Review: Enemies with Benefits by J.D. Hollyfield (2022)

Heat Factor: It’s pretty steamy. There’s a lot of hate whoopie before there’s any tender whoopie, if you’re into that kind of thing. (If you’re not sure…give it a go with this book.)

Character Chemistry: The layers of emotional complexity, backstory, and personal development make these characters and their fiery chemistry very, very satisfying.

Plot: Makayla moves home to clean up and sell her estranged, abusive father’s house–and immediately runs into Ben at a wedding. The two get stuck one upping each other in petty pranks and comebacks, all while they inexplicably find themselves supporting one another from an unknown danger.

Overall: This book is utterly bonkers. It’s got some incredibly witty snark, caustic pranks, emotional character development, and a murderous mystery.

I feel like this book was like a very carefully stacked house of cards. 

It starts with Ben drunkenly propositioning Makayla at a wedding reception. Makayla accepts, and then chains Ben naked to a bed for housekeeping to find. Harsh, but it’s the tip of the iceberg. 

Both characters are dealing with some heavy histories, but neither knows the other’s story. Ben had a blissful home life until he went to college and his father died suddenly saving a child while firefighting. Makayla hid her lonely and abusive childhood from everyone until she ended up in the hospital and was swept away to the safety of her aunt’s home. When they knew each other as teens, Ben would needle Makayla (kind of out of youth and sheer ignorance) and Makayla would lash out in return (out of pain and fear of rejection).

It is also pretty hilarious, though. They play some funny pranks on each other and have some pretty witty comebacks for each other. I was reading the whole time just wondering if they were going to push it too far and I’d stop rooting for them–it was challenging reading the flashbacks and seeing how much Makayla was hurting and how unnecessarily cruel Ben could be without knowing what he was doing. But the author really ties that up with explanatory moments, and you’re left feeling like they couldn’t have connected any sooner than they did because they simply had growing to do.

In addition, you’ve got the murdery sub-plot that quickly becomes the main plot. I really don’t want to give away spoilers here, but I must say it was kind of amazing how subtly the feeling of “something isn’t right here but I don’t know why” trickled in and I honestly couldn’t tell if it was context clues or if I was starting to not like a character because I just didn’t like them. Again, just…really careful plot building here.

I will say there was one off-putting interaction between the two, where Ben acts crazy jealous and is kind of a douche canoe, but it did make sense because at this point he’s had a long history of emotional immaturity and then deep trauma and abandonment, so it read like he was kind of reaching the pinnacle of his BS and then shaped up. I’m not saying it was a very big turn on; in fact, it was kind of like a big old bucket of ice water. But I got it.

All in all, if you’re looking to get sucked into a book and stay up way too late reading, I got you. This absolutely bonkers book has it all.

Buy Now: Amazon

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