What happens when a bad boy becomes a man?
Nate Davis didn’t plan on returning to his hateful hometown. But then, he didn’t plan on being widowed in his twenties, or on his mother getting sick, either. Turns out, life doesn’t give a f$*k about plans.
Hannah Kabbah thought her career in childcare was over. After all, no-one wants a woman with a criminal damage conviction watching their kids. But when her high school crush returns to Ravenswood with two kids in tow, she gets the second chance she never dreamed of.
She also gets to know Nate – the real Nate. The one whose stony exterior hides aching vulnerability. Who makes her smile when she wants to fall apart. Who is way, way more than the bad boy persona he earned so long ago, and way too noble to ever sleep with the nanny.
So it’s a good thing she’s completely over that teenage crush, right?
Dabney Grinnan and Em Wittmann are both fans of Ms. Hibbert’s work and read her latest novel, Untouchable. Here’s what they had to say about the book.
EBW: As you know, I loved the first Ravenswood novel, A Girl Like Her. From the principal characters to the mystery subplot, everything about it worked. I also enjoyed the surprise novella, Damaged Goods, that came out earlier this summer. Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same way about Untouchable. I struggled to like and understand Hannah – much as she struggled to like and understand herself – and although I understand the novel represents a journey of sorts for her, I had a hard time connecting with her character. She has so much anger bottled up inside, and aside from that first, ridiculous, scene in the coffee shop, Ms. Hibbert doesn’t really revisit it. On the other hand, I did love our hero, Nate Davis, but I also didn’t feel like I knew him very well. So many things about him are simply left underdeveloped – the aftermath of his wife’s death, his relationship with his kids, the tattoos (what’s up with the sparrow?! I kept waiting for some sort of explanation of its significance), his relationships with his mom and Zach… so many opportunities for character development that went nowhere.
I just wasn’t feeling this pairing, and although I LOVE a slow burn – and Ms. Hibbert is very good at it – once they finally admitted they had the hots for each other, I just checked out.
What did you think?
DG: I’m co-signing everything you said. I really struggled to get Hannah, unlike her sister Ruth who was resoundingly real. And Nate… there was so much of the same litanies in his head again and again that it prevented me from seeing him as a man with depth. And although Hannah appeared sorta fully formed – what was her relational background? Ravenswood is a small town; she’s sexually experienced but her past is such a blank slate I couldn’t really credit what made Nate THE ONE.
EBW: Hannah is black, bisexual and she suffers from depression. She’s also short and big and bossy, and seems to know a bit about everything. I’m fine with every single one of these things and I love how the author gives us heroines who are neither cookie-cutter and/or apologetic for their uniqueness. But. Did you feel like Ms. Hibbert perhaps tried to make this character too many things?
DG: It’s interesting that you say she’s suffers from depression, because I didn’t get a depressive vibe from her. She struggled with her brain but I couldn’t quite get a grip on what motivated her. I liked how unique and how damn smart she was – I just wanted to understand her better than I did.
EBW: She mentioned to Nate in her ‘interview’ that she had depression, but I can totally see how you missed it, because like a lot of other things in this novel, it’s never really explored beyond this one declaration, and then in a late night conversation between her and Nate after he tells her he thinks Zach is depressed but seems to be dealing with it.
I want to be very clear about my comment above – I don’t have a problem with Hannah, her sexuality, her body type or her mind – my problem is the story itself. If I hadn’t read the earlier novels in the series, I would have been lost. There simply isn’t enough character development – of Hannah, Nate, or the secondary characters that populate their world. If you haven’t read A Girl Like Her, you would be very confused by Ruth. I got it, I get her, and I get their relationship – but if I hadn’t read the previous novel, that wouldn’t be the case.
Did you feel like Ms. Hibbert takes quite a bit for granted about her characters this time out?
DG: Let me think about that. I almost think the problem is that Hannah and Nate feel dropped into this world in a way that doesn’t connect with the world from Damaged Goods and A Girl Like That. In those works, I had a very clear sense about the people in and context of Ravenswood. This book felt like some other place, one that I didn’t have any context for. There’s a weird scene in the playground where these yummy mummies try and trash Hannah to Nate. It baffled me. Who were those women? Did they know Nate from the past? If so, why didn’t they hold his past against him? I just couldn’t connect with them OR connect them to the first two books in a way that explained what was going on.
EBW: Let’s talk about Nate for a bit. First of all, I think John Travolta is gross (apparently not everyone thinks this?), and I don’t think Danny Zuko is hot in any way, so I struggled with Nate’s appearance, since he’s apparently a dead ringer for him. He left Ravenswood and somehow became a wildly successful photographer. But how? When? Was Ellie a photographer too? How did they meet? Are the kids struggling with their mother’s death? Did his mom come to London to see him when it happened? Did Zach? Does he stay in touch with his in-laws? What does that relationship look like? Except for the fact that he’s ugly (ha!), has a lot of tattoos and apparently, a former fondness for piercings, and no friends… WE KNOW NOTHING ABOUT HIM. Who keeps $50,000 in cash in their house? And doesn’t worry about it?!
DG: *laughs* I think Hibbert is oddly coy about what these characters look like. Zach says Hannah is hot and Nate thinks she’s gorgeous but all I know about her is that she’s got big boobs – I loved the bra pockets thing – and loves lipstick. Normally I don’t care what characters look like but here I felt as though it mattered and I couldn’t envision the leads. Again, it’s as if two partially filled-out people were dropped into a greenscreened background and it wasn’t anywhere near enough for me.
EBW: Despite my problems with the characterization of the principals, I did love their interactions with each other. Nate really seems to understand Hannah and the way her mind works, and I think their bickering/sweet talk is charming. The scene when she cuts his hair – after she tells him it’s too long – is particularly good, and as usual, Ms. Hibbert has a wonderful way with intimacy. I felt their frantic desire for each other – mingled with the sense that this could be a mistake – and the sequence that follows is hot, hot, hot. I also LOVED the bra pockets, and Nate’s amused discovery of them. They’re very good to each other despite the roadblocks between them.
DG: Agreed. They are lovely when it’s just the two of them and Hibbert does a lovely job of showing – not telling – how deeply they care for each other. Also, I need bra pockets ASAP. #BigFan. I’d give the book a B- overall.
EBW: Although I’m still invested in the Ravenswood world, this story felt underdeveloped and while I’m glad I finally got to learn more about Hannah (and better understand the way she is), I still don’t feel like I know her or Nate. They’re a likeable couple, but I wanted to better understand how they became the people they are when they meet again as adults. Untouchable gave me too few glimpses of the secondary characters that make up its world, and failed to advance the series in any meaningful way. I liked it, but it’s definitely my least favorite in the series. It’s a B- from me, too.