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REVIEW: Holly Lane by Toni Blake

Dear Ms. Blake:

This book faltered in the beginning for me and never recovered. The female protagonist is Sue Ann, and in the previous books, Sue Ann has appeared happily married to Jeffrey. At some point between book 3 and book 4, Jeffrey fell in love with another woman and confesses his feelings for this woman to Sue Ann. Sue Ann is devastated by Jeffrey’s emotional infidelity and they ultimately divorce. Sue Ann’s emotional wounds are furthered by seeing Jeffrey swanning about town with his new love who isn’t even younger or more beautiful than Sue Ann.

Toni Blake Holly LaneSue Ann runs to an isolated cabin and there she ends up with Adam Becker, the male protagonist in the book. As if there is some romance code that all main protagonists who find themselves alone must immediately copulate, Adam and Sue Ann fall upon each other.

Interestingly, Adam admits that his wife left him because of his cheating. Sue Ann excuses his actions because his wife, according to Adam, had disparaged his manhood, and so one lonnely night, Adam succummbed to the advances of another woman. He only kisses her, though.

The exploration of the concept of cheating and physical infidelity versus emotional infidelity could have been fascinating (and is the subject of this movie where Keira Knightly character is emotionally unfaithful where her husband is physically unfaithful one evening). Unfortunately, Sue Ann shows the introspection of a gnat and immediately points out that Adam is the aggrieved party and thus his physical infidelity is excusable.

The focus on the book, though, is that everyone isn’t what they look like on the outside. From the outside, Sue Ann and Jeffrey’s marriage looked perfect and happy. Even Sue Ann thought she had a good marriage until she confronted Jeffrey about being distant. Adam is the town nice guy. He’s the image of the All American Boy Next Door. But he’s been unfaithful. He’s portrayed as short tempered. He has a difficult relationship with his ex wife and he misses his sons.

Again, this is an interesting concept yet I felt like little was done to explore it. In the end, there are no surprises. Jeffrey becomes villanous, I suppose in an effort to elevate the romance between Adam and Sue Ann as being truer and more ever lasting than any romance that the other shared with someone else previously.

The concepts and conflicts presented in this book were brought up and then discarded without much inspection. This could not have been exemplified more than by the first sex scene beetween Adam and Sue Ann. Neither of them looked at the other with any sexual interest previous to their cabin share. It’s a thoughtless action and didn’t read as if it was passion fueled. There seemed plenty of internal monologue going on, rather that two people who lost their heads in an impulsive action. I.e, right before they jump each other, Sue Ann thinks:

Not that she could really think of Adam in a sexual way. He’d been her friend for too long and she wasn’t wired to make that sort of switch.

Blake, Toni (2011-10-25). Holly Lane (Kindle Locations 667-668). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Sue Ann’s conflicts consist primarily of her thinking about how sexy Adam is despite the fact that she has to enter the work force for the first time in years and must make a living wage for herself and her daughter. In sum, she has greater worries (or should have) than thinking about how sexy some guy is. That the majority of her internal monologue is given over to whether she can withstand Adam’s sexiness is a bit of a head scratcher.

Oh my God, I’m alone with Adam again. But that was okay, she told herself. You’re strong, you’re capable, and everything’s going to be fine. After all, it was a twenty minute ride back to Destiny, not wild monkey sex.

Blake, Toni (2011-10-25). Holly Lane (Kindle Locations 2038-2041). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

At this, though, Adam unexpectedly cast another of those slightly sheepish—albeit very sexy—looks. “Not really. If you’d been around me an hour before I delivered your tree today, you’d have run for cover.”

Blake, Toni (2011-10-25). Holly Lane (Kindle Locations 2098-2099). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Get out of the truck. You have to. You can’t afford to risk your heart again this soon—you just can’t. Sure, you can tell yourself it’s just sex, but there’s really no such thing as that. Sex comes with emotions—deep ones you can’t push away.

Blake, Toni (2011-10-25). Holly Lane (Kindle Locations 2166-2168). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

It’s not like he’s asking you to wear his class ring and letterman jacket, for God’s sake. This is sex. Good sex. Pure and simple. Why shouldn’t you let yourself have that? “I want that,” she heard herself murmur.

Blake, Toni (2011-10-25). Holly Lane (Kindle Locations 2172-2174). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

I’ve had sex now. Twice. I have a life again. Sort of, anyway. And maybe that was part of what took the edge off seeing Jeff tonight. Still, that sex was fraught with so many mixed emotions that she could barely keep up with the constant push/pull of it in her own mind. In some ways, she still wished she could let herself trust in Adam and consider letting this thing with him go somewhere.

Blake, Toni (2011-10-25). Holly Lane (Kindle Locations 2541-2545). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Maybe this book was about Sue Ann’s sexual awakening, but it seemed set up as Sue Ann becoming independent after her divorce. Instead of creating an independent woman I found her to be sex obssessed, more focused on wondering whether she should sleep with Adam than creating a life that was separate from a man.

Sue Ann and Adam do have interesting discussions on how they failed in their own marriages and agree that marriage is a work in progress where both parties have to be committed to making it work. Although I did think that this exchange between the two exemplified their relationship:

“Be careful,” she teased, smiling now, “or I might decide I need a fix-it man to whip things into shape around here and take you up on that.”

“I’d be happy to be your fix-it man, Sue Ann,” he told her smoothly, his voice going a bit deeper, his eyes once again making her feel as if he’d actually reached out to touch her—and she felt that invisible touch everywhere. Whoa.

Blake, Toni (2011-10-25). Holly Lane (Kindle Locations 3943-3947). Harper Collins, Inc.. Kindle Edition.

Maybe the focus on Sue Ann’s physical feelings toward Adam would have been more appealing had she already established a life separate from her former husband. Instead, I felt the setup of “on my goodness, I’m on my own” didn’t match up with the ending which was “I’m afraid to fall in love again.” Mostly, though, I found the internal monologue dull and I had a hard time maintaining my interest. What readers may enjoy is the small town setting and the ordinary person feel. No billionaires here and no crazy hijinks that require suspension of disbelief. The rediscovery of love after a failed attempt is also an enjoyable storyline. It didn’t work for me, though. C

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. Sandra
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 12:55:31

    “she has to enter the work force for the first time in years and must make a living wage for herself and her daughter.”

    Has the woman never heard of child support? For that matter, if she’s been out of the work force and has no current job skills, she should have pushed for alimony too. Why wasn’t her divorce attorney all over this?

    And what sort of woman leaves an adulterous spouse for someone who was also an adulterous spouse? If it’s not acceptable in one relationship, what makes the same sort of person acceptable in another relationship?

  2. Jane
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 13:11:59

    @Sandra: She was getting alimony and then her ex-husband Jeffrey says that he is getting married and wants to have a baby right away and won’t be able to pay much more alimony. He’s going to pursue custody as well? I can’t recall exactly.

  3. Kim
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 16:57:40

    This plot is a bit convoluted. I usually don’t like cheating storylines, but some writers can tell a good story. Not to dilute the ramifications of one kiss, but emotional cheating usually involves many meetings and sharing of confidences. This doesn’t appear to be Adam’s situation.Did he even know the other woman that long or was it the one time that he kissed her?

  4. Helen
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 18:22:35

    I just finished this book when I saw the review. I would agree that it is mediocre. The premise that the ex can decide he doesn’t want to pay alimony because he wants to get married and have another child really bothers me – his responsibility to his child would be taken care of by him having custody and forget his baby momma. Did Sue Ann have no attorney to help her? This story line was left hanging.

    I lend many of my books to friends, this one won’t be one of them.

  5. SHZ
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 19:14:37

    Oh, I’ve been looking forward to this book, but had never actually read the blurb. My problem with a series is that often the writer feels the need to destroy something from earlier book – like a solid relationship – in order to create a plot.

    I’m not sure I like the premise. I thought book one was mediocre (two stars) and then I gave the next two four and five, respectively. I might have to tone down my excitement for this one!

  6. Jane
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 20:58:09

    @Helen Yeah, I guess it serves to show what a real asshole her first husband was?

  7. Jane
    Oct 28, 2011 @ 20:59:45

    @Kim My review probably made it convoluted. The basic premise is that Sue Ann wonders whether she should love again and Adam is tired of being the nice guy even though he is a nice guy.

    Adam doesn’t know the other woman at all. I think he met her at a wedding reception and was making out with her in the coatroom when he was caught by his wife who then divorced him.

  8. Maggie
    Oct 29, 2011 @ 00:30:44

    It’s unlikely I will pick up this book, but the movie sounded very interesting (especially the fact that it stars the very dreamy Sam Worthington) so I streamed it on Netflix. It’s fantastic!

  9. Heike M.
    Oct 29, 2011 @ 03:50:50

    I just finished this book yesterday and I agree with most points of the review but to be fair, the setup for the heroine is more reasonable than depicted here: the heroine has been working part-time in an administrative function at a real estate office for years and has been studying for a real estate license since her divorce, so I perceived her as independent enough… Her former husband disrupts her plans to get on her own feet financially after getting the real estate license by petitioning to stop his alimony payment after six months, so she has to look for a second job to make ends meet. What seemed a little unreasonable to me is the idea that the ex-husband just can decide to do this and, even more so, that he could go after full custody of their daughter because his former wife doesn’t earn much money. Would that really be so easy? I agree with @Helen: this whole alimony/custody story line has been left dangling.

    I never got invested in the main characters, everything around them seemed a little boring or wooden or stilted to this reader (inner monologue, Scrooge-like dreams, conflict…).
    I actually started skipping and skimming parts after reading half of the book. What kept me reading was that I liked the interactions between Mick, hero of book 1, and Sue Ann’s daughter Sophie…

  10. Guest Review: Holly Lane by Toni Blake | Smexy Books
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 18:03:20

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