Over lunch I read Susan Donovan’s novella in this anthology – it’s a novella, a complete story, so fear not. I think the Dahl story is the only tease in the book. There were moments when I empathized totally with the characters, and there were moments when the hero or heroine would do something so jarring I’d blink at the page to make sure I’d seen that correctly, but in all, it soothed the ire of being teased by an incomplete story. Like I said earlier, I’m glad I read them in reverse order.
Professor Gail Chapman is a divorced mom of a teenage daughter, getting over being cheated on then finding out her ex-husband has embezzled a few million from his company. The story opens with her daughter, Holly, begging to go away alone with her best friend, Hannah, and Gail repeatedly saying there is no way. Then Gail has the idea of going to Key West, and bringing Holly and Hannah with her for spring break.
Things fall into place perfectly: a last minute cancellation gets them a great bungalow rental. Holly and Hannah are more interested in doing their own thing, and Gail is left to explore and experience her vacation the way she wants. When she meets the hunka-hot-mc-stud next door neighbor, Jesse, her vacation gets kinda awesome in a hurry.
Jesse has a secret that he doesn’t let on to Gail (which, with her ex husband, dude, come on, you know that’s got to be a bad idea): he’s a best selling mystery author, with a scandal in his past (dude, REALLY, come ON) and a definite feeling of OH HELL NO when it comes to getting involved with someone who is only in the Keys for a vacation.
Jesse and Gail are, of course, poleaxed (I really like that word – sounds like a really violent and huge penny dropping on your head) by one another, since it is a novella, and despite a deadline (Oh noes!), Jesse puts aside his work to show Gail the best vacation of her life.
There are some scenes that are very fun and cute, like when Jesse and Gail are trying to one-up each other on Hemingway trivia during a tour, and when he surprises her with opportunities to swim with dolphins or have a dance lesson on the beach.
There were moments where I thought Hannah was going to morph in to Evil Slut Best Friend Bad Influence Girl, but she didn’t. The scenes of role reversal where Holly is appalled and concerned for her mom, who appears to be having FUN with a GUY, like OMG, are really cute and show that Holly does care about her mom.
But what jarred me most was that every now and again, Gail or Jesse would take a GIANT LEAP FORWARD in plot development by saying or doing something that was crazy. Gail spends a lot of time feeling like the room is spinning because she’s overwhelmed by her feelings, or overwhelmed by her own hornypants, and she’s literally in a daze so often in some chapters I’m amazed she didn’t walk into a wall. Jesse, for some odd reason, finds this hot. Jesse also has that strange romance hero habit of busting out with some dirty talk in a hot scene when otherwise, his dialogue doesn’t really seem to indicate that verbally he’d bust out with the raunchy.
In order to move them closer together, both Gail and Jesse take actions or say things that seem unrealistic, and I wish that my immersion in the story wasn’t interrupted by strange dialogue or moments where I thought Gail would fall down the stairs from the force of her emotional reverie. In the end, I rooted for them, but I didn’t believe they were fully real, if that makes sense, and I didn’t get the a complete picture of either one.