I’m a series addict and I know Lauren Blakely sells her wares in back-alleys passing them off as “stand alones”. I know what they really are … they are … stand alones. But they’re crossover characters, occupy the same world, and sometimes characters lives overlap …. is it a series?!!? It’s a “cockamouse!!!” Seriously, I love Lauren Blakely books because they are truly stand alone books. But if you are a loyal reader, they have the comfort of a series and the world she creates feel like home. The characters are always entertaining and engaging, the pace is quick, and the storyline engaging. Comedic elements are spot-on and perfectly are perfectly balanced by the serious aspects. Romance in each of Lauren Blakely is tailored for each Hero and Heroine and Swoonworthy in their own ways. And the Sex is always cranked to 11. “Joy Ride” fits the bill perfectly.
The Hero is Max Summers. Incidentally the brother of the Hero of “Full Package”. Max works on luxury autos, taking someone’s classic car and making it even more of their fantasy. You want a flux capacitor that always hits 1.21 gigawatts in your DeLorean? Is your wish black, finned, ground-hugging, and responds to your vocal command to return to your bat cave? You want your car armored, with bullet-proof glass, and fast enough to out-run the Walking Dead? Call Summers Custom Auto Design. Max is a guy’s guy. He’s loved cars since before he could say “Hot Wheels” and knew it was his life’s calling. Max has indulgences: a personal pool table, drinking eighteen-year-old scotch, and steaming bubble baths with bath bombs for extra oomph. Obviously he’s a paradox. He works in a man’s world but he’s not sexist. Unless you ask the most talented apprentice he ever had.
Henley Rose Marlow, did not grow up in a family of mechanics, she just fell in love cars. She went to college and majored in Mechanical Engineering. Then Henley went to a car show and personally begged her way into a Summers Custom Auto Design apprenticeship. Henley’s a woman in a man’s world. She has to work harder, be emotionally stronger, and hold herself to a higher standard. While an apprentice under Max she soaked up everything he had to teach her. She worked hard to show him what she knew and what she learned. But then there was The Mustang incident and everything went to Hell. Ultimately, to Henley, Max fired her undeservedly. She was the most talented and the most qualified to be promoted. Instead he fired herFive years later it’s a blood feud. Every word they exchange is laced with poison and cuts deep.
Henley’s gorgeous, dressed in jeans, work boots, and t-shirts especially in her tough-girl look stilettos, short skirt, and leather jacket. Just when you think that’s all, you glimpse under the hard candy shell and see the sparkly, pink, unicorn filling. Max and Henley are thrown together a lot. Henley’s hot temper set’s off Max’s defense mechanism ending up in tiring battles of words – or sizzling verbal foreplay. Suddenly they’re set up. A man who works for a TV show wants Max to customize a car for the hero of the show. They also want to have a special show regarding the process of customizing the car. But they want Henley to work with Max. He was at the car show when Henley and Max rekindled their hate/hate relationship. He mistook their sparks for chemistry and wants them to work together on customizing the car the special show.
Okay, here is Max’s secret. He acts grouchy and acts as though he dislikes Henley for a reason. It’s because he wants her more than a chocoholic wants to be locked in the M&M store overnight. He’s lusted after her since she was his apprentice and even though she hates his guts he wants her now. Badly. Because she hates him his only defense is to react in kind.
Here’s Henley’s backstory. Five years ago, as Max’s apprentice, she was working on a ’69 Mustang Fastback. Max was out of the shop and when he got back he discovered the car was painted champagne gold instead of lime gold. It wasn’t what the customer wanted, she’d accidentally wrote the color code down wrong. Painting the car the wrong color requires a complete a redo. Henley begged Max to give her another chance. She worked long and hard along side Max so the car came out perfectly. When it came time for Max to choose an apprentice to move up he didn’t choose her. Max claimed she wasn’t ready and she accused him of being passed over because she was a woman. Things got heated, lots of accusations and then she called him a cruel bastard. He fired her.
Since they’re working together on the TV show car as well as the “docu-series” they’re spending more time together. Their emotions aren’t always angry and they’re more than getting along. Soon their emotions are getting hot again but a different kind of hot. The next thing they know is they’re naked and getting busy on top of a yellow Charger. It’s a one time deal. Then they do it again because they need to get each other out of their systems. Max and Henley realize it’s not a one-night or two-night stand. It’s a lot more. Unfortunately, Henley’s hiding something and she asks Max to just trust her. On the flip side Max’s hiding things from Henley because there’s an “old school” mindset that can’t trust “the competition”. Then things get freaky with a Blue Betty, a deer, a tree, and a monkey.
I’m not sure why Max is now one of my favorite Lauren Blakely Heroes but he is. He’s big, gruff, sexy, and easily discombobulated. I really like the heroes who struggle to hide their feelings. They must practically run screaming from the room to get away from the heroine’s temptations before they burst into flames. Or they shut down and stoically tell the heroine she needs to leave his home. They calmly walks her out, and sees her safely to her Uber. When he gets to his empty apartment he loses his mind and jacks it before the door finishes closing. “Joy Ride” is just that, it’s an Enemies to Lovers romp. It’s funny, romantic, and racy hot. Max and Henley are magic together. They are sweet, cuddly, fiery and passionate. “Joy Ride” takes the cup!
I’m giving “Joy Ride” 5 Lightning Bolts and a Storm Warning.
This novel was provided, voluntarily read, and honestly reviewed