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E.F. Dodd
Earning It
E.F. Dodd, author

Adult; Romance; (Market)

Regan “Rae” Murphy has zero interest in romance and even less in love. One heartbreak in her life was quite enough, and she has no desire to get wrapped up in the sticky tendrils of love again. She thought she’d left all those messy feelings and entanglements in her past when she moved to Charlotte from Charleston, especially the devastatingly handsome portion of that past, who was wearing nothing but a towel when she walked out on him. His betrayal was the reason she leftand is the reason she keeps her heart safely tucked away. But when her best friend, Kez, asks Rae to be her maid of honor, Rae reluctantly puts aside her own feelings about forever. Love is in the air on Kez’s wedding day, and it smacks Rae right in the face when her ex, Van, appears—and he looks just as good in a tux as he did in a towel. For Kez’s sake, Rae agrees to bury the hatchet somewhere other than between Van’s shoulder blades. He makes it his mission to get Rae to hear him out—something she refused to do before she left him. The pull to listen is strong as the hope she’d buried deep within her starts to rattle its way free. Maybe everything between them hadn’t been one giant, intricate lie. But to get the chance to show Rae what they had was real, Van’s going to have to earn it.
A hardened playgirl meets with relentless pursuit in this celebratory second-chance contemporary romance from Dodd. When Van, the ex who broke Rae’s heart and ruined her for love, turns up at her best friend’s wedding, Rae is determined to keep her cool and make it through the wedding without stirring up any drama. Unfortunately, he’s also invited on the wedding party’s group trip to the Caymans and avoiding him will prove impossible. Despite Rae’s struggles to get over their breakup and start a new life, Van is determined not to let her get away again.

Dodd centers the plot strongly around her earlier book, Risky Restoration, a choice that will please fans of the previous story but also at times slows the narrative momentum. This is a relationship with a decidedly rough start, as their original courtship and breakup were far from standard. Van, an undercover agent with the FBI, staged a meeting to get close to Rae and, through her, to her drug-dealing boss, but after more than a year together and declarations of love, Rae discovered his real identity, prompting her to run out on him and try to pick up the pieces in a new city. Now that they’re thrown back together in less-than-ideal circumstances, the two quickly revert back to their own games—Van’s possessive of Rae, bordering on alarming at times, while she tells him she wants nothing to do with him and then, hours later, gets sloppy drunk and climbs into his lap.

Van claims to want nothing more than to explain his past mistakes, while Rae vows to stay aloof—intentions that quickly founder. The prose is sharp and polished, especially the dialogue, while the conflict is mostly internal: Rae’s refusal to face her feelings and discover how to communicate them to herself and her rekindled flame. Readers interested in characters feeling their way back to love will find much here that resonates.

Takeaway: This second-chance romance finds a woman unable to snuff a rekindling flame.

Great for fans of: Taylor Jenkins Reid’s Maybe in Another Life, Lauren Dane’s Back To You.

Production grades
Cover: B+
Design and typography: A
Illustrations: N/A
Editing: A
Marketing copy: A