Thursday, 4 January 2018

#CBR10 Book 2: "Sleepless in Manhattan" by Sarah Morgan

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Events planner Paige Walker was expecting to be promoted, but instead finds that she's been fired, alongside her two best friends and a lot of others. Having spent much of her childhood and her teenage years in hospital due to a heart defect, Paige is fiercely independent and wants to be in control of every aspect of her life. Normally very calm, collected and always the one with the plan, Paige is suddenly at a loss and very much adrift. She has some savings, but hates the thought of having to go to her parents or older brother Matt (who is already her landlord) for money. Her parents and brother have always been very overprotective of her due to her former illness, she's not prepared to take more pity or concern from them.

Jake Romano, notable New York tech guru and her brother's best friend, seems to be the only one to never coddle or protect her. He suggests that Paige, along with her best friends Frankie and Eva, who were also laid off, take their formidable skills and start their own events planning company. The ladies decide to go for it, but struggle a lot to begin with, until Jake hires them to do a big promotional event for his company. Of course, if Paige is planning his big party, she needs to work closely with Jake, who for years has been trying very hard to tell himself that his best friend's little sister is firmly off limits. While he may be one of the most sought after dates in Manhattan, and normally has a new woman on his arm every month, the only one Jake really wants is the only woman he can't have, because he promised her brother he would never touch her.

Just before New Year's, I started the From Manhattan with Love series in the wrong order, with book 3, Miracle on 5th Avenue, because I knew it was set in the holiday season, around Christmas. By that point, two of the three ladies running Urban Genie, the events planning and concierge service company extraordinaire have already been neatly paired off with their perfect mates (who just so happen to be guys they've known and really loved for ages), and the bubbly, hopeless romantic Eva needs to find her HEA. It was a very enjoyable book and made me want to see if the previous books in the series were as well-written and quick to read.

While Eva actually has to get to know someone new, Paige's ideal partner is the first man she ever had a crush on, and who also firmly broke her heart when she was eighteen. Jake Romano, her brother Matt's best friend, would spend hours at the hospital with her, cheering her up and telling her not just stories about his adoptive mother, Maria, who took him in when he was six, but also about the loss he went through when his birth mother abandoned him suddenly one day. When a young and naive Paige tried to confess her infatuation to the somewhat older Jake, while entirely naked both physically and emotionally, he very kindly rejected her and their friendship never entirely recovered. In the years since, Jake never seems to touch Paige, and they argue constantly. While Paige appreciates that Jake is never overprotective, like most other people around her, he also seems to go out of his way to provoke her.

Jake is, of course, protecting Paige in his own way. When his biological mother abandoned him at six, this scarred him badly and he never intends to let anyone that close ever again, he's certainly never going to be capable of a serious, long-term relationship with a woman. Paige clearly deserves much better than an unscrupulous playboy like him, and even without the promise to her brother that he'd never touch her, Jake tries to stay as far away from Paige as possible. Rejecting her advances when she was eighteen was necessary and he's determined that it's better that she's annoyed with him than attracted to him. When she loses her job and starts her own company, he knows that he's in a position to help Paige, but also knows that he's the last person in the world she would approach for help. He's counting on her getting the business off the ground without having to interact much with her, but as the weeks go by, and the three women are struggling, Paige is persuaded to swallow her pride and seek out Jake for advice.

Not only does he ask Paige and her friends to arrange a large and swanky corporate event for him, he impulsively offers them office space in a corner of his own building, meaning she'll be working nearby at all times. As the planning of the event continues, he tries to delegate responsibility to his underlings and stay away from Paige as much as possible, but no matter how much he tries, he's more often in close proximity to the woman he wants more than anything, and sooner or later, something will snap. That something comes when Jake and Paige are trapped in a lift together, and Paige is close to having a panic attack. It seems passionate kissing is a really good cure for claustrophobia.

It was clear from the first Sarah Morgan novel I read that she's good at writing fully realised and interesting characters, believable and supportive friendships as well as sizzling romantic tension. It always much more enjoyable to read about characters who seem real, who have jobs, friends, worries and joys and who then just happen to fall in love along the way. In addition, while Sarah Morgan herself is apparently not from New York City and in the introduction to this book claims that she was initially reluctant to set her new trilogy there, the city of New York and these women's love and enjoyment of living and working there adds further flavour to the books.

That both Paige and Jake find each other attractive is obvious to the reader from very early on, as we get points of view from each of them throughout the book. Paige can't forget the mortifying moment when she confessed her love the first time and was rejected, and keeps trying to move on. Jake can't stop thinking of his best friend's little sister in a decidedly non-brotherly way, and keeps having fantasies of what he'd like to do to her, while maintaining a very careful distance to her in all their encounters. As such, the unresolved sexual tension is very high by the the time they actually act on their feelings. Once Paige realises that Jake does in fact find her attractive, she is not going to take no for an answer for very long. No bro-code loyalty is going to keep her from taking what she has wanted for most of her adult life.

While there are complications along the way (aren't there always?), there is thankfully no big misunderstandings and throughout the story, Paige always has her two besties firmly at her back, giving her helpful advice and unwavering support. Paige keeping a relationship with Jake secret from her brother Matt, who lives in the same building as her, is always going to lead to a confrontation at some point, but when that inevitable scene came, there was a lot less melodrama than I had feared, and showed that Ms. Morgan is a writer I think I will want to read much more from.

In other words, this is a highly enjoyable contemporary romance about competent professionals falling in love, while also having believable interests, hang-ups and friendships. Well worth reading.

Judging a book by its cover: Unlike the colour scheme on Miracle on 5th Avenue, a sort of orangey red and turquoise, which I sort of hated, the dark blue and fuchsia on this cover works pretty well together. You get part of the Manhattan skyline and the Brooklyn bridge (Paige lives in Brooklyn, Jake has a penthouse in Tribeca), and I see now that all three covers in the series have a number of stars forming a heart-shaped constellation, which I actually think is rather cute.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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