let him keep it.

First Sentence: “I hadn’t had sex in months.”

When I was in middle school and high school, I was all about romance novels and chick lit. I couldn’t get enough of largely idealized love stories. As I got a bit older and realized the universe wasn’t soon going to deposit a hot foreign guy on my doorstep, one miraculously only attracted to me and wealthier than Midas, I got a bit disillusioned. Only in the last couple years have I started to enjoy romance novels again, though it’s hard to say whether that’s because of increased cynicism or optimism on my part. There’s something sort of comforting in a familiar, predictable plot arc sometimes, knowing that HEA is coming and that there will be hot sexy times.

Second in the Whitman University series, By Referral Only is technically a companion novel, following the roommate of the heroine of Broken at Love. Ruby Cotton and I got off to a bit of a rough start. She’s not as easily likable as Emilie, more judgmental and intentionally crass. Also, she’s a virgin-shamer, which isn’t a good way to endear a character to me. Still, she did grow on me a bit as time went by and she realized how bad her emotional hang ups were. Also, the fact that she’s an actress and loves Shakespeare and musicals, as well as being a great teacher for a class of children was good too.

What’s awesome about By Referral Only is that the traditional gender roles are pretty much swapped. Ruby Cotton loves sex and hates commitment. She intentionally seeks out hot guys that she’s not attracted to any way but physically for extended flings, because one night stands aren’t good enough to be worth the trouble. Ruby’s sexually adventurous and emotionally closed off, due to painful relationships in her past. Now, when I say painful, I mean real life painful, not tragically abusive or anything like that, because this isn’t one of those stories. She’s just had her heartbroken and doesn’t want to go there again.

Sick of subpar hookups, Ruby decides to launch a website so that the women of Whitman University can objectify the men on campus right back. The ladies of Whitman can rate the men both in terms of how good the sex was and whether they would recommend him overall. That whole premise is pretty hilarious to me, ngl. Anyway, Ruby immediately catches the eye of a hot boy in class, only to realize he’s gotten the lowest ratings of any guy on campus on her site. Whoops.

Of course, Cole, the guy, turns out to be too tempting to resist, despite the lack of referral from her peers. Plus, the whole mystery of why he’s such a good kisser, but apparently bad in the sack, engages her curiosity. Oh, did I mention Cole is Scottish? Seriously. Where are all the hot European men in my life? I feel cheated. Cole turns out to be a really nice, rather nerdy guy, who shares Ruby’s love of musical theatre. He’s also totally the more innocent one in the relationship and very focused on commitment. They definitely made a more believable and shippable couple than Quinn and Emilie, with romantic issues that are way more true to life.

The other awesome aspect of By Referral Only is the focus on healthy female friendships, often absent from romance novels. Emilie and Ruby get along really well, even if they are both busy with boys a lot of the time. Still, when Ruby needs advice, Emilie comes through for her, not just telling her what she wants to hear but what she needs to hear. Plus, it’s not one of those situations where they secretly hate or envy one another. Ruby’s a bit jealous of Emilie’s loving relationship, but in the “I wish I had a love like that” way and not in the misery wants company way. Ruby also has a burgeoning friendship with Cole’s sister Audra.

The focus on how well off everyone at Whitman is did get old, though. Seriously, you all bathe in twenty dollar bills, I get it. Ruby liked to mope about because she comes from new money and a lot of the other Whitman students don’t respect her. Poor little rich girl, let me wipe away your tears with a big stack of money.

If you enjoyed Broken at Love, By Referral Only will not disappoint. If you’re just checking in now, reading By Referral Only probably won’t spoil anything, since it’s not like it’s a spoiler that the couple from Broken at Love ends up together. The Whitman University series is fun, quick and totally entertaining.

Favorite Quote:

“‘You can’t be responsible for anyone but you, Cole. We all make our own decisions, and pay our own consequences. You can love someone, but you can’t fix them. You deserve me because I say you do, not because other people think so or don’t.'”

11 responses to “Review: By Referral Only”

  1. Amy says:

    I wanted to read Broken at Love, but still haven’t yet. I’m glad that even though you had a harder time with Ruby, you still did enjoy the book. I like that there is a lot of focus on the friendship too. This sounds like a good series. Great review as always hon!!

  2. Um, that Favorite Quote is awesome. I’m so glad you picked it!

    Am going to have to try this one. Thanks for reviewing!

  3. Megan K. says:

    I think you snarked about this cover in one of your Cover Snarks, right? Anyway… That first sentence really gives me the impression of the usual romance book, but I do like the sound of good female relationships. Seriously! Life doesn’t only revolve around the opposite sex.

  4. “…though it’s hard to say whether that’s because of increased cynicism or optimism on my part. There’s something sort of comforting in a familiar, predictable plot arc sometimes, knowing that HEA is coming and that there will be hot sexy times.”
    You know, I’ve always struggled to voice why exactly I turn to romance novels when I scoff at Disney movies and fairy tales and blah blah blah. This. this. this.

    “Oh, did I mention Cole is Scottish? Seriously. Where are all the hot European men in my life? I feel cheated.”
    You and me both.

    “Poor little rich girl, let me wipe away your tears with a big stack of money.”

    Nice re: swapping traditional gender roles and having healthy female friendships where we’re not all clawing at each other for the guy.

    • Christina says:

      Hahahaha, I love Disney movies too, but yeah. I do get it. Sometimes I like to know what I’m getting from the book I’m reading; sometimes I like to have the rug pulled out from under me. Really just depends, you know?


  5. Oh, did I mention Cole is Scottish? Seriously. Where are all the hot European men in my life? I feel cheated.
    Amen, sister.

    The premise for this novel sounds awesome. I love the idea of women being in control, particularly sexually, and I had to laugh at Ruby’s idea for the website. Very interesting! I was a little put off by the fact that she’s a virgin-shamer, but might be able to overlook that dependant upon how much growth she displays over the course of the novel. I might pick up the first book in the series to give it a try as this series sounds like the perfect light, summer read 🙂

  6. Stephanie says:

    I need to read these soon! I’m the same way with romance novels…I used to completely avoid them, but then I started reading YA ones (which don’t bother me as much b/c I figure if it’s high school, the couple will probably break up at some point anyway) and then since adult contemporary romance has gotten so popular lately, I’ve just started reading more of it. I’m much more of a happily for now than happily ever after person, though, which is probably one of many reasons why my books will never sell!

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