Dear Ms. Ashley:
I was thrilled to receive an ARC of this book a few months ago particularly after the last few reviews we’ve done haven’t been so glowing. And I was even more happy when I read The Will. As I’ve told other readers, there is everything I love about a Kristen Ashley story in this book and really nothing I didn’t.
First, let’s talk about the flaws because I have to get those out of the way so I can wax rhapsodic about all the great elements of the story. The big draw back is that the heroine is a bit of a Mary Sue. I don’t mind but this might deter some readers.
Josephine Malone is an assistant to a world famous fashion photographer and videographer. Her beloved grandmother dies and she travels back to Magdalene Cove in Maine to wrap up her Gran’s affairs. While she is there, she decides to take a look at her life and re-evaluate her future. At forty-five, childless and unmarried, Josephine isn’t sure what she wants to do next. We learn throughout the book that Josephine is well beloved by nearly everyone. She cooks, charms children, and famous men from rappers to photographers to actors have not only been in her bed but have wanted to keep her there. But either they haven’t loved her enough or she’s pretty oblivious. I came to the conclusion that it was both. She’s a forty-five year old Disney Princess in many ways but I DO NOT CARE.
Let’s move on.
During the reading of the Will, Josephine is greeted by a man she saw at the funeral–Jake Spear, a father of three kids. Josephine is left everything but for three major gifts to each of Jake’s children and then the kicker. Lydia Malone bequeaths Josie to James Markham Spear. They acknowledge right away that it is not legally binding but Josie is left to contemplate exactly the purpose behind the wording in the contract.
And it’s kind of a mystery, the resolution of which is not given until the very end of the story. Josie has visited Lydia for years and clearly from the bequest and familiarity Jake and his children have with Lydia, the Spears know Lydia quite well. Why then has Josie and Jake never met before Lydia died? The reason was pretty endearing.
Most of this story is about getting to know Josie and Jake through each other’s eyes. Josie is apprehensive of Jake, not because of what he does for a living or that he’s a single father, but because of her intense reaction to him. She’s there to mourn her grandmother’s death and focus on getting her life in order. But an invitation to have dinner with Jake turns into Jake and his family becoming an integral part of Josie’s day to day activities and her one week planned vacation from her jetsetting lifestyle turns into two weeks and then into something more permanent. But it’s not just to the Spears that Josie becomes attached to. In order to find her happy place, the one she had with her Gran, Josie begins to make connections with friends of her Gran’s–the reverend of the church, the local attorney and his wife.
There are extended descriptions of Josie’s clothes and the house and the makeup. Josie is remarkable. Every meal she makes is effortless. She, who had no real interaction with kids before, knows how to tame even the rebellious Ashley. She has just the right thing to say to each child and she knows all the right people to make their lives a fairy tale come true.
But I DO NOT CARE.
Jake is forty-nine and Josie is forty-five. There is no surprise babies in the story and no driving need for them either. They act like adults for the most part. I haven’t said much about Jake in the review. It’s not that he isn’t an important character or that he is overshadowed in the story but that you view Jake via the lense of Josie. He’s a caring father who has made mistakes. He’s a no bullshitter. He’s demanding yet giving. He had a predilection for saying “Jesus” every five paragraphs. He also fights in amatuer boxing matches at a gym he owns. In many ways he’s just as perfect as Josie only in different ways.
While the physical side of the romance develops slowly, the attraction is always there and it crescendos at precise believable moments. Jake and Josie’s post fight locker room encounter is memorable. Their sex is super steamy. It might be one of the steamiest Ashley books I’ve read. I just liked jake and Josie. I smiled the entire book, even during some of the more ridiculous and over the top scenes such as when Josie’s dead beat dad enters the scene and tries to steal away her inheritance. Or scenes with one of Jake’s ex wives. (He has more than one)
The story is long and lovely. I remember that the official definition of romance included “satisfactory ending” and the extended epilogue which was baby–but not family–free definitely fulfilled that term. B+