Zero to Sixty
Sam Hamilton – mechanic, underground fighter and ex-con – is a manly-man. A LONELY manly man, but a manly man none the less. His best friends are getting married, and both Cyn and Foley are so wrapped up in their wedding plans that Sam feels like an odd man out in their once closely-knit relationship. He’s thrown himself into his second job – helping stray animals alongside the caustic Willie, a demanding elderly woman with many cats and one dog. Though his intimidating looks often give others pause, Sam ultimately just wants his beer and some peace and quiet. Which is something that’s denied him when Willie recruits him to check in on Ivy Stephens, who’s taken in one of her roaming pets to see if Ivy wants to permanently adopt him.
Ivy, a massage therapist, has renamed the dog Cookie, because the first thing he did when he entered her shop was steal one. She’s despondent because Cookie has disappeared onto the streets once more, ruining her plans to take him in. When Sam knocks on her door, she recruits him into her search for the dog, even though she feels that she doesn’t need a man in light of a pretty ugly break-up. Neither Sam nor Ivy is looking for a relationship, but the attraction between them is undeniable, and when Sam is tasked with holding on to Cookie until Ivy can legally adopt him, they end up in close contact. Can they overcome their issues and insecurities to be together?
Zero to Sixty’s charm tends to weave its way around the reader – but the biggest impediment to its success is – ironically – its characters.
Sam is somehow stoic and whiny at the same time, an unpleasant combination. He blows hot and cold because he loves Ivy and wants the best for her but oh no, he cannot allow himself to love because he doesn’t deserve it. He’s the kind of guy who beats up anyone who looks at the heroine askance for five minutes, yet is soft enough to fawn over a cute puppy. Oh, and when he starts falling for Ivy he calls himself a pussy. He finally gets it together in the middle third of the book but then he martyrs himself to save Ivy from his toxic relationship with his mother.
Seventy percent of Ivy’s thought processes revolves around how sexy Sam is (how many times can one be expected to endure her describing him as “pretty in a manly way?”); There’s not much to her outside of her romantic anxiety, her attraction to Sam and her love of the dog. The rest is all bitterness over her fiancé dumping her for someone blonder and richer (and every time she brings up this woman she must specifically qualify that she’s richer and blonder than poor Ivy) and her own heavy childhood baggage. Sam’s idea for helping Ivy resolve her anger at her ex unsurprisingly involves punching stuff, and when she seemingly rejects him, well – guess what his solution involves? Sam, like Buttercup Utonium (she of Powerpuff fame), loves to punch, and it’s a punch from Ivy that ultimately saves the day.
The romance is great, if you really like pining (I happen to). But Ivy and Sam are consumed nonstop with constant worries about their own unworthiness. The relationship is a nice slow burn and thus gets a marginal recommendation from me, but it also suffers from the hero and heroine’s endless baggage. Sam makes all the right gestures (he shaves off his facial hair to spruce up! And brings her flowers when he messes up!) and eventually Ivy reciprocates, but good heaven does it take forever for them to get there. Then out of nowhere, the novel throws some extremely dark material into the storyline and the reader is left to grapple with child rape and the weight of guilt. It casts a nasty pall over the happily ever after the heroine and hero then receive.
The supporting characters and the family they make, however, are great. I really enjoyed Willie and her ridiculous sex life. I liked Sam’s relationship with his best friend, Foley, hero of book two. For those who like the series at large Cyn and Foley figure into this narrative heavily as they plot their wedding, as do book one’s Johnny and Lara, though much less prominently than Cyn and Foley.
Overall, Zero to Sixty is a decent read with complicated characters who tend to grate on the reader – a mixed bag if there ever was one.