This will be a weird review, because I enjoyed it so much that a 5-star rating was the obvious choice, but I can also identify several things that bugged me – and I understand why it’s been such a polarizing read. The important thing: this was an EXCELLENT debut, and I’m excited to read more from the author. It’s not so much an enemies to lovers/office rivals romance as it is a story of what happens once two co-workers put aside their differences and finally get to know each other outside of work. It’s a slow burn to SIZZLE, with some very spicy moments along the way. And the hero is an interesting mix of modern gentleman and alpha grump, knowing the right moments to bring the heat. I loved that it surprised me several times, and the story is both familiar yet deeper and more complex (and potentially triggering) than anticipated. So this was a compelling read for me, and it easily held my interest.
Minor spoilers follow, which give context to why some readers haven’t enjoyed this. The story follows Jo, a woman who has been feuding with her co-worker for the last two years. Jo and Jack’s relationship started off on the wrong foot, and they’ve both leaned into the friction ever since. So when Jo is drugged at a local bar and Jack comes to her aid, it completely changes the way they see each other. Gone is the animosity and irritation, replaced by feelings that have gotten stirred up by Jack’s caretaking… which complicates the work trip they’ll be taking together. Away from the office and essentially on vacation, Jo and Jack see new sides to each other as they set aside their differences. And they like what they see. But both still bear the scars of past relationships, and that might get in the way of any future they could have together.
Many readers have gone into this expecting an office rivals romance, only to be disappointed by the fact that Jo and Jack spend VERY little of the book feuding. The roofie situation kinda came out of nowhere, and that sets off the heavier, more emotional undertones of this otherwise light and sexy romance. It’s rom com-adjacent for the most part (never really overtly funny), but there is also discussion of sexual assault, suicide, and other things that may be triggering to some. The spice pushes a few boundaries. You don’t really expect that from the cute cover or the blurb. There’s also a LOT of consent and modern vibes. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a good thing, but it happened so frequently that it took me out of the moment several times, and sort of extinguished the heat in a few scenes. But you know what? I loved the unique aspects of the story, and how their feuding slowly healed their broken pieces. Both Jo and Jack were reeling from the end of relationships when they met, so their bickering started from a place of hurt. Over time, that’s changed for them both, and I loved the idea that those interactions brightened Jack’s days, brought him back into the light, and shifted his thoughts. That was a definite win for me, and one of the reasons this was so easy to rate as 5 stars. It’s got “he falls first” vibes and some swoony breadcrumbs, which I love. Plus, it’s just very entertaining. I enjoyed the vibe and the plot so much that the little issues didn’t weigh me down, and I think Curto has a ton of potential. I’m excited to read more. This looks to be the start of a new series, and we got enough teases about the other characters that I’m ready to dig in. So I can’t call this anything other than a win.
Beautiful palm trees. Warm ocean water. Idyllic sunsets. Sounds like heaven, right?
Not when you’re head-strong Jo Bowen and forced to attend a work trip with your obnoxious-yet-attractive coworker, Jack Lancaster. How can she survive four days in the Florida Keys with the grouchy man she wants to throttle more often than not?
When her toxic ex-boyfriend arrives at the same conference, Jack doesn’t hesitate to jump in and act as her current love interest. Jo discovers there might be more to her infuriating nemesis than meets the eye. Maybe it’s the island air, or maybe it’s the time they spend together, but soon their mutual hatred morphs into attraction. How can it not when Jack looks at her like she’s the only woman in the world?
It’s easy to pretend they’re a happy couple in front of strangers. With the real world looming beyond their temporary paradise, Jack and Jo must confront their feelings and new opportunities. They will either find themselves on the path of happiness… or the path of destruction.
An Unexpected Paradise is a steamy romantic comedy featuring coworkers-to-lovers (with a hint of enemies-to-lovers sprinkled in), forced proximity, and fake dating. The cast includes a fiery, headstrong woman, a churlish yet thoughtful man and an awesome group of friends. You can expect laugh-out-loud banter, spicy moments, and a new swoon-worthy book boyfriend. It is a standalone novel.
About the Author:
Born and raised in Winter Park, Florida, Chelsea splits her time between the Sunshine State and the Northeast, where she’s based as a flight attendant. When she’s not busy working, she loves traveling, running, reading, eating, petting dogs, riding roller coasters and spending time with her friends. Romance is her preferred genre, but won’t say no to any book! An Unexpected Paradise is her first novel. You can find her on Instagram at @chelseareadsandwrites !
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