BLOG REVIEW: Before Jamaica Lane by Samantha Young

25y.o. university librarian is content with her geeky ways & quite happy with her new life in Scotland.  
Although she’s attracted to her best friend of 9 months Hero since they first met, she knows enough to keep their friendship as enjoyably platonic as it’s been. 
Photographer & video-game reviewer Hero is unapologetic about his casual hook-ups and avoidance of romantic commitment. 
When he finds out about her insecurities with dating, he offers to help her. But she takes it further and proposes a friends-with-benefits (FWB) arrangement with him, 
clarifying its educational purposes. She’s, therefore, surprised when Hero spends more and more time with her, 
extending their arrangement for weeks on end. However, when they have a confrontation about what that meant for him, he abruptly cuts things off and runs.  
What is fueling his commitment avoidance? What does it mean for their relationship?


This book got better and better the further I read. The first 45 pages meandered a bit about the main characters’ friends and family. Some who were featured in their own books.  I found myself lost at times, keeping track of the secondary characters’ names, who was related or dating who, and their relationship histories. We’re also introduced to Hero and heroine’s gaming and movie-critiquing fun buddy relationship, with heroine’s attraction to him suppressed when it occasionally pops up.  But the main characters from On Dublin Street (for my review, click here) seemed to have a more central focus in these initial chapters than Hero and heroine of this book. When Hero proposed his dating lessons to heroine, the book became centered on Hero and heroine’s romance. My reading became enjoyable and smooth then.

I enjoyed the playfulness of Hero and heroine’s relationship, both before and after they became FWBs. They both considered themselves as video-online game and movie geeks but Hero was more cool about it. I liked heroine’s acceptance of herself as a smart, somewhat geeky, humorous, and strong woman. She’d been through a lot from taking care of her mom’s prolonged illness in her late teen years and finally her mom’s death when heroine was 21. It shaped her life, which explained her strengths as well as her weaknesses. Heroine’s major insecurity was her not-so-slim physical appearance. She thought she was average-looking with too much flab and curves. So she dressed and carried herself as such and got tongue-tied around attractive & dateable men. What I loved about her was that she knew what was wrong and tried to do something about it. Her attempts were funny and so were her consequent avoidant strategies when her attempts inevitably wouldn’t work.  She didn’t whine or feel story for herself. She either accepted her bad as something that’s part of her or she moved on to a more worthwhile matter and try again later. And I think that’s 1 of her main attractions for Hero. She wasn’t the usual high-maintenance, girly, & clingy woman he often encountered. She was the male version of him but without the hook-ups.

 I initially thought that Hero was only marginally attracted to heroine and grew to care for her after they became intimate. The book takes it through heroine’s POV(point of view) more in the first 50% or so of the book. It did seem like Hero took pity on her due to her dating ineptness and agreed to be her FWB as a novelty. It became apparent around 70% of the book that Hero was much more emotionally invested in her that I thought. The knowledge of how much he really was into her was presented gradually, from his cuddling with her after the first time they had sex to his constant presence in her life soon after. But it wasn’t until after he dumped her that we begin to truly see how she mattered a lot to him.

      ----------------SPOILERS: Don’t read below if you don’t want to know the book’s details---------

The Betrayal:
Hero dumped heroine because she mattered too much to him.  He had successfully held women at bay emotionally since his first girlfriend died at age 18. He found his experience with romantic love so wrenching that he wanted nothing more to do with it. Plus he still cherished his first love and got her initial tattooed on his chest as a reminder. He didn’t do romance anymore.  He had sex with women or were only friends with them. Heroine knew about his commitment issues when she made her FWB offer to him and was explicit about not expecting any emotional commitments from him and only wanting a sexual education.  She expected for him to treat her sexually like he did the other women: have sex and leave. Instead, Hero treated her like a girlfriend. He stayed the night, cuddled with her, had meals with her, talked about personal and everyday matters, invited her over to visit his parents with him, and pretty much lived in her apartment during the 6 weeks since they first had sex.  She confronted him on it, when he dumped her right after the emotionally-laden sex he initiated.

He dumped her because he was aware of how emotionally involved he was getting with her and he was scared. Instead of telling her the truth, he acted like a jerk and projected his own emotional fears on to her. He accused her “manipulating” their FWB arrangement into an unwanted romance. He threw back her “I love you” confession and her confronting him about his mixed signals about their relationship by telling her “I don’t love you. I can’t and I won’t and you knew that, so don’t stand there like a victim.” I applauded her for standing her ground through his blame game & setting her limits and acting on them right away.  

His Grovel:
Hero was slow on the uptake when it came to emotions. Made sense since he’d been avoiding them for many years. So it took him some weeks of being down and seeing heroine with another man to realize how he really felt for her. The good thing about him was that, as soon as he made his resolve,  he didn’t waste any time trying to woo heroine back . And he did this by:

1. being open and honest with her about his feelings for her. In doing so, we found out that:
     a.  he had the hots for her and had fantasies about her months before they became FWBs.
     b.  he’d been increasingly in love with her as she with him during their 6 weeks together.
     c.  he changed his tattoo (which had his first love’s initial) to something that signified his life with heroine, weeks before she challenged him on his still being in love with his first girlfriend.
2. sending her presents daily with a note declaring his love for and thoughts of her.
3. publicly declaring his love for her, which countered the weeks of their secret affair.
4. staying celibate and faithful to her since they became sexually intimate.
5. respecting her wishes to stop yet making sure that she knew that he was only giving her the space she needed but that he there for her and not giving up on her.

He wanted to make sure that she knew that he loved her like no other. She was it for him. And he was willing to do what he could to get her take him back.
                        
     -------------------------------------------------END SPOILERS------------------------------------------------------

The angst of the book came from his realization of how much she meant to him, how he may have lost her forever because of how he hurt her, and the question of his ability to adequately love her the way she wanted him to. The intensity, emotional pull, and my enjoyment of the book increased as Hero begins opening up about what he was feeling and thinking.  Heroine’s equal resolve to not settle for less than #1 in Hero’s heart upped the ante on the angst, making me question what he could do to convince her of his love. Her high demands of love made him work for it and produced a resolution that was touching and convincing. The epilogue 18 months later nailed down their eventual HEA(happy ever after).

I recommend this book.
4-star

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