REVIEW: All or Nothing by Claire Cross
Dear Ms. Cross:
I read this one against my will. I had started your last book, One More Time but then stopped after the first three chapters which featured a lawyer basically throwing a case because he believed his client was guilty. When I received All or Nothing, I was sure I didn’t want to read it but I read the back blurb
Jen Maitland never had any use for handsome guys with easy charm until she met Zach. He’s the perfect fake date to end her mother’s matchmaking scheme before it starts. The only problem is that Zach isn’t as predictable as he appears…
Zach Coxwell hates commitment, but loves a challenge. Like the pretty bar waitress who turned him down flat for a date-only to invite him to her family’s Thanksgiving dinner. Zach knows he can make Jen smile, and he’s betting that he can unravel her mysteries.
I thought I would give it a try and read just the first chapter. The first chapter turned into three or more and I found myself lugging the book around the house and reading it covertly in my office.
Jen Maitland is a young woman who also happens to be a breast cancer survivor. While the cancer is gone, the taint of still hovers over Jean. She can’t make places for the future because she is afraid that there will be no future. Having lost a breast and a fiance, Jen hides behind a day to day routine, refusing to engage in any activity that may require long term commitment. Jen’s family loves her dearly and believes she just needs a little push to get started.
Jen is conned into getting a date for Thanksgiving by her matchmaking mama. Cin, Jen’s sister, and she cook up a plan for Jen to find the most repulsive man possible to present to her family: to wit, rich, ambitious, and carnivorous.
Zach Cowell is lunching at the restaurant where Jen waits tables. She overhears his friends call him a trust fund baby and thinks Zach is the perfect solution to her mother’s pressure. Zach, however, is not all that he seems. He is the black sheep of his wealthy family and, unfortunately, such a gentleman that all Jen’s plans go awry when her family begins to fall for him.
Zach, believing his past recklessness to be the cause of his father’s suicide, is at a crossroads in his life. He hasn’t done much in the past and he is not sure of what to do in the future, but the more time he spends with Jen, the more he sees that he can be a better person. He is happy to play along with the fake engagement as he sees it as a way to keep Jen close to him. He wants the fake engagement to grow into something more permanent. Jen’s a bit resistant. She has set in her mind that Zach, if not a pretend boyfriend, is just a fling.
There’s a great scene in the book where Zach and Jen tell some painful truths to each other but come out with a realization of the hangups that keep them from growing. It is easy to see that Jen and Zach make a better unit together than individually, that each one’s strengths complement the other’s weakness.
There are flaws, of course. The setup is a bit contrived. I.e., simply because you bring home a dog to your cat loving mom doesn’t mean she isn’t still going to try to get you to set up house with a cat. Zach’s estrangement from his family went on for at least a year and then was suddenly resolved. The biggest problem was the length of the book and the inclusion of unnecessary scenes which hampered the pacing. But, this story about recovery, growth and love was touching and I enjoyed the time I spent reading it. B