She Drives Me Crazy
Stop me if you’ve read this story before: Big city girl returns home to the tiny rural town after inheriting her grandmother’s house. She has no money, no friends, no other means of supporting herself, so she must ingratiate herself with the gossiping locals, who are all in a tizzy at her arrival. The day she sets foot in town, she runs into the man she fell in love with as a teenager, who broke her heart and left her determined never to let him hurt her again. He, on the other hand, can’t help but want to protect her and comfort her and see if they could still have the most incredible sex ever, even if she was a cold-hearted slut who used and discarded him ten years ago.
Well, here it comes again. Smoothly written and smoking with sexual chemistry, but very familiar all the same.
The small town of Joyful, Georgia, awakes one morning to discover that the new business being built on the edge of town is not some humdrum strip mall or paper factory, but is actually a men’s club. The men are quite titillated by the giant breasts decorating the billboards announcing the future home of Joyful Interludes. Thanks to a nosy cleaning woman, soon the townspeople are sure they know who’s building that club: Emma Jean Frasier, who caused quite a scandal ten years ago at senior prom after being caught naked with her boyfriend’s brother. Emma left Joyful for New York City soon after prom, and now she’s coming back just as the strip club breaks ground. Coincidence? The busybodies think not.
Returning to Joyful actually feels good to Emma Jean Frasier (of course, she doesn’t yet know everyone thinks she’s the porn queen). Her life in New York has fallen apart, and she’s lost her job, her apartment, and her savings. She associates Joyful with her grandmother, who was the only stable, loving influence in her life. Emma lived with her grandmother for her senior year of high school, when she dated Nick Walker. The boy she actually wanted, though, in a “first love” sort of way, was Nick’s older brother Johnny. When Nick stood Emma up for the prom, Johnny showed up in the rented tux, took her to prom, and then made love to her in the gazebo down by the lake. Then he ditched her, and the whole senior class found her naked and crying. Johnny’s the last person she wants to see in Joyful, yet he’s the first person she sees, and then she falls at his feet and turns her ankle.
Naturally, Johnny sweeps her into his arms and takes care of her while she’s disabled. He can’t help it, even if he tells himself he shouldn’t. After they had sex ten years ago – and it was the best sex of his life, ever – Emma cried. He thought she had regrets, so he left her. He was a bad boy anyway, so no one really blamed him for it. Now that she’s back, though, he can’t stay away from her and her pink miniskirts. He’s also a lawyer, and when Emma begins to suspect that there’s some funny business with the sale of her grandmother’s property to the strip club, Johnny feels compelled to help her look into it.
Most of the plot twists are telegraphed from a mile away, and they twist pretty much the way I expected. The author puts Emma through some hoops to make some of those twists seem less absurd: Emma has wealthy parents, but she won’t turn to them for help because they’ll step in and smother her. Then later, when she decides she wants their help after all, they’re traveling in the remote reaches of Spain, and can’t be reached. Emma has no money because her firm got robbed dry by some executives, and she’d invested her every penny in the company stock. Did I mention Emma is a professional stockbroker? Even I know not to invest everything in one stock.
This book is a fine example of the small town romance, and if it has a series romance feel, Leslie Kelly was writing them exclusively until very, very recently. The gossips come to love and include Emma in their lives after feasting on her. Everyone realizes she and Johnny are perfect for each other, and nudge them together. Events from high school play a huge role in the characters’ lives. Emma and Johnny pick up like they’ve been apart a month instead of ten years. And the sex they had as teenagers was mind-blowing, although now it is even hotter (there must be something in the water in small towns, that 17-year-old virgins are such expert lovers). If you’re fan of the small town romance, I recommend this book; it’s got all the usual elements. If you’re not a fan, this is not the book that will convert you…because, well, it’s got all the usual elements. Clearly I’m somewhat of a fan.