Zebra, $6.99, ISBN 978-0-8217-7951-4
Contemporary Romance, 2007
The main characters in Jane Blackwood’s Between You and Me, Will Scott and Meghan Rose, are some of the most realistically developed characters I’ve come across in a while. They are complicated, complex, and realistic folks, with Will Scott being a simultaneously attractive and repulsive bad boy that mothers have warned women about since James Dean starred in that movie.
Set in the world of competitive yachting, Will Scott is determined to win the Lighthouse Trophy this year on behalf of Frank, the dying owner of the yacht Water Baby which Will is currently the captain of. Frank had vowed to win the trophy in the memory of his son, and Will feels that he owes his mentor enough to try to win this trophy this year, especially when Frank may not be around to follow the Newport-Bermuda race next year. Unfortunately, his trimmer Thad breaks his arm right before they can train for the race. Will has no choice but to try to persuade the best trimmer he knows to come back and help him – Meghan, the woman he’s had an affair with and then dumped four years ago. Meghan tries to move on by moving as far from the sea as possible – in her case, she goes on to get a career in real estate. She has a fiancé, Alan. But when Will comes running back asking for her help, all those old emotions come back to complicate her life all over again.
Oh, Will is really bad. He has the obligatory sad childhood, but he was also a thoughtless and selfish lover when he was with Meghan four years ago. The author is unapologetic about it – Will has been and still is a major case of self-absorbed headcase. But at the same time, the author manages to make Will simultaneously an abhorrent and seductive asshole. As self-absorbed as Will can be, there are still enough glimpses into his head to make him come off as… well, not some sad woobie-like misunderstood bad boy, but a real kind of attractive self-absorbed jerk. Am I making sense here? Will comes off like a real person, not a calculated misunderstood fellow to be redeemed by the hot love of some virginal twit. He really appeals to the part of me who should know better than to get drawn to such charismatic assholes. Meghan is a well-drawn character as well. Her emotions feel real to me. Ms Blackwood has me on the front row seat as I follow Meghan’s emotional upheavals as she tries to deal with Will coming back into her life.
The only thing I don’t understand is Alan’s willingness to let Meghan go off in that yacht to help Will. This is the only thing that feels awfully contrived in this story, and unfortunately, this contrivance plays a big part in getting the story going.
The only reason why I can’t bring myself to love this book is that… well, I like the character study that goes on here but I also find myself thinking at the end of the day that Meghan and Will are both giant assholes in their own way and they really do deserve each other. Meghan, especially, wrongs Alan terribly in this story. Alan is a pretty well-drawn character in his own right. At the very least, he is not a cardboard character with no redeeming features. Therefore, following Meghan as she betrays Alan is not the easiest thing to do on my part. It is especially frustrating because Will doesn’t really do anything to warrant a second chance from Meghan. He tells himself (and therefore, the reader) that he realizes at last that he loves Meghan, but he still treats her pretty badly at times. Oh, he’s not abusive, but he can behave in a thoughtless manner that takes Meghan for granted. Meghan takes him back, not because he does anything to warrant a second chance here, but because she is in love in him no matter how badly he has treated her in the past. Therefore, as I’ve mentioned earlier, I can’t help thinking that these two deserve each other. She enables him.
Meghan being so willing and so quickly to think the worst of Alan at the end of the day, after the way she has treated him so unfairly in this story, really makes her most unlikable to me.
Therefore, as much as I enjoy reading Between You and Me for its very well-drawn characters, I don’t love this book because a big part of me is so relieved to see the last of Meghan and Will when the story is over. I like this book, but I don’t think I want to reread it. This book is like a cautionary tale about bad boys. They are real. They aren’t woobies who can be miraculously tamed into kittens by the love of the “right” woman. I appreciate the character study and the fact that this book is well-written and never boring. Heck, I don’t know a thing about yachts but the author makes the whole thing sounds really exciting here. However, I can never warm up to Between You and Me. But I suspect that says more about me than the quality of the book.