Maybe This Time
Maybe This Time is more ghost-mystery than romance, but I’ll still go ahead and address the romantic elements as well as the more fiction-y portions. On both counts, this is a pleasant read, if not a memorable one.
Andie Miller is about to get engaged. Maybe. Before she gives her boyfriend Will a definite answer, she wants to draw a line under her past marriage of ten years ago. It ended with a lot of unresolved grief; to move forward, she’s going to have to move back, just for a little while, to face North again. Once she sees him however, old emotions come rushing up, feeling pretty fresh. In contrast to her agitation, he continues to be a cool customer, which is in a nutshell why the marriage ended. North then asks her to be a nanny for a month as he’s now guardian to two troubled young cousins who lost their parents. But North’s cool customer-y ways extend well past his ex-wife and over to orphaned family members. He’s visited only once and then left the children to the care of nannies. All of them gave up on the children in record time, and the last made claims that there be ghosts in that there house.
Since North offers Andie an obscene amount of money for a month’s worth of being Nanny McPhee, Andie accepts. She rationalises that the payment will help her pay off her debt and start her new life with Will, unfettered in more ways than one. It’s clear though that Will’s days as maybe-fiance are over and it’s time for an Andie-North reconciliation. However, this didn’t happen as soon as I had expected it would, and what there was of it left me wanting more. Not in a greedy ‘that was so good, gimme more’ way, but in an ‘is that it?’ way.
Andie heads over to the house without North and stays there for the entirety of her contracted time, again without North. The most they do is talk over the phone and skirt around the issues of their failed relationship. Meanwhile, Andie deals with two intense children and three even more intense ghosts who are haunting the children for different reasons. Carter and Alice are two very resilient human beings both under the age of 12. I wouldn’t have been able to survive with 1/16th of what they had to put up with.
The relationship between Alice and Andie is a nice one, though missing the emotional drama I like. Alice and Andie fall in love with each other while baking cookies and dancing to mix-tapes, but the reader is never made a real part of these special moments between the two of them (where I assume Alice would have learned to trust Andie). I suppose there’s never much angst in a Jennifer Crusie novel, but I thought since we had a gothic setting, gothic sensibilities would follow.
Other relationships missing emotional drama are that of Andie and North and Andie and Will. Andie breaks up with her almost-fiancé, and I found her subsequent treatment of him quite cold-hearted. One of the accusations she levelled at North about their failed marriage was that he hadn’t come after her when she’d left. When Will comes after her, he’s an insensitive moron. It seemed unfair how his character was turned into something less than desirable and instead of making Andie look good in comparison, she came out of it smelling a good deal less of roses. At one point Andie wonders why no one takes her statement that she’s engaged seriously. Seeing as she’d already broken off the almost-engagement and had publicly made clear her annoyance with Will, I could only wonder whether she had ever taken it seriously.
With respect to her relationship with North, it definitely got better as the novel went on. However, I noted that for a book that I wouldn’t label a romance, North was a pretty stereotypical romance hero: Powerful and wealthy with still waters running deep. I would have liked to have more scenes in his point of view so that I could easier believe why their relationship would work “maybe this time”, but of the North POV scenes, very few focused on his deep, dark feelings for Andie. The authorial style here was for actions to speak louder than words, but sometimes I longed for more talk-time between the two, especially because when they did it, they did it well.
In general, I liked Maybe This Time. There were snappy, witty lines both in and out of dialogue and enough humour and amusing walk-on characters to blunt the edge of the ghost story (I’m a scaredy cat so I was starting to get jittery when I read it at night). That said, it’s not a story I’ll likely remember and neither is it one I’d read again.