If only life came with a guarantee.
Patrick McNaughton wants more. More people drinking Foghorn’s beer, more money to push their brewery past the competition, and more cooperation from his brothers, who have no sense of urgency. He’s all about conquering one challenge on his way to the next, so long as there’s a remote chance of winning. That’s why Aspen Pane sits in the office down the hall, oblivious to his attraction. Patrick has always wanted more with her, but he never was one to risk it all.
Aspen Pane has more than enough. As business manager for Foghorn, she keeps the brewery in the black and lives up to the nickname the McNaughton brothers gave her—Wonder Woman. She’s worked hard her whole life for the money she now has in the bank, the small house she calls home, and time with her friends. So, even though it seems everyone close to her, including her brother, is inconveniently falling in love, Aspen sticks with her to-do list. Because love risks everything and she doesn’t do that for anyone.
After an unexpected flight and an eccentric venture capitalist thrust them into a battle of wits and lies even they’re not sure they can win, Patrick and Aspen must learn the difference between making a connection and making money. They may need to face their fears and risk it all in the name of finding a new work-love balance.
Below are courtesy content warnings to the best recollection. They cover the major topics/themes, but may not be as nuanced as other trigger/content warning sites.
- alcohol, hospitalization, loss of loved one, difficult mother/daughter relationship
Note: Each Love Story is a standalone. There are some shared characters throughout the books (siblings, friends, etc.) Closely related books are often distinguishable by the similar covers. The book order so far is as follows:
Slow-burn friends-to-loves romance
While this is the tenth novel in the A Love Story series, it’s only the second set at Foghorn Brewery (the first was Brew). It works perfectly fine as a standalone novel, though. This is a sweet (very) slow-burn romance, with lovely, complex characters, and a friends-to-lovers premise.
Of the three McNaughton brothers who run Foghorn Brewery, Patrick is the business guy. Along with Aspen Pane, the business manager, he takes care of all the marketing and financials for the brewery. Patrick is driven, and he only needs two things in life – for the brewery to do well, and Aspen. He’s been in love with Aspen for as long as he can remember, but has never so much as hinted at it. All that changes when, due to his fear of flying, he mixes alcohol and meds and reveals some of his feelings for her.
“The energy was contagious, and once again, Aspen loved her job. Where else could she work where she had the challenge of budget projections and the best way to adhere beer caps to a giant trophy?”
Aspen, like Patrick, is a workaholic. Ever since her dad left when she was ten, her mom has flitted from one relationship to another, more in love with love than any of her boyfriends. The only consistency she had in life was after they went to live with her grandmother (whom she calls “Grand”), so it should come as no surprise that Aspen’s anchors are her grandmother and work, and she has no time for things like feelings, and especially not for dating.
“His hand at the small of her back, his eyes lit with mischief, and the way he looked at her now that she bothered to pay attention.
Lord, the man knew how to look at a woman. It wasn’t a stare or even a trace of possession. No. Patrick appeared fascinated. It took her breath away.”
Of course, the path to true love doesn’t run smooth. Besides their very valid worries about messing up their business relationship with a romantic one, they have different motivations for their drive. Aspen wants a comfortable, consistent life – she wants to have coffee every Monday with her Grand, and not worry about being able to afford niceties like well-fitting clothes and salon shampoo. A relationship of any kind is just a complication that she doesn’t need. While Patrick seems to be in control and in charge, in reality, he’s deeply vulnerable and feels like he has something to prove. Unfortunately, sometimes the challenges can consume him, to the detriment of everything else, including his relationships with his family and Aspen.
All of this comes to a head when they meet a venture capitalist, Joel Siebold, who might be interested in investing in the brewery. Problem is, he’s as eccentric as they come, and he seems to enjoy having Patrick at his beck and call, asking for such varied things as business plans for a hypothetical music festival to Patrick’s favorite ice cream flavor. Living in the Bay Area, with friends and family who work at startups, Siebold and the whole VC dance felt very familiar. What Patrick can’t seem to realize, however, is that Siebold’s jerking around of him is just a progression of Patrick’s winning-at-all-costs mentality. When he can’t let the deal go, even after it’s obvious to everyone else that nothing will come of it, his ambition comes at the cost of his new relationship with Aspen.
“’Aspen is at coffee with her Grand, and I’m going to report the hell out of you during our ten o’clock meeting. Tons of details about the industry. I have graphs and charts.’
‘Christ,’ Boyd said, groaning.
‘No, not Christ. But pivot tables. You know how you love a good pivot table.’”
C’mon, who doesn’t love a good pivot table joke? There’s lots of quirky humor, which is one thing I really loved about the previous book I read by Ms. Ewens. As for cons, the pace, like the romance itself, is slow. There were times when I would’ve liked things to proceed a little faster. Also, the whole Siebold subplot worked a bit too well for me – I knew I was supposed to be annoyed at the guy and Patrick for going along with him, but a couple of times I got so angry that I had to put the book down and walk away.
Overall, though, this book was highly enjoyable, and I’m very much looking forward to the next book, which I’m guessing will star the remaining McNaughton brother, Cade. Recommended for anyone looking for a slow-burn friends-to-lovers romance!
I received this book for free from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.