I’ve eagerly been snapping up the books in Rachel Ember’s Wild Ones series, so when I saw she had a new standalone novel coming out, I was eager to read it. Night & Day is an opposites attract romance between a recently separated lawyer and the guy he employs as the nanny for his infant daughter; I enjoyed it and liked the central characters, but there were a number of inconsistencies and flaws that left me with the overall feeling that the book wasn’t quite as well thought-out or polished as the others I’ve read by this author.
Tyler Burns is twenty-eight and has been more like a parent than a brother to his three younger sisters ever since he was a kid himself. Their parents are never around – and when they are, they’re throwing parties and spending his earnings on beer instead of groceries – and Ty has shouldered the responsibility for Danielle, Emma and Sam, forgoing college so that he could be around for them while they were growing up and working as many jobs as he could in order to keep a roof over all their heads. When the story begins, he’s waiting tables but needs another source of income, so he applies for a job as a nanny to a baby girl. He might not have any qualifications, but he’s got plenty of relevant experience.
Jonathan Evans is a busy lawyer whose wife Natalie has literally just up and left him a mere couple of months after they brought home their adopted daughter, and he’s in desperate need of help. Baby Isabel isn’t sleeping at night, and Jonathan is so exhausted he can barely function at work; she has a daycare place, but he needs someone who can care for her overnight and decides to employ a nanny. He ends up with four candidates, three of them looking very professional and assured, but only the guy in the worn jeans and battered docs gives him any real confidence that Isabel will be in safe, caring hands.
I liked the slow burn feel of the romance as Jonathan and Ty get to know each other over shared breakfasts, then shared evening meals, chatting and just hanging out, but one of the main issues I had with the book as a whole is that it seems that Jonathan – who is bisexual and has always known it – is checking Ty out on something like day four of his being at the house, which means it’s little more than a fortnight after Natalie left. Even though it’s very clear that his marriage had been in trouble for quite a while, to have him lusting after the nanny just a couple of weeks after his wife left feels … off, and is even more so in the light of what we’re told later about Jonathan rarely feeling genuine interest in – or sexual attraction to – another person.
With all that said, however, there are things to enjoy here. Ty is a total sweetheart – kind, loving, compassionate and smart, he’s one of life’s caretakers who will do anything for those he loves, and he obviously cares very deeply for his sisters and wants the best for them, so much so that he’s sacrificed having a life of his own in order to provide them with a stable upbringing. His sisters are all strongly characterised and I was really pleased when they’re shown to be aware of everything Ty has done for them and then find a way to – in a small way – repay him. Jonathan is quite closed off and awkward when we first meet him, a man just going through the motions and existing rather than living his life, and Ms. Ember does a really good job of showing him coming to that realisation and then starting to rediscover himself, to find love and embrace fatherhood.
I liked the leads, I liked their romance, I liked the way Ty so easily fits in to Jonathan and Isabel’s lives, I liked the world the author builds around them, and was confident of being able to offer the book at least a qualified recommendation – and then the ending happened.
It turns out that Natalie hasn’t gone very far at all and is in fact living just a few houses up the street. She comes to see Jonathan and apologises for disappearing, saying she does want to be a part of Isabel’s life after all – and Jonathan agrees without batting an eyelid, no questions asked (him) or explanations offered (her). Ty is angry and suspicious – as was I – at this; she walked out on her husband and child once, what’s to say she isn’t going to do it again? The author makes it clear Natalie has some issues (perhaps depression?) she needs help with, but she hasn’t got it yet, and I was honestly furious with Jonathan for so meekly agreeing to let her back into his and Isabel’s life without a qualm.
I so disliked the way this played out that it thoroughly soured the ending and cast a pall over the entire book – hence the middling grade.
I can’t deny that I’d also have liked to see Ty’s parents get their comeuppance, but it’s difficult to see what that could have been within the context of the story.
In the end, Night & Day was a mixed bag. I wanted to like it more than I did, and the parts of it I liked, I liked a lot – but the things I didn’t like were impossible to ignore when coming up with a final grade. While this one didn’t quite hit the spot for me, Rachel Ember is a talented author and I’ll definitely be picking up whatever she publishes next.
Note: I believe this story was originally made available as a serial via the author’s newsletter.
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