by Dee Tenorio, contemporary (2010)
Samhain Publishing, $5.50, ISBN 978-1-60504-983-0
Jessica Saunders is going to dump Lucas Lonnigan. For four months, she has gone through the motions of dating that guy. Dinner is pleasant, the talk about business is fine, and the chemistry is completely absent. They haven't progressed beyond making out and she suspects that both parties are not interested in taking things further. She wants to seek out a guy who turns on her engines and make her purr, so she's going to move on.
But when the story opens, Jessica is started to realize that the Lucas who shows up on what she has decided to be their last date is different, somehow. He looks... seems... feels... sexier, more attractive. Even the smallest gesture like his kissing her cheek sends shivers of excitement down her spine straight to that place. Still, she's going to dump him, so she's not going to sleep with him. She's not going to pounce on him and have her way with him. No, no, no... oh, yes, it is really good and axis of the earth probably tilted a few degrees by the time they are done.
I am jarred out of the story when they decide that it's okay that he skips the use of a condom because she's on the pill. Sigh. I've said before that an author should skip all mention of condoms altogether if she wants her characters to have unprotected sex, because it is not accurate to say that taking the pill is an alternative to the use of rubber. The pill won't protect her from any STDs he may be carrying. This is stated on any legitimate health website on the Web. Therefore, an author should go all or nothing here. Have the characters have sex the "old fashioned" way and not mention condoms at all, or have the characters mention and use a condom. Doing things halfway is just silly. It is, after all, a stretch to expect readers to accept what is essentially a scientifically inaccurate concept easily debunked by a visit to a health website. Anyway, rant over. I'm deducting five points from the final score because of this.
Okay, back to the story. Our hero feels bad, and not because he has slept with a woman who foolishly assumed that her pill can protect her from any gonorrhea that he may be carrying. (And Ms Tenorio made this guy a playboy!) This is because he is actually Kyle, Lucas's twin brother, and he just can't tell Jessica who he really is as they are boinking like rabbits in her place. He sneaks out of her apartment feeling like a low down dirty coward, and gets reamed both by Lucas and Jessica when they quickly find out what he had done.
The joke is on him, though. He wants to explore a steady relationship with Jessica. Jessica however isn't looking for a steady relationship, and she certainly doesn't want anything to with him after what had happened. Kyle will have work his way back into her good graces.
It is very easy to be cynical about All Of You: the above mentioned condom faux pas, the presence of an intrusive and meddlesome elderly matchmaking character who does what she does because she is the author inserting herself into the story, and some clichéd moments. But at the same time, the chemistry and the rapport between Kyle and Jessica are fantastic. These two have a great thing going as they can fight, laugh, and love in a manner that convinces me that they are just perfect for each other. This is why I'm disappointed by the presence of the meddling matchmaker character - she may be there for comic relief for some readers, but to me, the attraction between Kyle and Jessica is combustible and convincing enough for the author to build on it without resorting to uninspired contrivances.
In the end, All Of You seems like an embryo of a great story that somehow doesn't truly take off because the author has included some elements that jar me out of the story. There is no denying the potent chemistry between the main characters, however. They make me smile and even feel happy, as silly as that may sound, and as a result, I have a very good time reading this book despite its flaws. My heart wants to give this book a higher rating because of how ridiculously happy this book makes me feel, but alas, I have a reputation to uphold. It won't do for me to be seen as a pushover, so let's see, after deducting the five points and a few extra points here and there, this book gets...
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