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REVIEW: The Will by Kristen Ashley

The Will

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+

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

18 Comments

  1. MrsJoseph
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 11:14:21

    Must. Resist. the Crack.

  2. JewelCourt
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 12:02:07

    I have a streak of the perverse in that the more an author tells me how much everyone loves a character, the more my knee jerk reaction is to hate that character. I need just one at least one person in the story to be meh about them (they don’t have to despise that character just not think that she (or he) is the best thing since sliced pizza).

    I love it when reviews warn about Mary Sue-ish tendencies, because I just won’t be able to give that book a fair shake. It’s just better for me to avoid those books.

  3. Bamaclm
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 13:29:30

    I’m reading the book now.

    So far I don’t consider Josie perfect except for the fact that she’s lived the last 23 years ‘mess’ free. She’s lived in a vacuum, never gets close to anyone despite the lovers she’s taken for one night stands, and the boss she babies. She treats rebellious teenager Amber as an adult, doesn’t talk down to her which is the only way she knows since she’s had no contact with kids.

    I’m looking forward to ‘the rest of the story’. :-)

  4. Christine
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 15:11:52

    @MrsJoseph: Resistance is Futile!

  5. Divya
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 15:39:33

    Oh, this book looks so awesome. The cover is completely gorgeous, but is lavender mentioned in the book at all? Or did they just use it to make a pretty cover?

  6. Jane
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 15:41:56

    @Divya: So the house that Gran leaves Josie is called Lavendar House and it’s a huge home worth several million, if I recall correctly. It’s as much of a character as any of the people.

    @JewelCourt: Josie has plenty of enemies but they are angling for her money. I did like how the issue of her boss was treated. He always loved her but not enough and in the end he lost out. Jake was like, “I understand man but you snooze you lose”. (not an exact quote)

  7. Julie
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 19:18:10

    I drank the Kool-aid. Damn you, Jane.

  8. nikki
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 20:24:43

    I refuse. I will not buy this book. Everytime I get an Ashley book, I inhale it and feel dirty later because I pick out all the plotholes and get annoyed with both the men and the women. Then I question my taste. Gonna hold out…at least till I am moving and need a distraction from my sadness. So weak.

  9. MrsJoseph
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 20:44:04

    @Christine: LOL! I know…! I’ve been eying this danged review all day now.

    It’s been a few months…

    No. I will resist!

  10. Tabs
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 21:13:38

    I devour all of KA’s books but I didn’t love this one. The heroine’s bizzarely stilted formal speaking really threw me. I just kept shaking my head and muttering “who the hell talks like that?” I’m totally aware of my hypocrisy because the macho-speak language that all of KA’s male characters spout doesn’t phase me at all but I could not deal with the Josie-speak.

  11. kate
    Apr 08, 2014 @ 22:38:32

    Sold. I’m not finishing my taxes tonight, am I?

  12. Milly
    Apr 09, 2014 @ 02:38:09

    Alas, young Tabs, it is very clear that the dialogue of the book was a rather simplistic tool in order to create a juxtaposition between the, shall we call him rather ‘rough and ready’ and yet ever so heroic Jake and Josephine, a lady who had wiled away years of her life becoming a globe trotting sophisticate. Alas and alack, it sounded freaking ridiculous.

    And I’m done trying to type like that.

    It was better than her last few releases FOR SURE, but it was definitely not a perfect book. Jake annoyed me at times … I think I would have preferred Josie to go back to Henry and yes she was very much a Mary-Sue. However, it was an enjoyable read and in some ways reminded me of Sweet Dreams, my favourite Kristen Ashley book.

  13. romancefangirl
    Apr 09, 2014 @ 03:33:59

    I’m reading this book now and have to agree with Jane. There were so many things that were strange about this book but I just DO NOT CARE and have ended up staying up half the night reading it AND taking the train to work instead of driving so I could continue reading it AND having an anti-social lunch break at my desk so I could continue reading it on my Ipad! Unlikely will scenarios aside, I do sometimes get taken out of the story by the overly stilted way Josie speaks (alas!) but I’m loving it so far. Still cracktastic for me!

  14. Kati
    Apr 09, 2014 @ 07:15:55

    What I really loved about this book was its inherent sweetness. Yes, Josephine was like a Disney Princess (PERFECT analogy, Jane) and yes, Jake was an alphahole at times. But I loved how sweet the story was. I feel like lately her books haven’t won the “connection” battle for me. I don’t connect with either character, and therefore am left wanting. But I connected immediately with this book. I’m hoping her upcoming releases will continue the sweeter trend. Her stuff totally works for me when she’s writing a little bit gentler romance.

    Also, NO ONE got kidnapped/buried alive/stabbed. I liked that the hero didn’t have to ride to the rescue. That was a refreshing change.

  15. Robin/Janet
    Apr 09, 2014 @ 11:39:41

    I’m going to trust you on this one, Jane, because you and I tend to enjoy the same Ashley books. The last handful have really been a disappointment to me — the sexism has been worse, for example, and in the last book there was a girl gathering that reminded me horrifyingly of that scene in one of the JR Ward books where the women get together and celebrate their incredible strength (gag). That was also the book in which the hero was supposed to be this big genius, and I kept waiting to see it (plus, his IQ was only like 140-something, and given all the crowing, I expected something much higher). The only thing I really liked about that book was the interesting PTSD situation the heroine had. Also, I’m starting to get worried that being traditionally edited and published is killing her voice. The Mary Sue thing isn’t a deal breaker for me (I made it through the Rock Chick series, after all).

    So I’m on board for this one, but only because of this review. And because I’m hoping Ashley finds her way back to her chaotically unapologetic writing, characterization, and plotting.

  16. Tabs
    Apr 09, 2014 @ 11:42:26

    @Milly: Hah. Glad to know I wasn’t alone

  17. lawless
    Apr 09, 2014 @ 13:01:42

    A book in which the female lead’s grandmother “bequeaths” her to the male lead who she’s never met before after leaving her the bulk of the estate? Do Not Want. I thought we did away with the concept of women as men’s possessions a long time ago.

    This kind of thing is why I’m curmudgeonly about most genre romance. And I will never, never in my life read a Kristen Ashley book.

  18. Laura B
    Apr 09, 2014 @ 19:24:38

    Yep, Josie does sound like Jeeves… However, what would grate on my inner ear more than her formal voice (I have a friend who kind of talks like this as a result of speech therapy as a child) were the instances where her grammar would be incorrect or her word choices were a little off. Admittedly these were few and far between unlike in earlier KA novels.

    Also, this is set in Maine, but it really could be anywhere. I felt the sense of place that is so much a part of the ‘Burg books or any of her Colorado books was missing. This really could have been anywhere. The way the men spoke was traditional KA alpha-ese, which I think is becoming similar to the kind of macho man dialogue JR Ward uses in her “bhooks.” The town just wasn’t really a character in the same way that Carnal, Denver or the ‘Burg are.

    I’m not knocking the book. Generally it’s a very charming KA effort with more heft and substance than we’ve seen. The story and the characters obviously engaged her, which has made reading this a pleasure.

    BTW, does anyone have a clue who/what Tom the cook/owner of the Shack is?

    I think there will be 3 maybe 4 sequels. There some very interesting sequel bait layered into the books. :)

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