by Jessica Lemmon
Series: Real Love #4
Publication Date: May 15, 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:
This is one bad boy who’s fit to print. A notorious jock tackles life—and love—after football with a type-A journalist in this sexy standalone from the author of Eye Candy.
As a former pro football star, I’m used to playing the field. After injuries cut my NFL career short, my second act as a broadcaster ended on live television when a hot mic picked up a little verbal . . . indiscretion. But this latest publicity stunt might just land me back on top—much to the chagrin of Catarina Everhart, the prissy, beautiful journalist who’s been assigned to date a bad boy (i.e., me) and write about it. Catarina swears I’ll never touch her, let alone kiss those full lips of hers. Based on our chemistry, I’m not buying it. . . .
Barrett Fox seems to be doing everything in his power to make me hate him. The cocky egomaniac is infamous for his bad behavior, and now, thanks to my boss’s harebrained schemes, he’s apparently my problem. As one fake date leads to another, I start to see a different side of Barrett. He’s close with his family. He does volunteer work. And, okay, he kisses like a dream. Am I really dating Barrett Fox? Or is he playing me? Because suddenly I’m risking my reputation—and my heart.
Isn’t that cover eye-catching? You can tell right from it that it’s got the enemies-to-lovers trope, and that the heroine is rather straitlaced while the hero is, well, not! This is the fourth in a series, but I read it as a standalone without any issues.
“It’s astounding you have any chicks willing to cheer you up given your inability to speak to a woman with a modicum of respect. Is it that difficult for you to choose your words, Mr. Fox?” I add coolly. “If so, this is the wrong business for you.”
Barrett is an unrepentant bad boy – the sort of person who, when Catarina calls him out for staring at her chest at their first meeting, responds that she has really nice rack. He’s an ex-football player who got kicked out of his commentator job for seriously inappropriate comments to a female ref. Catarina is speechless when she finds out her boss wants her to fake date Barrett for a series of articles, but as a consummate professional, she resolves to grin and bear it. Barrett’s pretty much immediately attracted to Catarina, but Catarina already has a boyfriend, though their relationship is, well, passionless. But after a few fake dates, both Catarina and Barrett find that the other isn’t exactly how they first appear, but can anything happen between two such different people?
“This is going to be fantastic. Both of you will be in the other’s element but out of your own. It’s brilliant. Is there any way I can talk you into some platonic PDA? Hold hands. Walk close. Lay your head on his shoulder?”
Since she’s directing that to me, I answer with, “Platonic would imply we were friends.” I slice Barrett with a look. “I bet Fox can’t even spell the word platonic.”
He flinches—just the slightest pull of his mouth and narrowing of his eyes—before recovering. What a wilting lily. So he had a few typos. Who cares? It happened to me when I first started, and still does on occasion.”
Both characters had their annoying bits. Catarina initially acted like a complete jerk to Barrett due to his sexually charged and misogynistic comments, seemingly without realizing that her catty put-downs of him were not much different than his angry comments to the ref. Barrett’s a bit like an overgrown mischievous teen, mocking how to taste wine at a fancy restaurant, starting a fake argument about an affair with a dentist at lunch, teasing her about having sex in an unoccupied office at work. Barrett’s behavior straddled the line of complete asshole, and some of his antics had me wincing in response. It seems, however, that it’s exactly what Catarina needed to shock her out of her acceptance of her lackluster dating life. I never really liked Barrett, though I understood why he acted that way and certainly had sympathy for his background and current struggles. This isn’t really a redemption story for him, either, as I’m pretty sure at the end of the book that Barrett would do the same thing that got him kicked out of broadcasting again. It’s more like learning to look beneath the surface – of Barrett’s clownishness and Catarina’s uptightness.
“You’re kind,” I tell him.
“Kind.” He says it like it’s an insult. “Sounds sexy.”
“Kindness is very sexy. You don’t find that quality in every man. Hell, I haven’t found it any man.” I think of North. He wasn’t kind. He was . . . what’s the word? Tolerant. Tolerance isn’t the same as kindness. Kindness is an action. It’s for the brave souls of the world. It’s for the Barrett Foxes of the world.”
I thought the sexual tension was good, though the sex scenes left me pretty meh. Their banter was excellent, though, again a lot of Barrett’s comments were in pretty poor taste. I’m not usually a fan of grand gestures, but the resolution of the big conflict was perfect for this couple. As for the rest of the big conflict, I was unbelievably angry at the cause of it. View Spoiler »Mia, the editor, edits Catarina’s article to expose Barrett’s disability – without his permission. I thought forcing Catarina into the whole fake dating thing for the sake of ad revenue was a dick move to begin with, but this really took the cake. I could not understand why Catarina continued to work with her after that happened, and was very disappointed by it. It pretty much ruined the end of the book for me. « Hide Spoiler
Overall, while I enjoyed most of the book, the resolution spoiled it for me. I think I’d rate this more of a 3.5 because of it, but I’ll round up to 4. I’d still recommend this, especially for readers who like lots of sexually charged banter.