by Lyssa Kay Adams
Release Date: March 10, 2020
Reviewed by Hellie
Braden Mack thinks reading romance novels makes him an expert in love, but he’ll soon discover that real life is better than fiction.
Liv Papandreas has a dream job as a sous chef at Nashville’s hottest restaurant. Too bad the celebrity chef owner is less than charming behind kitchen doors. After she catches him harassing a young hostess, she confronts him and gets fired. Liv vows revenge, but she’ll need assistance to take on the powerful chef.
Unfortunately, that means turning to Braden Mack. When Liv’s blackballed from the restaurant scene, the charismatic nightclub entrepreneur offers to help expose her ex-boss, but she is suspicious of his motives. He’ll need to call in reinforcements: the Bromance Book Club.
Inspired by the romantic suspense novel they’re reading, the book club assists Liv in setting up a sting operation to take down the chef. But they’re just as eager to help Mack figure out the way to Liv’s heart. . .even though she’s determined to squelch the sparks between them before she gets burned.
I cannot wait for you guys to read this book. You may recall in the BROMANCE BOOK CLUB that Braden Mack was the secondary character that all the women swooned over, repeatedly. He was hysterical and charming--and also the founder of the Bromance Book Club. I couldn’t wait to see who he finally ended up paired with. Lyssa did not disappoint. She gave him the most uncharmed, no-bullshit woman who I ever wanted to be friends with: Liv Papandreas.
Liv is Thea’s little sister (the heroine of the first book); and she is Salty with a capital S. I adore her. When she first meets Mack, he has just helped himself to her leftover chinese lo mein, and boy, can I relate. (Hands off my leftovers, people!) She is a pastry chef at a renown top tier restaurant, working for an asshole celebrity chef who sexually assaults his women workers and pays them off (and/or intimidates them) to keep quiet. When she discovers this side of her boss (who she thought was just a normal entitled asshole), she sets out to expose him.
However, Mack has also learned of this travesty and wants to help dispense justice. Liv doesn’t want his help, but that hardly matters, he’s going to help anyway. Mack is determined to protect Liv, even if from herself. Liv is determined to show Mack she doesn’t need protection and certainly not from him. Everything about Liv throws Mack off his game--any smooth moves he has had with women prior to Liv have evaporated, and it takes him quite a while to figure out presenting a charming perfect front is the opposite of authenticity and the connection with Liv he craves.
ENGLISH MAJOR GIBBERISH & FEMINIST RANT: As before, there is a “book within a book” subplot that does the doublework of presenting romance novels as feminist literature that helps people learn about themselves and how they connect and also as a foil for the main characters since the books the characters are drawn to are filled with characters with the same flaws and strengths they have to overcome and discover. Plus having the men meet and discuss the books, and also to stand for one another as the main character figures out what he needs to do to be authentic and loved is sweet and brilliant. Part of me, when reading it, felt it was a bit “wish fulfillment” (i.e. “Men would never do this!”), but then I thought about it and realized, the reason I don’t believe it could happen is that society doesn’t normalize it and make it an acceptable behavior for men to exhibit. Which is exactly the problem; and which is exactly what romance novels should be doing, yes? Breaking down barriers, increasing diversity, and celebrating true intimacy? So...yes, Bravo, Lyssa Kay Adams, for that scene where Mack is supported by his guy friends and he has a breakthrough. That is exactly what needs to happen. We need to make this normal if we ever want to help break the patriarchy from harming men as well as women.
Okay, off my soapbox now.
The banter is hysterical between the two main characters. This book was a quick read for me; and there were scenes where I was crying with laughter. (Randy the Rooster steals all the scenes. Note to self: never own a rooster. Also, who knew hens don’t have vaginas?) I did read Liv and wonder if most readers would love her as I do. She’s cynical, sarcastic, covered in barbed-wire, and unapproachable on a good day. And I also know we women tend to have a bit of a higher standard for women than we do with men, even in character form. But Mack is quick to see through Liv’s saltiness to her marshmallow center and not take her sarcasm and hatred of all things romantic personally. I hope readers do the same.
There is a third book in the series coming out in October which will feature two secondary characters from this book...and I cannot wait.