Last Call at the Local by Sarah Grunder Ruiz
Raine is a traveling musician who makes her living by playing at street corners and parks, in pubs and under monuments. She gave up holding down a “real” job, and now she travels across Europe wherever she wants, not having to worry that her ADHD will get her fired. But when her beloved guitar is stolen in Cobh, Ireland, Raine is facing the very real prospect of having to return home to Boston, defeated. Until she lands in a pub called The Local and meets a very hot tattooed man named Jack. When she confesses that The Local is rather lacking in character, Jack reveals that he owns it…and then offers her a job. As Raine is tasked with making The Local a destination, Jack can’t help but fall in love with her, even as he worries that his OCD might get in the way of a happy ending.
I had never read a Sarah Grunder Ruiz romance before, and this one is a companion to her previous novels (Luck and Last Resorts; Love, Lists, and Many Ships), but you don’t need to have read those in order to enjoy this one. I really loved the wonderful banter between Raine and Jack, which kicks off at the very beginning and doesn’t let up. This is a fantastic romance about falling in love while mentally ill and neurodivergent, and it’s also a great example of a romance where the love interests have great chemistry, are super into each other, and don’t have a big, extravagant miscommunication or external force keeping them apart…which I think is actually more difficult to pull off, but Ruiz does exactly that. Raine has ADHD, which she fears makes her annoying and unreliable, especially as she sometimes struggles with time management and doesn’t want to let Jack down. Jack has OCD, and while he’s been in therapy in the past, he’s struggling with intrusive thoughts that make taking a chance on love scary, and he feels because he is unable to do the things that he used to do—notably, work as a tattoo artist and travel.
As the story unfolds and Raine works at transforming the bar into a place that locals and tourists will love, she has to grapple with the idea of putting down roots while also fearing that she’ll disappoint Jack, and Jack worries that his OCD will hold them both back. But as they work through their fears and skewed perceptions, their love only grows, and they realize that the only thing standing in the way of giving it a shot is themselves. As an added bonus, the setting felt warm and inviting, so much so that I am a bit sad that The Local isn’t a place I can visit IRL, and there is a very, very cute cat character that I adored. This might be my first Ruiz romance, but it won’t be my last!