Just This Night
Fiction is a funny thing, isn’t it? Movies, books, TV shows—fictional stories offer us the opportunity to experience a different life for a time. Often they play out scenarios that would be either impossible or undesirable in real life. Take Just This Night, for example. It uses the old, “My one-night-stand from last night showed up as my new coworker this morning!” plot. In reality that would be a nightmare, but in a romance novel it can make for an exciting story with a guaranteed happy ending.
Elizabeth White, better known as Beth, is a television reporter whose ex-boyfriend just married her sister. Beth’s roommate Stephanie, ostensibly trying to be a good friend and cheer Beth up, drags her out to a local club so she can meet some men and find herself a one-night stand. Beth doesn’t really think she’s interested in anything of the sort, but when she lays eyes on Jake “Mac” MacDonald, she starts thinking differently, and the two end up spending the night together.
Mac, for his part, was also dragged out to the club semi-against his will by his brother-in-law, who feels Mac shouldn’t be spending every night at home with his daughter, depressed about the end of his marriage. Mac is new to San Francisco, ready to start a new life for himself and his daughter Ashley. He’s not ready for a relationship, but finds himself unexpectedly interested in Beth.
This basic premise was enough for me to like the book. The uncomfortable surprise in store for the principals when they find out that Mac is going to be the new cameraman assigned to Beth—that’s a story I’d like to read. I didn’t particularly mind either of them as characters, either. Beth does her best to remain a normal hardworking woman and not get addicted to the limelight that goes with her new promotion at the studio, and Mac is just doing his best to go about life, be a good father, and put his daughter first.
My major problem here was the follow-through of these elements, particularly toward the end. Beth is the victim of a hostile work environment, but she lets the pranks go on and on until they become dangerous rather than just vindictive. Mac, for all that he makes noises at the beginning about putting his daughter Ashley first, jumps into a relationship with Beth pretty darn fast. Not only does Ashley instantly take a liking to the first woman she finds hanging around her Dad after her parents’ divorce, but she also witnesses Beth sleeping over once she and Mac officially decide to be a couple. For all that Mac claims to be an adult driven by care for his daughter’s welfare, he doesn’t seem to take a very adult approach to figuring out what’s best for Ashley in the long run.
This last piece of the book is what downgraded Just This Night. As I said, the story was set up for me to enjoy. Unfortunately, as I neared the 75% mark, I watched Mac and Beth become less conscientious of the effects their behavior could have on Ashley. Then, of course, there was also the problem of Mac’s ex-wife – a convenient villain if I ever saw one—who shows up to stir up drama then conveniently fades away in order to make room for the happy ending. By the time the book was finally over, I was more than done spending time with its characters.