Overall Rating: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️
Emily Goodwin hit my radar about a year ago with her Dawson Family books. To say that I gobbled them is an understatement. There was something charming and heart-wrenching about the stories of the Dawson family, and I was hooked. Now, Emily Goodwin brings us a new series, the Hard to Love series, with the release of the first book in the series, Hard Place.
Hard Place tells the story of Alexander and Harper. Harper is a single mother of twins who lives in poverty as she struggles to raise her children. She works for a successful PR group doing meaningless data entry driven work. One day, her supervisor notes her work ethic and job effectiveness, and she suggests her for the administrative assistant job of the owner. With more money and benefits, Harper accepts.
Alexander is the owner’s son and future of the business. Until the start of the book, Alex has been known as a hard-driving boss by day and a playboy at night. Unfortunately, the lifestyle at night has grown wearisome, and he feels an emptiness. During the day, he works very hard to ensure the company’s success so that it becomes his future after his father retires. His relationship with his family is fraught with issues, and he portrays himself to others as uncaring and work focused. As we come to find out, though, this is merely a front to the hurt that Alex carries within himself.
Harper and Alex meet early on in the story under problematic circumstances. She doesn’t realize until after she receives the promotion that she will be assisting Alex. At the outset, they are physically attracted to each other, but Alex doesn’t sleep with his employees, and Harper detests Alex given their early interaction and his sullen and taskmaster- driving treatment of her and the other employees. However, over time, her feelings begin to change, and Alex vacillates back and forth between acting or not acting on his urges for Harper. Later in the story, to gain back an account, Alex asks Harper to act as his girlfriend. Their attraction becomes undeniable, and they finally act upon it at the end of this first book. Sadly, the story doesn’t end here, and Goodwin leaves us on a cliffhanger.
Here is the thing with this book. I like the general premise of it. I like Harper. And I even like Alex. While the blurb and tagline indicate it is an enemies-to-lovers story, it isn’t in the traditional sense of that trope. Yes, Harper is not a fan of Alex’s for quite a bit of the story. He acts snappish at times with her because Alex is hiding. A lot of himself. I would never characterize Alex as not liking or detesting Harper. He doesn’t trust himself with her, and he doesn’t believe himself to be good enough for her as he doesn’t engage in relationships. So the trope is loosely enemies-to-lovers.
There is quite a bit of hurt in this story. I think that’s the part of Goodwin’s book that I connected with. That we finish the first book and Alex hasn’t revealed the essence of his brokenness yet suggests that the second book will be an emotion-fest of his revelation. He requires healing, and it doesn’t happen in this book.
In fact, their relationship barely begins to transpire at the end of it. Instead, this book is the set-up, the preliminary push-pull, of their relationship. And Goodwin complicates it at the end. I think there might be a love triangle in the next book given her ending.
I struggled with a vacillating Alex. One second, he is enamored with Harper, and the next second, he pushes her away. I can understand an author’s need to keep characters apart as a way to build towards the climax of the story. But it read as indecision in a way that was off-putting. At least to me. As a heroine, Harper is amazing. However, she browbeats herself for too much of the book. I think Goodwin could have edited her angst about her body, her back story, or lack of resources down so that the reader isn’t reminded of it in every chapter with Harper’s point of view. I also think that Alex needed more emotional development. His character doesn’t evolve enough for this first book. I imagine that Goodwin will move the story forward more in the second book, but I’m not sure.
I am definitely intrigued for the conclusion to Harper and Alex’s story, and I am hoping they find their happily-ever-after together. I cannot wait for Alex to truly come into his own as a hero, as someone who can become a partner for Harper. Right now, he is on the cusp. And Goodwin has an opportunity to help us fall more deeply in love with them in the next book. If you like a struggling relationship between two people with fraught pasts, then you should definitely read Hard Place.
In love and romance,