Reviewed by Kini
I have read almost all of Dane’s contemporaries so I was really excited to see she has a new series coming out. And that is takes place in a barber shop/whiskey bar sounded really cool. She writes great family stories that tend to span over several couples and several books. Laid Bare was the first M/F/M pairing in a book that I had read and I really enjoyed it. All this to say, I had a lot of hopes and expectations for this book and I am sad to say it fell short.
The blurb alludes to a friends to lovers type of relationship with stating that Maybe had a crush on Alexsei for a long time. The set up is that Maybe gets a job at Whiskey Sharp, the shop that Alexsei owns. Then we flash forward two years and don’t get to see any of their interactions over the two years. It felt like there was a lot of telling. We don’t get to see their friendship and attraction develop, we just have to accept that over the last two years they have learned a lot about each other and now that they are both single, they are into each other and now want to act on their attraction. For me friends to lovers works best when I can see their friendship develop and then evolve into a romantic relationship. It felt lacking here and therefore made me not really invested in their love story. Everything hinged on the being able to see it develop, not just be told about it.
The hero Alexsei is a growly barber living in Seattle for the last sixteen years. His mother sent him and his brother to the US from Russia because of some political issues. He is very close with his his aunt who raised him. Like all Dane contemporaries, family is a strong focus. Whether by blood or chosen family. Although Alexsei is growly, he is also quite kind and loving and is a good match for Maybe.
Our heroine is called Maybe, I had some issues with her name and had to double back several times to see if it was being used as a word or her name. Anyway, Maybe is a hairdresser who left her home in California at 16, has a VERY troubled relationship with her parents, moved to Seattle two years ago with her sister Rachel. Rachel went through some stuff and Maybe is very protective of her. Like borderline annoyingly so as it resulted in Maybe putting herself in situations where she knew she was going to get emotionally hurt. It was nice to see Aleksei call Rachel out for that.
Maybe’s parents are emotionally abusive to her and weirdly abusive to Rachel, but in a very different way. The way dynamic was weird and in my opinion took up entirely too much page time. Seriously, Maybe’s dad was an absolute dick but I didn’t need to spend several chapters reading and seeing it, especially when that page time could have been spent building the friendship over the years between Maybe and Alexsei. And it felt like it too so long for Maybe and Rachel to draw a line in the sand and make their dad go away. There is this whole issue of the parents believing that Rachel is incapable of caring for herself, but she appears to be a fully functioning adult, maybe with some issues, but not in capable of caring for herself. And we learned a little bit about the thing she went through and is dealing with but it didn’t feel like enough to make the parents behave that way. So basically they were just straight up whack-jobs that got too much attention and more than likely will be the conflict/drama when Rachel gets her book.
Another thing that I didn’t care for was the use of Alexsei’s ex-fiance as the stereotypical “bitchy” ex-girlfriend and then being used to cause issues for the couple. Rada, the ex, is still involved with Alexsei’s family as she is bff’s with a cousin. She isn’t interested in Alexsei anymore, she’s just there to cause trouble and be a bitch. I am over that as a plot device.
Overall, I didn’t really enjoy this book. I guess I kept reading because I thought it would get better. Like maybe I would be treated to a flashback of them in their early days. And because I typically really enjoy Dane’s books, I thought things might turn around, but they didn’t. The next book is Rachel’s and I am undecided if I will read it. I will need to read some reviews first.