Joel Anderson doesn’t take anything seriously.
Not his relationships, which have been few and far between since his brutal divorce. Not the drama of working in a tattoo parlor, which seems to be around every corner. When things get him down, he smiles and cracks a joke. But he’s not the kind of man you cross, or you’ll find yourself at the wrong end of his fists.
Annika Belousov takes everything seriously.
Like her job as a reality television producer, given that she typically has something to prove. Or her love life, which is defined by a series of requirements — affluent, ambitious, accomplished, to name a few. Definitely her family, who worked their whole lives to afford her every opportunity, a sacrifice she doesn’t take lightly. When she’s tapped to produce a reality show at Joel’s shop, she doesn’t think twice, just goes in for the kill, as if there were any other way.
The second Annika walks into Joel’s shop, he makes it his mission to crack her open, but she’s not having it. He’s all wrong — too crass, too hairy, too un-serious. But it doesn’t take her long to find out there’s more to him than smirks and tattoos. And what she finds could put her career and his heart on the line.
Not that Joel cares. Because for the first time in a long time, he’s found his tonic.
GOODREADS LINK: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/31549928-tonic
A tonic is something that invigorates…something that allows the body and the mind to feel alive, which is exactly what happens to Joel Anderson and Annika Belousov when reality tv invades Joel’s tattoo parlor, hoping to make Joel and his crew household names and placing Annika in a situation that allows her to slowly remove her icy armor but also puts her in a complicated situation, one that forces her to juggle her job as executive producer for Joel’s show and her personal feelings for the hairy mammoth of a man.
Joel definitely wasn’t keen on the idea of opening up his shop to television cameras and the amount of people it takes to film a reality show, but his pride gets the better of him, putting him and his life in a spotlight that he never wanted. But Joel would willingly endure hours of filming as long as he gets the chance to unthaw Annika, the ice princess, who walks into his life to make him her meat puppet, stirring up trouble for ratings and knocking him on his ass with her beauty, her attitude, and her impenetrable wall that makes him crave the woman she is beneath the frigid mask she wears.
I absolutely adored how Staci Hart illustrated the dichotomy of Joel and Annika’s personalities. They are opposites in every sense of the word, which may seem like a deterrent for anything to happen between them, but it actually is a driving force that attracts them to one another and forces them to risk their emotionless, no ties life for a chance at something that scares the hell out of both of them but also makes them feel more than they’ve ever felt before.
Hart does a fantastic job of crafting Annika in a way that allows the readers to truly get to know her and understand who she is beneath her armor as Joel takes down her wall, brick by brick. Remarkably, Annika’s an easy character to love because even though all of her warts are exposed, readers also are allowed insight into who she is with her family and the depth of her love for those who mean everything to her. Does she mess up at times, absolutely, but she’s been the professional version of herself for so long that it’s difficult for her to assimilate the woman Joel uncovers and the one her job dictates her to be and because she has to try to balance both women due to Joel’s role in the show she’s producing, there’s bound to be conflict and shake-ups because that’s exactly what’s expected in reality television.
Staci Hart continually crafts stories with heart, exposing the scars people wear and the risky moves they make in order to live again…in order to find themselves again…in order to give their love to someone again, fearing the worst but hoping for the best. It’s easy to get lost in the worlds Hart creates because they’re realistically and vividly explored. Life is messy and made up of both highs and lows and those ideas are clearly illustrated in Joel and Annika’s story, which is why it will connect with readers and allow themselves to see past Annika’s cold exterior to who she is with Joel and how she sets him free from his past and offers him a new perspective on love and life.
Review given in exchange for a complimentary copy of Tonic.
4.5 Poison Apples
Staci has been a lot of things up to this point in her life: a graphic designer, an entrepreneur, a seamstress, a clothing and handbag designer, a waitress. Can’t forget that. She’s also been a mom, with three little girls who are sure to grow up to break a number of hearts. She’s been a wife, even though she’s certainly not the cleanest, or the best cook. She’s also super, duper fun at a party, especially if she’s been drinking whiskey. Her favorite word starts with f and ends with k.
From roots in Houston, to a seven year stint in Southern California, Staci and her family ended up settling somewhere in between and equally north, in Denver. They are new enough that snow is still magical. When she’s not writing, she’s sleeping, cleaning, or designing graphics.