I'm starting to think I shouldn't have started reading Rachel Gibson with See Jane Score, an AAR Top 100 book I read as part of my self-imposed challenge. See Jane Score just didn't do it for me, but now that I've read 2 more, I'm really liking her books!
I like to read reviews of books after I have read them - and often I find they put into words sentiments I couldn't quite express. However, the AAR review of I'm In No Mood For Love was so totally different than my own feelings that I can't even believe we read the same book! I loved the whole book - that reviewer hated the first half, and liked the second half.
The heroine is Clare - a 30-something single romance novelist whose engagement has just been broken because she caught her fiancé having sex with someone else. The Sears repair man. In her own words, she watched:
...while the man who fixed her Maytag the day before road her fiancé like a cowboy.Yeah, that's some way to end a relationship. She wakes up the next day in a hotel room with a hangover, and she's not alone. She ponders the times this has happened to her before - ending a bad relationship with an all-night drunk and indiscriminate sex with a stranger - and then realizes the man in the room is no stranger, it's the son of her mother's full-time live-on-the-property gardener, whom she knew as a child but hasn't seen for 20+ years. Sebastian Vaughan.
Sebastian is now a renowned journalist. Sebastian's parents were divorced and as a child he lived with his mother who moved around a lot and had a string of bad relationships. He spent summers with his dad, and pretty much made a living hell of Clare's childhood, just being a typical boy - she followed him around like a puppy and he taunted her, played tricks on her, and the final blow was his telling her the truth about sex when he was 12 and she was 10. This last one pushed her uptight frigid mother into laying down the law: he was no longer welcome on her property where her dad lived. This was a blow to him, and he didn't get to see his father very much after that as a result. So he harbors some bitterness about the incident as you can imagine.
Sebastian's mother has recently died - she had a fall and died of an embolism. This really shakes him to the core, losing the one person in his life who was always there for him. It pushes him to rekindle the relationship with his father, so he goes back to visit.
He's in the hotel bar where Clare has been drinking and as a favor, he helps her up to her hotel room, and then decides to watch some tv. When she wakes up, he leads her to believe they had sex all night (but they didn't). She's mortified - and a day or so later, she realizes she not only needs to be tested for HIV but should also tell him to do so as well.
Now we have two characters, sexy Sebastian - reeking of testosterone, all-man especially in comparison to her ex-fiancé, and Clare - looking quite a lot better than she did at age 10 - drawn to each other by the sexual chemistry, but pushed apart by both their situation (her mother is his father's employer) and their inabilities to commit to another person. They finally reach a point where they decide they are Friends With Benefits - and Gibson shows her forte with some hot benefit scenes.
Clare, however, isn't really a person who can have ongoing hot sweaty sex without commitment, even though she thinks she is succeeding on that score. And Sebastian is haunted by a feeling he is missing something, something his mother looked for and finally found: a feeling of being home. He decides to stop taking international stories so he doesn't have to travel as much, and wonders if getting a dog will fill the void. Clare is finally pushed to the realization that she wants more - and that pushes Sebastian out of her life.
I guess the AAR reviewer never went through this like I did. Although I'm nothing like Clare in most ways, I felt deeply what she went through in her relationships - always the bridesmaid, never the bride. A string of men who would never love her - including, she thinks, Sebastian. Gibson created realistic, 3 dimensional characters - people who have a void in their lives that they cannot understand, and because they cannot understand it, they cannot fill it. Thank goodness it's a Romance, so they finally come to their senses!
And Gibson's writing in this book is clever and funny - I found myself laughing out loud, and going back to re-read passages more than once to laugh all over again.
I really liked this book and I'm giving it 5 star/favorite status.