Review: Without Judgment by Aubrey Bondurant

without judgmentTitle: Without Judgment

Author: Aubrey Bondurant

Year of publication: Out today! I was kindly given a copy to read and review

The heroine: Website designer Avery Newhall

The hero: Ex-marine/security specialist Mason Butler

The blurb: Do you know what I got for always being the good girl? A cheating ex, fake friends, and now a scandal that has even my own father ashamed of me.

No one believes it isn’t me on the video. My new bodyguard is no exception. Mason is not only my brother’s best friend,
but my newly assigned babysitter who wishes he was anywhere but here.

He’s both hot and judgmental. It’s a maddening combination that has me wanting to push all his buttons.

With his bad boy vibe, alpha demeanor and the way he calls me princess, I’m convinced my draw to him is crazy. Until I learn under the tattoos and piercings there may be more than meets the eye. Turns out I may not be the only one fighting the attraction.

I’m determined not to be the helpless girl everyone thinks I am, even if it means taking drastic measures. The question is whose side will Mason be on in the end?

Standalone or series: Book three in the Without series, but can be read as a standalone

The review: If I could give this book six stars, I would, because there was nothing about it that I didn’t like. Avery Newhall’s father is running for the mayor of Houston, and the last thing he needs is his daughter’s sex tape scandal. Avery’s ex-fiance cheated on her with her best friend, so she dumped him – and he appears he’s taking revenge by releasing a tape to the media. However, after reluctantly viewing it, Avery realises it’s not her on the tape. But the paparazzi – and her father – don’t seem to care about that one small detail.

Since Avery’s being hounded by the media, her adorable older brother, Trevor, calls on his best friend since college, Mason Butler. Mason is in the middle of starting up his own security business, and Avery’s father has offered to invest if he’ll act as her bodyguard for two weeks. It’s not the kind of job he wants, but he needs the investment and he feels he owes Trevor for helping him stay out of trouble in college so he could get into the Marines, so he agrees to take the gig. He’s never actually met Avery, having turned down all of Trevor’s invitations to join him at home, so he’s expecting her to be a spoiled princess.

It doesn’t take long for Mason to find out he’s very wrong about Avery. She’s not spoilt or stuck up. She’s down to earth, caring and incredibly upset at the notion of the public thinking she’s on that sex tape. She feels like her father thinks his campaign is more important than his own daughter. She regularly visits an animal shelter and helps out with the dogs; there’s one in particular, Koda, whom nobody will adopt because he’s a pit bull. Avery would love to adopt him but her father won’t have it, and since she’s now living with him again after having left the ex, she has to follow his rules.

Avery thinks that Mason is an angry, distant man, and she doesn’t want him around her 24/7, no matter what her father says. She tries to connect with him, given he’s her brother’s best friend, but he keeps pushing her away. When she discovers him trying to build a website for his business, she offers to help him as she loves building websites, and to her surprise he agrees to let her.

Once they both get past their misconceptions of each other, they start to see the people underneath and they form a deep bond. They’re attracted to each other and it’s a slow burn; Mason feels loyal to Trevor and doesn’t want to abuse his trust by coveting his younger sister, but in the end, their desire for each other takes over. When Mason gets her out of town and to a cabin his estranged father gifted him, they finally give in.

This book was so lushly written. The characters had so many layers to them, and the romance was a really great slow burn. There were a lot of tropes here that are quite common – sibling’s best friend/best friend’s sibling, bodyguard, ex cheating with the best friend – but this author did such a great job of making the story believable. I loved that Mason wanted to tell Trevor from the get go, and that Trevor’s reaction was not overblown, as it tends to be with so many books about this trope. I loved Mason’s vulnerability, and his willingness to eventually let Avery in. I loved Avery’s down to earth character, determined not to play the role bestowed upon her by everybody else. I loved these two characters and watching their romance take shape, growing into something tangible, something fierce, something real. I loved Avery’s adorably close relationship with her brother. This is one of the best books I’ve read this year.

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