I’ve been going through a reading phase lately, due in large part to the staggering size of the TBR pile that is threatening to swallow up my library. Since the story I’m working on is a mystery, I powered my way through a number of books in that genre this week, both for pleasure and for inspiration – Josephine Tey’s Brat Farrar, Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, and P. D. James Death Comes to Pemberly. After all that murder and suspense however, I was in the mood for something a little lighter as a palate cleanser before (finally) getting back to work.
Lucky for me, I recently joined Tawna Fenske’s “street team” (aka grass-roots marketing team) , and had an Advance Reader’s Copy of her latest novel, This Time Around, just waiting to be read. Like Jilly’s novella squee on Sunday, it is a second chance romance and can be read in a sitting (well, it is if you stay up really late), but the similarity ends there.
Here is the official blurb:
Allie Ross is not living the life she once dreamed. Her law career ended before it ever started, her parents landed in jail for running a Ponzi scheme, and she just inherited her grandmother’s B&B—which is nice, even if it is full of extra-toed cats. As for her love life…she’d rather not talk about it.
When Jack Carpenter reaches out to reconnect with Allie, the girl who broke his heart in college, his plan is to impress her with the adult he’s become. Sure, he was a deadbeat then, but life has forced him to grow up. And it’s a relief to find out that things didn’t necessarily go the way Allie expected either.
As Allie and Jack get reacquainted, they rediscover the things they loved—and hated—about each other. But who they are now isn’t who they were then, and secrets—old and new—will test whether they have a future together, or if the past is destined to repeat itself.
I really enjoyed the story (as my late-night bleary eyes can confirm), and here’s why:
Characters you want to root for
Both Allie and Jack are very relatable characters, with very human flaws and reactions. More importantly, they both come across as nice, decent human beings. The relationship between Jack and his 10-year old daughter Paige is one of the best parts of the story. Unlike the kind of plot-moppet that sometimes pops up in romances, Paige is bright and funny and her relationship with her dad is incredibly endearing. The secondary characters don’t disappoint either, despite their more limited appearances, though the “in jail for their Ponzi-scheme” parents fell a little flat for me.
Though I appreciate fiction that takes me to new worlds with new experiences, there is something to be said for a story that feels familiar and comfortable. Who hasn’t wanted to show someone that they’ve grown up and become successful, especially if that had been in doubt in the past. I’m guessing, “Look at me – I’m over you and doing great”, is something many people can relate to.
Humor (and sex)
As is expected from a book by Tawna, the story is infused with humor and some great sex (at least the characters thought it was). There are some embarrassing situations, but the humor (sometimes self-deprecating) keeps them from being cringe-worthy. At one point, Allie finds something in her grandmother’s attic that she needs to figure out where it came from. She raises the question with several individuals (without explicitly saying exactly that she’s found), and they all confess to hiding things in the attic, but not the item she found. It’s amusing and reminds me of the sequences in Jenny Crusie’s Bet Me, when Min is trying to get Cal to confess to the bet, but he keeps confessing to other things instead.
Satisfying ending with no Big Misunderstanding
If there is one thing that can ruin a story for me, it is the inclusion of a big misunderstanding, that would be quickly resolved if the characters just talked to each other. Fortunately, This Time Around stayed well away from that trap. The misunderstanding that arose was quickly dealt with and resolved, turning it into more of a character-development episode than a plot device. As for the ending itself, I’m pretty sure that, this time around, Allie and Jack have gotten it right.
So, if a warm, believable contemporary romance with humor and great sex is your thing, you may want to give This Time Around a chance. If you decide to read it, I’d love to hear your take on the story. If you have any suggestions for books I should add to my TBR pile, I’d love to hear those too.
Disclaimer: I was given an Advance Reader’s Copy of this book in exchange for posting an honest review on Amazon, etc.