Review by Kayleigh

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Series Name: Bellinger Sisters, #2

“A memory trickled in without her consent.

A memory that made her jumpy for some reason.

That one afternoon six months ago at a vinyl convention in Seattle when she’d felt like the main character. Browsing through records with Fox Thornton, king crab fisherman and a lady-killer of the highest caliber. When they’d stood shoulder to shoulder and shared a pair of Airpods, listening to Silver Spring, the world just kind of fading out around them.” 

Tessa Bailey’s follow up to the spicy It Happened One Summer is a surprisingly sweet and slow burn about Hannah Bellinger that kept me warm on a frosty February night. 

King crab fisherman Fox Thornton has a reputation as a sexy, carefree flirt. Everyone knows he’s a guaranteed good time—in bed and out—and that’s exactly how he prefers it. Until he meets Hannah Bellinger. She’s immune to his charm and looks, but she seems to enjoy his… personality? And wants to be friends? Bizarre. But he likes her too much to risk a fling, so platonic pals it is.

Now, Hannah’s in town for work, crashing in Fox’s spare bedroom. She knows he’s a notorious ladies’ man, but they’re definitely just friends. In fact, she’s nursing a hopeless crush on a colleague and Fox is just the person to help with her lackluster love life. Armed with a few tips from Westport’s resident Casanova, Hannah sets out to catch her coworker’s eye… yet the more time she spends with Fox, the more she wants him instead. As the line between friendship and flirtation begins to blur, Hannah can’t deny she loves everything about Fox, but she refuses to be another notch on his bedpost.  

Living with his best friend should have been easy. Except now she’s walking around in a towel, sleeping right across the hall, and Fox is fantasizing about waking up next to her for the rest of his life and… and… man overboard! He’s fallen for her, hook, line, and sinker. Helping her flirt with another guy is pure torture, but maybe if Fox can tackle his inner demons and show Hannah he’s all in, she’ll choose him instead?

After reading Piper and Brendan’s story in It Happened one Summer, where Hannah and Fox are supporting characters, it was so nice to return to Westport, some familiar faces, and to see how Hannah and Fox get their HEA. In the first book, Tessa had already begun to hit at the sparks between Hannah and Fox, but had also set up the fact that Fox is a player only interested in a good time and Hannah is a little shy and quiet. On the surface they shouldn’t work. I loved that Tessa took the time to build a solid friendship between Hannah and Fox. For the first time they both found a friend who was there to support them and cheer them on. I really liked the dynamic Tessa built up between the two of them – it reminded me a bit of the tension and strength between Max and Dani in Jenny Holiday’s Duke Actually, which is one of my favourite friends to lovers romances. Friends to lovers is a tricky one for me to sometimes buy into, but the way Tessa built up their long distance friendship that blossoms into something more when they are back in the same town really worked for me.

Fan’s of Tessa may expect the main characters to get down and dirty quickly and I was happy to find that Hannah and Fox had more of a buildup, slow burn romance that just kept notching up the tension. When they finally got naked, oh man was it good. I liked the friction that Hannah and Fox created as they tried to navigate being friends, living together and trying to keep their hands off each other. Something else I personally liked was that there wasn’t as much dirty talk as I’ve come to expect in Tessa’s books – the intimate aspects of the relationship matched the image I had in my head of Hannah as a lover and a partner.

Hannah Bellinger is very different than her sister: a music lover who’s been happy to live in her bigger-than-life big sister’s shadow, and content to be a gofer working her way up in the movie business instead of demanding a large job from her daddy’s film company, I will admit I was worried at first about her being the main character of her own story based on her personality in the first book of the series. It turns out Hannah is also worried about being the leading lady in her own life. It felt very authentic to see someone struggle and work to assert themselves in their own life. How many times have I felt like I’m just rolling along on other people’s waves helping to keep them afloat before realizing I have to start paddling for myself? So many times. Watching Hannah grow and assert herself was a powerful character arc (and a good reminder that we only have one life to live so we need to own it.)

I knew Hannah and Fox would be an interesting couple to watch grow. From the outset I expected them to be an odd couple, especially because I wasn’t sure about Fox, who doesn’t seem to care about anything but banging women. One reason that Fox, our eternal playboy doesn’t respect himself and doesn’t expect others to respect him, is that we discover some of his back story that has set him up to only value his physical attributes. Toxic masculinity isn’t something I’ve seen discussed in fiction books, especially a romance book, before. It was an interesting look into the way self-worth and perception can influence how we look for and treat partners and ourselves in a romantic relationship.  A large part of Fox and Hannah’s story is about Fox recognizing his worth as a person, a partner and in his career. His character arc was just as imperative to the story as Hannah’s was – something I really like. Their relationship is based on both working on being the best partners they can be.    

I really liked Hook, Line, and Sinker and found it to be a satisfying conclusion to the duology. I’m sad my time in Westport is over.

If you like friction, tension, and a toe-curling slow burn, then Hook, Line, and Sinker needs to be on your TBR list. 

Thank you to Harper Collins Canada for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.