something's brewing at joe'sRating: 3.5 stars
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Length: Novel

Murphy has just arrived in Tampa to take on his dream job. He has been working hard for the position, but now that he has arrived, it turns out the job is on hold. Murphy either needs to find temporary work, or head back to Michigan. So he takes one night to drown his sorrows in some drinks and a super hot hookup, and then begins to look for work. Murphy gets lucky when he stops in a coffee shop and learns the owner is in need of someone to do renovations to an upstairs apartment. Not only that, but Murphy can live there rent free while he does the job. What Murphy doesn’t expect is that the shop owner is none other than Joe, the sexy hookup from the other night that he hasn’t been able to stop thinking about.

Joe has been just as affected by Murphy and can’t get the man out of his mind. He is shocked to find that his new handyman is actually his former hookup and Joe knows getting involved further with Murphy is a bad idea if the guy is going to be working for him. But despite their resolve and the fact that neither man is looking for something serious, the guys can’t keep their hands off each other.

The one real hitch is Murphy’s job. It turns out the company that hired him for HVAC work contracts for another corporation that has been making Joe’s life hell. They are determined to buy up the block where Joe’s coffee house operates and they are not above dirty dealings and illegal actions to make it a reality. Joe is furious that Murphy would even consider working for a company like that and it throws a wrench in their developing relationship. Both men are stubborn and strong willed and quick to a temper. But they also can’t fight the attraction between them and slowly they begin to work things out despite the conflict. But when they learn the bad guys are up to even more trouble, the men must work together to figure out how to stop them before Joe’s business is destroyed.

I am a big fan of SJD Peterson’s writing so I was really looking forward to this story, but I have to say it didn’t fully work for me. I think the biggest issue I had is that I didn’t really connect with these guys, either together or as a couple, and as a result I couldn’t feel as invested in them as I needed to. I think if you felt differently about Joe and Murphy from how I did, your experience with this book would be much better.

The set up here is a common one in romance land (I call it the “Meredith Gray set up” after Gray’s Anatomy). We have the hot hook up followed by the realization that the seemingly anonymous partner is actually a boss/employee/coworker/etc. Joe and Murphy don’t let that bother them too much, for while they both feel like continuing to hook up is a bad idea, they pretty much can’t keep their hands off one another and fall off the wagon immediately. I’ll say honestly that this is my first issue with the book and that is the nonstop sex. If you read my reviews regularly, you know I love my sexy stories, so this is an unusual complaint for me. But there is so much sex in this book, and so little development of the actual relationship, that it kind of overwhelms the story. The men are well along the way to having serious feelings for one another, almost at the point where we get a love declaration, and they are still asking basic questions about each other’s lives, noting how little they know about one another. I think if I had found the chemistry to be strong between these guys I would have been fine with it, as this isn’t typically something to bother me. But I just didn’t connect with them and never felt the intensity of their attraction. So when time after time they say they need to talk, or make responsible decisions, and then end up immediately in bed together instead I felt more exasperated with them than appreciating it.

The main conflict here focuses on the evil corporation who wants to take down the little guy, trying to force Joe and his fellow business owners to sell and willing to resort to dirty deeds when they won’t do it. Again, this is a common romance plot device, which isn’t necessarily bad, but it didn’t help the story along for me. I did like that Murphy is a blue collar guy, something we don’t often see in romance land. I liked that we know how important this job is to him and how hard he has worked for it. I do think both of these guys are quick to anger and are not always reasonable in their behavior. They tend to freak out, storm off, feel guilty, and apologize over and over. I did appreciate that these fights don’t drag on forever, and we see the men realize they are being jerks and take steps to make amends. But there is a lot of freaking out here. In Joe’s case, he is furious that Murphy would even consider working for the corporation that is trying to drive him out of business, and gets angry at Murphy before even knowing if Murphy has any idea there is a problem with the company. I think his expectations of Murphy seem kind of unreasonable. Murphy was hired by a totally different company who has been subcontracted to do work with the bad guys. He has no idea the history, nor does he have much choice if he wants to keep his job, and Joe’s assumption that Murphy should just quit when they barely know each other seems over the top. For Murphy’s case, we learn that he had an ex who was bossy? Demanding? I am not totally clear what, as we are told Murphy is really sensitive about being told what to do, but we get basically no detail about what happened with this other guy. So we see Murphy freak out a lot in situations where he feels Joe is being too pushy, but without the backstory, I couldn’t always understand why he is so sensitive. But both these guys have their hot button issues that set them off easily and there is just a lot of bickering and arguing in between all the sex.

I was hoping for a bit more development in this plot with the corporation and taking them down. The way the head bad guy gets caught seems unlikely, both the way the men gather the evidence and the fact that after no one has been able to stop him for years, the conflict resolves in just a couple of weeks. We also get an almost comically over the top bad guy. I could never feel the urgency here because this guy is ridiculously evil and seems to talk like a cartoon villain. I think more could have been made with this plot line, especially since it is really the main conflict in the book, but it never felt like a real threat and the way it resolved just felt unrealistic to me.

So like I said, I think that if these guys worked for you better than they did for me, their sexual adventures might be enough to carry the story for you. I have read many books where it worked for me exactly that way. So if these guys and this story sound appealing, I would definitely encourage you to give it a try. But for me, I just never really connected with Joe and Murphy either together or separately and so the weak plot and the constant sex just didn’t hold the story together enough for me.

A review copy of this book was provided by Dreamspinner Press.

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