By Referral Only by Lyla Payne

by referral only



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.


My hackles rose. If I were a dog, all of the hair on the back of my neck would be ruffled. “I don’t need to do anything. You need to get over it. I’m sure with your face and your accent and your money and star swimmer status etcetera etcetera etcetera, that you’re not going to have any issue getting laid, regardless of your wake of disappointed exes.”


The insult hit home, even sandwiched between more compliments than I’d actually meant to offer, and shame flickered in his typically level gaze. Cole took a step toward me and then another, but if intimidation was his game, he’d come to the wrong place. I didn’t move, defying him with a pissed off expression of my own. The back of my mind whispered that being cruel to Cole to salve my hurt over Emilie’s assessment of my choices wasn’t fair


I gasped involuntarily when Cole invaded my personal space. He looked down at me, green eyes blazing, but not with anger. Instead, I glimpsed a battle between desire, regret, and acute fear.


The first two I understood. The latter befuddled me.


Soft fingers brushed my cheek, spilling fire over my neck as they ran down my bare arm, and clasped my own. Dizziness appeared from nowhere, like some frat guys had dumped a barrel of trash can punch into me, and the world behind his face blurred. Staring seemed to be a bad habit Cole and I shared, but for long moments, neither of us seemed to notice.


If Cole had auditioned cold, walked into my theatre without a resume or a single referral, I would have been tempted to take a chance on him. Liam and I weren’t serious, and every cell in my body seemed charged with the certainty that Cole deserved a shot at the starring role.


He slowly lowered his face toward mine, fiery gaze fastened to my mouth. Oxygen heaved out of me and my heart pounded against my ribs. A tiny voice shouted from the recesses of my brain to remember Michael, and Cole’s ratings, and to push him away.


I didn’t move. Couldn’t. I wanted his lips on mine again, this time without an audience of ten-year-olds. Somewhere deep in the recesses of my mind, the desire pissed me off, but at the moment, fighting felt impossible. At the last moment, his breath fanning my hot cheeks, our lips less than an inch from connecting, Cole stopped.


My eyes flew open. When had I closed them?


“Since there seem to be some things about me that please you, hen, how about you let me prove those ratings are false?” His husky voice hit me in the gut.


Goosebumps broke out across my skin at the mere suggestion of jumping into bed with him. Then visions of my shattered expectations with Liam came to mind. I didn’t need any more disappointment in my life, and a bunch of my fellow ladies were screaming warnings from the rooftops. What was the point of my website if I wasn’t going to listen to it myself?


By Referral Only centers on Ruby. She is heartbroken college student that decides one day it is duty to save other’s heartache so she develops a website that rates the men at Whitman College. The site was good in theory until Ruby finds herself attracted to one of the lowest rated guys, Cole Stuart.

“What if it wasn’t? What if I said I wanted to date you – and yes, Ruby, go to bed with you – but not for a few weeks or a month. I want to talk about Christmas, and showing you Elgin, and maybe a spring holiday on the Mediterranean. I don’t want to see you with the expectation that it won’t last.”

Cole Stuart. What else can I say about him besides his name? Where was he when I was in college? Foreign, attentive, attractive, and athletic. He sure does sound like the complete package but there is a secret that is tearing him apart.

I found Ruby to be quite annoying at times but Cole’s presence and demeanor definitely made up for it. Ruby has the tendency to think the worst of others and how they will treat her especially men. I will admit that I chuckled quite a bit when Cole’s sister, Audra called her on her crap.

“See, that’s what I’m saying. You hate that people assume the worst of you, but you go ahead and assume the worst of other people. I know it’s probably because someone or a bunch of someones treated you shitty, but it’s not attractive.”

Lyla Payne has wrote a story in Referral  Only that depicts a story that quite a bit of us could possibly relate to – a person having low expectations in an attempt to protect themselves from heartbreak. As stated before I found Ruby to be annoying but who isn’t when they can’t see that the person for them is right in from of them. I so wanted for her to hear me say “Stop playing around and see that Cole is the one for you!” Overall, this was a pleasant story and a very quick read.

I would definitely recommend to others.

DISCLAIMER: I received a complimentary copy of By Referral Only in exchange for an honest review.




I’ve long had a love of stories. A few years ago decided to put them down on the page, and even though I have a degree in film and television, novels were the creative outlet where I found a home. I’ve published Young Adult under a different name, but when I got the idea for Broken at Love (my first New Adult title), I couldn’t wait to try something new – and I’m hooked.  In my spare time I watch a ton of tennis (no surprise, there), play a ton of tennis, and dedicate a good portion of brain power to dreaming up the next fictitious bad boy we’d all love to meet in real life.



By Referral Only on Goodreads




Twitter: @lyla_payne


A Whitman University Swag Pack including a signed copy of BY REFERRAL ONLY and BROKEN AT LOVE and a $25 Amazon or Barnes & Noble Gift Card.

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  1. Mary Lowery says:

    Great giveaway. ….thank you! 🙂

  2. Love finding a new book and author.

  3. Karina G. says:

    Sounds like an interesting read. I like the fact that she tries to use one guy in order for her not to date the guy she wants. Sounds like I’ll also like Cole’s sister.

  4. Seems like a good read. I’ve been wanting new books xD

  5. Sounds interesting. Thank you for the giveaway!!

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