At 35, JaQuan Reynolds is an empty nester. His daughter is off to college and, since he raised her on his own, he feels the loss, even though she’s not that far away. But since he was 17, Jaq’s been focused solely on his girl and between his daughter and his job, he has no social life. And maybe he’s ready for that to start. But first, he has to deal with his demanding but sweet boss.
Matt Donaldson is railroaded into taking over the Kingsley account, and now it’s his job to get the launch ready for Black Friday. It’s not impossible, but it will mean that he has to leave his office at Bernhardt’s and spend his time in the Kingsley offices. Matt doesn’t get off to a good start, as his misconceptions about the way things are run cause him to act like a jerk. And Jaq definitely thinks the pretentious man needs to be taken down a peg or two.
Jaq and Matt butt heads at every turn, but that doesn’t stop their attraction to each other. And when their lives intersect outside of work, the ice between them begins to thaw. Acting on their attraction comes naturally, but their feelings aren’t enough. Matt is a workaholic who doesn’t know how to say no, even though he’s vowed to be better since it caused him to miss out on a lot of his children’s lives. And Jaq doesn’t understand how Matt can continue to put the job first, ahead of his family and ahead of their relationship.
When a small crisis arises, both Jaq and Matt say things they don’t mean, and it could spell the end of their relationship. Some major changes are needed if they hope to get their happily ever after.
Learned Behaviors is the first in a new series by Ellis and she lays the groundwork here for future books without going overboard. Jaq makes some new friends who become a support, and I won’t be surprised when these other single dads show up in upcoming books. That being said, this is absolutely Jaq and Matt’s story, and focuses primarily on them. Ellis does a great job fleshing the two MCs out and making them well rounded characters. And since it’s dual third person POV, we get to really delve into their thoughts and see where they are coming from.
Right from the start, Jaq was the more likeable character for me. He’s wholly devoted to his daughter, and he’s exceptional at his job. He’s just all around a really good guy. And from his first dealings with Matt, Jaq has the man pegged. And I have to say, at the start, I agreed with Jaq’s assessment of Matt. He seemed out of touch and full of himself. I wanted to give him a shake. But the more we got to know him and see his true self, the more I warmed to Matt and eventually really liked him.
These guys start out at odds, but they aren’t enemies. They don’t like each other much, mostly due to misconception of the other’s motive, but they, along with the rest of the team, are working toward the same goal. The chemistry between them sparks from the start. I would even say there’s a little bit of a slow burn between them, though I can’t really classify it as that. It just has the same feel. And when Matt and Jaq finally act on their attraction, they explode. Feelings develop quickly, and it felt natural for their relationship. By the time these guys get together, I was ready and waiting, and rooting them on.
However, Ellis relies too heavily on the big miscommunication for my liking. Almost right from the start after Matt and Jaq get together, there are little moments where the lack of talking really got under my skin. For the most part, those little moments are resolved quickly. But then, of course, the black moment comes and it’s all down to neither of them actually talking to the other, and then instead of communicating, they hurl insults. This is followed by a couple of chapters of them pining for each other, but still not talking. This irritates me for a lot of reasons, but the biggest on here is that when they finally do have the grand gesture and talk, everything is resolved with literally a few sentences and that it’s. So I was a little frustrated by the formulaic feeling of the black moment and big miscommunication, but even more so by the lack of resolution.
That being said, I do like Ellis’ overall style. Her characters always come alive for me and feel wholly real, as if they could walk off the page, and Matt and Jaq are no exception. They are flawed and lovable, even if it takes a bit. I’m always invested in the characters, even if I would have preferred a different take on how things played out at the end. If you’re looking for a solid romance, then absolutely pick this one up.