by Tamsen Parker
Series: License to Love #2
Publisher: Tamsen Parker
Publication Date: February 26, 2019
I received an advance review copy of this book from Publisher. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.My rating:
Love might mean coming as you are, but staying is a different matter.
Nick Fischer is a screw-up; everyone knows it and they’re not afraid to tell him so. The only thing he’s got going for him is that he plays a reliable rhythm guitar for License to Game, and his big fat bulldog, Princess Fiona, is so ugly she’s cute.
Dempsey Lawrence is a former child star turned financial advisor, and while she’s curious about the hot mess of a man who’s her co-panelist for a presentation on financial literacy, she has no intention of pursuing anything with him. Too loud, too crass, too wild, Nick is altogether too much. Plus, he’s famous, and she is so over stardom and everything that comes with it.
Except that when Dempsey gives Nick an inch, he takes a mile, and she finds that she doesn’t mind so much. Until Nick brings the pitfalls of stardom to Dempsey’s doorstep, then all the attraction in the world might not be enough to promise a happily ever after.
I first started reading Ms. Parker’s work with the excellent Snow and Ice Games series from last year, and I’ve followed along with the spin-off series of the band from the first book in that series, License to Game. I was happy to see that goofy Nick was finally getting his book!
“Do you always talk this much?” Dempsey sounds kind of… Impressed isn’t the right word, because there’s definitely an element of she’s staring but maybe because I’m a car wreck and she can’t look away, not because she’s lusting over me and my hot bod or my sweet ride or the sick time I could show her pretty much anywhere but especially Vegas.”
Nick’s the rhythm guitarist of hit boy band License to Game, and if you’ve followed the last couple of books, you’d know that the band is slowly winding towards its eventual obsolescence. While the other band members have solo projects they’re developing concurrently – and significant others – Nick’s the lone one out with neither a love interest or an idea of what to do after. Dempsey, on the other hand, has already reached her “after” – she’s a former child star whose parents and accountant embezzled all her money, so now she works as a financial consultant to prevent the same thing from happening to other child stars. They “meet” as a result of Nick’s latest ordered community service, and Nick is fascinated by the put-togethered-ness of Dempsey, while she’s charmed by his “bouncy ball” personality. Can they overcome their seemingly insurmountable differences to be together?
“It’s kind of a bummer when I think of somewhere I’d like to take her or something I’d like to do with her that I can’t bring here, but it’s not a big thing. Inconvenient, but it’s just how things are. If I want to be with Dempsey, then I have to be here, which is an easy call to make—here it is.”
What I really loved about this book was how the mental health rep was handled. Nick has ADHD that he compensates for by hiring others to help take care of him (a housekeeper, good financial consultant). Dempsey is introverted and has anxiety and agoraphobia – so much that she is unable to leave her house. While I don’t have agoraphobia, I have anxiety, and I found the descriptions to be thoughtful and close to my own. Nick’s a lovable goofball, and his struggles with impulse control lead to him doing things that occasionally hurt others but mostly just hurt himself (for instance, wanting to unicycle naked while playing the accordion… in a fountain). The chapters from Nick’s POV were, frankly, somewhat exhausting for me to read. That’s not to say they’re badly written, but instead more of a compliment to just how well Ms. Parker puts us in Nick’s head. He’s very stream-of-conscious, and it was overwhelming at times for my own anxiety.
You would think that two such radically different people wouldn’t work, but they fit each other. Nick’s energy fills up the empty spaces in Dempsey’s life, and Dempsey brings a calm and organized energy to Nick’s. That’s not to say that their love magically cures each other – and what a relief that was! Both characters accept the other’s diagnosis without trying to change them. The consent was well done, and I found this extremely lovely, as part of Dempsey’s trauma dealt with sexual assault when she was a teen. By the time Nick comes on the scene, however, it’s something that she’s worked through, though, mostly with the help of hired escorts, including one on page who’s become a good friend to her, as well. The main conflict stems from the fact that Nick thrives on his fame – and, in fact, can’t do his job without it – but that fame is inherently harmful to Dempsey. While Nick never intentionally sets out to hurt her, he’s impulsive and sometimes (frequently) acts without thinking in ways that put her at risk, mentally and sometimes physically. There’s several occasions where his surprises for Dempsey were utterly horrifying to this introverted reader, but it’s obvious that he has no ill intent, and frankly, he’s refreshingly what-you-see-is-what-you-get.
“Do you think they make dresses for dogs who want to be taken seriously or do you think those things are mutually exclusive?”
Nick’s dog, Fiona, a pitbull, absolutely steals the show, by the way. She’s a good complement to Nick’s whirlwind, and I think helped a lot towards making me feel more charitable towards him despite some of his antics. I loved how she became as equally a part of Dempsey’s life as Nick did.
Overall, I enjoyed this book, and I’m a little sad that it seems like this is the end of the License to Game series, since all of the band members have been paired off now. I’ll definitely be following Ms. Parker to see what she does next, though!