Series: Dive Bar #2
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on April 11, 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
When his younger brother loses interest in online dating, hot, bearded, bartender extraordinaire, Joe Collins, only intends to log into his account and shut it down. Until he reads about her.
Alex Parks is funny, friendly, and pretty much everything he's been looking for in a woman. And in no time at all they're emailing up a storm, telling each other their deepest darkest secrets... apart from the one that really matters.
And when it comes to love, serving it straight up works better than with a twist.
Whew. This book was a lot. I read Dirty, the first book in the series, and I mostly enjoyed it. This one was a whole different story. There will be some spoilers here, since I can’t really discuss the issues I had without them, but if you’re planning to read the book, bookmark this review and come back after you’ve read it.
Alex and Eric met online, through a dating app, and hit it off immediately. So Alex decides to…. fly from Seattle to northern Idaho to surprise him???? We meet her as she’s walking into Dive, the bar Eric owns to surprise him. Only Alex is the one who’s surprised because Eric has no idea who she is. And he treats her like complete shit in front of everyone, which was a charming scene. That’s our first twist – Alex has actually been communicating with Eric’s brother, Joe, the entire time. As far as I can tell, Joe mainly lied about his name and biographical details, but was mostly himself when actually speaking to Alex. Which does not make it better at all, but he didn’t just invent an entirely new person.
They argue, she leaves again, he follows her (of course he does, because nothing says “I’m harmless and just want to make things right” like a strange man following a woman in the dark after she’s made it clear that she doesn’t want to speak with him) and at first, I was impressed that Alex was actually sticking by her guns and going home to Seattle.
But she didn’t. To be fair, she picked up some sort of super-flu on the plane and couldn’t even stand up, much less fly home. And Joe took care of her. I don’t know how to feel about this. She really did need help, and she was alone. But this random dude who introduced himself by lying to her, was in her hotel room with her, stripping her down, making her food and drinks (water, juice) for her. I don’t know – I fully admit that I may be overly cautious. And since he was clearly the hero of this book, he wasn’t going to do anything to her. But in a non-romance world, he very easily could have, and there’s no way she could have done anything about it in her state.
Things proceeded along a fairly standard romance novel plot from here. Alex kept finding reasons to not go home, Joe kept pretending not to notice and they both continued to refuse to admit anything emotional was happening. Until around 70% in. Something big happened (this won’t be something I spoil) and Joe blamed himself. He blamed himself so much that he told Alex to go. He didn’t want to see her anymore. He actually went down on her, then told her that he just couldn’t deal with her right then and she needed to go back to Seattle. Then he left the hotel and wouldn’t talk to her. And Alex…. Alex just wouldn’t leave. She continued to stay in Idaho, forcing herself into Joe’s proximity, even though he told her over and over and over, in very plain words, that he didn’t want her there. She just wouldn’t go home. This wasn’t a tough love situation, either. She wasn’t trying to make him see that they were really super great together. She just decided that now she wanted him, and that was all that mattered. These two just could NOT listen to each other.
She finally does leave, realizing she has a career and a life to get back to in Seattle. She just slips away and doesn’t tell anyone she’s leaving, and he’s so mad at her for leaving that he refuses to speak to her when she tries to reach out. These two were just too much. They were ridiculous. A few months later she went to a wedding she was invited to, Joe was there, and he was pissed at her again for being there. He’s pissed that she’s in Idaho, he’s pissed that she goes back to Seattle, he’s pissed when she’s back in Idaho.
Alex was a little more of a doormat than I generally like my romance characters to be, and Joe was just too much. He wasn’t even a grumpy hero. He was just unpleasant to be around.
The biggest issue I had with the book, however, was an issue I had with Alex and her best friend Valerie. Valerie is a trans woman, and when Alex talks about her, she refers to her as Valerie, using her chosen pronouns – she/her/hers. Great! Good for Alex. But Alex and Valerie have been friends since they were kids, and when she talks about the past, she says things like “Back when Valerie was Vince, he did this, he said that, he went here,” etc. Honestly, this felt like a form of deadnaming to me. Valerie didn’t magically become Valerie when she had surgery. She was always Valerie. Maybe someone with a better understanding of this can let me know if I’m wrong. I scanned a few GR reviews, and none of them mentioned it, so am I overthinking it? I talked with some friends about it, and they agree with me, so at least I’m not alone in this. I don’t know anything about Kylie Scott’s writing process, but I felt like there weren’t any trans beta readers who read this. Or there were and I’m completely wrong! But it felt off to me.
Will I read the next one in the series? Probably because unless something is just completely unreadable trash, I tend to finish series, especially short ones like trilogies. But the next one is about Eric, the brother of Joe who has been a misogynistic ass through the first two books, so maybe not. I’m not in a hurry.