Thursday, May 11, 2017

Just Good Friends (Rosalind James)

Just Good Friends
(The Escape to New Zealand series, Book 2)
Rosalind James
Rosalind James, publisher
Fiction, Romance
*** (Okay)

DESCRIPTION: California girl Kate Lamonica didn't used to take risks, but stalker Paul forced her out of her comfort zone. Now she's in New Zealand, half a world away from her old friends and old life; it's the only way to stay off Paul's radar until he gives up. It's not all bad. Her new job, accountant for a rugby team, is challenging, and the country is gorgeous and friendly. If only she could say the same for the people - or, rather, one man in particular...
Koti James dislikes the American Kate the moment he lays eyes on her - and she rejects his usual lady-melting smile. She's not his type, anyway; he usually goes for the long-legged blondes, not the short, dark ones, plus she's clearly got a chip as big as the country on her shoulder. As a star athlete with supermodel looks, he's never short on female companionship, and he certainly doesn't need a proper relationship... so why is she such a persistent thorn in his side?
Their mutual dislike comes to a head with an argument that leads to a bet: for six weeks they'll play at being friends, and nothing more. Given their animosity, they both figure the bet's as good as won - it'll be the other one who breaks and makes a pass, or walks away altogether. But irritation soon gives way to something much stronger, and more dangerous.

REVIEW: It was on sale, and I needed a palate-cleanser after a disappointing read. Unfortunately, this book turned out to be something of a letdown, as well. Neither Koti nor Kate (or any of the rest of the cast) ever come alive as people beyond the page. They spend much of the book immersed in long, wordy conversations that spell things out unnaturally. At several points, I almost saw the author standing right behind the characters, making them talk out their relationship rather than experience it. There are even multiple conversations that seem intended to let me, as a reader, know that the characters all understand the difference between stalking-level possessiveness and the normal urge to protect a loved one in a healthy relationship, not to mention the difference between a dangerous control freak and consensual dominance/submission in the bedroom. I'm a big enough girl to figure that out, and I prefer doing so from context, not with characters deliberately leading me along like a child. The plot itself feels thin, with too little going on in either characters' lives (or, at least, too little going on that makes it into the book; comments are made, particularly about Koti re-dedicating himself to rugby practice to earn a coveted national slot, but the reader doesn't see any of that, so it's just more talk), and the little we do see of them sets up elements that never come into play. Things unfold about as one might expect from the blurb, with the odd sidetrack into Maori culture, New Zealand history, and more than one steamy moment. The telegraphed climax offers no surprises, either. While it was nice "seeing" New Zealand, because it's a culture I don't see or read a lot about, I wish I'd had more interesting tour guides than these two, not to mention an itinerary with a few more twists and turns.

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