Something About You (Just Me & You Series)
By Lelaina Landis
If you’re a virgin to romance novels like I was, you couldn’t do much better than to begin your foray into them (that is, if you’re looking to jump into the much reviled, yet much loved and purchased genre of romance) with Something About You.
Let me quickly give you a little background as to how I ended up reading and reviewing this book: Author Landis read my review of Sylvia Lucas’ childfree book, No Children, No Guilt and emailed me to see if I’d be interested in reviewing her debut book. She was careful to check with me first how I felt about the romance genre and my honest answer was that I’d never read anything from it and it wasn’t my go-to genre like science fiction and fantasy always has been. But I was intrigued and I told her I was up for the challenge.
I tried very hard to go into the first chapter with an open mind. But after almost 10 years of bookselling experience, the auto-pilot reaction of derision kept threatening to surface as I got to know the main character, Sabrina, and her first encounter with Gage Fitzgerald, who was undoubtedly being set up as the good-looking male in the inevitable forthcoming sex scenes. I rolled my eyes a bit at his name and the high society back drop that most of the characters lived in, but I kept going. I have a hard time relating to characters who have money, who name-drop alcohol (I’m not even sure what vintage port actually is), and I am completely oblivious to brand names in high fashion.
Here’s the thing though. The story unfolds around Sabrina, who is the Chief of Staff to an underwhelming, unlikeable Texan representative, and though she’s a bit high strung and tightly wound at times, you can’t help but like her. You admire her strength of character, her inimitable work ethic, and the fact that she knows what she wants and she goes for it. She is a feminist in all aspects of the word (though it’s never mentioned as such) and she has a healthy, strong, sisterly friendship with Molly, who marries Sebastian, who happens to be Gage’s best friend.
Molly and Sabrina’s friendship is a real winner in this book. While most television shows, books, movies, society, etc. focus on the petty, backstabbing stereotype of female friendships, this book focuses instead on a friendship between two women who have known each other for a very long time, who will call each other out in the most loving yet brutally honest way, and who have each other’s backs through thick and thin. By the end of the book, I was actually a teensy bit jealous of their friendship.
But this is a romance novel and so far I’ve only alluded to there being the inevitable sex scene. What may surprise you (because it definitely surprised me) is that the first hot and heavy scene (besides a make-out session in Chapter 2) doesn’t happen until almost 300 pages in. Don’t go skipping ahead now that I’ve told you where it’s at either; it’s well worth your time to get to know the characters and the plot before delving into the bedroom romp.
The story revolves around Sabrina and Gage, an unlikely couple of opposites who meet at a wedding and whose best friends are convinced they should get to know each other better. Throw in some complicated and dysfunctional family issues that every character is either trying to overcome, make sense of, or just live with and the fact that Sabrina has no desire to have children (a real relationship killer or so she assumes) and you have some good subplots to carry the book along. And there is an in depth story. This book isn’t focused on skimping over details and character development in order to deliver 50 pages of raunchy sex between strangers where the woman is a damsel in distress and the man is a self-assured, sexist demi-god. It guides you through the character’s day to day lives, it presents challenges (Gage is a shock jock on the radio and Sabrina is in politics; a bad match if ever there was one), and it doesn’t even get heavy-handed with the over-arching theme of being childfree, but neither does it shy away from the idea that a woman can know she doesn’t want children and not have it be the end of the world. Sabrina stays true to her desire to be an awesome auntie someday and not a mom ever even when it means experiencing heartbreak and tough love.
I wasn’t, unfortunately, a huge fan of how the book ends…literally. The last three sentences were a bit too schmaltzy and uncharacteristic of Sabrina for my taste. And there were definitely times throughout the story where it seemed to embrace a soap opera stereotype a bit too much for me: the prissy bitch of a stepmother who was Sabrina’s father’s mistress for the entirety of his marriage to Nola, Sabrina’s mother, the two characters with physical disabilities who find love in one another – though I did like the way they describe themselves, “…we’re the old, beat-up dolls no one else wanted to play with. The dolls with the missing legs and the purple knee joints.”, and the richy-rich environment that everyone fits into except Gage, who is from a podunk town in Iowa.
All in all, though, I would say I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed the book and especially enjoyed reading a strong, childfree female character in a romance novel. Her decision not to have children introduces the “crazy” concept of safe sex and various birth controls methods in the midst of sex scenes and lo and behold! that doesn’t take away from the steamy words you’re enjoying a bit more than you’d like anyone to know about.
(Two funny personal connections to the book: on page 11, when the city of Paris (France) is mentioned, a character assumes it’s Paris, Texas being talked about…Paris, TX is only 30 minutes from where I live now and the only “big” city worth driving to within a wide radius of my town. On page 323, Sabrina calls a number that turns out to be for Mercy Medical, a hospital in Des Moines, Iowa. My husband’s old band, Brandtson, wrote a song called Mercy Medical, named after that same hospital.)