Cover Image: Beginner's Bet

Beginner's Bet

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Member Reviews

I loved this book. Will be adding this to my list of favorites. This series progressively got better with each of the three stories. You can read the one stand-a-lone but you would miss the opportunity of getting to know all of the wonderful characters and their individual love stories along the way. 

This book really resonated with me and I have no idea why. I have never had a desire to have a baby or be a mother. And yet I was rooting for Ellison's steadfast passion to achieve her goal regardless of and despite all else. The conflict was real and I had trouble seeing how things could work out with Katie. But I was glad to have gone on the journey with these two lovely ladies.

I recommend this to anyone who likes to read about romance, lesbians, real-estate, massage therapy, friendship, family, dream homes, and shrimp scampi pizza.
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I received an advanced copy of this book from the publisher through netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This book is well written and the characters are described well. This is the third book in this romance series. I would recommend reading the first book in this series. This book is well written despite haven't read the first or second book in this series. It is a steamy romance. It is in stores for $18.95 (USD).
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Well, well well. I am really really glad that Ellison got her story. Since book 1 of this series, I have been quietly waiting for the owner of the best real estate firm in Boston to open up and find love. And did she really open up! I kinda thought she was going to get with her good friend and occasional friends with benefits and would have loved that. I did really like Katie for her. Both women are hard working and even though Ellison has way more money and older, I felt like Katie held her own and was on equal footing. I remember reading book 1 of these series and was thinking about not reading the rest of the series. I just did not like Trina. Book 2 was way better for me and I even started liking Trina better. Beginner's Bet is by far the best for me. Both mains are super likable and super cute together. They have amazing chemistry and are just freaking HAWT together. I am not sure if there are plans for book 4 in this series with trans character (I can't remember his name), but would love to see him find love in a book 4. I am going to rate this one 5 stars because I just loved Ellison and Katie so much.

This arc was provided by net galley and the publisher for an honest review.
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. This is the 3rd in the High Stakes Realty series and though I loved them all, this one is my favorite. The story of Ellison Gamble and Katie just grabbed at my heart. I laughed and cried with them. Ellison wanted a child so bad but couldn’t carry it. So, while Elision is traversing the surrogate route along with starting a new relationship. Needless to say, it was daunting. Katie is a massage therapist with a Mom that had to go into rehab after an accident and a stroke. Even though Katie was straight her attraction to Ellison was magnetic. They do not call Fiona Riley the Queen of steam for nothing. The chemistry between these women was off the charts. You have your biological families and then you have your chosen ones. Ellison’s family was Trina, Lauren and Jax. And these people supported each other throughout the series. Although Fiona Riley brought this series to a beautiful end, I am not ready to let these wonderful people go and I have high hopes that Fiona will grace us with another.
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This was a nice read. I liked how Riley built Ellison and Kate, the main characters. They are both believable and the age gap is  a plus for me. This book is part of a trilogy, but you can read it as a stand alone.
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Ellison Gamble, successful owner of her real estate agency in Boston is looking to start a family. Katie Crawford has just put her mother into fulltime care and is struggling to cover the costs of her mother's care. The opportunity for surrogacy is there but Ellison didn't count on falling in love.
This is the third book in this series and each book just gets better. The chemistry is off the charts as usual and the sex scenes usual. The story feels solid despite the age and money gap. A real feel good book.
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This book started a bit slow for my liking.  However, as I continued to read, I become completely lost in the story.  The characters, Ellison and Katie cannot be more different.  Katie is a massage therapist and recently had to move her mother into an assisted living situation after she realized she could no longer care for her.  Ellison owns a very successful real estate firm and has everything except a long term relationship and a child.  She desperately wants a child but has not been successful despite doing everything medically possible.
Katie's boss wants to expand the business and begins to smooze Ellison (whose company owns where the spa is located) by offering free services at the spa.  The women begin meeting off and on because of proximity of where they work  and strike up a friendship.  
There are many twists and turns in this story with Ellison's quest for a baby and Katie's financial situation of trying to do what is best for her and for her mother.  
This story did not turn out exactly as I thought I would and that was a wonderful surprise.  A good weekend read.  
I would recommend.
I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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Ellison Gamble owns a very successful real state firm in Boston. Her accomplishments are countless but she feels like she is still missing something, someone. Katie Crawford is having a tough time. The costs of having her mother institutionalized are becoming harder and harder to pay but keeping her mother there is a priority. Her only solution might be to sell her childhood house which is falling apart. After an unexpected and not very positive first interaction, Ellison and Katie form an unexpected friendship in which they both grow closer, too close risking both of their hearts and plans.

This book is definitely the best, THE BEST, of the series. Actually, one of the best I have read in a while. This is one of those books that gives you all the feels and keeps you turning the pages. The kind of book that you want to find out what happens but you also you also want it to never end.

The chemistry between Ellison and Katie was incredible, just so tastefully written, so raw and special, so real and also magical. I can't say enough good things about this book. It was just soooo good. Definitely a book I will be re-reading time and time again. 

If you want a romance that you can't out down and stays with you hours and days after you have finished it, this is it! Thank you Fiona Riley for such an amazing book!

I received this ARC via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. .
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This is a romance and the third book in a new series called “High Stakes Romances”.  For those who have read the first two books of the series, we now learn more about Ellison Gamble, the owner of Gamble and Associates, the most successful luxury real estate firm in Boston.  After her phone is inadvertently inundated with “robo” calls from an extremely popular local spa, Ellison meets a very youthful Katie Crawford, a masseuse at the spa.

Ellison is a highly motivated 42-year-old executive.  Her plan for motherhood was detoured when her wife wanted a divorce in lieu of children.  As her maternal clock ticks away, Ellison’s last chance rests with two eggs which were harvested during her previous marriage.

28-year-old Katie left her life in California to return to Boston to help her mother after an accident.  Placing her in a special rehabilitation facility is a financial hardship for which Katie is solely responsible.  The ladies are in very different economic/social circles as revealed by Katie’s 10-year-old broken down car and Ellison’s gorgeous Maserati, but the attraction between them is unmistakable and quite pervasive.

Trina Lee, Kendall Yates, Lauren Calloway, and Jax Pearson, all employees of Ellison’s firm and previously introduced in this series, are an important part of Fiona Riley’s well-developed set of characters.  They are instrumental in adding depth to the story.  It was a joy to continue reading through the chapters to learn the fate of Ellison’s and Katie’s relationship.  Ms. Riley’s writing is absolutely captivating! 

I recommend Beginner’s Bet and rate this book with 5 out of 5 stars.     

I received this ARC in exchange for my honest opinion.
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While this is a stand alone  book, it is the third in a series which is an aspect I really enjoy because the book brings back characters from the first two books that are like old friends. The author does a great job and just providing the slightest amount of information to give the reader insight into what’s happening with favorite characters in such a way that it does not disrupt a new reader to the series enjoyment of the book. In Book we get Ellison’s as a featured character along with Katie. Ellison is a wealthy woman who worked hard to achieve what she has, she has no family left except her chosen family. She very much would love to have children but for medical reasons she cannot. She meets Katie at  a day spa and the two become unlikely friends. Katie is scraping by to get money working as much as she can to pay for her mothers stay in a rehab center in the process of Ellison helping Katie sell her family home, the two women realize that they’re wildly attracted to one another despite the many differences in age, social economic status, and the fact that Katie so far has been attracted to men. Do these two have a chance of a happily ever after with all that stands between them? Like all budding relationships this one certainly has its ups and downs and throughout them you end up cheering for both characters hoping that issues can be resolved.

This author has a reputation of not only developing well told stories but she spends just enough time on the characters so that you really get a sense of who they are. This is a fabulous read and one that I highly recommend.
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Four and a half stars. I was surprised by how much I liked this! It might be my favourite Fiona Riley book so far. Granted, I haven't read that much from her.

Katie falls into Ellison's life perfectly. It was hard to picture Ellison in a committed relationship throughout the first two books, but this felt exactly right. She's a lot softer than she seemed before. The story is technically a toaster oven romance, but the way that Katie falls for Ellison was believable and not immediately and overtly sexual, which I was worried about, given the author's knack for steamy scenes. The main force throwing them together is a little gimmicky, but the relationship seems to develop without actually relying on "only one bed" as it might have done. Then there's a bit of power imbalance, but Ellison responds to it well. 

Shockingly, my favourite part would be the final conflict. I would venture to say, and this has less bearing on the books I read than on my preference, that practically a third of the romances I read lose at least half a star because the conflict could be executed better. So many more, I choose not to linger on, but are still not great. My least favourite form of conflict is cold feet. So it completely took me aback when I found that I fully sympathized with Katie in those moments. The story seemed to have been built up to the rationale behind her fleeing, and somehow I totally got it. For once, it really felt like a necessary hurdle in the development of their relationship rather than a very intentional hurdle in a slightly formulaic story. I can't articulate this very well without sounding like I'm bashing other books, but rarely does this specific plot device work for me, and I thought it was worth a mention.

I wasn't sad for the conclusion of the series so much as I was for the conclusion of the book. Katie and Ellison were my favourite of the couples, and I wish they had come sooner, so we'd have cameos later on. Sigh.
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I love Riley's Miss Match series, but the High Stakes series may beat it by just a bit. I have read the ebook and listened to the audiobook version and both are spectacular. Ellison and Katie are perfect and I couldn't ask for a better love story. I actually think Ellison may be my favorite character of Riley's and I really hope we get to see more of her down the road. This was a five-star read for me from start to finish.
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High stakes realtor, Ellison Gamble has everything money can buy. Her success has afforded her expensive cars, gorgeous homes, and designer clothing. The one thing she can’t buy is motherhood. Ellison has exhausted every medical procedure available to conceive, but as she turns 43, her doctor informs her it’s time to find a surrogate for her remaining eggs.

Katie Crawford’s under incredible stress keeping her mother in a top-notch care facility after she experienced a traumatic brain injury then a stroke. She's barely making enough as a masseuse to cover the bills.

Ellison and Katie strike up a friendship after Katie provides Ellison with a massage at the fancy spa she works at. Ellison presents Kathy with a way to get out of debt and provide for her mother. Katie’s family home is in disrepair and it’s more than she can handle. In Ellison’s capable hands, she can sell the house for a profit and set her mother up for life.

After a fire makes Katie’s house uninhabitable, Ellison moves her into her elegant beach house, and before long they are head over heels for each other. Ellison has found a surrogate to carry her baby and that’s the priority in her life. She didn't count on falling in love.

Can Ellison have it all or will Katie’s insecurities keep them from a life together?

Beginner’s Bet is the third and my favorite book in Riley’s High Stakes Romance series. 

Ellison is poised and generous, powerful yet grounded, and a very appealing main character. Riley uses the perfect combination of sultry dialogue and unusual interactions to show Ellison at her best whether it's at work or in a relationship. Katie is endearing. She’s completely without artifice and her wonder at the luxury of Ellison’s life makes her the perfect character to draw the reader into Ellison’s attractive world. More than her wealth, Ellison provides Katie with the safety and emotional security she’s never had. Despite their 15-year age difference, their attraction is completely believable. They exhibit a chemistry that’s palpable.

Riley is known as “The Queen of Steam” for a reason. The sexual tension she builds between Ellison and Katie is supercharged. There was no way I was putting Beginner’s Bet aside, so I read it in one sitting. Most of the time, their banter is very flirtatious. At times it feels a little bit saccharine for Ellison’s character, but that could be because I've already seen Ellison in the first two books. When Ellison and Katie finally take their relationship to the bedroom, the spice is a delight. Riley does not disappoint.

The plot follows the traditional romance norms. I was surprised with how Ellison’s journey to motherhood was resolved, I thought I knew what was coming, but Riley took a more nuanced approach which made for a more believable and less clichéd story. I thought the ending was a bit rushed, though. Riley placed the main conflict in the story too late in the book. By the time it happened, the resolution followed too close on its heels. I feel like I missed both main characters feeling the full depth of despair when they were apart. I also would have liked to see Ellison process some reticence when Katie shows up in her life again. A romance guarantees a happy ever after. I just wish these characters would have had to work a bit harder for theirs.

Overall, this book provided me with everything I like in a romance. Riley continues to write quality sapphic romances, and I’m already looking forward to her next offering.

I was provided with an ARC of this book in exchange for a fair and unbiased review.
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It is very rare to find authors that go through a series and end with the strongest book.

I went into this novel with little expectations, as the one before had been probably the worse of the series, and I can honestly say I was surprised to no end.

The plot was easy and fresh, the characters were likeable and I found myself falling for Ellison in more than one occasion.

This book was so good that I couldn't put it down and am not sleep deprived! But it was oh so worth it.

Katie was likeable, the author really reflected her age and maturity in this book, while Ellison was not only a knight in shinning armor, she was also a believable one, she was a character you could easily fall for and daydream about.

This was a big win for Fiona Riley. I cannot wait to read her next novel.
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Review of Beginner’s Bet by Fiona Riley

Since the start of this book series, I’ve been eager to read Ellison’s story who was always my favourite. She’s such an enigmatic character that I was looking forward to seeing her walls go down and let someone in her life.

Ellison Gamble is the owner of the most successful luxury real estate firm in Boston but despite all her money and success, she feels alone. Katie Crawford needs to sell her family’s dilapidated house to pay the increasing costs for her mother’s health care. When both women meet, an unlikely friendship starts and Ellison offers to help Katie sell her house but as an attraction grows, will they be willing to risk it all?

This is book 3 and last in the High Stakes series which started with Bet Against Me, followed by Bet the Farm. Even though this is a standalone novel, I recommend starting in book one as you’ll get a better idea of each character’s story and personality.

As I said before, Ellison is an intriguing character throughout the series and finally, the reader gets to know why. I’ll try to keep it vague to avoid spoilers but let me just say that apart from the romance, this book tells Ellison’s journey to motherhood. Ms. Riley tells in the acknowledgments how challenging was to write this story as Ellison’s desire to have a family overlapped with her own. As you can imagine, the character’s journey is emotional and taxing but brings new light to Ellison as a woman beyond her kickass business prowess. This book makes her more exposed, more vulnerable, more human. And it suits her completely.

This is an age gap, opposite attracts, coming out romance with a lot of heated moments, as it’s expected from Ms. Riley, aka “The Queen of Steam”. Apart from a considerable age difference, contrasting financial situations, sexual orientations at odds (Katie is allegedly straight), and disparate personalities, each character is in a completely different place in their lives with respect to relationships and family. I thought this was a smart plot choice as it sounded authentic and a potential source of conflict, as it would be in real life. Both leads embark on a journey of transformation in which they will be changed forever.

Beginner’s Bet is by far my favourite in this series, but the three books are equally worth a read. 4.5 stars.

ARC provided by the publisher and Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.
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This was a wonderful book to read. The two mains Ellison and Katie fit together perfectly and the flow was excellent with funny and interesting dialogues. This is the third and last book in a series, but I only read this book and had no problems reading it. If you’ve read the other books in the series, this will be the cherry on the cake, as several of the mains from the first two books make an appearance.

When I heard that one of the main story lines was about a baby wish I honestly wasn’t sure if this would be the best fit for me as I don’t connect to that at all, but the romance was done so expertly and the parts about Ellison’s struggles in life in getting her family and 
children were clearly written from the heart. And for those who enjoy tropes, there are plenty present; a poor-rich trope, an age-gap, and a toaster oven romance. 

I wouldn’t describe Katie and Ellison as opposites since their personalities are not that different, they both possess good social skills and are caring people, but still they were quite different as they are at completely different phases in their life. Ellison is in her early forties and has a successful career and while things are not going the way she wanted them to in her personal life, she has structure and stability. Katie on the other hand is in her late twenties and due to her mother needing expensive care, she is financially and emotionally struggling. When they meet though, their relation develops in such a natural way, even though Katie has never been in a same sex relationship, it’s really sweet and they just match perfectly. 

They were some small things that didn’t work too well for me that I want to mention though. There was a communication issue, which seemed so silly because they generally had a very open and honest communication going on, so it felt out of place. The other thing is the ex turned best friend with occasional benefits. Yes, others have mentioned this as well, so I knew it was coming, and I thought I would have no problems with that (well, at least not in a book;)). But, it turns out that this raised several red flags for me when reading. At the start of the book I felt that the friends with benefits thing may actually have been one-sided and that Ellison was in love with Faith. I had trouble letting this go at start of the relationship between Ellison and Katie. I kept thinking will Ellison keep pining over Faith (as she did during a previous marriage)? Also, the fact that she did not discuss being ridiculously in love with Katie with her so called best friend seemed a bit weird. That’s what best friends are for right? From this, I again got the impression Faith was not a best friend, but still more someone in the romance/sex buddy category. Maybe it’s me, but it felt off.  

This book deals with some difficult topics, but still felt relatively light and low on angst and I easily recommend this if you’re looking for a sweet romance. 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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And you win, a toaster oven. What a fun contemporary romance. Two vibrant and very likeable main characters that have definite chemistry that grows as they interact with each other. There is an age gap and a financial disparity that causes some conflict. The sex scenes are hot. Since all three novels are set around the real estate agency, the reader reconnects with Jax, Trina, and Lauren. I also appreciated Katie's friend Shaina. What an awesome group of friends. Ellison is a wonderful boss, friend and partner. Katie is dealing with the changes in her life and for the most part, navigates them well. After this read, I think about identity, relationships, and going after what you want.
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3.75 stars

This is the third book in the high stakes series, and although I didn't love it as much as Bet the Farm it is still well worth the read.

To be honest, although there is mention of becoming a parent and surrogacy - Due to the foreword, I expected more on that front. I was totally pumped and ready for it. That plot line is there, just not as deep as expected.

Katie and the story of her mum stole my heart. Ellison I was less keen on. With that said, this story has all the elements I adore in a lesbian romance.
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This was a great beach read to get lost in for the day. 

The chemistry between Ellison and Katie was endearing and I’m a sucker for the match that makes perfect sense and no sense at all at. 

Ellison is a self made successful woman that is vulnerable in a lot of ways. I loved her outward confidence and her quiet integrity. 

Katie is at a place in her life where she can’t really think of anything ahead of the curveballs that life keeps throwing at her. 

There is clearly a difference in wealth on the surface but they come together and lift each other up and fulfill each other’s lives; with some good friends for supporting cast, a few steamy scenes, and some insecurities to hurdle through thrown in to give us that happily ever after.
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4.5 Stars

“Beginner’s Bet” is the third book in the High Stakes series. It’s also easily my favorite. It’s a rich girl/poor girl, age-gap toaster oven romance that is sweet but with a lot of heart and substance.
Ellison Gamble is the owner of luxury real estate firm. Katie Crawford is a massage therapist in a spa that’s next to Ellison’s realty firm. They meet after a mix-up at the spa and form a quick and sweet friendship. 

Ellison was introduced in the previous two books, “Bet Against Me” and “Bet the Farm.” She was my favorite in those so I was very happy to get to her story and for her to find her happy ending. She’s busy with her realty group and secretly trying to have a baby when she meets Katie. Katie is working as much as she can to pay for her mom’s care home. Her mother has recently had a debilitating stroke and needs constant care. It has taken all of Katie’s savings and she’s worried she only has a couple months left. Ellison comes up with a plan and over the course of the summer, the two grow close. 

What I really loved was the budding relationship between the two of them. They got to know each other as friends and while it became more for Ellison, it wasn’t as straight forward for Katie. Katie has never been in a same sex relationship and can’t decide if Ellison is actually flirting with her or if she’s just a very nice woman. Spoiler alert, the answer is both. I liked how Riley took the time for them to get to know one another before things changed. That was something that was missing in the other two books so I liked that I really felt their emotional connection here. 

My only complaint is the 85% dark moment. It really seemed to come out of nowhere and didn’t make a lot of sense to me. Especially considering that all of the issues would be worked out soon enough or maybe if the two sat down and talked about the issue. Also, that Ellison might’ve been too nice and generous and patient. She is basically the perfect person with no flaws, but that’s me just nitpicking but she was literally flawless!

Otherwise, I absolutely loved this and highly recommend it!

I received an ARC from Bold Strokes Books via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
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