Wednesday 28 December 2016
#CBR8 Book 130: "The One in My Heart" by Sherry Thomas
Rating: 3 stars
When Evangeline Canterbury meets the gorgeous, intriguing doctor next door, all she wants from him is a bit of distraction, to help her get over a few rough days.
Her one-night stand, however, has other plans: He needs an accomplished and presentable girlfriend to bring before his parents - and for six months of her time, he is willing and prepared to spend an obscene amount of money.
Nothing but trouble can come of such an arrangement. But can Eva stop herself? Or will she fall headlong in love with a man who will leave her when their contract expires with a smile, a check and hardly a backward glance?
I really like Sherry Thomas' historical novels. Her characters tend to be complex and quite frequently quite wounded individuals, who have trouble forming loving bonds. The stories are frequently quite angst-ridden and there is a lot of heavy emotional territory that needs to be negotiated before the parties can find their happy endings. This is Sherry Thomas' only contemporary romance to date, and since she's currently busy writing gender-swapped Sherlock Holmes fan fiction (which I'm very much looking forward to reading, by the way), I doubt she'll be going back to this genre any time soon.
I really don't know exactly what I think about this book. At the start of the book, it purports to be a very different story than it ends up becoming. Bennett, the hero, initially seems very manipulative and rather off-putting, while it's clear that the heroine, Eva, has a lot of emotional issues to deal with, not least her fears about her mentally unstable, bipolar step-mother, Zelda, with whom she also shares a flat.
Back when Eva was a teenager, her father and Zelda took her to Paris, to a prestigious socialite ball, where she was supposed to be escorted by the son of friends of Zelda's. He never showed up, due to some scandal, and shortly after the ball, Zelda had a massive breakdown and extended hospital stay, after which she divorced Eva's father. Eva, who loves her step-mother fiercely, believes that if the "Somerset boy" had just showed up, Zelda might never have had said mental collapse and their lives might all have turned out differently. She keeps dreaming of this mysterious "Somerset boy" and never really allows herself any long-term relationships, because she's worried what might happen to Zelda if she's not there to take care of her.
Will you be surprised if I tell you that the gorgeous, fantabulously wealthy doctor that Eva has a one-night stand with, who later offers to pay her half a million dollars to pose as his girlfriend for six months, our hero Bennett, is none other than that mysterious Somerset boy? Of course you won't. He was pretty much always going to be. The scandal he was involved in way back then was considerable enough that his family broke all ties with him, and now he wants to mend fences and reunite with them. Showing up with Eva on his arm, a beautiful and very accomplished scientist with many lucrative patents and a career in her own right, who just so happens to be the girl they once tried to set him up with? They'll surely have to accept him back with open arms.
Yet Bennett's reunion with his family is not the whole story here. Eva has trouble trusting Bennett, for all that she becomes slightly obsessed with him and the way he can make her body feel. Even though he seemingly has a lot of less desirable qualities, he is always scrupulously honest with Eva about his past, the reasons he became estranged from his family and the many not so honourable things he did when trying to provoke his father over the years. Eva is completely incapable of opening up in return.
Around the half-way point of the book, it became clear that Thomas was telling a different story from what you are first expecting. When Bennett revealed the full truth, I suddenly saw him and his previous actions in a completely new light, and instead Eva became the problematic character. Her many complex hang-ups and her absolute unwillingness to open up or in any way attempt to change made me want to both shout at her and shake her. I loved her relationship with her step-mother, and the very realistic portrayal of what living with someone bipolar is actually like, but it wasn't enough for me to warm to this as a romance.
For the first half of the book, Bennett sort of gave me the creeps as a hero, and for the second half of the book, I wanted Bennett to go off and find someone more worthy of him, because Evangeline was a rubbish heroine. It obviously all ends up working out in the end - it is a romance, after all, but this is by far my least favourite of Thomas' novels to date. I suspect that I would probably like it more upon a re-read, but it seems unlikely that I'll pick it back up again any time soon. Nonetheless, this book has words in the title that have made it a possible read in FIVE separate months this year for my Monthly Key Word Reading Challenge. It's also been on my TBR list for more than a year. I pretty much had to read it before the year was out.
Judging a book by its cover: My feelings about the cover for this book much reflect the feelings I have for the actual novel - largely indifferent. Beautiful scenery, I'm assuming it's the Italian coastline. Generic couple smooching. *shrugs* I find the choice to have one and my in the title italicised. It doesn't so much emphasise the words as make the cover look slightly off somehow.
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.