Tools of Engagement (Hot & Hammered #3) by Tessa Bailey


Blurb: 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.


Review: The Hot and Hammered series by Tessa Bailey has been one wild ride after another. It started with Fix Her Up, pairing a party clown with pro-baseball player suffering a career-ending injury, and then moved on to Love Her or Lose Her which was my first romance novel featuring a married couple. And in Tools of Engagement we finally get to see romantic sparks fly between mortal enemies Wes and Bethany.


Bethany is a perfectionist who hyperventilates at the thought of anything being out of her control in the slightest. I saw a lot of myself in her honestly. Throughout the book she is forced to confront her need for perfection and I found her journey, at times, to more fascinating than the budding relationship between her and Wes. She takes the overdone heroine trope of the past--perfect, beautiful, and untouchable--and flips it on its head giving us the truth behind the mask.


Wes is what you expect from a Tessa Bailey hero. He's gorgeous and rough around the edges and dirty talking and possessive. And yeah, some people don't like that in their heroes, but if you read Tessa Bailey I have to assume you know what you're getting into to. I mean, this is book three, so... Anyways, Wes has a little journey of his own going on (you'll have to suspend a tiny bit of belief in the legal process here, folks), but it was just the cutest thing watching him become closer to his niece. And the way he was constantly supporting Bethany and accepting her for her true self made him the hero we all want to have in our lives.


You're not going to find hate sex here (as much as you might have thought you would from the previous books). The book ended up being so much more than the enemies to lovers trope we might have expected from their constant banter and hate-filled looks. It was an emotional trip down some pretty deep, dark roads for a rom-com. There was less sex than a usual Tessa Bailey novel, I think, but the sex that was there was as hot as you'd hope to find.


As for Laura, Wes' niece? I'll say this. Normally I hate children in books because, as someone who spends the majority of their time with children, they're almost never done right. They either talk too mature or too childish or they're solely there for entertainment purposes or they aren't entertaining at all. You see the problem? But darling little Laura was actually one of the best parts of the book which surprised me greatly.


I didn't think that Tools of Engagement was the best book in the series, but they can't all be the best book in the series, you know? It's not a complaint about the book, just a matter of opinion. It was a sexy, entertaining read that had me laughing and smiling.

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