#aww2012 Book 1 - One Perfect Night, Rachael Johns
General Plot Summary: Peppa is a voice talent at a recording company. Cameron is her boss. Peppa has recently come out of a bad spell - she lost a baby and her fiance, and she’s really working at moving forward and healing herself. Cameron’s got his own romantic history carnage, and he’s just interested in flings that don’t get mired in emotion. A chance meeting at a Christmas party, a bingle in a car park, and some match-making family members all lead to a burgeoning relationship, but the bottom line is Peppa wants very different things than Cameron, and she’s not willing to play the ‘fun’ card forever - or wait around indefinitely to see if Cameron ever gets over his fear of intimacy.
Characters: Peppa is the better drawn of the two, and her inner monologue will seem very familiar to many readers - the ‘sure I can have a fling with this super hot guy that I’m very attracted to without getting attached’ self-delusion that some *cough*me*cough* will have tried in the past. What works for Peppa is that she eventually gets over it, realises what’s happening and tries to extract herself. What doesn’t work for Peppa is her tender heart: when Cameron is a dick, instead of calling him on it, she recognises the inner pain that’s leading him to act this way. *snort* Calling him a dick might not have moved the story forward, but it would have made me as a reader feel better. Cameron is a pretty straightforward no-strings-attached rich guy. He does seem to move forward in the end, but his transition from distant and aloof to can’t-get-enough family guy doesn’t feel as authentic. I would have preferred if by the end of the story readers could see him making in-roads, as opposed to complete about-faces.
Bottom line: Carina Press is doing some good stuff with contemporary romances, so it’s worth checking out. One Perfect Night reads more like a category romance than a single title, so if you enjoy lush writing and quicker resolutions, this may be the story for you.
Long, involved thoughts only tangentially related to the book:One of the issues that comes up in OPN is an unexpected pregnancy. Now in the course of this book, it makes perfect sense for Peppa to keep the baby: it’s well-documented that she wants a family, and a previous pregnancy has diminished her chance of getting pregnant again, so a healthy pregnancy - no matter how it happens - is almost akin to a miracle. But it did bring in to rather sharp relief how unexpected pregnancies are handled in romances. Okay, caveat: I know there are romances out there who break the mould. This is not a ‘all romances ever written are the same’ argument. But I have read a heck load of romance novels, and I know what the trend is. So go ahead and argue if you like, but if your argument consists of, ‘I read this one book where the heroine totally gets an abortion!’ then you’re not really listening to what I’m saying here, and chances are I’m going to think you’re an idiot. Okay?
Right, so you’re single, you’ve just found out you’re pregnant, and the father, well, he’s kind of a douche, hence the reason you’re single. He’s commitment-phobic, or he’s addicted to his job, or he never wants children, or he’s a werewolf and you’re a vampire and two families both alike in dignity, etc. Bottom line is you have different values, and you’re not going to last in the long term.
You’ve got options. And based on your situation, beliefs, politics, and expectations, you’re going to make the decision that sits best with you. But the bottom line is, you’ve got options. But these options are so very rarely considered in the novels. And it’s to their detriment.
Romance novel advocates spend a lot of time arguing that the novels are feminist literature: celebrating the concerns, lives, and emotions of women. But to dismiss the options available to a woman about her own body and her own future is not feminist. It’s degrading. And as one of the few genres that consistently portray women in a realistic and heroic light, it’s diminishing. To have an intelligent, professional woman not at least spend a few minutes in rational, practical thought about her plans, ambitions, beliefs, and desires and how an unexpected pregnancy might affect them makes her an unintelligent heroine. To have a single, unemployed widow with twin five-year-old boys (as I read in a recent novel) not consider the financial, emotional, and physical ramifications of her unexpected pregnancy makes her irrational and irresponsible - and it’s hard to accept her as the heroine of the novel.
The bottom line is that whatever the heroine chooses (and the whole point here is choice. Being pro-choice means accepting everyone’s decision as the one they chose as right for them), it’s really important to see the heroine making that choice. Because as readers, we know the hero is going to come back and it’s all going to work out all right. But there are people out there, outside of Romancelandia, who are going through this exact same thing. And if they turn to this genre that we love, they need to see that their experience is being reflected in a realistic way. They need to be able to read about strong, intelligent women going through a really tough situation, and acting in a way that reflects their strength and intelligence. If they chose to have the child, the reader can believe it will be okay, because the character has made the choice deliberately. If they are against abortion, they can consider adoption as a realistic alternative. Or they can consider terminating the pregnancy.
The genre needs to take these women that they’ve written, female characters that readers can believe in, can support, can understand, and can even aspire to emulate, and apply them in all situations. Especially about something as important and life-altering as having a child.