Series: Hot & Hammered, #3
Published by Avon on 22nd September 2020
Buy on Amazon
Hair, makeup, clothing, decor... everything in Bethany Castle's world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family's real estate business are the most coveted in town.
The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She's on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.
When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother's construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany's skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.
As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It's a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany's perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.
Tessa Bailey’s writing is always something to behold and I’ve always thought that her assurance with words made her reads easier and engaging. The Hot & Hammered series however, has been so far, a hit and miss for me, though I can’t ever resist the enemies-to-romance sort of story.
‘Tools of Engagement’ feels more like a faux enemies-to-lovers kind, with the current of attraction always simmering below the surface, as Bethany and Wes battle it out to flip a house. There’s always this hint of Wes being out of Bethany’s ordered and somewhat snooty league compounded by an older-woman-younger-man age difference but Bailey corrects this ‘imbalance’ out slowly, with smooth rejoinders and innuendo-filled banter that go a long way in getting both Wes and Bethany on the same footing.
That Wes is as stand-up, maturely put-together and as honourable as they come doesn’t hurt either, especially for an older woman consumed by her own insecurities and dating failures. I liked Wes’s sense of irreverence when it comes to the uptight Bethany; it makes for decent comedy at times interspersed with fierce competition (a.k.a. foreplay?) and a way of seeing through her supposed well-put-together facade.
But if the romance part of ‘Tools of Engagement’ interested me, I couldn’t entirely say I was invested throughout especially given the context of construction—something that just personally couldn’t get me interested at all. Add Bethany’s hyper-sensitivity about her own issues about love and loss at the age of thirty to the fray, it got quite overdrawn at times, and often it looked as though Wes was the only one left to carry the weight of the narrative and their romance through to the finish line given the uphill battle he had to fight each time for Bethany’s commitment.
So not quite Bailey’s best book for me really, but it’s one I can see many others liking because it’s quite a polished one nonetheless: reined in, confident without the exaggerated dirty talk that permeated her earlier works, yet has a pretty good balance of heartfelt emotion and steam.