Review: Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey (2020)

Hot and Hammered, Book #2

Heat Factor: Sex is the one thing that’s not a problem in their marriage.

Character Chemistry: At times felt a bit one-sided

Plot: Toxic masculinity + lack of communication = marriage in trouble

Overall: Bailey closed it really well, but I had some hangups.

Okay, so, on the one hand, this book is actually a pretty good marriage in trouble book, and on the other hand it has some content that had me frowning.

For starters, marriage in trouble in contemporary romance apparently has this “I’m going to surprise my spouse by spontaneously leaving them and asking for a divorce” thing that makes me completely bonkers. They also apparently involve one partner, usually the one who spontaneously decided that the relationship is over with no warning for the other partner, being unwilling to make an effort to fix the marriage. In real life, this marriage is already absolute garbage.

So okay fine, we’re in Romancelandia, and we need that drama. In this case, Rosie married her childhood sweetheart, Dominic, and everything seemed magical and wonderful until he came home from Afghanistan with an inferiority complex and they stopped talking to each other.

We meet Rosie while she’s selling perfume, working for a horrible manager in a job she absolutely hates because she really wants to own her own restaurant. On this particular evening, the one night a week that she falls into bed with her husband because they just can’t resist each other anymore (?), she’s decided she’s not going to be in an empty marriage for another day. It’s like she picks the one unsatisfactory thing about her life that she can control and goes after that rather than taking the opportunity to course correct anywhere else.

Dominic doesn’t come across particularly well in the interaction when Rosie leaves. He doesn’t say anything to her when she comes home and then basically treats her like a piece of meat. Only a few pages later, we find out that he demonstrates his caring for her in invisible ways, because he’s the provider and it’s his job to take care of his wife and he shouldn’t be rewarded for it. Unfortunately, since Rosie has no idea that Dominic isn’t taking her for granted, she has no opportunity to realize that Dominic appreciates her. Ergo, when Dominic asks her what he has to do to fix things, she says therapy because he’d never agree in a million years, and when he does agree, she doesn’t make a good faith attempt to find a therapist, she admits to picking the most “woo woo” one she can find.

The good thing about this marriage in trouble is that once they start the therapy, they actually start communicating and things immediately get better. It’s like, I don’t know, relationships thrive on good, open, honest communication or something. Unfortunately, there’s a lot of toxic masculinity going on in this book, and Dominic just can’t fully be honest. He also categorically refuses to acknowledge that Rosie might not be meeting all of his needs and takes all the blame for the marriage problems on his shoulders. It’s clearly a marriage of equals. So on the one hand they really start to see each other again and talk and it’s really nice, and on the other hand, we have to save up some drama for the final explosion of action.

Let’s talk about that toxic masculinity. One of the problems that Dominic has is that he needs to be the provider, that as the provider he’s demonstrating his love to his partner. On the one hand, this seems like a legitimate expression of caring. But…when I was in high school, a peer said to me, “I just think the man should be the provider” as the reason that she wasn’t that worried about what she was doing after college and my head exploded. Because why would you voluntarily destroy your earning potential and independence like that? So I understood where Dominic was coming from as a character, but this was spectacularly unappealing to me.

Since the provider aspect was Dominic’s way of demonstrating his caring, I had to take that with a little grain of salt, but that wasn’t all. Dominic uses the endearment “honey girl,” which, combined with the paternalistic provider thing made me feel like he didn’t see Rosie as a full-fledged adult human. He also possessively identifies her as his wife. He wants to have sex with his wife. He’s not going to let others come between him and his wife. It’s his responsibility to take care of his wife. Again, it doesn’t seem like he’s acknowledging Rosie’s personhood and value other than as his wife. He’s also possessive in other ways, but they’re pretty typical romance “you’re my woman and I need to take care of you and know you’re safe” sorts of reactions to situations.

Then there’s this cooking thing. Rosie wants to own a restaurant, and she absolutely loves cooking. I didn’t think a thing of it that the kitchen was her domain in her house. It was a little sad that Dominic said that her demonstration of her love for him was preparing him food…but she actually prepared it for the household, not just for him. Anyway, enjoying cooking and taking that responsibility for household maintenance is totally legitimate. BUT THEN, Rosie and her friends go to Manhattan for a ladies’ night and one of her friends says, “He about died when I told him his dinner was in the microwave.” And I was like, her husband can’t make his own dinner? Or get leftovers out of the fridge? Is he an adult? And just like that, Rosie being the cook in the house wasn’t an aspect of Rosie’s personality anymore, it was her role as the woman in the relationship.

So here I am, on the one hand really enjoying how these two fix this marriage (I admit I got teary when it all came right down to it), but on the other hand I got hung up on all this other nonsense going on. As I read, I simply reminded myself that everybody’s not me, and these two figured out how to love each other in their own way.

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.

Buy Now: Amazon

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Angst! Angst! Angst!

My marriage is in T.R.O.U.B.L.E.

Representation Matters: I want to read about characters of color

3 thoughts on “Review: Love Her or Lose Her by Tessa Bailey (2020)”

  1. I thought it was sweet, but It was a little difficult to like the hero in this one because the book couldn’t really get into his issues. Even the therapy, which I thought was well played out was kind of a one and done ” last ditch” marriage saver when they hadn’t done anything to help the marriage to start. There is also no mention of continued therapy for his well worn in issues. I would have liked to see his parents relationship- which he is always comparing himself to- and have his mom weigh in a bit. I mean, you feel for him, bc toxic masculinity is a real issue with men, but it gets a bit repetitive. Also this is billed as a romantic comedy, but whatever comic relief there is is really from the supporting characters. The climax was a bit pat- wish that could have been dealt with earlier and not as the main tipping point. I agree as well that the sex was a bit one sided, which made it a bit…off? The dirty sexy talk felt a bit like it missed the mark and there was a lot of it so I started to skip the sex scenes- which are the best part! Anyway- looking forward to Bethany ‘s book!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You are so right that toxic masculinity is a real issue. I think that romance is starting to address it more head on (because there are plenty of heroes we’re supposed to swoon over who have a bad case of it), but there’s a lot there that could be explored.

      Sounds like you are Erin are on the same page about this one overall. Since I use my fellow smut reporters (and our readers) as my #1 recommendation source, I think this one sounds like a pass.


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