Posted in: willaful, willaful reviews
Tags:category romance, Contemporary Romance, Ruthie Knox
Sensuality rating: Delightfully Torrid
I wanted to read this because I’ve loved Ruthie Knox’s posts at “Wonk-O-Mance,” a blog about addictively offbeat romance novels. I wouldn’t call About Last Night wonky, though it does break a number of unwritten romance rules; I actually felt a tad… disappointed isn’t exactly the right word, but I was just a touch let down at first because the story seemed fairly conventional. But I was sucked in by the terrific characterizations and by the end, my mind was fairly well blown.
Cath, a people-watcher, has admired the man she thinks of as “City” from afar for months.
She’d given him the nickname as a nod to his profession, because everything about him announced he worked in the City of London, the square-mile financial district at the center of the metropolis: the dignified wool overcoat and scarf he’d worn all winter, the shined shoes, the ever-present newspaper. Aristocratically remote, he was Prince Charming in a suit.
She also often sees City running in the park:
she loved that flash of pink on his face — such an endearing crack in his cool perfection. It made her want to muss his hair and tie his shoelaces together when he wasn’t looking, just to see what would happen.
An American struggling to remake herself in England — “No concerts, no bars, no men. These were the rules that set New Cath apart from her irresponsible predecessor” — Cath never expects to actually meet City. But relaxing her rules for one blind date snowballs, and she finds herself waking up the next day in his flat. And though he was far too much of a gentleman to take advantage of her while she wasn’t sober, the next morning is a different story. Bow chicka wow wow.
Thus begins a difficult, complicated courtship. City, whose real name is Nev, is in some ways exactly the man Cath thought: a banker from a very upper crust and respectable family. And this is probably partially why he falls for Cath: “She was so responsive, so alive. So there.”
But despite his background and his appearance, Nev is by no means a stereotype or the one-note character Cath sums him up as:
“You’re kinkier than I expected,” she said. “I figured you’d be strictly a missionary position kind of guy.”
He’d very much like her to list all the things she thought about him so he could prove her wrong, one item at a time. Strictly missionary position. What a bloody depressing thing to say.
Nev is none too fond of his family and hates his job; his real passion is painting. And he has no uptight qualms about the fact that Cath was drunk when they met, or that she slept with him the next day: he likes her and wants to be with her. But Cath, who has tattoos all over her body to remind her of past mistakes, is deathly afraid of making another one. And though she can’t stop herself from dropping by Nev’s place for sex, she refuses to do anything that might lead to an actual relationship.
Foolish, foolish Cath. How do I describe the awesomeness of Nev? Of course Knox had me at Cath wanting to muss his hair, but that was just the start. In his utterly sexy and completely convincing Britishness, he brought to mind Max, from Meg Maguire’s The Reluctant Nude, a character who single-handedly turned me into a Francophile. (I admit I haven’t been to England since I was six and am not qualified to judge authenticity, but I was never once jarred out of the story by an Americanism or other wrong note.) And I loved the complexity of his character, which although heavily influenced by his upbringing, is not shackled to it. Nev accepts Cath and is very patient with her, as well as very passionate. When he makes some bad mistakes, he redeems himself with a “grand gesture” that, more importantly, is sensitive and loving.
Cath is a more challenging character and it does require some patience to deal with her constant withdrawal and rejection. I don’t want to give away spoilers, so I’ll just say that by the end, it’s more understandable and it’s worth it. I finished About Last Night in one of those perfectly satisfied glows of contentment that are all too rare and give it 4 1/2 out of 5 stars. Yeah, I’m a tough grader.
Thanks to the author and netGalley for the opportunity to preview About Last Night. It is currently only available in ebook format (Agency, but very reasonably priced at $2.99) and can be pre-ordered from Amazon here
and Barnes & Noble here.