Love Her or Lose Her
I loved Fix Her Up, book one in the Hot and Hammered series. That was a pleasant surprise since my relationship with Tessa Bailey is hit or (mostly) miss. I never know how I’m going to feel at the end of one of her novels. But Fix Her Up was great. Reader, it featured a children’s party planner who liked dressing as a clown (I mean, come on!) and I loved it. It was silly and weird and sexy. Because of it, I had super high hopes for Love Her or Lose Her, but I should have known better based on my track record with Bailey. This one is a mess, with none of the quirky, sexy fun of the previous book.
Rosie works as a perfume salesperson at a big box store and she hates it. She’s a brilliant cook, and dreams of opening her own restaurant one day – and her friends and the Just Us League (the women’s empowerment group started in Fix Her Up) never stop reminding her how talented she is. The group even fundraised a portion of the money needed for Rosie to start her own restaurant; Rosie just lacks the confidence to ‘go for it.’ So she spends her days at a job she hates, dressed in heels that make her miserable, and returns home every evening to a silent, stoic husband who only pays attention to her on Tuesdays, when they have incredible sex. YEAR AFTER YEAR SHE LIVES THIS LIFE. Rosie has generous, loving, supportive friends, a miserable job, a disinterested husband, and money in the bank to make her dreams come true. So what does she do? Absolutely nothing.
After a stint abroad in the military, Dominic returned home a different man. Quiet and afraid to voice his feelings, he exists to serve his wife. (She just doesn’t know it. Hmmm.) He loves her and wants her, but persists in believing his father’s version of marriage – provide and protect – is the best way to his wife’s heart. DESPITE ZERO PROOF IT’S WORKING and ample evidence it isn’t. Dominic doesn’t ask Rosie about her life or her dreams or her desires, and he doesn’t share any of his own. He simply clings to memories of long ago conversations about the fictional family home of their future, and he works hard to make that fiction reality. He loves Rosie more than ever (they were childhood sweethearts), but makes no attempt to get to know this adult version of her, only shedding his stoic facade when they have intense sex every Tuesday night. He does secret sweet things Rosie never knows about, too. Why? Why Dominic, why???
Anyway, Rosie is eventually fed up with her life (For real girl. Why did it take so long?!), and so when the story opens, it’s a TUESDAY SEX FEST DAY, and she isn’t feeling it. After a guy hits on her at the department store, she FINALLY asks herself ‘why should I feel like shit 6 days a week in my lame, silent, depressing marriage and dead end job? I’m super hot, an amazing chef, and I have a support network eager to help me.’ So instead of telling Dominic she wants more than a Tuesday night sexfest and that she fucking hates her job, Rosie leaves him. As one does. She doesn’t ask ‘Why won’t you talk to me anymore, Dominic?’, no ‘Do you still love me?’, she just leaves.
Dominic, who apparently didn’t realize giving your wife the silent treatment for years while expecting great sex once a week isn’t exactly normal, freaks out. When Rosie offers an opportunity to fix the complete disaster that is their relationship by seeing a marriage therapist, he’s wary but desperate, and agrees. And then this odd story goes totally off the rails. Oh sorry, I can see how you thought that happened before this point in the proceedings, but here’s where it actually happens.
Rosie and Dominic see a marriage therapist. This highly recommended therapist (by whom??!!) is getting high when they arrive for their first appointment, and after asking them to set up a campsite as homework for the second, shows up with two scantily clad women and disappears into the tent for a threesome. There are marshmallows, too. Don’t ask. Ahem. Who recommended this bozo??!! His behavior doesn’t scream FIND SOMEONE ELSE? Reader. We’re supposed to believe Dominic and Rosie adore each other, want to fix their marriage, and will do whatever it takes to make that happen. But they turn to a horny and high therapist for help. I call bullshit.
Marriage therapy is a real thing. It’s hard work, and Ms. Bailey treats saving this marriage as a joke. In Love Her or Lose Her, it’s all jokey, jokey, sex-y, sex-y, funny friends, awkward bonding, jokey, jokey. Bam. Marriage saved. Because unlike most other struggling marriages, Dominic and Rosie actually LOVE EACH OTHER MORE THAN ANYTHING ON EARTH (eye roll) and HAVE AMAZING, INCREDIBLE, CRAZY HOT SEX as proof. Except they’re essentially strangers with one pesky BIG problem. They don’t communicate with each other. At all. Which (newsflash to no-one) is essential in any working relationship. Just freaking talk to each other.
Obviously, I had a lot of problems with Love Her or Lose Her. Rosie and Dominic sounded like they might be interesting and compelling principal characters, but once I got to know them… OOPS! THAT NEVER ACTUALLY HAPPENED. They’re wholly underdeveloped, and at the end of the novel, they still felt like strangers to me, and each other! I generally don’t love the marriage-in-trouble trope, but that rarely stops me from reading a romance that tempts me in other ways. Unfortunately, this marriage (if that’s what we’re calling it) starts off on the rocks and I was never convinced this pair earned their happily ever after. And the nicknames. Don’t get me started on those.
Friends, I liked the brief glimpses of Georgie and Travis from Fix Her Up, and that’s about it. Even the sex is overkill in this one. Chemistry is great, but if you can’t share your hopes and dreams with someone you claim to love and is your soulmate, I don’t think you’re actually in love. We barely get to know Rosie and Dominic beyond their jobs and insatiable lust for each other. I did enjoy the first tease of Bethany (Georgie’s sister) and the future love of her life – but then the Just For Us league gets involved, and Bethany and her future love start bickering, and the whole thing grew tedious and unfunny in the extreme. I’m already over them.
Love Her or Lose Her is a disappointing follow-up to the terrific Fix Her Up. I just wish Ms. Bailey had fixed this book up, too.