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As I'm spending a good deal of my time just recently as a hospital visitor which involves sitting by my Mother's bedside whilst she sleeps, I've been catching up on my reading confining myself to books which don't take a lot of brain power and are easy to put down. In other words, I've been reading what's commonly known as 'trashy romance.' Most of the books I've read so far have been exactly that but every so often, I hit lucky and come across one which is surprisingly well written, well plotted and enjoyable. 'His Unexpectedly', despite the cheesy title in the equally cheesy series called 'Wild Ride to Love', proved to be unexpectedly good.
Jenna Fallon is a commitment phobic good-time girl who left home years ago. She's returning home from California to Vancouver for her sister's wedding but when her car breaks down she's hitches a ride with an equally liberated marine biologist in his camper van. The journey up the west coast proves enjoyable but when they reach their destination will they be happy to each go their separate ways.
When I first got my Kindle I had a field day in the Kindle store, picking up as many freebie books as possible, most of which have remained on my Kindle unread ever since. 'His Unexpectedly' was one of those books, though sad to say, it's now selling for £3.90 with used paperbacks at 86p plus postage which personally I think is a little expensive for what is ostensibly a bog standard romance novel.
On the surface, this is a simple romance but Susan Fox has given not only the plot but also her main protagonists far more depth than usual in this kind of novel. The story covers the journey take by Jenna and Mark, the marine biologist, which proves to be not only a physical journey but a metaphorical journey of discovery for both of them.
For Jenna, what begins as a convenient means of getting to her destination turns into the journey of a lifetime and proves cathartic not only for her but for Mark, as well. He's a marine biologist who travels the world, loving and leaving women wherever he encounters them, whilst Jenna has done her fair share of sleeping around, too. This made a refreshing change as so often this type of novel has a heroine who, if not entirely virginal, leans more towards the pure than the impure. Jenna, quite frankly, has put it about a bit in her time and is planning to pay her way for this particular road trip by dispensing her sexual favours.
She's not really as promiscuous as she comes across, she just has the same attitude to sex as most men in that it doesn't mean much when her emotions aren't engaged. There is a legitimate reason for Jenna's attitude to life. She's the third daughter of successful professional parents with two older sisters who are equally as successful and a younger sister who has been everybody's favourite since she was born. This has left Jenna, who failed to live up to the family tradition with regard to educational or employment success, with a good deal of emotional insecurity, feeling that she has failed the expectations of her parents and is a disappointment to them. This has resulted in her itinerant lifestyle and a constant inclination to dumb herself down as well as a physical consequence to her .
Though not emotionally damaged like Jenna, Mark Chambers is every bit as reluctant to commit to settling down as a wage slave with a wife and 2.4 children but he, too, is about to embark on a journey of discovery.
It has to be said, the author has a strange writing style which though mainly written in the first person from Jenna's point of view, frequently has passages written in the third person which allows the reader some insight into Mark's thought processes. As these passages often occur half way through a chapter, it can be not only disconcerting but also a bit confusing.
Although there are elements of the plot which are no-brainers and it's pretty obvious where this journey is leading, there is a more subtle sub-text dealing with love, loss, childlessness and the causes of the directions people take in life. The story even manages to work chaos theory into the mix. Though these elements are secondary and subtle, it doesn't make them any less thought provoking.
These two characters may seem to have nothing in common on the face of it, they have enough areas of mutual agreement to make it plain they are made for each other and both characters are believable and likeable. Both have been slightly damaged by life's slings and arrows and they both deserve a happy ending even if it isn't with each other.
This is a romance, there's no getting away from that fact, and as such there are, of course, predictable elements to the story. However, this is an intelligently written tale raising all the imponderables that face both men and women when they meet 'the one'. It's a scary business committing to one person and this story not only acknowledges that fact but also highlights that with commitment often comes compromise, too.
This was a surprisingly enjoyable story which managed to tread the fine line between romance and reality and though it wouldn't appeal to many male readers, it isn't so nauseatingly romantic as to be totally unbelievable. Though perhaps not a total 5 star read, it's definitely above the average one expects from this genre and well worth 4 stars.