REVIEW: Just Business by Julie Cannon
Dear Ms. Cannon,
I bought your book because I liked the cover. Many of the covers this subgenre over-sexualized and off-putting (naked asses and o-faces!), or vague and flowery (Grandma is a lesbian?). This one strikes a nice balance for me. It looks modern and sexy.
The book doesn't quite live up to the cover, unfortunately. The storyline isn't fresh and the characters aren't particularly modern. I would describe Just Business as pleasant, but bland.
What should be just business becomes much more when two women agree to a deal that changes their lives.
Real estate tycoon Dillon Matthews, in the middle of negotiating the deal of her life, is stunned when the owner of the small parcel of land she desperately needs to complete her latest project presents the final condition she must meet to close the deal. Callie Sheffield is struggling to pay the attorney she has hired to appeal her brother’s conviction for a crime he didn’t commit. When Dillon and Callie meet by chance, they realize each has what the other needs. A simple business transaction will give them both what they need–until love threatens to derail the negotiations.
I'm not fond of business conflicts or tycoon heroes, so that may have played a part in my failure to warm up to this story. I also felt that Dillon Matthews, the tycoon heroine, was a little too masculine. As I write that, I'm aware that it is a straight person's criticism and might not be fair, so let me explain.
In all of the lesbian romances I've read, one character is more androgynous. She has a manly name, she's tough or misunderstood, she works with her hands, etc. Although the tomboy thing appeals to me in some respects, it also raises questions while I'm reading. Which character am I supposed to identify with? And, are all lesbian relationships so sharply defined?
In m/f romance, I know which character I relate to (the heroine) and which one I want to fall in love with (the hero). In f/f romance, I don't automatically connect with one character or the other. I'm not sure which heroine type I prefer. A certain level of androgyny is sexy, and I love to read about daring, athletic women, but I also like softness and vulnerability in women. I guess I would say that a mixture of female traits, rather than diametrically opposing ones, seems more familiar to me.
Okay, so the basic plot of Just Business is that Dillon is trying to make a lucrative real estate deal with an older gentleman, Bill. Bill wants to see Dillon settle down and get married before he signs the papers. It's a silly premise, but I've read worse. Dillon meets Callie at a gay bar and they hit it off. She brings Callie as her date to a business dinner, and then to a weekend getaway with Bill and his wife, Phyllis.
Bill and Phyllis think that Callie is "the one" for Dillon. I'm not sure about this, but I got the impression that the older couple had a gay daughter who died. They want to see Callie and Dillon live HEA. Their involvement felt a little creepy, to be honest. One night, for example, Callie gets the giggles in the adjoining bedroom. Phyllis teases her about being noisy over breakfast. The next night, when Callie and Dillon make love for the first time, I wondered if Phyllis was taking notes. Mood killer!
Speaking of sex, my favorite topic, I thought this book would be steamier. The cover quotes insist that you write hot. An Amazon reviewer complained that this was a trashy romance novel. I had higher expectations! The first sex scene fades to black (an odd choice), and although there are frequent encounters, I found them to be fairly standard.
The main fault in Just Business isn't lack of sex, but lack of sizzle. The conflict doesn't create any real emotional energy until the second half of the book. After the couple gets married, Callie finds out that Dillon used her to seal the deal with Bill. Callie agrees to continue the "happy newlyweds" ruse in exchange for legal fees for her incarcerated brother. If the story had started out this way, with mixed feelings and reluctant sparks between them, it might have had more juice. Instead, you presented a late conflict and quick resolution.
As I said earlier, I had a hard time connecting with Dillon. She isn't an alphole (TM Jane?), but she resembles a Harlequin Presents hero, rich and driven and successful. She wears mannish suits, including a tux, and isn't in touch with her emotions. At one point, Callie tells Dillon's father that Dillon is "more man than he'll ever be." I wasn't really-getting it.
Callie I liked. Her relationship with her brother is gritty and difficult, and I could sympathize with her situation.
Overall, I found the story mildly enjoyable, and your writing style is smooth. I visited your web site and was excited to see two upcoming releases with outdoor settings. Sporty heroines are more my style. Just Business, for me, was just average. C