Friday 12 May 2023

CBR15 Book 18: "Georgie, All Along" by Kate Clayborn

Page count: 366 pages
Rating: 4.5 stars

15-word review: Trying to get some direction in her life, Georgie turns to a new-found teenage journal

Georgie is feeling adrift. She's worked as a personal assistant for a number of industry people in L.A, and was really good at it. Now, however, her former boss decided to retire to the countryside and doesn't need a P.A. anymore. Georgie is free to go home to her family to realise her own dreams, the only problem is, she has no idea what those are. She had hoped to help her best friend Bel get settled before having a baby, but discovers that with the exception of one room, her friend has a picture-perfect home and doesn't need much of anything from Georgie except her company.

As Georgie's parents are going travelling, she can stay in her childhood home and take care of their plants. Unexpectedly, her parents had also made an arrangement with Levi Fanning, former wild child, and current grouchy recluse, to let him stay at their place while his house is having the floors redone. Georgie, used to her parents being scatter-brained, takes the surprise house mate (and his dog) in her stride and they agree to share the space. 

While sorting through her Bel's one messy room, Georgie rediscovers an old journal, where she and Bel used to write stories about their dreams and goals in high school. Looking through it, she realises that she hasn't always been without plans or purpose and she becomes determined to complete a number of the goals in the book. Once Levi finds out about her quest (after rescuing her from a near-drowning attempt) he offers to help her achieve her goals. 

Kate Clayborn writes romances about complicated, messy people who feel entirely real and she makes you feel privileged that you get to spend time with them throughout their story. Georgie has had a loving and supportive upbringing, while Levi was literally cast out by his family and has worked very hard to overcome his teenage rebel reputation in his hometown. There is definitely some tension developed in the friendship/tentative romance between him and Georgie once he discovers that she's friends with his younger brother and sister, neither of whom he's seen for years. Things are further complicated when the truth comes out about Georgie's teenage crush on his brother, who is now the successful manager of the family hotel.

Georgie could have been an annoying character, but I feel like a lot of people today can identify with her seeming aimlessness. Society seems to expect that everyone has their lives planned out and clear goals for their future by the time people graduate high school, and that's obviously not the case for everyone. While she doesn't have a college education or a standard career path, Georgie is clearly a creative person who adapts quickly to new challenges and has been a very successful personal assistant to several demanding clients because she's really good at anticipating people's needs and shows a willingness to problem solve. Seeing the successes of Bel (beautiful new home, career, successful husband, baby on the way) makes it even more difficult for her to see that her life choices haven't necessarily been as poor as she seems to think they are.

Levi made some poor choices during his teenage years mainly in direct response to his overbearing father's unreasonable demands of him. His experimentation with drugs and alcohol led to a very unfortunate episode when his younger siblings were endangered, and since then, Levi hasn't had any contact with them, because his father sent him away. He assumes that his siblings resent him for what happened way back when, and has made no attempt to reconnect with them, even after moving back and taking over his mentor's construction business. Without any help from his family, he's had to remake his life on his own and find his own support network. It's clear that he doesn't always realise that he's done a remarkable job, because he works with manual labour rather than has a business degree, and his only family is his neurotic pitbull and the people who work for him. He's definitely thrown for a loop when he discovers that Georgie has been working part-time at his family's hotel, and that she may be more interested in his brother than him. 

As well as the romance between two vulnerable people, this book also focuses on the complicated friendship between Bel and Georgie. Having been each other's best friends growing up, it's clear that the women are now at different points in their life. Georgie seems to think that Bel has everything anyone could ever want, and how is there even space for Georgie in this life now? While she may not realise it, the reader can see that Bel's insistence on joining Georgie on a lot of her journal quests suggests that she may not be as content in her life as Georgie believes, it's clear that Bel is chafing a bit at her situation. It's another very relatable situation, friendships change as people themselves grow and change - but the obvious love between the two women is still very much present, and while they haven't been able to see each other as much during the past few years, Georgie is wrong to think that Bel has "moved on" without her.

This is probably my favourite of Clayborn's romances so far. She's only getting better with each new book. I look forward to seeing what we get next. 

Judging a book by its cover: I think this cover is lovely, and in a fairly different style from most cartoony covers on romances. The colour combination, the messy hairdo, and the woman's face hidden behind the book, it all works for me.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read

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