Double Review: Working It and Faking It (Books #1 and #2: Ringside Romance) by Christine d’Abo

Working It

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Nolan Carmichael is getting a fresh start—new career, new company, new life. The only problem is, he liked his old life just fine . . . until an accident robbed him of his health, his job, his self-confidence, and his ability to go out in public without having anxiety attacks.

Zack Anderson has scared away his last four administrative assistants. So when he hires Nolan on a whim, he’s not too worried, since Nolan will be gone within the week anyway. Two weeks later, Nolan has made himself indispensable, completely reforming Zack’s schedule, life . . . and libido.

But in a company already torn by internal politics, one wrong step could ruin both their careers. And not only are they working to reopen Ringside Gym, Zack’s retreat when he was a troubled teen, but they also can’t help themselves falling for each other. If only the rest of their lives could go as smoothly as things do when they’re alone together.

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Source: Purchase     My Rating: 4½/5 stars

Everyone, quite literally everyone is wary of Zack Anderson. He may be brilliant and accomplished, but he’s a colossal jerk who goes through assistants like most people go through tissue. Human resources have despaired of ever finding Zack an assistant who can tolerate him so the surprise is widespread when Zack walks in on an in-progress interview and announces he will have the interviewee as his new assistant.

Nolan Carmichael, along with the human resources interview team is stunned into literal silence when Zack Anderson walks in on the interview. Even more stunning, especially to Nolan, is the fact that, after only a few very pointed questions, Zack hires Nolan as his assistant. As quick as he walks in, Zack walks out and Nolan has a new job. He’s also become the subject of the latest “how long will this one last” betting pool among the HR staff. The odds say, less than a week.

Nolan is a surprise to everyone!! After surviving a horrific and debilitating wreck, Nolan has been through things others can only imagine. In his pre-wreck life, Nolan was a top-notch professional used to dealing with high-pressure situations and, quite frankly, assholes. Though Zack is demanding, he’s nothing Nolan can’t handle and within the first few hours of his arrival, Nolan is already getting the office and Zack’s life ordered and organized. It doesn’t hurt at all that the work is interesting and Zack is beyond easy on the eyes.

For the first time in his life, Zack is at a loss. He hasn’t scared off Nolan with his atrocious attitude, his work load is lightening under Nolan’s organizational skills and oversight, and actually likes Nolan. In fact, Zack is comfortable enough with Nolan that he not only tells him about his true passion, but shows it to Nolan as well. Get your mind out of the gutter . . . . . I’m talking about the gym!! The other guttery bit comes later 😊 Not only is Nolan interested in the gym project, he’s willing to organize the massive overhaul of the site and coordinate with workers, contractors, and Zack’s best friend and partner. With so many hours of the day and evening spent together, it’s no surprise when Zack and Nolan’s shared attraction becomes something more.

The something more between Zack and Nolan is steamy, sexy, hot and complicated as can be. There’s the whole “I haven’t ever really done relationships” from Zack, the whole, “I haven’t been seriously involved since the accident” from Nolan, and the fact they are boss and employee. Yeah, the complications are numerous right from the start, and they get worse as outside forces come into play and threaten to destroy the best thing either man has ever had.

The Bottom Line: I don’t think I’ve yet read a Christine D’Abo book I haven’t liked and Working It is no exception. There’s a lot going on in this book from past personal issues to current office drama that all comes together to create a very cohesive, full, and entertaining read. Zack and Nolan both have very strong personalities which means the plot drama needs to match them in order to be believable. D’Abo nailed it!! I find it so much more satisfying when two characters face a tremendous amount of adversity, whip adversity’s ass, and come out all sexy, solid, and better people at the end. Mission accomplished. I found Working It to be so satisfying, I immediately dove into book two in the series, Faking It!

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Faking It

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Max Tremblay should be happy. His night club, Frantic, is one of the most popular gay clubs in Toronto, and his childhood refuge, Ringside Gym, is well on the way to reopening. But when he finds yet another drunk in the alley beside the bar, Max isn’t sure this is the life he truly wants.

Grady Barnes has it all. He’s rich, famous, and wants for nothing. Well, nothing but a good relationship with his father. When he discovers that his father is going to force him into an arranged marriage, Grady has had enough. He tracks down Max, the man who got him to safety after a night of overindulgence, and makes him a proposal: pretend to be his fiancé for two weeks and he’ll invest in Ringside Gym.

When the pair travel to Vancouver to attend a family wedding, the flames of their mutual attraction ignite, and they discover that the only difference between pretend and reality is how well they can fake it.

Review. Text on the string. Conceptual 3d image

Source: Netgalley and Purchase     My Rating: 4/5 star

Max Tremblay is in a funk and helping one more sloppy drunk outside his club isn’t helping the situation.  Unfortunately, this particular sloppy drunk is worse off than most which is how Max finds himself not only escorting the drunk back to his hotel, but ensuring he makes it into his bed (ALONE!) and has plenty of water to combat the coming hangover.  Max thought his good deed would go unpunished until the well-dressed man with photographs, a bad attitude, and a threat showed up. 

Grady Barnes isn’t just any sloppy drunk, he’s a very wealthy sloppy drunk with a father hell bent on ruing his life.  While that sounds overly dramatic, it is nonetheless true.  Grady’s father sees nothing beyond his business, money, and success and his latest scheme has Grady marrying the son of a potential business partner.  While Grady is gay and isn’t opposed to making new friends, he has no interest in marrying a fresh out of the closet kid who hasn’t even had a chance to explore his own sexuality yet.  The only person this marriage is going to benefit is Grady’s dad and the only way Grady can get out of it is a scheme just south of miracle territory. 

Max has never considered himself a miracle, but he does consider himself bored and in a funk so when the cleans-up-well sloppy drunk, Grady Barnes tracks him down and propositions him, Max is willing to go along for the ride.  Since the suggestive (though totally innocent!) pictures already exist, Grady suggests Max pose as his fiancé just long enough to get Grady’s dad off his back and the arranged marriage off the table.  Nothing can go wrong here, at all.

For two weeks, Max and Grady will live in Grady’s family home and with any luck, will convince everyone of the authenticity of their love and engagement.  The passion won’t be hard to fake as Max and Grady both have that in spades for one another; it’s the real feelings and emotion which could cause problems and Grady’s father is a shrewd man.  When they’re alone, Max and Grady begin to develop a real connection, but in public, with the family, Max has to sit quietly and watch as Grady withers under his father’s attention, harsh words, and abysmal treatment.  But, every man has a breaking point and there comes a time when Max just can’t keep his mouth shut any longer.  Turns out, when something more than sex is involved, it’s hard to stand by and watch the one you care about be abused. 

The Bottom Line:  Faking It is another Christine d’Abo hit!  Max is absolutely the star of this show and it is so satisfying to see him go from a burned-out state to once again loving life and finding pleasure in the world he’s built.  Though he and Grady’s relationship begins as a fake engagement, real feelings develop and Max isn’t the kind of man to ignore the obvious.  Getting to the HEA isn’t at all easy and there are some unexpected twists and turns along the way (I can still be surprised!) but it is all worth it in the end.  Though this book can be read as a standalone, I would highly recommend reading book one, Working It first as there a recurring characters and locations that will simply make more sense if you know the back story.  In all, an enjoyable M/M read with a strong cast, excellent dialogue (I LOVE good dialogue), an interesting plot, and the promise of more to come.

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