Review: Tonic by Staci Hart

Note: This ARC was provided by Social Butterfly PR in exchange for an honest review.

But those roots of decision wound around my heart and squeezed. Joel and I made mo sense. He was charming and annoying and bossy and hairy and all wrong. He was everything I wasn't. He was everything I'd tried to avoid in my my life. He was the opposite of what I needed, of what fit into my plan. An that was exactly why I had to put him out of my mind, put him into a safe, lock it up, and throw away the key. 
But even though my mind tightened up the reins, my heart whispered the assent, too soft for my mind to notice. 

Authors Staci Hart and Kandi Steiner are best friends who released their latest novels on the same day, the latter's an emotional, angsty ride, the former's a button-pushing, hilarious read. Very different stories, but both fantastically written. I've already written a review for the Steiner novel; this one is going to be all about Tonic, a book that made me smile and laugh while giving me all the right feels a romance novel should. This is the story of a tattoo artist who co-owns Tonic, a tattoo studio, with his younger brother, and a television producer tasked to take the reins of a reality show featuring the acclaimed and popular shop and its motley crew. He never wanted to do the TV show; she'll do everything to make it a ratings hit.

The only reason thirty-eight-year-old tattooist and Tonic co-owner Joel Anderson agreed to being on camera was he didn't want his chief rival--and his ex-wife's now-husband--to get one over them. Joel's brother Shep is excited for what this could mean for the shop, but Joel would sooner stick his tattoo needle in his eye than willingly spend hours on end having their lives on display. The one bright spot comes in the form of the producer, Annika Belousov, who affects him in a way not even his former wife did. She makes it a point to tell him that they will never, ever get together, which, of course, only gets Joel revved about getting into Annika's tailored pants or pencil skirt. But can flirtation maybe lead to forever?

At twenty-six, Annika Belousov knows how cutthroat a business entertainment can be. Reality TV is real indeed, but no one ever said you couldn't manipulate both the people on camera and the situations they find themselves in to make for better viewing. After all, better viewing leads to higher ratings, and in the television industry, ratings are all that matter. She knows what needs to be done, but Annika never counted on Tonic's owner, Joel Anderson, to compete for her attention. He's cocksure and pushes her buttons like no other. He isn't easily cowed by her frosty and forceful attitude. She shouldn't like him...but she does. But what happens when her hairy distraction leads to the possible destruction of her TV career?

This is a romantic comedy, but it also has its fair share of drama and angst and complications galore. There are secrets kept and lies told, and at the end of the day, no matter how you try to justify it, a lie is a lie is a lie. Is deception a necessary evil? In Annika's world, that's what it looks like, but when the line between personal and professional is skewed, everything goes to hell. This was a character-driven story, and it had a great cast, from Joel and Annika to the Tonic peeps and the television crew plus Annika's family. And hello, let's not forget the scene-stealing Kaz. Tonic gave us a hot, hairy ublyudok and a pretty ice princess, and when these two got together, it resulted in a surprisingly fabulous five-plus-starred read. ♥

Date Read: 17 October 2016

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