This story could have gone wrong in so many ways, and the fact that it doesn’t makes me appreciate it even more. Pretty much every time I feared it was going to go to a stupid or annoying or too obvious place, it didn’t.
Her Kind of Trouble is about growth and maturity and the ways people change — and the ways they stay the same. In the opening chapter, aspiring fashion designer Vivian meets her new brother-in-law by marriage at her sister’s wedding, and instantly recognizes a rebellious, good-time-seeking kindred spirit in Seth. A very sexy kindred spirit. Over champagne and a joint (Oh Harlequin! I hardly know you!), they share a passionate interlude in a limo, and then cheerfully part.
Ten years later, a lot has changed for Vivian. Her career has taken a different path, though one that’s still creative and her. She still loves sex just as much, but is less interested in one-nighters. And the woman who was once sure “there would be no cozy domestic arrangements in her future” and “there would definitely be no babies,” has discovered she’s quite susceptible to the charms of her nephews, though not to the point of giving up her career when her (now ex-) lover demanded it. She’s settled down in Australia to be closer to her family, and is honored when her sister asks her to be guardian to the boys, though surprised that Seth will be her co-guardian:
she was privately boggled at her sister’s choice. Being based overseas, she’d seen Seth only a handful of times in the past ten years, but the family grapevine had kept her up-to-date on the headlines of his life. She knew for example, that he’d given up on the band seven years ago and had been bumming around in various jobs in the nightclub and bar scene ever since. She knew that he was still a total pants man, showing up with a new girlfriend every six months without fail.
She’s even more surprised to learn the big news about Seth: he’s going to be a father himself.
A strange feeling gripped her. A little like vertigo, but not. In her secret hear of hearts, she’d kept a casual eye on Seth, ensuring she knew enough but not too much about his life. Not because she was interested in him romantically, God forbid, but because he was the male approximation of her on Jason’s side of the family — the younger sibling, a bit of a screw up, never one to color within the lines. In a strange way, he’d become the benchmark for her own success — or not — over the years. As long as he was still single, it was okay that things hadn’t worked out with Franco and she was alone again.
Seth actually is still single; he’s going to be co-parenting with his ex, Lola. (Although — be still my heart! — they did consider abortion. SuperRomances are truly a world away from Harlequin Presents.) And he’s just as boggled by his brother’s choice of flakey Vivian as she was by their choice of him — and makes the mistake of saying so. Which brings a furious Vivian to his door, just in time to be there for a shattering phone call.
The rest of the story is at times fun and sexy and at times desperately sad. Seth is left to bring up a daughter alone, a responsibility he faces with anxious but loving determination. Vivian is too sympathetic — and too drawn to him — to stay away. Inevitably, hotness ensues. (I’m not sure how believable all that sex is for the single, working, sleep-deprived dad of a preemie newborn, but eh, who wants perfect realism in romance?) They’re also getting to know each other as their more mature selves — no longer so reckless and irresponsible, but still striking wonderful sparks of humor, mutual understanding, and chemistry. It’s a relationship which has a lot of potential, but it’s innately limited:
That was the way it had always been between them, right from the start. A battle of wills. A game. A dance. Parry, thrust, advance, retreat. Neither of them giving any ground. Neither of them showing any weakness.
It had always been part of the fun. Part of the danger and challenge.
It has also stopped them from talking about what they were to each other, what place they held in each other’s lives. God forbid they let their guards down. God forbid they show weakness or risk hurt.
Still, neither Seth nor Vivian is obnoxiously stubborn. Both have good reason to be nervous about getting involved, but they don’t cling desperately to those reasons when it’s clear that something is developing between them anyway. Everything that happens feels right for who they are. And though what happens to Lola could seem terribly convenient in a romance, it’s so very clear that it’s not, for anyone involved. Although she barely appears, her character is given a great deal of narrative time and respect, and I wept for her.
I cried again at the end of the story, this time happy tears because it felt so true and right. (Yeah, I was probably pretty softened up by the sad parts.) There were a couple of elements to the book I wasn’t crazy about: Seth’s self-consciousness about any “threat” to his masculinity is something I’m really tired of in contemporary romance. (He’ll wear a baby sling, but he just has to comment on it: “Yeah, I know, this thing is ridiculous, the most emasculating invention in the history of the world. But she loves it.”) And the writing style tends towards “tell,” though done skillfully through the thoughts of the characters. But I was genuinely happy to see these sharp, funny, unapologetically themselves people find their right paths and each other. B+