Love Her or Lose Her
Love Her or Lose Her is the second book in Tessa Bailey’s Hot & Hammered series. A love story about a marriage on the rocks and about growing into who you were always meant to be, this novel is fun, sweet, intense and heartwarming. It stands very well on its own; Georgie and Travis from Fix Her Up, book one in the series, make frequent appearances here but you don’t need to have read their story to appreciate this one.
When a man flirts with her at work, faithfully married Rosie Vega makes a startling discovery – no one has made her feel admired in a long time. In fact, when she stops to think about it, no one has even made her feel seen in years. Her husband Dominic barely grunts at her when she gets home from work, much less talks to her. He never waits to eat dinner with her or invites her to watch TV with him. Even the physical side of the relationship is messed up. They have sex on a schedule – hot and passionate sex every Tuesday night, completely devoid of affection like it’s a booty call with a stranger. This is Tuesday night but that minor flirtation with a stranger has made Rosie determined that she won’t be doing anything but packing a suitcase and walking out the door once she gets home.
That’s exactly what she does: She tells a startled Dominic that she’s done, packs a bag and goes to her friend Bethany’s. But Dominic isn’t ready to give up on their marriage, so he starts dropping by her new abode to drop off the coat she forgot, or to warm her car up in the morning, and talking to her at the gym where they both work out and urging her to come home. In fact, he talks to her more at the gym in a few short minutes than he has in several years previously. Rosie does want to go back – but back to what they were when they were first together, not what they are now. She’s not sure they can change, but the desperation in Dominic’s voice has her agreeing to give him one more chance to make things right. She concedes they need marriage counseling and then deliberately chooses a therapist who is the opposite of what Dominic would want. She’s fairly confident that when Dominic gets a look at the weed smoking hippie with pillows rather than chairs in his office, he’ll walk out and that will tell her exactly what she needs to know; that Dominic isn’t willing to do whatever it takes to get them back on track.
Dominic surprises her. He not only sits through the initial session, he does the follow up homework. Having been told to write a letter expressing his feelings, he pens a note telling her how he felt taking her to the high school Homecoming dance their senior year – and how sorry he is that he doesn’t make her feel cherished every day. It’s a good start, but will love notes and therapy sessions on fluffy cushions really be enough to put this marriage back together?
I love how this relationship is depicted. Rosie and Dominic are not unkind to each other, nor are they emotionally indifferent. They love each other. The problem is that they have been taking each other for granted, making zero effort to connect in any way. Rosie works evenings in retail, while Dominic works during the day in construction. They do everything separately and don’t even greet each other when they cross paths. It’s not until they start counseling that they realize how thoroughly they’ve been neglecting each other.
The fact that both have been neglectful rather than cruel made it easy for me to root for Rosie and Dominic both as individuals and as a couple. The two of them have been together since their early teens and know each other very well. That familiarity, along with the fact that they’ve been together over a decade, had led them to a situation where they see each other as fixtures rather than living, breathing people with hopes, dreams and feelings. I loved how Rosie realized she needed more from life and began to pursue it. I adore a heroine who takes charge of her own destiny. Dominic’s a hard-working, quiet, considerate man whose main goal in life is to make Rosie happy. His problem was that he thought he could do that by copying his parent’s marriage but it turned out that wasn’t what was best for his own relationship. Once the counselor shows him why what he’s doing is wrong, he begins to make the changes he needs to make to fix his marriage. The fact that both Rosie and Dominic cherish each other enough to really work through the situation was wonderful and I really appreciated that the bulk of the story was about learning to be a team, building a genuine rapport and connecting. Too often romances try to sell instalust as love. That doesn’t happen here; we get an in-depth look at what each character is feeling and thinking and then get to see them interacting and building emotional intimacy. That gave me all the feels.
This story was building towards DIK status but it ran into some snags at the end. What had been a fairly serious – but still fun and enjoyable – love story develops a case of what I call ‘the sillies’ towards the end. Rather than just providing us with a reunited Rosie and Dominic, the author pulls out all the stops and has every possible dream come true for the couple. In some novels this would have been a good ending but since this story was all about working on your relationship and working for your dreams, having everything go magically right in the last few chapters felt a bit – much. I would have preferred a more realistic ending that was in keeping with the story the author had been telling all along.
That is a minor flaw, though, and doesn’t happen until near the end of Love Her or Lose Her. And frankly, if the author was going to make any mistake, that is the perfect one to make in a genre known for happy endings. I think fans of the author will be very pleased with this book and readers who love stories about an emotionally intimate relationship should rush out and buy it. They will find a lot to love here.