ARC Review: Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey

Bethany Castle gets a new lease on love.

Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey follows Bethany Castle, who wants move away from her staging role in her family’s real estate business by flipping her own house. However, Bethany’s brother has little faith in Bethany’s construction ability. When a reality television show gets wind of their argument, the two participate in a house flipping competition. Unfortunately for Bethany, there’s only one person on her side: Wes Daniels, an annoying (but cute) member of her brother’s crew.

Tools of Engagement (Hot & Hammered, #3)

I didn’t know much of what to expect when I read Tools of Engagement. I know Tessa Bailey is a popular romance author, but I hadn’t read any of her books previously. Although I wasn’t completely sold on all aspects of this book, there were some elements that I really enjoyed.

One of my favorite parts of this book was the main character, Bethany. In many other similar books, Bethany would play the villain as she is pretty and put together all the time. However, I appreciated that Tessa Bailey put her in the focus of this story because readers can see her character more in depth. Bethany struggles with anxiety and the need to be perfect, no matter what. Throughout the novel, Bethany grows significantly by showing more confidence in herself and expressing how she feels to her family and friends who put high expectations on her. I think many readers will relate to Bethany and appreciate her character growth throughout the plot in the book.

As for Bethany’s love interest, Wes, I have mixed feelings. For me, there were aspects about his character that I liked and other that I did not like. Let’s start with what I enjoyed. One of the conflicts in the relationship between Bethany and Wes is the age difference between the two characters (Bethany is 7 years older than Wes who is 23). I appreciate that this book featured a couple with an appropriate age difference as this isn’t typically shown in books. I also appreciated reading about his relationship with his niece, who he takes care of so her mom can get the helps she needs. I thought their relationship was cute and the level of the responsibility that Wes took in this book did make him see more mature.

At the same time, there were some aspects of his character that I just didn’t prefer. Wes can be very possessive with Bethany regarding other males that literally never have even met her. For example, Wes goes to find a crew to work on Bethany’s home remodel. He refuses to get any young men on the crew because he doesn’t want them to flirt with Bethany and instead opts for much older men who struggle to work longer hours on the job site. This isn’t appropriate behavior, whether he is in a relationship with Bethany or not (which he wasn’t when this part of the story occurred). All I know is if I was a 30-year-old woman and a 23-year-old man was acting that way towards me, it wouldn’t be attractive. Also, if I heard about his cowboy hat or read about him calling Bethany “darlin'” one more time, I wouldn’t be able to take it.

As for the construction aspect of the plot, it isn’t too heavily involved in that area. While we have some of the demo and see some of the ending, this aspect of the story was slightly disappointing. Yes, this is a romance, so I did expect that to occupy most of the space, so on that front, it was successful. At the same time, a big chunk of the story is Bethany being more independent, specifically through flipping her own house, so I wish I could have seen a little more of that. I think the most unsatisfying part of this whole novel for me was the ending of the competition because it was very rushed and executed in an unsatisfying way, which is all I can really say without giving any major spoilers.

Also, as a disclaimer this is the third book in the companion series. I haven’t read the first two books in this series, although I’m familiar with their storylines. That being said, not reading the first two books didn’t really hinder my reading experience. I thought the Just Us League, which was probably formed in an earlier book, as well as the background of the family business were described enough that I didn’t feel like I was missing anything from the story.

Overall, Tools of Engagement is a fun romance that was a quick and easy to read. I recommend this book to fans of this companion series as well as any one who enjoys an “enemies” to lover romance. I give this book 3.5 out of 5 stars.

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