If you’re looking for an easy, romance novel to read that’s clean and a guaranteed happy ever after, check out Easy Does It by Brooke St. James. Easy Does It is the first in a series of 9 books in the Bank Street series – a multigenerational romance series. The e-book has been available for a while, but the paperback is launching on April 5! I was sent the e-book recently and read it in no time. Keep reading for my review and a Q&A with the author!
Easy Does It takes place in 1968, Galveston, Texas. Tess and her younger sister Abigail move there from Louisiana for the summer. Tess has always wanted to live at the beach and since her dreams of moving to California were dashed by her parents, she was happy to compromise with Galveston. The plan for the aspiring artist is to live in the beach town for the summer with her sister and when her sister returns home for college at the end of the season, she would stay.
Soon after her move she meets Billy Castro, a guy a little bit older than her, with a troubled past. With a boxing gym across the street from her run by a famous former boxer, Marvin Jones, she sees Billy around quite a bit now that Marvin has taken Billy under his wing to train him as a professional boxer. They have an instant connection and form a relationship as Tess navigates living away from her parents and trying to make a career out of painting and Billy builds a life and career after a tough past.
The book and their relationship is sweet and really lovely to see bloom. The novel is clean, so there’s no steamy scenes or spice (although the cover definitely looks like it would be!) but it is a really nice love story that I enjoyed reading. I may have to read the rest of the series at some point!
Q&A with Brooke St. James
Tell us about Easy Does It.
Easy Does It is set on Galveston Island during the summer of 1968. Billy Castro is a local street thug with a troubled past and natural ability to fight. Tess Cohen is a young woman from a small town in Louisiana with dreams of becoming an artist who paints beach scenes. She moves to Galveston for the summer with her younger sister as a way to play out her artistic desires before settling into a normal life back in Louisiana.
Tess knows Galveston is her new home from the moment she steps foot on the ferry to the island. She encounters Billy not long after arriving and sees something special behind his rough exterior. So does a former boxing champion and local coach, Marvin Jones.
Billy feels like his past defines him, making him unlovable and destined for a life of crime. Tess helps him to overcome those issues as a summer romance develops between the two of them. Marvin begins to mentor Billy, providing him with a combination of athletic coaching and life lessons. He even gives him the nickname ‘Easy’ during their first training session. This is a rite of passage that typically takes years to happen at a gym, and illustrates the fact that Marvin recognizes the endless potential and raw talent of young Billy.
Ultimately, Billy realizes he can rebuild himself into someone better and sets his sights on becoming a champion and starting a family with Tess. It’s a sort of Cinderella Story if you will.
What inspired you to write the book?
It was almost fifteen years ago when I was initiated into the world of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA). My family and I had just moved to Lexington, KY. My oldest son, 5 years old at the time, had begun taking gymnastics classes at a large athletic training facility. On the second floor of the building was a seating area for parents to watch their children practice. Most of the parents would congregate up there, get to know one another, and watch the kids do things our bodies were no longer capable of doing.
It wasn’t long after I settled into that routine that I noticed some activity in a smaller space on the second floor of the gym. I couldn’t see what was going on in there, but I definitely heard loud thuds, rhythmic popping sounds, chains rattling, and timers going off. Occasionally, groups of sweaty and surly-looking guys would pour out that small space to get water from a nearby fountain. I quickly noticed that even though they looked intimidating, those young men were all smiles and really seemed to enjoy each other’s company.
I was so curious about what was going on in that room that I started talking to a guy who looked like the ring leader for this curious crew of young men. It turned out he was the owner of a small MMA gym and head coach of a local fight team. By the time that conversation was finished, I had signed my whole family up to begin training Jiu Jitsu, Muay Thai, and Boxing.
That gym grew and became a second home to us soon after. But a few years later we relocated to Louisiana, where I was born and raised. As soon as we started unpacking our boxes, we found a new gym. We began training under UFC veteran Tim Credeur, and were suddenly surrounded by a new group of up-and-coming young fighters.
As I got to know Tim, the other coaches, and the fighters, I began to see certain patterns emerge. Many of these young men were overcoming struggles. Those might be simple things like trying to lose weight or more complex issues, like dealing with past abuse, abandonment, addiction, and loss. The coaches seemed to simultaneously balance the roles of an athletic trainer and father figure. They helped the aspiring fighters to push the limits of their bodies and minds while also developing the ability to deal with things they were fighting with outside of the gym. ‘Building Better People’ was the phrase painted on one of the walls in the gym, and it really began to make sense to me.
I also got a kick out of seeing new fighters earn their fight names. ‘The Ghost’, ‘The Jellyfish’, ‘The Model’, ‘Danger’, ‘The Diamond’, and ‘Dynamite’ to name a few. These names were born out of things like their physical appearance, the way they trained or fought, or some other personality trait. Regardless of what it was, it was always up to the coaches to pick a fight name, and not everyone earned one.
The more time passed, the more I felt inspired by these athletes and wanted to find a way to tell their stories. I knew that I wanted to create a series that revolved around a gym and explored some of the struggles I had witnessed these young men go through. I also felt that I wanted to spotlight the grit and discipline needed to succeed at the highest levels of boxing. What I hadn’t settled on was a location.
It was during a time when I was beginning to explore the characters in the Bank Street Stories series that my family and I took a trip to Galveston Island. There are two ways to get by car to Galveston. You can either go through Houston and take a bridge or head south at Beaumont and take a ferry boat across Galveston Bay. Of course, we opted for the ferry boat experience.
Like Tess, the heroine in Easy Does It, I knew there was something special about Galveston from the moment we got on the ferry. When we began to explore the island, I was enamored with the vintage feel. There were so many gorgeous Victorian homes and the Strand felt like it was standing still in time.
I began to learn more about Galveston’s history and in particular, the Great Storm of 1900. This was a hurricane that completely destroyed the island and arrived with little to no warning. That was when I began to realize that the city, just like those young fighters, had to be courageous, strong, and dedicated to rebuild itself and become something even better. I knew Galveston would be the setting for this series.
Why is it set in the 1960s?
I enjoy writing multi-generational romance as well as the nostalgic vibe of the 1960s. I wanted to capture the feel and atmosphere of that time period and also allow the reader to follow the love stories of the children and grandchildren of those characters.
Why did you choose for the main character to be a boxer?
I chose for Billy to be a boxer because of my connection with so many MMA fighters. I have watched these young men go through so many physical and personal struggles while using boxing, Jiu Jitsu, and Muay Thai as a vehicle to overcome them. I also have come to appreciate the artistic side of boxing. Granted, it is extremely physical and can appear to be somewhat brutal, but there is a great deal of strategy and science behind what happens in the ring. I wanted to showcase the fact that boxing can build someone into a better person and also be used as a creative outlet.
Are there any aspects of your personal life included in this book?
Yes! I previously mentioned my connection to the MMA community. I train Muay Thai a few times a week and my husband and two sons have been doing Jiu Jitsu for over 10 years. My sons compete nationally at a high level and my husband uses it as a way to connect with students that he works with as a college professor. We also have several friends who currently fight in the UFC and often get together with a large group of people to watch their televised fights.
One other personal aspect that I unintentionally incorporated in the book were the vehicles Billy and Tess drove. Billy had a 1968 gold Mustang, the same car my husband drove when we first met. Tess had a VW Beetle, which was the first car my husband and I purchased together.
Is this book a part of a series? How many books are in the series?
This is the first book in the Bank Street Stories series. There are 10 books total in this series. Nine of them are full-length novels and one is a Christmas-themed novella.
What’s next for you?
Currently, I am working on The Alexander Family series. I will continue to work on this series and others. I also am hopeful that, like Easy Does It, more of my back catalog will begin to hit brick and mortar stores and eventually get adapted for film or mini-series.
Where can we find you online?
*This book was sent to me complimentary, but all opinions are my own. This post contains affiliate links.*