Publisher: Carina Press
Release Date: October 21, 2019
Received From: NetGalley
He’s tough. But she’s tougher.
Tanner Ellis left American Heavy Metal in her rearview mirror. She didn’t see the beauty behind the grease stains and the polished chrome until it was too late. Now she’s back, determined to save her father’s legacy—and bring the South’s premier classic-car shop into the new century. Nothing is going to stop her—especially not the sexy tech who refuses to follow her lead.
American Heavy Metal is the only home Duke Wilson’s ever known, and no high-heeled, sharp-tongued princess is going to take it away. He tolerates Tanner’s advice, and it’s fun to push her buttons, but she doesn’t belong in the shop—never has, never will. The sooner she realizes that, the sooner he can find his new normal.
When Tanner falters, revealing the pain beneath her bravado, Duke comforts her the only way he knows how. And when violence from his past threatens their future, she’ll be there for him, offering him the one thing he’s always wanted—a shot at a real family. He just has to convince himself to take it.
ROMANTIC ORIENTATION: heteroromantic
TROPES: dislike to love, employer x employee, office romance
TAGS: adult, contemporary, romance
WARNINGS: sexual content, domestic violence, animal cruelty, dog fighting, teen pregnancy, drug usage, parental death, grief, alcohol, child abuse, slurs, gendered slurs, vomiting, mental illness (panic attack), ableism, cheating, hospitalization, physical injury
I’m torn on what to say about this book, because by the time I reached the ending, I was pretty neutral about the story overall. I didn’t love it and I didn’t hate it, though I certainly thought I would from my experience with the first chunk of the novel.
For a good while, I really did not like Duke at all. For all intents and purposes, he was the rude, inconsiderate alphahole that is difficult to read about. He was an asshole to Tanner from the beginning for…what? Existing? Taking over her father’s shop? Previously having a life outside of their hometown? All of the above, basically. He makes a lot of assumptions about her and is generally down on her for things her own family doesn’t harbor ill will about. It took a long while for me to warm up to him, and really, the thing that saved him was his genuine love for his younger sisters.
Tanner, however, I really liked a lot! She was a great character who was going through a process of personal growth that begins before the novel does and continues through her return home and adapting to her new circumstances. It was great to follow along as she found herself and discovered the places she fit in her family, their business, and other aspects of her life. And she really is a wonderful character, full of love and kindness, a little wild while also being a steady presence for those who she cares about.
One aspect of Tanner’s character that was a bit difficult for a little bit, though, was the way she took guilt and responsibility over everything onto herself, particularly when it came to interactions with Duke. However, I think that’s due more to the story itself than her character. There were several instances where it kind of felt a bit like “boys will be boys” moments while the narration and characters, main and secondary, defended Duke and his behavior when he was being irrational, immature, and unnecessarily disrespectful. It honestly made me wonder if I was going to manage to be satisfied with the romance and pairing by the end of the novel. But, while I wouldn’t say they’re one of my favorite couples, I can say that the romance and interactions between the main characters did gradually improve to the point that I was satisfied with the ending.
Other than Tanner, I very much enjoyed all the major supporting cast! Tanner’s siblings were all great, and I’m excited to get romances for the three of them and to learn more about them all, as well as Mac, Tanner’s best friend. And I do hope that we see more of Brit and Makayla, Duke’s sisters, in future as well.
Overall, the book was a generally enjoyable read and start to a new series, and I’m looking forward to more.
Vanessa North is a romance novelist, a short fiction geek, and a knitter of strange and wonderful things. Her works have been shortlisted for both the Lambda Literary Award and the RITA© Award, and have garnered praise from The New York Times, The Washington Post, and Publisher’s Weekly. She lives in Northwest Georgia with her family: a Viking, twin boy-children, and a very, very large dog. For up-to-date information on new releases and special projects, sign up for Vanessa’s newsletter or follow her on social media: