REVIEW: All of You by Dee Tenorio
Dear Ms. Tenorio:
I recall reading and enjoying one of your earliest works, but since then I confess that nothing has quite struck my interest like the first one. When you sent me All of You, I opened it to read the first page, which is what I do with nearly every book sent to me. And this time I was engaged. I read the second page, the third, and before long I was through the first chapter.
Jessica meets with her on again / off again boyfriend, Lucas with the intention of breaking up with him. Lucas won’t be disappointed. Sometimes they go for weeks without talking, let alone meeting in person and sharing any physical intimacy. Yet, that evening Lucas is different.
Because the story is supposed to be about the insides of a person, it seemed strange that Jessica’s first hint that something is different about Lucas is outward. His chest looks broader, his smile is wider, she can’t stop looking at him. But as dinner progresses, Lucas starts treating her differently. He shows more interest in her work, seems more interested in her as a person, rather than just a convenient dinner companion. Even his manner of eating seemed different. He was partaking of the food with some sort of joy and reverence rather than perfunctorily shoveling his dinner down.
Jessica wonders at the change in his attitude, his seeming new lease on life. This new Lucas is not someone she can resist and so instead of breaking up with him, Jessica brings him back to her apartment.
Of course, Lucas is not Lucas, but his twin brother Kyle. And while Kyle knows that it is all kinds of wrong to go to bed with Jessica when she thinks he is her boyfriend Lucas, Kyle cannot resist. He keeps intending to tell her, but there is never the right moment. Of course, this intentional misunderstanding rightly angers Jessica when the truth comes out the following day.
Kyle is ready to settle down. He’s done with the flighty superficial women and wants someone who will be a good partner and a good mother. Lucas, to get back at his brother for impersonating him, proceeds to inform Jessica of Kyle’s little list. Needless to say, Kyle has a high mountain to climb to get into Jess’ good graces. Good thing that Jessica’s secretary is ready and willing to give Kyle all kinds of instructions on how to lay siege to the Jessica fortress.
I loved the message of the story which was that the packaging of a person can be deceiving. Kyle and Lucas look identical, but underneath their skin, they are very different individuals. Kyle projects a certain aura of being care free and a little careless, but he’s ready for more responsibility, such as a family, but preconceptions are hard to shake off, particularly those built over years and years.
Jessica’s issues are more internal. She has preconceived ideas about herself. She thinks she is incapable of loving someone or being loved. While she might be able to have intermittent sexual fulfillment, she wouldn’t commit to a long term relationship with someone like Kyle because it wouldn’t be fair to him.
I did think that there could have been more subtlety in the conflict and for all the efforts to say that the story was about how what is underneath the skin that matters, I felt that there was a lot of reliance placed on external looks and sexual attraction. At one point, Jessica confronts Kyle about how he can be so sure of her without knowing anything about her. I thought that was a good question but one that was ducked by Kyle’s ‘I just know you’ response. By that time, he had only known Jessica for a few days and really didn’t know much about her. I thought the very risque cover was a bit misleading. This is a sexy romance, but no more erotic than a Blaze. B-