Desert Isle Keeper
Fix Her Up
Do NOT judge Tessa Bailey’s superbly steamy rom-com Fix Her Up by its cover image of a cartoon couple demurely kissing. I wouldn’t normally read a novel that gives off a cutesy vibe, but, given Bailey’s reputation as a prolific bestselling romance author, and the sexy series title (Hot and Hammered), I decided to take a chance. And I am so very glad that I did.
Major league baseball player Travis Ford moves back to his home town in Long Island, New York after sustaining a career-ending injury. Forced to retire at twenty-eight-years-old, Travis has spiraled into depression and taken to drink. Georgie Castle has had a crush on her older brother Stephen’s best friend, Travis, since they were children. When Georgie learns that Travis is in crisis, she attempts to rouse him out of his funk with her no-nonsense antics and supportive straight talk. Travis is moved by her efforts and decides to take a construction job with the Castle family’s remodeling company.
While Travis struggles to find his place in the world, Georgie seeks a ‘seat at the adult table.’ As the youngest member of the Castle clan, twenty-three-year-old Georgie is often ignored and dismissed by Stephen and older sister Bethany, a situation that isn’t helped by the fact that she works as a children’s party clown. Determined to grow her business into an entertainment company, Georgie trades in her sloppy baseball caps and thrift store jeans for a brand new wardrobe with a sophisticated edge. Her post-makeover transformation attracts the attention of Travis, who recognizes that Georgie is no longer Stephen’s pesky little sister. As his lust for Georgie grows, the notorious lothario vows to steer clear and avoid ruining any friendships.
Resistance proves futile when Travis and Georgie ‘fake date’ each other so that he can vie for a job with a sports TV network, and she can gain the respect commanded by a mature woman. Although they put on a good show for their family, friends, and the paparazzi, pretending to be in love proves easier than they had both feared.
Fix Her Up is (so far) my favorite romance of 2019. The novel features well-drawn protagonists, who are as incredibly likable as they are lovable, and endearing secondary characters that jump off the page and into your heart. (Honorable mention goes to Georgie’s vibrator, Dale! I’ve never before read a romance novel in which an adult toy delivers both pleasure and laughs.)
Bailey delivers a love story that is appropriately paced. No ‘insta-love’ here! The relationship between Travis and Georgie unfolds in stages that impress upon the reader the intimacy of their bond. The author beautifully captures the euphoria of new romance with heartwarming speeches and sweet gestures that are sure to satisfy even the most cynical of romantics.
I was wonderfully surprised by the frequency of good lovin’ and dirty talk in Fix Her Up. The sex scenes, especially the ones I’ve dubbed ‘grand slam sex’ and ‘lusty limo ride’ are deliciously detailed without crossing the line into hardcore erotic romance. Kudos to Bailey on her superior talent for writing titillating prose and naturalistic dialogue that organically shifts from humor to romantic effusion.
To those like myself who are not huge fans of the fake dating/fake relationship trope, I assure you that Bailey gets it right in Fix Her Up. Romance novels that feature fake-outs often become mired in subterfuge, misunderstandings, and secreted feelings that drag on for way too long, and the resulting insanity often taints the credibility of the romance. However, Bailey successfully creates an uncomplicated faux scenario that drives the plot forward within a reasonable time frame and without becoming absurdly deceptive.
Fix Her Up’s B-story is the most compelling that I’ve read in a long while. The ‘Just Us League’ (clever wordplay on DC Comics’ Justice League) is an informal women’s empowerment group formed by sole members Georgie, Bethany, and mutual friend, Rosie. When the neighborhood ladies find out about the group, membership grows exponentially. A source of big laughs, this subplot espouses the importance of women supporting other women to achieve their goals without shaming each other’s choices.
Fix Her Up is an authentic romance with humor, heart, incredible sex, and a refreshing depiction of female friendship. This is a must-read for all romance fans.
~ Liz Donatelli