Cover Image: Hard Sell

Hard Sell

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Member Reviews

This is a very satisfying M/M romance set in the world of high finance. Danny Ip finds himself falling for his best friend's younger brother, Tobin Lok, who has nurtured his own crush for years. Complicated family and business dynamics need to be resolved before the two appealing heroes reach their happy ending, and I enjoyed their journey. I look forward to the next entry in the Jade Harbour Capital series.
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This was a fun book. The business stuff of it didn't interest me a ton but both main characters were interesting and likeable.
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3.5 stars

I have a serious affinity for the brother's best friend trope. I just can't help it. It just pulls me right in and I'm a one-click sucker every time! But I am also a huge fan of a greater diversity of characters. So, when I read the blurb and it included brother's best friend and both MCs are Asian.... well, let me tell you, I snapped this book up faster than the last beer at a backyard barbeque.

Danny Yip is a dominating presence in any board room. His company searches for trends in the financial market and snaps up struggling businesses for a steal. Danny's kind of been struggling to tread in such cutthroat waters until he finds WesTec, the perfect business to put him back at the top of his corporate ladder. Then walks in his best friend's brother and secret, obsessive fantasy, Tobin. 

Tobin works for a company that evaluates struggling businesses to find ways to improve them and prevent foreclosure. Now, his long-time fantasy is trying to buy the company he was tasked with, on his first solo run, evaluating and saving from foreclosure. Add in they might have had the hottest one-night stands ever oh so many years ago, and well, to say things are complicated is the understatement of the year.

It took me a bit to get into stride with the author's pace and the story had a bit of angst and emotions from their previous interaction (off-page) that I wasn't initially expecting. I will say, there was a lot more to the overall story than I was anticipating. There was a lot going on with Danny's back story and his self-inflicted push for success and his feelings of inadequacy when it came to Tobin's family. All these aspects, sort of detracted from the overall connection of Tobin and Danny.

Overall, I enjoyed the story but I couldn't quite connect with Danny and Tobin. The romance was just missing something for me. I was maybe expecting a bit more banter or secret can't help it hook-ups, or... something, that I just didn't get.

I am super interested to continue the storyline of the Jade Harbour Capital series. There is something quite intriguing about this set of characters that I'd love to read more about.

<i>*ARC provided by NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.*</i>
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Hard Sell is a great May-December romance with a perfect set up for conflict. Danny and Tobin made an interesting pair.
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For those who want precisely the opposite of comfort for their romance leads, try Hudson Lin’s HARD SELL (Carina Adores, 273 pp., paper, $14.99), which is from Harlequin’s new tropetastic L.G.B.T.Q.-specific line, one that bears a strong resemblance to classic category imprints like Presents and Desire. Which is to say: splashy and dazzling and high-intensity.

We have here a May-December romance between an alternative data millionaire and his best friend’s younger brother: There are work deadlines, family confrontations, illness, accidents and the absolute maximum angst at every moment. The book is a bad decisions buffet — which is precisely what a high-stakes category ought to be.

Along with the age gap, we have a grumpy-sunshine opposites attract setup, which is normally one of my favorite things, but which ended up reinforcing my sense of the younger character’s youth and adding a slight unease. So for me, the archetypes canceled one another out, but for readers who love the age gap as a central engine of tension — and I know you’re out there — I suspect the layered tropes might reinforce one another and double the emotional payoff. It’s always a little odd to be reading a book and thinking, “This is a perfect story for someone who is not me,” but variety of tone is the sign of a robust genre, and I’m looking forward to seeing where this series goes.
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The first book in Hudson Lin’s new Jade Harbour Capital series, Hard Sell, takes us into the world of Canadian venture capital. Danny Ip grew up poor but supported by the wealthy Lok family, whose older son Wei he sees as a brother and whose younger one, Tobin, is… emphatically not a brother. As adults, Danny and Tobin’s paths cross at work; Tobin has been hired to work as an outside accounting consultant for a firm Danny is attempting to purchase. But it’s family that’s the real obstacle, as Danny struggles with the fear of losing his friend and his surrogate family if he, as Danny puts it, is “fucking their little prince”. As Danny (now ultra-wealthy) flies back and forth across Canada to sneak around with Tobin and try to rescue the acquisition, Tobin tries to convince Danny that he is grown up enough now to make his own choices, including choosing Danny – if only Danny would take long enough of a break from work to be chosen. If you like stories with one very unlikeable hero, an age gap fixation, and a vague incest vibe, this is your book. For the rest of us, it’s a hard sell indeed.

Danny is an unlikeable individual. He’s a workaholic, and a disrespectful one, constantly checking in with work while on dates and even double-dipping meetings on what Tobin thinks is a weekend getaway for the two of them. The work, by the way, is private equity – more vividly known as vulture capitalism. As one of Tobin’s friends tells him,

“They buy companies on the cheap with lots of credit, load them up with even more debt while firing everyone. Then they sell bits and pieces of it to the highest bidder, rake in the cash, and leave everyone else devastated.”

Tobin thinks,

“Okay, yeah… private equity firms have a bad rap with the bleeding-heart liberal crows, but Danny didn’t do any of that, right?”

Well, let’s pop into one of Danny’s meetings, shall we?

Coworker one “Rio Dios met their KPIs this quarter.”

Coworker two: “Only after they fired third of their staff to cut costs.”

Coworker one: “They needed to cut costs anyway.”

Danny has no issues with any of this.

Danny and Tobin have several obstacles lying between them – the nature of Danny’s work, Danny’s workaholism, the fact that Danny is best friends with Tobin’s older brother – and unfortunately the author runs primarily with the least interesting one to provide the romantic conflict – the third. The thing about Danny’s work being immoral just sort of disappears. Similarly, there’s a weird moment mid-story where Danny, driving distracted, hits a cyclist with his car, that is barely returned to (Danny will write him a check. Danny will not stop using his phone at inappropriate times).

An age gap (Tobin is younger than Danny), can work, but the author dwells on it in a way that’s profoundly uncomfortable. I lost track of how many times the author has the characters call Tobin “all grown up”, or Tobin insist that he’s old enough to make his own choices, which has the effect of making me notice the age gap all the more. I did like that Tobin reads authentically as a young man in his twenties, insecure about his ability in business where he has yet to prove himself, excited to attend the Calgary Stampede in a barechested (except for glitter and a vest) yellow cowboy outfit that sounds like he borrowed it from Lil Nas X. But he and Danny felt less opposites attract than badly mismatched.

Oh, and Tobin and Danny grew up essentially as siblings, with Tobin’s older brother (the same age as Danny) being Danny’s best friend. When Danny admits to Tobin’s brother that he loves Tobin, the brother says,

“Toby’s my brother, and you’re pretty much my brother, so the two of you together was… hard to get my mind around. Not in a weird incest kind of way or anything.”

TOO LATE NO TAKEBACKS. And let’s answer this question: a character says,

“I’ve known you since the day you were born, and I’ve had the honor of watching you grow up from the annoying kid brother into the amazing man you are today.”

This character is:

The older brother giving a best-man speech
The boyfriend proposing marriage.
The answer is THE BAD OPTION.

This is the second time recently I’ve read a protagonist (here, Tobin) with access to piles of money who is proud of themselves for making it ‘on their own’ by taking scholarships. Honestly, I find that repugnant. Scholarships are for people with financial need, not for people whose ego dictates that they prove their independence from the billionaires waving checks at them. Oh, and the author has a weird fixation with telling us that the leads are peeing – they never discreetly go to the bathroom, they always “empty their bladders” or “relieve their bladders.” Why do I need that detail? (Spoiler: I don’t).

So what’s good here? Both Danny and Tobin are strongly characterised and effectively written; when I tell you Danny is unlikeable, that’s not the same thing as not credible. The Canadian setting is believable, with Danny’s jet-set lifestyle taking him from Toronto to Calgary to Vancouver, living in hotel suites and demanding custom items from room service. The details of life in a cutthroat finance office are authentic, probably because the author writes in her afterword that she had this career.

Hard Sell is perfectly competent, and people who are either fine with less likeable characters or who don’t find the same characteristics unlikeable may enjoy it. But for me, people I don’t like interacting in a way that reads as vaguely creepy isn’t my idea of a good read even if it’s competently executed.
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Another book I found difficult to connect with because the protagonists were not likeable characters to me. I haven't reviewed to retail as I didn't believe it was fair to the author to bring the rating down because the book wasn't to my taste.
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An surprisingly sweet couple, but what I’ve come to expect from an offering from Carina Adores. 😉

Before I started Hard Sell, I wasn’t expecting Danny to be the character that I sympathized with most. I loved both Danny and Tobin, but Danny really tugged at my heartstrings. It may have been because his personality away from his job seemed to be polar opposite of the man he was on the job. That clash was beginning to weigh on him even before he ran into Tobin again.

Tobin had a lot to prove, mainly to himself. He was tired of being considered the baby of the family that everyone had to look out for. Danny didn’t see him that way at all. And that was a problem – at least Danny thought it was. What Danny wanted most in his life was a family and as much as he wanted Tobin in his life, he couldn’t risk losing the closest thing he had to a family in the process.

I loved Danny and Tobin’s story, even through the tears. ❤ I loved the family interactions, even the tense ones. I adored the scenes with Danny and Wei’s kids. All of this together made Tobin and Danny’s hard won HEA even sweeter.
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Thank you to the publisher for a copy of Hard Sell, I was sold with m/m Asian second romance. I really enjoyed the interaction between Danny and Tobin and all of the history between them. I felt the details about Cyrus was unnecessary to the story and it actually made me mad how lackadaisical they treated about potential underage sex. Overall I enjoyed this m/m romance.
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This review posted on Joyfully Jay. 

Danny Yip is a very successful financial analyst for the Jade Harbour venture capital firm in Toronto. He’s been semi-adopted by the family of his best childhood friend, Wei Lok, and values those relationships above nearly everything. While growing up, the Loks always found a way to make Danny’s life a bit easier, if it was a tuition payment or some extra cash at just the right moment. It meant the world to Danny, who grew up in modest means, raised by his single mom who died a few years ago.

Danny may now have a penthouse apartment and a Rolex for every suit and setting, but lately he’s felt…off. He spends a lot of his free time with Wei and his young twins, and avoiding Wei’s sexy younger brother, Tobin, with whom Danny had a tryst several years back. Tobin went to school out west and worked hard to be his own man, not lean on his wealthy parents because he wanted to establish his independence. Tobin is also a financial analyst for a consultant firm that helps struggling businesses restructure and thrive. When Tobin and Danny cross paths again, it’s in a most unexpected place, the headquarters of WesTec, a floundering tech company Danny wants to acquire and divest. Unfortunately, it’s also Tobin’s first big client to save.

This is a fun and interesting story of falling for a best friend’s brother, as Danny and Tobin take moments while in the same town to explore the magnetic connection that has only grown during their long separation. Danny is lonely, and Tobin is so loving and fun. He’s also familiar with Danny in ways that connect them. Tobin loved Danny for his whole adolescence, worshiped him to be honest. But, that doesn’t mean he’s going to just let Danny take control over everything between them. These are two fiercely independent men, and their needs are more emotional than sexual. Danny needs to not upset the Loks and risk the family dynamic he’s grown to need. Tobin has no desire to upset that balance, but he’s also sure that his folks would welcome Danny as a true son, if their relationship continues to grow.

There are stumbling blocks, notably the cross-purposes of their jobs. Danny isn’t above making some big problems for WesTec’s owner, exploiting personal weaknesses even to get his company their payoff. By contrast, Tobin’s ethics are pristine, and his commitment to doing the best job he can for his client means that he’s going to upset Danny—at least professionally. The family situation brought a different layer of conflict. Wei gets suspicious and they both feel rotten keeping their relationship on the down-low. I was really invested in how this would get sorted out, especially because Tobin’s drive for independence was sometimes alienating to his family. They each needed time to discover and reconcile the differences in their lives and life plans since their shared history back in Toronto. I liked how Danny finally acknowledged his true needs, and how professional success wasn’t his most important goal any longer. It showed a lot of maturity and growth, which I enjoyed. Tobin wasn’t the pushover he’d been as a child, and his determination to have a solid and loving relationship made him all the more admirable.

There are a good bit of sexy moments, all working to deepen the bond between Danny and Tobin. They are an interesting couple, and I loved also that their Asian heritage was celebrated in their cultural sensibilities and customs. This is the first book in a series and I would definitely read on.
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I was really looking forward to this book. There isn't a lot of representation from other cultures, beyond white middle America in this genre, and especially people of Asian descent, in Canada. So, this seemed a great push towards that direction. Also, that cover was just fantastic!However, the story itself fell just a bit flat for me. I had a tough time connecting with the characters.I felt that Tobin, as independent as he wanted to be, treated his family as if they were abusive, or difficult. It seemed that in his culture there was to be a closeness that he just couldn't allow himself to feel. He wouldn't take their calls, seemed to complain about it, refused his parents' money for college, but not for any solid reason. Just that he wanted to be independent.Meanwhile, Danny who was falling out of love with his job and lying to his best friend, again, really for no reason. He seemed to just be burned out, and unsure how to handle it. However, he really seemed to love his best friend and his family, the children (even helping to put them to bed, etc)...which again really made me not understand the reason to lie in the first place. It could have been a cultural thing that I did not understand. Then add in Tobin's resentfulness, and I was confounded by these MC's.I did like the dynamic between Tobin and Danny, as they got to know each other again, and in different circumstances than their past had presented. I do hope to read more from this author though, as I believe this book, and likely future books will continue to enhance a cultural understanding, with a bit of romance thrown in for additional enjoyment.3 pieces of eye candy
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3.5 hot but forgettable stars

**Thanks to NetGalley for ARC in exchange for an honest review.**
#HardSell #NetGalley

Pros
+ Asian m/m romance
+ Asian-Canadian author
+ Danny is a hot-shot tech company buyer in fitted suits and expensive watches
+ Tobin is a seductive eyeliner-wearing tech accountant/financial advisor at Danny's latest company pursuit (oh and his best friend's all-grown-up younger brother)
+ the instant steam from their history is off the charts
+ adopted family

Neutral
/ it was a quick, steamy read but nothing that stuck with me

Cons
- didn't love some reactions from certain characters (not accepting, boo!)
- such a fast, sappy ending

TW: homophobia, work burnout
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I absolutely loved this MM romance.

Such a great book with a solid storyline and great characters.

I eagerly look forward to reading more from this author.

A definite recommend!
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Warning: Hard Sell contains numerous descriptions of delicious food. Do NOT read if you are hungry or you'll be sad that you can't stuff your face with the yummy dishes the characters eat.

Now that I've gotten the disclaimer out of the way. let's get to the meat (haha) of my review.

Danny is the epitome of high powered, corporate businessman at the beginning of Hard Sell, and I wondered how this prickly character would win me and Tobin, his love interest, over. Of course, Tobin is the perfect match for Danny. Yes, Danny and Tobin have lots of history going way back, but it's their connection as adults that makes a sweet romance.

I loved the focus on family--bio and found--and Asian culture. I'm always eager for books featuring non-white characters, and both main characters are. Danny's struggle with having a romantic relationship with Tobin due to his bond with Tobin's family and his dedication to his job some together to create of perfect storm of conflict for Danny and Tobin. I couldn't help but ache for and empathize with both of them.

Tobin brings lightness and joy into Danny's life and, while their age gap is apparent, they fit so well together.

***Thanks to NetGalley and the publisher for an advanced copy in exchange for an honest review.***
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I always look forward to this author’s releases as they tend to be great, well-developed stories with original characters who stand apart from other books. That was certainly true for Hard Sell.

I liked the premise of a financial deal overlapping a romance with the best-friend’s brother. The business dealings of the three companies were somewhat intricate, but interesting, explained in an accessible way, and made for an original read. I also loved that the two leads were Asian men (a fact made better by the characters being represented on the cover).

Danny and Tobin were an interesting and complex couple from the start. Danny’s close relationship with Tobin’s family made for a romance ripe with conflict and the men’s intersecting business interests only added to those complexities. In a way it felt perfect- Danny and Tobin fit well together, had a deep bond from years of knowing one another, and appreciated one another greatly, but there were logical speed bumps that prevented them securing a future together. Unfortunately, I think navigating the complications took away from the relationship development. As a result, though I liked the characters and story in Hard Sell, I was never completely enamored with Danny and Tobin’s love story. 

Overall, Hard Sell is a good, well-written and polished read. I think I was just anticipating to be more caught up with the couple rather than the financial deal.
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What happens when you've got two men, one who's beginning to regret being married to his job and the other who's finally feeling like he's earned his place at his job when they unexpectedly end up on opposite sides of a business transaction? Tobin is Danny's best friend's younger brother. Danny is the best friend who's been around Tobin's family for ages. They spend time dancing around each other, their work lives, and the fear of telling Wei (the aforementioned best friend/brother). I am very excited to have the trope's of best friend's brother/business rivals feature non white people. In fact having two Asian leads added some different family dynamics that made the story more compelling. However, the characters were not likable at some times and in fact it seems like a several threads left things unfinished, yes it's a romance so the end is not necessarily a surprise in t at regard, but threads that were preventing them from being together ie, he business merger, how Tobin's roommates interacted with Danny, left the overall story a bit confusing occasionally. I'm hoping we'll see a sequel or a spin off where the lose threads are resolved or at least addressed.
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Included as a top pick in bimonthly May New Releases post, which highlights and promotes upcoming releases of the month (link attached)
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Danny is a determined, ambitious man with a plan. He is very good at his job, but lately, he's been losing his touch. He is burned out, tired, and beyond ready for an opportunity for a change. He just didn't expect it to come in a form of his best friend younger brother. :) 

At the latest company he is trying to buy, he rans into Tobin. 7 years ago they had a one-night stand, and since then they basically didn't have any contact. While Danny is trying to get them to sell, Tobin is there to help them get back on their feet like a consultant. 

The chemistry between them is sizzling from the start, but there is still a lot standing between them.
 
I love the premise of the story, best friends brother/sister & second chances are some of my favorite tropes, but for some reason, I had a hard time getting into the story. There were some kind of weird parts and the story is way different than I expected...

received from Netgalley
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When I first saw Asian male leads on the cover of a romance book, I was sold right away. My heart was pumping with excitement and I really did had extremely high hopes. Were they met? A little.

Hudson Lin's Hard Sell pitched a book with two tropes I want to read more about: age gap and brother's best friend. I know there would be angst, pining, and some pain! I have to admit, this book really delivered that and I had a good time knowing both Tobin and Danny, as well as witnessing how their love story turned out.

In this story, both Danny and Tobin work in the world of business. Seven years after their one-night stand, they have a chance meeting through WestTec, a company Danny is eyeing to buy and where Tobin is working as a consultant. Sparks still fly between them. And Tobin, now older and braver, is ready to pursue and see where their attraction takes them.

What makes this book special to me is that these two leads actually grew up with each other. I wish the author expounded on their backstory because it would have been so awesome. However, the little things I got were still satisfying and it made me have a better appreciation for their current journey to love.

In this book, we experience a lot of push and pull in their love story. First, they are guarded with their feelings. Second, they have their work drama influencing their choices. And finally, the guilt they feel towards Wei, Tobin's older brother.

Aside from that, you will see glimpses of the inner struggles of both of these men. I saw how they felt about their families, their career growths, their futures, and how their current self compares to their past.

Now in terms of the romance parts, this book is a whole of seggsy. If you are wishing for an M/M read with on-page spicy scenes, this one has A LOT a lot. Honestly, I am happy about that because some of my recent reads had fade-to-black moments or off-the-page scenes.

What hindered me to love everything about this book surrounds WestTec, the company they are working for. First off, this book was filled with business jargon and it took a huge chunk of the story. I don't know if the goal was to educate, but for people who are not business majors, this can be boring and confusing.

Not only that, I felt uncomfortable with how this story handled human trafficking. It was touched on very little that you'll miss it if you blink. But when you notice, you would look for some point of resolution — but it was pushed aside. Until now, I don't know what to feel about that. It should have been just removed from the story if it wasn't going to be addressed anyway. So, I am removing 0.5 stars from my rating of this book because of it.

Overall, this book had tons of potential to be a new favorite for me. Focusing on the romance, Hard Sell gave me a love story — and the epilogue definitely did seal the deal!
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The writing is well done and the story kept me engaged. Danny and Tobin were somewhat likable (Yeah, I can't lie, I had a some big issues here) and I felt they worked as a couple. I did enjoy their attraction, chemistry and the connection they shared. Overall, it was a steamy, angsty and dramatic read that had a lot of potential but fell just a bit short of the mark for me.
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