Thursday, October 13, 2016


Genre: Romantic Comedy


Joel Anderson doesn’t take anything seriously.

Not his relationships, which have been few and far between since his brutal divorce. Not the drama of working in a tattoo parlor, which seems to be around every corner. When things get him down, he smiles and cracks a joke. But he’s not the kind of man you cross, or you’ll find yourself at the wrong end of his fists.

Annika Belousov takes everything seriously.

Like her job as a reality television producer, given that she typically has something to prove. Or her love life, which is defined by a series of requirements — affluent, ambitious, accomplished, to name a few. Definitely her family, who worked their whole lives to afford her every opportunity, a sacrifice she doesn’t take lightly. When she’s tapped to produce a reality show at Joel’s shop, she doesn’t think twice, just goes in for the kill, as if there were any other way.

The second Annika walks into Joel’s shop, he makes it his mission to crack her open, but she’s not having it. He’s all wrong — too crass, too hairy, too un-serious. But it doesn’t take her long to find out there’s more to him than smirks and tattoos. And what she finds could put her career and his heart on the line.

Not that Joel cares. Because for the first time in a long time, he’s found his tonic.

~Book Review~
3 Stars

Joel Anderson is a tattoo artist running his shop, Tonic. Railroaded by his brother and employees, he agrees to a reality TV show about the trade. Annika Belusov is the producer assigned to run the show.

Told via Joel and Annika’s alternating first person POV, the opening scene jumps right into the premise with a blast of insta love/lust on Joel’s part. I felt it needed a little more build-up as well as a stronger introduction to the characters. Their initial meeting and dialogue felt awkward with a lot more tell than show. I just didn’t feel their connection.  And then Annika describes herself as a “frigid bitch” and Joel as a “hairy fucking guy” and I honestly wondered why the readers were supposed to be attracted or endeared to either of these characters. Frankly if this had been a sample on Amazon rather than an ARC, I would have moved on to the next book right there.

I’m not a fan of reality TV in the real world; however, that’s not stopped me from enjoying other books with this reality TV premise. But I don’t think I’ve encountered a heroine in the position that Annika is in who was so unlikable, with such little integrity, and disregard for treating people like human beings.
“They were just meat puppets, pawns in a game to move around, crash into each other, all while trying to make sure we caught it all on camera.”
The main couple was largely the problem I had with getting into this story.  First it was Annika’s cold response to innocent people, and later it was Joel’s bratty behavior over something that seemed immature for a thirty-eight year old man.

This is listed as a romantic comedy; however, I failed to find humor in the story. I think it would more aptly be categorized as simply a contemporary romance.  There is some reality TV contrived drama/angst and a love-hate romantic angle with a predictable misunderstanding. I do give the story points for avoiding some clichéd pitfalls that I expected, but it didn't fall prey to. On that note, many minor characters exhibited more maturity and sensibility than Joel or Annika.

There are quite a few sexy scenes, and thankfully they are just Joel and Annika. It's getting harder these days to find romances that don't exploit sex scenes with other people, so I also give this romance points for sticking to the main couple.

All in all, it’s simply an “okay” romance, nothing terrible but nothing spectacular. If you are looking for a reality TV romcom or love-hate romcom, there are definitely others I’d recommend instead; but if you're simply looking for a safe read, this one should fit the bill. 


Staci Hart has been a lot of things up to this point in her life: a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can't forget that. She's also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She's been a wife, even though she's certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She's also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she's been drinking whiskey. Her favorite word starts with f and ends with k.

From roots in Houston, to a seven year stint in Southern California, Staci and her family ended up settling somewhere in between and equally north, in Denver. They are new enough that snow is still magical. When she's not writing, she's sleeping, cleaning, or designing graphics.


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