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REVIEW: New Life by Bonnie Dee

Dear Ms. Dee:

Thank you for sending “New Life” for review at Dear Author. I was immediately fascinated by the storyline of a young man, Jason Reitmiller, whose promising future was cut short when he suffered brain damage in a motor vehicle collision. Jason now works as a night janitor in the building where the heroine’s law firm is housed.

New Life by Bonnie DeeIndividuals with brain damage have varying degrees of issues and so Jason’s symptomatology seemed believable; however, there was slippage at times. His issues manifest into poor impulse control, lack of concentration, and anger but sometimes it comes across as just general douchebaggery such as when Jason is in informal group therapy and pretends that he is guilt ridden at the loss of his brother in the car accident. He has no brother.

But in a scene at his sister’s softball game, Jason struggles with the proximity of the crowd, his aching hip, and the constant worry of his parents that he’s functioning like a five year old.  Jason explains that routines fill his life and one step outside the routine can result in ruination.

Many of the things I used to do aren’t possible for me anymore. Simple functions I once did with a fraction of my attention take much longer and require concentration. If I lose focus on each step of taking a shower, for example, I’m likely to go around all day with conditioner in my hair.

More interesting to me was the class struggle between Jason the janitor and Anna Stevens, the lawyer. Her co worker mocks her for having a fetish and suggests she is lowering herself to be with Jason.

“Bullshit. He wasn’t testing the chair for a squeak. Looked like you guys were having a conversation and that’s…weird.”

I stabbed the cherry in my drink with a toothpick over and over. “Why would it be so weird to have a conversation with the guy?”

“Oh my God, tell me you’re not into him. He’s the janitor.”

“So what?” I looked at her. “We live in a classless society.”

“Except we don’t. Not really. And anyway, the guy’s got mental issues, doesn’t he? You can’t honestly be thinking of tapping that.”

Anna, a new lawyer, feels the pressure acutely to fit in and look the part. Being with Jason presents Anna with two conflicting emotions. On the one hand, there are no expectations with Jason. On the other hand, Jason’s tendency toward quick rage and lack of impulse control can result in real embarrassment for her.  But their attraction toward each other is very strong and it is clear the two enjoy the time spent together outside the bedroom.  Anna and Jason’s story doesn’t end with the traditional marriage and babies but the ending fits their relationship.  However, there are a couple of scenes at the end of the story which made me doubt the permanency of the relationship.  Still, I felt this romance was definitely something outside the ordinary and I appreciated that.  B-

Best regards,


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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Tori
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 12:06:04

    I too enjoyed this story and thought Dee did a good job, but struggled with some of Jason’s actions. I was ever quite sure if it was a result of his injury or just his personality in general.

  2. Jane
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 12:07:54

    @Tori – Right because he was a douchebag before and after. Kind of inconstant boyfriend before and after as well.

  3. Dabney
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 12:24:52

    Does Anna really think we live in a classless society?

  4. JanetW
    Apr 21, 2013 @ 15:21:37

    Due to my own stupidity, I lost a good long comment–so trying again, what towards the end made you doubt the permanancy of their relationship? Also, was his behaviour douchy for a a) romance hero or b) for his age-group or c) for his disability–because poor impulse control/getting carried away because of getting a bit plastered/self-medicating–all those things seem believable for b & c. I liked this book a lot–especially the two steps forward/one step backward approach to his “new life”.

    Also, the same lawyer who made the comment about a classless society (which I don’t think there is although we might dispute what class means or how it’s arrived at), also compared Jason to a war vet with issues. Good analogy. Lastly, I thought one of their first interactions, talking about music, showed how genuine was their rapport — as much as he liked her, he didn’t equivocate about his taste. I also thought his broad-minded approach to the lost souls of society was impressive and all too rare.

  5. Anne
    Apr 22, 2013 @ 07:26:32

    I read this one and liked it overall but also had issues with the ending. My biggest complaint was that not much had changed, and when I imagine their future, I see the same problems happening again and again and again.

  6. Jane
    Apr 22, 2013 @ 09:01:45

    @JanetW: I doubted the permanency because of the separation and the things that had happened, particularly to the hero, right before the end. His poor impulse control, for example, would undoubtedly lead to him doing things that might hurt the heroine and the distance between the two would probably lead the heroine to move on to other men. I think it was a good relationship for both of them, but I doubted it would last.

  7. Janet W
    Apr 22, 2013 @ 14:40:36

    Anne said,

    My biggest complaint was that not much had changed, and when I imagine their future, I see the same problems happening again and again and again.

    I’m very interested in adults who have to deal, on an ongoing basis, with disabilities and differences — how do they compensate, cope, thrive and, to paraphrase Freud, find love and work? When we first meet Jason he has a job as a night janitor but he’s very isolated, having no companionship on the job but his music. He doesn’t remember much about his life prior to the accident–his parents pretty much annoy him–he’s not doing too well with his support group–I could go on. So what changes at the end? Quite a bit — a) Jason is working at a job that suits him better than working as a janitor and if they stay together, who knows, maybe they’ll invest in a doggy daycare franchise. They say service industries are an expanding sector. b) Both families and where they both work are aware of the relationship. Jason has mended fences with his father/become reacquainted with people from his past c) is voluntarily helping a therapy buddy with his hobby shop (and yes, still displaying a bit of douche but still …). I figure yeah, no guarantees but some stumbling blocks in relationships are taken care of, like secrecy, wonky finances, incompatibility in bed, fighting over the home front chores — they’ve sorted those ones out.

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