Has an off-limits (not precisely off-limits) brother (not exactly brother) ever been hotter than Hazel Kelly’s Beta Brother, Logan Jones? I’m positive you will give Zoey Petersen a pass for lusting over her adopted brother when you hear the things this naughty dirty talker says to her.
Hazel Kelly’s muse must have been working overtime because this novel is spicy. Logan and Zoey have been stewing over each other since first sight. A broken boy with a lot of baggage has little hope for a Happily Ever After, but the Petersens offer him a place in the family of foster and adopted misfits. He can’t stop self-destructing long enough to think he will ever be worthy of the girl who shines with an innocence that is utterly foreign to him, his foster sister. He makes the worst out of his new situation by going for the option of her best friend, Piper. And two kids desperate to tune out their reality make hell for each other while Zoey watches to her heartbreak.
A plot like this can go two ways: taboo relationships within a family story like these are either spicy and compelling or awkward enough to make you squick.
I know the reason stepbrother romances have taken off despite the forbidden fruit angle is that broken stepbrothers for fixer sisters warm the hearts of many pervy readers. (Hello! It’s not an insult, I’m a pervy reader, and this is a shout out to my people).
Logan and Zoey’s unrequited crush on one another is hatched the first night Logan lands himself at the Petersen’s dinner table. Broken boys with too much baggage tend to put their darkest wish on a pedestal and resort to bad decisions that feel familiar. It’s not that the two don’t want to be together or that their relationship separates them, and Hazel Kelly lets you know this. The root of the problem with these two is that Logan is comfortably self-destructing, and character development is the only thing that will save him. But Zoey gets to be protected by her charm.
“I didn’t know you used to be vegetarian.”
“We never really talk about it,” she said. “It was a difficult time for everybody.”
I cocked my head.
“Anyway, I’ve accepted that I’m as awful as bacon is delicious, and I just try to be really diligent about recycling now instead.”
To counter the heavy push and pull of the main plot is Nina and the Barnacle Club’s comic relief. A good author knows that lighthearted alcoholism in college has a lot of mileage. Nina, the pimp of good times and questionable choices, is easy to love. She is also the source of great wisdom:
“It’s totally okay to have principles in a world full of sinners who still believe in saints.”
Hazel Kelly rewards her fans for good behavior by giving us Nina in the follow up to this book, Friends with Benefits. Her hero is Logan’s bestie Carter who plays his snarky frat brother.
But the genuine gold in this novel is the Petersen’s family dynamic. The reality check is that parents have to prioritize putting out fires, and what we consider as problems or obstacles when we are young become relative to the big picture. The fallout of two non-related kids being in love falls short when you have bigger fish to fry and as far as the world continues turning.
About Hazel Kelly:
Hazel Kelly is an Amazon Top 12 bestselling author who writes sweet & steamy romance novels. Her stories are full of witty banter and warm fuzzies, so if you like smiling all over, you’ve come to the right place 😉
Originally from Chicago, she now lives in Ireland with her favorite Dubliner and their three-legged cat. When she’s not writing, she enjoys connecting with readers, traveling the globe in search of cozy hammocks to write in, and daydreaming about book boyfriends in her backyard.
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