Won’t Back Down (Bro Code) – ARC review

Won’t Back Down
by Shelli Stevens
Release Date: August 11, 2022
Publisher: Tule Publishing
Book #3 in the Bro Code series
Number of pages:  218
Kindle Edition
Source:  ARC from publisher
Contemporary Romance
Ages 15 and up
CW: sexual harassment, references to cheating
Thou shalt not fall for the girl thy cousin wants…
James Watson is at a breaking point. The last year has put him on rocky grounds with his friends, and now he just bombed the bar exam. He pins the blame on one person: Tori Brown. She’s not only his sister’s best friend, but an undeniably sexy goddess who chaos seems to follow.

Tori is tired of men seeing her as nothing more than a conquest. She’s particularly tired of James Watson, her friend’s hot older brother and the man who can’t give her a break. Now that Tori’s finally landed the human resources job she’s been working toward, she knows she won’t have time to think about him anymore. Until it becomes clear that the up-and-coming lawyer at her new workplace is none other than James.

Beyond working at the same firm, James’s desire is kept in check by the bro code rule: Don’t date the girl your cousin likes—especially when he’s the attorney who invited you to join the firm. With the lines between lust and hate getting blurry, can they help but be crossed?

I’m finding this author to be confusing. This series is the first I’ve read from her so I’m going strictly by these three (so far) books. They are all quick reads and did keep me engaged. Yet there are things that don’t make sense knowing she is not a new author, just new-to-me. Characters who should know one another seeming to barely be acquaintances. I cannot get over that. It’s odd. Yet the stories move and, for the most part, the chemistry is there.

I’ll admit that I’m not a huge fan of relationships where the people are mean to one another and fall into bed. One or two times, I get it; I get the passion and emotions. When it happens over and over I will inevitably start having hard feelings about one or both of the characters. Already, from previous books, I was not crazy about James and how he wanted to blame Tori for all that went wrong in his long-term relationship. It takes two to tango and all that. Yet somehow James casts Tori as not only the villain, but also an immoral temptress. It wasn’t until over halfway through this book that James got over himself and finally started treating Tori with the respect and decency she deserved. That’s a hard pill to swallow for me. I know plenty of people who enjoy the love to hate trope. It’s just not for me.

As much as that bothered me, I love how Tori and James finally connected on that deeper level. Discovering their shared interests and finding joy in that discovery was a lot of fun to read. There is also an icky coworker who is also James’ cousin that I was worried about but ended up liking that James never felt comfortable with his words or actions and finally spoke up, even before he actually realized he liked Tori and she wasn’t what he assumed.

There was an underlying “secret” Tori had about her past that is easy enough for a reader to guess. Or so I thought. While I’m not a fan of the big secret trope, this didn’t seem like it was one of those huge black clouds that hung over the couple. It only got attention when the creepy coworker made veiled threats. I am not kidding when I say that the reveal of this secret took my rating down a half a notch. It was really silly that the author made what Tori did in the past something Tori was ashamed and embarrassed of when she was so sex-positive in other ways. It was confusing and didn’t line up with this character’s personality.

Again, a mixed back for me. Things that really work and have me enjoying the story overall along with things that take me out of the story because they just don’t make sense.

3 stars

**I received an ARC of this book courtesy of the publisher. All opinions expressed in this review are my own and given freely**

About Cheri

I'm the mom of two boys and wife to my high school sweetheart. Our oldest, Josh, is living at home while working and paying off student loans. Our youngest, Griffin recently left his active duty Army job and is now National Guard here at home. He moved back to Michigan with his wife Kirsten and our beautiful granddaughter Hazel. I work part time and try to fit as much reading into my life as possible.
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