Note: This ARC was provided by Patchwork Press Cooperative via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
Maya and the Tough Guy is the second book in the Big Girl Panties by Carter Ashby. The focus shifts to Maya Bradley and Jayce Gilmore, both secondary characters from the first book. They've both known each other since they were kids and while Jayce recalls all his moments with Maya, Maya fails to remember much of anything to do with him. They're both survivors of abusive fathers but Maya's experience with abuse spilled over to her marriage, traumatizing not just her but her children as well.
Maya Bradley has left her abusive husband and is living with her best friend Zoey Odell. She's appreciative of the support she's received from Zoey, as well as their other best friend, Addy Hart, and Maya's brother-in-law and Zoey's boyfriend, Kendell Bradley. However, Maya knows she needs to become more independent and provide for her two children, Matthew and Sophie. She goes to Jayce Gilmore in hopes of being able to get a job as a waitress in the bar that he owns.
Jayce Gilmore has had feelings for Maya Bradley for far too many years, ending up hurt and confused when he finds out about her relationship and subsequent pregnancy and marriage. He wants to be able to help her move on with her life after enduring years of abuse, even if it means having to watch her work in his bar on a regular basis. He's heartbroken that she doesn't easily recall any good times between them and that she seems to be constantly fearful of and on her guard with him.
As the days pass and the more time they spend together, Maya sees that Jayce is nothing like her soon-to-be ex-husband. Jayce is kind, generous, and trustworthy. The fact that he's good looking is a bonus and Maya begins to become attracted to him. However, she's hesitant to become involved with him, insisting that they remain friends. Jayce offers to become her "love slave" and swears that all he has is a "crush" on her and that his feelings are in no way more than what he claims.
Maya takes Jayce up on his offer and the two begin sleeping together, all the while it becomes obvious to everyone around them that Jayce's feelings go much deeper than a mere crush. Try as he might, Jayce isn't able to pretend that what's going on isn't affecting him and Maya simply isn't ready to dive into something more complicated than being friends with benefits. When she realizes that she may actually feel the same thing he's feeling, will it be too late for Maya and Jayce to finally get their happy ending?
This book had a lot of good elements going for it--an interesting story that went beyond the usual good girl needs saving by the bad boy with a good heart. The element of abuse is delved into and the fact that both Maya and Jayce have undergone abuse in their own households yet are dealing with them differently shows that not all victims are the same. I liked that their small group of friends is more like family, especially since it appears that they all come from very dysfunctional ones.
I really loved Jayce and my heart broke for him as he tried to pretend that he wasn't hurt each time Maya looked at him and saw nothing more than a friend she could sleep with. While I get that Maya had endured too many years of abuse at the hands of both her father and her husband, she seemed okay with using Jayce. Yes, she had moments of doubt but she still continued to sleep with him even though she knew that the guy was in love with her. Fortunately, there was more good than bad to her so I didn't totally hate her.
I enjoyed Maya and the Tough Guy more than I did the previous book in the series and I would have to consider this the author's best work to date, having read two other books prior to this one. Abuse is never an easy subject to write about, even in a fictionalized sense, but it was handled well and in a manner that I have yet to read in books I've encountered before. I'm looking forward to reading Addy's own story in the third book and will gladly give this second installment 4.5 stars out of five. ♥
Release Date: 20 January 2015
Date read: 20 January 2015
Learn more about author Carter Ashby here.