Cream and Punishment
Susannah Nix is a new-to-me author but I’ve heard good things about her writing so I decided to give her King Family series a try. I’m not a stickler for reading a series in order unless there are continuity/world building concerns, which usually isn’t the case in contemporary romances with multiple siblings/friends being the main characters so I had no qualms diving into book two, Cream and Punishment. On the surface it’s a second chance romance, but it definitely has more depth when it comes to family and relationships. My reading experience was a positive one, so I’m already penciling in book three on my calendar.
Tanner King’s family owns a large ice cream manufacturing business in the small Texas town of Crowder. Tanner has worked for the company in various capacities since he was a teenager, but his most recent stint in sales has been a dismal failure. Demoted to being a mascot, his sister Josie rescues him and offers him a job in her marketing department where she is short-handed. It’s a godsend with one major inconvenience – he’ll be working directly with his ex-girlfriend Lucy. Their relationship had been great, so great that he’d told her he loved her, at which point she’d bolted, leaving him confused and hurt. Working in the same company they’ve been able to avoid each other – until now.
Lucy Dillard has a lot going on in her life and no time for a relationship. It was just one of the many reasons she’d ditched Tanner in a panic. Avoiding him and his scowls had been her main goal along with proving herself worthy of a promotion in the marketing department. With Tanner’s reassignment as her co-worker, she’s dreading the awkwardness but will fake-smile her way through. But Tanner is respectful and helpful, showing signs that despite what went down between them, he doesn’t hold a grudge. In fact, Lucy’s beginning to realize that she might have made a big mistake. Will Tanner be willing to give her a second chance?
There’s a content warning preface for the reader that the story contains depictions of toxic, narcissistic parents as well as passing references to accidental deaths and cancer. While the latter are not delved into too deeply, there is a lot of time spent on the parental issues. Tanner’s father has been married multiple times, cheated on all his wives, and Tanner has never been able to do anything right in his eyes, hence his constant feelings of failure and unhappiness. I confess, having just finished this book, that I’m not exactly clear how Tanner is related to each of his blood/half/step siblings, though the important aspect is that he gets along well with the majority of them and can count on them in a pinch. There are several scenes with him and various siblings that show their closeness despite their father.
As for Lucy, well her family situation is even worse. She has a mother who, since her husband left her for his assistant, has played the role of victim only too well, leaving Lucy to constantly pick up the pieces. Lucy’s brother Matt is nice but clueless to the reality of how hard Lucy works to keep the house in order and keep her mother from going into depressive tailspins, while maintaining a full time job outside the home with dreams of someday not being responsible for anyone but herself. Tanner’s initial declaration of love in their short lived relationship had been like another weight on her shoulders, the expectation of having another person to care for without understanding that a real relationship is supposed to be a two-way street. There are some scenes between Lucy and her mother that had me gritting my teeth in empathy for her and for anyone who has experienced that kind of relationship with a family member in real life.
Lucy and Tanner had never gotten past the surface of a real relationship the first time around, so while Tanner still cares for Lucy, he’s wary of going too fast when she asks if he’d consider trying again. As they open up to each other about what it’s really like for them with their respective parents, Tanner is able to understand why Lucy broke things off and convince her that a real partnership means sharing each other’s burdens. I liked how they both grow over the course of the story, each taking a stand for their own happiness, both individually, and together. The workplace relationship concerns are minimal – they are co-workers and even though Tanner has more clout superficially, he would never do anything to harm Lucy’s position. The attraction between them is real, and there are some sexy scenes that show sex was never a problem for them before or now. Above it all, Tanner comes across as a really nice guy whom any woman could be proud to call her partner, something Lucy is grateful to realize in time. Their happy ending comes with positive outcomes not just for their relationship but for a better balanced family life too. I’m invested in the King siblings now and look forward to continuing the series.
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I'm a biochemist and a married mother of two. Reading has been my hobby since grade school, and I've been a fan of the romance genre since I was a teenager. Sharing my love of good books by writing reviews is a recent passion of mine, but one which is richly rewarding.