Aussie Book Review: Under the Hood by Juanita Kees

hood Under the Hood by Juanita Kees


Review copy provided by publisher/ netgalley

Escape Publishing, March 2013

 Synopsis- When Scott Devin buys a struggling car dealership in semi‐rural Western Australia, the last person he expects to see in charge is a stiletto‐wearing, mini‐skirted foreperson — exactly the distraction a struggling, male‐dominated workshop doesn’t need! But there’s more to TJ Stevens than meets the eye.

TJ Stevens has two major goals in life: to preserve her grandfather’s heritage and to protect her teenage rehabilitation program — and she’ll go to any lengths to do it. Scott Devin’s presence is a threat to everything she’s worked hard to achieve, so keeping him at arm’s length shouldn’t be a problem … or will it?

 Review- Under the Hood is Australian romance author Juanita Kees’ first novel with Escape Publishing. The premise intrigued me instantly, a heroine who runs a car dealership in a small country town in Western Australia who wears mini skirts… I knew TJ Stevens was going to be an interesting character.

TJ is a mechanic and team leader and is well respected by her colleagues as she works hard and she’s fair. She also has a stake in the dealerships apprenticeship for troubled teens and her passion and enthusiasm for this program is palpable. With the dealership being bought out by successful businessman Scott Devin, TJ has to prove herself and the program’s usefulness if it’s the last thing she does. This is a little more difficult than she thought when Scott Devin turns up at the dealership one week early and fires her almost immediately. There’s an instant attraction between them and of course TJ gets her job back when Scott realises he acted prematurely following four resignations and a missing teen after TJ’s dismissal.

Even though I enjoyed the story, I do feel like it was lacking something. As I write this review on a Sunday morning I’m afraid I may not succeed in articulating why exactly I felt that way.

I just didn’t feel the connection between TJ and Scott initially, it felt a little forced in the beginning. I think the conflict was a bit weak too. Typically in romance there’s the internal and the external conflict that create that create tension around the couple as to why they can’t be together. Though the external conflict was present- neither wanted to overstep their working relationship of boss and employee- the internal conflict was really lacking. At the outset I could understand why TJ was reluctant to become involved with her boss, but as the story progressed this conflict wasn’t strong enough to sustain the tension and I started to get frustrated. If the author had an internal conflict (e.g. fear of getting hurt/ rejected/ abandoned etc) to fall back on then the reason for keeping them apart would have been more believable. So, in this sense I found it hard to connect with the couple in their determination to remain just friends. Nevertheless, I did want them to work things out and I was satisfied with the ending.

I really liked TJ as a heroine and her passion for helping the teenagers, she really went above and beyond to help them and it sparked many other sub-plots in the story including a murder mystery. As the story progressed and the suspense heightened I found myself enjoying this story even more. Though I didn’t know at the outset, this story forms part of a series (see the author’s explanation here)  as the murder mystery wasn’t resolved and will likely be continued on in the next instalment.

Under the Hood is a promising start to a romance series set in country Western Australia by Australian author Juanita Kees.

Overall Rating


Under the Hood can be purchased via Escape Publishing and other leading book retailers

This book was read as part of the AWW2013 challenge:



  • Thank you for this very helpful review. I appreciate the feedback and have highlighted the areas you weren’t comfortable with for improvement in the next book. 🙂

  • I didn’t realise that this was going to be part of a series either! I have it, but haven’t read it yet.

    • I think most of the reviews I’ve read were surprised when they reached the ending to find that it’s part of a series… so it’d be interesting to see how you find the ending knowing in advance that it doesn’t actually end there.

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