Hair, makeup, clothing, decor… everything in Bethany Castle’s world is organized, planned, and styled to perfection. Which is why the homes she designs for her family’s real estate business are the most coveted in town. The only thing not perfect? Her track record with men. She’s on a dating hiatus and after helping her friends achieve their dreams, Bethany finally has time to focus on her own: flip a house, from framework to furnishings, all by herself. Except her older brother runs the company and refuses to take her seriously.
When a television producer gets wind of the Castle sibling rivalry, they’re invited on Flip Off, a competition to see who can do the best renovation. Bethany wants bragging rights, but she needs a crew and the only member of her brother’s construction team willing to jump ship is Wes Daniels, the new guy in town. His Texas drawl and handsome face got under Bethany’s skin on day one, but the last thing she needs is some cocky young cowboy in her way.
As the race to renovate heats up, Wes and Bethany are forced into close quarters, trading barbs and biting banter as they remodel the ugliest house on the block. It’s a labor of love, hate, and everything in between, and soon sparks are flying. But Bethany’s perfectly structured life is one kiss away from going up in smoke and she knows falling for a guy like Wes would be a flipping disaster.
I love the Hot and Hammered series! Each are standalone books in the series but they’re all about a group of family/friends/colleagues with the backdrop being Long Island and the Castle’s family business Brick and Morty. Tools of Engagement picks up where Love Her or Leave Her ends and this time is Bethany and Wes’s turn at finding happily ever after.
What I really loved about this one was how different the hero and heroine were from each other. Bethany is 30, grew up in a very close-knit family, has a successful career that she’s seeking to further grow and develop, and is very much a perfectionist with neurotic (and possibly OCD?) tendencies. Wes, in comparison, is 23, grew up bouncing around through awful homes in the foster care system, doesn’t have much support in way of family, no clear career aspirations, very easy-going, and is suddenly in charge of caring for his 5yo niece while his estranged half-sister sorts out her own life.
Basically these two characters are complete opposites… but as they say “opposites attract” and I loved watching these two characters learn to work through their own issues and be what the other person needs. Bethany and Wes both make many mistakes throughout the book but they’re willing to learn and grow. The author uses the metaphor of their relationship’s ups and downs being like building a house throughout the book several times and I loved it. It resonated well with the characters and it resonated with me as the reader.
Don’t be fooled by the sweet description and sweeter illustrated cover though! This book is so much more and features lots of very steamy love scenes and deeper issues such as suddenly becoming a single parent, huge life changes, having to overcome and grow through your “flaws”/quirks, and what it really means to be there for another person.
I absolutely loved Tools of Engagement and thought it was such a great addition to the Hot and Hammered series. Tessa Bailey is a great author and I can’t wait to read more from her in future!