The Love Coupon
Lobbyist Flick Dalgetty has finally landed the job of her dreams advocating for the underprivileged in D.C., but her lease is up before she can leave her present job in Chicago. She worms her way into staying with Tom O’Connell, whose uptight precision is the complete opposite of her vivacious chaos. The two strike sparks, but with the clock ticking down to Flick’s move, great chemistry seems to be the victim of awful timing. Can the thirty coupons (some friendly, some sexual) Flick gives Tom to cash in their last thirty days convince them some people are worth making sacrifices for? Although this nearly-standalone sequel to The Love Experiment isn’t as strong as the original, I still enjoyed and recommend it.
Both Flick and Tom are career-driven, with Tom on the verge of a corner office and Flick heading off to chase her dream (about which she is refreshingly unapologetic when confronted with a tempting man). Some of the details of the ad copy from Tom’s pharmaceutical accounts, like a Kegel device, are quite entertaining. I liked how the author weaves some office politics and feminist commentary into the story without it feeling artificial. Flick and Tom discuss, for instance, the way she modifies her wardrobe to meet the approval of the client of the day, and Tom realizes, from Flick’s observation, that a boys’ club mentality at his firm is keeping his talented female coworker back. On the negative side, I felt that the author never quite made up her mind if the obstacle keeping Tom and Flick apart was their careers or Tom’s mindset, and the resolution feels rushed.
I’m not naturally sympathetic to whirlwind, energy-bomb heroines like Flick, whom Tom describes as “made of bees.” They exhaust me, and Tom showed more restraint than I would have when Flick brought glitter into his house. However, Paton helped me like Flick more by showing how her manic energy stems from a fear that anything less than full-attack mode will see Flick backslide into the urban poverty she escaped, and that still holds her indolent family. I didn’t like the flat ‘lazy moocher’ characterization of her family, which smacks of poor-shaming, and the resolution to Flick’s dilemma with them is both oversimplified and, annoyingly, takes place off-camera.
This book features many of the emotionally intense, explicit sex scenes I’m starting to recognize as a Paton hallmark. Flick and Tom have a LOT of sex in this book, and it’s an integral part of them growing as characters and becoming close enough to question the inevitability of their separation. In one example, Tom explains that he can’t relax and enjoy oral sex because his size (he’s 6’4) would make it too easy for him to hurt a partner if he got carried away. His inability to completely let loose is also related to his granite persona. Flick, who’s 5’2, of course sees this as a challenge, and her victory is liberating for them both. Tom almost never initiates sex, which is where many of the coupons come in, and although the book doesn’t state this, I read him as being a bit submissive. It worked for me as a change of pace from domineering heroes.
Paton is a strong writer, but she needs an editor to clean up after her, and whoever had this book missed several problems. She has great descriptive phrases (“If you plugged an amusement park into Flick Dalgetty, you could light up a roller coaster and make cotton candy for days.”) but sometimes too many of them. Every now and then she sneaks an Australianism in (No American would think of endings by Mills and Boon – that’s Harlequin here) and she needs more perfect tenses. However, I’m nitpicking. She’s one of the few writers of contemporary romance working today I’d specifically recommend for her prose, because even if she whiffs occasionally, she swings for the fences, and when she connects, it’s a home run.
As is often the case for me with B-range books, I feel more comfortable articulating what kept the book out of the As than what got it all the way to the Bs, and consequently I think my review may sound a little negative, so let me be clear. If you like hot, modern contemporaries where sex helps the relationship grow and the growing relationship leads to better sex, you’ll enjoy The Love Coupon.