Julia Boyd has dated more than her share of jerks, and she's done even pretending to like them. Putting her dating life on hold and focusing on her event planning career is a much safer bet for the blue-eyed blonde…until she meets her newest client. Organizing the opening for an art gallery should be a breeze for Julia, but gallery owner Alex Holt is becoming very distracting. Tall and muscular, with enough charisma and sexy dimples to make Julia swoon, Alex could be the perfect man. The two of them click immediately, creating enough witty banter to ignite sparks. But just before flames of passion can erupt with Alex, Julia begins planning an engagement party…and learns the groom is Aiden, the man who broke her heart years ago. When Aiden admits that he still has feelings for Julia, everything changes. Should she seek shelter in the familiarity of the past, or should she risk everything on a brand-new love?
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This story is fully in the chick-lit category, a category that I think I should avoid in the future. So my critique may be different from yours if chick-lit is your thing. This is a romance between two people in their 30s. Alex is 33 and the owner of an art gallery. Julia is in her 30s too, though I’m unsure if her specific age is revealed. And she owns a party planning business that was passed down to her from her dad. Dialogue in the story is constantly between Julia and other people, like her best friend, Sabrina, and Alex, her love interest, and between Julia and herself, and from Julia to us, the unknown listener/reader, with most of it being the latter, unfortunately, so it seemed.
In many ways, this may be a fun story. Julia is a bit quirky, strong and has a potty mouth. I have no problem with the down-home, real life, unpretentious language she uses for everything, absolutely everything…except female body parts. More on that later. Julia is not a woman who uses “darn” EVER and rarely even damn. Though, I think more balance is needed there. As a professional woman from a higher economic bracket, I think it’s more plausible that she would alter her language more often than she did. So her curse word usage was a bit overdone. It didn’t bother me, it just became too much of a caricature. Some people might find the back-and-forth between her married parents funny or cute, as well, but it didn’t do much for me. Other parts of the story listeners might find fun is her commonly referencing pop culture, like a certain advertisement or male actors who look like people she knows, the back-and-forth banter between her long-married parents, her and her co-workers, and her and her younger brother, along with other aspects of her language. But they were not positive stand-outs to me.
On these points, Julia should have refrained from so many uses of phrasings originating from urban culture and now appropriated into pop culture (“get digits,” “up in my grill,” “hell to the no”). For women like this one, with her particular multiple cultural identities, her use of these seemed to be an attempt to appear “cool” or hip but which actually weakened her character instead and, again, made her more of a caricature. Similarly, Julia’s inability to have the same degree of earthiness in talking about the female sexual parts as she does when talking about sex, male sex parts and everything else was so contradictory that and inconsistent that it greatly weakened the story and the character. It reeked of a double standard or falseness in the portrayal of Julia, again, more of a caricature. She referred to the female sex parts, with the exception of the c*it (short for clitoris) at rare points, as her “happy place,” “lady parts,” “piece of flesh,” “between your legs,” “down south,” “my entrance,” “inside me” and, about twice, a vagina. But she easily used the f-word when referring to sex and referred to Alex’s sex parts with the same explicitness she used everywhere else (i.e. c*ck & d*ck). I get another reviewer’s critique of too many references to different aspects of pop culture, especially TV & movie people. To me, like her inconsistency in her use of profane and explicit language and her overuse of culturally appropriated “urban” lingo, her reference to male actors makes her appear to be working too hard to be hip or younger or something, which is an utter failure. There was also a bit too many references to her “smelling her pits” and, in other ways, checking herself for underarm freshness; apparently Julia has a bit of a sweat and, therefore, resulting odor problem. It was disconcerting. I generally like aspects that make characters appear very realistic, but that was a bit too much. I think it might have been an attempt at humor. If so, it didn’t work for me. Finally, on her language, some listeners might be offended by the frequent use of these phrases as expressions of exasperation: “Christ,” “Jesus,” “God help me,” “Oh my God,” “I swear to Christ on a cracker.”
There were several—about 4 I think—somewhat detailed but not explicit or erotic sex scenes. Alex requires control in the bedroom. And there was 1 butt smack episode. They never used or even referenced a condom. There first sex was phone sex; the second sex scene was at his office against a door. There were 3 things I liked in the book. I liked Julia admitting, earlier in their developing relationship, that she was not in love with him but “in like” and growing towards more. It was refreshing to have a character not jump to “love” so quickly while still recognizing that there are intense emotions present. Finally, I witnessed an author who recognizes that there are several other great, positive emotions that often precede romantic love and that it’s just fine to use those in a story. And it actually makes the story more plausible especially for mature characters. Also, I was in awe at her description of the Harry Potter birthday party she put together. And The final hour of the book was good, but, unfortunately, it was the only good part of the book. During that time, Julia acted maturely and dropped the horrible “cool” or “hip” façade. But I can’t say that it was worth listening to almost 8 hours to get there. I became bored and was just ready to get it over with. But it had a good ending.
I picked this book because it 1) it was narrated by Kate Rudd & 2) because it seemed like a sweet romance. It was romantic at times, funny at other times, and quite frustrating at others. Overall I really enjoyed it though. I recommend it if your in need of something sweet, steamy and fun.