Rules of a Rebound
Natalie Winters divorced the man she thought would be her happily-ever-after hero when she found out he was cheating, and to add insult to injury, she had to buy him off to win even shared custody of Betsy, the beagle he gave her. So she attends the Breakup Bash party at a nightclub, where Rome Collier is tending bar and fending off advances – until he sees Natalie. What begins as a one-night stand goes overtime when a burglary at Natalie’s house gives former security man Rome an excuse to stay longer.
If you like books which put dogs front and center, go for this one, because Betsy is adorable and Rome’s rapport with her is one of the key ways we know he’s right for Natalie. I loved the scene in which Natalie was racing home to see Betsy before the dog had to go on a custody swap to her jerky ex, and Rome was doing everything he could to delay the pet taxi service to buy time for Natalie.
But this scene also represents my struggle with the book, which is that the sweetness of the best scenes are a mismatch for a book in which Rome and Natalie meet as a pickup over jokes about “Do Me” condoms and have a quickie in a bar storage closet. They flip back and forth between hot lust hookups and a level of comfort and familiarity that makes them seem practically married. Rome takes Natalie home and helps check the house for the burglars and finds her dog. Then suddenly they’re having sex on the foldout couch. But the next few times they get together, they’re chatting comfortably, Rome throwing the ball for Betsy while Natalie grills steaks. Couples in lust can have tender moments, but the lustful moments and tender moments have to feel like they exist on the same timeline – and that’s not really the case here.
This book is just 174 pages, so the $3.99 price point feels high. Bottom line: if Nina Crespo writes or has written a romance with a heat level of ‘subtle’ or ‘warm’, I’d buy it in a heartbeat, because characters that feel as natural with each other as cozy-mode Natalie and Rome are hard to find. But I am not so confident I’d pick up another hot-rated one by her.