Saturday, June 28, 2014

The Return of Mrs. Jones

Category romance is the one area of my reading life where I'll happily take chances on new authors without doing a lot of background research.  Chalk it up to the lower price point and shorter words counts.  It's easier to "take a chance" on a new-to-author if you're only spending around 200 pages with them.  The reason behind my picking up The Return of Mrs. Jones, Jessica Gilmore's debut novel was really two-fold: 1) one of my very favorite authors, Jessica Hart, endorsed this book and 2) it has a very intriguing reunion theme.  It's hard for Wendy to say no to reunion themes.

Lawrie and Jonas Jones married young - she an 18-year-old with white collar ambitions, he a 20-year-old surfer bum looking to prove Mommy and Daddy wrong.  It was a romance that burned fast and hot, ultimately running out of fuel as Lawrie's ambitions and Jonas' unwillingness to compromise led them to divorce.  Now Lawrie is back in their tiny Cornish town, her looking for a place to lick her wounds after her career implodes.  It's not exactly where she thought she'd be at 30.

Jonas has made something of himself.  He took his surfer dude lifestyle, parlayed it into a successful cafe business, and bought out his parents in the family's hotel business.  Jonas has a booming business, but he never emotionally moved on after Lawrie left - and now she's back in town.  Then circumstances arise that lead to Lawrie and Jonas working together, which naturally means a chance to reconnect and capture some of their old magic.  But Lawrie has plans - plans that once again include leaving the seaside village and Jonas behind.

Reunion themes, especially ones involving imploded marriages, are very tricky things to navigate.  With the added challenge of the shorter category word count, the author had her work cut out for her.  But it really works here, mostly because what drove Lawrie and Jonas apart are things that could easily be "dealt with" thanks to their added years and maturity.  They were really young when they got married, and as they "grew up," they grew apart.  Lawrie envisioned her life one way, Jonas another - and being as young as they were, with the baggage that they have, fighting to stay together was a tall order.

It's believable conflict, especially when you have two characters that come from splintered backgrounds.  Jonas with his distant and disapproving parents, Lawrie essentially abandoned by her mother.  This leads to Jonas' unflinching drive to succeed at all costs, while throwing compromise out the window and Lawrie's ambitions for safety, security and always having "a plan."

The story resolves itself fairly well.  Both characters "grow up," and unlike the old days, are willing to compromise to make their relationship work.  A solid debut, a new category writer to watch.  A nice story I zipped through while enjoying my own holiday.

Final Grade = B

9 comments:

Miss Bates said...

Yay! You're the reason I fell in love with category romance and am glad to see we agree on this one. For much the same reasons and especially because J. Hart ... yes! I look forward to Ms Gilmore's next endeavour too.

azteclady said...

Did you blog just eat my comment, Ms Wendy?

Wendy said...

AL: I think it did :( Checked my spam filter and nothing.

azteclady said...

Well, thankfully it wasn't anything terribly brilliant. Just something about how second chance romances are a very hard sell for me when there's divorce involved--bitter personal experience and all that--but you sold me this one.

Wendy said...

Miss Bates: This was such a nice story, wasn't it? I love it when I find a really good HR title, as I can inhale one in a couple hours. I'm a sucker for reunion themes anyway, and I liked that this was a divorced couple, but the conflict between them was 1) believable and 2) not insurmountable. Smart authorial choices IMHO.

Wendy said...

AL: Yeah, you have the divorce, but the author really works the "they were too young" angle quite well. It's not like he cheated on her with a series of bikini beach bimbos or like she ran off with a smarty-pants she met at university. They fell in love, got married young, and discovered after the fact that life was pulling them in two different directions. So it works because it's believable and not one character is carrying the load of "bad guy." They both made their fair share of mistakes.

Nikki said...

I like the reunited couples stories and this one sounds good. :)

AnimeJune said...

The only thing that irks me about this novel - and it's really the trend that irks me, not the thing itself - is how it's the woman whose career implodes and the man whose career succeeds.

Too often in small town stories, it's always the woman who has to get smacked down and return with her tail between her legs and the dude who's managed to successfully obtain his dream. Can't we have ever have a big-city hero who screws up and returns to woo his crazy-successful lady?

Wendy said...

AJ: I'm waiting for the book where the heroine returns to the small town, spends time there, recalls why she left in the first place, and then convinces the hero to return to the Big Bad City with her. So far, no dice.