I’ve heard great things about these authors, especially when it comes to their M/M books, so when I saw this book I felt it was finally time to stop meaning and finally read them. Also, the fact that the hero has an interesting past, one that’s quite unique for a Romance novel, helped my decision.
Luke Bailey is fresh out of jail. You heard me, he’s an ex-con, and I mean a real former criminal who ended up paying for it with years of his life. This is not one of those wrongly imprisoned heroes that go to jail to protect someone else just to end up saving a puppy and an old lady from a fire (don’t ask me how he went from jail to the burning building). But he is reformed and just wants to take this new opportunity and do something good with his life. In order to do so he needs a job, so his parole officer finds him one working at a friend’s bar. This friend is our heroine, Mary. Even though she agrees to hire him, she becomes hesitant when she realizes what it could possibly mean, but Mary knows all about rejection and being a black sheep, so in the end she not only gives him a job but also rents him a room.
You probably know where this is going because, after all, we’re talking Romance here. So yes, things go as expected and they end up together. But when things began to disappear from the bar, the main suspect can’t be other but the guy who when to prison. So doubts put a strain in their relationship as well as other obstacles. Mary’s family is wealthy and disapproves of her career choice and of her boyfriend, so they begin to interfere in their relationship, which makes Mary doubt Luke, and makes Luke doubt himself and his worth.
This book was interesting for many reasons, the main one being Luke himself. This is the first time I read about a guy whose faults aren’t there to hide his true qualities. Once upon a time he wasn’t a good guy and he admits it. But he also makes it clear that he no longer is that man. However, he accepts that his actions had consequences and jail was just one of them. Now he must deal with distrust and people looking down on him and not giving him a chance. So when he meets Mary and feels the instant attraction, he’s even afraid to fantasize because he feels beneath her. I really liked him and felt deeply for him. His attitude towards his life –past, present and future- was what redeemed him to me as reader and made me want to see him happy.
Mary was more difficult to like, too much self-pity from a woman who had accomplished so much. Her family turned their back on her and was ashamed of her career choice, which hurt her a lot, and that made it difficult for her to really enjoy her success. And after so many years, that need for approval was still there and got in the way of her relationship with Luke, she ends up choosing them, even if it is for a tiny moment. At first I was grateful to see that she trusted him, but then, when the family got in the mix, it all when to hell and it was very annoying, which in turn, made her annoying.
This book was good but not great. The best part was obviously Luke, but I felt that the romance and the story were lukewarm. It had a couple of big misunderstanding that where obvious and unoriginal, as well as unnecessary. The story had enough internal conflict as it was for it to need those extras. Luke was an ex-con and had many personal problems to overcome, his need to prove himself in front of the world and his self-worth issues in particular. Mary had family issues and her relationship with Luke was also problematic, getting to really trust him, finding out if it was possible for them to be equals in the relationship, even the conflict that comes from having a relationship with an employee was enough to make a book. Then why add more instead of truly developing and addressing their internal conflicts, both personally and as a couple? The character development felt flat, not Luke’s but Mary’s. I didn’t see much difference in her at the end and it hurt my enjoyment of the story.
Now that I’m writing this review I feel like the book had lots of strong points, and yet I keep going back to the feeling I had after I finished the book, and that feeling was “meh”, not bad, but not great either. I’m not even sure if it was good, it definitely felt short and it didn’t engage me enough. I won’t recommend it because I didn’t like it enough, but if the description sounds interesting and you want to know what happens, I say go for it. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mood and you will love it. I do know that I’ll be reading these authors again, so that must count as something.
Review by Brie
Luke Bailey has dreams of building homes and putting down roots. But for a man with a rough past, finding any job isn't easy. When Mary Scott offers him a job-and a place to stay-mixing drinks and tapping beer at her theme bar, My Parents' Basement, Luke accepts. Customers flock to the cozy pub, designed to evoke memories of lost childhood, to meet and mingle and play games.
For Mary, her gorgeous new employee should be off-limits. She's his boss. And they're very different-something her interfering family constantly points out. But Mary's done playing the good girl. And Luke isn't the bad boy everyone thinks he is. Their attraction simmers until Mary seduces Luke into playing some deliciously adult games. Then a shocking betrayal threatens everything…
Carina Press. April 30, 2012