Never Been Kissed
Sometimes I buy a book to read for pleasure, but I end up enjoying it enough that I just can’t put it aside without reviewing it. Never Been Kissed was one of those. It’s not perfect, but I did enjoy it quite a bit.
Things get off to a rather action-packed start in this novel. Bodyguard Brody Baxter is working at a job, when he finds himself confronted by Harrison Montgomery, polished politician and son of a wealthy political family who employed him ten years before. Harrison has come to Brody with a job that requires some skill and discretion – rescuing his sister Ashley from Somali pirates and keeping things quiet. After all, Brody has kept Montgomery family secrets in the past, so Harrison figures he’s the perfect one for this task, too.
And so Brody finds himself going off in search of Ashley, the black sheep of the Montgomery family. Instead of hosting fundraisers and working for the family machine, Ashley has spent her time abroad as a relief worker. Her current predicament has left her very shaken and since it would bring up questions and issues no one wants to confront in the middle of her brother’s campaign, Ashley needs a place to lay low. So, Brody takes her home to Bishop, Arkansas.
Before you roll your eyes and think, “Oh no, not another small town romance,” give this one a chance. O’Keefe writes wonderful dialogue and I found myself starting to really grow fond of her characters as I watched their interactions. Ashley can be a little bit of a Pollyanna sometimes and Brody has a giant chip on his shoulder, but there’s a certain decency to them that shines through. The interesting secondary characters help in this regard, too. I found the sometimes tortured relationship between Brody and his brother at least as interesting as his budding relationship with Ashley.
Speaking of “tortured”, if you like your romance with an extra helping of angst, this is totally the book for you. The plot involving rescue from Somali pirates sounds totally over the top – and it is, but more importantly, it also works. And the family drama Ashley and Brody both swim in works, too. It’s easy to buy that intelligent Ashley doesn’t want to be a political animal but has to deal with the ugliness of politics as the family business. Then there’s Brody. Not only does Brody have issues from his adoption and the loss of his mother, but he holds it all in. The waters really run deep with him and as he lets himself get deeper into a relationship with Ashley, every emotional loose end he’s left unresolved in his life starts coming undone for him. Compelling stuff.
So, why not a DIK? Well, this book did have a few issues. For instance, while I liked that O’Keefe includes characters from a variety of ethnicities, I did wish that more had been done with their cultural backgrounds. For starters, I’m pretty sure that someone half-Filipino and half-black growing up in rural Arkansas probably has some stories to tell that a white character might not.
And then there’s the sex. Don’t get me wrong. It’s hot stuff once the characters finally get down to it. However, once the primary and secondary romances really start steaming up, the descriptive sex at times seems to overwhelm the plot a bit. I guess I’m glad everyone got their happy ending ever after, but it did pull me out of the story on occasion rather than adding to it.
Even so, I liked Never Been Kissed quite a lot. It’s a sweet, small town romance without being overly sentimental. It’s hard to do sweet without cloying, but O’Keefe pulls it off well.