This post contains reviews of all the currently available books in the Made Marian series:
- Borrowing Blue (Book 1)
- Taming Teddy (Book 2)
- Jumping Jude (Book 3)
- Grounding Griffin (Book 4)
- Moving Maverick (Book 5)
- Delivering Dante (Book 6)
- A Very Marian Christmas (Book 7)
- Made Marian Shorts (Book 7.5)
- Made Mine (Book 8)
- Hay (Book 8.5)
- Made Marian Mixtape (Book 9)
Borrowing Blue (Book 1)
I don’t believe in “insta-love” romances. However, Lennox is talented enough to make it entirely plausible, and I fell just as quickly in love with Blue and Tristan as they did with each other. A good conversation can be just as sexy as intentional flirting, and when a mischievous kiss causes sparks to fly, it was no wonder that things progressed quickly between the two men. I am also not a fan of the “gay for you” trope, but Lennox also allows Tristan’s characterization to develop with care, showing that he is finally living his authentic life rather than burying a portion of himself out of various flavors of fear.
As the first book in a sprawling romance series featuring adult children from a large family, I expected to be overwhelmed with characters. Once again, Lennox highlights her characterization chops by making everyone both unique and realistic. In theory, this book could have been shorter. But I did not mind the length or the potentially “extraneous” scenes that allowed Lennox to make these introductions possible. She hints at future stories involving various siblings that immediately left me wanting to dive into the sequel so that everyone can get their happily ever after.
The reason Blue and Tristan even meet each other is because their siblings are getting married. This pesky detail is only the start of a developing external conflict that I thought I saw coming from a mile away. Then, Lennox completely derails my suspicions, once again because of her creative use of characterization and background detail. She also makes sure to buck tradition in how our two heroes eventually come together at the end to live happily ever after.
I look forward to reading more of this romance series, as much as I’ve enjoyed everything else I’ve read by Lennox so far. Hopefully, Blue and Tristan continue to be present in their family’s life so that I can see them enjoying their future together.
Taming Teddy (Book 2)
Jamie had his heart broken earlier in the year, so he’s looking for no-strings-attached fun. Teddy puts the stressors of his career over having long-term relationships. Together, they fight crime! Actually, together their no-strings-attached fun turns into a friendship turns into both men acknowledging that the connection between them is too great to ignore. It takes many cross-country flights and a few instances of men not communicating, but when they finally get their act together, it was charming. Jamie more than deserves this “happily ever after” following the wringer his ex puts him through both before and during this story.
I loved the quiet moments between Jamie and Teddy, whether while holed up during a snowstorm or wandering through the wilds of Denali. Together, they are sexy and fun and sweet, even when just working quietly together. I’m very much an indoor cat, so it’s always interesting to experience lives I would never have in a million years via fiction. It was fun to explore the similarities and the differences between the two men, both personally and career-wise, as their relationship grew deeper. Kennedy also makes their interactions accessible and romantic even when conducted entirely through text messages while on opposite sides of the country.
Why not five stars for this book? Too many instances of contrived dialogue dragged me out of the story. Both men often reverted to paragraph-long speeches when addressing each other, and they were always similar enough that I sometimes couldn’t remember who’s POV chapter I read. However, the extended Marian family made a fun appearance again, and the love story itself is worth making sure you don’t skip this book in the full Made Marian series.
Jumping Jude (Book 3)
I assumed that I knew how this story would go: Celebrity and bodyguard fall in love, then something external outs celebrity, and both deal with the fallout. However, while those elements are present in this story, the actual plot is entirely different. I think I enjoyed this book all the more for that.
The first significant divergence in my expectations is that after Jude and Derek semi-accidentally come out to each other, Jude is the one who proposes a “safe” friends with benefits arrangement. It’s a bit surprising, but also not—if I were forcibly celibate for years, I’d probably also immediately seduce the hot, interested guy who also has a vested interest in keeping the arrangement a secret. Except this is a romance story, so that arrangement develops feelings. That’s also where the glitches in the expected plot start to come in, much to my delight.
This book overlaps with other stories in the series, including significant events from the two previous books. I love the way this allows other members of the lovely Marian clan to be involved in the story. My other major quibble is how the other members of Jude’s band seem relegated to the background. I’d have loved to learn more about them, based on the tidbits of their personalities we get.
The external conflict comes full circle in a surprising manner that only left me with a few questions. Overall, this was a satisfying rock star/bodyguard romance that fit in well with the other books in this series.
Grounding Griffin (Book 4)
This book is the first in the series to follow an adopted Marian son rather than a biological one. It’s evident from the very beginning that Griffin is a very different sort of man from his brothers. The love and affection he has for his family are evident (and hard-learned), but the book’s overall theme involves how difficult it is for a person to accept love when they’ve been burned so many times before. In contrast, love-interest Sam has had years to come to terms with his own family dynamic, which is different but just as problematic as Griffin’s early life.
On the surface, it seems that the “rescued” character might be more at ease with developing romantic feelings for another person. Instead, Griffin still has plenty of baggage to work through, while Sam’s issues are more professional than personal. These clashes create plenty of subtle dark moments spread out through the novel’s course rather than a single dramatic plot point at the end. This serves to create a relatively low-angst read that retroactively hit me with all the feels once I started considering this review.
I tend not to feel that characters “deserve” each other, but it’s true in this case. Sam deserves to be made part of the excessively loving Marian clan and have the family he should have grown up with. Griffin deserves to accept the love Sam offers him and trust that it won’t be retracted as long as Griffin can also trust himself to stay.
As usual, I also enjoyed the glimpses into previous Marian brothers’ lives whose love stories I’ve already experienced in this series and the overall family itself. Lots of fun stuff happens in the background, and I’m glad I’m reading this series in “order” to experience it the best way possible.
Moving Maverick (Book 5)
Me: Domestic terrorists are invading the U.S. Capitol. I’m going to drink wine and read a romance novel.
Romance novel: /does the THING. (If you’ve read the book, you already know about the thing.)
Me: /yells a lot
But seriously, except for the THING, this book was a wonderful escape on an evening when I desperately needed it. Maverick and Beau are adorable, separately and together. Their love story is years in the making and super-obvious from a million miles away. I didn’t care in the slightest. I want to go live on Rabbit Island with them.
My biggest quibble about this book is still incredibly minor. I would have appreciated more resolution regarding Beau and his family interactions, but I understand that it was hardly the book’s primary external plot.
This book features an atypical romance arc. Rather than a significant dark event at the very end, this book features a series of moments that easily dragged me along as I enjoyed watching Maverick and Beau against the world together. The characters already know that they 100 percent work as a couple. Real life is the problem, when they live on opposite coasts and have competing desires after Maverick’s grandmother’s death. Lennox expertly played with reader expectations because, until the very end, I had no idea how these two characters would achieve their happily ever after together.
Was the shaker collector connection immediately obvious? Yes. Was it still adorable when the guys figured it out? Also yes. Sometimes you need sweet and fluffy in a book. I needed it the night I read this book, and Lennox more than delivered.
Delivering Dante (Book 6)
Dante gives his adopted brother Griffin a run for his money for the most traumatic backstory of all the Marian siblings. However, here he’s grown up, has his dream job, and gets to give back to the community that saved him by helping other LGBTQ kids in bad situations. Things can only get better now that he’s met AJ and might be falling for him.
Dante and AJ are immediately put through the wringer when Aunt Tilly accidentally kidnaps them while running from the Secret Service. Yes, it’s as ridiculous as it sounds from the back-cover text, but at the same time, the subplot makes total sense (and is quite hilarious). Unfortunately, the accompanying media attention triggers Dante’s anxieties, and AJ still hasn’t told Dante that they first met when Dante was younger. The reveal promptly blows up in their faces, leaving readers with a poignant dark moment on top of Dante having to deal with his biological family’s new political ambitions.
Before he moves to San Francisco, Dante’s history and his immediate actions afterward are too real for many kids in this country, no matter how far things have come. It won’t be an easy read for some people, even those with no direct experience with any of these issues.
This book covers the final Marian brother finding his happily ever after, and it includes plenty of cameos by the rest of the sprawling Marian family. I look forward to finishing the rest of the books in this series, including the short stories, because I’m not yet ready to let this family out of my life. Luckily, it looks like there’s a connection brewing to the Wilde clan out in Texas, and I still have plenty of books in that series to enjoy as well.
A Very Marian Christmas (Book 7)
It’s funny that the requisite holiday stories are coming up in all the series I’m concurrently reading at the start of January. But 2021 threatens to be as bonkers as 2020, so I’ll take all the light and goodness I can get. Now that all the Marian clan members have found their happily ever after, it’s time for them to set their sights on helping their friends (new and old) find the same true love. Little do they know that newly-arrived Noah appreciates their efforts, but he’s already given his heart to his roommate (and longtime friend) Luke.
It takes Luke a bit longer to get with the program, as he’s been convinced that he can’t manage all aspects of a committed relationship. There’s a fun element of “idiots in love” to this book while Luke and Noah get their act together. Meddling by the Marians, who continue to set Noah up on blind dates, starts to hurt more than it helps, but they all rally behind both Noah and Luke at the times when the men need support more than interference.
I thoroughly enjoyed this outside perspective on the wacky family, even the interludes that featured the full clan. Is the story a bit self-indulgent for both the author and the readers who don’t want to leave this world yet? Yes, but there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. I found this book to be a lovely holiday treat no matter the time of year, but I’m especially glad that I ended up reading it during a time when I needed its sweetness the most.
Made Marian Shorts (Book 7.5)
This collection of four stories features side characters we’ve met previously in the series, giving each of them their own happily ever after. Luckily, a brief note at the beginning of each story reminds readers who the character in question is. Plenty of sweet and sexy hijinks ensue, and Aunt Tilly and her squad even provide their semi-obnoxious matchmaking services for those outside the Marian bloodline.
Favorite story: “Keller’s Story” includes plenty of laughs, plenty of sexiness, and even a case of mistaken identity. I can only wish the single life-drawing class I had in college featured a nude model half as sexy.
Story I want expanded into a novel: “Josh’s Story” features plenty of material suitable for a full-length novel. Instead, it packs a wallop of feels into significantly fewer pages. Even knowing the happily ever after, I’d love to experience Josh and Cyrus’s complete romantic arc, both in the past and present.
Special shout-out: “Beck’s Story” is a fun ride without much plot to get in the way of the sexiness. Lennox then drops that last line about Quinn’s identity, and now I need to know more.
Made Mine (Book 8) | with Sloane Kennedy as Protectors #10.5
The authors intended this book to work as a stand-alone story, but honestly, everything about it is so much better if you already have the full context of Lennox’s Made Marian series and Kennedy’s expanded Protectors universe. Not even for the main characters alone, in that Reese is the son of Everett (Unexpected, Protectors #10) or how Ben is Griffin’s long-lost little brother (Grounding Griffin, Made Marian #4). The entire reason the two men meet is prompted by the worries of Ethan, one of the heroes of Revelation (Protectors #7). Multiple other characters, old and new, appear from both series—yes, including Aunt Tilly and cohorts who are definitely up to their old tricks.
Despite how the authors often roll in their other books, I found it amusing that the usual insta-love doesn’t occur here. Sparks fly between Ben and Reese, who have evident chemistry despite the incredible awkwardness of their first encounters. However, it is how Ben intrigues Reese and how Reese cares for Ben’s sister that deepens their connection. Ben may hate everything about how he has to rely on strangers (especially Marian strangers) to keep him and Georgie safe, but Reese is a fairly obvious exception.
If you’re coming to this book new, it is not the type of love story in which the two heroes exist in a vacuum. Kennedy and Lennox cram in plenty of familiar faces, but it never feels gratuitous or contrived. Instead, readers are treated to revisiting a ton of delightful friends. While I hope this book brings new readers to both series, I found it much more of a treat for those already devoted to both authors.
Hay (Book 8.5)
As a character, Hayworth had to grow on me a bit. I wasn’t too keen on him where we last saw him in “Josh’s Story,” though he did handle that situation as best as he probably could. At this point, poor Hay does seem to have a type, and their childhood loves keep swooping in to steal them away. I love that Lennox recognized this pattern and set out to rectify it so that Hay finally does get his own happily ever after.
The only thing I know about football is that I’m contractually obligated by marriage to be a Baltimore Ravens fan and that the sport needs a total overhaul to prevent its epidemic levels of traumatic brain injury and post-concussive syndrome. That being said, my only quibble about this story is that it borders on too much football. However, at the same time, the dynamic between the characters is still understandable able to be appreciated with novice knowledge levels.
I often want stories to be longer, but this one is the perfect length for the story it needed to tell—a story I thoroughly enjoyed.
Made Marian Mixtape (Book 9)
More supplemental stories set in the world of this adorable series! These are definitely meant to be read by those already familiar with the main books, filled with a great mix of additional plot and purely sexy bits (looking at you, Blue and Tristan) (and don’t think I can’t see you over there, Griff and Sam).
Favorite story: “Hard Rock” is a long story/short novella that follows the youngest adopted Marian sibling (Ammon, introduced in Delivering Dante) as he is forced to go home and confront his past. The confrontation itself doesn’t go very well and was painful to read (I wanted to snuggle Ammon afterward as much as Mark did). However, the perks of the trip, such as getting closer to Mark and reuniting with a family member thought lost to him forever, probably made up for it.
Story I want expanded into a novel: Definitely the duo of “Yakity-Yak” and “Tibetan Chants.” I would adore a complete book full of Jamie and Teddy’s international hijinx, on top of the full story around their trip to Tibet (and the resulting evolution of their family).