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REVIEW: Down London Road by Samantha Young

Dear Ms. Young:

Last year’s On Dublin Street was one of my Top 10 picks of 2012, so I was most eager to read Down London Road. I’m delighted to say that I enjoyed it as much as I did On Dublin Street.

Down London Road by Samantha YoungJohanna Walker is a young, smart woman who has been handed a difficult lot in life. Her abusive father left when she was young after abusing her and her mother for years. After his departure, her mother fell into alcoholism and became not just a social drunk, but a 24-hour a day drunk — and a verbally abusive one at that. This leaves Jo to pay all the bills to keep them afloat and raise her younger brother, Cole, who is the light of her life. Jo works two jobs, in a solicitor’s office and as a bartender at a popular bar. She also dates older men, most of whom have money. Jo isn’t interested in marriage, but she does appreciate the gifts and money that dating a rich man can bring. She’s been with Malcolm for quite some time. Malcolm is very understanding of the chains that bind Jo to her family and is really reasonable about the demands of her life. He’s undemanding and easy going. As a result, Jo bends over backwards to keep Malcolm happy.

At a gallery showing of an artist friend of Malcolm’s, Jo makes eye contact with a man who she has an overwhelming attraction to. He’s handsome, tattooed, and dressed very casually for the event. Their eye contact is extended, and what I’d describe as “eye-fucking”. Jo is both aroused and horrified by her reaction to this mystery man. When she’s introduced to him as Cameron McCabe, the boyfriend of Malcolm’s friend the artist, she embarrassed to have had the reaction to him. When he basically calls her a whore for dating an older man with money, she’s furious and outraged. How dare this man whom she’s just met presume to know her? But when Cameron says he’s looking for work, somehow Jo’s mouth gets ahead of her and she offers to speak to the manager of the bar where she works. Sure enough, Cam is hired immediately at the bar, and now Jo has to deal with seeing him regularly.

Cam notices that Jo always has her cell phone, and assumes that she’s seeing someone on the side, besides Malcolm. Of course, Jo keeps her phone with her because her mother is a fall-down drunk and her brother is young and often left home with her, since Jo has to work. She needs the phone with her in order to be sure she’s available, should Cole need her. When Cam finds out that he’s wrong, he does apologize, and Jo tentatively accepts, but absolutely does not forget what he said. When Cam moves in downstairs from Jo’s family, he becomes party to all of Jo’s problems. Her mother strikes her brother one night while Jo is out, and Cam comes to the rescue. When he angrily confronts Jo about leaving Cole in her mother’s “tender” care, Jo’s entire story tumbles out. Cam’s compassion kicks in immediately. He and Cole seem to have a connection, so he offers to keep an eye out for him when Jo is not around. Soon he and Jo have struck up a friendship of sorts, albeit one that is charged with tremendous sexual attraction. Jo continues to try to pretend that she has no attraction for Cam, but she can barely look at him without going up in flames. At a party one night, they act on their attraction in a bathroom and kiss.

“Wha-”

“Hush.” His breath whispered against my lips and he lowered his hands until they circled my waist. “You feel this too. You’ve felt it since the night we met.”

I couldn’t find my voice, lost in a mixture of exultation that I hadn’t been alone in this from the beginning and anxiety that we were doing something wrong and we’d be caught. I licked my lips nervously.

He took it as an invitation.

My gasp was swallowed by his kiss, his mouth hot as his tongue slid against mine. Stubble scratched my skin as he deepened the kiss, and his right hand glided up my side, over my ribs, until it came to rest at my breast. His thumb brushed the underside deliberately. My skin immediately caught fire and I reached for him, my arms curling around his neck, drawing him closer. I moaned into his mouth, my heart hammering, as my senses went on overload. I could taste coffee on his tongue, smell the scent of his skin, feel his heat, his strength. I was surrounded. And I wanted more.

I forgot where we were.

Who we were.

All I cared about was climbing inside of Cam.

Our grip on each other was almost painful, our kiss hard, wet, desperate.

Right. – Kindle location:3181

After the kiss, both Jo and Cam break-up with their significant others so they can begin a relationship. But Jo has very high walls that she’s erected over a lifetime of abuse and hard knocks. She and Cam are both hot-headed and a bit jealous. And when Cam’s first love arrives on the scene, Jo immediately doesn’t take it well. She’s jealous and angry that Cam seems so thrown off by this woman’s intrusion into their lives. Will Jo be able to open up to Cam and tell him how she’s feeling? Or will she allow what’s become the most important relationship in her life wither away, as she has her relationship in the past?

This book was successful for me on a variety of levels. The first is that Jo is not always a likeable character. This is a girl who unashamedly dates men with money for the things they can provide her. She has a nasty temper, can be quite jealous and immature. But the reality of her life really balanced why she made the decisions she did. Her brother is always first in her life. She’s never caught a single break, and rather than taking the hands that are outstretched to help, she slaps them away. But she’s willing to allow these rich men to provide for her, in exchange for being an excellent girlfriend. She’s a dichotomy to me. She’s got a ridiculously good heart, but is also sometimes quite difficult to pull for. Cameron is not necessarily the best hero ever either. He’s judgmental, difficult and can be closed off at times. But you do such a good job of building their friendship and the ridiculously incendiary chemistry between the two of them, that I was desperate for them to find some happiness. This is not a heart and flowers, easy reading romance. The characters are tough to like at times, but their motivations always read purely to me, and it made them both very likable. In the end, the story ends happily and with both the Cameron and Jo having grown up and together along the way. Down London Road gets a B+ from me.

Kind regards,

Kati

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Kati

I've been reading romance for more than 30 years and reviewing regularly for the last five. My first romance was Irish Thoroughbred by Nora Roberts, and once I read it, I was a goner. I read most subgenres of romance (except inspirational and steampunk) but focus mostly on contemporary and paranormal, with a sprinkling of historical thrown in for flavor. I am an avid sports fan, so I have a special place in my heart for sports themed romances. I'm a sucker for old skool romance, which is probably most evident in the fact that The Windflower is my favorite romance of all time.

14 Comments

  1. Jane
    May 07, 2013 @ 08:22:55

    I’d recommend this book as well. I was actually dreading Jo’s story in the beginning but the justification of her actions all made sense to me. I liked the chances Young took in writing this story. Jo isn’t your traditional romance heroine and Cam isn’t the traditional romance hero. I want more of these please.

  2. MrsJoseph
    May 07, 2013 @ 09:42:46

    I’m very tempted by this one. I loved On Dublin Street.

  3. mari
    May 07, 2013 @ 10:48:20

    Hmmmmm…I am strongly tempted by this one, particularily since Jane liked it so much and I tend to agree with her recs.

    However. Just one question (and I only ask this because I KNOW it would bug the crap out of me as I read): How are the logistics of Johanna’s love life worked out? This always bugs me about romantic female leads with heavy family responsibilites and work. Single moms (which Johanna appears to be ) who work two jobs and take care of a sick parents, mostly, in real life, don’t have the time or the energy to date a lot. At least not without much planning. Do the rich boyfriends provide bsbysitting and eldercare? Also, does she sleep with the older boyfriends? If not, why not? It would actually bug me if she didn’t.

    Hey, that’s more than one question! :) Just curious as to what I’d be getting into here. I do like complicated, not so nice female characters.

  4. Kati
    May 07, 2013 @ 11:34:05

    @mari: Mari – Jo leaves her brother (who is 13) with her mum, with instructions to go to his room and avoid their mum, who mostly just drinks herself into oblivion. She never stays over with the boyfriends, and makes it clear to them that Cole will always come first and if he calls for any reason, no matter when, she’ll take the call and leave if necessary.

  5. Meri
    May 07, 2013 @ 12:53:41

    Cam notices that Jo always has her cell phone, and assumes that she’s seeing someone on the side, besides Malcolm.

    Why would this be the first explanation someone would come up with in this day and age? Just about everyone carries their phone all the time.

    I had serious issues with the controlling and sometimes manipulative behavior of the hero in ODS (among other things) and I don’t think this one would work for me, either. Too bad, because Jo does sound like an interesting heroine. I second Jane’s call for more of that – perhaps by a different author, though :)

  6. Kati
    May 07, 2013 @ 12:56:19

    @Meri: IIRC, he caught her texting while out with Malcolm the first time, and assumed the side dish, then reaffirmed the assumption the first night they worked together at the bar.

    Either way, you’re right, everyone carries their cell phones everywhere nowadays.

  7. mari
    May 07, 2013 @ 13:04:37

    So basically she leaves a drunk woman and a kid alone together, while she goes off to party. If her family really came first, she wouldn’t do this. But then there wouldn’t be a romance.
    *shakes head* In real life, I think Cam would be justified in calling CPS.
    Thanks for the review, but I will pass on this one.

  8. Courtney
    May 07, 2013 @ 13:14:10

    I told Jane via Goodreads yesterday that I think I’m the only reader on the planet who DNF “On Dublin Street.” I couldn’t stand the heroine at all and found the hero boring and far too cookie-cutter for my taste. This review along with Jane’s tempts me, but I’m not sure.

  9. Jolie Jacq
    May 07, 2013 @ 16:19:13

    Nope, you’re not alone, Courtney. “On Dublin Street” was a DNF for me as well, for the reasons you described. The characters never came off the page for me. I was expecting an intense reading experience (like that I’ve had with well-written YA), but it didn’t happen.

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  11. Angela James
    May 08, 2013 @ 12:08:16

    @mari:

    Having both worked in social services and read this book, I didn’t find Jo’s actions worthy of a call to CPS in the least. I think you’re assuming that this is someone who blithely goes on her way to go out and party, and the character isn’t portrayed as that at all. In fact, her responsibility towards both brother and parent could almost be described in some ways as too responsible. Your easy dismissal of her actions and as someone who should be condemned is in no way in line with what happens in the book. (and, as an aside, I don’t think “someone should call CPS” is ever something that should be easily tossed out based on a few facts, whether it’s in a book or in “real” life.)

  12. Kaetrin
    May 09, 2013 @ 01:47:16

    I really liked On Dublin Street and I’m looking forward to this one. Just waiting for a Kobo coupon as it’s pricey here. But, it’s definitely on my list.

  13. Imani
    May 13, 2013 @ 11:26:11

    I loved it! I ended up reading this one first, then “On Dublin Street” after, and I definitely preferred “Down London Road”. I had issues with the heroes: ODS’ had the worst pushy alpha issues as he tried to con the heroine into a relationship she didn’t agree to. And in DLR Cam has the tendency to jump to the worst conclusions. His past experience with his uncle’s relationships was not sufficient to make his habit understandable.

    But Jo! I loved her. As someone who thirsts for more imperfect romance heroines she was a tall glass of water. I appreciated the compromises she made in choosing partners (pre-Cam) to support her family, and how she worked up to making the leap into the unknown. She related to finances in a way that read more real to me — we can’t all live in wonderful small town America with ready-made support groups/shelters/whatever that will bring food over and offer loans…or help us with a rundown property we inherited from old rich aunt…or whatever. (I am soooo over those. Can you tell?) I loved that Cam wasn’t not another rich dude who could sweep her away from it all. And I always dig story lines where the man is initially more committed to the relationship — the woman has to be persuaded :).

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