by Adriana Herrera
Publisher: Carina Press
Publication Date: August 25, 2020
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:
Starting over is more about who you’re with than where you live…
Julia del Mar Ortiz is not having the best year.
She moved to Dallas with her boyfriend, who ended up ditching her and running back to New York after only a few weeks. Left with a massive—by NYC standards, anyway—apartment and a car lease in the scorching Texas heat, Julia is struggling…except that’s not completely true. Running the charitable foundation of one of the most iconic high fashion department stores in the world is serious #lifegoals.
It’s more than enough to make her want to stick it out down South.
The only monkey wrench in Julia’s plans is the blue-eyed, smart-mouthed consultant the store hired to take them public. Fellow New Yorker Rocco Quinn’s first order of business? Putting Julia’s job on the chopping block.
When Julia is tasked with making sure Rocco sees how valuable the programs she runs are, she’s caught between a rock and a very hard set of abs. Because Rocco Quinn is almost impossible to hate—and even harder to resist.
I’ve enjoyed every single one of Ms. Herrera’s books, and this one is no exception. From her love of NYC to her relatable characters to the FEELS, this book is a treat!
Julia left her Dominican family in NYC to follow her boyfriend to Dallas… only for him to dump her and move back shortly afterwards. While her love life may be reeling, at least she loves her new job running an afterschool program for undocumented kids and their families as part of a department store’s charity foundation. But an IPO is on the horizon, and the board’s brought in consultants to give their verdict on how to get the company ready for it – and all signs point to them stripping the foundation of funding. Rocco knows finishing this job up quickly will get him back to NYC faster and get him the promotion he needs. If only he could keep his eyes… and thoughts… and hands… off Julia.
“Rocco had that lethal combination of boyish good looks and a slight edge. Like he could mow my lawn for me and then walk into the house and do unspeakable things to my body. And good Lord that was not the reel I needed going through my head right now.”
Julia’s my favorite kind of heroine. She’s smart, hardworking, and snarky, and she has a plan. Still smarting from her ex’s behavior, she’s sworn off romantic relationships in favor of focusing on finding new friends in Dallas. Enter the Gotham Exiles club, her attempt to connect with fellow ex-NYCs now stranded in Dallas. The only problem is that one of those exiles – even if only temporary – is Rocco, who she’s lusting over like crazy, and it’s obvious quickly that the attraction is returned. Rocco may act tough, but on the inside he’s an ooey gooey cinnamon roll – the type of guy who’ll rescue a probably flea-infested kitten. While he’s not Latinx, he grew up in Corona just like Julia, and his family background gives him a more empathetic perspective than your average white guy. What I think I loved the most about this couple is that while they’re both extremely competent at their jobs, they are absolute messes in their personal lives – and that’s OK! It’s something both need to come to terms with as part of their relationship. As for the steam level, this book is thirsty as all get out. There’s quite a bit of a slow burn as they navigate whether they could or should get into a relationship. But once we hit the “oh, I’ll just sleep with them once to get them out of my system” trope – I mean, we all know how that ends up, right? – it gets downright steamy.
“It’s great that you’re doing this with them. With poor kids, even when people are trying to help, the focus is always on food, or clothes, if they have a place to live. And don’t get me wrong—I know how necessary all those things are. It’s just nice to be seen as more than a problem to solve. For someone to remember you need oxygen in your lungs too, you know?”
Like most of Ms. Herrera’s books, it’s also a bit of a love letter to NYC, even though it’s almost entirely set in Dallas. And those NYCers of the Gotham Exiles club are a great example of found family. The secondary characters were well-rounded, distinct, and had some pretty hilarious interactions. Julia’s family, especially her parents, were especially well written, and just so amazingly supportive. The author’s background in social work, as usual, shines through here again, from the political shenanigans of every big foundation to the reminder that kids – especially kids with trauma backgrounds – need more than just food and shelter to thrive. As for that conflict, there’s a good balance and commensurate pacing between each character’s internal conflicts and the external conflict.
Overall, I enjoyed the heck out of this book and eagerly awaiting the next one. I’m honestly hoping that this will become a series with more from the Gotham Exiles!