When I started reading this, I really thought it was going to be an easy 5-star rating. While a debut, this is so well written, with complex characters and a story that’s nuanced. I loved the meet cute and our couple’s initial night together, which is everything rom com dreams are made of. The chemistry was definitely there, and so were the feels, so I was hooked on this romance. And then it got HEAVY. I somehow managed to avoid spoilers and went in blind, so I was taken aback by the sudden shift in tone and the amount of triggering content. This is not a light, sweet (or clean) rom com, if that’s what you’re in the mood for; it’s angsty, often somber, and frequently focused on the steam. I still enjoyed the story and would not hesitate to read more from the author, but this is a very different story than I was anticipating.
The story follows Naya, a woman who has let a bad relationship turn her into a different woman. Naya has lost herself a bit, so when her friends encourage her to act out of character and get a little wild, she’s hesitant – but also excited to get a piece of herself back. When Naya ventures into a bar and strikes up a conversation with a sexy stranger, she has no idea what she’s in store for. Her night with Jake does not go as planned, but it opens up the door for something entirely different. But it’s not long before reality comes crashing in, and Naya’s carefree fling gets all kinds of complicated.
While I wasn’t expecting the heaviness, it is part of what elevates the story from your typical fling turned more romance. Naya is not the usual rom com heroine – she’s a highly educated, intelligent, Black/Irish/Mexican woman whose last relationship has turned her into a shell of her former self. It was painful to see her lack of confidence at times, and she’s a big part of what makes this feel so bleak on occasion. The whole story is told from Naya’s perspective, and I would’ve loved more Jake. He is a cinnamon role sweetheart who is supportive, patient, and genuinely KIND throughout. Personally, I think this would’ve been a MUCH stronger read if one or two subplots had been eliminated in favor of more time advancing the relationship. While the story has plenty of depth, it didn’t always feel like the relationship extended beyond surface level, and that was proven time and again by the surprises along the way. Overall, this is absolutely not the story I thought I was getting myself into, but it’s certainly a worthwhile read, and I’d love to see what the author writes next.
🎧 Audio note: I managed to score a deal on the eBook just in time for the audiobook to become available at the library, so I switched back and forth between the two. The audiobook is well done and easy to listen to, with a female narrator whose voice is expressive yet not jarring. I enjoyed it. This does get steamy pretty quickly and stays that way for awhile, so I can’t recommend it as a workday listen. But the runtime was not an issue for me, nor was comprehension while listening. There are the occasional text messages, but they’re clearly labeled, and there was nothing else that didn’t translate well to audio.
One daring to-do list and a crash course in flirtation turn a Type A overachiever’s world upside down.
When her flailing department lands on the university’s chopping block, Professor Naya Turner’s friends convince her to shed her frumpy cardigan for an evening on the town. For one night her focus will stray from her demanding job and she’ll tackle a new kind of to-do list. When she meets a charming stranger in town on business, he presents the perfect opportunity to check off the items on her list. Let the guy buy her a drink. Check. Try something new. Check. A no-strings-attached hookup. Check…almost.
Jake makes her laugh and challenges Naya to rebuild her confidence, which was left toppled by her abusive ex-boyfriend. Soon she’s flirting with the chance at a more serious romantic relationship—except nothing can be that easy. The complicated strings around her dating Jake might destroy her career.
Naya has two options. She can protect her professional reputation and return to her old life or she can flirt with the unknown and stay with the person who makes her feel like she’s finally living again.
About the Author:
Denise Williams wrote her first book in the 2nd grade. I Hate You and its sequel, I Still Hate You, featured a tough, funny heroine, a quirky hero, witty banter, and a dragon. Minus the dragons, these are still the books she likes to write. After penning those early works, she finished second grade and eventually earned a PhD in education, going on to work in higher education. After growing up a military brat around the world and across the country, Denise now lives in Des Moines, Iowa with her husband, son, and two ornery shih-tzus who think they own the house.
As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases