Release Reviews: Daily Grind: Anna Zabo

Daily Grind (Takeover, #4)
Anna Zabo
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Released February 21, 2017
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A man discovers that love can show up when you least expect it—and in a much different form—in this piping-hot romance from the author of Due Diligence and Just Business.

Brian Keppler, owner of Grounds N'at, the coffee shop beneath SR Anderson Consulting, doesn't have time for a relationship. His most recent girlfriend broke up with him because he'd become married to his shop, which is falling apart without his favorite barista, Justin.

As he struggles to stay afloat, the arrival of handsome British high-tech whiz Robert Ancroft becomes another complication. Rob quickly becomes a fixture at the shop with his sharp wit and easy charm, and Brian soon finds himself looking forward more and more to Rob's visits—to the point where his heart skips a beat when he walks in.

But will Brian be able to come to terms with his previously unexplored sexual identity and find happiness now that he has a chance?

The fourth book of Anna Zabo’s Takeover series, Daily Grind, is my first exposure to the author’s writing, and it worked just fine as a standalone story. While I have one major and a handful of minor issues with the book, I loved the characters and appreciated the storyline enough to be able to rate this as a novel I can recommend, especially for those who like their romances with a lot of cozy, a good bit of heat, and without contrived drama.

Grounds N’at, the small coffee shop Brian Keppler owns, is basically his whole life. Even when times are not tough, he puts his heart and soul into trying to keep it successful, so much so that it has caused more than one of his past girlfriends to leave him. Brian has always known that he is bisexual, but until the sexy ginger Brit named Robert Ancroft walked through the shop’s doors, he had never acted on his attraction to men. But things aren’t going well at the shop these days, so getting into a relationship is probably not the smart move for Brian. In spite of this, Brian can’t resist Rob’s charms, especially since Rob understands the pressures of having a career that leaves little time for romantic endeavors. The question, though, is whether or not they can balance life’s demands or will this relationship follow the same crash-and-burn that his others have.

Probably the thing I appreciated most about Daily Grind is the positive portrayal of bisexuality it contains, not only in the character who is bisexual but in the character who falls for him. “Gay-for-you” (GFY) is a trope that I admit to enjoying when I first started reading M/M romances, but the more I have read and thought about the issue, the more I find the concept of GFY to be little more than a veiled form of homophobia, or more appropriately bi-phobia. As such, I was glad to see not only that this is not a GFY story but that, from the outset, the reader quickly learns that Brian is bisexual and has compelling reasons for having denied himself permission to explore that side of his sexuality, among them is the real concern that both straight and gay people often shun bisexuality as being something akin to a license to cheat.

Fortunately, Rob has no problem with being with Brian. The relationship that develops between them quickly moves beyond flirting and suggestion, becoming deep and serious before long. The chemistry between them isn’t only apparent, it jumps off the page. The frequent sex scenes are steamy and, like their flirting, full of dirty talk. Because Rob is the first man Brian has been with, there are plenty of “bonus firsts” to be found too, not just things like first kisses and such, but first-timer firsts. Yum! Taking a step back from the hotness, the plot and relationship development follows an uncomplicated and uncontrived, though slightly predicable, path that contains relatively little relationship angst, at least until the final dramatic arc of the story toward the end. Both men have their issues—again, nothing outside the realm of the everyday—and their issues blend together well to allow the other to provide comforting support, a fact that resulted in some very good feels.

While I felt Daily Grind was, as a result, largely an easy and comfortable read, the middle of the story dragged for me because it was a bit repetitive. Brian is overworked, so the book has plenty of scenes illustrating the work-related stresses of Brian’s life—too many hours at work, financial pressures, and the like—and how they manifest themselves in his behavior. These are usually followed by scenes with Rob after not seeing each other for a while, followed usually by a sex scene. Lather, rinse, repeat. Sure, we learned bits and pieces about Rob and Brian within these scenes, but the feelings and concerns their internal monologues shared also lent to the repetitiveness. The scenes were well written, but there simply wasn’t enough going on to justify quite so long a story. And unfortunately, I started getting the same impression about the number of sex scenes. After a while, they felt like filler instead of character/relationship development. It’s also worth noting that though the author tried to make Rob feel like a British expatriate, the impression came across as very superficial to me. Having him overuse only a few “Britishy” words and expressions—things like “lovely” and word differences like “arse” versus “ass”—simply isn’t enough. Instead, it felt a little forced and inauthentic, almost like she was trying too hard.

As a whole, though, reading Daily Grind was a good first exposure for me to Anna Zabo’s writing. I can recommend the book to anyone looking for a laid-back, low-angst, and romantic read. And it’s also good enough that though I could be perfectly content with reading it as a standalone, I am curious about the other couples who appeared in this story that I will be adding the earlier books to my to-be-read list.

The author and/or publisher generously provided me a complimentary copy of Daily Grind in exchange for this fair and honest review.
Rob Ancroft is the CEO of CirroBot. He is an intelligent, gay, British ginger with a wicked sense of humor. And from the first moment he walks into the coffee shop Grounds N'at, he is smitten with the owner Brian. 

Brian has always known he was bisexual, but never admitted it to anyone and has lived a straight lifestyle. But the flirty banter with Rob intrigues him and makes him want to explore something with him. Brian is a work-a-holic shop owner who is stressed, anxious, and literally working himself into the ground. 

There were things I really liked about this book. I completely adored Rob. He tolerated quite a bit and for the most part sacrificed some of his own needs while trying to be supportive of his new boyfriend. I liked Brian too. He was a hard worker and a good guy. But throughout the story, he became more stressed and his stubbornness and refusal to accept help became frustrating. I wanted to shake sense into him as bad as Rob and his friends did. 

The characters were well developed. They had strong feelings and made a great couple despite the differences in their backgrounds and lifestyles. I liked that they were more mature and knew what they wanted. They had great chemistry and fun rapport. They challenged and encouraged each other. The big conflict was not hard to figure out, but their issues were relatable and believable. 

My problem with this book is that it felt long, repetitive, and just seemed to drag. I felt like I went to work with these guys daily and dealt with their stress. Then the times they did have were a bunch of stolen moments and sexy times. So especially the middle part seemed to be the same: work, stress, and sex over and over. It was bit exhausting and I just wanted to see the actual story move faster. But I am willing to admit that it could have just been my mood or focus, and it was just not keeping my attention as much as I'd hoped. And the fact that the percentage read on my kindle seemed to move slowly added to my own frustration.

I did not read the other books in this series, but those characters do make appearances and are intriguing. They added some humor, support, and some tough love when needed. I honestly think I would have liked this book a lot more if it was a bit shorter, but I really did end up liking these guys. It was not a problem reading it as a stand alone, but it seems that this author has created a very rich and detailed world with all of these characters and their stories, so fans of the series will be even more interested. 

I was gifted a copy in exchange for an honest review.

Takeover (Takeover, #1)
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Released August 19, 2014
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Michael Sebastian thought Curacao would be the perfect place to have a little fun in the sun—and between the sheets. So far, no one has struck his interest, until Sam Anderson walks into the bar. With one look at his tense body and expensive suit, Michael knows that this is a man in need of release. And Michael is more than willing to lend a hand.

Shattered by the most intense sex he’s ever had, Sam has to face the facts—one night with a handsome, dominating stranger is all he gets before returning to the closet he’s been suffocating in for years. But when Sam starts his new job as the CEO of a failing technology company, he discovers that Michael is one of his new employees.

While Michael is desperate for another night with Sam, he knows he shouldn’t get involved with his boss, let alone another man who can’t accept who he is. But as they’re forced to work together to save the company, the desire sparking between them becomes impossible to ignore…

Takeover: A Private Merger (Takeover, #1.5)
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Released October 5, 2016
Free on author's website: here

8,500-word "epilogue" to Takeover

Just Business (Takeover, #2)
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Released June 16, 2015
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Justin White may not look like an up and coming corporate superstar, but his new boss knows he has the smarts, grit, and determination to succeed. Now he just has to convince his company’s CFO, Eli Ovadia. Unfortunately, Justin can’t seem to keep his cool around the domineering Eli—and soon he finds himself taking their heat from the boardroom into the bedroom….

Still haunted by a tragic accident that left him with a wounded leg and broken heart, Eli has a need to be in control. But his desire for Justin makes him want to lose that control—and push them both far beyond their limits. But will his need to dominate Justin drive him away—or will Eli find a way to be the man he needs for both of them?

Note from the author: This is the followup to Takeover and features Justin and Eli. Sam and Michael are fairly important characters in this book as well.

Due Diligence (Takeover, #3)
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Released June 21, 2016
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After Fazil Kurt breaks up with his girlfriend, a business trip to Seattle offers some much-needed time away. Sent by S.R. Anderson Consulting, Fazil is there to help audit Singularity Storage, a company they are trying to save. His first discovery is intriguing to say the least: One of Singularity's engineers is Todd Douglas, Fazil’s first love.

He knows better than to get personally involved on a job like this. Back in high school, Todd broke Fazil’s heart more times than he could count, but both men have grown so much since then—and Fazil never could say no to Todd...

Anna Zabo  
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Anna Zabo writes contemporary and paranormal romance for all colors of the rainbow and lives in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which isn’t nearly as boring as most people think.

Anna has an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction from Seton Hill University, where they fell in with a roving band of romance writers and never looked back. They also has a BA in Creative Writing from Carnegie Mellon University.


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