by Heather Blackmore
Publisher: Bold Strokes Books
Publication Date: March 13, 2018
Reading Challenges: Title Hunt Quarterly Challenge: January - March 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:
Falling in love is the hardest business of all.
Entrepreneur and innovator Kadrienne Davenport gets results. A demanding executive and stickler for punctuality, Kade throws herself into work to avoid hurting anyone, convinced she only causes pain to those she loves.
When Jennifer Spencer meets an incognito Kade at a conference, sparks fly. But when Kade unexpectedly becomes her boss, Jen’s problems multiply. The company she founded is going broke, her grandmother’s dementia is worsening, and her attraction to Kade―her difficult, brilliant, charismatic mentor―is growing.
Kade’s desire to keep things professional between them is in Jen’s best interest. Yet what’s in Kade’s best interest…is Jen.
Oh, this was just lovely. I was expecting just another workplace romance – which I love, by the way – but this was so much more. Besides the sweet romance, it’s about friends, family, and forgiveness.
“I worry about you. Too much perk. It’s unhealthy.”
There’s a lot to unpack in this book about women’s roles and “women’s work.” Jen is optimistic and sunny, and she founded her startup company after she struggled to find reliable caregivers for her Nana. Her parents are on the east coast taking care of her other set of grandparents, so her Nana’s care falls solely on her – and caregiving is, of course, traditionally women’s work. Jen is a naturally nurturing person, and that extends from her Nana to her employees, and her treatment of them leads to extraordinary loyalty. On the opposite side, Kade’s already founded two companies and is now a partner at a venture capital firm, but all of her leadership traits come from her father, a meticulous, detail-oriented man – whom she despises. She’s obsessed with sticking to her schedule, and is firmly career-oriented, to the point of having a boardroom, complete with whiteboards and projectors, set up at her house. Kade’s proof that women can be successful in the men’s club world of tech – if they’re willing to give up any chance of work/life balance and work twice as hard as a man. She most certainly doesn’t have time for dating or a relationship! Once Jen finds out who Kade is, she realizes this as well. Kade may have blazed a trail for women in tech, but she’s also set a precedent that it can only be accomplished by a laser focus on your career while dismissing everything else in life, making women like Jen – who are trying to find a work/life balance that actually allows them to have a life – look uncommitted and unprofessional. Of course, this doesn’t come without consequences to Kade, as well. She’s been damaged by past events, weighed down by guilt and pain, and despite the proof of her success, suffers from an extreme lack of self-worth. When Jen hesitates to ask Kade for advice because she doesn’t want her to think that she’s just using her for her experience, Kade doesn’t understand, because she thinks that’s pretty much all she’s good for.
The chemistry between Jen and Kade was seriously intense, and their relationship itself was just so adorably sweet. They’re both workaholics, to a greater or lesser extent, so their idea of relaxation is takeout or maybe going on a picnic. And, like every good relationship, the sum of them together is more than the parts. Kade supports Jen and her business ventures, sometimes with her years of experience, and sometimes just letting her vent without jumping in to offer advice. Jen’s positivity rubs off on Kade, making her question some of her long held assumptions about herself and the past. Of course, since this is a romance novel, there has to be a major conflict to overcome – and this one was a doozy. I was impressed, however, with both how Ms. Blackmore showed how hurtful the conflict was to both characters, and how they both managed to rise above it.
“How are you not married?” she said as she poured coffee.
“I could ask you the same thing.”
Kade chuckled and grabbed the milk. Before adding a splash, she ticked off reasons, extending her thumb and fingers as she listed each. “Easy. Workaholic. Can’t cook. OCD about being on time. Intimidating. Inflexible. For starters.”
Jen took up the task and started counting. “How about helpful, sharp, insightful, sweet, and funny?”
Kade eyed her skeptically as she returned the carton to the fridge. “Sure, if we’ve moved on to you.”
“You’re very frustrating.”
“See? Another one. Add it to the list. Stubborn, too, while you’re at it.”
Kade had a lot of emotional baggage, and a lot of ground to cover, in terms of reworking 20+ years of harmful thought patterns, so there’s quite a bit dealing with her past and how’s it affected her life to this point and sabotaged her relationship with Jen. While understanding this, it did feel like the book slowed down a bit with all the internal problems that Kade was trying to sort out. Some people may also think it focuses too much on the businesses, but I really enjoyed all the startup talk. Unlike previous books I’ve read, I was impressed with how much this got right – from the company name changes, to the long work weeks, to the crazy late night PowerPoint second-guessing. So, I wasn’t surprised when I read Ms. Blackmore’s bio and saw that she works with startups in the Bay Area.
“In all these years, time—the keeper she’d so meticulously respected—had not healed the wounds. She needed to try something new.”
Overall, this was such a meaningful book, from the struggles of women in tech, to dealing with unresolved guilt, to balancing a relationship with work. Highly recommended, and I’ll definitely be looking for more of Ms. Blackmore’s work!
Reading this book contributed to these challenges: