Set against the backdrop of a chic Kansas City distillery, a woman plagued by years of bad luck finds love with her middle school crush–turned–new boss.
Jen Mackenzie and TJ Laughlin have known each other for more than a decade, but they wouldn’t exactly call themselves friends. After one disastrous project in government class, it became obvious that the two of them were like oil and water. Jen came from a poor background and had a penchant for getting into trouble. TJ was the typical preppy rich boy—a little stuffy and addicted to his parents’ approval. As adults, not much has changed. Jen is now working as a bartender for the Stag, a whiskey distillery owned by three men, one of whom is TJ. Twelve years after middle school, Jen is covered in tattoos, is one purchase away from getting hit with an overdraft fee, and is caring for her ornery mother, who has breast cancer. TJ’s dream to open a distillery was met with apprehension from his country club–loving father. But five years into the success of the Stag, he hopes his dad will come around. The distillery itself is perhaps the most exciting part of the book, from descriptions of the decor to the tasty cocktail offerings. Jen and TJ’s relationship operates much like it did a decade ago; Jen teases TJ, and he gets uptight and awkward. Rinse and repeat. Jen is a heroine who just can’t catch a break, and while her circumstances are a testament to her resilience, it can become tiring watching one bad thing after another happen to her. TJ and Jen do have a cute back-and-forth, antagonistic relationship, with neither one wanting to admit their feelings for the other. However, it would feel more fitting for characters in their teens rather than their 30s.
A fine romance with a setting more interesting than its characters.