Publication Date: August 2, 2011
Genre: Contemporary Romance
It’s time to move on…
Any day now Jon Adamson will pack his bags and hit the road. After all, his intention was never to hang around Melbourne once he’d settled his late father’s affairs. Yet he hasn’t moved on. And it might have something to
do with Gabby Wade. The not-so-big office manager with the really big attitude is making Jon’s days…interesting…engaging…fun. It’s impossible for him to resist her.
But he knows himself—long-term commitments and cozy family dinners aren’t his style. If that’s what the future holds, why is he still here? And why is he spending all his days—and nights—with Gabby? Because maybe she’s the one reason strong enough to make him stay.
What if you discovered that all you ever wanted were the things you’d left behind?
John Adamson has come home to Australia to sell the family home and scrape off any ties he might have to his dead father. The lone exception to the purge is his younger brother Tyler, who manages to get him to come to Melbourne and accept a job creating furniture at his store and stay for a while. The brothers’ relationship is tenuous at best, made worse by Jon’s last ten years spent living in Canada, and Tyler is hoping that they can get closer to each other.
Jon’s first day at the store doesn’t start well when he manages to completely irritate Tyler’s office manager just by getting caught using her computer. Gabby Wade likes being in control and finding a strange man sitting in her office at her desk sets her off. Finding out he’s the boss’ brother only makes things worse – she’ thinks he’s obnoxious, overbearing and uses his relationship to do what he wants. He thinks she’s a rather plain shrew who’d cut off her own nose to spite her face and the insults fly between them. When he openly mistakes her for a lesbian though, Gabby realizes how stuck in her own past she’d become.
Four years earlier, Gabby ended a long-term relationship with Tyler and she still hasn’t finished getting over him even though he’s moved on, fallen in love with and married Ally. Determined to start over, she changes her looks and draws Jon’s eye. Their biting and sniping at each other turns into what Gabby thinks is the start of a relationship when she and Jon start having sex. He seems determined to make sure that’s all it is though – sex. He refuses to open up about the nightmares he has or his family’s past and he always seems to be holding pieces of him away from her. She ended her relationship with Tyler for the same reason – she has to decide whether Jon’s worth accepting that she’ll never have all of him.
This is a story that deals with the aftermath of physical and emotional abuse and it was one of the most emotional books I’ve read in the past month or so. I went through quite a few Kleenex in the last quarter of the story. I didn’t put much of what happens with it in my synopsis because it’s just easier to go into it when talking about the characters – it’s tough stuff, but Mayberry handles it beautifully and while in any other story I’d have been upset by way the couple went back and forth, in the context of Jon’s past it made sense.
The story got off to a very slow start. There was a book ahead of this one about Tyler and Ally that I hadn’t read but I don’t think it would have made any difference. Most of the early space was taken up with Gabby bristling at Jon, Jon being hangdog and moping, Gabby defending the way she looked, Jon growling at her for not being able to accept anyone’s help. In short, Gabby was really crabby and Jon was a little self-pitying and overly-nice to her.
That’s not to say I didn’t like Gabby but she took some time to warm up to. She was extremely prickly, taking offense anytime anyone offered to do anything for her and blaming it on her mother who apparently raised her daughters to be militant about taking care of themselves with no help. It was a little sad to read about her own pain when watching how happy Tyler was with his wife Ally contrasted with how lonely she was. I wanted to bean him sometimes for being so insensitive around her and treating her like the furniture he sold. The Gabby who was in the relationship with Jon was heartbreaking, sometimes just as much as he was.
The heart of the story was obviously Jon. He started the story clearly outwardly damaged, drunk and destroying the family home when Tyler found him. When Tyler got him back to Melbourne and he realized the state he’d been, in he bitterly put himself under complete control, tried to retreat away from everyone when he wasn’t working and avoid any messy emotional scenes when he was with people. Gabby pushed his buttons and forced him to interact with her. Even though the abuse he and Tyler had suffered at the hands of their father had come up during the book, it wasn’t until he started seeing Gabby that it became so hard to read. I was grabbing my Kleenex from the first time he wouldn’t let her comfort him through the revelation about why he couldn’t talk about the abuse with Tyler to his happily ever after with Gabby. The post-traumatic effects of what happened to Jon were so well-written, not overwrought or over the top but something I really could see happening to people like Jon and Tyler.
My Summary: If you can get past the slow start and Gabby’s initial bad impression, this is a beautiful if occasionally difficult story about a survivor of abuse overcoming his fears and exorcizing his demons for the woman he loves. It’s haunting, funny, sexy, sweet, sad and uplifting and the happy ending is satisfying and felt exactly right. My one warning is that you should have lots of tissues on hand.
My Rating: A-