By day, I'm a domestic violence prosecutor. By night, I read romance to restore my faith in love, relationships, and humanity in general.
I must be on some kind of tattoo kick. I devoured Kit Rocha's Beyond series last week, and then stumbled upon this...and loved it. I was sucked in by the premise: I love roller derby. I was on the cusp of joining a league when I learned my son was on the way (and it's no good getting bashed around the derby track while in a family way.) Gretchen is a roller derby queen with tons of tats and 'tude, but her tough-girl exterior masks a sweet, generous, vulnerable soul. (She failed out of culinary school because she couldn't cook a lobster for the final exam of her final class, and instead brought him home, named him Wally, and has kept him as a pet for the past five years.) Jared is a plastic surgeon who has worked for years traveling the world fixing kids' cleft palates, healing burn victims and soldiers' war wounds, only to realize that he's desperately lonely. He's returned to the States to start the medical spa he and his best friends dreamed of back in medical school, but time and his travels have changed him, and he has no idea how to connect with anyone: not his friends, not his parents, not Gretchen.
The dialogue is really witty and often laugh out loud funny, the pacing is fast without feeling frenzied, but I think what I liked best was how well these mismatched characters complemented each other so perfectly. This is an opposites-attract story, but Jared's and Gretchen's relationship is never antagonistic. Jared has intimacy issues and runs hot and cold, but Gretchen doesn't whine or retaliate: she calls him on it, and he apologizes and does better. Gretchen is very aware that underemployment, incomplete education, and her very visible tattoos make her a totally inappropriate choice of partner for an important pillar of the community surgeon and humanitarian like Jared, but Jared never behaves as if she is beneath him. He admires her joy, her refusal to live by other's terms. As he tells her: "I've given my life to my career. You demand life from yours." (Loc. 987).