Genres: Adult, Contemporary Romance
Series: Bromance Book Club #2
Source: Libby (My Library app)
Braden Mack thinks reading romance novels makes him an expert in love, but he’ll soon discover that real life is better than fiction.
Liv Papandreas has a dream job as a sous chef at Nashville’s hottest restaurant. Too bad the celebrity chef owner is less than charming behind kitchen doors. After she catches him harassing a young hostess, she confronts him and gets fired. Liv vows revenge, but she’ll need assistance to take on the powerful chef.
Unfortunately, that means turning to Braden Mack. When Liv’s blackballed from the restaurant scene, the charismatic nightclub entrepreneur offers to help expose her ex-boss, but she is suspicious of his motives. He’ll need to call in reinforcements: the Bromance Book Club.
Inspired by the romantic suspense novel they’re reading, the book club assist Liv in setting up a sting operation to take down the chef. But they’re just as eager to help Mack figure out the way to Liv’s heart… even while she’s determined to squelch the sparks between them before she gets burned.
Undercover Bromance is the second book to one of the most hyped and visible books on Bookstagram and Romance BookTube right now: The Bromance Book Club. My library loan for book two came first, so I dived into the second one without having read the first – a big mistake. Most romance books that feature different couples are essentially a series of related standalones – and I rarely read them in order for that reason. But in this series, you must read the first book first. We’ll get more into that later.
Undercover Bromance follows Braden Mack, the founder of the Bromance Book Club. He takes his romance novels seriously, and yes reads them for pleasure, but considers romance books to be a guide on relationships. He strives to be the perfect #bookboyfriend, which makes his relationships doting… but ultimately artificial. This all blows to shit when he meets Liv, of course.
Liv worked at one of Nashville’s hottest restaurants – past tense. Braden was there when she got fired, and while he wasn’t the direct cause and it was never his intention, he contributed to the situation that led to her termination via her asshole boss. That night, on her way out, she sees something she wasn’t supposed to… the sexual harassment of one of her fellow employees and bursts in to save the day. She is then escorted out of the building, fired for sure. But Liv isn’t finished and intends to make her boss pay for what she witnessed. Even if the victim didn’t want Liv to get involved.
There was poetic justice to it, of course. The founder of the Bromance Book Club, the man who believed the manuals had all the answers, who thought he knew everything there was to know about love, brought down by a woman.
This book had a lot of #MeToo themes with workplace sexual harassment, and with Braden (and the book club bro’s) assisting Liv in a STING operation to get big revenge on her boss, it had a lot of potential for fun. A male book club getting involved in exposing a celebrity restaurant owner? HELL YES. And that part, I did enjoy it. The “suspense” aspect of this romantic suspense was fun, and I even with we got more of the book club. Since I didn’t have the background of book one, I wanted to know them more, as they had a more limited presence in this one.
Hmm speaking of reading book one. The main character, Liv, is the sister of the main character in book one, so Ms. Adams clearly assumed that we knew Liv’s background and understood her issues. I had literally no clue, and I’m not sure I ever found out, about her background. I wanted to sympathize, but it just seemed like Liv was being a snotty harpy for no reason. And to be honest… I think she kind of was. Liv is a very judgmental, hypocritical character. She was constantly angry and picking fights with Braden. Like yes okay, it’s a hate-to-love romance, but geez, Braden was such a sweetheart! He was finding his way, and Liv called him on it, but she also made him apologize and grovel for a lot of stuff that was totally unnecessary or stuff that I thought she should have been apologizing for. It just felt like she was constantly spurring on the conflict and driving wedges between them. I felt very little chemistry for those two, and unfortunately, I only disliked her more the further I got in the book (and loved Braden more!).
Braden Mack was such a great hero. I thoroughly enjoyed his journey – he had a bit of a “hero complex,” as Liv called it, where he thought he had to be this perfect guy, the book boyfriend from all the novels. But turns out, he’s a pretty great guy by himself. I wanted more of him!! But I honestly don’t understand why he fell for Liv at all. He made grand gesture after grand gesture after vulnerable admission the whole book – and because he didn’t tell her a secret of his (one that he’s been hiding from the whole world for years), she pushes him away. After she refuses to tell him that she’s even interested in him!! And he’s already head-over-heels. Uh uh. I was done. Especially when she didn’t even have to make a gesture to him to get him back. She just wanted him to crawl back to her.
“Did it ever occur to you that the reason she drives you crazy is because you’re attracted to her?” Malcolm asked.
“It’s classic enemies-to-lovers.”
Now… her behavior towards the sexual assault victims. I understand that this was a plot point in the book, her learning to be more emphatic to understand that this is not a black-and-white situation, but very nuanced. And I was able to push past this and try to enjoy the book in some places but… god she was just such a bitch. Please don’t yell at victims for not coming forward and insinuating that they are then responsible for other victims because they didn’t speak up. AGAIN – this is something that the character grows to understand, and I feel like it may embody the #MeToo movement for a lot of people, but it was a bit of a tough pill to swallow in a heroine. I don’t know that she was the right character for this storyline.
The revenge plot against her boss was very much at the forefront of this book. So either I needed more from them, or much less from her. I also loved the book club aspect!! As Braden related his romantic struggles to the romantic suspense novel they were reading, it was a classy wink-wink, nudge-nudge about the book club bro’s trying to hype him up by telling him that he was at X part in the hero’s journey, etc, etc. I also loved that they were getting their research for their revenge plot from the romantic suspense book ?? I wanted more of the Book Club! I wanted them to be the focus! So much more could have been done.
It was an enjoyable read in places. But it was just very tonally awkward, as it see-sawed between the intense #MeToo moments, and then a funny romantic comedy, with a heroine who was just often an absolute cow. I haven’t decided if I’m going to read book one. I may, just because of the book club part being more pronounced, and while I’ve seen that people definitely like it better than this one, that people still had some of the same issues with it. Hmmm…
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Have you read any of the Bromance Book Club books? What are some of your favorite books with bookish characters? Let me know in the comments below, I’d love to hear from you!
I haven’t picked this one up yet because of the many mixed reviews I’ve seen, especially ones criticizing Liv. I really don’t like books where the couple don’t make sense and you said you don’t understand when Braden fell for her so… I may not like it too.
Anyways, lovely review!
I’m a character-driven reader, so I definitely understand that. I’m still considering picking up the first book because I’ve heard it’s better and the book club aspect intrigued me. It’s disappointing, because I had such high hopes! And thank you :)