I am head over heels for this author-lady and her dirty-talking, consent-getting alpha men who don’t require asshole-ry to be manly. You’re not ready for this man-brick.

For those who think man-brick was probably a typo, you really need to meet Cal Hartshorn. You see, he’s a cardiothoracic surgeon (a heart surgeon for those who haven’t been addicted to ER and Grey’s Anatomy for half their lifetime) who has this thing for a girl he jogs by on the trail he runs every morning.

He isn’t a stalker or anything, but this girl has been the subject of his dreams and fantasies for months, and he just needs to get up the courage to say hi one of these days. Then, a raccoonasaurus/beaver/furry woodland creature gives him the accidental perfect excuse. And he doesn’t take it as much as he falls ass over elbow into it. And neither his life, nor Stella Allesandro’s, will ever be the same.

She’s done it again. Whether she’s writing grumpy lobstermen, man-child architects whose women kick their asses into manhood, or, perhaps, the perfect man-brick blend of needy and generous, I am in love with everything Kate Canterbary writes. I wasn’t a part of the Canterbarian crew when the idea for this man-brick first entered the fray, but I am BEYOND glad that I am here to celebrate his official arrival into the world.

And what a man he is. I love that this story starts with Cal’s infatuation with the woman at the pond. I love that he has been admiring her for months only to have their first significant interaction go a bit sideways. I love that once they have a chance to sit down and talk, Stella becomes just about as curious as Cal. What can I say, I just love this story.

Cal departs from so many of the typical hero traits. He’s not always Mr. Smooth, even if he does have a unique command of innuendo and dirty talking skills. He’s awkward and intense, and even proposes marriage in the first few hours.

He’s adorable and warm and it’s hard not to be completely enamored with him as he apologizes for whatever stalker-ish qualities he may have demonstrated before their first actual conversation. He’s endearing and pure and I just wish he was real so I could give him a hug.

All the man-brick love aside, let’s not forget about the incredible woman in this story. Cal might be the man-brick, but Stella is a fabulous female character who definitely fits in with the flock of wonderful ladies that inhabit the Walsh world.

IF (because I do not presume to know what Ms. Canterbary’s plans are for future Walsh/Walsh-adjacent stories) we get to spend any more time with this world, I truly hope to see Stella invited to a Nick/Erin party and brought into the fold. She is a fabulous, badass lady and I can’t help but feel that she would definitely find kinship with our favorite women.

This story is pretty relatable, even if you don’t specifically relate to either Stella or Cal’s situations. Ultimately, they just see the relationship-world a bit differently, but can’t resist the draw that keeps pulling them toward each other. Their chemistry is off the charts from the get-go and it makes this book so addicting and impossible to set aside for even a few minutes.

I am always excited for a Kate Canterbary story and this one stole a piece of my heart. I hope that Cal and Stella bring you as much joy as they did me, and that this won’t be the last we see of the large, loud, complicated world Kate has deftly and thoroughly populated with so many of my favorite characters. And if Stremmel were to meet someone who helps him conquer his grumpy, I would DEFINITELY be game for that. 😉

Before Girl is available now! Get your copy from Amazon and make sure to add it on Goodreads, too!

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