Jessica Hart‘s “Juggling Briefcase & Baby” (contemporary romance): It has been years since I’ve read a category romance. Seriously. And I was going to say I didn’t know where I first heard of this one, but I can see a Goodreads review from Nath, so it must have been at her blog – and then I spotted it on sale for only £0.80 at Amazon UK (by the way, some really good prices for Kindle ebooks on Amazon UK now).
And *pauses for breath* I really liked this book, and it may be enough to get me back into the category romance habit again.
This is a sequel to Ms Hart’s “Oh-So-Sensible Secretary”, which I haven’t read, but I didn’t feel I was missing out on much – it’s very much a standalone. Alexander “Lex” Gibson is flying up to Scotland to close a business deal for his company, and Romy is a last-minute stand-in for the acquisitions director. With no time to make alternative arrangements, she ends up having to bring her baby, Freya, with her. Awkward enough, and made worse by the fact that Lex and Romy shared a week in Paris years ago, ending with Romy firmly turning down Lex’s proposal of marriage.
So standard category romance fare, but what I really liked was how Ms Hart played around with the usual romance tropes. Yes, Romy has a baby, but it’s not Lex’s. You have the uptight corporate executive and the free-spirited temp, except their POVs reveal very different sides to their characters.
In fact, this story started off in Lex’s POV, which was a refreshing change (is this something that’s becoming common in category romances, by the way?). I loved having both the hero and heroine’s POVs in this story – it certainly gave more insight into their feelings. There was angst aplenty, though I would say there was possibly one too many buried issues in both Lex’s and Romy’s pasts that were used to create conflicts.
As a counterbalance to the angst, you do have the fact Lex is very much not the paternal sort, in fact, he is very much averse to all things baby, which (a) makes for some rather hilarious scenes and (b) makes the inevitable realisation that he actually cares for Freya all the much more satisfying (this is obviously not a spoiler because it is a romance and there will be a HEA).
I liked the British setting, which went beyond mere mention of geographical place names – for instance, there was reference to the big four as competitors to Lex’s supermarket company, the secondary characters’ names that were “right” (okay, Lex and Romy aren’t exactly standard British names, but they get a pass as they’re the h/h) – and also how the corporate backdrop was realistic. You know how sometimes it’s blatantly obvious the author has no experience of a corporate environment and is just making it up? This wasn’t like that – sure, it wasn’t exactly your everyday working life, what with the private jet and all, but at the same time, it wasn’t an anachronistic view of an office environment. And when Lex decides to rescue Freya from the crèche at work, he didn’t just walk out with her. Even though he’s the chief executive, there was still a phone call to Romy to get the mother’s permission first.
Combined with a believable romance, it was little touches like this that kept the story grounded in reality and feeling current (mixed in with the moments where you do have to suspend disbelief admittedly), which added to my enjoyment and kept me completely engrossed for an hour or so.
More Jessica Hart for me, I think.