Joel Anderson doesn’t take anything seriously.
Not his relationships, which have been few and far between since his brutal divorce. Not the drama of working in a tattoo parlor, which seems to be around every corner. When things get him down, he smiles and cracks a joke. But he’s not the kind of man you cross, or you’ll find yourself at the wrong end of his fists.
Annika Belousov takes everything seriously.
Like her job as a reality television producer, given that she typically has something to prove. Or her love life, which is defined by a series of requirements — affluent, ambitious, accomplished, to name a few. Definitely her family, who worked their whole lives to afford her every opportunity, a sacrifice she doesn’t take lightly. When she’s tapped to produce a reality show at Joel’s shop, she doesn’t think twice, just goes in for the kill, as if there were any other way.
The second Annika walks into Joel’s shop, he makes it his mission to crack her open, but she’s not having it. He’s all wrong — too crass, too hairy, too un-serious. But it doesn’t take her long to find out there’s more to him than smirks and tattoos. And what she finds could put her career and his heart on the line.
Not that Joel cares. Because for the first time in a long time, he’s found his tonic.
Joel and Annika both protect their hearts very closely so it’s easy to see how neither sees the other coming. Annika portrays herself as cold and unfeeling however I LOVE seeing her with her family because you truly get to see all her dimensions. Joel is painted as a hero by his Tonic crew and it’s easy to see why, he loves fiercely and protects his own with everything he has.
Joel sees Annika from their first encounter. He sees her in a way that maybe she doesn’t even see herself. Annika is strong and self assured. She has a clear path and refuses to take her focus off it. She doesn’t see how the person Joel sees fits in with the person she’s created herself into.
I loved that right away Joel knows there’s something about her that he wants to see more of, where she gets the opposite feeling. She automatically is over him, she doesn’t like his cockiness or the way he seems to see right through her. They have very contrasting first impressions of each other, while Joel is intrigued; Annika thinks she knows who he is right away.
I loved the back and forth between these two. You know that quite possibly they’re doomed to fail but you jump in anyway. You jump in and wish for the best. Staci always delivers in epic fashion and Tonic is no different. Towards the end she had my heart breaking for Joel and Annika; and hoping that she’d guide me out safely.
I wish we’d seen more of Tricky, but that was just a selfish want and has nothing to do with my feelings towards this story. I also fell in love with Roxy and Kira, they brought Annika back down to earth when her stone walls would get too high around her. And Annika’s parents!! I loved them so much, they were kind and caring, hardworking, and so open in their relationship with Annika. I might be obsessed with every side character in this book.
I absolutely LOVED Joel and Annika, the contrast between the two of them and the push and pull of their relationship was more than I wanted and 100% kept me hooked. Joel and Annika fight as well as they love and it was absolute perfection!
From roots in Houston, to a seven year stint in Southern California, Staci and her family ended up settling somewhere in between and equally north, in Denver. They are new enough that snow is still magical. When she’s not writing, she’s sleeping, cleaning, or designing graphics.