Sunday 3 September 2017
#CBR9 Book 75: "When Life Happened" by Jewel E. Ann
Rating: 3.5 stars
After Parker Cruse found her boyfriend in bed with her twin sister, and said boyfriend went on to marry her twin, Parker has nothing but contempt for cheaters. She's also not really on speaking terms with her sister or brother-in-law after dosing her sister with laxatives during the wedding. Having initially planned to go follow her boyfriend to college, her plans for the future were derailed for a while. Now she's moved out of her parents' house (but only really to her grandparents' farmhouse across the road) and is trying to figure out what to do with her future.
She meets her handsome neighbour, Gus, when his dog escapes into her yard. While she finds him attractive, she is very aware that he's married and once his wife, Sabrina, hires Parker to be her personal assistant (although not really, as she has an actual assistant, she just needs a random errand person), she's even more determined to not act on the palpable chemistry between them. She can't forget the betrayal and horror she felt when she found her sister and boyfriend cheating on her, and absolutely doesn't want to do the same to anyone else. But Sabrina travels a lot, leaving Parker and Gus alone together, and when she is home, she and Gus seem to do nothing but argue. Parker discovers that things are not always black and white - life can be very complicated.
Cannonball Read's inimitable reviewing duo, PattyKates, read this back in July and insisted that others in the our little romance-appreciating community try it to, so we could get a discussion going on it. They can usually be trusted when they recommend something (or warn you off it), but I was deeply uncomfortable with the adultery aspect of the book. Enough other people who I respect and trust read the book and insisted it was worth my time, so I felt I had to see what the fuss was about. This should tell you how far behind I am on my reviews. I read this in mid-July and am only getting around to blogging it now.
As most other people who have reviewed the book have insisted on, this book is better if you don't know the full story going in. Yes, the first third of the book really is rather uncomfortable, especially if you don't like adultery as a plot point. There is a twist, and even knowing that going in, I had absolutely no idea what I was in for. I therefore don't want to say too much either, except to say that I'm glad I kept going and that after the very unexpected twist, the book did not go where I was expecting it.
While I have trouble taking anyone who styles herself Jewel E. Ann as a pen name (because there is NO WAY that is anyone's given name) too seriously, I do respect her creativity and this romance really was something slightly different from your regular contemporary. Part of the problem is that there is so much happening in this book, and she only has a little over 300 pages to get it all to work out. I think the book may have worked better and the pacing have felt a bit more comfortable if it was a slightly longer book.
While I found Parker and Gus' initial shenanigans really uncomfortable, I did like them both as separate people. I liked Parker's relationship with her parents and her struggles to come to terms with her sister and ex-boyfriend's new relationship. Part of the issues with this book is that Parker had so many different things to come to terms with, like finding out what to do with her life, sorting out her complicated family problems and such, it didn't entirely feel like she had time for a grand romance as well.
I absolutely don't regret reading this book, and PattyKates are completely right that was an interesting and unusual romance, well worth discussing within our little romance community. I don't really feel like I need to go seek out other books by this author, though, and I doubt I will be re-reading the book now that I know all the twists and turns it takes.
Judging a book by its cover: I genuinely have NO idea what's going on with this cover. The skirt, the sneakers, the disembodied lower half of a woman apparently hula-hooping with electricity? The tag line "Thy shalt not covet thy neighbor's husband" is appropriate, but I have no clue as to what the rest of the cover is about. The author appears to self-publish. Maybe this was the best stock cover image she could find?
Crossposted on Cannonball Read.