Monday, August 12, 2013

Review of Down London Road by Samantha Young

Marching right along with my "catch up" reviews, we have another contemporary that I read in May (lots of contemporaries coming up--hunker down, kids).

16140408I'll admit that Samantha Young's On Dublin Street series has taken me a bit by surprise. The way that the first book looked, the descriptions, and most of the reviews (both positive and negative), had me kind of convinced that it wasn't for me. And yet in the case of the first book and Down London Road, I was at least occupied if not fully entertained by the story. It's just engaging enough that it keeps you reading, though something keeps it from being elevated to my "favorite romance of all time" list.

Jo is a bartender who lives with her alcoholic mother and teenaged little brother, whom she protects at all cost. Her highest ambition in life is to marry a rich man, mostly for her brother's sake. She suffers from your text book self esteem issues--figures she pretty enough to land rich boyfriends, but not smart enough to do anything meaningful. But then along comes Cameron, and he's sexy as hell and very intriguing...but he's kind of between jobs, and ends up working at the same bar as Jo. In short, he's not at all her target guy. He's just irresistible enough to have Jo lowering, or perhaps raising her standards.

I'll say right off the bat that Jo is an annoying hypocrite at times. The book desperately wants to show us that she's not shallow, and at times I can believe that. She loves her brother, she works hard, she has all sorts of hidden talents. But when it comes to gifts and help and money, she's totally incapable of thinking logically. She's fine accepting expensive presents from the boyfriends that she dates because they're rich. She's fine with the idea of letting them support her, should one ever purpose. To her credit, she tries to put her heart into her relationships and does develop real feelings for these guys, but the term "gold digger" still applies. She's fine exchanging affection for money, but when her friends offer to help her financially, or even just to get her a better job, all of the sudden she's too proud to accept help. That's messed up. The author means us to think this of course, but I think Jo is more frustrating of a character than the author intended her to be. Like Jocelyn in the first book, Jo's emotional baggage is so obvious and so telegraphed that it actually becomes absurd. Instead of making her more three dimensional, it just serves to remind the reader that she's entirely fictional, and not very likeable to boot.

I actually did like Cameron. I felt he seemed like the typical guy, not overly perfect as men in contemporary romances can sometimes be. The moments when he was kind of a jerk to Jo? Well, I was kind of on his side, honestly. She's the kind of person that begs to be judged, and he makes up to it with hotness and a reasonable level of reliability. I like that he's unflinchingly honest, even if it means being a dick. Sometimes dicks are necessary.

I'm a little hazy on the plot details since I read this in May, and my notes are sparse and I can't recall there being a plot for the most part. Much of the internal drama centers around Jo's above mentioned insecurities, which thankfully become easier to ignore as the story progresses. The external plot is that Jo's parents are awful people, but she has Cameron and the two of them can fuck like bunnies. Jo has to deal with the fact that her mother is an apparently irredeemable alcoholic and her father is absent until he's needed as the villain of the climax of the story. She deals with that by learning to lean on Cameron, have monkey sex with Cameron, and believe in herself. The usual.

Overall this book was very readable, but probably forgettable long term. I like certain aspects of the characters but got a bit frustrated that the author used all the most obvious traits and the laziest path of character development for Jo. 3.5 stars.

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