REVIEW: Unfortunately Yours by Tessa Bailey
Dear Tessa Bailey,
Anyone who knows me knows that enemies to lovers is a trope that’s more miss than hit for me. I don’t enjoy love interests being cruel and that seems to happen often with enemies to lovers. In this case, I was aided by your acknowledgements at the front of the book which said:
When I sat down to write this enemies-to-lovers book, I asked myself, “What is the one thing I need to feel satisfied after a book about two people feuding? What is going to make me feel better after the harshly spoken words?” The answer came to me right away. I need irrefutable proof that the hero has loved the heroine all along…
When August and Natalie first meet they are extremely attracted to one another. Then she disliked his, admittedly terrible, wine and things devolved from there. After that, for the next few months, every time they saw each other, the pair exchanged catty remarks. August regrets it each time but can’t seem to stop himself. It did help me to know that he never felt true enmity toward Natalie. My impression was that the same was true for Natalie actually. But what helped me the most was that it was clear that their snark was their chemistry sparking without anywhere to really go. The energy and creativity in their insults to one another and the clear rules they obviously have in their “battle” made it glaringly obvious they were hot for one another. And, while some of the insults are very robust there’s a line they don’t cross. They don’t bring others into the battle. They’re far more likely to defend the other to an outsider than anything else. They are trying to be provoking and get a rise out of the other but they are not actively trying to wound. If either of the pair sees they’ve cut too close to the bone there’s instant remorse/apology and they don’t go there again. Perhaps it’s a subtlety in the execution of this trope but here it worked for me just fine.
Unfortunately Yours is the second book in the Vine Mess series (I think there may be another to come or maybe a novella?) but it reads well as a stand alone. I didn’t feel like I missed out on anything reading the two books backwards (Secretly Yours is first).
Natalie Vos is the daughter of a winemaking family in Napa Valley. She never felt like she fit in with the family. She rebelled as a teen and got into a lot of trouble. She is still paying for it with her family. After a rocky start, she was “scared straight” by a short stint in rehab at age 17. After, she went to Cornell and then to New York where she had a successful career in finance. She was a partner with a fiance who was also a partner in the same firm. But then she made a bad trade which lost a lot of money. Then she lost both the job, the fiance and, her home (given they were living together). Back in Napa to regroup, Natalie is determined to return to New York, start her own firm and show them all that they made a big mistake Pretty Woman style. But starting a finance firm in New York takes a lot of capital. After swallowing her pride and asking her mother, Corinne, to front her a loan and being turned down for the simple reason that Corinne simply does not have the money, the only option is for Natalie to get her hands on her trust fund. Her estranged father set up the trust and it has a stupid archaic condition to it that Natalie cannot get out of: she must be both gainfully employed and married to get the cash.
August Cates is a former Navy SEAL who left the Teams after the death of his best friend and fellow SEAL, Sam. Sam’s dream had been to open a vineyard and make wine. August knows nothing about wine but he’s determined to make Sam’s dream come true. Only, he sucks at making wine and he sucks at asking for help. August has a weird thought in his head that he has to do this on his own in order to truly honor Sam’s memory. (Natalie thought this was about August’s grief but I admit I thought it was a bit out there to expect to make great wine with zero experience and no-one to guide you, grief or not.) August’s wines are objectively terrible. Now he’s run out of money and and has to admit that he has failed.
But then Natalie and August realise that they could help each other out. Natalie’s family connections could get August approved for the business loan he has been unable to get himself and August could provide Natalie with the wedding ring and the job she needs to access her trust fund.
It doesn’t really make sense of course until you factor in that August is already in love with Natalie even though he hasn’t admitted to himself yet. As it happens, the business loan turns out to be unnecessary before the wedding because reasons but August doesn’t tell Natalie and goes ahead. He wants, more than anything else, for Natalie to have what she wants and needs to make her happy. Over a very short time he also realises that it could just be him that will do that and then he sets out to try and prove it to her.
I have to say, that kind of devotion – unreasoning, complete and adorable – is kind of catnip to me.
They fought like they hated each other, but somehow, Lord, he’d been ready to drop to his knees in front of her on that sidewalk last night.
“I’m better elsewhere. I’m something. I’m someone when I’m not here.”
After the shock of hearing that breathy confession had worn off, he’d just gotten mad.
Who the fuck made her feel like that?
How long had she been feeling like crap without his knowing about it?
He knows he’s being ridiculous. He doesn’t care. It’s how he feels. The thought of Natalie in pain or upset makes him physically ill. The thought of anyone hurting her makes him go all caveman to protect her. At the same time, he respects her intelligence and abilities and admires her skills. He doesn’t wrap her in cotton wool. He stands firmly at her side or at her back, depending on context, making sure everyone is treating her right.
Her lips twitched slightly to let him know she was joking and his fucking heart just sort of wrapped itself in a bow for her.
For her part, Natalie, has her own vulnerabilities and she finds that once August realises what those are, he makes it his mission in life to let her know that she is perfect in every way. Natalie has wine knowledge and skills she can add to August’s winemaking endeavours too – together they make a formidable pair. They laugh at each other’s jokes, they stand up for one another and support one another no matter what. Plus they have off the charts chemistry which will not be denied. Proximity means that itch is going to get scratched – and good.
The sex scenes are, as I’ve come to expect from you, creative and scorching hot. There were laugh-out-loud moments for me and also “awwww” moments where August (in particular) was just to darn gone over Natalie that I got a bit swoony.
I enjoyed the “prank wars” but thought they were a bit short. I really wanted to know what was next on August’s agenda there.
I suppose it could be said that Natalie was a bit “poor little rich girl” – she hadn’t exactly had a hard life. But there was more to her than that and I didn’t get the sense she didn’t realise her own privilege.
You do tend towards a bit of gender essentialism – mostly in the form of dick references and it’s present in Unfortunately Yours. I note it, wish it wasn’t there, but can move past it and enjoy the book anyway. Others can’t and fair enough.
I did like where the “hiding the not needing the bank loan anymore” thing ended up, I enjoyed the humour and the scorching chemistry between the leads. Plus, the ending was a delight and fit August perfectly (and made me laugh). After the first couple of chapters where I was metaphorically finding my feet in the book, I raced through the read, often smiling like a loon.