Etta

Book Review: Heartbreak for Hire

Published July 27th 2021

Author: Sonia Hartl

Brinkley Saunders has a secret.

To everyone in the academic world she left behind, she lost it all when she dropped out of grad school. Once a rising star following in her mother’s footsteps, she’s now an administrative assistant at an insurance agency—or so they think.

In reality, Brinkley works at Heartbreak for Hire, a secret service that specializes in revenge for jilted lovers, frenemies, and long-suffering coworkers with a little cash to spare and a man who needs to be taken down a notch. It might not be as prestigious as academia, but it helps Brinkley save for her dream of opening an art gallery and lets her exorcise a few demons, all while helping to empower women.

But when her boss announces she’s hiring male heartbreakers for the first time, Brinkley’s no longer so sure she’s doing the right thing—especially when her new coworker turns out to be a target she was paid to take down. Though Mark spends his days struggling up the academic ladder, he seems to be the opposite of a backstabbing adjunct: a nerd at heart in criminally sexy sweater vests who’s attentive both in and out of the bedroom. But as Brinkley finds it increasingly more difficult to focus on anything but Mark, she soon realizes that like herself, people aren’t always who they appear to be.

Heartbreak for Hire (H4H) is an undercover operation in Chicago that specializes in a variety of revenge schemes for jilted lovers, annoyed coworkers, and frenemies. It is divided into four divisions, Egos, Players, Cheaters, and Grifters, which is each, ran by a woman who has a past associated with each. While the story includes the other three departments and characters (Emma in Players, Charlotte in Grifters, and Allie in Cheaters), the story focuses on 27-year-old Brinkley Saunders in the Egos. After being heartbroken by her horrific and cheating ex-boyfriend Aiden two years ago, Brinkley was recruited to H4H by founder Margo Pheffer. After losing her academic future, friends, mother’s respect, and her heart with the break-up, Brinkley was ready to ensure that other women do not go through the same fate.

The story begins with Brinkley on a job that goes off without a hitch. It is a fun introduction into the character and the job assignments. Throughout the novel, multiple assignments show what Brinkley actually goes through for her job. Many of them are over the top, which I enjoyed as it added a nice dash of humor to the story. Humor is sprinkled nicely throughout the novel from the assignments to the wrong names written on a Starbucks order. The writing was balanced with the humor and the more serious topics of Brinkley’s emotional and professional journey. Everything is going well for Brinkley professionally until she starts her new assignment with target Markus (Mark) Cavanaugh, a 30-years-old lecturer for the University of Chicago. Things do not go well during the assignment and Brinkley thinks this might be a failure so she becomes shocked when he ends up being a new hire at her agency as Margo is looking to expand the business. Brinkley must figure out what is going on at the agency and her continuous attraction to Mark.

Mark and Brinkley have immediate intense chemistry and their developing romance is interesting. Brinkley does not want to train Mark at H4H as she wants to keep the business as-is, so there is tension between them at work. There is the two of them fighting their attraction to each other due to Brinkley’s hesitancy. Finally, Mark is involved in academics at the university level, which Brinkley has issues with due to her complex relationship with her ex and her mother, head of the psychology department at Northwestern University. Since Mark is applying for a position at Northwestern and Brinkley needs to hide her real job for client privacy privileges (she tells others that she is an administrative assistant at an insurance company), there is many complex situations to work through in the story. The academic portion of the story was well done as it explores the cutthroat world of academia. As Mark and Brinkley’s mother pull her back into the university world, there is a lot going on with her as a character, including the exploration of success and self-worth.

Aside from helping others seek revenge for her job, Brinkley is an aspiring artist who dreams of owning her own gallery. Mark has his own struggles with the academic world and his love of metal detecting. Both of these were captivating subplots and I enjoyed this part of the story. The pacing of the story is fast as there are multiple subplots all simultaneously being worked through by the characters. At times, the story felt a little chaotic as there was a lot going on in a single moment. I enjoyed the working through your fears and following your dreams, but, with everything else in the story, there were times that the subplots felt as if they competed against each other rather than weaving together. I think some of these subplots should have been removed from the story, as many of them do not get the attention they deserve. I feel that the story would have been more impactful, to me, if the plots were more concise and kept focus on some of them. I am not sure which I would have chosen, but there was too much going on.

While I enjoyed the ending, I feel that there is a lot of room for expansion. This novel could easily be turned into the series for the reader to explore the other three Heartbreakers and get a more solid conclusion for Margo’s part of the story. These four characters play a role in the story, but there are times when they faded, for me, into the background. I also wanted more with Brinkley’s mother as she was horrific person that affected a lot of Brinkley’s psyche, but I feel that a lot of it was glossed over in order to focus on other parts of the story. As there was not an epilogue, I feel like there is a little bit left unfinished and sequel novels can easily satisfy my curiosity to learn more. The incredibly unique plot and a compelling main character kept me interested in the story and Mark made an interesting love interest with his own complex storyline.  Overall, the story has a lot of potential, but, for me, it tried to do too much in a single novel. Still, it was a very fun and interesting read featuring a sweet romance!

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