Have you ever reached the end of a book and asked yourself, “Why on Earth did I just read every page of that? How many moments of my life is it that I won’t have back again?” Well, in my case, I read every word of this novel because I had to for review purposes. For other readers, I cannot imagine what excuses will come to mind.
Ann Christopher’s debut novel centers on the love triangle between Dara Williams and brothers Sean and Mike Baldwin. Dara is a first year law student in Cincinnati, and Sean is one of her law school buddies. Sean is very interested in Dara and it appears that they may be on the verge of going out. However, at a law student-alumni gathering, Dara meets Sean’s older brother Mike – and that’s where the trouble starts.
Mike is drawn to Dara from the moment he lays eyes on her. Though Dara finds Mike attractive, she does not care for his arrogance. After the party, Dara decides that Mike is just an unpleasant memory and she will not have to see him again. To her horror, Dara learns soon afterward that Mike will be the supervising attorney for her mandatory internship. Against her will, Dara is forced to work closely with Mike. With Sean and Mike both interested in her, the tension in Dara’s life becomes near unbearable.
To be honest, I have to admit I do not care for love triangle stories since I almost always end up feeling sorry for the loser. In this case, the experience is downright painful because of the awkward manner in which the relationships are handled. First of all, everything develops slowly, with lots of door-slamming, angst, brooding, and “I hate you…no. I can get along with you now…no, I hate you…no, Wow! You look hot!” After a few days, I found myself 200 pages into the book and still not much of a plot had been advanced – especially on the relationship front. I’m not of the “characters must kiss by page 50 and be in bed by page 150” school of thinking, but endless dithering does not do much for me either. On top of that, the male characters both manage to be unappealing and I spent most of my time wishing the heroine could figure out that maybe the Baldwin brothers aren’t the only men on the planet.
Sean is charming, but he is also terribly immature with something of an entitlement mentality and he has trouble making himself see any task through to the end. On the other hand, Mike is a very hard worker, but he is so arrogant and controlling that he is a very difficult character to like. He does have a charitable and benevolent side, but his domineering side rather outweighed it. I came away from the story seeing how one might possibly admire Mike, but he is very difficult to actually like. More importantly, neither Sean nor Mike seems to have particularly great chemistry with Dara for much of the book.
Though a bit weakly, Christopher does get some things right in her story. Most significantly, she accurately portrays the long hours and drudge work involved in being a law student and practicing attorney. The characters have their professional ups and downs, but this is definitely not the glamorous legal world one normally sees in fiction. As an attorney myself, I appreciated that touch of realism.
If Christopher’s characters had been as meticulously drawn as their backdrop, this could have been a pleasant read. As it was, I just spent my time alternating between wishing something important would happen in the story and simply wishing the major characters would all grow up and learn how to behave like normal, professional human beings.