Heat level: I dunno. Didn't make it that far.
Contemporary Romance/Rom com
Publication date: 02/22/2021
Kindle Unlimited: Yes
Cliffhanger: I dunno.
I haven't DNF'd in a while, y'all. And I certainly haven't DNF'd anything that I felt the need to rant about in a while. But, here it goes:
Plot overview: Fresh out of prison Eli is trying to get his life back on track AND keep his hands off his kid's nanny, Jessa. Honestly, that's about as far as I made it. If there was a giant twist after the 26% mark of the book, I wouldn't know. Oh, and Jessa was Eli's naughty pen pal while he was in prison. She knows that...but he doesn't know she's the one he's been sexting. (Is it sexting if it's writing kinky letters? I dunno. Probably not. But I'm calling it sexting for lack of a better term. It's my review and no one is the boss of me, after all. But I digress...)
Trope bingo: Ex con, boss/employee romance, grumpy one is soft for the sunshine one, small town, single dad romance.
I really wanted to love this one. I mean, I love ex con romance! Single dads and small town romances are my jam! And "the grumpy one is soft for the sunshine one" is my ALL TIME FAVORITE trope. But despite having all those wonderful things going for it, I didn't love this book. Why? Mostly because of Eli, the hero.
Now, I don't mind that he's grumpy. I love grumpy heroes. I don't mind that he's angry, either, because frankly, if I'd spent time in prison and lost out on years of my kid's life because of something I didn't do (I'm guessing he was innocent of the crimes he was incarcerated for. Just a guess) I'd be a giant rage monster, too. But Eli took it too far, in my opinion. Here's why I couldn't get invested in his happily ever after:
1. He's a dick to his parents who selflessly stepped in and kept his daughter out of the foster care system when he went to jail. If Eli was innocent, they don't know that. So, in their minds (and mine), they did their guilty son a HUGE favor. How does he repay them? By being a giant asshole to them.
2. He marches into his parents house on his first day out of prison and yells and screams and DEMANDS his parents pack up his daughter's shit and let her leave with him. To go live in the rundown home that hasn't been inhabited in years. Now, the kid doesn't really know him at this point. He's been nothing but a picture on her nightstand for just about her entire life. But he's still willing to selfishly uproot her from all she's ever known and loved out of a desire to get HIS life back on track. I mean, I know he loves her. That's not in question. But he doesn't consider how she might feel about things AT ALL. He was a high-handed asshat with his kid and I have zero tolerance for it.
3. Eli has "An evil ex". I loathe the "evil ex" trope. I especially loathe the evil ex trope when the hero's interactions with this ONE woman lead him to think things like, "All women are rotten. Liars. Cheats. All of them." Yes, that's an actual quote from the book, chapter 7. I want to reach through my Kindle and nut-punch characters who think like this. No, dumbass, not ALL women are assholes. You made ONE bad choice and now inexplicably hold the entire gender responsible for the actions of ONE woman. *BIG eyeroll*
4. Eli is a jerk to his brothers, too. Apparently they were supposed to go out of their way to maintain everything (his house, his stuff at work, etc.) in his absence. I'm sure he never asked them too, but he seemed to expect it of them anyway. Dude, it's not THEIR fault you didn't make any plans before you pled guilty to crimes you may or may not have committed. They have lives to lead, too. They aren't responsible for your stuff.
Then, on a non-hero-related note...maybe this is just the grumpy old lady in me, but I find it a little strange that Jessa would pick a prison pen pal and exchange explicit letters with him about his "sex with you in my prison cell" fantasies. It was jarring. Having a random sexy prison pen pal was a strange enough concept for me, but add in the fact that she's caring for this man's daughter while she's carrying on this kind of relationship with him, unbeknownst to him? I can only imagine how he's going to react when he finds out, and it ain't going to be good. It's not like he's a great big 'ole teddy bear at the best of times. That's going to get ugly. Yikes.
When Eli writes a letter to "Monica" (Jessa's pen name) and says he wants to meet her for sex, I tapped out. I just didn't like Eli enough to think he deserved a happily ever after with Jessa or anyone else for that matter.
So, long-story-short, this one wasn't my cuppa. On a positive note, though, it was actually really well written. I think I really would've enjoyed it had Eli's fuckery been toned down a little. But if you're a more patient reader than me who doesn't mind alphahole heroes, you might want to consider giving this one a shot. (I'm not being sarcastic. If you don't mind jerks, and, say, bully romances, Eli is right up your alley. You do you. I don't judge.)
Does this book contribute to or help crush the romance stigma?
Well, the whole "every woman on the planet is awful EXCEPT THE HEROINE" trope is VERY stigma-y. But other than that, this one is stigma free. It just wasn't my cuppa.