REVIEW: Just My Type by Falon Ballard
Dear Falon Ballard,
I loved your debut book released last year, Lease on Love. I didn’t review it but it stuck with me and I was very keen to read your follow up, Just My Type. While it wasn’t quite as successful for me as the previous book I did still enjoy it and I’m keen to keep reading more from you. With only two books out so far, you are nonetheless on my autoread list.
Lana Parker is a journalist who writes the love advice column at for Always Take Fountain, a lifestyle website based in LA. She’s been doing the job for 8 years, since she graduated from college. She really wants to write about pop culture, books and movies and not about dating but at least it’s a job. Her boss, Natasha, has been holding out the possibility of moving into her desired area as a carrot for many years. Lana loves her work colleagues – they are a kind of family for her and they are a large part of why she stays.
Lana comes from a wealthy family and so had her education paid for as well as her two bedroom house in LA. She knows she’s very privileged. But apart from those things (as if they weren’t enough already!) she has not been given any other money by her mother. Her mother is a philanthropist who builds schools for the underprivileged. Lana’s dad has never been in the picture and her mother has always been more interested in her charity work than her own daughter so Lana has felt alone most of her life. This may explain why she is a serial monogamist. She jumps from one relationship to another within a matter of weeks, preferring the stability and structure of a steady boyfriend even if he’s not all that suitable. She tends to glom onto his family as well. No prizes for working out what’s going on there.
Just My Type opens when Lana is getting dumped by her erstwhile boyfriend, Evan, on the day when she expected, instead, a proposal of marriage. Needless to say, Lana is shocked and dismayed by this development, notwithstanding that even she knows they were not well suited. They were dating for four years though! I wondered how that worked exactly. I admit it baffled me a little.
The very next day, her boss announces ATF has been bought by The Los Angeles Chronicle and they will have a new journalist starting with them temporarily to assist him to transition from hard-hitting freelance journalism to more lifestyle pieces. Enter Seth Carson.
Seth was Lana’s first boyfriend and first love. They broke up 12 years earlier just when they both started college. They also had an encounter at their 10 year high school reunion which clearly did not go well. In Lana’s opinion, Seth has broken her heart twice now. She’s definitely not looking for him to do it a third time. She’s still angry and hurt about what happened at the reunion and she’s not happy to see Seth at all.
Lana needs to learn to be single. Seth, who has a reputation as a bit of a playboy with a “girl in every port” so to speak (I have no idea if this reputation is in fact well-deserved – we never get Seth’s POV so it may well be a vast over-exaggeration. I think maybe it was, at least somewhat), needs to learn to commit. So Natasha comes up with a competition for clicks and ad revenue: Seth and Lana will design 10 tasks for the other to do, designed to assist them with their stated “life goal”. Each will write a column about it each week for 10 weeks. The winner will be decided by a combination of engagement numbers on the weekly columns and by a reader vote at the end. The prize is a column of their choice at the Chronicle.
Just My Type is told from Lana’s first person POV. There is quite a bit of Seth in it but he is a bit opaque nonetheless; the plot makes use of this to its advantage. Slack messages between the staff at ATF and text messages between Seth and Lana help provide a bit more context to Seth though, as well as adding colour to the story.
At the start, Lana is very angry with Seth. She’s still attracted to him and admires a lot about him but he hurt her so she’s angry. I got a bit stuck at exactly why she was angry about him turning her down at the reunion two years before – recall, Lana was dating Evan at the time, after all. It seemed very hypocritical. To her credit, Lana does realise her behaviour was less than stellar and does apologise later, during a frank discussion with Seth. However, in terms of plot set up, it didn’t quite work for me.
I wouldn’t say that Lana and Seth were enemies exactly, but right at the start, Lana put up a good show of making it look like they were. The competition itself was at the least, borderline inappropriate for a work assignment, but the book does address this. (I did enjoy the revelations Lana had about Natasha and how that storyline worked out.)
Seth and Lana have excellent chemistry. They banter and flirt and even when they’re sniping at each other, the sexual tension is obvious. Everyone sees it. It’s not a coincidence that one of their colleagues in the group Slack keeps telling them to “get a room”.
As much as some of Lana’s actions and motivations were a little questionable at times, I did like her. She made a lot of bad relationship choices after she broke up with Seth. It was never stated but I think that had more to do with Seth than her mother.
Lana has a “ride or die” friend in May. They met in college and have been BFFs since.
She holds her glass up to the center of the table. “To my darling bestie. You’re the sister I never wanted and the partner I never knew I needed. Any man who can’t hold on to you is a complete fucking moron and we hate him.”
She also has close friends at work. The female friendships in the book were great.
It’s clear that Seth and Lana have a solid friendship as well as sexual chemistry. Once they committed to one another (it is a romance – of course there’s a HEA) I had no trouble at all believing they were in it forever. They challenged each other in good ways and encouraged one another. Even when they were “enemies” they still wanted good things for each other and took pleasure in the other’s successes. (Aka they were very bad at begin enemies.)
I enjoyed the humour in Lease on Love and I got a similar dose of it in Just My Type. It’s not so much hijinks and set pieces (I wouldn’t call either book a “rom com” – then again, I tend to shy away from the term generally) but there is plenty of snappy banter, witty quips and a writing style that tickled my funny bone.
Seth rolls in about half an hour after I started my stakeout, which is really good timing as I was just about to lose interest.
I enjoyed the positive representation of therapy – even if I did think that Lana’s psychologist was unbelievably available. I liked that Lana and her mother worked through some things.
Natasha gets Seth and Lana to do a number of the tasks together for social media posts and extra clicks so this does force the pair into close proximity but the tasks necessarily have goals which are mutually exclusive to a HEA so there is a kind of a slow burn and then a flurry of activity near the end of the book. Not a criticism exactly, more of a content note.
I was curious to know if Rob and Tessa ever got together – that was an interesting thread which was left hanging for me.
I would have liked Lana’s talents to have been better recognised by people other than Seth and her friends but I did like that Lana learned to stand up for herself in new ways over the course of the book and also to open herself up and be vulnerable in others. Seth was genuinely a good guy – albeit he had made a not uncommon mistake in believing he knew what was best. While most of the growth was Lana’s it wasn’t totally one-sided. Seth took responsibility for his part in things too. He tended to be the first one to be prepared to be emotionally vulnerable which I appreciated.
I suspect if the setup works for readers better than it did for me, the book overall will be more successful, but as it was, I enjoyed Just My Type quite a bit.