REVIEW: Love’s Last Call by Beth Matthews
Lucy York is an aspiring mechanical engineer working as a shot girl serving watered-down drinks to drunken frat boys at Jezebel’s Bar & Lounge. The job isn’t so bad—it pays her bills, and she’s managed to make a surrogate family for herself at the bar. But now she’s ready to spread her wings and fly north to attend a university and, maybe, distance herself a little from the all-consuming social scene at Jezebel’s.
Then her boss hires a new bouncer, Norm, a literature dork who seems like everything a bouncer shouldn’t be: tall, gangly, sweet (and, you know, named Norman). But as she gets to know him, ol’ Norm turns out to be everything Lucy never knew she wanted and the best friend she’s ever had. He’s not a bad bouncer either.
One obstacle to their happily ever after: the owner has a strict no-dating rule for employees. If anyone at Jezebel’s finds out she’s dating a bouncer, Lucy will lose her job, her surrogate family, and the money she needs to go to college.
But, if she loses Norm, is she losing her best chance at happiness?
Dear Ms. Matthews,
When this book was recently featured in our Daily Deals, I took notice because of the heroine who wants to be an engineer and the hero who is the literature dork. Even though YA/NA (she’s in community college and he’s a recent graduate so I wasn’t quite sure which category this book fell into) isn’t my usual thing, I decided to take a chance.
The set up for the story makes sense. Luce’s worry about transferring her credits to 4 year college from community college is pertinent. I just recently watched a documentary about how challenging this actually is for most students. Norm is looking for a way to pay his bills, without selling his soul to academia, while he works on his writing.
I adored the way these two began to fall for each other. Norm’s excited because he recognizes Luce’s Shakespeare quotes. Lucy thinks Norm’s geek t-shirt collection is to die for. Theirs is insta – interest with a whiff of lust wafted in. Not insta – luv though, thank goodness. They flirt with language skills and impress each other with their esoteric knowledge. Cerebral sexiness. They bond over shared adoration of Neil Gaiman. Norm is turned on by the fact that she dressed as Princess Leia for Halloween. Three years in a row. Serious geek sexiness. They might get chewed out by bar owner Hank for wasting time while Lucy lusts for Norm’s TaunTaun sleeping bag.
I love that he’s the English geek and she’s the math geek. She wants to be a mechanical engineer and rebuilt a vintage Mustang car. I’m so in awe.
Too bad for Lucy they keep getting into situations alone which could trigger Hank’s “employees don’t date” alarms. Then Norm mind fucks her with a kiss and proves that if you’re a geek and you want a chance, you need to kiss like a champion. Usually this kind of “one time” thing bugs the shit out of me but since they’ve already got smoking chemistry, I’ll roll with it. But after the initial set up, while I like what I’m reading – characters, plot, etc – the story doesn’t really go anywhere. It just retreads for a while.
There are obviously past issues – done with, overcome?, still pending? – for both of them. Proverbial guns are being mentioned. Which actually mostly go off fairly soon after the hints are laid out. I appreciate that the plot didn’t keep dancing around some of these, drawing them out past my patience.
Yes, Norm and Luce have powerful chemisty fu and want a relationship but a very good reason has been laid out for “hands off at work.” This has been underscored by numerous instances of questions and observations from People Who Could Put Two and Two Together and get “time to fire Norm and Lucy” from it. But still, despite the reassurances from Luce to Norm – he acts like a 3 year old over how he has to Maintain Space when people can see them. What’s so hard Norm? You’re not being asked to cut off anything. Norm is hormonal and horny but not stupid. Why does this need to be hammered home again? And again.
Then on the other hand, I like the maturity signs from Norm as he knows full well Luce isn’t perfect but is falling hard for her anyway. It’s loverly that he will share his hopes, dreams, fears and writing with her and that she wants to do something to get him this excited again. No, not sexy stuff, just ‘I want to pluck down the moon and give it to you’ stuff.
The story plays on tropes and realities. Norm really is owning the emotional side of this. He’s determined to have a relationship despite all objections or obstacles. Determined to have it all, pressing for togetherness, relationship time and things beyond sex. He’s the one to first utter The Three Words. Meanwhile Luce does the guy thing by proving her affections via fixing something for him. I am in awe of her (again) that it’s his car.
With time winding down, the plot kicks into high gear. It felt like a “finish the job” punch card being checked off. Momentous relationship milestones arrive thick and fast. Lucy meets Norm’s family and sees the landmines and quicksand. She quickly manages to shut up Norm’s pretentious father as no one else has ever done and engineers a massive change in the family dynamics. All in two days no less! Norm and Lucy might have shaken the sheetrock from the walls but finally after Lucy opens up about her past, thus risking her heart to hurt again, she gains true understanding of the phrase “making love.”
She still manages to hurt Norm one more time before doing the Jezebel’s equivalent of the RomCon Run to win him back. After all Lucy repeatedly did to push Norm away, he comes around fairly quickly. Yeah, it’s YA/NA fast or maybe just RomanceLand fast but it’s probably not realistic. But it is sweet though. B