Wednesday, 23 January 2019

#CBR11 Book 1: "Brooklynaire" by Sarina Bowen

Page count: 452 pages
Audio book length: 9 hrs 39 mins
Rating: 3.5 stars

Rebecca "Becca" Rowley has worked for tech billionaire Nate Kattenberger for more than seven years. She managed his office while he and a few friends were still an optimistic start up. For the last few years, she's gone from being his personal assistant to managing the hockey team he bought, the Brooklyn Bruisers. Foolishly walking onto the ice to personally deliver a message, Rebecca falls and gets a concussion. Several weeks later, she's still not well and fretting terribly about her inability to get back to work. Not helping her recovery, which requires that she rest a lot and stay in a peaceful environment, is the fact that Rebecca shares an apartment with her younger sister, her infant nephew and the baby's father. Not exactly restful surroundings.

As the weeks progress and Becca doesn't recover, Nate not only insists she see a specialist, but he whisks her away to his six-bedroom mansion, so she can relax properly and be taken care of by his household staff (his housekeeper is amazing!). Becca worries that she's taking advantage of their long friendship, being the only person in Nate's organisation who's still unaware of his true feelings for her. Nate's massive crush on Becca has apparently been obvious not just to his current personal assistant, Lauren, but most of the hockey team, as well as several of their mutual friends. When she's injured and has a difficult recovery, his protective feelings towards her pretty much drive him crazy.

I'm not spoiling anything when I say that Becca and Nate eventually hook up and share a very steamy night together. However, while Becca strictly speaking works for the hockey team, Nate, as the owner of the team is still her boss, so it's a difficult situation, and the power dynamics are certainly unfortunate. Becca has a bunch of self esteem issues and can't really believe that someone as rich, brilliant, handsome and important as Nate would really want someone like her. She also doesn't want to be accused of trying to further her career by sleeping with her boss. Nate, on the other hand, is only too aware of how inappropriate sleeping with your former executive assistant is. He moved Becca to help manage the Brooklyn Bruisers specifically so he wouldn't have to share an office with her daily and obviously lust after his employee.

I saw this book on a number of "Best of 2018" romance lists at the end of last year. I also had a chance to try out the Audible Romance add-on for free for a month, and this was one of the books offered. While I don't see myself actually wanting to pay money monthly for the extra Audible subscription (with very few exceptions, pretty much all the books of the romance authors I really like, and would have wanted included in such a deal, aren't actually available, and have to be purchased separately), it was a fun enough book. There were a lot of good things about it. The "friends to lovers" trope was executed well enough. I liked a lot of the supporting cast, especially Nate's housekeeper. His robo butler/alternative to Alexa/Siri was also pretty cool. There was good banter and nice chemistry between the protagonists.

However, there were also things that could have been a lot better. The book occasionally flashes back to seven years ago, showing us the start of the friendship between Nate and Becca. When Rebecca is hired by Nate, as the office manager of his little start-up, his business partner, who deals with the finances asks if Becca will be given stock options as part of her salary. The answer is "not for clerical staff". Yet it becomes clear from the book's present day sections that Becca became pretty integral for the smooth day to day running of the company that eventually went huge and netted Nate his eventual billions. That she became a lot more than just his "assistant". So it seems both strange and incredibly unfair that Becca was never given even a few shares in his hugely successful venture, and as a result, was cheated out of a very comfortable life.

At the start of the book, Becca is fretting about a possible rent increase on her apartment (she doesn't get one because SPOILER - of course the building she lives in is owned by one of Nate's many holding companies) and she certainly worries about her medical expenses when seeing specialists and having very necessary physical therapy isn't covered by her insurance. This would be needless worries if she owned just a few shares in Nate's tech empire. I frankly wasn't super happy with the rather heavy-handed way Nate dealt with her medical bills either. While he was acting from a place of worry and wanting to take care of Becca, he pretty much just went over her head and put her in an embarrassing position.

I haven't read any Sarina Bowen in a long time. This was a fun enough book, but if it's a top ten romance of 2018, it's yet another sign that 2018 just wasn't a very good year for romance, historical or contemporary. Not sure if the book made me want to read more of the Brooklyn Bruisers series or not. There is one more book in the series available in the Audible romance package, about Nate's other assistant, Lauren, which I may check out before my free month runs out - but I haven't quite decided yet.

Judging a book by its cover: Considering the rest of the covers in this series features the rather laughable concept of very brawny shirtless dudes (with parts of their heads cropped off, cause you don't want to see their actual faces) with some random hockey gear visible, this one is even more hilarious. Since Nate is a geeky tech billionaire and merely the owner of the hockey team, they can't really go with sports paraphernalia, but we can't get away from our shirtless dude. So instead we get a hipster dude doing his best blue steel (looking half asleep behind his glasses) having inexplicably lost his shirt (but not his suit jacket or tie) somewhere along the way. Oh, and the Brooklyn Bridge in the background, just in case you were unsure of where the book is set. Stay classy, romance covers.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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