But First, Coffee (Love & Coffee #1) by Sarah Darlington
Released: September 9, 2018
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Publisher: Sarah Darlington
Reviewed by Keyrsten
She’s the boss.
I’m only a barista in her company.
I really don’t give a f**k about her one way or the other.
And then there’s Doug Maddox, a man with a lot of power over me. He’s blackmailing me. Making me spy on her. I’m supposed to find her weaknesses and destroy her. But the closer I get, the more the lines between us start to blur.
She’s sweet. She’s kind. She’s sexy as hell.
Why am I the only man who see’s this?
So now I’m stuck—between keeping my sister safe against Doug, because that’s what’s really at stake here, and these feelings I can’t deny for a woman who shouldn’t mean anything to me.
I know what I have to do. I’ll destroy her.
It doesn’t matter if I have to destroy my own heart in the process.
*Trigger Warning. Book contains topics of sexual violence and addiction.*
Lana Bitterman is a strong, independent, business woman who has fought tooth and nail for her business. She has been a force to be reckoned with in the PNW coffee industry. Every step she takes is methodical and a safe move. Her business has been her life for the last 10 years, and even with all the success she still feels the ache of loneliness. Promoting the barista Joe Coffee was a big risk, one she wasn't sure she was ready to make. The moment Joe sauntered into her office she was enamored with not only the mystery behind him but his crass honesty and carefree attitude.
Joe Coffee is a recovering addict with ADHD and a give no fucks attitude. He is not afraid to take risks, even if it means he needs to spy on his boss to ensure his sister Kitty is taken care off. For the last two years Joe has struggled with his addictions, sexual intimacy issues, and inability to keep focused and calm, that is until he meets Lana. She is the first person who is able to center him, the first person he feels relaxed with. Joe can't help but fall for Lana fast and fiercely, but how can he save both Lana and his sister?
The way Sarah approached the topics of sexual violence and addiction was interesting to experience. She wasn't afraid to take them on and did so gracefully without being afraid to tackle some ugly aspects of it. It was refreshing to see someone touch on topics such as the healing process of sexual intimacy after assault, the struggle with addictions being constant, the fear of relapse, and that relapsing isn't the end of recovery but just another bump in the road.
Chemistry between Joe and Lana was intense from the get go. They weren't afraid to challenge one another both professionally and personally. Lana had the patience and care to want to help Joe through his struggles in anyway she could. Whether it be doing a crossword puzzle with him or being his anchor when he was spiraling. She took every challenge thrown her way and refused to back down. Joe struggled with his doubts, but she took each of them in and gave him back a piece of her heart each time. The care and effort they put in for each other was beautiful. From the get go there were so many obstacles in their way, but they overcame those obstacles together even though it could have torn them apart.
I feel the climax of the book came together way to quickly. There was so much weight in the conflict with Doug, that it was all resolved way too quickly. It was hard for me to care too much about the blackmail Doug had over Joe and Kitty when Kitty seemed not to care at all. Joe was torn up about how to protect his sister, while Kitty took his loving efforts and just shrugged them away. Doug held this over Joe's head for two years ... so when it was resolved in a snap it left the climax falling flat for me. It felt a little like wasted drama and angst, especially when all the questions surrounding Doug weren't answered in the end. The plot fell off feeling a bit lackluster.
Joe and Lana were unique interesting characters, and the way the approached their struggles was endearing. Both of them were so sure they were unloveable and were destined to be alone. The struggles they had never stood a chance against their love for one another. Joe was Lana's risk. Lana was Joe's safety.
Rating: 4 stars
Give me an alpha male with a woman who aces all forms of sarcasm and I'm putty in you hands -- bonus points if a Reverse Harem is involved. Supernatural esque romance and power plays tend to make my heart go pitter patter. I haven't met a book I wasn't willing to try, so if you've got recommendations email them my way. I'm a foul mouthed makeup addicted with slight wino tendencies.