After being unceremoniously dumped freshman year because of her family’s “new money” status, Ruby Cotton has taken care not to put her heart on the line. No matter how enticing Emilie and Quinn make it look, relationships are scary and hard—while a string of flings is easy and fun. That’s what Ruby wants. Easy and fun. The only problem is, when it comes to satisfaction in the sack, most of the boys at Whitman are nothing but pretty window dressing and false advertising.Ruby takes it upon herself to make campus life more fulfilling, creating a referral database that allows female students to rate their sexual experiences, thereby informing girls of what they’re getting into before agreeing to a date.When her acting partner, Liam Greene, finally shows some interest, Ruby figures she won’t need to utilize the helpful gossip. He’s handsome, fun, and most importantly, not a guy she’d ever fall for hard enough to let him break her heart.Not only that, but dating Liam gives Ruby the perfect excuse to say no to Cole Stuart.As a star swimmer and heir to honest-to-God Scottish royalty, Cole sits at the top of Whitman’s A-list—but he’s also the lowest rated referral on Ruby’s website. The ratings make rejecting his repeated requests for a date a no-brainer, but her real reason for avoiding Cole runs deeper than a string of unsatisfied exes.He’s gorgeous, he oozes sweetness and charm, and the electricity between them could power half of Whitman, but Ruby knows it will only last until his family or friends convince him she’s not good enough.Before she knows it she’s falling anyway, waiting for the other shoe to drop but clinging to a tentative hope that Cole might be as different as he seems. When the secret behind his low ratings comes to light, that hope is torn apart, and Ruby wonders if she was right to give him her heart…and whether she has the strength to let him keep it.
One night at the Delta Epsilon sorority house, theater major Ruby Cotton and her sisters shared disappointing and embarrassing stories of guys they dated on bed. An idea formed in Ruby’s mind and with the help of sexy computer geek Noah, they made a rating and referrals website for the girls of Whitman University. They can rate their dating and sexual experience from one to five stars and refer guys with a yes or a no. This way, girls can know the general consensus on a guy’s sexual prowess before agreeing to spend the night with him. Ruby’s website is a hit but there’s something she’s very curious on. How can Mr. Star Swimmer Scottish Hottie Cole Stuart, an actual Scottish royalty and just the most charming, caring, gentlemanly, handsome and hot guy in Whitman, get one-stars and no referrals? The girls of Whitman have spoken and how sweet and caring Cole might be, how he’s got her panties up in twists, she should not hook up with him as she’ll just end up disappointed. But Ruby can’t deny their sizzling chemistry and falls for him anyway. It’s too good to be true until the secret and reason to his low ratings is revealed. Now, what should Ruby do?
Only the rich can afford going to Whitman University and it certainly boasts of its academic program. But even with the richest of the rich, there’s still an outcast. Ruby Cotton comes from “new money”, when her father’s anti-spam program got bought by Microsoft and her mother’s instructional workout videos got famous. Because of this, people expect Ruby to act like a crass lady, with no class and manners. She’s not like that though she does curse, but she feels like it’s easier to act like how people expect her to be. It’s one of her defenses, to prevent guys from actually falling for her and preventing herself from falling in love with them too and thus, preventing her heart from being broken again.
I love Ruby. I get where she’s coming from and even though I want to shake some sense into her at times that not all guys are like what she thinks, I can’t fault her for it. She got her heart broken freshman year and it’s easier to put up walls than to let live and love. I admire her passion for theater and how great of an actress she is. She’s professional, she puts herself in her craft and she ends up enjoying teaching kids about Shakespeare and gains a friend in ten year-old Caroline. I love kids so you can say it’s insta-love and insta-connect for me whenever characters love kids as well or form friendships with these cute little wonders. As for Cole, Lyla Payne has pretty much wrote the perfect guy. He actually gets shy around Ruby and he’s a fan of her and had a crush on her from watching her star in a play every single night. He’s sweet, caring, a gentleman, responsible, helpful, , that’s Cole.
Moreover, the other characters had depth and their own back stories. Confession: I haven’t read the first book in the Whitman University series, Broken at Love. But that did not lessen my enjoyment of this book. Sure, I think I’ll know more of the context of every relationship in here but you can read this and appreciate all of the characters. By Referral Only actually made me want to read Broken at Love so I’ll know more about the side characters.
Though both Cole and Ruby had their own hang-ups, I love that theirs wasn’t the common stuff I usually read in NA recently. Both have wonderful families as well and sigh, A BREATH OF FRESH AIR. Aren’t you tired of characters behaving the way they were because of their families? I love that trope as well but in here, Ruby and Cole only have to get over their own walls, their own defense mechanisms. They’re acting a specific way because they chose to. Heck, this whole novel is a breath of fresh air. The premise of this novel is so unique and fresh and I just read this novel in one sitting. By Referral Only had me by the first chapter. In my mind, I was planning to tell you all what I love about this novel in this review. But the thing is, I loved everything. Ruby, Cole, their steaming hot, off-the-charts chemistry, their back stories, their hang-ups, their families, everything. The plot, how funny this book actually is, Ruby’s voice, Caroline and all the other kids, everything. The conflict was not inconsequential, the secret juicy and not what I expected, the pace engaging, the romance hot and everyone acting and speaking organic to their characters. It just added up to one super enjoyable read. This is why I read contemporary romances! This is purely guilty pleasure reading and I don’t mean that in a negative way. This is the book you read when you’re having a reading slump and you want to regain your faith in contemporary NA romances.
I seriously got a hangover from all the great quotes, all the great advice and realizations and epiphanies, the great characters and all the greatness after reading this. A grin threatened to split my face apart while and after reading By Referral Only. It gave me a palpable buzz. Like what Cole is to Ruby and Ruby is to Cole, this book is a unicorn among the recent very dramatic and heavy NA landscape. As Cole Stuart would say, By Referral Only is “pure dead brilliant”! You HAVE to read this!