Avon Impulse, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-06-249781-9
Contemporary Romance, 2016
Please note that there are some spoilers in this review, as a big part of why this book works for me is due to the way the author resolves the issues between her hero and the heroine late in the story. I can use the red spoiler bar, but that will result in a review that is almost entirely hidden away. Rather unpleasant to look at. So, I’m just going to charge right ahead, and you should stop reading if you wish to avoid being spoiled.
Love on My Mind is a career woman keeping a secret from the hero story. Usually it’s a female journalist interacting with the hero, hoping to get a scoop that will make her career, only to fall in love with him in the process, but here, Chelsea Grant is a PR executive who is under a NDA to groom hot nerd Adam Bennett into a more media-friendly person. She approaches him under the guise of a very friendly and helpful new neighbor. Soon, they fall in love. What will happen when her secret comes out? If you have read this story, you know the routine. He gets mad, she quits her job, he takes her back, the end. This one follows the exact same route. Let’s just say that people shouldn’t be reading this story for fresh and innovative story lines.
The characters seem dodgy at first too. Adam Bennett is another fake nerd. You know, the hot muscular guy who gets nerd status because he has a perma stubble and dabbles in IT. He’s also very arrogant, expecting to crow his achievements at every available opportunity, and doesn’t care that his products may not sell if he continues alienating the media. I know, this works for Donald Trump, but Adam is nowhere the showman that President Trump is: he’s just a surly, bad-tempered grouch who gives no hoot if his business fails and his employees go down as a result because it’s all about him. Chelsea is a capable heroine – thank goodness – but the author, perhaps worried that angry romance readers will crucify the heroine for daring to want to be good in her career instead of settling for less, saddles the poor woman with a sad childhood (slutty mom, childhood bullies, et cetera) to justify the poor dear’s ambitions.
And yet, when the story continues, the author unleashes her secret weapon: her devastatingly charming and apparently easy ability to create some really good chemistry for her main characters through a nice mix of amusing and believable banter, charming little moments, and believable sexual tension. The whole thing takes place in less than a month, but I think I can believe that the feelings are real. Once the story focuses on the romance, the story becomes a charming, sweet read.
Of course, the shoe has to drop, the hero gets mad, and the heroine gets teary-eyed as she hands in her resignation. Usually, this development has unfortunate implications, as it suggests that a woman has to choose between love and career, with no in-between, unlike the man who always gets to have it all without having to apologize for his ambitions. Here, however, the author handles everything much to my liking.
I roll up my eyes when the heroine resigns, but the author smartly ties this decision to the heroine’s own epiphany that her ambitions are tied to her need to overcome her childhood demons. Being a partner in a PR agency is not what she really wants – it’s what she thought she had to do. She’s already had an abundance of riches in her life: good friends, money, and such. When the author puts it this way, Chelsea’s resignation doesn’t seem like some clichéd development as much as an organic development that arises from her soul searching.
When the hero learns of her resignation, it isn’t taken as evidence of her sincerity or some rot. No, he sees this as evidence of how much of an asshole he has been to her. Very nicely played by the author, I have to say, and it’s especially good to have a hero who appreciates what the heroine can do in her line of work and does not want her to choose between him and her work. He also experiences an epiphany that lays the blame mostly – and rightly – on his own overreaction to the grand reveal, and thus, when these two reunite for the happily ever after, I think they will be alright. That happily ever after scene in the last chapter normally will be a little too sweet for my liking, but given what happened in the pages leading to that chapter, I find myself going, “Aww! These two are so adorable!” instead.
I had little expectations when I started reading Love on My Mind – Tracey Livesay is someone whose works I am unfamiliar with – but I end up having the time of my life with this one. It could use a better premise – I will always wonder what could have been if Chelsea had been open about being Adam’s Professor Higgins – but everything else is just fine, perfectly so, where I am concerned.