The Brain Featured
Alpha Hero, Book Review, Contemporary, Enemies to Lovers, Grumpy/Sunshine, Military, Opposites Attract, PTSD, Romance, Series, Suspense

The Brain (Starling Key #1) by January James


I’m not just head of the security team, I’m the brain behind Starling Key, Florida’s most luxurious beach resort. Only nobody knows. Not even the man who owns it.

I’m obsessive, I’m meticulous, I’m a perfectionist.
I do not tolerate unprofessionalism.
If things aren’t done the way I want them to be, someone pays.
And with a military past like mine, the cost is high.

When Tawny Graham crashes—literally—into the Key, she threatens my grand plans.
She’s a stumbling, infuriating nightmare,
With a body that taunts me and eyes that haunt me.
And I can’t be distracted. Not when I’m so close.
Then I find out the real reason she’s here,
And that changes everything.


I’m pulling from the TBR pile again and it is an author I’ve read before. The Brain is the first installment in January James’ adult contemporary Starling Key band-of-brothers series set in the Florida Keys. This is the head of Starling Key Security Connor Johnson’s and new employee Tawny Graham’s storyline.

NOTE: Due to the nature of the PTSD storyline, there may be triggers for more sensitive readers.

Told from dual perspectives the young 22-year-old Tawny is starting a new life and new job in Florida after nursing her mother through her six-year battle with Alzheimer’s. Her first meet-hate with Connor is when she drives into a brick wall initiating his anger and frustration considering his ordered life has just been breached by an attractive woman he needs to stay far away from. Yeah, that’s not gonna happen. She’s the new event manager and her desk is right outside his office. Not to mention, she lives right next door. And, last but not least, she’s living inside his head every day.

I admire Tawny for her strength and dedication to taking care of her sick mother from the age of 16 when she dropped out of school to moving from New Jersey to Florida and starting over. She’s alone in the world but finds so many new friends at the new resort. Everyone, but the one man she is attracted to.

Connor is a perfectionist and though his work as head of Starling Key Security and a sketchy sideline hustle are doing well, he’s taken on way more than he can handle and he’s distracted by the woman he cannot be with.

Tawny and Connor have an instant and tortuous attraction. It builds slowly as Connor fights his feelings for Tawny and tries so hard to stay away from her. When he finally gives in it’s a beautiful thing, but his troubled past and stubbornness are tearing them apart. Tawny is so kind and compassionate when she sacrifices her happiness for Connor’s sake. My heart broke for Connor at the end when he finds the strength to fight for Tawny by choosing who he wants to be and not who he thinks he should be. The touching and heartbreaking grand gesture had me in tears.

There is a large and lovely ensemble cast of colorful, dynamic secondary and supporting characters including Connor’s loyal and strong band of brothers and Tawny’s new supportive coworkers, and the wise and feisty resort retirees. 

If you love romantic and raw storylines with tortured heroes and the strong women that love them, give this book a try. I can’t wait to hear Carter’s story.

Starling Key Series:

1. The Brain (2021)
2. The Brawn (2022)
3. The Banker (2022)


The Brain

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January James lives in the rural south of England with her husband, daughter and their crazy sprockapoo, Ralph.

Until a few years ago, she inhabited the fast-paced, adrenalin-fuelled workplaces she likes to write about, as a communications professional. Now, she spends her days dreaming up new characters and stories and trying her best to avoid indoor soft play. 

And this is she, as a book-obsessed kid and now with her crazy dog!

Follow January on her website, Instagram, Facebook, Goodreads, Amazon, and Bookbub.

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