Sunday, 15 January 2017

Review: Due South by Tamsen Parker

4 stars

Lucy Miller has mixed feelings about going home to the Midwest for Christmas, but then there is a forced change of plan: thanks to other people's incompetence, she and the shy Chanoch Evans will have to work through the holiday on a project. When they are accidental voyeurs to their boss and her husband getting hot and heavy late one night at work, something sparks between them, and they decide that - despite their firm's 'no fraternisation' policy - a Christmas fling won't harm anyone. 

Due South and its characters struck a serious chord with me on so many levels. I seriously related to the way that both Lucy and Evans are shy, anxious and slightly socially awkward. Lucy faces derision from her family for being "just a secretary", in the same way I absolutely loathe being called "just a receptionist". Lucy has also faced a lifetime of having her sexuality policed, being told that she is responsible for the way men respond to her body, something that I think most women can relate to. Evans' family dynamic also hit quite close to home for me.

On a less personal note, I loved the way Evans' was so sweet, and tries so hard to be honorable. After he and Lucy kiss for the first time - which he initiates - he has this internal monologue:
As soon as this massive and increasingly achy erection goes away, I am going to offer her the most profound and profuse apology that has been offered to anyone ever. And if she’s uncomfortable with me—and who could blame her?—I’ll offer to hand in my resignation. It’s the only proper thing to do. Sure, I’d have to find something else right away because of my family, but I can’t bear the idea of Lucy having to work with someone who violated her. If I kept a sword in my office, I’d throw myself on it. As things are, I’ve only got some pencils that are in desperate need of a sharpening, a ruler, and some paperclips. I couldn’t even injure myself in a dignified manner. (loc. 385)
The whole book is as droll and funny as that excerpt, both from Evans and Lucy's perspectives. The chemistry and romantic compatibility between the two was also suberb.

Another thing that I really appreciated was the three dimensional portrayal of Lucy and Evans' boss, who runs the gamut from ball-busting dragon lady to sympathetic, caring and overwhelmed. While both Lucy and Evans' have some sentimental attachment to their workplace, Due South is also wonderfully realistic about the ups and downs of being a heavily-relied on employee.

While I enjoyed the heck out of Due South, I didn't feel like the ending was as strong as the rest of the book. It was a bit run-of-the-mill, when both the MCs had been such beautifully complex and different characters throughout. I also felt it undermined everything that preceded it: the story very much revolves around Lucy and Evans as shy, introverted characters and the epilogue somewhat overturned that. 

While Evans does have second thoughts about proposing to Lucy in a semi-public place, it's to do with his nerves and not how it might be for her, which I felt was at odds with the way he is normally so considerate of her. Similarly, the resolution sees Evans taking a particular decision out of Lucy's hands, and - while it showed that he cared for her enough to solve a problem for her, potentially at his own expense - it did rankle that he robbed her of agency. However, I was happy that, through Evans actions, the two of them avoided a potential Big Misunderstanding.

Lastly, I know that it's rare for authors to have a say on their books covers, but I'm not a fan of this one. The book makes a point of Lucy being a beautiful, curvaceous woman, and the model is so...angular. She's all jawbone and scapula and absolutely no boobs. Ughh. 

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