Julie Cohen – "All Work And No Play"

10 Feb

GENRE: Romance / Contemporary
PUBLISHED: Mills and Boon Modern Extra, 2007

WHY THIS NOVEL: I liked Cohen’s voice in One Night Stand, (and the novel itself, of course). Plus, All Work and No Play has a plot premise I like to read.

The back blurb:
“She wasn’t the kind of girl that gorgeous men flirted with. She was plain Jane Miller – great at her job, organised, efficient, sensible . Except that every time she met Jay’s deep blue eyes, she knew he wanted her. And she wanted him – the guy was seriously sexy! Perhaps for a change it was time to let go and have the night of her life!
After all, all work and no play makes Jane a very dull girl…”

In her “Dear Reader” Letter, Cohen sums this novel up as: “A gorgeous geek, mistaken identities, the internet, cyber sex, a male model, and a little ironing board surfing” – and it fits. She also writes that she had fun writing this book – which shows – and that she hopes the reader enjoys reading it – which I did.

There are plot devices in this story which could lead to “oh, really?” or “yadda, yadda” comments but don’t because Cohen manages to make them work. Take for example the mistaken identity element. It’s Jane who’s mistaken about the identity of another person and she has a few opportunities to discover this but doesn’t. And instead of making me scoff and “oh, really?” I bought the reasons because a) they were mentioned at all; b) better than “she should do this but somehow she couldn’t be bothered with it” c) the other person involved thinks Jane knows and it’s apparent in their conversations (which is my way of saying their conversation makes sense for each of them even though they have a completely different perspective.) That’s not easy to pull off. For me, the mistaken identity device worked because I know what Jane doesn’t and I wanted to see what would happen when she does. After the first few chapters, Jane knows and this mistake about identity sets in motion all kinds of things. I list the fact that they didn’t exchange photos or the glasses transformation power as “huh?” moments, but they didn’t really bother me much.

All Work and No Play is a tightly plotted story. Every scene pushes the plot forward and there’s no conversation just for conversation’s sake or, even worse, to fill the pages. It’s clear that it’s Jane’s story. She’s a person who is afraid to reveal herself to others and likes to keep up a (professional) front in all parts of her life. In the beginning she’s pretending to still be engaged to a colleague even though they broke up their engagement some days ago (she doesn’t want to be pitied and appear “weak”). She shows this kind of behaviour throughout the story, although she’s forced to question it, until she can’t go on any longer. Talk about her having a revelation at the end.

I really only grasped late in the story that the fear to reveal herself is important to understand Jane’s character (IMO; sometimes it needs a sledgehammer). Before that, I more often than not was irritated by Jane’s behaviour (grow up some more, I thought). There is one instance in particular where I thought this pretending-out-of-fear stuff went too near what high school kids would do in such a case. But after I made the connection between Jane’s fear to reveal herself and her behaviour, my opinion about Jane and so the story improved quite a bit. Viewed this way, there is real development with Jane’s character even if her behaviour often seems “huh?” and silly when looked at from a distance. This way, Jane learns a few things.

The hero is just … well, I normally don’t say these kind of things about fictional characters but I could get weak knees if I met someone like him in real life which, by the way, is definitely not a comment based on his good looks alone. He really cares about Jane and he knows what he wants from her. He’s there for her but he doesn’t let her walk all over him (although he goes along with her pretending stuff for quite some time). It’s clear from everything he does that he loves her. What is even better, he’s not just there to help Jane get over her insecurities. He’s not just a knight out to save the damsel, he has his own problems. And Jane helps him work through them. Each learns form the other and in the end, they make it work together. Like it should be.

Would I recommend this novel? Yes.

Would I read this novel again? Probably yes.

Grade: 4+ / 5


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