I have a fondness for series romances that take place in a single day. I know some readers may not find it believable to see two people fall in love in such a short period of time. For me, the concept is so romantic I set logic aside and let myself get carried away in the emotions of two people experiencing that kind of whirlwind love. Series books like Vivian Leiber’s An Ordinary Day, Cassie Miles’s Borrowed Time or Alice Orr’s Manhattan Heat have pulled off the love-story-in-a-day premise well. So I looked forward to Julie Kenner’s 24-hour romance Night Moves, especially since her other July release, Carpe Demon, was very entertaining. Unfortunately, Night Moves was not.
Ella is an NYU grad student in art history who recently became interested in historical erotica. Reading so much steamy material has her doing some fantasizing of her own, but she’s surprised when her best friend Shane turns up in her fantasies instead of her boyfriend Tony. She figures it must have something to do with the fact that Shane, an attorney, is getting ready to leave New York to take a new job elsewhere. She and Shane grew up together, moved to New York together, and now they’re going to be going their separate ways. She’s really going to miss him, and her subconscious must be reacting to that.
Shane actually has feelings for Ella he’s never admitted to her, and before he leaves, he intends to seduce her to see if she might feel the same way about him. He plans a romantic dinner for the two of them while her boyfriend is out of town. When a blackout occurs, they find themselves alone together in her apartment in the dark. As they pass the time together, their talk becomes more and more sexually charged, until they take their relationship somewhere it’s never gone before.
It can’t be easy to tell a satisfying love story in such a short amount of time. Unfortunately, the author takes the easy way out by watering down the premise from the very beginning. At the start of the book, Shane loves her, Ella’s already fantasizing about him, and her boyfriend is unimaginative in the sack (i.e. obviously not right for her and therefore easily dump-able). Other than Shane’s imminent move (which felt glossed over), Kenner strips any possible drama or conflict from the story from the first chapter. There’s nothing really standing in the way of them falling in love, nowhere for the story to go but down the predictable path to its obvious conclusion. Clearly, they’ll have lots of sex, she’ll realize she loves him too, and the unimaginative boyfriend will receive the prompt dumping he was just asking for by not burning up her sheets. As a love story, it’s more believable than many single-day romances. It’s also not very interesting.
Basically, the whole story is two people sitting around an apartment, talking and eventually having sex. I could imagine such a simple story being done well in a short series romance, although it seems more suited for a novella. Here, it often sinks into tedium. The story gets off to a very slow start, with a narrative-heavy beginning full of exposition and introspection. Things don’t pick up much as it goes along. They talk. They read erotica. They have sex. They talk some more. Kenner is a good enough writer that the story is smoothly told and has the occasional good moment. The sex is reasonably hot, although I’ve certainly read steamier Blazes. Mostly it feels like the author is doing everything she can to drag a whisper-thin premise out as far as it can possibly go. Late in the story, she tries to inject some conflict in the form of a dark moment so lame and overblown it pushed my already thin patience to its breaking point.
You’d think that in a story with so little plot there would be plenty of time to develop the characters, right? This is a character-driven story where the characters aren’t very interesting. Ella had a bad childhood, and there are some tantalizing glimpses that made me hope for a deeper exploration of her character. It never really happened. I did appreciate how she came to understand why she latched on to such an inappropriate boyfriend, a welcome change from all the heroines who cling to lesser love interests for stupid reasons, but the author never really delves into who she is otherwise. Shane is nice, but bland. The same can be said about them as a couple.
It would be one thing if Night Moves were about two best friends who found themselves stranded together and discovered feelings neither of them knew were there. But this is like tuning in for the last fifteen minutes of a romantic movie where most of the relationship development took place in the previous hour and a half, and the audience is just biding time waiting for the characters to arrive at the ending we know is coming. The author has a very fun and entertaining book out this month. This isn’t it.