Known for her Commander in Briefs novels, author Kristy Marie touts her work as “romance with a side of smartass.” And she doesn’t disappoint. In her new romantic comedy, IOU, Marie delivers a wickedly clever love story in which comedic gaffes and situational humor provide an entertaining backdrop for an essentially heartfelt romance.
Sea lion fanatic Ainsley James gives up on becoming a marine biologist so that she can follow her pre-med boyfriend, Tucker, to Havemeyer University. It isn’t long before Ainsley catches Tucker having sex with her roommate in her apartment. Her immediate response is to accidentally start a curtain fire, which gets her evicted, and subsequent rumors of Ainsley’s insane pyromania hinder her search for a place to live. Tired of sleeping in her car, she becomes desperate enough to seek out the help of famed Havemeyer dealmaker Maverick Lexington. The mysterious college senior is known campus wide for performing favors in exchange for exorbitant IOU payments (written on playing cards). Ainsley asks Maverick to find her a new apartment so that she can stay in school, and she is willing to pay any price.
Soon after Maverick agrees to a deal with Ainsley, both parties begin to regret their new business arrangement. Maverick can’t stand Ainsley’s quirks and incessant questions, and Ainsley resents Maverick’s bullish demands. As the seemingly incompatible couple spend time together, they begin to see beyond their struggles and pretenses and fall in love with each other’s true selves.
Kristy Marie crafts a compelling slow-burn narrative that builds true intimacy between the spunky, candidly honest Ainsley and the broody, secretive Maverick. ‘Mainsley,’ as I’ve nicknamed the young couple, cares for each other in surprisingly tender ways that could melt even the most cynical reader’s heart. I lost count as to how many times I sent the couple virtual bear hugs, and I admit to having virtually bear hugged super-hot Maverick for an uncomfortably long time. I remain a tad obsessed with him even as I write this. There is something powerfully alluring about a hunky poker player who can casually seal a deal with a Queen of Diamonds kept inside the jeans back pocket covering his perfectly firm ass.
IOU’s engaging romance, insanely likable main characters, and steamy sex kept me reading into the wee morning hours. However, I did have some issues with the writing. At times, dialogue attribution is confusing, and details of the characters’ physical movements are not clearly defined. For example, there is a vaguely described make-out session in which it is uncertain as to whether Maverick is spitting beer into Ainsley’s open mouth. This strangely arousing scene was probably much clearer in the author’s imagination and got lost in translation to the page.
For the sake of my beloved Mainsley, I forgave (but obviously did not forget) Kristy Marie for a handful of ambiguous paragraphs. However, the author does redeem herself with a sweet, climactic twist and a satisfying ending. I enjoyed IOU so much that I wasn’t even seriously bothered by the inclusion of an epilogue that takes place six years in the future. (‘Future epilogues’ have emerged as my new pet peeve.) I enthusiastically recommend that romance readers add Kristy Marie’s IOU to their TBR lists ASAP.
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