In historic building in a trendy part of Seattle Maybe Dolan and Alexsei Petrov work side by side at Alexsei's Bar/Barber Shop, Whiskey Sharp. Two years ago, Maybe talked herself into a job and has slowly been getting under Alexsei's skin. It has been 9 months since his engagement to a family friend, Rada, disintegrated, and he is finally talking himself into taking the risk and asking Maybe out when she asks him out instead, not willing for them to continue to ignore the sparks they have felt for years.
"Not his type, or what he'd always thought was his type until he met her."
Their courtship is sweet and romantic as Alexsei surprises Maybe every step of the way with his thoughtfulness and attentiveness. He might be gruff and grumpy but he has been paying attention to Maybe's chattering all along. While Maybe is thrilled to have Alexsei's big sexy body in her bed, and they enjoy easy rapport, full of teasing, due to their years of co-working friendship, deeper intimacy takes longer. Alexsei's sees Maybe in a way no one she has ever dated has before. This is both joyous and uncomfortable for Maybe, but through patience and persistence Alexsei is slowly able gain her full trust and learn the source of her secret hurts.
"He's like a grotesque villain from a Gothic novel" Vic said quietly. "I still can't believe he said all that to her. About her, I wanted to punch him at least ten times"
While I really enjoyed this book, the romance was nearly overshadowed by the conflict between Maybe and Rachel and their abusive father. There is very little interpersonal conflict between Maybe and Alexsei. They talked through most of their issues, and while there is tension around how Alexsei's ex Rada, tries to rile up and exclude Maybe, it was never something that threatened Maybe and Alexsei's relationship. Alexsei's recognizes the seriousness of his feelings for Maybe from the start and never hesitates to show it. The conflict that drives everything in the story is Maybe's Father's cruelty and unhinged fixation on his older daughter Rachel. While there is a mini-climax for that story it is left mostly unresolved to carry over into the next book, Whiskey Sharp: Jagged, which will feature Rachel and Alexsei's cousin Vic.
I plan to pick up the rest of the series because I really enjoyed getting to know Maybe and her sister Rachel and seeing them learn to set boundaries, and be there for each other and I enjoy all the family interactions with the rest of the Orlov clan, including Alexsei's meddling aunt, Vic's mother Irishka.