Heartbreak for Hire falls solidly in the middle of the pack for me. It's an interesting premise: a woman who works as a professional heartbreaker falls for one of the people she's been hired to take down. Because it turns out that not all the women who hire the company are doing it because they've actually been hurt, some just want to eliminate a rival.
The chemistry between the two leads was great, both physical and interpersonal. I found their banter and bickering fun and genuinely wanted them to work it out.
So this is a pretty standard contemporary romance, but a few things grated on me and I probably won't be seeking out more from the author. Whether this is my own baggage or something else, I'm not sure. I was unhappy with Brinkley's very privileged approach to opening an art gallery. She doesn't have any business experience, but that's not mentioned at all. Things like academic papers and opening a whole business happen at record speed, with seemingly no hassles like peer review or business filings. A character suddenly becomes a middle school teacher (what kind?) without having teaching certification or going through any hiring process. My teaching friends should be so lucky. I understand that romance novels are not reality and that a lot of things get glossed over, but there are other ways to handle them.
However, Brinkley's reason for joining Heartbreak for Hire and avenging women (for pay) made sense. Her ex was emotionally abusive and really awful, so when she caught him cheating she fell apart. HfH is how she rebuilt herself, but I was really glad that by the end she realized that dwelling in revenge and anger isn't a healthy long-term lifestyle. The situation with her ex also makes the conflict between Brinkley and Mark make more sense: he's an academic, her mom's an academic, her ex is an academic... The academics in her life have always chosen their careers over her and why should she expect different from him?
Mostly, I struggled with Brinkley's relationship with her mother. I have a similar parent and I haven't spoken to them in over a year because hey, 34 years is enough trying for me. Brinkley has chosen to get together/talk with her mother every week and fight for two hours instead. This is where I wonder, did I dislike this book because of my own crap or are all the things that irritated me actual flaws in the book?
But I don't feel like psychoanalyzing myself in a book review, so I'll leave it at this:
Heartbreak for Hire is a book that deals heavily with the cutthroat nature of academia, toxic family relationships, emotional abuse in a romantic relationship and the dangers of misandry, but it's peppered with enough romance and humor that I didn't stop reading it until the end.
Audio Notes: Shaina Summerville must be an alternate pseudonym for someone who narrates a lot of YA, because I spent the entire time in a state of "I know this voice..." That said, the narration detracted from the story and I won't be listening to another adult romance by this narrator. The voice she does for the male lead is this snotty condescending voice and I assumed it would get better after Brinkley decides she likes him, but it didn't. And oh no to the sex scenes. And one picky thing - Brinkley's boss is named Margo and her love interest is named Mark. I spent hours trying to figure out if Mark's name is Marco and why they were talking about Brinkley's latest assignment. I finished the book out of some sort of inertia, but I cannot recommend the audio.
Content Notes: alcohol, mention of fatal overdose (parent, past), drug-addicted parent, mentions of past drug use, strained parent relationship, emotionally abusive parent, emotionally abusive ex, sexual harassment, a couple of potentially dangerous situations with targets, gender essentialism, gendered language
I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review.