Love Grind, the third in the MacLaine Girls novella trilogy by Shelly Ellis, is a wonderful, quick hit of HEA.
The story was structured such that we don't meet the hero for the first 20% of the book, but that's because the heroine's second chance at a career in dance is the focus of the novella. After years of dancing professionally on Broadway and beyond, then trying but failing to get her own dance studio off the ground, Jennifer is stripping in Las Vegas, burned out and broke (her roommate left her with back rent due) when she gets a letter from Miss Yvonne, her former dance teacher. The dance school needs her to come home to DC, and it's like a sign from the universe... or at least from Miss Yvonne.
Things aren't easy for Jennifer, and after her first "landlord" attempts to assault her on her first night back in town, she ends up at an Air BnB with Blair. Blair is a whole meal of a man with a giant, slobbery dog and a bitchy long-term girlfriend with a very specific life plan. Blair has to tell her that he's quit his programming job to start up his dream... and she dumps him.
I mean, of course she does! How else would Blair and Jennifer become the cutest two marshmallows to ever smush together?
The one thing to warn readers about is repeated bias against sex workers. Jennifer has some thoughts about how she might be stripping, but she'd never be one of "those" girls. I could have done without that, but your mileage may vary. There are also several times when Jennifer is outed as a former stripper, and sometimes this goes well and sometimes not so well. Jennifer is never ashamed of herself for having stripped, but she does worry (and so do others) about the reactions of her students' parents.
In all, I loved this novella. I enjoyed it enough to go back to the previous two and start in on those. I would have gladly spent more time with Jennifer and Blair, but there's something wonderful about a well-done novella. While the copy says it doesn't stand alone, I've read these out of order and I think it's fine on its own. Characters from the first two books are in this one, but if you don't know who they are, it's clear enough and they don't steal the show. If executed properly, a novella will give you a complete story with a satisfying ending... in a third of the time. That's exactly what I needed this week and, honestly, for the last 2 years.
Content Warnings: bias against sex workers, attempted sexual assault, secondary character has an unplanned pregnancy and considers abortion
I received an advance copy of this book for review.