Worked Up by Tessa Bailey

“Tessa Bailey has outdone herself on this one and she’s made this Jersey girl so very happy with the greatest Pouty Man Bear of all time. ”

by Nikki
The Deets Genre: Erotic Romance  | Series: Made in Jersey Series  | Publisher: Entangled Brazen  | Source: ARC from Author  | GoodReads

I’m not ashamed to admit that I have a very particular type as pertains the opposite sex.

And that type does not wear suits, kiss ass or eat fucking quinoa

I’m a fan of the big, hulking alpha male. Not the kind who drink protein shakes eleven times a day and can literally pull the skin away from their boombastic ab muscles. Uh, no.

I mean the men who eat real food and get their hands dirty and are built like brick shithouses because they bust their asses building something or fixing something. . . . You know, the ones that will be USEFUL during the Zombie Apocalypse?  Seriously, folks. I know some of y’all like the sharp-dressed corporate type, but his mad negotiation skills ain’t gonna help you a damn bit when a mindless, soulless parasite is intent on sucking your brain through a straw.  Give me a man who knows how to use a hammer any day (pun totally intended).  You wanna show me you love me? Take your shirt off and build me something, dammit.  

As God knows what He’s doing always, He brought me a sister of my soul whose taste in men so closely resembles mine that it’s a little eery. Duke Crawford, Worked Up’s freaking fantastic hero, ticked off all of our Hulk-like boxes.

Thank you, Rebeca, for teaming up with me to tackle this beast of a man. I’d say he’s more than I can handle on my own. . . but that’d be a lie (insert cheesy winky face).

What relevance does Duke’s size have to this story?


One thing that really struck me was his restraint in his dominant sexual urges. Seems like a lot of alpha heroes that are described as massive in size and formidability out there have zero control over these things, yet you never got the sense that he was wielding any power over her. I’m still not sure how Tessa managed to write Duke in such a dominant but respectful way. He was an exquisite combination of powerful and tender.


Yes, exactly. It’s been my experience that large men have a tendency to be very conscious and aware of their size, a trait Duke certainly shares. He’s a bit standoffish with women, and I’m certain that it’s because he’s aware that he can be a bit threatening simply because he’s freaking massive. It’s very telling of how deeply he felt for her and of his certainty in her ability to handle him that he dropped this “wall” early on with Sam. While he never used his size or physical strength to intimidate her, he wasn’t skittish about using it to get his point across.

Did you get the sense that his disposition made Sam comfortable enough to allow the realization that she was turned on by his dominance?


Yes, absolutely. Big guys tend to go two ways – jovial and cheery (think Dwayne Johnson), or reclusive and a bit aloof (uh, Hulk, obviously). Duke falls into the latter, but he’s also had the benefit of a whole shedload of experience with females via his mother and sisters. He knows women, understands what makes them tick and has seen first-hand how a man can devastate a woman emotionally. He’s got a great deal of intuition as pertains the female psyche, and I think that comes across clearly. Sam’s actions and emotions don’t always make sense to him, but he’s accustomed to rolling with those kind of punches. The fact that he sort of instinctively knows when to let her lead and when to pull on the reins means a great deal to a woman like Sam, who’s accustomed to men who attempt to control her via emotional manipulation. He exerts his dominance physically, but in a way that’s meant to guide her, not force her.


Duke is the kind of man who shows us that it wasn’t his size that enhances her comfort in feeling dominated by him but his caring demeanor that created a sense of safety for Sam to explore those urges.

I saw some teasers floating around about a commitment phobic hero and heroine. Did you ever get the sense from Duke that he was commitment phobic?


They mention it constantly, but I didn’t feel that he was commitment phobic at all. I think we were meant to believe it, given the turmoil he’s nursed his four sisters through with their failed marriages and by the example set by the father that left them. It was thrown out there time again that he was this way, but not a lot of history or internal monologue to convince me of that. It makes me think that he believed he was a commitment phobe, not realizing that he just hadn’t met a woman in his life that made him want to commit.


I totally agree. That’s part of the appeal of a Tessa hero – knowing what they want from the beginning and stopping at nothing to hook that woman and reel her in. Duke felt ALL-IN from the onset. Perhaps he’d been reluctant to commit in the past, but there was no hesitation with Sam. He’d clearly been dating the wrong women. . . or maybe just waiting on the right one.  

If there was a commitment phobe, it was certainly Sam. Tessa is one of only a handful of authors whose heroes appeal to me more strongly than her heroines. For me, it’s rare that an author writes a hero strong enough to carry a book until the heroine pulls her head out, but Duke absolutely had the back for the job.

Getting back to Duke. . .  Would you agree that he was a less than physically perfect hero, but still totally sexy?


That’s not a question, but a straight up fact. Normally, I love the idea of a hero with a well-defined body. I often picture someone with a ridiculously muscular physique, but as the story unfolds, my mind tends to gloss over the sharp detail of how many abs were popping out or how pronounced that forearm vein was. That image may be clear at the outset, but that perfect picture of them never lasts the full story.  I hadn’t really realized this all before, but this story made me start to acknowledge that.  For me, it is more the sense of the hero’s size and bulk that excites me, than the definition.  It is always their strength and the comfort of how it would feel in being completely enveloped by them. I don’t often walk away from a book remembering how cut and good looking the hero was, but I remember how he made me feel.  I don’t need a vision of perfection in my stories. But even if I did, perfection is so subjective.


If I’ve learned anything from this group, it’s that the notion of the perfect male specimen varies a whole heap of a lot from one woman to the next. Scandie loves her Gandy Candy and Tania loves her baby-faced pretty boys and Teena cannot stand facial hair, none of which I’m on board with.  You’re absolutely right about perfection being subjective.

Duke is described from the very beginning as this sort of angry looking, mountain of a man who intimidates the hell out of everyone around him, and I freaking LOVE that. The notion of a man being large enough to serve as a battering ram does things to my people-phobic, social anxiety ridden heart, and the fact that he’s equal parts tender with both his sisters and Sam is warm, caramelly icing on top.

Speaking of icing, I love the fact that Duke’s not uber skinny.  He’s got a little food baby under those abs because he’s a man who eats.  He likes his food and he likes his beer, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. Ty Walker, the larger than life hero in Kristen Ashley’s Lady Luck, is one of those dudes who hits the gym every day and eats fruit and yogurt for breakfast. Yeah, having that body to climb like a tree would be one hell of a reward, but can you imagine having to cook chicken and broccoli and brown rice every day for the rest of your life? Or knowing he’s mentally calculating the calories in the 20 ounce Fire-Grilled T-Bone you just ordered at the Longhorn’s? Shudders. I’m a baker, people. I want a man who will eat my cake and like it. . . and I mean the kind you bake in the oven (although being skilled at that other cake-eating isn’t a skill one sneezes at).

What gives Duke such a sense of responsibility for others? Why does he carry the weight of the world on his massive, capable shoulders?


I think sometimes it’s just men of his size, you know what I mean? And then there’s the fact that he’s from a small town. It’s just different. You have this inherent sense of responsibility for your neighbors, and a strong sense of community.


Is it that men of massive size exude authority? I think I know what you’re saying, but I’m trying to hone in on the why of it. Maybe that physical makeup speaks to someone capable of protecting and persevering?


Yes, more along those lines. They are looked upon as symbols of strength, so they take on that role. They’re caretakers, sort of naturally.

As for Renner…


Not sure he came anywhere close to redeeming himself for me. I’m looking forward to seeing how Tessa wins me over with him in the final installment.


I suspect that Renner will be the half of the Renner/Milo sandwich that I have a hard time warming up to. I cannot get over the fact that he had the love of this sweet, kind woman, who considered him her brother despite the lack of blood ties and trusted him despite learning early and often how unwise it was to put your faith in anyone, and he attempted to use that for his personal gain. Do I understand where he was coming from? Maybe. Was he justified? Uh, no. He’s dug himself quite a hole to work his way out of, for sure. Much like Duke, however, Milo Bautista has the shoulders to carry the book till such a time as I stop wanting to remove Renner’s fingernails with pliers.  

And speaking of Milo – Bautista, baby. I’m sure it was a deliberate choice on Tessa’s part that his surname is the same as that of one of the hottest manbeasts to ever grace the WWE.

Final thoughts:


I adore the everliving hell out of Duke, and my heart is telling me that he may be the strongest contender for favorite Tessa Bailey hero. Ever. That distinction doesn’t come lightly, given the men she’s gifted to me (I’m looking at you, Derek, Connor, Louis and Troy).  Sam was a treat for me, too. Her silly humor and imagination gave her a down to earth sweetness that I found endearing. It’s been a while since I read a story in which damn near every word that came out of the hero’s mouth towards the end had me sobbing out of want and admiration. I don’t think I’ve ever highlighted so many passages in a book before, either.  Tessa Bailey has outdone herself on this one and she’s made this Jersey girl so very happy with the greatest Pouty Man Bear of all time.


First of all, Tessa did not gift YOU Derek. I love you, Beca, but we will have words over Lieutenant Tyler. Don’t think I didn’t notice that you’ve got him first on that list, either.

I am the resident heroine cheerleader, but Sam wasn’t the big draw for me in Worked Up. Yes, I found her inherent sweetness and quiet sass charming and endearing, but it was Duke who earned a place in my heart. Duke, the man’s man with the good, strong back who could build me something and bludgeon his way through an army of zombies. Make Me’s Russell Hart, whose pectoral perfection was frequently discussed in the Broke & Beautiful series, was the Tessa hero who stuck out physically in my mind. . . until Duke. He’s moody and a little brutish, a bit standoffish and occasionally rude, but he’s also a fantastic brother, a good friend and he loves his woman. . . and loves her WELL.

And one more thing. I detest stupid, trendy hero names, especially ones that fuck up the spelling. So Duke? Duke is kind of perfect.

(FYI – Rebeca rated Worked Up 5 Stars and Nikki gave it 4.5 Stars)


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  • Joanne holliday says:

    Nice review ladies! I like the huge built hunk of man flesh also! I think that’s why I read so many MC books. Those guys are usually hard asses with a soft heart for the women they fall in love with. They also don’t mind getting their hands dirty with regular work! I get a little tired of all these millionaires who work in plush offices. Tessa Bailey is a favorite of mine so this will defiantly be a 1click.

  • Maggie&Teddy says:

    Rebeca & Nikki excellent dialogue for “Worked Up” I love Tessa’s. & I’m clicking on this after reading your blog. I confess that I skimmed a little since I love to be surprised. ^_^

  • Monique D says:

    Great review for a great book!

  • Suzyd says:

    I have to admit I have never read a Tessa Bailey novel but after that fantastic ally detailed review I think I will 1 click. After all it takes a big hammer to drive a big nail. I love a practical man. Thank you Nikki and Rebecca for bringing this one to my attention

  • Sunny says:

    It’s been a while since I’ve read a Tessa Bailey book, but damn, this is going on my shortlist.

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