Brooke Valentine is working two crummy jobs to pay off her late grandfather’s medical bills and back taxes on his house. A freak accident leads to the loss of both jobs and leaves Brooke at the mercy of her new neighbor, Travis Cooper. Brooke can’t figure out why Travis is being so nice—anyone can see he’s way out of her league!
Travis Cooper sees Brooke as a little sister who needs someone to look out for her. When his friends ask what’s going on between them, he assures them—repeatedly—that Brooke Valentine is definitely not his type. But if she’s not his type, why can’t he seem to stop kissing her?
Enter Brooke’s new boss and friend, Jazz Valenzuela, with a scheme to make Travis jealous. But what will happen when Travis finds out it was all a fake?
To say that “Bunny” Brooke Valentine is having a “bad” day is quite an understatement as we are introduced to this harried young woman, who works two jobs, attends school at the local community college, and barely makes enough to support herself. Once she rushes out the door, she gets caught up in a series of unfortunate events that end with her new next door neighbor, Travis Cooper, rushing her to the hospital, where she wakes up twenty-four hours later after undergoing major surgery.
Travis doesn’t know anything about Brooke except that she sold him the lot next to her where he has just completed the construction of his house. It is due to his construction work, that Brooke is injured, and he feels responsible for her misfortune. While Brooke is in the hospital, Travis searches through her cell phone contacts to inform someone about Brooke’s accident. In this endeavor, he learns that her grandfather has passed away, her employers are only concerned about replacing her, and her mother, whose stripper stage name is “Satin,” could care less about her daughter’s well-being. Travis feels obligated to assist Brooke while she is in the hospital; he takes care of her dog, takes messages for her, and discovers that she has financial troubles, which he finds puzzling since he just paid her a significant sum of money for the ten acres of land he purchased from her.
Even after Brooke is released from the hospital, her troubles continue. She comes home to no electricity, a mother who is only interested in what money Brooke can provide, and a lousy fast food job where the manager lets her keep her job only so that he can sexually harasses her. As a reader, I just found my jaw hanging open for the first quarter of the book because it just seemed hard to believe that someone could have such ongoing bad luck. Furthermore, many of the secondary characters, such as Brooke’s mother were presented as selfish, shallow stock characters who were motivated only by their own self-interests with little regard for anyone else’s feelings. Sure, I can expect this from one or two characters, but from practically all of them? Initially, Travis and Brooke are the only ones depicted with any sort of sensitivity and decency.
I almost stopped reading by this point because the plot and characterization seemed too unrealistic, but the prospect of Brooke and Travis’s burgeoning relationship kept my interest.
Brooke is a strong, independent woman who is used to being self-sufficient and is, therefore, reluctant to accept Travis’s help. She has trouble believing someone who barely knows her would be so willing to help, and she is suspicious of his motives:
“In Brooke’s experience nearly everyone had an angle, a ‘what’s in it for me’ attitude; and far too often …she had been the one on the losing end of those types of situations.”
She is also certain that Travis’s offer to help is not because he’s interested in her. She quickly surmises that he is a man “who could walk into a room and have just about any woman of his choosing.” She sees herself as short, plain, chubby, and unsuccessful compared to the type of women she assumes Travis would date. She isn’t the type of woman who is overly concerned with her appearance and she tends to wear bargain clothes that are too baggy for her that she gets from thrift shops. She is self-conscious about her appearance and the clothes allow her to keep others from taking notice.
Brooke’s low self-esteem causes her to continuously question his interest in her as anything other than platonic.
I like that Brooke doesn’t play the victim; circumstances knock her down, but she pops right back up and keeps going. She refuses to passively sit by, pitying herself, and allowing Travis to take care of her. Even though she is still in pain from her injury, she goes out and finds a job at Babycakes, a bakery owned by Jazz and her husband Riley and begins working immediately so that she won’t have to rely upon anyone else.
Travis is a Marine who, after serving three tours of duty overseas, decides to start his own security firm working from his home beside of Brooke. The picture of the combat boots on the book’s cover obviously symbolize Travis’s role in the book. Initially, I thought it was a poor cover choice since the plot focuses less on Travis’s background and profession and more on his learning to embrace his growing feelings for Brooke, who supposedly is so not his type. After closer examination, though, I think the combat boots symbolize Travis’s character. He is a man who is used to being in charge, in taking care of others, and in living his life with integrity and honesty. Of course, he isn’t going to ignore his neighbor and her troubles, even though his friends wonder why he is so determined to have a presence in Brooke’s life.
Ironically, even though Travis values, honesty, throughout most of the book, he refuses to be honest with himself. He genuinely likes Brooke, especially after he realizes that she is a compassionate, giving person, who has sacrificed her immediate future to pay off substantial debts left by her deceased grandfather and to continue financially helping a mother who has never been there for her emotionally or otherwise. He eases into a friendship with Brooke by teasingly calling her “Bunny girl” and “Cupcake,” and he always finds ways to be around her.
He tells Brooke that all he wants is her friendship, nothing else. He also tells her employers, Jazz and Riley, “She’s kind of like a little sister now, I feel like I should take care of her. She doesn’t have any real family.” Yet, Travis’s actions betray his words. He flirts with Brooke and even shocks himself by initiating a kiss:
“And what a kiss! Travis hadn’t intended to kiss Brooke – ever! But as soon as his lips met hers, he felt a bone-melting heat flood through him.”
And as we discover, one kiss just isn’t enough.
Their attraction to each other is obvious , yet the central conflict is that both continue to refuse to acknowledge their mutual attraction. Brooke “knew without a doubt, that she would be hurt. How could she not be when she was falling in love with the man?” And as Travis’s friend, Will, reminds him, “Your type is tall…Your type is thin and sexy and gorgeous! Your type is blonde or redhead. Your type is definitely not short, plain, and plump!”
Once Brooke confides to Jazz about her feelings for Travis, Jazz sets a deceptive plan into motion to get Travis to really take notice of Brooke to take their relationship to a romantic level. The climax reaches its peak when Travis discovers the truth, and both he and Brooke are forced to decide what kind of relationship they really have and whether they want to move towards a future together.
The theme of the book centers on looking beyond the obvious and superficial aspects of a person; indeed, the book clearly shows that physical appearance does not always make one desirable. Furthermore, we shouldn’t let our expectations dictate how we feel about others.
This was an okay read; the plot isn’t unusual, and the outcome is predictable, which I expected going into the book, and that is fine. Overlooking the exaggeration of characters and some of the unrealistic aspects of the book that I mentioned earlier, I found Brooke and Travis’s relationship to be incredibly sweet, just like those cupcakes with the chocolate icing and orange liqueur that Travis cannot resist. It’s a “feel good” story that will leave you with a smile.
Music to Complement the book:
James Taylor “You’ve Got a Friend”
Faith Hill “This Kiss”
REO Speedwagon “Can’t Fight This Feeling” (live)
Here is a recipe for Orange Liqueur Cupcakes similar to the ones described in the book; yes those that set off the sparks between Travis and Brooke!
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