Joel Anderson doesn’t take anything seriously.

Not his relationships, which have been few and far between since his brutal divorce. Not the drama of working in a tattoo parlor, which seems to be around every corner. When things get him down, he smiles and cracks a joke. But he’s not the kind of man you cross, or you’ll find yourself at the wrong end of his fists.

Annika Belousov takes everything seriously.

Like her job as a reality television producer, given that she typically has something to prove. Or her love life, which is defined by a series of requirements — affluent, ambitious, accomplished, to name a few. Definitely her family, who worked their whole lives to afford her every opportunity, a sacrifice she doesn’t take lightly. When she’s tapped to produce a reality show at Joel’s shop, she doesn’t think twice, just goes in for the kill, as if there were any other way.

The second Annika walks into Joel’s shop, he makes it his mission to crack her open, but she’s not having it. He’s all wrong — too crass, too hairy, too un-serious. But it doesn’t take her long to find out there’s more to him that smirks and tattoos. And what she finds could put her career and his heart on the line.

Not that Joel cares. Because for the first time in a long time, he’s found his tonic.

I’ve been trying to write this review for a few days now. It’s not normal that I can’t immediately put into words how I feel about a book, which leads me to believe that this one hit me pretty hard.

That wouldn’t be far from the truth.

“She was all eyes and lips and a story I wanted to know. Needed to know.”

I loved Joel’s character immediately, but I will admit that it took me a little while to warm up to Annika. There is no denying, though, that the constant up and down of their relationship made for some good reading. And I love the way she ties in the characters from her other books.

“It had been ten years since I’d been bared this way, my heart, my body. I’d forgotten. I’d forgotten how to trust, how to feel, how much I needed to be felt.”

All in all, Tonic was another great read from one of my favorite authors, Staci Hart.

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