Through total coincidence, I’ve read a lot of reconciliation romance, which is totally fine with me as I love to read romances featuring people growing wiser, healing and repairing relationships. This was another romance after a few in a row featuring a couple that endured a long separation, during which they grew up a little, and learned to appreciate each other better than when they’d originally connected.
But the difficult balance of reconciliation is to explain to the reader where the hero and heroine put that ardor, love and trusting attraction for 10 or 12 years. In this case, Jianne and Jacob were married 12 years prior and they separated. Jianne had left her marriage with Jacob for a number of reasons, some of which were based on misunderstandings and some of which were based on pride and hurt.
When they get back together this time, it is because of an overly-attentive suitor who looks at Jianne as his next challenge and a possession to be acquired, and is pretty much stalking her to get her to agree to go out with him. Jianne knows Jacob can protect her, but she doesn’t want to go to him for help.
After only a few days in the same home, their attraction for one another is too much for them to resist – and the author does a spanking good job of building that attraction in small moments and steps – and they end up ferociously kissing one another.
I’m all for ferociously kissing but it seemed after the kissing and the whatallelse, the troubles of 12 years were too easily solved. One conversation, a few moments where one of them had to choose a different behavior or reaction than they would have displayed previously during their early marriage, and some red hot kissing does not make a solution to 12 years of estrangement. It was almost too easy a repair.
Moreover, there seemed to be heaping pile of backstory I was missing. I got glimpses of Jacob’s history with his siblings, and how Jianne came to join their family, but and how there was a huge fracture when she left. Backflashes weren’t quite enough for me – I always felt like I was missing the whole picture. And if the damage was so great when their marriage fractured, why was it so easy to put back together? If it was surprisingly easy to put them back together, why stay apart and miserable for 12 years? And what really happened to break them apart – what happened in the moments when she left?
Even with the incomplete picture that led me to question Jacob and Jianne’s motivations, the writing is supreme. The setting in Singapore, revealing both the opulent wealthy people and the people living on top of one another in small and tightly-gathered neighborhoods, was endlessly fascinating. The ancillary characters who showed up for moments or scenes seemed real to me, and I could imagine Jacob in a neighbor’s restaurant, talking catering and food while chatting about the neighbors, too. The explanations never felt too heavy or made me feel as if all the details had to be explained to me as someone who had never been to Singapore and was unfamiliar with Asian social customs. Plus, Jianne’s dialogue and the descriptions of her were a finely-crafted portrait of a contemporary Asian woman. I was not hit over the head with the “SHE IS ASIAN GET IT? LET ME DESCRIBE HER EYES AGAIN, SEE?” descriptions – thank heavens. Jianne’s conversation with a shopkeeper in Singapore, in particular, reveals so much about her perspective, as do the mentions of various languages spoken by the characters, Jianne included.
I particularly liked the scenes where Jianne went shopping, especially with her sister-in-law, and how her purchase of anything was likely to be an issue with Jacob, who was uncomfortable with her fortune.
I would not have expected to like this book as much as I did, since it was the end of a series, and I was being introduced to characters that were from previous books that I hadn’t read. I loved Jianne’s strength, Jacob’s focus and training as a sensei that gave a unique understanding of his character and his issues, and the dojo community around them both. I wish I had more of an understanding of the backstory between them so that the depth of hurt would have been better balanced against the reconciliation between them that was so quickly bridged by their attraction. As much as I found to revel in and enjoy about this book, the missing elements were that much more irritating, and I finished it wishing there were more.