Rena Jackson has worked her tail off to open up her own hair salon, and she's almost ready to quit her job at the dive bar. Rena's also a diehard romantic, and she's had her eye on Axel Heller for a while. He's got that tall-brooding-and-handsome thing going big-time. Problem is, he's got that buttoned-up Germanic ice man thing going as well. With Valentine's Day just around the corner, Rena's about ready to give up on Axel and find some other Mr. Right.
Harte delivers an adorable and steamy romantic comedy just in time for Valentine’s Day. Axel is a dreamy modern-day Viking whom readers will love, and Rena’s spunk and sass will have the audience cheering for their happy ever after ... A first-tier purchase for all collections.
Harte provides readers with passages about Axel’s painful memories and his fear of being a physical threat to a woman. This is a useful counter to some novels’ tendency to romanticize the threat of male power. But the limited, alternating perspective leaves Rena in the dark for much longer than the reader, with the result that her complaints about Axel’s attachment style edge her into unlikable territory. The novel is threaded together by Axel's awkward (albeit funny) attempts to court Rena with gifts and other gestures but doesn't allow her similar space to show her personality and get us to root for the couple. The quick references to, and scenes with, numerous peripheral characters bog down the romance arc further. The handling of the white supremacists who have been threatening Rena, who's African American, is a broad-stroke attempt to acknowledge racism but lacks nuance, as does a scene involving homophobia. While the novel’s title and cover allude to recent successes like The Kiss Quotient and The Hating Game, it lacks the former’s thematic firm-footedness and the latter’s tonal mastery of comedy and emotion ... Starts out promising but never quite gets out of first gear.
Harte takes on more than she can chew with this entertaining love story that falls short of its ambitions ... Harte loads this relatively simple premise with extraneous romance tropes—hunky firefighters, abundant miscommunication—while attempting to grapple with heavy topics including the challenges particular to interracial couples as Axel and Rena start dating and the racism Rena faces in her daily life, not to mention myriad other topics—homophobia, gender roles, mental health issues—that feature in the many subplots. None of these meaty themes are given the space to develop, resulting in a bloated plot and complex but underexplored characters. The central love story is sweet, but it gets lost in the noise.