Travis Bravo was sick of his meddling mother and her matchmaking ways. So what better way to stop her than to bring a fiancée home for the holidays? One catch—he wasn't even dating anyone.
But that was where his rough-and-tumble oil-rig friend, Samantha Jaworski, came in. An unpolished tomboy, Sam was game for anything for a good friend. But after her girlfriend-ready makeover, she fell easily into the role of Travis's loving partner—and into his arms.
Would she be standing under his mistletoe…for keeps?
And here is Crysta's review:
I am not a petite and delicate woman. I am 5’8”, 150, and I have big feet. I make grunting noises when I’m doing something difficult. I have calluses on my hands. I don’t get my body waxed, and quite frankly, I can’t imagine paying someone to inflict that pain on me. I even swear sometimes. This is all okay.
Sam Jaworski isn’t a petite and delicate woman either – that is, until she goes through a week-long womanifying in order to help her oil-rig co-worker and longtime friend Travis Bravo convince his mother that they are engaged so Mama Bravo will get off Travis’ back about finding a woman which she has been doing ever since his fiancee tragically died in a car accident eight years ago and he’s never been able to make it work with someone else except that one girl Wanda who he pushed away because he just wasn’t ready for love…
Why can’t Sam go as her tall, strong, loud, swearing (well, “frickin’”), not-know-which-fork-to-use self? She thinks that maybe, at thirty, she wants to get off the oil rigs, where she has risen to the top as tool pusher, proving herself as strong, capable, and willing to kick ass whenever needed. These traits, she thinks, plus her inability (/disinterest) in wearing make-up, shopping, and “feeling like a woman,” will keep her from getting a good office job, like in accounting, her new dream field.
As you may already be able to tell, I question Sam’s logic. But let’s get back to the summary.
So, on Travis’ dime (he’s old-Texas-money-rich, you know), Sam spends a week in the Four Seasons with a Carson-from-Queer-Eye-type gay superstylist who oversees the waxing, the shopping, the language transformation (out goes “frickin’,” in goes “lovely”), and the general overhaul from ungainly grotesque man-woman to smooth, stylish, supermodel woman.
As you can expect, Travis has trouble now only seeing Sam as his rough-and-tumble friend. Almost instantly, his loins are burning (or something like that). Sam’s are too – she can sense his new feelings (they lock eyes a lot) and it makes her think “Oh. Huh. He is kinda hot, isn’t he?”
And off they go to the Bravo Ranch, a sprawling mansion outside of San Antonio where all of Travis’ gigantic family has gathered for Thanksgiving as well as the renewal of Travis’ parents’ vows. They have sex (duh), Travis proposes for real, Sam says yes, they get married before Christmas. HAE, the end, awww.
Throughout it all, Sam has misgivings and hesitations and fears. Is this new person really her? Is this all going way too fast? (YES.) Is it weird that Travis keeps pushing that they get married in two weeks right here at the ranch and then immediately try to stop popping out babies? (YES.) But, of course, Travis’ manly love sweeps those fears aside.
I spent a lot of time as I read this book scrawling indignant comments to reference for this review. Most of them have to do with Sam – how she can’t see that her years at the top of a demanding and dangerous profession will impress any smart employer; how she completely lets go of whomever she may have been before this transformation; how she allows herself and her feelings to be subsumed into her new life with Travis. By the end, I couldn’t tell if she had actually been an awesome, strong, not-cookie-cutter woman before or if I had just imagined/projected it onto her.
Also, she’s thirty, and she’s only had sex with one guy, one time (before the love god Travis), and of course it was horrific. I know that this is standard romance fare, but honestly. I may have to quit romance because I am getting really tired of female characters who show up with only fear or innocence regarding sex. Hands up if you had feelings of pleasure associated with sex by the time you met someone you eventually fell in love with? Maybe I’m being too hopeful, but my hand is up and I don’t think I’m alone.
Right, so that’s Sam. Our hero, Travis, starts off as a pretty normal guy – maybe you’re friends with this guy. He works a corporate job but isn’t a slime ball. He’s handsome and a little country and he loves his family. He’s got an enormous trust fund that he hasn’t touched yet because he wants to make his own way. (Wait… if you know this guy, I might suggest spending a week making yourself more womanly.) Travis also makes a nice hero because he has this past – eight years ago, his fiancee died in a tragic car accident when a drunk driver hit her car, killing her instantly. So we know he can love and we know he’s got some pain to work through and maybe what he needs is someone who’s been there all along!
The trouble with Travis (if you’ve picked up on this review’s theme at all, you knew this was coming) is that the depth of emotion that is possible for him never quite appears. Oddly enough, we hardly get any of Travis’ thoughts first-hand. The book starts from his POV, shifts to Sam’s for the transformation week, and then only rarely goes back to Travis for the rest of the book. I kept really wanting to hear what he had to say – how weird it may seem to see his long-time friend looking so different, how surprising and strange it was to suddenly have feelings for her he hadn’t had before, how difficult he’s really finding all this since he never really mourned his fallen fiancee – but I was left in suspense.
So we’ve got a heroine that I couldn’t agree with and who didn’t ring true to me and a hero that seems right up my alley on the one hand but unknowable on the other – that already takes the book, for me, down to a C. Add to it that their relationship as we see it seems to consist of nothing but sex – they do talk on the phone quite a bit towards the end but we get no details of what they might say to each other for three hours – and we’re already at a D.
Lastly, this was my first Bravo romance – in fact, being quite new to romance in general and an actual noob to contemporary romance, I had no idea that this book was related to other books in any way. I did start to get the hint, though, when there were odd paragraphs or passages talking about Travis’ uncountable family members. For example, in the middle of a section about Sam and Travis having breakfast with Travis’ parents, we get these paragraphs:
“Some of the Bravo family relationships were…interesting, to say the least.
Elena and Mercy were very close. Mainly because Elena was not only his [who is this male pronoun referring to?] illegitimate daughter, but she was also Mercy’s sister, though not by blood. Mercy had been adopted at the age of twelve by Elena’s mom, Luz, and Luz’s husband, Javier.
In fact, until just a few years ago, everyone except Luz had believed that Javier Cabrera was Elena’s natural father. When the truth came out, there had been big trouble in both families. That was when Travis’s dad and mom had separated. Luz and Javier had lived apart, too.”
Um… yeah. If you don’t already know and love the Bravos, this little sum up of the lives of Travis’s family members is strange, at best. At its worst, it is a sort-of confusing waste of time that could be spent showing real growth and development in the romantic leads and their relationship.
I am the lone naysayer of this book on Goodreads – I felt a little bad dishing out my one star and my shorter, yet no more positive, review. Similarly, I struggle with criticizing Christine Rimmer who has done a remarkable thing by creating a family that has intrigued and delighted enough people to allow her to write about this family as her career – a career of which I am desperately jealous. Unfortunately, my admiration for the author and my deep-seeded desire to be seen as kind can’t overpower my ultimate disappointment in this book.