Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Review: That Thing Called Love by Susan Andersen

That Thing Called Love by Susan Andersen
published by Harlequin (HQN Books) in July 2012
He’s the last man on earth she should want…

For a guy she’s fantasized about throttling, Jake Bradshaw sure is easy on the eyes. In fact, he seriously tempts inn manager Jenny Salazar to put her hands to better use. Except this is the guy who left Razor Bay—and his young son, Austin, who Jenny adores like her own—to become a globetrotting photojournalist. He can’t just waltz back and claim Austin now.

Jake was little more than a kid himself when he became a dad. Sure, he'd dreamed of escaping the resort town, but he’d also truly believed that Austin was better off with his grandparents. Now he wants—no, needs—to make up for his mistake. He intends to stay in Razor Bay only until he can convince Austin to return with him to New York. Trouble is, with sexy, protective, utterly irresistible Jenny in his life, and his bed, he may never want to leave...
Genre: Contemporary romance
Series: Razor Bay series, Book #1

The Story: The blurb for That Thing Called Love is quite accurate. As far as Jake Bradshaw could remember, he always wanted to get away from Razor Bay and had the chance when he got a baseball scholarship for college. When his high school sweetheart got pregnant, Jake manned up and did the right thing: he put aside his dreams, married her and went to work for her parents at the inn. However, nothing had prepared Jake to become a widower or a father and when his in-laws gave him an out, Jake took it. He truly believed that his son was in better hands with his in-laws and when he was told not to come back, he listened, shoving the guilt aside. Now that his in-laws have passed away, Jake realizes that staying away was a mistake and he really wants to connect with his son and take care of him. But once he shows up in Razor Bay, he is met with a hostile teen and a not very welcoming inn manager.

Jenny Salazar came to Razor Bay at the lowest point of her life: a sixteen years old girl who had to take care of her mother who's gone catatonic after Jenny's father has been arrested for a Ponzi scheme. She has worked her way up in the inn and will always be grateful to the Pierces for giving her a chance. Through the years, she got very close to Austin and now, they share a sister-brother relationship. With the Pierces' deaths, she has stepped in as Austin's guardians, but her plans are disrupted when Jake shows up out of the blues to claim his son. At first, Jenny has every intentions to fight for Austin; however, not being blood-related to him, she'd never win custody - especially if Jake wants it. As it is for Austin's best, she agrees to help Jake establishes a relationship with Austin and prepares him to the eventuality of moving away. Still, she doesn't have to like the guy... and it'd be good if her body could remember that detail.

My Opinion: I really enjoy Ms Andersen's books and that's why she is on my list of auto-buy authors :) Every  year, I look forward to the summer, because I know there'll be a new release of hers to read. While I love Ms Andersen's writing, I do not love all of her books equally; I do think some are better than others like Just for Kicks and Playing Dirty. Unfortunately, That Thing Called Love was not part of that group :(

Let starts with the positives of That Thing Called Love :) I feel this book was all about the characters and in that respect, Ms Andersen did a good job. I think like I got to know the H/H because both were well developed and fleshed out. Jenny was likable and self-assured when it came to business and Austin, but I liked seeing the vulnerabilities. And I really applaud her for standing up to her father, that was brave. She was a very good heroine, but I feel I didn't totally connect with her and that might have to do with the romance. As for Jake, he wasn't that likable, but at least, I got a good idea of what shaped him and that made up for it. I liked that Jake was conscious of his mistakes and felt guilty about them, but he still didn't like to be called out for it by Jenny - that was very realistic to me. I also liked that Jake didn't have it easy reconnecting with Austin and had to work for it and that Jake was willing to spend the time to do it right. Of course, he could have done more... but after all, no matter what Austin said, he did crave for a father. Something interesting as well about that Thing Called Love is that we got to see Austin's POV and what was going through his mind and that made me appreciated the story even more. His little romance was also very cute :) Another element that I enjoyed was Jake and his half-brother's relationship. I liked seeing these two men getting to know each other as grown-ups and put aside the past. So overall, I definitively think Ms Andersen did a great job with the characters, the relationships and the interactions.

She also did a good job with the setting as I find myself enjoying it quite a bit. It had a bit of the small-town vibe, but without all the quirky characters and drama, combined with the vacation town vibe, but without the "it's dead during the summer" syndrome. The setting was not ground-breaking, but it was done right as Ms Andersen didn't oversell Razor Bay and as a result, it gave That Thing Called Love a good atmosphere :)

I think where this book falters is the romance ^_^; I get the attraction between Jenny and Jake - I mean, that's always good for the start of a romance between two strangers right? I also appreciate that Jenny and Jake didn't give in their attraction too fast and jump into bed together despite the situation. I mean after all, Jenny had years of bad opinion of Jake to overcome. I don't even mind the conflict which is basically Jake's fear of commitment because it's true, he doesn't know how to be a father, he doesn't know how to be in a relationship and so on. What didn't work for me is that I felt Jenny and Jake had no chemistry together. Perhaps if there'd been more scenes of them acting as a couple, it could have help. However, it was not the case in That Thing Called Love. Most of the time, they were at odds with each other... and suddenly, I'm supposed to believe that after a few nights in bed together, Jenny has fallen in love with Jake. Yep, not happened. I just didn't understand why Jenny would be in love with Jake. They had not spent enough time together and didn't know each other enough for me to believe in it. And as a result, I felt the romance was quite superficial. Also, Jake's 180 degrees turn at the end of the book was hard to believe ^_^;

I think another problem that I had with That Thing Called Love is that based on the cover, I was expecting something a bit more fun, a bit more summer-y and it was not the case. The only thing that could qualify as summer is Austin's baseball league LOL. The rest of the issues the characters dealt with were rather serious. It would have been better for this book to have a cover that fit.

My Grade: C. All in all, That Thing Called Love was not one of Ms Andersen's best books, but it had the potential to be if the romance had been stronger.