Book reviews

When Gracie Met the Grump by Mariana Zapata

Of all the things that could have landed in her yard . . . it had to be him.

For most people, finding a half-naked superbeing in their yard might be a dream come true.

Unfortunately for Gracie Castro, it’s the exact opposite.

Especially when he’s grouchy, rude, and shows no signs of leaving anytime soon.

But when a hero of mankind needs you, you do what you have to.

Even if it compromises everything you know.

And totally changes your life.

It seems that I am really late to the table when it comes to Mariana Zapata and her contemporary slow-burn romances. According to many of the reviews and comments I have read, she has written a considerable number and the slow burn is 100% her thing.

I read these comments before, during, and after reading the entirety of her 2022 offering, When Gracie Met the Grump, which apparently is a departure from her in that while it is admittedly still a slow-burn romance, it also has elements of science fiction and the whole superhero trope thrown in for good measure.

I am not sure what I was expecting when I picked this pretty hefty tome up (the UK paperback is over 600 pages long), but it was not what I got…of that I am incredibly certain.

Gracie has been living in hiding her whole life, and around a quarter of the way through the book you discover the reason – so I am not spoiling anything when I say that though she was brought up by her elderly grandparents, it was her parents who brought this trouble upon her…stealing money, and lots of it, from a drug cartel. This has led to Gracie never being able to get comfortable anywhere.

Sounds great so far, right? We have a FMC who is living in hiding, so she has never been able to get close to anyone, instead using her language skills to teach from a distance. She is the first to acknowledge that she is lonely, but due to her circumstances, she doesn’t feel as though there is anything she can do to change this.

Of course, when a mysterious man literally drops in on her, she is both angry and scared, because she was about to up sticks and move again, pains in her stomach warning her that danger is right around the corner. It turns out that this mystery man is one of a trio of superheroes. He’s the stoic, secretive one and when he starts to talk to her Gracie realises that it’s not because he’s shy but because he’s a bit of a jerk.

Alexander is in serious need of help, he needs time to heal after someone (later revealed to be his incredibly powerful grandmother) broke his back, stole his powers and dumped him on Gracie’s doorstep.

I am not going to spoil the reasons for all of this happening, but needless to say, it leads to Alexander and Gracie forming some kind of dependency bond and after they are kidnapped by the cartel that she has been hiding from pretty successfully for almost 30 years, the bond grows even closer, though they are both pretty irritable (understandably) and don’t want to acknowledge it.

Once the couple manages to escape from the cartel, though not until Gracie has been waterboarded multiple times in an effort for their captors to discover where her parents hid the missing money – something she doesn’t know, nor does she want to – we are introduced in pretty quick succession to all of Alex’s family, including his siblings, parents, cute nieces and determined (and terrifying) grandmother.

Alex’s family rallies around Gracie, doing everything they can to help her get her life restarted. They take her under their wing, all the while Alex is doing his best to seemingly distance himself from her.

I guess that the moment that Alex and Gracie managed to escape was around the same time that I realised that this was not so much a slow-burn romance as it was a non-existent romance. Yes, he is a Grump and she is certainly Gracie, but the expectation I had that this was going to have some kind of spice and UST was completely erased. 

I felt misled, and incredibly disappointed that it was not what both the blurb, the cover and the author promised me. 

I can’t say that there is no spice, but when you pick up a book that is 611 pages long and it’s a romance you expect it to happen way earlier than page 554 (or around there), and that was just a kiss. And as for the actual spice. Well…yeah, the less I say about that the better. Though I waded through 600 pages to get something and THAT is what I got? 

I am not going to write Zapata off as a non-event because apparently some of her other books are much better. However, as they are all exorbitantly expensive for paperbacks and I am on an ‘I don’t want to read eBooks’ kick at the moment, it will be a while before I pick up something else she has written. 

I know that From Lukov with Love is meant to be a good example of her slow-burn spicy writing. However, after Icebreaker I am somewhat off the idea of ice skating as foreplay. That book really did me dirty and When Gracie Met the Grump wasn’t that much better.

I hate to say this, but for the first time ever I have more cons on a book that I have decided to review.


  • Currently struggling to think of one


  • Cringeworthy smut
  • Unlikeable main characters
  • Cliche-ridden
  • Too long – needed a really good edit by someone who wasn’t afraid to cut swathes of unnecessary content
1.5 stars
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