Overall Grade: ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2
I’m fairly certain once Willa and Everett were introduced in Nora Everly’s Crime and Periodicals that readers were rabid for Willa’s story. Everly does a superb job of building the suspense around her background that, at least, this reader was ready for the second Monroe boys book, Carpentry and Cocktails. And Everly doesn’t disappoint with this story. Not in the least.
Carpentry and Cocktails offers up the burgeoning relationship between Willa, the bartender/server for Genie’s, and Everett, one of the Monroe boys who works for his father’s company, Monroe & Sons. Everett is an accomplished carpenter who has imagined his life-long nerd dream in opening a comic/gaming/role-playing store in Green Valley. He longs for his tenant, Willa (she lives in his basement apartment) from afar. As the days pass, Willa and Everett grow closer and struggle to deny their feelings for each other. However, Willa’s past influences her present as she believes she doesn’t want to fall in love with anyone ever again. Unfortunately, Everett’s kindness, physique, and care of her make denying her interest in him difficult. As a self-professed nerd, Everett endeavors for a relationship, but has been rejected several times before. He believes he can’t fully “be himself” with most women until Willa. She accepts his nerd interests, and he can be true to himself with her. Unfortunately, Willa’s past, her fears, and her insecurities threaten any future with Everett. Is a happy ending possible for these two nerds?
I’ve been reading several ARCs lately where the hero is a grumpy alpha-hole to the ultimate degree. I love the character construction of those heroes because the tension is built so tight that when the hero falls, the heroine brings him to his knees and he falls hard for her. My second favorite type of hero is a “good guy” hero who makes himself a “fool” for a woman. There is something noble in his want and need for her from early in the story. This type of hero must be patient because the heroine will unintentionally force him to work for her affection and love. Generally, this type of hero is the perfect heroic type: compassionate, caring, protective, and insightful. He will wait for her to recognize and accept the depth of his love for her, but his want for her won’t diminish; it will simply grow deeper. I equally adore this type of hero. He’s a lovely break from the emotionally-stunted, mean-spirited alpha-hole hero. And Everett embodies this heroic character. In fact, he will be the reason readers fall for this story. He is all of the traits I’ve outlined above, and he’s necessary for Willa’s journey. Her evolution is the foundation for Everly’s Carpentry and Cocktails, and Everett is the strength of her foundation. While he worries over Willa’s acceptance of his nerd persona, it is tertiary to Willa’s story of acceptance. Everly uses his fear of acceptance to show the gradation of this need as this is a central message of her book.
Like Everett, Willa has strived for acceptance through the want for love. Her past hurts stem from her mother’s inability to accept her daughter and show her unconditional love and her ex-husband’s manipulation. With these scars, Willa’s journey requires her to love herself first before seeking the love and approval of others. Everett recognizes this in her, and he patiently pours into her friendship as a means to aid her growth. It’s this evolution that becomes the power fo Everly’s story. Through Willa, Everly deftly acknowledges that we must find inner peace and love before we can pour our peace and love over another.
Quite honestly, while Willa and Everett consummate their relationship far sooner than I expected for this story, Everly carefully slows them down, crafting a romance that teeters more on the side of slow-burn. There is a sweetness that belies the $exiness of Willa and Everett’s burgeoning romance. The reader revels in the pictures that Everly crafts in her prose. I could see this story unfold easily, but I also wanted to see Everly’s intention behind it so I stalked her Pinterest board for it; it was exactly as I saw it. It takes a keen writer to do this.
I will say that, at times, there was a bit of space between her words. I’ve stated this before in other reviews. I believe there should be a melody or a musicality to writing. There’s a tempo. When that feels like stuttering, it can be distracting. There were moments in the story when the flow of the story felt a bit stilted. As Everly writes more, that feel for words on the page will flow more evenly. Again, this is minute in contrast to the big love between Will and Everett, where every moment is a Pinterest Board picture through Everly’s craftsmanship.
We all seek love. We want to be accepted and “seen.” This is the essential focus of Nora Everly’s Carpentry and Cocktails. It’s clear from the start that Willa’s hurts are our hurts; that people such as Everett can pour love into us to heal past wounds. All we need is to believe in the power of love to find us. Sometimes, it could be someone in our own basement apartment. In true SmartyPants Romance fashion, Nora Everly will charm your hearts out of your chests with Everett and Willa’s moving story of love.
In love and romance,