TITLE: Love Her or Lose Her (Hot & Hammered Series Book 2 of 3)
AUTHOR: Tessa Bailey
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
PUBLICATION DATE: January 14, 2020
TROPES: Marriage in trouble, second chance
NARRATOR: Charlotte North
Love Her or Lose Her is book 2 in the Hot & Hammered Series and details the rocky marriage between Rosie and Dominic Vega, high school sweethearts who have been married for 10 years. But what once was the source of happiness for both of them has now transformed into a stagnant relationship that neither feels the need to change. Until Rosie decides she wants more from her life and demands a divorce from their loveless marriage. But Dominic is still in love with Rosie, even if he has a lousy way of showing it.
What ensues is a heartbreakingly emotional tale of rediscovering love and falling for your soulmate again. Brimming with feels, Tessa Bailey delivers another home run that is poignant, funny, and undeniably relatable.
Rosie and Dominic Vega are the perfect couple: high school sweethearts, best friends, madly in love. Well, they used to be anyway. Now Rosie’s lucky to get a caveman grunt from the ex-soldier every time she walks in the door. Dom is faithful and a great provider, but the man she fell in love with ten years ago is nowhere to be found. When her girlfriends encourage Rosie to demand more out of life and pursue her dream of opening a restaurant, she decides to demand more out of love, too. Three words: marriage boot camp.
Never in a million years did Rosie believe her stoic, too-manly-to-emote husband would actually agree to relationship rehab with a weed-smoking hippie. Dom talking about feelings? Sitting on pillows? Communing with nature? Learning love languages? Nope. But to her surprise, he’s all in, and it forces her to admit her own role in their cracked foundation. As they complete one ridiculous—yet surprisingly helpful—assignment after another, their remodeled relationship gets stronger than ever. Except just as they’re getting back on track, Rosie discovers Dom has a secret… and it could demolish everything.
Bailey wrote such raw and painfully imperfect characters that made my heart ache in the best ways. Their admirable efforts to overcome their flaws and grow as individuals and partners result in a truly captivating story that is impossible to put down. Despite their low moments, I never doubted they were meant to be together. Their love was pure, passionate, and real. And their sexual chemistry was off the charts. I thought Brendan and Piper from It Happened One Summer had steamy scenes, but Rosie and Dominic definitely take the cake.
Kudos to Bailey for making both her MCs people of color. Rosie is biracial – African-American and Argentinean – while Dominic is Puerto Rican. I loved reading about their Spanish cultures and how it sculpted who they are.
Rosie is tired of going with the flow in her mundane marriage. Her dreams have taken a permanent seat on the back burner, and she no longer recognizes herself. So she decides she needs more from life and musters up the courage to leave Dominic.
I loved getting to know Rosie and watching her find her voice. It was commendable how she stood up for herself when she felt like she was disappearing in her marriage.
And her love for food was palpable through the pages, the way she wanted to transport someone to their best memories using food. I was salivating so many times at the way she described all her Spanish dishes.
Rosie is a truly admirable character who is both likable and relatable. Her unwavering determination in pursuing her dream of opening her own restaurant is sure to inspire and warm your heart.
Is it any surprise that he’s the dominant type? I mean, it’s basically in his name. Dominic Vega has all the typical features of Bailey’s male MCs – alpha male, possessive and passionate. But he’s also hardworking and devoted to making his wife happy. His whole purpose in life is to provide Rosie with everything she needs, something that he learned from his father. But he failed to understand that what he thinks Rosie needs and what Rosie actually wants are two completely different things.
He grew up believing that showing vulnerability was considered a weakness and that the measure of a real man is to provide for and support his wife. So when he returned from the military, he put his head down and got to work to do just that. But why was Rosie was still unhappy? The author used this dynamic to explore a widely known but not often talked about concept in relationships – love languages – and I loved how she brought this theme to the front and center (more on that below).
Dominic had some great character development that really made this book stand out for me. He learned to be more vulnerable and less controlling and put Rosie first to allow her to shine, even if that meant he couldn’t be the one to provide the light. I loved how he fought to save the marriage, and you could tell he was really stepping out of his comfort zone and trying.
There were instances where his alpha maleness was very controlling that it almost gave off “toxic caveman” vibes and I didn’t think this was necessary because he was a complete character without it. And with this reclusiveness starting after his return from the military, there wasn’t any mention of PTSD or any discussion about his time as a soldier. And I felt like this was a missed opportunity for the author to talk a bit about mental health.
I absolutely loved the camaraderie and sisterhood that existed among the members of the JUST US LEAGUE. It was heartwarming to see everyone supporting each other so effortlessly, and it played a pivotal role in giving Rosie the platform she needed to shine. What was particularly refreshing was the absence of female hatred.
I did read this series out of order. So I did not read book 1 – Fix Her Up – before this. But I loved seeing the adorable moments between TRAVIS AND GEORGIE, and it makes me want to check out their story. And introducing WES, prepped the stage nicely for his and BETHANY’S frenemies story in book 3 – Tools of Engagement.
ARMY TAGGERT is the hippy, weed-smoking counselor that enrolls Rosie and Dominic in a marriage boot camp. Despite his unorthodox ways, his scenes were some of the most authentic and hilarious. His last name makes me wonder if he’s related to Brendan Taggert from It Happened One Summer – easter egg or pure coincidence?
Love Her or Lose Her is a delicious slow burn with a lot of sexual build-ups. But the angst keeps you so engrossed and makes for a quick read. The sex scenes are definitely one of the steamier ones I’ve read, though this is in keeping with the kind of characters both MCs are. So if you like passionate scenes with a lot of dirty talk, then pick this book up immediately!
The therapy sessions with Army were some of my favorite moments as they were the most intimate and vulnerable scenes (even more than the sex scenes). Their marriage problems were dealt with realistically, and their journey to find their way back to each other makes it a worthwhile read.
Though there was an element of miscommunication towards the climax, it was done in such a way that it was necessary for the character development and story progression. And the ending was as unexpected as it was adorable.
Tessa Bailey explores the concept of love languages in relationships. A love language is simply the way a person expresses their love. According to Gary Chapman and his book, The 5 Love Languages, there are 5 different types – acts of service, physical touch, words of affirmation, gifts, and quality time. The mistake that people often make is that we tend to love our partners in our own love language, but the right thing to do is to love them in their own love language.
This is something I learned from my personal dive into the self-development world. And knowing this made me enjoy the book so much more. Do you need to read Gary Chapman’s book before reading Love Her or Lose her? No, you don’t. But the experience is so much more worthwhile and impressive when you see how accurately Bailey depicts this concept throughout Rosie and Dominic’s story.
Bailey uses a lot of sarcastic humor to lay the foundation for her characters’ dialogues. And this added some great comedy to balance out the heavy emotions conveyed by the main storyline.
I also appreciated the use of dual POVs to provide a well-rounded perspective on the marriage troubles. It would have been easy to assign blame to Dominic if the story had been told only from Rosie’s perspective. However, including Dominic’s viewpoint made for a more immersive and engaging read.
Charlotte North is quickly becoming one of my favorite audible narrators. I was first introduced to her as Piper’s voice in It Happened One Summer. But she effortlessly embodies any character she takes on. I loved her gruff, intense voice for Dominic as much as I liked it for Brendan. And her ability to give each character their own unique voice made it easy for me to figure out who was talking. This is definitely one I’d recommend as an audiobook.
Love Her or Lose Her is an emotionally impactful and sexy second-chance romance about falling for your first love. With authentic characters, profound insights, and electrifying attraction, Tessa Bailey delivers yet another outstanding tale that deserves to be at the top of your TBR.
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