by Kimberly Dean
Series: The Hackers #2
Publication Date: March 8, 2018
I received an advance review copy of this book from NetGalley. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Security analyst Spencer Weiler is excited when he lands a job at Afire Industries. The responsibility is daunting, but nowhere near as exhilarating as working with Josie Johnson, the pretty program manager in charge. Spencer lusts after her, but knows that she only sees him as a work friend. He needs to make himself over if he’s going to have a shot with her.
Josie is all too aware of the cute computer geek watching over her. He was tempting before, but with his newfound muscles and sexy haircut, he’s suddenly an irresistible stud. She makes the first move and is stunned to learn that her hot IT guy is just as studious in the sack. Their affair turns hot and heavy, but Josie had broken her rule about dating coworkers once before. It hadn’t ended well. When her ex returns and posts scandalous pictures of her on the Internet, it’s not Spencer’s muscles that she needs. She needs a hacker.
I fully admit that I probably had way too high expectations for this book. I’ve previously worked in both network security and as a project manager, so when the blurb had characters with those careers, I practically broke my keyboard requesting it. Alas, there were no raunchy firewall jokes. This is the second book in the Hackers series (the first was Kylie and Luke’s relationship), but I read it as a standalone.
“Pages in her day planner flipped this way and that. He didn’t know if she was truly looking for notes. He couldn’t make heads or tails of her system with all those Post-it flags, page separators, and various colors of ink. ‘What is that thing?’ he finally asked.
She turned to another page. ‘My day planner.’
It was like something out of the Jurassic period. ‘It’s paper.’
She shot him a sideways look of surprise that slowly narrowed. ‘I know. I write on it with this thing. It’s called a ‘pen.’”
Spencer is the new security hire for Afire, and part of his job is working with Josie, the program manager for Start ‘er Up, Afire’s startup accelerator. While he doesn’t appear to be particularly socially inept with most people, when he first meets Josie, he can’t even get a word in English out – he greets her with “Hi-lo” (instead of “hello”) which becomes their own private joke. He’s completely bowled over by her at first sight, and while obviously he doesn’t make a great first impression with Josie, his expressive puppy-dog eyes and sweet goofiness soon have her thinking about him in a different light. I enjoyed that Spencer was the ugly duckling in this book, though after a few weeks of working out and a haircut, suddenly he’s beefcake material. Josie, on the other hand, prides herself on her organization and problem-solving skills, interfacing between the various startups at the accelerator, venture funds, and Afire itself. Cutely enough, Spencer loves the managerial way she handles things, and calls her “Strawberry” because of her red hair. While it’s obvious to everyone else that Josie is the essential piece in Start ‘er Up, she constantly feels the need to prove herself – Afire is a geeky company, and she isn’t a geek, and she’s a woman in tech, on top of that.
“’I’m not so different from you, Spencer,’ she said in a quiet voice. ‘I’m geeky in my own way. I like structure and schedules. I work with people and form connections, but I’m about as far from a party girl as you can get.’”
One of my main problems was that Spencer was a Big Bang Theory kind of geek. He’s a good guy, just completely socially awkward, especially around the woman he’s interested in. At one point, he talks about reverse-engineering his boss’s relationship to figure out how he, as a geek guy, can be in a relationship with a “normal girl.” It was initially charming and funny, but after a few jokes about hacking his relationship, it got a bit old. Some of the “geek jokes” were a bit too twee for me. For instance:
“‘Oh God, Spencer.’ She clutched his muscled back. ‘You’re too good for me.’
For a moment, his hips stopped plunging. ‘You’re sweet, Strawberry, but I’m the one who’s leveling up.’”
If you can’t tell – that was in the middle of a sex scene, and it was jarring enough that I put the book down for a while.
Overall, this was enjoyable, but hit somewhat short of the mark for me.