by Sydney Landon, contemporary (2013, reissue)
Signet, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-451-41961-3
Sydney Landon's Weekends Required is the first in a series of previously self-published efforts, which sold well enough to be bought by Signet for reissue in mass market paperback form. Since the author doesn't write about stupid new girls in college falling for tattooed bad boys, this one naturally has to be about a personal assistant making beautiful love, "it's not unprofessional and definitely not sexual harassment if the guy is hot and loaded" style, to her billionaire boss.
Claire Walters needs an excuse to sleep with the boss without us romance readers accusing her of being a gold digging strumpet, so the author gives her several excuses. One, Claire's a brunette, so naturally this means she is not a whore as we all know only blondes can be whores. Two, Claire's mother has type 1 diabetes and she is also showing signs of senile dementia, so Claire has to make lots and lots of money to keep her dear mother medicated yet happy. Three, their house is very expensive to maintain, but naturally selling it is out of the question, so Claire has to use the money she is making to make sure that every shingle is shiny. Because of all this, she works not only as a personal assistant to Jason Danvers, the lord and master of Danvers International, she also jumps out of birthday cakes during bachelor parties. Oh don't worry, she's not a whore, because the only cream she comes in contact during those nightly gigs is that from the cake.
It's very important that we understand that Claire is not a whore, because this defining statement will be iterated at key moments throughout this story. Someone has to understand this, because Jason doesn't at first. Claire has to accompany him to his family home so that she can help him sort out an important contract (he has to attend a wedding, you see), and she also sneaks off for that cake-and-me-oh-glory-hee gig one night under false pretenses. Surprise, the bachelor party is attended by Jason! Jason is like, oh, that chick's hot... wait, she's his PA, so that means she's a whore! How dare she? He'll fire her, but first, he'll paw her, maul her, get a kiss from her - she's a whore, you see, so she won't mind - and... well, it's clearly true love from thereon.
Naturally, Claire's inner wholesomeness soon has Jason realizing that she's not a whore, only a damsel in dire financial straits. He offers to help her, and Claire refuses to accept, because she won't be anyone's charity, oh no. Besides, clearly he just wants her to put out and he's using money to crack open her honeypot. So no, no money, no easy! At the same time, she will not get involved with Jason because her job is important to her and... oops, how on earth did she end up naked under him again?
Let's start with the good stuff. The story is pretty readable in a "I can't stop doing heroin" way, because there is enough train wreck factor in the whole thing to keep me turning the pages. There is a larger than life soap opera quality to the story that is hard to resist, Also, Claire for the most part is a tolerable heroine despite her personality and issues being straight out of stereotype country, mostly because she has a self-depreciating sense of humor when it comes to her personal drama.
Unfortunately, Jason is standard creepy dude material with his fortune and looks supposedly making his antics palatable. His Madonna/Whore complex is already annoying enough, but it becomes disquieting when it is projected onto his personal assistant - one that cannot afford to lose her job - in a professional setting. There is a predatory aspect to this relationship that is supposed to be appealing because he has a flat stomach and a fat wallet. Right now, the author isn't capable of pulling this off.
Well, I said that because this story is written in a manner best described as "unpolished" if I want to be kind. The narrative could use a few more rounds of hammering. For example, the characters in this book repeat the names of one another very often, sometimes in every other line of conversation, so much so that reading their conversations can grate on the nerves. The author also has a tendency to treat her story like a personal journal of her main characters, bombarding me with mundane details about clothing, nail polish, and such that do not add anything to that particular scene.
I also have to run to the author's website to see how old she is, because reading this book gives me the impression that it was written by an elderly person trying too hard to sound hip. Jack is called "Hot Buns", for example, and I am hard-pressed to imagine many supposedly hip and outgoing women using that phrase to describe a hot guy these days. When it comes to name-dropping, I'm all for it, but the author's concept of "hip labels" seem restricted to Hot Topic, ugh.
It is after these two have sex that the story starts to really lose me. The author piles on the drama based on tedious misunderstanding and jumping to wrong conclusions on the slightest provocation. The heroine turns stupid overnight after sleeping with Jason, coming up with weird justifications as to why she is a horrible person and Jason can't possibly want her just to keep the pages coming. These parts are the parts where this book fit every negative stereotype of a self-published romance novel.
Having said all this, Weekends Required shows some signs that the author can come up with something good if she cares to improve, so I may stick around a while longer to see what she has up her sleeves next.
This book at Amazon.com
This book at Amazon UK
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