Series: The Ladies Who Brunch #1
Release Date: March 6th, 2022
CW/TW: toxic families, fat shaming
When those words left the lips of Damien Shaw, my childhood nemesis, I should have told him to kick rocks right then and there.
But sadly, his scheme to impress his boss left me with something to gain from it too—getting my meddling mother, who was obsessed with my love life, off my back just in time for my parents’ thirtieth wedding anniversary celebration in Hawaii.
You see, Damien and I grew up together, but we weren’t friends. No—we were rivals.
And when we both moved out to California to go to different colleges, we promised never to think of each other again.
It had been twelve years since we had been face to face, but when he kept popping up everywhere, I should have known that trouble would follow.
And sure enough, during a lunch with my parents he told them we were dating.
I was hellbent on exposing him, but then my mother’s reaction made it hard to say no. So, I ended up fake dating my enemy while trying desperately not to fall for him.
My gut told me to keep my distance. But my heart? That bastard was falling for the man with every sweet gesture he made and every orgasm he gave me.
But when the reason for our rivalry and our fake relationship comes to light, everyone and everything explodes, leaving one hell of a mess to clean up.
I never thought I’d fall for Damien Shaw. I never thought my enemy could force me to figure out my life. But you know what they say—never say never.
“Don’t settle for a spark. Light a fire instead.”
Even though I’m very new to Harlow James stories, the one thing that I already know is that I absolutely love her storytelling. From the characters to the plot and the friendships, it’s all so wonderful. And with the first in her new series, that feeling is no different. Never Say Never is a rivals to lovers, fake dating romance that takes the steam up a couple of notches all while still delivering some pretty strong topics of discussion. And I love that Harlow didn’t hold back, because romance is such a great genre for the simple reason that you can have the sweetest, steamiest book, but there’s always going to be a strong storyline that runs through it. And in this one, it was pretty intense (in all the good ways, of course)!
From a young age, Charlotte Montgomery and Damien Shaw have been competing to be the best at literally everything. They would challenge each other to do better when it came to tests and any other activities that required a winner. So much so that both of them even ended up at each other’s school of choice almost to prove a point. And in the 12 years they haven’t seen each other, they’ve both lived in LA and worked in offices close to each other, but never crossed paths. When a passing glance at a cafe leads them back into each other’s lives, the last thing Charlotte expected happens.
I am a sucker for fake dating and I often don’t care what the reason is (as long as it’s not really super shady), I just want these two strangers or people who dislike each other to pretend to give a shit about the other person just once. And in Charlotte and Damien’s case, I knew I was in for a wild ride with their rivalry and their obvious long-lasting dislike for each other. The banter was quick and funny, it really set the tone of their entire relationship. And I really enjoyed watching them figure out what was really going on with the other person throughout the entire story. Damien needs a girlfriend to show his boss that he’s the right person for a specific job and promotion, while Charlotte needs a boyfriend to get her overbearing mother off her back. And it works out for them really well.
“Orgasms and dates?”
“Pleasure and food, babe. That’s all I want.”
Their relationship was definitely fun to watch unfold and it was hot in all the right ways, but I wasn’t as invested in their relationship as I thought I would be. These characters were brilliant individually and as a ‘fake couple’, but I didn’t entirely feel the realness (so to speak) in their relationship. However, Charlotte is such a great character. I love that she’s already got this important job and is recognised for her great work. I love that she’s got this incredible group of friends (who I’ll come to in a minute) and they lean on each other often. I love that Charlotte stands her ground and lives her life the way she sees fit, ignoring everyone and everything else around her. And then there’s Damien. He’s got all the makings of a typical playboy, but there’s so much more to him. I loved his relationship with his mother and the way he is with Jeffrey. I really liked how hard he worked to prove that he was worthy of something, especially at work. Damien was definitely swoony and charming, and there’s no doubt that he got me all excited for what their fake relationship was going to be.
As is the case with Harlow’s books, this one was STEAMY! I loved the sexual tension, the frustrations turning into lust (can we say lustrations?) and the build up. But I definitely enjoyed all of the steamy scenes because she definitely took it up a notch and I have zero issues with that.
I am SO EXCITED for the other Ladies Who Brunch, because this is such a great group of friends. From the first scene where we meet them, right till the end, I was captivated by these women. Their jobs, their distinct personalities and just everything that comes with their friendship. I am so ready for more! I absolutely and completely hated their families, though. Charlotte’s mother gave me flashbacks to what my grandmother put me through for a few years (rest her soul), but she was so difficult and unbearable. And don’t even get me started on Damien’s father. I do love that the villains of the story weren’t exes or random strangers, but people they’ve known their whole lives, because you learn so much more about the leads that way.
All in all, I would never say never when it comes to a Harlow James book and if you like witty banter, wiiiiide open steamy scenes and rivals to lovers, then this one is definitely for you!
Thanks to Harlow James for generously providing me with an advance copy. I am voluntarily leaving an honest review.