Just This Once
Sean Wyse III – heir and manager of the multimillion dollar chain of Wyse Hotels – is at the wedding of his favorite employee and best friend Max, when he learns that his best friend Molly Brandt is being used by her roommate for free board and rent. This is unconscionable to Sean, who promptly kicks the roommate out and takes his place.
Molly has always had a crush on Sean, but that’s not enough to make her approve of his choice to toss her roommate out on his ear and then move in himself. She becomes determined to force Sean out of her house, just as he becomes determined to stay. Their battle of wills turns sensual, but unfortunately their status as best friends means he’s off limits, even though the close quarters have increased the level of temptation between them. And Sean – currently witnessing the nuclear breakdown of his parent’s marriage – is less than cool with the idea of settling down. Besides, his real friendships are so rare; is it worth risking what he has with Molly for something more sexually complex?
AAR staffers Lisa Fernandes and Kristen Donnelly read Mira Lyn Kelly’s Just This Once, and are here to share their thoughts
Lisa: This one’s pretty midrange for me – I liked Sean and Molly’s chemistry, but sometimes the lot points were pretty stock-in-trade. How do you feel, Kristen?
Kristen: I liked it more than you did, but probably not by much. I had a good time while I was reading it, but it’s not going to get revisited.
Lisa: Did you like Sean? He didn’t make the best initial impression on me – he seemed quite arrogant and very alpha in a bad way. His just moving in without even asking Molly was ridiculous, in a way that felt uncomfortable and pushy.
Kristen: Thank you! I was so confused in the first chapter! How do you know she’s going to thank you, you overbearing oaf?! I like this version of a best friend about as much as I like the overprotective brother narrative. People get to make their own choices, even if those choices are awful, and it’s not a sign of love – in my opinion – to take away someone’s agency.
Lisa: The author bills Molly as ‘spunky,’ but I didn’t really get that from her. Sarcastic, maybe – definitely sassy. I did enjoy her, but she’s not a standout heroine for me.
Kristen: If she was spunky, she and Sean wouldn’t have worked – they would have clashed too much. He needs someone who is subservient but knows their boundaries, which is what Molly is.
Lisa: Their chemistry together was what worked for me – Molly and Sean definitely felt like real life friends turning into lovers, most of the time. But the way the whole roommates thing happened with them felt weird, especially because she made it clear she didn’t want him in her house (albeit because she was attracted to him and afraid of what would happen if they acted on their feelings). I found it unfortunate that they fell foul of so many romance novel clichés, from the whole friends-to-rivals-to-lovers plot to them having sex that was so good, they kept neglecting the condom. I also found many of the excuses they had for not getting together flimsy; the idea of class differences keeping them apart in this day and age is ridiculous – Molly’s good enough to be his best friend, why would his parents have issues with her being his wife to the point of forcing her to break up with him? It’s the kind of plot that belongs back in a fifties-era Mills and Boon!
Kristen: It was a trope-fest, wasn’t it! Yeah, I don’t have as much of a problem with that, because I know folks who think like Sean’s parents. Friends are a different category than the woman who is going to bear the future generation, as ridiculous as I think that is.
Lisa: I guess you could ask why, if it’s a matter of breeding, would they be comfortable with him even being in her orbit, y’know? One thing the novel definitely suffered from is the fact that it relies a bit on things that happened in the first two books. There’s a whole host of supporting characters who pop up and are introduced as if they are old friends, but a newbie to the series like me was left struggling trying to figure out why these people were so important to the story. Was it like that for you?
Kristen: It took me about fifty pages to get fully oriented and that’s about twenty-five more pages than I’m usually patient with. I love sprawling stories of friends, but a few identifiers at the beginning would not have gone awry.
Lisa: What about the familial relationships? The cardboard stereotypes with Sean’s controlling family were frankly cringe-inducing for me, and I hate the pat simplicity of the ‘man-groomed-for-future-by-overbearing-parents-must-rebel’ plot; while I liked Max’s loyalty to Molly, which he placed ahead of his friendship with Sean.
Kristen: I wish their relationship could have breathed a bit more – the one between Sean and his parents. As it stands, it’s really predictable and two dimensional. They are the villains of the tale, after all, but it would have been more interesting if they had been a little more human.
Lisa: What’s your final grade? I’m going with a C-; while Molly and Sean’s love story works on a couple of levels, many of those levels are either stereotypical or poorly thought out. The rest of the novel felt very rote to me, the plot creaking with ancient layers of dust and rot.
Kristen: I’m a little more gracious than you, so this one is a B- for me. I had fun while I was there, but I don’t want to go back. I can see the places where this could have developed into something I would have loved much more and I’m sad it didn’t take those directions.