ARC Review: Been There, Done That by Hope Ellis

Posted April 16, 2020 by Kate

ARC Review: Been There, Done That by Hope EllisCheck out on Goodreads | Buy on Amazon
Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Series: The Leffersbee #1
Publisher: SmartyPants Romance
Source: Kindle Unlimited

Theirs was a forever kind of love, until it was stolen.
ZORA LEFFERSBEE’S once perfect life is no longer perfect. Her tenure at the University is in question, funding for her employees uncertain, and her faux-fiancé, Jackson James’s unpredictability is wearing on her last nerve. Just when Zora is convinced things can’t get more complicated, life proves her wrong.
What the heck is he doing here?
NICK ROSSI’s complicated life is still extremely complicated. He’s used to fighting for everything he has, but he’s also used to winning. Now a man of power and influence, his return to Green Valley after so many years hasn’t gone according to plan, especially with the woman he’s always wanted.
She can’t know why I left, or why I’m back.
A powerful woman intent on righting the wrongs of the world, Zora doesn’t have time or energy to deal with the man who broke her young heart.
A powerful man intent on righting the wrongs of the past, Nick can’t help wanting to protect Zora, even if his devotion is unrequited.
Been There Done That is a full-length contemporary romance, can be read as a standalone, and is book #1 in the Leffersbee series, Green Valley World, Penny Reid Book Universe.

Disclaimer: I received this book free from the publisher in exchange for an honest review, but that does not influence my opinion of the book nor the contents of this review. 

This book is part of the SmartyPants Romance launch, which means that the book takes place in a setting originally created by one of my favorite authors, Penny Reid. She originally created Green Valley and several characters that appear in this book as side characters. The SmartyPants Romance launch authors like Hope Ellis write stories that take place in the Pennyverse between and involving characters not originally their creation.  

The only thing I knew going into Been There, Done That was that it took place in Green Valley, and it was a second-chance romance. Okay. This book also managed to go through a majority of the romance tropes in existence as the main characters (previous childhood friends and high school sweethearts) meet again twelve years after Nick disappeared with only a vague note left behind after graduation. But now, he’s exceptionally (ridiculously) wealthy, and Zora has to work with him for the foreseeable future. They were even roommates for a very brief period! 

First off, this book was long, longer than I should have been. And I think that’s because it went through so many damn phases and tropes. I felt like the amount of information and scenes we got was not enough for the 398 pages I read. I’m writing this review and I’m realizing that I’m still not totally sure about what happened in the past, and what the timeline was. We were strung along, crumb-fed information as sparingly as possible and ultimately, I’m not sure I got enough. 

I’d had a crush on her in early grade school. My mother chuckled when I came home brimming with tales of Zora’s long braids and the colorful, clicking beads punctuating each end. I’d been lured in by Zora’s kind ways. She was curious, upbeat and mysteriously watchful.

I liked Zora, and I liked the fact that they didn’t immediately tumble into bed together after their initial meeting after 12 years apart. I liked Nick, he seemed like a cool guy, but I didn’t really feel like I got to know Nick other than the cardboard cut-out essentials that would allow me to support a relationship with Zora. He felt like someone who makes mistakes and apologizes and sexes her up but didn’t really feel like a person with a personality. 

The best personality was Zora’s best guy friend, Jackson (a Penny Reid original!), and I honestly shipped those two for about half the book. But then of course we had to do the classic Romancelandia thing and the main hero had to make the male best friend look like a chump. That’s one trope that I wish would just go off and die in a hole. But those two had the best conversations, and they were fun together! I didn’t feel a connection like that between Zora and the hero, Nick. 

The biggest thing I was hung up on about this book, however, was that there was no communication. Nick was fully just going to come back into Zora’s life, manipulate that into happening, and then not explain anything? Homegirl and Homeboy had like three or four separate dinners/meetings where they were going to “clear the air” and honestly I felt for Zora on that front because was frustrated over reading the same damn conversation where nothing got explained/settled (not that she pushed). And all was revealed, I couldn’t help but feel like it felt a little weak. We had little to no background to go off of, and the fact that he ran off all half-cocked all those years ago… fun… but the fact that everyone else knew why but Zora and kept it from her when she was clearly suffering for 12 years seemed like such a stretch. So much could have been solved if he was just straight with her. 

I came home back because I couldn’t breathe without you anymore,
and I was tired of trying.

There were so many strings left untied. Zora had a problematic relationship with her twin sister and her dad that never got resolved, not to mention her family played the part of whack-a-mole in this book, popping up to move the plot along or provide a laugh, and then ultimately never given any thought again. This idea repeated itself when the best friend conveniently left town halfway through the plot, and we didn’t hear from her again until the end. I want side characters! 

This book was as entertaining as it was fluffy, and I think it was meant to be a rom-com, but it fell just a bit too far on the “fluffy” side to even make that distinction for me. I enjoyed all the healthcare and health systems part, the author clearly knew what she was talking about there, but I just… I’m frustrated about writing this because I’m realizing that I did not care about the romance in this one! It was so promising!

They had a workplace romance. A second chance romance. But there was no woo-ing. No unrequited-ness other than reflecting on how the other changed and how they wanted to get in thereI want lingering glances and touches, smolder, and WOOING. For chrissakes, it was all ambushes of ~deep talks~ and awkward conversation and ~big gestures~ as they try to ignore the elephant in the room. There was too much hurt for too long for me to ship it. I need an unrequited smolder before I can get on the horse and agree. For as long as this one was, there should have been so much more than what we got, which is quite disappointing. It was entertaining, but it should have been so much more. 

Thank you SmartyPants Romance and Social Butterfly PR for all the work that you do! ?

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