Summary: Liv Papandreas has a dream job as a sous chef at Nashville’s hottest restaurant. Too bad the celebrity chef owner is less than charming behind kitchen doors. After she catches him harassing a young hostess, she confronts him and gets fired. Liv vows revenge, but she’ll need assistance to take on the powerful chef. Unfortunately, that means turning to Braden Mack. When Liv’s blackballed from the restaurant scene, the charismatic nightclub entrepreneur offers to help expose her ex-boss, but she is suspicious of his motives. He’ll need to call in reinforcements: the Bromance Book Club. Inspired by the romantic suspense novel they’re reading, the book club assists Liv in setting up a sting operation to take down the chef. But they’re just as eager to help Mack figure out the way to Liv’s heart… even while she’s determined to squelch the sparks between them before she gets burned.
Although The Bromance Book Club gets a little something extra for being the first book in the series (and thus my first introduction to Nashville’s Bros), Undercover Bromance was a worthwhile contribution to what I hope will be a long series. (The third book, Crazy Stupid Bromance, has already been announced and omg this girl is EXCITED.) I enjoyed the annoyed-to-lovers arc of Mack and Liv in UB much more than the married-on-the-rocks arc given to Gavin and Thea in BBC, but perhaps that’s just because I enjoy reading about two people without a romantic history falling in love more than I do a couple rekindling their romance. (See also my enjoyment of Fix Her Up over Love Her or Lose Her.)
Undercover Bromance dips its toe into heavy shit in a way that I don’t remember Bromance Book Club doing, though: workplace sexual assault and harassment, domestic/spousal abuse, and victim-blaming, as well as some less-than-great alpha-male behavior (from our beloved Mack, too 😭), unethical hacking, and various shades of toxic masculinity. But Lyssa Kay Adams handles it all really well, and I enjoyed seeing both Mack and Liv grow and be forced to confront their own toxic behavior as well as how they were given the space to actually process their emotions. Something I really love about this series is how Adams introduces conventional romantic tropes and then finds a way to organically twist or break them from a 21st-century perspective. (E.g., anything I flagged as an oh no or 😬 was then canonically brought up and explicitly addressed. That’s not something I find every day!)
While this book wasn’t a five-star favorite, I did go out of my way to binge-read it and also *immediately* hoped the Russian would be the star of book three. (Though I’m sure Nolan will be a great leading man!)