Rating: 3 Stars
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
Loved the First Half, The Second...Not So Much
I was looking for a light, fun, romantic read - taking a break, actually, from a book that defines heavy reading. Of course I went to Showalter - she's usually a sure fire gem in that arena. And in Animal Instincts, she was as well...for the first half of the book.
Naomi, burned first by the biological father who did her mom wrong then again by her own husband, sees love and marriage as the most insidious sorts of traps and thinks all men are utter snakes. She's taking a hands off approach to those snakes in general and love in particular when she accepts a job planning a birthday party for the fabulous Royce's mother's birthday. From the moment she walks into Royce's office her life starts resembling a tilt-a-whirl on meth - while she's ecstatic at the attention and the hard core romance and lust Royce is full court pressing her with, she's terrified with it as well, and when he tells her he loves her...and she's the woman of his dreams...Naomi goes from terrified to frantic with fear. She can't let herself love again - ever - or she'll be destroyed. She's convinced of it, and no amount of yummy bedroom games will convince her otherwise. Can Royce convince her he's everything he seems to be or will the flighty Naomi fly the coop?
For the first half of Animal Instincts, I was amused at the role reversal - the stubborn and sharp tongued Naomi willing only to risk a purely sexual fling with Royce and Royce desperate to drag Naomi to the alter and love her for the rest of their long lives. I found the first half to be light, sweet, funny, and fun. Then came the crippling waves of panic that at first lapped at, then crashed upon Naomi's mental beach. I had a hard time staying in the story from that point on because frankly, I felt the book went from fun to disturbing. Naomi's problems were written to such a deep-seeded and pathological level that all I kept hoping for was for her to seek some serious therapy. I've read about commitmentphobes in the past, but this woman was severely damaged. And that damage spiraled further and further out of control until it just wasn't funny any more, it was sad.
Royce, however, was a darling throughout, and while I didn't totally buy the love-at-first-green-dress motivation, if Naomi had been less damaged and had been even the smallest bit nice to the man, I would've forgiven the reach of the depth of his feelings. There's definitely a line between a great guy and a cartoon character (like Royce is Wiley E. Coyote and Naomi's the Roadrunner who kept dropping anvils on his head, but Wiley E. keeps coming back again and again), and unfortunately, Showalter crossed it. Because that aspect of the book didn't work for me in the second half, several other issues started nagging at me - issues that I can easily ignore in other chick lit romance novels because I'm reading for light fun, and I'm very forgiving if I'm enjoying the romance. In this book, though, those aspects really started to wear on me. The two dimensional secondary characters - like Naomi's cousins and her mother, for example. The cliched face off with the jealous secretary and the resolution with her step father, as well. If I'd been invested in the story at that point, those things wouldn't have bothered me at all.
I'm a little disappointed in Animal Instincts - though it did keep my mind off the heavy reading I'm doing with another book...it's just...now I feel like I need more light reading to help me recover from this one.