You Are Cordially Invited
Grade : B-

Book five in the Auckland Med series (I’m not sure it’s the last one?), You Are Cordially Invited is ‘The One With the Wedding’ – although it’s much more than a fluffy wedding short -  in which everyone’s favourite, fabulous, feisty Charge Nurse, Cam Wano, ties the knot with the love of his life, Reuben Taylor of the All Blacks.  There’s a wedding, yes, but there’s a lot more going on as well, as Cam and Reuben are faced with some momentous decisions just weeks away from their walk down the aisle – and Cam has to face some of his worst fears and personal demons.

Around three years since Reuben and Cam first met in Crossing the Touchline, they’ve settled into coupledom and family life pretty well.  Reuben has adopted his brother’s autistic son, Cory, and he and Cam are doing a great job providing a stable, nurturing environment for him.  And of course, they love him to bits. But with Reuben being one of the highest-profile sportsmen in the country, the level of media intrusion into their lives is a continual worry;  they both knew, going into their relationship, that it would be an issue, but there are still plenty of people out there who are prepared to hate on Reuben’s choice of such an obviously out and proud partner, and neither of them want Cory being dragged into the unwanted spotlight with them.  With just a couple of weeks to go before the Big Day and following a riotous and raunchy bachelor party, Cam and Reuben are nursing epic hangovers when Cam gets a call from his mum – and is strangely uncommunicative about it.  Reuben knows something is up, but he also knows his man and doesn’t push. But that doesn’t mean he’s going to leave it alone completely, and instead of heading off to training, he turns up at Margaret Wano’s house just in time to meet Cam going in.

The call Cam received was to tell him that his nineteen-year-old cousin Stella is pregnant.  Stella plans to put the baby up for adoption, but wanted to explore the options of an adoption within the family first – and that Cam and Reuben are her first choice of potential parents, if they’re interested.  It’s a bit of a bombshell; they do want more children, but had decided to defer enlarging their family  until after Reuben retires from professional sport so that they can share the child-rearing duties – and obviously, there’s Cory to take into account, too.  It’s a golden opportunity, but it’s not the right time… is it?

The adoption storyline is just one of the things that hit Cam and Reuben in the run-up to their wedding – like they haven’t got enough on their plate already, what with taking care of last-minute wedding details, fending off the increased media attention, and Reuben’s toxic and obnoxious father spouting off his homophobic opinions to anyone who will listen.

A shocking development later in the book (which I’m not going to spoil) just puts the couple under even greater pressure… and I couldn’t help feeling as though I’d stepped into a soap opera.  Cam and Reuben are hit with one potentially life-changing problem after another - and it felt like overkill.

I enjoyed seeing the Auckland Med gang again; their friendships are really well written and the author has created a wonderfully strong sense of camaraderie between them so that you know, without a doubt, they’ll always have each other’s backs.  Cam is still a standout as a character – snarky, bossy and with a huge-heart – and his chemistry with Reuben is as strong as ever.  They’re a great couple, and the thing I liked best about this book is the way Jay Hogan continues to develop their relationship.  There aren’t all that many “established couple” novels in contemporary romance, which traditionally end at the HEA, so catching up with Cam and Reuben and finding them still working at it was good to see.  I liked the way the author explores an issue that could have become a serious fault-line for them - Cam’s need to control every situation as a way of protecting those he cares for.  It’s well-intentioned, and a product of Cam’s need to create a safe space around himself, but when it comes to Reuben, wanting to enable him to focus on his professional life without sweating the smaller stuff means Cam has denied him the opportunity to make choices and have some say in the way they run their lives.  And despite his promises not to keep things back or make decisions on his own, Cam has fallen back into his old ways – and has to learn that sharing burdens and asking for help are signs of strength rather than weakness.

That’s what lies at the heart of this story, the ways a couple finds to compromise and balance their relationship, and how difficult it can be when that couple involves two such strong individuals.  Unfortunately however, while the extraneous drama provides some really good opportunities to illustrate that point, it also gets in the way, and it stretched my credulity just a bit too far.

There were things about this book I liked very much - the adoption storyline is really interesting, for instance - but it just didn’t hang together cohesively, and I can’t rate it as highly as I’ve rated Jay Hogan’s other books.  I like a bit of drama and I like angsty stories, but here, I wish the author had reined it all in a bit.  Sometimes less really is more.

You Are Cordially Invited may not have worked for me quite as well as I’d hoped, but I’m still a big Jay Hogan fan and will certainly be picking up whatever she publishes next.

Buy it at: Amazon or your local independent retailer

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Reviewed by Caz Owens
Grade : B-

Sensuality: Warm

Review Date : July 4, 2021

Publication Date: 06/2021

Recent Comments …

Caz Owens

I’m a musician, teacher and mother of two gorgeous young women who are without doubt, my finest achievement :)I’ve gravitated away from my first love – historical romance – over the last few years and now read mostly m/m romances in a variety of sub-genres. I’ve found many fantastic new authors to enjoy courtesy of audiobooks - I probably listen to as many books as I read these days – mostly through glomming favourite narrators and following them into different genres.And when I find books I LOVE, I want to shout about them from the (metaphorical) rooftops to help other readers and listeners to discover them, too.
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