Friday, 18 December 2020
#CBR12 Book 81: "One and Only" by Jenny Holiday
Rating: 4 stars
Official book description:
With her bridezilla friend on a DIY project rampage, bridesmaid Jane Denning will do anything to escape - even if it means babysitting the groom's troublemaker brother before the wedding. It should be a piece of cake, except the "cake" is a sarcastic former soldier who is 100% wicked hotness and absolutely off-limits.
Cameron MacKinnon is ready to let loose after returning from his deployment. But first he'll have to sweet talk the ultra-responsible Jane into taking a walk on the wild side. Turns out, riling her up is the best time he's had in years. But what happens when the fun and games start to turn into something real?
For way too much of this year, it feels like I've been playing catch-up, reviewing books I read three, two, or one month ago. I don't think I can remember reviewing a book right after I finished it. It's certainly made the work more challenging, and sadly, I suspect it makes my reviews a lot less informative and useful. So I'd like to hereby apologise to the writers whose books are possibly not being picked up because I'm not adequately conveying how good they are, and to my readers for harping on about the same complaints in too many of my reviews this year. I'd promise to do better in 2021, but large backlogs just seem to be how I roll these days. Sigh.
At least it's only been two months (pretty much to the day), that I finished this one. I read it as part of one of my many reading challenges, and it was a nice palate cleanser from some of the more heavy books that seemed to take me ages to get through. It only took me a little over a day to read the whole thing, and while this is my first Jenny Holiday contemporary romance, I can absolutely see why I've seen her name on a lot of recommendations lists in the last few years.
The pairing in this romance is one we've seen many times before, in both contemporaries and historicals. The trustworthy, bookish, and sensible heroine whom everyone sees as possibly a bit boring, with the rakish, irresponsible bad boy hero. Jane is a successful YA author who works from home, so when one of her demanding best friends is getting married and asks her for a huge favour, she agrees just to get out of a million other crazy bridesmaid's duties. While Jane in actuality has a fairly tight schedule working on her newest book and getting her costume ready for an upcoming con, she also can't say no to her friend Elise, and she also can't stand the thought of spending all of her free time doing DIY wedding favours.
Cameron is the brother (possibly half-brother, I forget) of the groom, with a terrible reputation. They say he knocked up his high school girlfriend and abandoned her, that he set fire to his family's barn and that he's been dishonourably discharged from the army. The bride is terrified that he'll end up in some kind of trouble, and pretty much asks Jane to babysit him and keep him on the straight and narrow. As Jane gets to know Cameron in the time before the wedding, he discovers that there are some truths to the rumours, but that Cameron's entire family have no idea who he really is and should probably give him much more of a chance.
Cameron did get dishonourably discharged from the army because he punched a superior officer who tried to sexually assault one of the female soldiers in Cameron's unit (and Cameron's friend). In defending his friend, he ended up fired from one of the only things he'd found meaningful. He got back to the US to discover that his girlfriend (who he'd been hoping to make a future with) had been cheating on him. So now Cameron is single, fully aware of how much of a disappointment he appears to his family and just wanting to have some fun. He's hiding his PTSD and refusing to actually confide his real situation to anyone in his family. He has plans to get drunk and laid a lot, but Jane is there at every turn, making sure he can't hook up with anyone. He discovers that he enjoys teasing her, and they end up making a bet. He won't go carousing and hooking up with random women before the wedding if she comes with him on a series of unusual adventures. They bungee-jump from the highest point in Toronto, take a road trip to Niagara Falls, go to an amusement park and a bunch of other stuff, and get closer with each "date".
There's a lot to like in this romance. While Cameron can seem like a bit of a selfish jerk at the beginning, the reader quickly comes to see why he has the attitude that he does and that he's been a victim of his own bad reputation and low self-worth for a very long time. While I'm not into making costumes and going to Comic Cons, I think I identified a lot with Jane, the responsible and loyal friend who's willing to drop everything to help out high maintenance friends just to keep the peace. Both she and Cameron clearly need people who see who they actually are, and take time to challenge their established ideas of themselves.
I suspect the author has done some research into how discharged soldiers deal with PTSD because that aspect of the book felt very real and very well done. It's an issue plaguing far too many ex-soldiers and there is no quick and easy fix, certainly not something that will be instantly fixed by "the love of a good woman".
This book is the first in a trilogy (I think there may also be a bonus novella or two) and I will absolutely be reading more of them. I love discovering new voices in romance, and Jenny Holiday deserves the praise she's been given.
Judging a book by its cover: I always like romance covers where the cover models look at each other as if they actually felt affection towards one another. The posing of these two people is very well done, their smiles feel genuine and I like how they're gazing deeply into one another's eyes. I also like the female model's dress, I can only see it from the side, but it looks cute.
Crossposted by Cannonball Read.