Series: Bayside Heroes, #1
Release Date: December 6th, 2021
CW/TW: Character going through divorce, mentions of physical/domestic abuse, character with alcohol addiction
Amanda Parks, my childhood best friend’s mom who I may or may not have secretly kissed before leaving for college.
I haven’t seen her in over a decade, and in so many ways, she hasn’t changed.
Same killer curves.
Same hypnotizing eyes.
Same reaction from my heart when I see her.
But something new?
There isn’t a ring on her finger anymore…
And I’m much more of a man than I was at eighteen.
If you know me at all, then you know that I will read every single Kandi Steiner book on the planet because I’m a big fan. And when she announced the Bayside Heroes series with three other amazing authors, I jumped at the chance to read an ARC of the first book. You can read all four books—Washed Up by Kandi Steiner, Screwed Up by Harloe Rae, Fired Up by KK Allen and Tangled Up by Tia Lourise—as standalones, but it’s good to read all of them in order because there’s mentions of all the characters across each book (or at least I’m assuming since we got to meet the gang in book one).
Washed Up is a deliciously forbidden romance with an amazing age gap and falling in love with your best friend’s mother. I knew, going into this, that Kandi would handle the relationship and the topics and the tension with style and care, so I walked into this story blindly and fell head over heels in love with Amanda and Greg.
When an accident sends Amanda to the hospital, she encounters Greg for the first time in years. As the anesthesiologist, he helps Amanda get comfortable before she’s taken in for surgery and all of their history comes flooding back. See, Amanda and Greg shared one incredible kiss many years ago when Greg was 18 and best friends with David, Amanda’s son. Greg’s never forgotten that kiss or the woman he pined for all those years ago, but he also never expected to run into her in his hospital of all places. And for Amanda, seeing Greg again is a shock to the system and she’s thrown by how handsome and grown up he is. After all, he’s now 34 and no longer a teenager hanging around her house.
Amanda and Greg have an incredibly slow and totally delicious burn of a relationship. I like that despite how desperately they wanted each other, they didn’t rush into anything for various reasons—David and Greg reconnecting after all these years, Amanda going through the final stages of her divorce, the age gap, to name a few. However, they do form a bond of sorts. Greg suggests they be ‘accountability partners’ to ensure that both of them live their lives, get out and do things they wanted to do, but haven’t done yet. I loved this concept and how it builds their friendship and relationship, because it really adds another layer to who they are as people and gives you insight into the little things that will make a difference in their lives.
“We’re both so selfish, so desperate for just a taste of what we know we can’t have, that we ignore all the buzzing, blaring, neon warning signs, anyway.”
I adored Amanda. Even when she was berating herself and not seeing herself the way others do, Amanda was a strong character. She stayed married to an abusive man for so many years and fought through the chaos to finally file for divorce. And even when her ex tries to play hardball, Amanda fights back and takes what she wants. She’s also such an incredible mother—the scenes she has with David are great and funny—but Amanda is, at the heart of it all, a fantastic heroine. She’s driven and passionate, she’s lived a lonely life, but that doesn’t stop her from trying to experience everything that she can. Even in the face of adversity and struggle, Amanda pushed through to the top and that is absolutely commendable.
While low on angst, Washed Up will make you tear up a little because of everything that Amanda feels and goes through. But in true Kandi Steiner form, the story is lovely and deep, making it easy for you to connect with these characters, their journey and the love they have for each other. And we also get little hints of the characters and pairings in the next few books and I gotta say, I am very excited to see what Dane and Larsen get upto in Screwed Up.
Thanks to Kandi Steiner & Valentine PR for generously providing me with an advance copy. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.