I received this book for free from Berkley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Racked and Stacked (Blacktop Cowboys, #9) by Lorelei James
Series: Blacktop Cowboys #9
Published by Berkley on August 7, 2018
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
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Growing up with three older brothers, Larissa "Riss" Thorpe defines the term tomboy--a moniker that never mattered to her until she crossed paths with sexy cowboy playboy, Ike Palmer. His declaration that he prefers his women soft and feminine is the one benefit to becoming his business partner. Since Riss is obviously not his type, there's little chance they'll mix business and pleasure when they're in close quarters on the road together.
Former cattle broker Ike Palmer was ready for a new chapter in his life when he partnered with Riss, a contrary redhead who lords her mechanical abilities over him at every turn. Ike raised his three younger sisters; he knows a thing or three about how women work. The problem is...Riss is unlike any woman he's ever met.
With the odds stacked against them, Riss and Ike will have to choose between the stubbornness that keeps them apart and the fiery attraction that could lead to something more...
Racked and Stacked is an enemies-to-lovers romance that, on paper, had everything that I loved, but somehow it didn’t quite come together for me.
Larissa Thorpe and Ike Palmer have clearly been at each other’s throats for the last several years. The animosity is strong enough that most people assume they’re actually sleeping together. They’re not, and they continue not to for at least 3/4 of this book. I’m fine with a slow burn, but it was different than other Lorelei James books that I’ve read. They’ve called a truce in the leadup to their best friends’ wedding, since she’s the maid of honor and he’s the best man, but the wedding happens in the opening chapter of this book, so the truce can officially be called off.
But then Riss breaks her arm, and Ike doesn’t think her older brothers are taking enough care of her, so he “rescues” her and brings her to his house, and the tension between them finally starts to boil over. Being in such close proximity to each other means that they’re forced to see each other in completely different ways. Riss is able to see that Ike’s bluster is all for show, hiding an insecurity about his education and place in the world. Ike starts to see that part of the reason Riss is so open and in-your-face is that she’s had to fight for her brothers to see her as an adult and take her seriously.
But they have a lot more in common than they expected, and those similarities are what they’re able to grasp onto and use as a foundation for their changing relationship. One of those similarities is a current lack of money, so they made a rule that their dates had to be free or as good as. I really like this aspect of their relationship. For some reason, money never seems to come up as an issue in romance novels, and even when it is brought up as an issue, it rarely seems to actually impact the character’s day-to-day lives. Riss and Ike actually worked to keep the dates as close to free as possible, and I loved the creativity they used to do this.
So why didn’t I rate this one higher? I couldn’t really connect with Riss and Ike. I liked them both, but in a neutral way. I wanted them both to get their HEA, but I wasn’t convinced it had to be with each other. I liked them together, but I didn’t love them. In real life, I don’t believe in the concept of one-true-love, soul mates, whatever you want to call it. I believe that you can be truly happy with multiple people, whether that’s all at one time or in a succession. In my romance novels, I believe the same thing, but I still want to believe that the two or three or twelve people in the relationship belong together, even if it’s just at this particular point in their lives. I didn’t get that feeling from Riss and Ike. I got the sense that they were each in a place in their lives where they wanted to settle down and they were each the most attractive and convenient option for the other.
I haven’t read the rest of this series, and maybe that’s part of the problem. Maybe if I’d read the earlier books in the series, I would have seen the relationship between Riss and Ike develop more, but this book should be able to stand on its own, and it didn’t.