We first meet our heroine, 26 year old Luna Allen as she’s being sworn at in a staff meeting by her boss, Lucas Ripley. Luna has closed her eyes because she’s tired, and he thinks she’s asleep.

Luna, raised in a drug-filled and abusive situation, left SanAntonio with nothing when she was 17. Her younger sisters were left behind with her grandmother. She fortunate enough to meet a kindly 60-something man, Mr. Cooper, in Houston who hires her to work in his auto body shop, and she (and later her sisters) live with him and his wife for a few years. She becomes part of his family. She’s also a valuable employee, having worked her way up to painting cars.

Forty year old Lucas Ripley, or Rip, as he’s known is Luna’s “newer” boss. He bought into the business three years ago, and he and Mr. Cooper do not get along. They are always fighting, and Luna is always intervening to get them to stop. Rip is huge, muscular, handsome, secretive and hard on the employees. He’s also always covered, wearing long sleeves, even in the heat, and it’s obvious he has lots of tattoos as they are on his throat and fingers and hands.

Although he’s not always nice, Luna has a big crush on Rip. Her life has not been an easy one, and she spends about 85% of the book in her own head, trying to convince herself she’s okay, she’s loved, and she has a good life now.

This has been called one of Zapata’s “darker” books. I’ll agree that it deals with some darker subject matter, especially Luna’s past and her family, and aspects of Rip’s past.

I had a really hard time with Luna. I didn’t like her very much. She was such a cheerful, sweet, smiling Pollyanna, and everybody she meets loves her except her own family and one co-worker.

For someone who was strong enough to escape what she had at such a young age and make a life for herself and her sisters, and to succeed in what was typically a man’s job in an all-male environment, she wasn’t tough enough. She was a bit of a doormat. She let people take advantage and walk on her (in particular, two of her three sisters), and that didn’t fit for me.

She was also a dope. It was so obvious that Rip cared for her. He stayed at her house after there was a break-in. He slept with her in her bed because she was afraid. He even kissed her, and she wonders if that’s what bosses (or friends) normally do? Come on. (Eye roll inserted here). He’s not friendly with anyone, but he gives her rides, takes her to the doctor when she’s hurt, seeks her out to take on business errands with him, makes lunches for her, and eats with her. Duh, Luna.

She insists she doesn’t hold grudges, but after she obnoxiously pushes and pushes and pushes at him in an extremely high stress situation (a hospital emergency room) to find out whether or not he wants something to eat or drink, he tells her to leave him alone. Suddenly she’s a little kid again with everyone yelling at her to leave them alone so she’s done with him. Then she refuses to accept his apologies or talk to him (other than professionally as an employee) for two weeks. Grow up, Luna.

I loved Rip. He was a perfect Zapata hero, hard to get to know, but underneath it all, he loves Luna and has a heart of gold. He had his faults and rough edges, too, and it was hard for him to express himself. He’s had a rough past, and he thinks he’s too old for Luna. I loved the part with the roses.

I listened to this one on Audible as I read it. Callie Dalton is Zapata’s go-to female narrator, and I’m starting to wish she’d switch that up. She reads all the heroines exactly the same. It’s starting to feel like the same book because the female voice never changes. Nothing changes.

The heroes’ voices change up from book to book. Rip was voiced by Gomez Pugh, and he did an excellent job. He made Rip real. He was awkward, not articulate, tough, yet endearing and sweet.

I did enjoy this book although Luna’s endless litany of self-assurances got on my nerves. She was not my favorite Zapata heroine.

This was a typical Zapata slow burn romance, well worth the time it takes to get there.

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