May 17 2010
Dear Ms. Dee:
Thank you for sending me Steve’s Story. I had purchased and read Ask Adam at the recommendation of other readers when I asked on Twitter for good erotic romance titles. Ask Adam didn’t work for me but you offered a second story and I jumped at the opportunity to take a look at another work of yours.
Steve’s Story is the second in the “Circle of Friends” series. The first in the series was “Only Tyler“. I read Steve’s Story because the blurb interested me more. Steve is having a terrible week. His fiancé just dumped him. His best friend he hasn’t seen in two years is in a coma and the woman he never stopped loving is back in town.
While Steve’s Story takes place contemporaneously with Only Tyler, I did feel disadvantaged reading Steve without having read Tyler. There was quite a bit of info dumping which occurred to catch readers up on the dynamic set up in Only Tyler.
Steve and Katie were best friends. Katie was in love with Tyler and Steve was in love with Pen, Tyler’s sister. Pen and Tyler left Sydney to move to London two years ago and Katie and Steve found solace in one another’s arms. Suddenly Tyler appears back in Sydney, Katie dumps Steve, and Tyler gets into a bad accident that leaves him in a coma. Pen rushes back to Sydney to be with her brother. Once in proximity with Pen, Steve’s emotions are thrown into a maelstrom of love, resentment, and hurt.
As I was reading this story, I recalled the many recommendations of other readers for Jess Dee books. There is a good dose of sentimentality to the story that simply doesn’t appeal to me but obviously touches many other readers.
Part of my lack of emotional connection to the story lays with the immediacy of the emotion that is on the page. The opening scene is full of tears and recriminations as Steve, Kate and Pen circle the comatose body of Tyler. Because I had never spent any time with these characters, it was hard to drum up more than a surface sympathy and thus the extremes used to describe the characters’ emotional state seemed unduly exaggerated. Steve describes Katie’s words to him at one point as “slicing his gut in half” and he is “alone and unwanted by everyone he gave a damn about.” Pen shuts out everything including “the desolate weeping of her heart.”
Steve longed to turn around and walk out of the room, close the door behind him and pretend that none of this had happened. Pretend his life and the lives of the people around him had never been shattered by tragedy.
But Tyler was unconscious, Kate had ended their engagement, and Pen had walked away from his love. What he felt was far more basic than anger or frustration.
What he felt was pain. Bone-deep, gut-wrenching pain-’and he hated it.
I felt I was being told from the minute I started the book that I needed to start crying for these folks. Perhaps if I had started with Only Tyler, I would have felt a greater emotional investment in these characters.
Steve’s conflicted emotions in the beginning also seemed out of place. On the one hand he felt this terrible pain at Katie’s rejection even though he loved Pen.
Pain churned in his gut. Kate loved Tyler-’not him. The rejection bit at him sharply, but he forced himself to see reason. The hurt had more to do with being rebuffed than with losing his soul mate.
Even after Steve is pursuing Pen hard, he still has to have a gut check regarding the pain of rejection from Kate. When the story turns away from the love triangle involving Katie and Tyler and Steve and toward the conflict between Pen and Steve, my interest level picked up. Pen suffers from a debilitating genetic disease and separated from Steve in order to protect him. Pen uses sex as a way to both hold Steve and push him away. Steve is torn between wanting Pen and trying to preserve his sanity as she plays hot and cold with him once again.
I appreciated that the ending did not have any miracle solution but was surprised at one aspect of the happy ever after. I wish I had liked this story more, particularly as so many other readers seem to be fans, but I simply wasn’t moved despite the warning that “This book might just make you cry.” C
This is a trade paperback published by NAL but pre-Agency pricing.