REVIEW: Sustained by Emma Chase
Dear Ms. Chase:
The first in this series didn’t work for me–not the writing, but the premise–so when I had the opportunity to read this book, I said yes immediately to the offer of an ARC. I’m happy I did, because I think this might be my second favorite book after Tangled. For readers who didn’t like Tangled because they thought Drew, the protag, was a misogynist jerk, Sustained has few similarities.
In fact the only obvious similarity was that Sustained, like Tangled, is told only from the male point of view. Jake Becker is a criminal defense lawyer at a silk stocking law firm (that’s a term we used to describe very moneyed law firms). He enjoys his work, his friends with benefits, and his core set of friends…until he meets Chelsea.
Chelsea is a twenty-six year old woman whose brother and sister-in-law died leaving her the guardian of six children. It was a sort of genius not to be in Chelsea’s POV because I think she could have come off as too perfect. And if there’s a knock on this book it would be that Chelsea, except for one misstep, appears to be an utterly selfless human being who easily slid into the role of mother for six children. On the bonus side, she’s not hurting for money as her family and, I presume, whatever insurance, has left her and the six kids set in the money department.
Rory McQuaid, age nine, steals Jake’s wallet. Jake catches him and in a moment of weakness doesn’t turn him over to the police but instead drives him home. Jake had someone give him a second chance as a youth and sees this as a small opportunity to pay it back. Once at the McQuaid residence, Jack is sucked in by Chelsea’s charm and her seemingly effortless manner.
Though there are six kids in this book, they are all viewed through Jake’s eyes wherein they range from aliens to screeching monsters and to adorable cherubs. In sum, a pretty realistic view.
“Her face scrunches, her voice drops lower, and she leans forward like she’s about to tell me something serious. But all that comes out is, “Hiiii.”
“Is there something wrong with her?” I ask.
“No,” Chelsea answers, sounding slightly affronted. “There’s nothing wrong with Regan. She’s two.”
And Regan is back to smiling at me. “Hi.”
“Doesn’t she know any other words?”
“No. She’s only two.”
“Hi, hi, hi, hi!”
“Jesus Christ, what kind of madhouse is this?
Chelsea steps between them, grabbing both their arms and keeping them separated. “That’s enough!”
And now they’re yelling at her, pleading their cases at the same time, each trying to be louder than the other. I can’t make out what they’re saying; it just sounds like: hiss, blah, she, hiss, squeak. But the aunt appears to speak the native tongue.”
Jake finds himself returning to the McQuaid household even though Chelsea has to be the hardest hookup Jake has endeavored to undertake. She’s surrounded by six kids. She’s tired. She’s emotionally spent. She’s grieving.
Yet, despite all of this or maybe even in spite of it, Jake can’t stay away. Even in the midst of trying to have a nice evening out with friends with benefits, he can’t get the McQuaids and their sexy aunt out of his mind.
Jake’s exposure to the McQuaids changes him and makes him re-evaluate all those things that he thought were perfectly fine at the beginning of the book–his representation of rich but morally deficient clients, his meaningless hookups, and his very limited circle of friends.
The book doesn’t try to be more than it is which is a story about a wealthy DC lawyer who is knocked off his moorings by a madcap set of circumstances. Because this is Jake’s story, there isn’t much room for Chelsea to have a character arc with meaning. She’s not exactly a placeholder but she isn’t fully fleshed out.
As a side note, both characters date other people before they get together and I know that can be a deal breaker. I didn’t find it to be troublesome because it made the story more believable for me. I really enjoyed this book, even with all the kids. I can’t wait for the last book in the series. The hero is shaping up to be amazing. B