Rule Breaker (Book 1)
As much as I enjoy reading romances that involve power dynamics, I have trouble crossing certain lines. An employer/employee relationship is one of them because the power balance there is not imbalanced through the desires of the participants but instead due to outside forces. However, this established history between Dylan and Gabe does not stop the utterly scorching heat between them. Their connection drew me in despite, rather than because of, their working relationship. The story’s appeal is a credit to Morton’s writing, especially in her ability to craft unique primary and secondary characters.
The requirements of being a personal assistant can already create a false sense of intimacy between people. Add a healthy dose of sexual attraction, and it’s no wonder that Dylan wants to step up and care for Gabe when it seems like no one else will. It’s also no wonder that Gabe’s personal history means that he craves Dylan’s apparent affection even as he does his best to push it away. Throw in an annoying boyfriend, and we’re off on a roller coaster of a developing relationship that comes to a head when Dylan invites Gabe home for the holidays.
The events that follow involve the perfect amount of angst and a shift in their relationship that has me supporting a happily ever after between the characters. This book is a romantic comedy, so I laughed even between the tears. I may have been hesitant regarding the premise of this book, but Morton more than delivers a wonderful ending that I was delighted to accept. I look forward to checking in on these characters throughout the rest of this trilogy, especially since future books involve side characters I also grew fond of here.
Deal Maker (Book 2)
For books that claim to fall into the romantic comedy genre, Morton never fails to deliver all the angsty feels along with the romance and comedy. This story follows one of the previous book’s heroes’ best friend, a character we’ve already met and think we know. It turns out we’ve barely scratched the surface of Jude Bailey. He doesn’t live quite the expected lifestyle of a successful model, except for the revolving door of one-night stands. Turns out this is to protect his heart, not because he doesn’t have one.
It’s evident from their initial encounters that Asa is a perfect match for Jude, except for the fact that Asa has more than a few reasons to hate models. But Jude needs a place to stay, and Asa needs a personal assistant. Hilarity ensues as Jude plays up the vapid model stereotype, and let’s say that he’s fortunate that he and Asa mesh so well, even before either of them realize. But the priority here is Asa’s young son Billy, who captures Jude’s heart even before he realizes he might be interested in Asa.
Let’s talk about Billy. He’s the typical precocious child character who causes adorable drama and whose very existence furthers elements of the plot. He acts appropriately childlike, but I occasionally had trouble believing his childishness was realistic. Maybe I’m just too picky, which is why I tend to stay away from single-parent romances unless they are part of a series by an author I’ve already committed to reading. Anyway, Billy is fine. He doesn’t make the story painful to read, and that’s all I care about in the end with a child character.
But back to our heroes. I adored the love story that emerged alongside the various details about Jude and Asa’s pasts and current realities. The dark moment occurred precisely as expected, but the fallout didn’t go quite as I anticipated (both better because of how short it lasted and worse because of a somewhat contrived encounter with someone from Jude’s past). However, bonus points to Gabe for lawyering a troubled relationship and the adorable epilogue. I look forward to finishing this trilogy.
Risk Taker (Book 3)
This book concludes the Mixed Messages trilogy by pairing up the last man standing, Gabe’s best friend Henry. In the previous books, Henry gave me a bit of a happily single vibe, even as he supported his friends in finding their true loves. Here, however, we learn that Henry is treading water as he pines for his best friend Ivo. Just as he determines that he can’t carry that particular torch anymore, Ivo crashes back into his life, and the whole cycle starts over again.
This time, Henry’s friends are also determined to derail this particular train (okay, how many metaphors can I include a single book review?) and send him on a string of terrible (but hilarious) dates to show that Ivo is the one he’s meant to be with. Except Ivo and Henry kind of already know that? But don’t want to admit it? Because they’re terrified of ruining the friendship they already have, not because boys are dumb and don’t know how to communicate (okay, only a bit of that last part). When they finally get their acts together, both know that it’s only a matter of time before Ivo leaves London again for his work. I held my breath (metaphorically, or course) along with Henry and Ivo as they waited for the happy bubble they’ve created to pop.
Things continue to look up for this new evolution of their relationship, especially after it survives interference from Ivo’s mother, until Ivo ends up on a plane leaving London once again. Morton put my heart through the wringer on the way toward this happily ever after, but the journey is absolutely worth it.