Sweat Equity by Monica McCallanSweat Equity by Monica McCallan is an angsty, roommates to enemies to friends to enemies to lovers, romance and is the first book in the LadyLuck Startups series.

Avery’s entire world has been turned upside down.  She invested years in a soul crushing relationship only to find herself cheated on and alone.  In one fell swoop she has lost her girlfriend, her apartment and even her beloved dog.  Her friend Brennan offers her an apartment and she sees no reason to leave it and face the world.  Finding it difficult to get out of bed let alone put any effort into the start-up lesbian dating app company she and her two best friends started, she wallows in anger, pity and take out dinners.  Until her commiseration is interrupted by her irksomely cheerful, and irksomely attractive new roommate.

Walking away from her unsatisfying life in New York, Charlie has come to San Francisco for a fresh start.  A new career in a new city is just what she needs to get her life in order.  Her close friend Brennan has offered a room in one of her apartments, but it comes with one small caveat.  One of the rooms is already occupied.  A roommate can’t be that bad right?  Putting her best foot forward, she tries to get along with her new roomie.  But her kindness is mostly met with moodiness and sarcasm.  Is it really worth the cheap rent when she has to constantly walk on egg shells around the insufferable woman?  Still, there is something undeniable attractive about her…

The Characters

Michelle:  I’m a pretty happy go lucky person so I confess, Avery took a while to grow on me.  I cringed at her melancholy, stand-offish and at times, obnoxious behaviour.  Of course, her attitude is not without reason.  Having spent years in a relationship that ate away at her sense of self, wherein she catered to her girlfriend’s every whim, she is crushed when she discovers her betrayal.  I can empathize with this so I ended up really cheering for her to finally snap out of it, rise above these feelings and take a stab at happiness.

Victoria: Michelle! You’re talking to a real-life little storm cloud, here. I can completely relate to Avery. Melancholy: sometimes. Stand-offish: usually. Obnoxious: I have my moments. Like Avery though, with some straight talk from my friends I can behave like a fully functional adult. I think Avery’s journey is very authentic and thank goodness for Brennan for being her rock. I knew that Avery was going to be able to overcome her old behaviors. The big question for me was whether or not her new-found confidence was enough to help undo the wounds inflicted on her by her emotionally abusive ex.

Michelle:  Charlie is one of those bubbly, friendly people you love to be around.  She also possesses the patience of an angel, enduring a great deal of sarcasm and moodiness that Avery directs her way.  Yet she is still willing to give the woman a chance.  I’m not sure I wouldn’t have run the other way screaming were I in her shoes.  This is even more impressive considering she has her own issues that she is working through as well. 

Victoria: Apparently you and I would never have been interested in the same woman. For me, it was harder to warm up to Charlie. All her pep and positivity are a bit much for me. It is when Charlie has to face her issues and own up to a serious lapse in judgement that she became a realistic character for me. I like my main characters flawed and as soon as Charlie’s perfect façade started to crack, I began rooting for her.

Michelle: And of course, we can’t forget Avery’s friends and business partners Carter and Brennan.  They are amazing women and the kind of caring, loyal and protective friends everyone hopes to have in their lives.  I would have loved to have seen more of them.  They are suave business women, hardworking but also able to let loose and have a good time, especially when the beer pong championship is on the line.  Here’s hoping we see more of them in the future.

Victoria: I agree Michelle. Brennan and Carter are wonderful secondary characters. Everyone should be lucky enough to have two such supportive friends in their lives. As for page time, yes, I would have loved to see more of them, but alas this is not their love story. As this is the first book in a series, I’m pretty sure they’ll each get their shot at a “happily ever after” and I’m definitely looking forward to that.

The Writing Style

Michelle:  There is definitely a boatload of angst in this book.  So, if you are looking to feel the aches and pangs of relentless fretting and anxiety, you won’t be disappointed.   There is also some snappy dialogue and oodles of sarcasm giving you lots of snark to ease the angsty tension. 

Victoria: It’s no secret that I love a side order of angst with my romances. There is so much push and pull between Avery and Charlie that the drama level in this story is just perfect for me. I too, like McCallan’s use of wit and sarcasm in the dialogue. She does a wonderful job giving all four women their own distinctive voices and that made me feel connected to each one of them.

The Pros

Michelle:  I now have a new appreciation for the benefits of yoga and for all the roommates I’ve had in the past. But seriously, I also enjoyed being proven wrong about Avery and watching her character overcome the hurt from her past and grow with the help of her friends.

Victoria:  The comradery between Avery, Brennan, Clark, and Charlie is one of the biggest pluses for me. When they get together to relax around the firepit or get caught up in a rousing game of beer pong, it brought back dozens of sentimental memories I have of being fresh out of college with the knowledge that the world was just waiting for me to conquer it.

The Cons

Michelle:  There are quite a few distracting editing errors that could be cleaned up, but overall it is still an enjoyable story.

Victoria:  Michelle, I noticed those editing bugaboos as well, but they weren’t distracting enough to keep me from reading. One thing I want to bring up is that there is a minor instance of infidelity in the plot and I know that for some readers that makes a book a hard “NO.”

The Conclusion

Michelle:  The book is teeming with tension.  If conflict, followed by a little steamy conflict resolution, is your thing then you will get your fill here.

Victoria: This is the type of traditional romance that I turn to when I need to push pause on the noise going on in the world. The falling in love, break up, make up, and U-Haul is a formula that works, and Sweat Equity is no exception.

Excerpt from Sweat Equity by Monica McCallan

Avery grew quiet and small, her frame shrinking at the mention of the woman.  “Don’t say her name.”

Brennan’s eyes grew wide.  “I’m sorry.  Look, I won’t bring her up again, but we have to get you put together.  Charlie’s going to be here in a few hours.  She’s one of my oldest friends, too, and it wouldn’t be fair for her to walk into Grey Gardens.”

“I knowwww,” Avery wailed before throwing herself back against the comfort of her bed.  This was all too much.  She needed to move forward, but it wasn’t happening.  She’d tried, honestly she had.  Things were supposed to become easier with time, but life felt harder as the days continued to tick along regardless of her feelings.

She missed her life with Jasmine.  She missed her old apartment.  She missed her dog.  Everything had fallen apart – – including herself in the process.

“Come on.  Be the trooper I know you can be.  It’s hard, but we’ll get through this.  I brought you coffee.”

Avery’s head turned quickly, finally making direct eye contact.  “Why wasn’t that the first thing out of your mouth when you walked in?  Geez, Brennan.  Learn to read a room.”  She pulled herself off the bed and trudged toward the bathroom like a soldier being sent to war. 

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