Love Garage by Liz Crowe
Series: Love Brothers #1
Source: Review by Request
Copy Provided by Author
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
A Family Saga with humor, heat and heart–not to mention beer, bourbon and basketball!
Antony Love is the quintessential responsible oldest brother of a boisterous, Italian/Irish family, placed in charge at a young age by his parents who are busy running the family business. He manages his siblings with a fair but iron hand, until his life is shattered by personal tragedy leaving him the shell of the man he once was.
When outspoken matriarch Lindsay Halloran Love becomes ill, the youngest brother Aiden shows up at Antony’s garage, having dropped out of school (again), needing work and a place to crash. Antony provides both, with three caveats: “Don’t smoke in my truck, don’t be late for work, and don’t mess with my girlfriend.”
But Aiden Love, budding novelist, gets one glimpse of Rosalee Norris, young widow of Antony’s lifelong best friend and all bets are off.
Brothers, Beer, Bluegrass, and oh so much Angst!
This is a disaster in the making, Aiden Love. And you’re in the middle of it. Best get the hell out now.
So I’ll admit that I had an odd reason for reading this book. I met the author on Twitter and it turned out that we have quite a bit in common. We both have connections to the Craft Beer industry, and we both graduated from the University of Louisville – Go Cards! Her series set here in Kentucky, not far from where I currently live in Louisville, and the Love family own and operate their own Brewery and pub.
I knew before starting this book that there was going to be a heaping helping of angst, so I pulled on my big-girl panties and dove in!
The Love family is tight-knit with loving parents and five grown children – four brothers and a sister. Each sibling took their own paths in life, but none strayed so far away from their roots as Aiden, the youngest boy and the focus of this book.
He is a struggling author who left home for college and didn’t look back. His mother’s failing health was the only cause dire enough to draw him back into the small town in Kentucky he was so determined to leave behind.
This book really layered on a nice atmosphere to use as a backdrop to the story. There were generous amounts of southern charm, nosey small-town gossip, and all the iced-tea gatherings you’d expect from a Contemporary southern Romance.
There was a huge cast of characters: The wildly diverse Love Brothers, their hard-nosed father, their charming mother, various hookups, children, and ALL of them were proficient in one thing: Making poor decisions.
Every family had its own share of dysfunction, but the Loves really cornered the market on it.
I mean it. This was the kind of book you shouldn’t read in public for the fact that yelling at the characters is completely necessary… Even if they don’t listen to your advice… Damn fictional characters 😉
But let’s face it…
Bad decisions make for entertaining fiction!
Let’s go ahead and address the main concern for many readers: Cheating.
I waffled about this particular issue because none of these characters are saints, they’re all hugely flawed… So I could feel particularly sorry for anyone. Unfortunately, I couldn’t really root for anyone either. At some point I became so exasperated by everyone’s behavior that I was thinking “Fuck it! You all deserve each other!” but by that time I was so ridiculously sucked into their drama, that I couldn’t stop turning pages.
Has Anthony, the moody, self-declared bachelor, now betrothed to his dead best friend’s widow, fallen for the pretty preacher-lady therapist? Now? Dear Jesus, what a mess.
The characters changed partners more than square dancers!
It’s like a well-written modern southern Soap Opera where all the characters have abs and drink craft beer. There’s something to be said for the level of emotion going into this story. You’ll be swallowing down a knot in your throat at some point, I guarantee it.
You have to love heaping helpings of angst to enjoy this story…
You have to not be completely offended about cheating…
You have to enjoy sexy southern men…
And you’ll probably need a drink before everything is said and done 😉
“I hope you don’t think I’m gonna hire you because you’re my baby brother. No, wait. My lazy, bookworm, useless baby brother, who’s gone and dropped out of that expensive, fancy writing school he just had to get into, and now shows up here at my business, in this ole backwater, hillbilly town…broke and looking like he’s been dragged through a knothole.”
Aiden flinched in the face of Antony’s fury. His hands curled into fists deep inside his trouser pockets, as a too-familiar rush of anger threatened to consume him. He waited and watched, seeking visual cues from their growing up years. Antony merely leaned against the tallest worktable, slowly wiping off some kind of a wrench with a blue cloth, his dark eyes inscrutable.
The sounds of a busy garage swirled around them, filling the real and virtual space between Aiden and the man who’d been his protector and friend his entire life. That gaping hole he’d placed there, with his casual disregard for his family and seeking escape from this very hillbilly backwater. Those were the words he’d used not that long ago. Flung back at him in Antony’s overblown, exaggerated redneck accent, they stung like ice pellets.
Not for the first time, Aiden deeply regretted the effort he’d made to keep distance between them—from all his brothers—for the last seven-and-a-half years. It had seemed the right thing then, with him in the full flush of his heady personal expectations as the next Great American Novel Author.
He gulped, and forced his voice to remain steady. Heaven knows he’d had plenty of years to practice not rising to Antony’s bait.
“Yes…um, well, kind of. Yeah. That is what I’m thinking.” He ran a hand around the back of his neck while Antony observed him without moving or speaking—barely even blinking.
The bastard isn’t going to make this easy, is he?
Aiden cleared his throat and tried to find the right words. They failed him.
“Never mind.” He turned to shoulder his way through the grease monkeys peopling Antony’s successful auto-repair joint. His head buzzed with exhaustion from his trip “riding the dog,” as he’d learned his trip by Greyhound bus was named, and anxiety over the reason he’d made it.
As he reached for the office door, after making it all the way across the garage, a distinct noise like resignation hit his ears.
Ridiculous, of course. He could barely think amidst all the garage noise, let alone hear his oldest brother heaving his patented sigh from all the way across it. But Aiden turned anyway, knowing, somehow, that he had.
Antony remained propped against the workbench, still clutching the blue rag. Still staring holes into Aiden. “You don’t even know how to change the oil on a late model pickup. You’re about useful as tits on a bull.”
Aiden squared his shoulders and tried to look somewhat more useful than that.
“Maybe, but I can clean up after the guys who do know how, or I can keep your books, update your website, get you active on Facebook and Twitter and—” That sounded desperate. But he might as well own that, too.
“I don’t use any of that shit.” Antony dropped the rag on the bench and scowled as an employee rolled a couple of tires by him. “I don’t need it. I have more work than I can handle now.”
“Yeah? Well, maybe you should think about it. What happens when the work dries up?”
Antony let out a distinctly unpleasant-sounding laugh. “Little bro, you obviously missed class the day they talked about the recession-proof businesses.” He held up three fingers. “Cars always need fixing. People always need to drink beer. Kids always need teaching. By my calculations, the Love family is pretty fuckin’ smart. But for one of us, I guess.”
Aiden bit the inside of his cheek to keep from lashing back in defense then tried a different tactic.
“Mama is sick. You forget that? Ever think maybe I came home to be here for her?” He had to shut his eyes for a split second to dispel the concept of a world without the formidable Lindsay Halloran Love in it.
Antony grunted and headed toward one of the four lifts. Each had a car hoisted on it and a guy underneath, messing around with whatever they did under there. He reached up and fiddled with something beneath what looked like a big black Mercedes sedan, ignoring Aiden. Given that he had no other viable option, Aiden let him.
His sister had broken the news about their mother to him four days earlier, around 5:00 p.m. He’d never forget the moment—since it happened to be the same day he’d discovered he’d failed a poetry-writing seminar, plus made a serious miscalculation by drinking too much and then coming on to a hot professor at a department social event. He’d seen her next day at the panel “discussion” of his final novel.
Lack of clear plot progression, shallow characters and poor dialogue choices, had been the gist of their “advice.”
Jerks. Wouldn’t know a decent, modern plot if it bit them all in the collective ass. So what if I want to actually make money with a book, and not just collect a lot of critical admiration?
Shifting from foot to foot, he calculated how long Antony would make him stand there like a supplicant before he caved. Because cave he would. Aiden understood enough about his eldest sibling to realize that. The strains of the latest Luke Bryan song wafted around, chafing his exposed nerve endings.
As Aiden watched, Antony finished under the Merc and hit the button to lower it back to the garage floor. Then he spent a solid ten minutes consulting beneath the hood of a late model F-150, another five wiping down a set of tools, and ten more fiddling with his phone. But Aiden didn’t say anything, lest he break into the man’s thought pattern. That would only trigger his temper—the last thing Aiden needed at that moment.
Memories of angry explosions past made him sigh, rub the back of his neck, and touch his still-crooked nose. While the Love siblings were fiercely loyal to each other—they maintained zero tolerance for bullshit between them. He took a step backward, regretting his decision to come here first, as opposed to the brewery on the west side of town to beg his father to hire him to pour beer, shift kegs, or hose out brewing equipment, mainly because that would also mean facing Dominic. Between them all, he’d much rather deal with Antony.
He refocused when Antony frowned at him, as if sensing his sudden mental flinch.
Aiden raised an eyebrow in a “well, I’m very busy, and important, and require an answer” sort of way. His stomach churned, reminding him of the disgusting fast food he’d inhaled earlier. He hated being the screw-up little brother. Honest to God, he hated it, almost as much as he despised the country music pounding on his eardrums right then.
An Interview with Liz Crowe:
Sell your book in five words or less:
Well-crafted, Realistic relationships.
What was the spark of inspiration which led to this book?
I started out with a goal in mind for this series. I blab on a fair bit about how I wish I could write books that adhere to more expected formulas. I concocted the concept of a family loaded with colorful personalities (mainly thanks to the ones of the parents) and figured I’d give each brother a book, or a story all his own that would adhere to the expectations of more romance readers. Alas, once my fingers started flying over the keys, these boys and their stories rebelled. But I really am happy how they turned out. I know they won’t appeal to a mass audience (*regretful sigh*) but I wouldn’t have them any other way.
How did you come up with the Love Family?
In an actual garage, as a matter of fact. I was standing in one, watching while waiting for my favorite mechanic to pay attention to me. I started thinking about blue collar-style jobs and how they are underrepresented (other than the odd sexy UPS guy or construction hunk) as “heroes” (not a word I like to use the way many authors do). I’m a small business owner/ self employed person and have been for a lot of years. So I wanted to represent that other than how I already have (I have a best selling series about realtors and many books set in the craft beer world). And I also like characters that are three dimensional—with faults, like we all have. So I thought: “Family with a challenging beginning (“Family Love” which comes out this summer will delve deeply into just how challenging). Grown men with messy relationships in their past, each one facing a specific personal crisis, all with fierce loyalties to each other and their parents but competitive to a fault.”
Viola. The Love Family.
Aiden Love is an author. How much of your own personal experience went into Aiden’s character?
Really only the bit about being frustrated by mainstream rejection (in his case, his Iowa MFA committee) in his efforts to be a successful author. He’s the “nerdball bookworm” (Dom’s words), baby brother who bounces around inside the group seeking his place. He finds it, but causes a fair bit of drama in the process.
Could you please tell us a little about your experience in the Craft Beer industry?
I helped found a craft brewery in Ann Arbor. Establishing myself as “The Ann Arbor Beer Wench” and using social media I put the place on the map. It is a lager-centric brewery. I also helped found a “women in the booze biz” Michigan-based group called “Fermenta” which hosts monthly events designed to introduce more women to craft beverages. We also brew beer and make spirits. While I’m the “sales” in the equation, I made sure I knew how to brew beer on a fairly large scale as part of my educational process.
What is your favorite quote or moment from this story?
I adore Mama Love (Lindsay Halloran Love) whose back story is very compelling and I’ll tell in a future book. Hands down, I think one of the best scenes is at her Halloween party when her “boys” (grown men, mind you) channel their inner teenagers and get into a brawl amongst themselves. That scene and its aftermath “family conference” I really like. And so many ARC readers loved this line:
Lindsay smiled serenely, keeping her palm alongside Kieran’s face. “I sincerely hope that Melinda has some kinda special skills for you in the boudoir. Oh, and you should let her know now that she’d better not ever keep me from your babies, either. I have a feeling she’d be the mama to try it. She’s a right c*nt, that one.”
Is there a song which you feel perfectly complements your story?
“Stuck Like Glue,” Sugarland
Without a doubt! It says so much about not only the couples that emerge, but the strong bonds within the Love Family.
If you were offered the chance to turn this book into a Hollywood movie, would you take that opportunity?
In a hot minute, yeah.
What can we look forward to next with this series?
Well, as you travel through the series yourself you’ll see I tell Kieran’s story in Coach Love but set up the story of the “brother all my early and ARC readers demanded”—that of Dominic Sean in Love Brewing. Coach Love is available now, Love Brewing March 2.
I also wrote a companion novella that’s currently in editing, that tells the “inside story” between Antony and Margot which is only hinted at in Love Garage. “SAFE LOVE” will be available FREE (directly from me) starting Feb. 1 and then on Amazon for .99. It provides very compelling insight into just how all that went down, if you know what I mean, which I think you do having read Love Garage. You can read a little snippet here.
And, as I’ve said, I’ll release “Family Love” later this year, which will be the simultaneous telling of the “original Love story” between Lindsay and Anton and the complicated relationship between Lindsay and her only daughter, Angelique.
Liz Crowe on Writing:
Oh, I write wherever I get the chance: waiting at the soccer facility for my kid to finish practice, in the coffee shop, in my temporary condo while my new house gets renovated, in the car, on the plane…I guess my point is I have no “writing workspace” worth photographing!
How long have you known you wanted to be an author?
I have a degree in English Lit from U of L (GO CARDS! You know what I’m talking about) but never considered myself a “wanna be author.” I’m a voracious reader and have been since my mom taught me to read using Montessori methods as part of a Master’s degree project. I jumped into a career in public relations, non profit fund raising and marketing, had a passel of kids, lived overseas a while, then got my real estate license. By the time I was 45 or so I got a weird bug up my butt about some really bad books I’d read in the “erotic romance” realm. I read them basically to inject a little more spice into my imagination and hence my marriage, which worked but they had another affect: they made me want to “try it.” So I did in 2008. I got my first publishing contract in 2010 and haven’t looked back since. But I continue to fight the battle of my own creation – I don’t write books that appeal to hard core romance readers (and sometimes pay the price) but still get snubbed by readers who think romance novels aren’t worth their time. It’s maddening. But I it doesn’t stop me from writing!
Do you remember the first story you ever wrote?
Yep. It’s called “Floor Time” and it’s currently free on all platforms and is the start of my best selling “Stewart Realty series.” I wrote it in 2008, spent 2 years getting rejected, revising, getting rejected, revising, getting rejected, and revising again. In the meantime I got something else accepted, and used that experience to make “Floor Time” even better (i.e. “more revising”).
How do you keep your creativity flowing?
I’m currently in the position of being busy with so many things I have a hard time fitting in time to channel all the flowing creativity. I have ideas for something like 5 books in my head now but still have plenty of projects including promoting the books I already have out! While I’d never in a million years tempt fate by saying something like “stopping the flow” is my problem, I think you get my point!
How long did it take for you to write this book?
I’m a “marathon writer,” so it does not take me long, once I’ve done all my planning (Head writing—I’m not an outliner). I wrote my longest book (Good Faith) which is 220,000 words (500 pages) in about six weeks (but that is “JUST” the writing. The editing and revision process takes much longer).
So I think I wrote Love Garage in about 10 days total.
We’re loving the cover of this book! Who designed it?
Thanks! I controlled the entire process of its creation, which is one of the cool things about being self published. That model is Scott Nova whom I met at a conference and got to know. He played my “muse” (Hans) at a book release party once. I knew exactly how I wanted these covers to present and they did, thanks to the talents of Taria Reed, photographer, and Fiona Jayde, designer. She also designed the trailer which was featured on USA Today. The voice you hear in it also narrates the audio productions of books 1 and 2, both of which are available on Audible.
What advice do you have for new authors? Is there anything you know now that you wish you knew when you were starting out?
Never underestimate the value of a good, hard, professional (as in you paid for it) edit. The kind that makes you:
- pound the desk
- cry some more
- a better author
Way too many authors think they don’t “need” editing and they are wrong.
How do you deal with bad reviews? Any advice for other authors in that regard?
Reviews are such a two-edged sword for authors. They have the power to overstuff your ego and within seconds make you feel like a fool for thinking you could string two sentences together. I think there is a mutual responsibility that sometimes gets lost between authors and reviewers, more and more I’m afraid as “blogger reviewers” become “author collectors” or even in many cases I’m sad to say as direct agents of negativity on behalf of authors who sometimes pay them to be so. I was the recipient of a flame campaign over a book that is, admittedly, polarizing (but also my best selling stand alone title) Paradise Hops that really opened my eyes—mainly regarding the value of ignoring a lot of what is said about you online. I have also been burned by an ARC reader who handed over what I considered a private, trusted manuscript to a bunch of former fans who had turned on me for reasons that have yet to be explained to me in any legitimately adult fashion. Those folks wrote the “first review” of a book that I still consider to be my Magnum Opus and attempted to ruin my release day by being petty. It’s pretty amusing now to look back at how very silly that “review” was and the responses to it.
So, thanks to this sort of soul-sucking activity, I am the author who has reviews vetted for her. In other words I have some loyal business partners in publishing (promotional people, and one actual publisher) who will read them for me and point out the ones I should promote. Because honestly, every time I am even a little bit tempted to dig into Goodreads or Amazon reviews, I will read one that glows and somehow manage to find one that’s a personal, jealousy-drive attack on me that … well, I take personally. Duh.
I choose not to let it get to me. So I avoid reviews.
My advice? If you MUST read them, only react to ones you can be positive about. Responding to negative reviews is feeding trolls and that is an exercise in utter, creative futility.
What additional projects are you working on?
Oh heavens….lots of ‘em. “Family Love” (book 4 of this series) is in “head writing” and I’ll open up a fresh document for it soon. “Net Worth,” sequel to the top selling “Good Faith” is in the same stage. I’m revising a novel called “Vegas Miracle” that was originally released 4 years ago that I got back from the original publisher and handed over to the publisher of the Stewart Realty series. It’s one of my hotter ones (ménage) and needs a cover that better reflects that. I also have a couple of brand new projects in mind, “Precious Vessel,” a sexy thriller set in future Detroit, and “Lady Balls,” a kind of a chick-lit novel about a woman who gets hired away from a “Hooters-like” bar to be a broadcaster for a new “ESPN-like” sports network with only female announcers and analysts. I’m all about powerful women who find themselves in industries that they enjoy but are marginalized in because they’re women. (like myself)
Liz Crowe on Reading:
What is the latest book youíve bought and read?
I just finished an amazing set of short stories called “Redeployment” by Phil Klay. I highly recommend it.
Is there a book you keep meaning to read, but haven’t gotten around to it? Don’t worry, we all have ridiculously long TBRs!
I have a few things stacked up on my iPad right now but if there is a book I want to read I don’t put it off. The best authors are voracious readers. And I read across genres so I get to see how lots of authors exercise their craft. What’s up next for me to read is something called “Assault with a Deadly Lie” by a Michigan-based author Lev Raphael.
Do you recall the first piece of Erotica you ever read?
Yep, it was Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean Auel. If you have NOT read about “the pleasures,” sister, you are missing some seriously great sex scenes and the concept (young men are taught by older women/ young women are gently introduced to sex by said men).
But at the time I didn’t consider it “erotica” which technically it’s not since erotica is typically short-form “just about the sex” fiction.
I think the first book classified as “erotic romance” I read was a pretty awesome series by Sunny, called Mona Lisa Awakening. I’m NOT a fan of paranormal stories generally speaking but the world she created where the Alpha women get to choose their “guardians” based on how well they were “serviced” was a slam dunk. But in the interest of complete disclosure, I don’t really read a ton of the “erotic fiction” out there because it is so very repetitive. I want the sex to be in a book to move the story along, not just for the sake of having a sex scene. But I surely respect any reader’s desire for that sort of thing. I think the real challenge is to make a scenes that is NOT explicit “insert Rod A into Hole B” description into something truly erotic. I love books that can hint at something and turn me on.
Liz Crowe on Play Time:
When you’re not hard at work writing, what do you do with your time?
Reading, walking my standard Poodles, doing Bikram yoga, blogging about beer or writing, getting my kid from some soccer event or another.
What’s the first thing on your Bucket List?
Being interviewed by Bill Maher when my sexy thriller novel hits the big time.
Do you have any pets?
Yep, 2 standard Poodles.
Do you have a guilty pleasure?
Drinking way too much alcohol.
Favorite Swear Word?
Liz Crowe is offering up THREE HUGE Prize packs which include everything from Amazon Gift Cards, signed books, free eBooks, book-swag, and oh so many fabulous goodies! Click here to enter:
About the Author:
Amazon best-selling author, beer blogger, brewery marketing expert, mom of three, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe is a Kentucky native and graduate of the University of Louisville currently living in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.
Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”). More recently she is garnering even more fans across genres with her latest novels, which are more character-driven fiction, while remaining very much “real life.”
With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.
Don’t ever ask her for anything “like a Budweiser” or risk bodily injury.