**Yes, I’ve intended to keep this review spoiler free, with just really minor spoilers that may not even count as spoilers.**
**All GIFS are from GIPHY**
This was an adorable, suspenseful, heartwarming, romanticand uplifiting read. Overall, I give this book 4/5 stars.
The second book in Lyssa Kay Adams’ “Bromance” books, Undercover Bromance is about the main characters, Olivia (Liv) Papandreas and Braden Mack. Liv works at a high-end restaurant in downtown Nashville owned by a celebrity chef. The celebrity chef, Royce Preston, is known to be a cheerful and friendly soul on cameras and in the public eye. In reality, he is a huge jerk and an arrogant man who takes credit for his employees’ work and berates and degrades them. Liv catches him sexually harassing a college-age female employee and she confronts him. He gets angry and fires her, and promises to ruin her dream career of being a chef of her own. He has connections with his status and reputation, and he plans on using them to prevent Liv’s future employment.
Liv and Braden Mack (who usually just goes by “Mack”) get intertwined into each other’s lives. They know each other through Gavin, Liv’s brother-in-law around whom the first book centered around. Mack ends up finding out what happened during the night Liv got fired, and he is enraged. Liv is concocting a plan to confront and stop Royce, but she wants to do things on her own. She is extremely adamant about being independent and doing things without the help of men. Mack intervenes and really wants to help. He is passionate about stopping Royce as well– he has zero tolerance for sexual harassment. Despite Liz’s protests, they end up forming a team. Mack lets his buddies of the Bromance Book Club in on the plans, and they along with a skilled hacker and others team up with him and Liv to put Royce in his place.
For those who haven’t read the first book in the series, the Bromance Book Club is a secret book club comprised of Nashville’s alpha men. In it, the men read and analyze romance books in order to learn their ways to a woman’s heart and to learn how to save their romantic relationships.
You don’t necessarily need to read the first book to be able to understand and follow this second one. But the first book is amazing, and you’re missing out if you haven’t read it already. It is so good. You can click here to read my review about it.
I really like how Adams connects childhood pain and trauma to the current state and insecurities of her adult characters. Liv has an extreme disdain and distrust of men aside from her approval of her brother-in-law, Gavin. As a child, she and her sister, Thea, were abandoned by their father. From this stems her hatred and down. And it gives context to her overall hesitance to let herself get into a romantic relationship. She doesn’t see the point, as a man will end up leaving her anyway. She puts up a tough front as a person who doesn’t give a care about romance and the feelings that come with it, but in reality she is someone who values and craves for a genuine romantic relationship.
Mack is the main leader of the Bromance Book Club. Even though he’s the one to guide all of his buddies and pushes them and encourages them to confront their insecurities and maintain their relationships with their partners, he himself is never in a long-term, committed relationship. It’s not that he doesn’t want to be; whenever he tries to be with a woman, he never ends up connecting in the way he would like with a romantic partner. He knows how to woo women, and he’s great in bed, and he’s respectful toward them. But he isn’t able to connect with them on a deeper level emotionally because he’s hiding parts of himself relating to his own childhood trauma of growing up in an abusive home. On the outside, Mack is a cheerful, easy-going guy and a dependable friend who loves to joke around to a point where he even gets on his friends’ nerves. He is the antithesis of toxic masculinity. But inside, he is hiding a lot of pain and self-doubt; he houses many insecurities stemming from his childhood family dynamics that he never let himself fully analyze. For someone who is great at giving advice to his male friends in the book club, he isn’t always the greatest at taking and incorporating his own advice into his own life.
As Liv and Mack work together, they start to really fall for each other, albeit unexpectedly. Of course, the audience sees this coming but these two characters do not. Mack is the more optimistic one, believing in love and romance. He finally feels like he’s met the woman he can spend the rest of his life with. In contrast, Liv deflects from his feelings. In reality, she is falling for him just as hard, especially as he thwarts her negative assumptions of men. But she’s terrified that Mack’s character is too good to be true. The bros of the book club team up together to help Mack win over Liv.
The guys of the book club are extremely sensitive and perceptive, which I love. They make their comments against each other and swear at each other and all that, but they don’t hide their big, soft sides where they genuinely care for one another and want the best for each other. They give each other tough-love when it’s needed and they don’t attach shame with crying and vulnerability. They encourage each other to be vulnerable and openly human. They are tackling toxic masculinity, one book and one heartbreak and happy ending at a time.
I loved that Liv was a strong female lead; she was a strong, independent woman. She stood up for what was right, even when it was scary. She was brave and courageous.
I didn’t agree with her stereotyping all men into a negative category, but I got where she was coming from given her childhood experiences. It was obvious that she struggled with relying on men in fear of compromising her independence. However, it seemed like throughout the story, a lesson she learned was that getting help from others isn’t mutually exclusive with being independent. And getting help from someone who happened to be male didn’t compromise her identity as a strong, independent woman. I was glad that she took a lot of steps on her own even when others, especially Mack, were afraid for her safety regarding her being a woman. Given, I understood where Mack and the others were coming from. And I did appreciate their care and protectiveness for Liv. Confronting Royce was especially more dangerous for Liv being alone than it would be for her if she was accompanied. The fact that Liv knew the risks and still held her ground and was smart and courageous regarding how she went about things made me admire her.
I loved that Mack was a very genuine and sensitive man. Like I said, he was the antithesis of toxic masculinity. I also loved that he was very protective and very respectful of Liv and that he prioritized his relationships with people including her over his ego. And it was really nice to see him admire Liz for her bravery and independence– it only made him want her more.
Like the first book, Undercover Bromance was hilarious. It painted a smile on my face during much of the time I spent reading it. The banter, arguments and roasting between Liv and Mack and between the bros of the book club was extremely amusing. In addition, it was very comical to see the guys get scared when Liv and Thea got mad. It was fun to read the scenes where the guys huddled and tripped over each other as they tried to rush to the nearest exit to avoid the wrath of the women.
And the Russian! In this book, as well as the first, the Russian had some serious digestive issues. For those who are unfamiliar or need refreshing, the Russian, who’s real name is Vlad, is one of the book club bros who often adds funny moments with his bowel issues. He should not eat cheese- ever! Adams incorporated extremely funny elements that added great comic relief. I also loved the Russian in general, and not just because of the humor that he brought with his bowel problems. He was such a big, strong, scary looking man who was also a big softie with a huge heart who loved to hug. It was so sweet to see the contrast between his appearance and his heart, and to see the scary and loving sides of him; rather than contradicting each other, these two sides complemented each other. I loved seeing how he genuinely cared about Liv and his bros and how he was protective over them. His character portrayed how being a sensitive, emotionally connected person does not take away from being a strong person.
I really liked other side characters and how the role they played in the coming together of the story. Liv lives on a farm, where she pays rent she is able to afford. The farm is owned by Rosie, a woman around 60 years old. She is pretty freaking awesome. She’s just as passionate about women’s rights and gender equalty and Liv is. She genuinely cares about Liv as if Liv is her own granddaugther. She is pretty lax about Liv paying rent and doing farm work. She is in on Liv’s plans to stop Royce and she is very supportive. I love how she tries to encourage the pairing of Liv and Mack as a romantic couple.
There’s also Hop, another character from the farm. He a reoccurring character who is obviously in love with Rosie. He is also around her age. Hop often complains about the “liberal media” and makes jokes about women’s struggles, which results in several arguments between him and Rosie. Mack and the Bromance try to reason with Hop and explain to him why his jokes are offensive and wrong, and he starts to come around. He even gets in on the plans of helping Liv and the bros stop and expose Royce. It’s very amusing to see how the relationship between him and Rosie develop through the help of Mack, who ushers Hop into the Bromance Book Club.
Overall, I highly recommend this book if you’re looking to feel warm and fuzzy and hopeful. I was ecstatic to see that there’s a third book coming out, though I’m not sure when it will come out. Hopefully soon within the next year or so.