Jill Mansell’s books have been reliable, comfort read for me for years, so I’ve been delighted that many of her older, hard to find books are being released as e-books. Sadly, however, Solo – originally a 1991 release – didn’t work for me. While I liked parts here and there, overall I despised many of the characters, particularly the two primary heroes. I didn’t believe in the HEAs for our two primary heroines, and hated what happened to one of the nicest secondary characters in the book.
The two heroes – and I use the word loosely – are brothers Max and Ross. They run an upscale hotel in Bath aimed at wealthy, beautiful people, which is fitting as Max and Ross are both wealthy and beautiful. In addition to running the hotel, Max is also a best-selling author. Ross has had a long-standing affair with a married woman, while Max is currently involved with a self-absorbed, selfish movie star who’s also having sex with a whole string of men. If this were an historical romance, the brothers would be called rogues.
The two heroines are best friends Tessa and Holly of whom Tessa is the most sympathetic character. She’s an impoverished artist who gets dragged to a party at the hotel by Holly. Tessa doesn’t want to be at the party, and sneaks outside where she runs into Ross, and after talking for several hours, they end up in bed together. Tessa knows Ross is a womanizer and wants nothing more to do with him after that night; and when she ends up pregnant she doesn’t intend to tell him – but he finds out. Ross decides he’s infatuated – or perhaps in love – with Tessa after one night of chatting and sex. His “love” primarily seems to stem from the fact that Tessa’s gorgeous and doesn’t want him.
Holly’s in love with Max but he can’t stand her. While her parents are wealthy, she works as a receptionist at the hotel so that she can be around Max For the most part Holly does a horrible job as a receptionist, with her focus solely on what she can do to attract Max.
The book follows the general format used frequently by the author. It’s filled with a large number of characters whose lives either are, or become, intertwined. The PoV switches back and forth – sometimes within chapters – between not only the four main characters but too many secondary characters to count. This format has worked for me in most of Ms. Mansell’s previous books, but in those cases, I’ve liked the majority of the characters. Here, I didn’t like either hero, and didn’t like a lot of the secondary character., too many of whom are self-absorbed, selfish individuals who don’t care about hurting other people.
I had a hard time believing in the eventual romances for the two main couples. Nothing in Ross’s behavior indicates that he will ever be faithful to Tessa. At one point when they fight about whether money is as important as love (Ross thinks it is, Tessa disagrees), Ross thinks of Tessa as a “bad-tempered bitch” and calls her an “ungrateful cow” to her face. And within hours of this incident he’s in London having sex once again with his married lover. As for Holly and Max, only very late in the book does Max decide he’s interested in Holly, after actively disliking her for most of the story; I didn’t find his conversion believable. I hoped Holly would finally dump him and go for the nice guy who was interested in her for most of the novel.
As a warning, a lot of married people in this book have affairs, and actually enjoy the rush of doing something illicit. And while there’s a lot of sex in the book between numerous characters, it all occurs off-page, hence the sensuality rating.
I’ll admit that at about the 75% mark I started lightly skimming many pages just to get through Solo. I was so disgusted by many of the characters and various plot lines, that this was a punishing read. While I’ll undoubtedly pick up Ms. Mansell’s next new release, this is the last time I’m going to delve into her backlist.