Storm Harbor, Book 1
Heat Factor: Nothing too explicit, but the slow build up means the sexual tension is really palpable.
Character Chemistry: They bond over their love of muscle cars.
Plot: Gage and Eden are both struggling when Eden takes a job working at Gage’s garage. Sparks fly, but Eden definitely doesn’t want to bang her boss. Also, Gage has ADHD.
Overall: There are some interesting things going on in this book, but the different pieces don’t feel well-integrated.
The protagonists are by far the best part of Braking Hard. They are interesting, unique, and face relatable problems. Eden is a mechanic – and as a woman in a male-dominated field, she gets a lot of shit. In fact, when we first meet Eden, she is working for a slimebag who sexually harasses her at work. Gage has ADHD. When his mentor and business partner dies, he struggles not only with grief, but in managing a garage alone – he likes working on cars, not dealing with payroll.
The backstory for our hero and heroine therefore effectively establish the conflict between them. To wit: Gage hires Eden, and though there is undeniably attraction between the two, as well as a shared bond over their struggles, Eden absolutely does not want to date her boss, precisely because of the inherent power differential between them.
However, as the development of their relationship unfolds, it becomes apparent that Gage has a bit of nice-guy syndrome. He is genuinely a kind, sensitive man, but he also pursues Eden even after she makes it clear that she is uncomfortable dating him. He uses the term “friend zone” unironically. When she tells him she would date him if he weren’t her boss, he takes that as a yes to up his pursuit. I admit that this component of their relationship made me a little uncomfortable. This is the challenge with romance novels, however – finding that perfect balance pursuing one’s desire and maintaining respectful boundaries. In this case, I think that Gage pressuring Eden to date him would have been less problematic if the text didn’t simultaneously insist that he’s nice and kind and thoughtful, and would never presume to pressure a woman into doing anything she didn’t want to do. I acknowledge that this criticism is primarily about personal taste, and that others may find Gage charming.
My more substantial critique is that the story arc felt jumpy. The first bit of the book introduces us to Gage and Eden and establishes the different ways that they are struggling. This set-up, while perhaps longer than necessary, does work well to set up the conflict between Eden and Gage as they figure out their relationship.
But then, after they get together, all of their previous problems abruptly disappear – one night of sex with the boss was enough to convince Eden that she was cool with dating him, I guess – but there’s still a chunk of the book where the conflict morphs into “how to date someone with ADHD.” While this was certainly interesting (I know very little about ADHD, so cannot speak to the accuracy of the representation), it felt tacked on. And because it was just tacked on to the end, each problem that arises is quickly dispatched with a paragraph of description. Frankly, this was disappointing, as Gage’s ADHD is part of what made him an unconventional romantic hero; these issues could have been interspersed throughout the course of the story to greater effect.
A final note on the prose: there are a lot of dangling and misplaced modifiers in this book. If you don’t know what those are, carry on. But it drove me nuts. Grammar nerds, you have been notified.
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.
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