I received this book for free in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.
Rhiannon has been burned badly in the world of tech business, she decides her best revenge is to succeed. With the help of a friend, she starts her own dating app company, Crush, and wants to buy Matchmaker, one of the original online dating companies.
Samson ended his professional football career early in protest over how head injuries were being taken care of, after seeing how his father and uncle suffered from CTE, he has no compromise for it. Now that his uncle has died, he begins working for his aunt's company Matchmaker in a P.R. campaign.
Rhiannon and Samson end up having one amazing night and then a next day that, accidentally, ends in ghosting and then are brought back together through chance and some meddling. Rhiannon has trust issues and Samson has patience, in the world of modern dating these two might just find themselves in an old fashioned love story.
She’d been decimated before, and by someone whom she’d thought was on her side. Samson was technically a competitor, and she needed to be careful.
If you've read Rai's Forbidden Hearts series, you'll recognize Rhiannon as Gabe's (Hurts to Love You) sister. We know her as a tough cookie who doesn't like to dress up and has a strained relationship with her mother. Rhiannon clearly has trust issues and as you learn the backstory of how her boss, who became her boyfriend, began to become controlling, and eventually forced her out of a company she helped to build and spread nasty rumors about her, you'll understand why she's developed a harden layer. I thought Rai did a good job of giving us glimpses into her cracks, her relationship with Katrina (silent partner in Crush and friend) showed her caring and human connectivity side and the way she continuously “hugged” herself with hoodies or long sleeves. The sheer fact of how hard Rhiannon fought to be unreachable showcased her vulnerability.
Samson came from a football dynasty that was publicly celebrated but he lived the personal downside of what professional sports can deliver back. The way his father's personality changed and how his uncle declined through ALS and Alzheimer was sad and anger inducing, Rai did a good job of addressing how players had to fight against an employer who didn't want to admit there was a problem and accountability and a culture of “tough it out”. I did think we missed some emotional connections without getting scenes of Samson with his uncle. Samson has friends that pop in and out but there were times where he felt like he existed more in a vacuum.
Now what? What did one do when someone behaved badly and gave you a reasonable explanation for what motivated their bad behavior and apologized?
I thought the set-up of Samson accidentally ghosting Rhiannon and the surprise competitor angle worked well but even though their decision to do a P.R. campaign together gave us some cute and steamy scenes, I'm not sure I really ever bought into the why and then it is kind of left to dangle off in the end. There were some heavy topics discussed and addressed in this story, CTE, work place sexual harassment, abuse, and toxic masculinity, while I felt Rai did a good job creating a story and characters with these topics, the romance seemed to be left out in the cold.
He missed Rhiannon. Like she was home.
As a story, I give this 3.5 stars but if I were to rate it solely on the romance, it'd be 2 stars. Rhiannon and Samson have their P.R. campaign dates and then some text messaging but I didn't quite feel they had enough time together, giving me the highs of seeing and feeling them fall in love. Samson was also written to be a very patient and understanding man, which made two later half instances where Rhiannon leans into her trust issues very frustrating. I understood why Rhiannon had trust issues but by that time in the story, Samson's character warranted more trust.
Distrust issues stretched out too long for me and for the most part, this felt more like Rhiannon and Samson's story separately, instead of theirs together. Rai is fantastic at writing family and friendship and all the support and angst that can come from those relationships. There were some steamy sexual moments but, maybe due to feeling a weaker emotional romance connection between the leads, I thought they lacked the heat of her usual flair. I always enjoy Rai's writing and will definitely be reading the next in the series that stars Rhiannon's friend Katrina, and hoping for more of a romance feel.