Mary Lynn Baxter’s Tempting Janey is a book about second chances and second loves. It has an interesting premise and the lead characters have potential, but the author squanders this promise by so focusing the leads on their libidos that they act like a pair of horny teenagers rather than the adults they are.
Janey Mansfield is back in Hunter, South Carolina. Three years ago, after a nasty divorce, she left with her teenage daughter and moved to Colorado. But now she is back to take over her aunt’s business, a candy store. She has a number of problems; her finances are uncertain, her daughter Robin is beginning to rebel, and her ex-husband Keith has decided he wants her back. Then in the midst of all this she becomes interested in someone new – Dillon Reed.
Dillon Reed is the principal of Robin’s high school and the husband of the woman Janey’s ex had had an affair with three years before. Dillon’s wife has since died, and now he concentrates on his job and his hobby, raising horses. He is not interested in getting married again, or even getting involved with anyone, until he sees Janey again and realizes how attracted he is to her.
So far so good. These two have a past – they were good friends for a long time and there is an interesting cloud hanging over both of them – the residue of their failed marriages. This might have made for a very sweet story involving the renewal of old friendships, learning to trust again, getting through shared pain together. But this is not the direction Baxter chose for these characters; instead she focuses on how attracted they suddenly are to each other.
In fact, all Janey and Dillon seem to think about is how attracted they are to each other. They continually have the same emotions and reactions over and over. Janey thinks about how much she wants Dillon. Dillon thinks about how much he wants Janey. When they meet or get together they look at each other lustfully. Janey licks her lips. She tells him she doesn’t want a relationship. He tells her he’s not giving up. If there is a crisis – and there are several crises – they kiss and then are interrupted. Then they think about the kiss over and over. Finally after a while, they have sex. This is a basic summary of what happens for the bulk of the book.
Janey has a few other thoughts other than about Dillon. She worries about Robin, she thinks about how much she hates her ex-husband, and she frets about her business, all of which are normal concerns. But when Janey thinks about Dillon, she only thinks with her hormones. Nothing else about their relationship is developed. They don’t get to know each other again. They don’t talk through the past hurts. They just think a lot about having sex, and eventually they have a lot of sex.
In addition to the poorly developed characters, the book is written in a very choppy style. Perhaps Baxter was attempting to add suspense by having most of her chapters end hovering on the brink of something. One chapter would end, and then the next would begin some time in the future, and then a few pages later the continuation of the previous chapter would either be summarized or told in flashback. This non-chronological sequencing was nothing if not confusing and did not serve to heighten the suspense. Rather, it kept me flipping back to try and understand how the different parts related in time.
The secondary characters were not well drawn either. Either they were one-dimensional or they were contradictory. For example, we are told that Janey’s ex, Keith, was a pretty decent husband and father for most of their marriage. He had a bit of a drinking problem sure, but it didn’t make him abusive. But the very first time we are introduced to Keith, he is having sex with his girlfriends and his thoughts and speech are so vulgar and callous that it’s hard to believe that such a selfish user could have ever been good to Janey and Robin.
Finally, the plot seems to have gotten lost. I think this book was meant to be somewhat suspenseful, but it just wasn’t. Janey and Dillon meander around together for about 376 pages. Various little sub-plots are introduced, and some of them serve to keep Janey and Dillon apart, but the problems are either neatly resolved or they peter out at the end without any resolution.
Tempting Janey was not the worst book I’ve read this year. It had strong potential, and the two main characters were initially engaging. But the direction the author chose to take them, as well as problems with the secondary characters and plotting difficulties made this one impossible to recommend.