Book Review: After the Hurt by Shana Gray

Sometimes I read in shades or colors. That might sound weird, but it’s like reading a book that you think feels dark or one that feels sunny and bright. This one had a really weird shade. It felt dark, but very little of the content was actually dark. There was definitely a lot of emotion in it, both in the story and in my reactions to it. Overall, it felt a bit edgy.

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I received an ARC of this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

One-Sentence Synopsis
A bar owner resists being seduced by his business partner and ex-girlfriend who left several months previously. For a full synopsis, see this book’s Goodreads page.

That Kind of Girl
Part of the reason I was unsure about this book from the start was that I hated Pepper in the first few chapters. She comes back after having left her home and her boyfriend to spend six months in Bali and seems to think she can pick up where she left off. She felt selfish and manipulative, and I really hated her. Later, I felt conflicted when I found out her reason for leaving (full disclosure: there were tears), but she still didn’t strike me as someone I wanted to read about.

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Unforgiving Hero
Tank, on the other hand, kept me interested in the story. He’s hurt and angry at Pepper for leaving, rightly so, and so he keeps his distance despite the attraction he still has for her. Because I didn’t like Pepper, I was glad he made her sweat things for awhile.

Luckily, by the time Tank came around, so did I. Though I can’t put her as one of my top favorite characters of all time, Pepper grew on me as the story developed. I even empathized when she was hurt by something Tank said or did.

Something’s Gonna Happen
Right from the beginning, we’re introduced to one of the crazier (not a good crazy either) characters I’ve ever read. Olivia is a girl Tank dated a few times who is very obviously a few fries short of a Happy Meal and doesn’t seem to get that she’s not Tank’s girlfriend despite him telling her to her face and in no uncertain terms that they’re not together.  I loved that introducing her gave the story a feel of suspense. Between crazy Olivia and Pepper’s intuition that someone starts watching her, I was always waiting for something to happen.

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Fun Side Characters
I also liked Tank’s sister. Meg is interesting and sweet and uses a cane due to an accident, the details of which are not in this book but will hopefully be revealed later in the series. I liked that she supported her brother, but she didn’t mince words with Pepper about the fact that she’d left Tank heartbroken when she left. I’m not a fan of guilt trips, but Meg delivered one with some class.

The Romance Factor
I have a hard time connecting with second chance love stories, so there was a lot of this book that didn’t resonate with me as far as romance went. But there were definitely some strong moments. I think fans of the second chance trope will love this story. It felt real and heartbreaking, yet hopeful. 3/5

The Steam Factor
Though there’s sexual tension, Tank and Pepper don’t hook up until much later in the story. But the sexy times are there, they just come in the form of vivid memories about past sexy times.  4/5

Final Thoughts
For all the little things that I either didn’t like or don’t fall under my first choice of tropes, by the time I got to the end of this book, I realized that I actually liked it quite a bit. The writing is good, the characters are interesting, and the subtle suspense made for a fun ride.

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