Publisher: Dreamspinner Press
Cover Artist: Alexandria Corza
Release Date: September 3, 2019
Genre/s: Contemporary M/M Romance
Trope/s: enemies to lovers, opposites attract, millionaire, age gap
Themes: gentrification, compromise
Heat Rating: 4 flames
Length: 60 000 words/ 161 pages
The course of true love runs through every neighborhood….
Only one thing stands between Gregory MacPherson II and his dream revitalization project for the gritty neighborhood of Ball’s End: a rinky-dink, run-down used bookstore called Hailey’s Comic. But when master negotiator Mac shows up to make a deal with the owner, he comes face-to-face with quirky, colorful Hailey—unexpectedly good-humored about Mac’s attempted eviction and, also unexpectedly, a hot guy.
Hailey won’t give up his lease, no matter how much money Mac offers. When it comes to consummating their mutual attraction, though, he’s a lot more flexible. Soon Mac has as hard a time prying himself out of Hailey’s bed as he does prying Hailey out of the building. But Hailey doubts Mac’s plans serve Ball’s End’s best interests, and he insists Mac give him a chance to prove his case. If they’re going to build a happy ever after, one of them will have to be remade….
GREGORY MacPherson II didn’t have the time or the patience to make a personal trip to a bookstore, but here he was. Alone.
No patrons roamed the narrow aisles formed by overstuffed bookshelves. No clerk waited at the vintage cash register sitting on top of a linoleum-covered counter barely capable of holding its weight. No one rushed to greet him from behind the tawdry multicolored curtain hanging at the back of the store.
From where he stood only a few feet inside the doorway, leery of allowing anything in the dusty hodgepodge to brush against his suit, he could see straight down the center aisle all the way to the back of the store. It was a thirty- foot-by-sixty-foot shoebox, longer than it was wide, one of four retail spaces on the ground floor of the six-story brick building and the only one still open. Which was why Gregory MacPherson II, commonly referred to as Mac, had personally dragged himself down here.
How the place could stay in business without any workers, never mind customers, was a mystery he didn’t intend to solve. He was there to shut the place down, not rescue it, though in the few short minutes he’d been exposed to Hailey’s Comic, he could already list a half-dozen ways to improve its profitability.
That sign out front, for instance. It was a purple whirlwind of planets, well done if you were going for an acid-trip vibe, but the name implied there’d be comics, and the sign implied there’d be comets. Or drugs. And from what he could see, there were neither. If an establishment wanted to bring in customers, it needed to make clear the services it provided and establish confidence that it would provide them well.
Then there was the matter of actually waiting on the customers you did bring in. A bell had tinkled as he’d entered, but apparently only for its own enjoyment.
“Hello?” He raised his voice to a level that couldn’t be ignored and had a brief moment to wonder if he really was completely alone before a head and a hand appeared around the edge of the curtain.
“Mercy, you scared me,” the head said. It belonged to a young man and had a mop of brown hair piled on top of it, a few shades lighter than Mac’s own reddish brown.“Sorry, I didn’t hear the bell. Give me a minute. I’m sort of in flagrante delicto.” The head disappeared.
“In flagrante delicto doesn’t mean naked, you know,” Mac told the air where the head had been. “It means you were caught doing something you shouldn’t have been. Something sexual.”
“Now, now. It’s never wrong to masturbate. There.” The head reappeared, this time attached to a body that gave Mac a startlingly clear vision of how it would look masturbating. The man was stringy, taller than Mac’s six- foot frame, but lean and underdeveloped—the body of a person who spent a lot of time reading. Or jerking off.
“What can I help you with?” He was in his mid-twenties, so perhaps ten years younger than Mac, dressed in jeans laddered with intentional rips, each the same two inches wide, running down his thighs like claw marks. His face was clean-shaven, fresh with his youth, and Mac wondered how his skin would react to having Mac’s tightly trimmed beard rubbed all over it.
“You’re free to browse around, even if I’m not out here.”
Mac added lax security to the mental list he was pointlessly compiling. “I need to speak to the owner.”
Hailey Green, owner of Hailey’s Comic, was the only thing standing in the way of his plans to revitalize this misbegotten section of Ballhaven, which plan started with this very brick building and would ultimately lead to Ball’s End—as everyone called it; he’d have to do something about the branding—becoming the newest hot spot for millennials to eat, drink, shop, and live. Urban revitalization was Mac’s business, and Hailey Green was Mac’s problem.
“Still me,” the man said, tilting his head to the side as if to take in Mac’s appearance more carefully.
Mac hadn’t changed clothes before driving down to Ball’s End, though he could’ve guessed the place would be dirty. He’d been reading a report on the effort to clear 502 Main Street of its tenants and had made an abrupt decision to come down and take care of ridding the building of its final holdout himself.
About the Author
Tanya Chris writes feminist-friendly romance in a variety of sub-genres and pairings--most especially M/M. Born on the West Coast and raised on the East Coast, she's fact-based but thirsty for justice, and her books often include an examination of a current social issue, even when they're set in the past. As a lifelong genre-hopping reader herself, she admires character-driven work with a message, regardless of the form it takes.
Tanya is an avid rock climber, a long-distance runner, and a participant in her local community theater where she has tackled most roles, including playwright, actor, director, producer, and stage manager. Her travels, both for climbing trips and for cultural exploration, have brought her to places as fascinating as Egypt and as beautiful as the Dolomites, though there's no place like home.
Tanya is best known to readers for having written Aftercare and to writers for the quote "Writer culture is researching what degree is needed to be a paleontologist so your shapeshifting vampire dinosaur erotica will be authentic." Her website features dozens of free stories, including the aforementioned (and highly authentic) shapeshifting vampire dinosaur erotica.
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Him Improvement by Tanya Chris is a contemporary adult gay romance that features a David and Goliath struggle between Gregory Mac Pherson II (Greg/Mac), urban revitalizer, and Hailey E. Green, bookstore owner. Their personal connection sizzles despite the impasse they are at professionally but eventually one of them is going to lose the battle, which may destroy any relationship they might have had.
This story is part of the ‘Dreamspun Desires’ series and provides a unique perspective on the upheaval that goes with urban renewal. I like the way individual stories are touched upon and I enjoyed Hailey’s quirkiness but I would have liked to get a little more depth to the characters. The heat between the two main characters is intense, but I felt like the story was almost too sweet. There is some conflict, understandably, since the two main characters had opposing goals, but the major one seemed to fizzle, especially given the unequal responses to it. Despite this, I like the secondary characters and enjoyed watching Mac discover the personal impact of his business decisions and recommend this to anyone in search of a gentle romance with a bit of spice mixed in.
A copy of this title was provided for review