Jove, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-425-27376-0
Contemporary Romance, 2015
Suddenly One Summer is a bit of a change of pace – it’s slower than Julie James’s usual offering, and while the heroine Victoria Slade is a lawyer, this story focuses more on her personal issues than the usual lawyer business 24/7. She’s the more cynical person, having seen her share of infidelities and marital breakdowns during her years as a divorce lawyer (along with her own father’s cheating on and eventually leaving her mother), while our hero Ford Dixon is an investigative journalist who’s a pretty nice guy that manages to be remain angst-free in spite of his job.
Victoria and Ford are new neighbors, but they get off on a wrong foot when Victoria assumes that he’s a playboy while he gets irritated by her judgmental attitude. When she ends up accepting his sister’s case – to locate the father of Zoe’s daughter, conceived as a result of a one-night stand – she and Ford end up being partners-in-crime. Of course, they eventually discover that there is plenty of fun to be had under the covers, but can Victoria let her guard down and open herself to love? Stay tuned.
This story is in many ways what I’ve come to expect from Julie James. Victoria has panic attacks, but these episodes don’t make her weak or dependent on the hero. Instead, they are a means for the author to show off a vulnerable side of Victoria underneath her competence exterior. Victoria’s weaknesses don’t define her or serve as a “softening” touch to play down her competency or her strengths – they are what she is, part of her character. Ford is who he is – a nice and competent guy – and I like that the author allows him to do his thing without exaggerating his strengths or reducing Victoria’s to create the traditional “man strong and protect, woman weak and need rescue and make many, many babies” roles for the hero and the heroine.
Unfortunately, the chemistry between Victoria and Ford isn’t as good as that of previous couples in the author’s older books, and I find myself missing the stronger and steamier chemistry in those older books. These two just do their thing, and I can’t help feeling that these two end up being a couple because they are the hero and the heroine, and hence falling in love is expected of them. I never get this “Oh, I really love you!” kind of vibes from them. I like them as characters, but I actually enjoy them more when they are focused on searching for Zoe’s baby daddy or doing their respective individual things. As a couple, they are bland and forgettable.
The pacing of this story can also be a bit slow during its first third or so. I find the whole little misunderstanding between Victoria and Ford on the contrived side, and the story takes its time to set up the search for Zoe’s baby daddy. Even then, that one is basically our hero and heroine tracking down people based on a list of names. I find myself more intrigued by certain scenes of the book – Victoria and her shrink, Victoria’s speech about how things can go wrong when a woman gets into a relationship with a man who makes far less money than her, and such – than by the story as a whole.
Suddenly One Summer is a decent read at the end of the day, but it doesn’t grab me or entertain me like the way the author’s older books had in the past. I don’t know whether it’s me or the author, but the magic is missing here. Will it ever come back? I guess that’s the million dollar question, right there.