Title: Just a Little Bet (Where There’s Smoke #2)
Author: Tawna Fenske
Release Date: October 26, 2020
Source: ARC from the publisher
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After a night of too many drinks, smokejumper Tony Warren and his best friend, photographer Kayla Gladney, come to the realization that they’re both bad at love. They even tried dating each other, but that crashed and burned, too. Now he’s got the hangover from hell and the certain conclusion he’s just a shit boyfriend. But Kayla thinks he’s a straight-up commitment-phobe.
So they make a bet—they’re going to hunt down his exes and decide once and for all why he’s so unlucky in love. Terrible boyfriend or commitment-phobe. Why does either answer feel like he’s still losing?
But between roadside burgers and late night detours, they discover some fires never burn out—like the one slowly smoldering between them. And suddenly losing feels a whole lot like winning again.
I’ve always thought that friends to lovers is one of the toughest romance tropes to write. Why, you may ask? Simple. I feel like this is the trope that’s most grounded in reality, and it’s hard to write books that are too familiar. I minimize reading friends to lovers romance books for this very reason – I want my books realistic, sure, but I don’t want to read about situations that I see a lot. Don’t get me wrong – I enjoy this trope too, but I guess you can say that I’m more picky when it comes to books like these.
I can see everyone’s confusion. I bet you’re wondering why on earth I’m picking up a friends to lovers book if I have so many hang ups, huh? I picked up Just a Little Bet for many reasons. One, I haven’t read friends to lovers in a while, and two, it’s a little different because the main characters, Tony and Kayla, have already tried dating, though things quickly fizzled out. Three, Tony and Kayla decide that while Kayla goes on a road trip for work, he’ll tag along, then they’ll both visit some on Tony’s exes. I mean, come on, a road trip with your ex, and then visiting his exes to figure out why his relationships never make it past a few weeks? Sounds like a disaster waiting to happen!
Now, let’s talk about the characters. Kayla is doing very good career-wise – she is set to publish a collection of photos of wildfire, but not having a family of her own is still nagging at her. In fact, Kayla hasn’t visited her parents and sisters for two years now because they’re all familied up, and she feels a little left out and jealous. Kayla’s parents and sisters themselves are also frustrated that Kayla’s never home, and they make nonstop aggravating comments to her that they’re fine with her being single and having a career. Here’s the thing though – just because Kayla wants a husband and children, it doesn’t mean that she doesn’t want her career. Why on earth do people still think that a woman has to choose between having a family and a career? I like that we have a heroine who wants it all, because she deserves it all.
As Tony and Kayla continue their road trip, they start to learn more about themselves, and they play around with the notion that maybe they should rekindle their relationship. Even though we readers didn’t experience what their previous relationship was like and we can’t exactly compare, Fenske does an incredible job in showing how a relationship with the new Tony and Kayla this time around would work. Also, Tony realizes that there is a deeper reason why he can’t commit to a relationship and why he’s apprehensive about marriage and starting a family. Unfortunately, before he can wrap his head around this, he’s forced to face his traumatic experiences head on. My heart broke for him, but I marveled at how strong he was in facing all his fears.
All in all, I enjoyed Just a Little Bet. Like its title suggests, it has a lot of funny and laugh out loud moments (the encounters with Tony’s exes are my favorite) but it also delves into serious topics. Also, as I’ve mentioned earlier, Fenske does a great job in exploring Tony and Kayla’s personal and relationship growth. While Just a Little Bet is technically part of a series, it works perfectly as a standalone, and I never felt like I missed out on anything. I’ll definitely be checking out Tawna Fenske’s books from now on!