I read a lot of romance. Some authors are favorites, others I like and will read if I see them their name in my eReader queue or shelved at the library, and others I refer to as ‘palate cleansers.’ I don’t necessarily dislike books by these authors, but I’m also not looking for a lot of emotional angst when I read one of their books. For me, Lauren Layne is a palate cleanser. Her books are a go-to when I want something light and easy to read – they’re perfect on the weekend while the rest of my family does their thing. I approached Good Girl with exactly these expectations, and Ms. Layne met them. It’s solidly average. Not great, not terrible – okay for distracting you from your day, but easy to forget once you put it down.
The good girl of this story is Jenny Dawson, a country singer/songwriter from Nashville. She moved to LA at the behest of her label and publicist to capitalize on the sudden fame she achieved after her most recent record went double platinum. Her character borrows heavily on the ‘small town girl in the big bad city’ stereotype – Jenny is a sweet, shy (but not if you ‘know’ her), naïve and insecure country girl just trying to have a normal life in LA with the requisite best friend at home in Nashville who keeps her grounded. The paparazzi love Jenny and follow her relentlessly, but not much printed about her is true or accurate.
Shortly after the story begins, the tabloids explode with a (false) story about her having an affair with a married actor and after that every day brings new, made-up allegations about her affairs with married men. She decides to go into hiding to work on her music in solitude and stay out of the spotlight. Her bolthole is Louisiana and a rented house she visited on a musician’s retreat when she was a kid.
Unbeknownst to Jenny, her rental property just changed owners. When his father died, Preston Noah Maxwell Walcott inherited everything: the house, the money, a company he has no interest in running, and a lifestyle he’s no longer convinced is right for him. Noah grew up in a trailer with a single mom and didn’t become ‘Preston’ until he was fourteen years old when the father he’d never known showed up to claim him. Since then, he’s lived a life of wealth and privilege (yeah, I didn’t feel that bad for him either). He’s never felt comfortable as Preston, and sees the house as an opportunity to hide out and rediscover who he really is. He’s also in hiding from his ex- fiancée; he left her after he realized he didn’t love her and she admitted to an affair.
When Jenny and Noah/Preston meet, he’s at the house trying to get it ready for her arrival. Visiting him are his two best friends: Finn, a friend when he was just Noah and lived in a trailer park, and Vaughn, a friend from the prep school his father forced him to attend. He loves them both; they hate each other. The only thing they agree on is that Noah can’t keep hiding out and at some point needs to face the ex-fiancée who still thinks they’re together and the company his father left him in charge of. Their conversation is interrupted when Jenny arrives at the house a day early.
Jenny made the arrangements to rent the house via email and has no idea who Mr. Walcott is. She guesses and picks the man in a suit and tie – Vaughn. But before he can correct her, Noah introduces himself as Noah Maxwell, the caretaker of the estate. Finn goes along with the charade and Jenny has no reason to doubt any of them – Noah looks like he’s been working on the house and the others go along with the lie. Noah doesn’t feel bad about lying. After all, his entire opinion of her is based on the assumption she’s a spoiled celebrity who got caught cheating – just like his ex.
Things progress more or less as you might assume. Noah makes no attempt to be nice to Jenny and actually goes out of his way to be rude, and Jenny, hurt by his assumptions about her, does the same. Before long, they can’t fight their attraction or the fact they like each other. There are a couple of false starts before they actually sleep together and this is really where Ms. Layne lost me. In the first of two awkward and completely implausible scenes, Noah enters Jenny’s darkened bedroom while she’s masturbating. She doesn’t notice him until he’s just about to touch her and then he brings her to orgasm with his hand. I not only didn’t find the scene sexy, I thought it was creepy. Her ‘retaliation’ when she dresses all in black and somehow surprises him, ties him to his bed and give him a blow job, is equally ridiculous.
Eventually Noah comes to realize most of what he’s read and assumed about Jenny is false. They’re on the verge of making their relationship public when the ex-fiancée (who doesn’t believe she’s an ex at all) re-enters the picture. Noah, despite having confessed much of his history, never mentioned her to Jenny. They have a very public breakup and Jenny returns to LA. They reunite in a very public, surprise display of Noah’s feelings, and their reunion is sweet, if a bit contrived.
Good Girl is a predictable romance with a few great moments. I’m guessing Vaughn and Finn will each get books of their own, but I don’t know if I’ll read them. There are so many great novels in my TBR pile, I find myself unwilling to give more attention to an author who has failed to ‘wow’ me after multiple books. If you’re looking for light and fluffy – Ms. Layne might be right for you.