Series: Chicago Stars, Book 3
Rating: 4 Stars
Length: 384 Pages, 4946 Locations
Formats: Mass Market Paperback, Kindle
Shines Bright After a Rough Start
At thirty-four, Dr. Jane Darlington is a brilliant physicist with the sort of genius that has always set her apart from contemporaries, inspiring envy and discomfort. She's buried so deep in her work, she's accepted that, but it does limit her social options. On her thirty-fourth birthday, though, those limitations are felt keenly and she wants nothing more than a baby. Her intellect hampers her options and she's determined not to subject her child to the same hellish childhood she had, ostracized and segregated by the very mind that has brought her such professional success. She needs a man with limited intellect to balance out her genes.
Enter thirty-six year old Chicago Stars Quarterback Cal Bonner. A man in the twilight of his career and clinging to football with everything he has, Cal comes off on camera like a slow-witted good ole boy, his accent and his predilection for the word "ain't" convincing Jane that he is a worthy potential father for her child. Driven by desperation, she goes against everything she believes is right and takes a wild chance when it falls in her lap, using Cal in the most heinous of ways. She gets pregnant, but when Cal finds out, rage burns through him, and he demands...and gets...a much deserved retribution.
Now living a farce of a marriage, sequestered in the mountains of North Carolina, Jane's future is double damned when she finds out that the illustrious QB isn't the dumb yokel she thought he was. He is, in fact, a highly intelligent summa cum laude graduate of a prestigious university with a degree in biology. Now her baby is going to be doomed to be a freak like she was. To make matters worse, Jane starts to have feelings for the man who has every reason to loathe her for her actions until the end of time, no matter how much Cal seems to have softened towards her in the months that she's been hidden away with him.
Never let it be said that two highly intelligent people can't also be such total idiots.
In all fairness, I was monstrously leery about this book before I even started it. I love the Chicago Stars series, but the premise of this book really bothered me. I was unsurprised by the fact that I loathed every aspect of the first 25% of it. Jane's behavior was utterly contemptible and grotesque, and definitely something I consider a heinous cross between rape and theft. And that's not even mentioning the idiocy of someone of Jane's education being so flagrantly ignorant of basic reproductive concepts on genetics and their relation to intelligence. Then there was her distasteful desperation to have a child and her willingness to prostitute herself to do so. Ick. Ick. Ick. There was nothing remotely redeemable about her character or actions for the first few chapters of the book.
Cal was slightly less reprehensible, but he was a man with a habit of dating girls young enough to be his daughter, and had a willingness, however it came about, to have unprotected sex with a woman he had reason to believe was a prostitute. Ewww. I'm not even going to mention the grossly over-the-top stereotyping of football players and the disgusting behavior of jock groupies. Gah! There was so much that completely repulsed and offended me about the first five chapters of this book!
Oh, sure, it was well written, but the concept and characters just didn't work for me at all.
Then came Chapter Six. And what started out as one of the most offensive books I've read lately swiftly and irrevocably morphed into one of the most entertaining. I'm actually a little agog at how quickly I became enchanted with the story after such a rocky start, and found myself, much like Cal, completely falling for Jane right around the time she found out how smart Cal was, and totally loving them together from the moment that the marshmallows went missing! Uh...that'll make sense when you read the book.
I almost can't believe it, but SEP managed to not only completely win me over with one of the most humorous and perfectly fit couples I've had the pleasure to read lately, but she also impressed me with the way that the comedic aspects were blended in with some valid and realistic serious issues, such as the crumbling marriage of Cal's parents and the trouble Cal was having with the idea of his career coming to an end. And as for Jane and Cal, two characters I loathed almost from the start, I found myself understanding and sympathizing with them on more than just a surface level.
Honestly, if it wasn't for those first five chapters, this book would have been the most enjoyable contemporary romance I've ever read. Even with those first five chapters, I loved the rest of the book so much that it's my favorite of the series so far, even though I rated it to include my impressions of the first part.
There was just something that worked for me about Jane, Cal, and Cal's family, about how the characters evolved, how the relationships evolved, how issues arose and were dealt with, even about how some issues were mentioned but stayed out of the purview of this book, like the loss of Cal's brother's family. It all came together to feel like a very genuine, heartfelt story that had little or nothing to do with football and more to do with families and love and values. Shocking, really, after such a repugnant beginning. Now I'm ready and raring to go with the next in the series, my faith in SEP restored.