REVIEW: Time Served by Julianna Keyes
Dear Ms. Keyes:
Time Served was a book that surprised me in all the good ways. It featured an uptight lawyer heroine and felon boyfriend who didn’t have more than a few nickels to rub together. A good portion of the story features Rachel, a wrong side of the track girl who is determined never to go back, and Dean, a convicted felon who feels like he’s owed something from his former high school girlfriend, Rachel.
One of my favorite things in this book is that it doesn’t pull punches. Rachel left Dean because she didn’t want to be poor white trash all of her life. She didn’t tell him she was leaving and while she regrets hurting him, it wasn’t enough to make her go back. Dean is a convicted felon and his conviction for armed robbery isn’t because he was nobly protecting someone. He admits he did it because he was a thug at the time.
Both characters have some measure of ostensible unlikeability to them. I use the word ostensible because I actually found them to be genuine and likable in the sense that I was rooting for the two crazy, hurt kids to kiss and make up.
Fast forward in time and Rachel is now an associate at a big firm in Chicago. She’s making very good money but she wants a promotion so she’s working 24/7 to achieve that promotion. One of the aspects of her new life is about keeping up appearances. She’s terrified that her wealthy, posh co workers and colleagues can still see the dirt under her fingernails.
When Rachel is interviewing a witness for a case of hers, she runs into Dean and realizes the spark of her teen years is still burning inside both of them. The interaction between Dean and Rachel is rough and hard edged. He’s angry for her running off. She’s angry that he’s a reminder of what she used to be and the life she’s trying to leave behind her. She’s even more angry that she still finds him so hot that she returns to him against her better judgment.
Their sex scenes are filled with passion–hurt, anger, lust are all intertwined and almost inseparably. I compared this book a little to Willing Victim because I felt that the sex scenes had that same bite to them. Rachel didn’t want to say yes to Dean, couldn’t bring herself to so Dean tells her that all she has to say is no. Basically, it is consent by silence. And with each trip to Dean’s neighborhood, Rachel finds herself slipping further and further into a trap of her own making. Dean is an obsession she can’t seem to burn off.
But what I found most remarkable about this book is how both Dean and Rachel, through their interaction with each other, began to change. There was a scene where Dean goes to a party where Rachel’s co workers are. She’s being insulted and he steps up but in a way that completely embarrasses her. In other books, this would have been deemed a sign of Dean’s great alpha-ness, but in this story the behavior is revealed to be a lot more selfish. In other words, it was thoughtless of Dean and he realizes it later, not because Rachel forces that on him but because he begins to look at the world as a place greater than the sum total of what is front of his face.
And Rachel, too, begins to accept that she is the sum of her parts–both the poor ones and the successful ones and that it is the wide swath of experience that enriches her as a lawyer and as a person. At the end of the book, I felt that neither Rachel nor Dean were the same character as they were in the beginning and that their reconnection sparked that change, as can happen. There’s a gritty realness to the story that really struck home.
Now for one problem. A reader brought this up on Twitter to me and at the time, I disagreed with her. She said that the text of this book had a slight slutshaming in it. I defended the book but as I re-read it for a review, I feel like I might reluctantly agree. Rachel’s nemesis is another woman at the firm. Rachel refers to her as a whore and the nemesis does sleep with at least two or three bosses. Is that slut shaming? Possibly? It’s discomfiting. There are no real male villains in the story (although the asshat upper management males could be considered as much).
So there’s that. But if you’re looking for a gritty story with a lot of heat (and I mean a lot) and real characters, I’d definitely recommend Time Served. B