Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
“But you can’t appreciate the beauty in someone without seeing the ugly.”
“‘I, uh, was eating cherries.” And so begins Vi Keeland’s delectable The Boss Project. In an innocuous beginning, Keeland entices her readers into her stories usually with heroines in a dither and heroes in control of themselves. It’s her hook, the manna offering of her romances. And it’s a ruse, a humorous turn that inevitably moves into deeper, darker issues that pull at your emotional heartstrings. The Boss Project is no different. Evie begins this story in a complete wreck, jumping from interview to interview hoping someone will take a chance on her. She encounters Merrick the first time, half undressed in a fitting room. The next time, it’s in front of his desk where he presents a fairly smug and callous version of himself. By the way, this is a norm of Keeland’s workplace romances.
As The Boss Project evolves, though, we find out quickly that Evie is really more put together than Merrick. She holds an emotional maturity as a therapist that allows her to process her situation (a cheating ex-fiance, the need for a new place to live, a new job) more meaningfully than Merrick, who we find throughout the story has erected a steel wall to protect against his emotions. His job has become the thing that he hides behind instead of processing the experiences of his past. As Evie and Merrick begin to fall for each other, Evie challenges his ways, and Merrick’s protections are inadequate. This journey becomes the emotional catalyst for falling in love with Keeland’s The Boss Project. So what are the distinct reasons to read this book?
- Evie is a titular character. She seems so messy, but she’s self-aware. As she challenges Merrick, she becomes the impetus for his evolution. I love a heroine who knows herself, warts and all, and is savvy and intelligent to expect the same from her hero. Evie enforces her boundaries about love even when you want these two to be together. She makes Merrick work for her love. In doing so, she challenges him to become a better version of himself.
- Merrick is the true messy one because he’s hidden his pain behind his work. This is my particular version of romance catnip: a seemingly strong hero who is actually in need of a big journey to truly find himself. Yes, he’s irresistible, funny, smug, and handsome, but he must do some work to be worthy of his heroine. Those moments when he’s dealing with his emotional baggage are my favorites of Vi Keeland’s romances. It equates to a makeover montage in a rom-com movie: delicious.
- Their $exual chemistry. Merrick and Evie cannot help but be attracted to each other. This causes an emotional tug-a-war as Evie fights against wanting to sleep with Merrick and remaining professional. Keeland spends a large portion of their story in this battle, and it develops the driving force of the book. When they finally give in, it’s glorious…
- The backstory of Merrick and Evie’s grandmother’s friendship. This adds sentimentality to The Boss Project that moves us away from Keeland’s usual space and into the loveliness of nosy, inciting grandmothers. Merrick’s Grams is a total scene stealer and another example of my romance catnip. I love a meddling grandmother, the wizened guide for Merrick’s heroic journey.
Add to all of this Vi Keeland’s easy style, and you have a story that grips your heart and keeps you from putting The Boss Project down. Seriously, as I was reading this book, I kept asking myself, “how does Vi Keeland do this every single time: write a book that engages me until the very end?” It’s her voodoo magic: her capacity to write stories that entice. One final gem of her story: its epilogue. You will leave this book with the biggest smile on your face when it reveals its final secret.
In love and romance,