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Hook, Line, and Sinker (It Happened One Summer #2) by Tessa Bailey

Blurb: King crab fisherman Fox Thornton has a reputation as a sexy, carefree flirt. Everyone knows he's a guaranteed good time--in bed and out--and that's exactly how he prefers it. Until he meets Hannah Bellinger. She's immune to his charm and looks, but she seems to enjoy his... personality? And wants to be friends? Bizarre. But he likes her too much to risk a fling, so platonic pals it is.

Now, Hannah's in town for work, crashing in Fox's spare bedroom. She knows he's a notorious ladies' man, but they're definitely just friends. In fact, she's nursing a hopeless crush on a colleague and Fox is just the person to help with her lackluster love life. Armed with a few tips from Westport's resident Casanova, Hannah sets out to catch her coworker's eye... yet the more time she spends with Fox, the more she wants him instead. As the line between friendship and flirtation begins to blur, Hannah can't deny she loves everything about Fox, but she refuses to be another notch on his bedpost.

Living with his best friend should have been easy. Except now she's walking around in a towel, sleeping right across the hall, and Fox is fantasizing about waking up next to her for the rest of his life and... and... man overboard! He's fallen for her, hook, line, and sinker. Helping her flirt with another guy is pure torture, but maybe if Fox can tackle his inner demons and show Hannah he's all in, she'll choose him instead?

Review: This is a hard review to write because I have so much to say, yet seem to be lacking the vocabulary to truly get across how stunning of a read Hook, Line, and Sinker by Tessa Bailey was. It's strange because about 10% in I messaged my friend and said, "You know, it's good, but it's not grabbing me like Brendan and Piper's story was." Boy, was I wrong. Both books in the series are absolutely fabulous (the Tessa Bailey we all know and love), but they're brilliant in totally different ways. There are some light spoilers below because I just cannot express my love for this book without being clear about what made it so special.

Our glimpses of Fox from It Happened One Summer gave up this perception that he's a delicious-looking alpha male who enjoys the endless company of ladies (so long as they're gone in the morning, or he is) but hasn't a single female friend. When I picked up Hook, Line, and Sinker I expected that he'd be this untouchable rake who is taken in by his feelings for the heroine, Hannah, and ultimately must choose between his life as a playboy and the life of monogamy with the girl of his dreams. Not so.

In fact, Hook, Line, and Sinker takes on toxic masculinity in a startling twist in this equally heart-warming and heart-wrenching story of a man who truly believes that all he has to offer the world are his looks. I'm so used to reading books about rakes and just believing that it's the life they want for themselves. Yet Bailey gives us a hero who has spent his entire life being told that his only redeeming quality is his physical attraction and it destroys him inside bit by bit. His journey to understanding that he has more to offer the world, more to offer a woman, had me weeping on multiple occasions. His internal dialogue, and the stories he shares with our heroine, had my heart twisting for him. Even his relationships with his male friends brought him doubt and disgust and I loved that Bailey addressed those within the book as well, forcing Fox to finally be honest with those around him who were damaging him with their jokes and assumptions.

This book ended up being a bit of a slow burn (at least as far as intercourse goes) because, though Hannah desires him, she refuses to let Fox believe that all he's good for is a quick lay. She's such a powerful heroine in that she has the opportunity to fulfill her own desires with a willing participant, but she can see that Fox is more than he thinks he can offer and she's going to wait until he sees it too. Don't get me wrong though, it's hot as fuck regardless. I also loved Hannah's personal journey towards achieving her professional dreams and tackling that imposter syndrome that affects so many of us women.

At the end of the day, this book, like our hero Fox, was so much more than it appeared to be from the outside. It's not often that a romance novel embeds itself in my soul (for more than a really good sex scene) but this one has me thinking hard about the men in my life and about how I'm going to raise my own son (due in August). We're so focused on feminism in romance novels that I think we don't stop often enough to think about the toxic masculinity that affects our heroes as well, though I do think there's been a step away from the typical alpha males we've seen in the past.

This book--Fox and Hannah--should be treasured.


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