Sunday, March 5, 2017

Review: Working It

Working It Working It by Christine d'Abo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Nothing can make me love a book like great characters, and Working It features two solid protagonists whose stories quickly grabbed my attention. Zach and Nolan are both seriously flawed men -- one is a self-declared ass with nonexistent people skills; the other is trying to recover from an accident that almost claimed his life and has left him with serious physical and emotional scars. It's a pairing that could easily slip into maudlin or cloying hurt/comfort tropes, but d'Abo crafts her characters with care, and she gives both men strengths and weaknesses that make them individuals, people whose stories the reader is eager to explore. Zach may indeed be an ass, but he's also a strong, driven personality with a hidden heart, an intense desire to give back to the community, and more compassion than his dragon exterior would lead one to believe. Nolan carries the scars of his past trauma, but he isn't cowed or defeated by them, even when he is overwhelmed by panic and anxiety. Their working relationship builds on a foundation of respect, one that only becomes more as they learn about each other's secrets.

Working It is well-paced, the relationship and the sexual tension builds slowly, a careful plotting of story that kept me engaged and interested to see how these two opposites would find a resolution and a happy ending in each other's arms. d'Abo builds her story well, clearly laying the foundation for this new series with solid supporting characters (please, please, let Max be the star of the next book), but there is a definite sense of resolution how Nolan and Zach's story unfolds from introduction to happily ever after. One thing I really appreciated about d'Abo's storytelling was her deft and direct approach to consent, something not always clearly addressed in stories about boss/employee relationships. While there could be an obvious power imbalance between Zach and Nolan , instead d'Abo makes consent a part of the story, one that happens after clear conversations about these potential issues, definitively establishing Nolan as a strong character who chooses how and when to engage in relationship with his boss.

Working It is a solid start to what promises to be a great series of stories featuring the men of the Ringside Gym. Strong characters, realistic conflicts, and steamy romance made this a great weekend read, one that I would definitely recommend. This was my first book by Christine d'Abo, but it is not likely to be my last.

Advance reader copy received from NetGalley.

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Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Review: Glass Tidings

Glass Tidings Glass Tidings by Amy Jo Cousins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Heartbreakingly lovely and fragile, like the delicateness of a handmade glass Christmas bulb, might be the best possible description of the protagonists of Glass Tidings. Gray and Eddie are two lost souls, both burdened by their pasts, uncertain how to move forward, and both resistant to building relationships - romantic or platonic - for fear of being rejected again. Thrown together on Thanksgiving night by a small-town tragedy, each will have to face his own demons and overcome his own baggage to give them a chance at happily ever after.

If you're looking for a fluffy holiday read, this probably isn't the best choice. Angst and hurt abound, and the struggle to find happiness in the broken pieces of two lives causes Gray and Eddie to lash out instead of seeking to build a bridge. But, if you're looking for a contemporary romance with nuanced characters and a slow build toward resolution, then Glass Tidings might be for you. Cousins uses language well, giving Gray and Eddie distinctive voices that reflect their lives and stories, and there are some wonderful moments of humor and sweetness mixed in with the sadness. Cousins also demonstrates a great love of classic scifi that made me laugh (and note down some new to me titles). Carefully paced, well-plotted, and emotionally real, Glass Tidings was my introduction to Amy Jo Cousins, but it probably won't be my last venture into her work.

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