Home Makeover

Bri Castellini
3 min readFeb 13, 2023

DIY is for lovers

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The Honey-Don’t List by Christina Lauren. A triple feature enemies to lovers workplace road trip romance! Carey works as the executive assistant to the wife half of an HGTV-style power couple, while James (a trained engineer) is somewhat swindled into being the assistant for the husband half. The two assistants (ahem, the assistant and the engineer) aren’t fans of each other or their respective workloads, but that pales in comparison to how explosively their bosses, who are about to go on book tour for a guide to marriage, despise one another. So Carey and James must tag along to babysit, finding some surprising commonalities between them along the way.

This book is all about knowing your worth, how easy it is for people to co-opt your talent in bad faith to bolster their own egos, and working a job you think is beneath you. Also, home renovation, chronic pain, reality TV, and managing big personalities to make your workday go smoothly. Of Christina Lauren’s backlist (I’ve read them all), I think this hero is one of the least developed, which is why this book only gets a 4 out of 5, but I love their writing and the narrative hooks are strong enough for me to allow myself to swoon anyways.

Rating: 4/5

How hot? 🔥🔥🔥

Beginner’s Luck by Kate Clayborn. The first in this series, and in fact the first romance novel I read when I started my 2022 romance novel sprint! Kit and her two best friends just won the lottery and split it three ways (enough to change their lives but not to retire early on), and with her payout, this former latchkey kid who never lived in one place for more than a year or two bought a fixer upper first home. She’s determined to stay in one place, at her beloved job as a scientist/lab tech at a local university. Enter: Ben Tucker, a recruiter who’s hometown is the same as Kit’s new forever town who’s trying to convince Kit to move to Texas for a big opportunity that will, in turn, be a big opportunity for Ben as well. Will he stay, or will she go? What does it mean to be home, how does one build a family without a solid parental example? I guess we’ll find out!!

I’m a big fan of characters with complicated feelings about places. I had and have a lot of complicated feelings about my hometown and there’s just no such thing as a clean break when you’re talking about somewhere you called home. I think this book does a good job with that, as well as reckoning with how your parents’ relationships impact how you look at your own.

Rating: 5/5

How hot? 🔥🔥🔥

Tools of Engagement by Tessa Bailey. The third in a series, and my favorite of the trilogy! Bethany Castle works for her family’s Long Island house flipping company as a stager, but she’s been dying to lead a flip of her own. When an argument with her older brother, who’s taken over the family business and is refusing to give her a shot, is overheard by a reality TV producer who wants to film a show about the warring sibling house flippers on a breakneck schedule, she’s gonna need help. Enter: Wes Daniels, new in town and working construction for Bethany’s brother, ostensibly to take care of his young niece while her mother, his half sister, deals with a sobriety crisis God knows where. Wes is several years younger, several degrees more dangerously sexy than Bethany’s shitty exes, and not looking to settle down, ever. Or is he? A book about perfectionism, external pressure, and building a support system from nothing. I spend the whole book just wanting to give Bethany a hug, and also realizing I owe myself a break.

This book also has one of my favorite resolutions to the Dark Night Of the Soul sections of the year!

Rating: 5/5

How hot? 🔥🔥🔥🔥

Subscribe to my romance newsletter, Forced Proximity, that will deliver you 3 new romance recommendations every Friday afternoon!

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Bri Castellini

Freelance indie film and crowdfunding consultant. Writer of mystery TV and romance novels. Human bulldozer. www.BriCastellini.com