Author: Tessa Bailey
Overview from Goodreads:
New York Times bestselling author Tessa Bailey returns with a unique, sexy romantic comedy about a young married couple whose rocky relationship needs a serious renovation.
Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.
Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippy. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything.
This is the second novel in the Hot and Hammered series. The characters all take place in the same friend group, but the focus on each novel focuses on a different couple. Unlike other rom-com novels, this one involves a couple who are already married and working on finding a solution to stay married. It was a compelling concept that was a nice tangent to my usual singles becoming a couple type novels.
Rosie and Dominic became a couple in high school and have been together ever since. They have been married for ten years and have now fallen into a rut. They have been together being homebodies almost their whole relationship, aside from Dominic’s deployment in Afghanistan. We open with Rosie who is beginning to realize that maybe the routine she’s established with her husband isn’t what she really wants and she’s lost the joy in all the things about their relationship that used to make her happen, even the sex has become just another part of the routine. Rosie decides that it’s time for her to become her own woman so she moves out and wants a separation from Dominic. Rosie wants to be alone without a man while also pursuing her dream to own a restaurant.
I got about 10 chapters into the novel when I had to jot down an initial thought. I couldn’t understand why this marriage was worth saving. Maybe I’m missing pieces that might have been explained in the first novel, but it honestly seems like there is nothing of substance in this marriage aside from sex. The first few chapters have the characters only relate to each other sexually and there is absolutely no depth. Sure they have been together since they were teenagers, but there is zero mention of what brought them together and kept them together for ten years of marriage aside for the sexual desire for their partner. It didn’t get much better by the end as it really seemed that what will forever keep this couple together is their desire to get in each other’s pants. Even all the flashbacks to their happier times dating all the way back to when they were first dating all centered around their sexual attraction to the other. It’s great that a couple has that desire for each other, but it shouldn’t be your number one piece that’s bonding you together.
Dominic is the classic alpha-male who initially sees Rosie as his object (he constantly infers this over the course of the novel) and Rosie initially likes his controlling nature (she revels in having him become jealous in many places throughout the book). Dominic’s whole character is he does things that he thinks will make Rosie happy by being jealous of any attention she might get and being over protective. He has issues communicating his thoughts and feelings so slowly he learns to do this more and more, but overall I feel that he didn’t actually make as much progress as I wanted. I felt that he always came up short considering how far he had to go.
The scenes with the therapist were partly enjoyable as it was just sheer ridiculousness as it was beyond traditional marriage counselling. (It was hard to take this therapist seriously in some places, especially the instance in the woods.) This is another place where I felt could have done more in the novel as the breakthroughs didn’t really feel like breakthroughs because they were over in a matter of seconds. There wasn’t a lot of build-up to get to an epiphany and effort to work it out between each other. Their main issues with each other were discussed, but it just didn’t feel satisfying when they were all blink and you miss it moments. I feel that this couple is one that says they’ve worked through all their problems, but in reality they just swept them all under the rug and called it progress.
One positive was the “Just Us Club” as the group of women was very supportive of each other and they seemed like they were a great group of friends. Each of the characters held their own in a group setting and it’ll be interesting to go back to read book one and move forward to read book three to cover two more of the women. (I hope their novels turn out better with some substance to make me root for the couple.)
Overall, this book didn’t live up to its potential as I was super excited to read another surrounding a couple who’ve been married and have an established relationship that they are working on. It had so many moments that it could have become great by focusing on Rosie and Dominic forming a bigger connection outside the bedroom where we, as readers, feel it and aren’t just told that they somehow belong together. Dominic could’ve been explored in more depth and I would’ve loved to find out more about what makes him tick aside from his life being all about being with Rosie. It doesn’t seem like a stable relationship to have such codependence as Rosie almost couldn’t live without Dominic. I’ll still give other novels by this author a chance as the style of writing was easy to read, but I just have to hope that there is more substance.