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REVIEW: White Balance by Ainslie Patton

White Balance by Ainslie Paton

Dear Ms. Patton:

This is the third full length Patton novel I’ve read and I’ve come to the realization that none of these are end of the day, easy reading. This one took me a weekend and I thoroughly enjoyed being drawn through the story at a more leisurely pace.  Ordinarily, I burn through books like a flame eating up dried kindling.  As I thought about what I would write in a review about this book, I was reminded of the old Harlequin Superromances written by Judith Duncan and the like. Those books clocked in close to 100,000 words or more and were often more than *just* the romance but explorations of human interactions.

White Balance is, at least, a cousin to those wonderful HSRs of old.  Aiden lost his true love eighteen months ago and it’s changed him.  He gets up and goes to work but his creative juices are dead and he’s turned into a surly, angry manager of people.  His world is colorless and his outlook is bleak.  He hasn’t touched her stuff. He’s allowed his mansion to turn into a trash pit.  He snarls at his friends and other than work, all he can do is mourn.

Aiden’s grief is so real and palpable that you wonder how it is he’ll ever be able to fall in love with another woman and will I, the reader, believe in the connection between Aiden and the female protagonist.

Bailey is a photographer and big time events producer.  Her latest project was for the Federal Ministry of Energy to tout their new green plan. Only the hotel suffers a massive power outage at a key moment and Bailey becomes the scapegoat.  Hurting and out of a job, Bailey is ripe for a job offer from her friend, Blake.

Blake has a plan to make a ton of money in 5 years and then sell out to pursue his dream of doing nothing but chasing his wife, Olivia, around the house.  In order to pull off this plan, Blake needs his two best friends–Aiden, a shark who can manage people and make a deal, and Bailey, who turns ideas into magic.

The story explores the issues of grief, what-ifs, and even misogyny although the latter only tangentially through the lenses of Aiden, Blake and Bailey. Each main character is fully realized.  Aiden is not just the gruff widow but he’s an insightful manager of people.  Blake is an idea man, a charmer, but even he acknowledges that without people like Aiden and Bailey, his ideas are merely that – ideas.  Bailey crushed on Blake for a long time and maybe it was the fact that his star rose, lofted by her hard work, while hers languished that slowly killed her feelings but she has nothing but friendly affection for him.

When Blake, Aiden and Bailey start out on their new venture, Bailey is treated as the outsider by Blake and Aiden.  Initially Bailey looks at Aiden as an asshole extraordaire until she gets a glimpse at his grief.  And then she realizes that he values and acknowledges her work in ways that Blake never had.

There are a number of tertiary characters who were important to Aiden’s life but had unnecessary points of view, in my opinion.  Before his wife’s death, Aiden and his wife had signed up for the Big Brother program. Aiden attempts to terminate the relationship but faced with Cody, a troubled fatherless thief, Aiden finds himself helping Cody.  Cody and his sister make Aiden realize that perhaps his heart hasn’t died, it’s just dormant. I liked that it was a number of things that sprung Aiden from his grief and not just Bailey.  It made his recovery believable.

What Bailey and Aiden don’t know is that they are linked together by Bailey’s blog. Each day she posts a picture and often Aiden posts a comment.  Sometimes it is poetry. Sometimes just a sage saying.  Bailey looks forward to MacGuffin’s comments and some days it is only the curiosity of what White Balance will be posting that gets Aiden out of bed.

I was less certain about what Bailey’s character arc was other than she learned to stop putting up with the bullshit from people in her life, particularly Blake. In many ways Blake is the villain of this piece although he doesn’t mean to be.  But something Olivia, his wife says, puts him on edge around Bailey for the entirety of the book and makes him treat her poorly time and again, even though he admires her.  This Blake -> Olivia -> Bailey storyline was fascinating and one that intrigued me almost as much as Aiden’s grief recovery.

This is a romance but it’s more and not just because of the density of the storytelling. I do think that there were areas that could have been pruned, but I also appreciated how deeply into the psyche of the characters I was drawn.  I’ll remember Aiden and Bailey for a while which is more than I can say for other books I’ve read of late. 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

10 Comments

  1. Renda
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 17:46:17

    Jane, I read Grease Monkey Jive based on a DA rec (pretty sure it was yours) and I have pretty much read everything Ainslie Paton has done.
    I am surprised hers is not a name on everyone’s must read list.
    Her characters are well fleshed out, there are real emotions portrayed/felt, and there is no status quo. Some books you can pick up, not knowing the author, and within two chapters you can guess who it is because it is the same setup of characters, doddering aunt, indulgent nephew, spunky young girl nephew doesn’t trust.
    Ms. Paton’s work, you don’t have that template.
    Each book also gives a view into a world you don’t see so much in romance novels. A grease monkey and a ballroom dancer, a special events planner and an actor (okay, so maybe actor is not that uncommon, but you see more from the event planner), an account manager and his chief intracompany competitor.
    I have been saving this one for a long weekend, and I am looking forward to Labor Day and (forgive me, fellow Georgians) I am hoping for more rain, once I have gone to the Decatur Book Festival, that is.

    ReplyReply

  2. Lynn S.
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 20:04:42

    Just a head’s up, this book doesn’t appear to be available anywhere but Amazon. Does anyone know where to find an epub version?

    ReplyReply

  3. Jane
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 20:29:30

    @Lynn S.: Oh no, really? I didn’t realize it was an Amazon exclusive. I never would have reviewed it here at DA. I guess I thought since her last one was published through a publisher this one was too. Crud.

    ReplyReply

  4. Ainslie Paton
    Aug 26, 2013 @ 21:35:41

    @Jane:

    Oh I’m so sorry about limited availability. I’m grimacing. I do know how annoying that can be. There will be one more free day period in October and then it will have a wider distribution.

    ReplyReply

  5. Alison
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 03:29:25

    Sounds interesting – another one to add to the ever-growing TBR pile

    ReplyReply

  6. Susan/DC
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 11:24:17

    Minor correction: Aiden is a widower, not a widow (“Aiden is not just the gruff widow[er]“.

    ReplyReply

  7. Shelley
    Aug 27, 2013 @ 17:35:26

    Have loved almost everything Paton has done with the exception of HIDING HOLLYWOOD. I gave this 3.5 stars.

    Also, if you haven’t already, go to Ainslie’s blog and read her conversations with her mother. They are hysterical.

    ReplyReply

  8. Kate Sherwood
    Aug 28, 2013 @ 06:05:28

    I ALMOST loved this one. I just got a bit too frustrated by the BS at work and wanted Bailey to be more proactive about either solving it or leaving the situation. As it was, I thought she kind of confirmed Blake’s opinion that she was an excellent manager but not much of a leader, and also kind of confirmed the misogyny, in so far as she sat around and waited for the men to decide to give her the opportunity she wanted, rather than going out and getting it herself.

    Still, I liked it a hell of a lot better than the other stuff I’ve been reading lately, so thanks very much for the rec!

    ReplyReply

  9. AMG
    Aug 28, 2013 @ 07:42:27

    I read this book a few months ago and really liked it too. I was a tad bored by the “Big Brother” side plot, but I applaud the author for writing it, as it gave another dimension to the characters.

    I loved Grease Monkey & Producing Real, but wasn’t such a fan of the Grease Monkey sequel–too much sexism to overcome. Didn’t believe the transformation.

    ReplyReply

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    Oct 17, 2013 @ 14:02:07

    […] Balance by Ainslie Patton. (Free)  I reviewed it here and enjoyed it quite a […]

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