All Bets Are Off - Marguerite Labbe 4.5 stars

This book was fun! At first I thought it was going to be a predictable contemporary story but it turned out to be so much more. It had me laughing and tearing up with characters that are both likable and real.

I enjoyed both Eli and Ash so much! The tension between these two is palpable and engaging. They are so different. Ash is in the Reserves, used to discipline and a set schedule. He's rough and intense but extremely charming. Eli is rebellious. He's a nature person, taking walks everyday, going on hiking trips and such. He's a calm, free spirit. He hardly lets anyone get under his skin because he's so laid back but when he's angry, oh man, how his temper can light things on fire!! The way these two hit it off, though, is scorching. Anticipation is a word they both love and it only builds onto the desire they already have for each other. By the end of the story, I really felt like I knew these characters and they just felt completely real to me, their love felt real to me.

I loved that this book revolved around bets. They are both stubborn, betting men but they keep their word and pay up when they lose. Although, in their case when they lose it's more like winning! But just the fact that they make betting into a fun, enjoyable but hot game made it amusing. While the story features the fact that Ash is Eli's student (and how they find out after they start their relationship), I really liked the fact that both guys knew it was a dangerous game they were playing by allowing their relationship to stay physical when they found out their strange situation. Both men agree to take things slow and as such, the intensity between them builds, they grow to know each other, they fall in love not because of the sex but because of who the are and the best part is we get to see it instead of being told.

Another thing I loved is how they both understand each other's reservations. They never forced each other into doing or saying something they didn't absolutely want to (unless it was important to push a topic) and I liked how they were both there for each other when it mattered most. That we were shown all this which is why this story appealed to me so much. The side characters are a hoot, too! Jabbers, Eli's beagle, was a joy to read about because the dog featured such a big part of the story with his howls and bays. Lu and the other characters in Amwich's small community gave me a few great laughs that made this story the perfect amount of sweet and light.

My only issue is that I felt like the ending was a little open ended. I was hoping after such a struggle between Eli and Ash's feelings we'd get a more set ending but while it's a definite HEA, I still have questions about what will happen next between these two lovebirds.

Overall, an amazing story. I enjoyed this one immensely. I fell in love with Ash and Eli and how they clashed and melded together. Their chemistry is definitely worth the read alone but the plot and what they have to go through made the book fantastic. Plus, just the fact that Ash is a ginger and Eli is a verbal rambler made this story great from the get-go! Definitely recommended.