For seven years Rebecca has brightened my office with her wit and her smile. She manages both my hockey team and my sanity. I don’t know when I started waking in the night, craving her. All I know is that one whiff of her perfume ruins my concentration. And her laugh makes me hard.
When Rebecca gets hurt, I step in to help. It’s what friends do. But what friends don’t do is rip off each others’ clothes for a single, wild night together.
Now she’s avoiding me. She says we’re too different, and it can never happen again. So why can’t we keep our hands off each other?
I have been hoping this book would be written for a while, so I was super excited when Limecello asked me to review it. I was not disappointed, for the most part. This book is Nate (the owner of the Brooklyn Bruisers) and Becca’s story. Becca and Nate have been in the background of the Brooklyn Bruisers books, and almost everyone knows that Nate has feelings for Becca. Bowen did a lot of things in this book: she dealt with workplace harassment; privacy and technology; showing that Becca and Nate both have friends; and showing them caring for each other. There were a few things that bothered me, though, including the slightly off-putting flashback chapters, the non-resolution of Becca’s relationship with her sister, and a convenient plot twist. I did read the ARC of this book, so it’s possible some of these things are not in the final published copy. Also, there is Pride and Prejudice humor.
One thing that I enjoy seeing—which may label me a book nerd—is how different characters experience the same situation or understand other characters. For example, we have a scene in this book that also shows up in Pipe Dreams. Becca experiences it differently than Lauren. This is not inconsistency on Bowen’s part, but rather a way of showing how a character’s perception of a situation and her interactions with fellow characters and her surroundings shape her understanding of the experience, and as a result, the reader’s understanding of the scene. This is the really long, academic-sounding way of saying that there are scenes that take on new meaning because of who is narrating the experience. I think it’s cool; some people may find it repetitive or annoying.
Okay, I said workplace harassment, so let’s talk about that. As you may be able to tell from the cover copy, this is a romance between a billionaire and his assistant—there are lots of romances with this trope, some done well, some not so well. I think I’m particularly sensitive because of all the news that’s been in the air regarding harassment in the workplace, because I definitely was paying attention to how Bowen handled that. At first, Nate merrily pursued Becca, including bringing her to his house. There’s a decent reason he invites her over—she has known him since before he was a billionaire and feels comfortable with him—but at the same time, it is a little weird to invite your assistant to stay at your house while she’s vulnerable and recovering from an accident. Eventually, Nate’s friend has a manly talk with him, and Nate and Becca also have a conversation about it. To a certain extent, his respect for her amps up the tension in the story, but I’m glad he explicitly waited for her to make the first move once it was clear that they were both interested in a romantic relationship.
Nate has lots of technology lying around his house; he’s a tech billionaire whose first love is and has always been the inventing/coding part of the process, more than the business aspect. I loved seeing that, actually. But anyway, Nate has a system that is like Alexa, but cooler and more awesome. Supposedly, Nate is the admin of this super cool product—which he programmed to be able to synthesize the word patterns of Pride and Prejudice—but another person is in charge of reviewing the audio files that come from this super cool product always listening. This results in a conversation about privacy that is at a fairly personal level, but it was cool to see this problem being acknowledged. And, since we’re in romancelandia, it can be fixed, which made me even happier.
Both Nate and Becca have friends, and we get to see them interacting with their friends. To be completely fair, their friends are also their work colleagues, but they seemed to have good working relationships, so I’m cool with that. Becca and her friend Georgia often text each other throughout the book, and Nate and his close friend have serious and easygoing conversations. I would quote here, but it would spoil the story.
Becca and Nate take care of each other throughout the book. Nate does it in obvious, often expensive ways—which occasionally cause there to be tension between himself and Becca. He offers her a place to recover from her accident, for one thing. But Becca cares for him in a different way. She treats him like a normal guy when they’re together. She’s aware of his wealth and of what it asks of him, but she doesn’t let it become a part of their relationship—she doesn’t ask more of him because he’s rich. She also understands him and does her best to keep up with him.
And now to address the things I didn’t like so much. Becca’s sister, her baby, and her boyfriend live with Becca. Becca is the main person who pays the bills—including her sister’s college tuition, and yet for whatever reason, sister and boyfriend are off boinking instead of looking after their kid, even when Becca isn’t well. And it was never clear exactly what happened when Becca eventually moved in with Nate—did she keep paying the rent for her sister, or did her sister get a job? A couple has every right to have sexy times after having a kid, but it felt really inconsiderate of them to be noisily boinking while Becca wasn’t well—and somehow ends up with the crying baby, on top of everything else. Secondly, there are these chapters, mostly at the beginning of the book, which show Becca and Nate in the past, and they’re told in what I think is third person. They were jarring because the rest of the book is told in first person. I’m sensitive about flashbacks to begin with, but especially when they’re in a different point of view. That being said, the chapters were helpful because they show the reader Nate before he’s a billionaire, and Becca as she gains confidence in her job and pushes aside her original crush on Nate. I mentioned above how Nate’s super cool product creates an opportunity to discuss technology and privacy, which is one convenient plot device. The other is how he resolves the power imbalance between himself and Becca. It works out, and it makes sense, but it is extremely convenient.
Overall, I really enjoyed this book. I don’t recommend starting the series with this book, though, because a lot of the relationships won’t feel as fully fleshed out if you do. However, it’s fairly easy to follow along with what’s going on, if you don’t feel like reading three more books before getting to this one.