Review – Up To Me by Christi Barth

Up To Me_BarthPublisher: Carina Press
Publish Date: Available Now
How I got this book: eARC from author

Ella Mayhew’s always appreciated the beautiful view of Seneca Lake from the spa window of her family’s hotel. But the view improves dramatically when a hot stranger runs across the grounds—shirtless. He’s the first man to kickstart her hormones in the three years since she lost her parents, and she doesn’t even know his name.

Graydon Locke’s on his umpteenth undercover assignment. The routine’s always the same: assess a business, recommend it for closure, then roll out before anyone discovers his decisions impact hundreds of lives. He’s always believed nothing good comes out of small towns. Why would this one be different? Then he makes two classic rookie mistakes—falling for the sweet, sexy girl who owns the very business he’s on the verge of axing. And letting the town’s residents get involved in both his life, and his relationship with Ella.

Ella’s the best thing to ever happen to Gray, but he’s lied to her from the start. If he pulls the plug on Mayhew Manor, the entire town may crumble. Ella couldn’t save her parents, but it’s up to her to save their hotel. Even if that means turning her back on true love.
*Blurb from author’s website*

I’ve always adored Barth’s work, so when I found out she was writing a new series set in a small town, I couldn’t resist diving in.

Ella hasn’t always loved her family legacy, but she is more than willing to fight to keep it. After falling apart when her parents died, she is slowly starting to find her own footing, and the sexy guest Gray who catches her eye is helping her in more ways than she expected. Having Gray as a sounding board is helping Ella realize just how strong she is, and how much she wants to keep her family’s legacy going strong.

Gray is starting to hate his job – going undercover to determine the worth of someone’s livelihood has lost all it’s excitement, even more so once he realizes the sexy Ella is the owner of his newest job. Gray knows he shouldn’t get involved, especially as he continues to keep his secrets, but there is something about Ella that he just can’t ignore. As his feelings for Ella grow deeper and deeper, Gray is left in a horrible situation, trying to figure out what to do with his life, and how to move forward while getting everything he wants.

One of the things I like most about Barth’s writing is that although her heroes are tough and masculine guys, they are also somewhat sensitive about stuff. They aren’t afraid to think and talk about their feelings, and (more often than not) they don’t run away from their emotions. I like that about her heroes. I like that they can sit around the poker table, drinking beer and being all manly, while still talking about their feelings. Gray was absolutely not afraid to admit to himself that he was totally falling for Ella, and just how much his feelings were bothering him, given his job and his reason for being at her hotel. I liked the struggle he went through trying to reconcile his career and the woman he was falling for. It made for some awesomely angsty internal drama.

While I liked Ella, there were times her character drove me bonkers. I can understand why she turned to others to help her through the time after her parents died, but man did she take it to the extreme. It felt like she acted like a stubborn child instead of an adult a few times, and I really wanted to shake her for it. It took a long time for her to really grow as a character, and while she eventually got there, I really wanted to do anything I could to help her speed up the process.

The romance itself was so great! I loved that Gray and Ella went on “non-dates” but took the time to get to know each other. I thought their friendship was so fun and sexy and steamy, and I loved everything about their courtship. Even when Gray’s secrets came spewing out, I thought the way they handled it was (mostly) mature and realistic. There were some hurt feelings and confusion, but they dealt with it like the adult they were, and I appreciated that.

All in all, I think Barth has another fabulous series on her hands! I adored Ella’s group of friends, and while the townspeople sometimes took things a little too far, I’m excited to see what antics they all get up to in the next book. The romance between Ella and Gray was such fun to read, and the main characters really helped me fall in love with everything about this book.
I give Up to Me a B+

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