Title: Fix Her Up (Hot & Hammered #1)

Author: Tessa Bailey

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

Summary: Georgette Castle’s family runs the best home renovation business in town, but she picked balloons instead of blueprints and they haven’t taken her seriously since. Frankly, she’s over it. With a four-phase plan, Georgie’s determined to make herself into a Woman of the World… whatever that means. If people think she’s having a steamy love affair with resident sports-star and tabloid favorite Travis Ford, maybe they’ll acknowledge that she’s not just the youngest Castle sibling who paints faces for a living. Sidelined by an injury, Travis is flipping houses to keep busy, but he can’t even cross the street without someone recapping his greatest hits. When Georgie proposes her wild scheme, he agrees. But the girl Travis used to tease is now a funny, full-of-life woman—and there’s nothing fake about how much he wants her…

Note: an eARC of this title was acquired via NetGalley.

Fix Her Up is a study in contrasts. On one hand, the cover and summary promise a cute contemporary romance featuring a fake relationship and the good ‘ole “my older brother’s best friend” hurdle. On the other, this is probably the most explicitly sexual book I think I’ve ever read.

And I couldn’t tell with which side I took the most issue.

Was it the cutesy, over-the-top plot? 🤷‍♀️ Like, there’s rom-com sweet and then there’s made-for-TV sweet. Everything in Fix Her Up feels just slightly off, as if the story can’t quite stand up on its own—but, perhaps, sandwiching everything around sex means it never has to. With a few minor exceptions, I pretty much loved the book until the very end. (spoiler

Travis proposes to Georgie live on television after they’ve broken up because Things Were Kept Secret and OH YEAH she also wants a huge family and he doesn’t want kids. Someone needs to explain to me how a month-long relationship can enable this kind of self-actualization because damn. Like, this book literally ends in a marriage proposal. It felt like a slow-speed car crash instead.

←spoiler) I could over-look how every relationship besides that of Travis and Georgie lacked depth and authenticity. I could ignore the compressed time-frame and “oh, so we’re going there” plot points. I could even turn a blind eye to how Bailey very clearly sets up the protagonists of book two in the “wait, this is already a series?” series. (Give me three guesses and I can probably name the stars of books three through five, too.)

What I cannot get over—still, after five days, have not been able to get over—is the pornographic play-by-play on top of all of that saccharine sweetness. As if there happened to be a scene in your favorite Hallmark movie where that cute Chris Evans knockoff said “soon as we get on that couch tomorrow, I’m going to ride you straight through the credits” while he was (absolutely, no question) fingering the love interest.

(Like, y’all. I cannot, with a straight face, read some of the dialogue in this book!)

While I can objectively understand how Bailey moves her story from point A to point B, it also kind of feels like the plot was there only to set-up all of the sex. Like, on what kind of emotional journey can Travis and Georgie go where her giving him a blow-job in the high school dugout feels the most resonant? Is it after she rekindles his love for baseball? And it starts raining? And this blow-job is wish-fulfillment for her thirteen-year-old self? Let’s go with that.

Is Fix Her Up a good contemporary romance? Sure! It’s sickly sweet! It punched me right in the feels! It made me giggle and squee because Travis and Georgie are so goddamn cute and I wanted more of the story!

Does it also have good sex scenes? Yes! They are certainly explicit but also fun and felt like a natural—albeit heightened—extension of the characters and their relationship to one another.

BUT—and it’s a big but—do those same scenes work with the story Tessa Bailey was trying to tell? 😬 One part of me wanted the romance more than anything—the furtive glances, the blushing, the repartee and innuendo—and would have been just fine with the fade-to-black on which that kind of story thrives. And then the other went along for the x-rated ride, shaking my head at the absolutely absurd and unnecessary plot, speed-reading because who tf cares about Georgie’s financial independence?

I could never reconcile the two.

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