Make Me Beg
Make Me Beg is the second story in Rebecca Brooks’ Men of Gold Mountain series. The title (and cover) likely make you think that it’s going to contain some pretty steamy scenes, and you wouldn’t be wrong. The title also signals the way the main characters treat each other for most of the story, one or the other always having to come out on top in their passionate relationship. The truth is that they won’t find a happy ending until they learn to lay everything on the table and come to each other as equals.
Connor Branding has been backed up by his family wealth and privilege his whole life. As a result he’s never had to work hard for anything, going through chef school and taking time to travel around. A transient stop in Gold Mountain becomes a temporary home base, with a job as a chef at a local bar and a chance to sample the abundance of female tourists. When the opportunity to invest in a new restaurant to take the place of his current employment comes up, he has grand ideas. With the backing of his father’s money, he can turn it into an upscale resort restaurant, and prove that his training hasn’t all been for naught. The catch is that his co-worker Mackenzie is going to be his business partner. They’ve got a ‘frenemies’ type of relationship , working surprisingly well together despite their constant sparring. But joint partners in a new venture? That’s a whole new ball game.
Mackenzie Ellinsworth knows what it’s like to be on her own. With an unknown father and mother who died of a drug overdose, she was moved from one foster home to another as a child. A dishwashing gig helped save her, and led to her gaining the barkeeping skills that she parlayed into a career. The bar owner who took her under his wing as a teenager became her family, and when he passed away, she promised him she’d start her own place named Mackenzie’s in his honor. This is her chance and only one thing is standing in her way – the rugged playboy who was supposed to leave town and not hang around to defy her at every turn. A chance discovery that they are both using the same dating app leads to the first in a series of steamy encounters where they find that their inability to keep their hands off each other is as inevitable as the fights they have over the direction of the new restaurant. Can they find the compromise they need to make a go of both a joint business venture and a real relationship?
On the surface, this is a pretty straightforward romance. Co-workers who eventually become lovers is a fairly common trope, as is the whole enemies to lovers theme. Connor and Mackenzie don’t truly fall into ‘enemy’ category as they hang around with the same circle of friends, but their initial meeting doesn’t put them on the best footing. When Connor first rolls into town and flirts with Mack behind the bar, she’s flattered but knows he’s not going to stick around and it’s not worth the emotional or physical investment to let things go further. Getting the message that Mack isn’t interested, Connor turns his eyes to other women, and then ends up staying in town. For the next few years Mack doesn’t want to admit to herself that she’s jealous of the women Connor spends his nights with, though she can see that none of his encounters are serious (which in a way proves to her that he’s not commitment material). And Connor just seems genuinely oblivious to Mack’s hurt feelings and takes her snarky attitude towards him as par for the course.
When the attraction between them comes to the surface, it’s as if a pressure cooker is finally letting off steam. After the first explosively sexual encounter they promise it won’t happen again. And then after the second – the same. And the third – and so on. When they do admit that they are sexually compatible, they still hold back from any kind of emotional commitment. At the same time as they are having these passionate and secretive encounters (heaven forbid any of their friends find out!) their public disagreements about what kind of restaurant they want to invest in escalate. Eventually, keeping business and pleasure separate becomes impossible and leads to some serious conflict that threatens to ruin all of their plans.
Connor and Mack are both very likable yet very different characters. Connor is the playboy, the handsome flirt who always gets what he wants (or so others perceive). His skills in the kitchen are underrated and there are some delicious foodie scenes where he proves his talent (and his sexually dominant personality). He has the desire to be recognized for those skills, yet worries about failure. Mack is a self-reliant woman who has experienced so much loss in her young life that her walls are almost impossible to scale. She doesn’t want people’s sympathy – even her close girlfriends know nothing about her upbringing – she wants to be judged for the here and now, for her talent in mixology and her drive to succeed. Letting Connor into her body is easy. Letting him into her heart is much more challenging.
What surprised me about this story is the depth of emotion between Connor and Mack as they navigate the minefield of their growing relationship. In spite of their very different backgrounds, Connor and Mack both fear failure for similar reasons. Worry about disappointing the parental figures in their lives is what drives them and puts them on the collision course for their different views of what kind of restaurant they want. And there is no right or wrong person in this argument, so without compromise, it’ll be broken hearts all around. The sex, as much of a magnet as it is for these two, is not enough to hold them together and there are tears, accusations and gut wrenching truths that lead to forgiveness, redemption and eventually that all important happy ending. Make Me Beg is an entertaining and sexy romance with imperfect characters who find that the way to true love is not easy but is worth the effort.