Title: Legally Addicted
Author: Lena Dowling
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Rating: 4 Stars (I rounded up from 3.5)
Description/Synopsis: A fast-moving, high stakes battle-of-the-sexes story with a Hepburn/Tracey flavor (and a hot one-night stand!).
Georgia Murray’s one-night-stand with fellow Sydney lawyer and billionaire property magnate Brad Spencer was supposed to be just that – one-off, fun. Case closed.
But Brad knows something Georgia doesn’t: their lives are about to become entwined in an unavoidable way. The tension smoulders towards ignition point, and Georgia is terrified to find herself contemplating more from Brad, even the possibility of love – a concept with the power to frighten her more than anything else in this world.
WARNING - SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT - REVIEW BELOW
I went into this book expecting to love it having read another of Ms. Dowling's books previously. In some respects, I was right on par, and in others, I feel a little letdown. I came away from this book feeling like Ms. Dowling's writing strength may lie more towards the historical fiction than the contemporary but, on the other hand, this was still a good book. I'll explain why.
I found the writing in this novel quite a bit drier than the last, but I don't want anyone to think I'm saying that negatively. In the context of the story between these two lawyers, I found the rather formal writing to really fit the personalities of the main characters, and in that respect, I think the author has an extraordinary ability to get into her character's headspace and really write the story in their voice.
It wasn't easy to get into the writing like with her last book, but once I got used to it, it fit well. I noticed right away at the beginning of the story, that unlike her previous story where the romance of the language of that period really drove the narrative, in this story the narrative went from one chronological action to the next. The story was very methodical in the way it was written, and in a way it really captured the way the main characters, Brad, and Georgia, observed their world quietly rather than waste a lot of time talking. Because of this, like I said, the narrative was very dry and action-driven rather than dialogue-driven, and it was a bit harder to get into... but I found it appropriate to the characters.
Something I really did enjoy about this story was the humor. I wrote myself notes all throughout reading this story and there were more than a dozen times I literally laughed because of the character's internal thoughts. Likewise, there were many moments where I literally gasped aloud and covered my mouth, shocked by the character's actions. If there's one thing that can be said for the author's writing, it's that she's very good at eliciting a response towards her characters. Without even really realizing it, I began to root for the characters, who were unbelievably obtuse at times--but I'll get to that. Here are some of my favorite moments:
"There was no loving, and no leaving. Just dinner, okay?"
"I'll believe you, but thousands wouldn't," Miriam said in a singsong voice as she left the office to return to her own workstation.
(two paragraphs later...)
"Is he as good in bed as they say?"
Miriam's head had reappeared back around her office door.
Without thinking Georgia answered. "Yes. What? No. How would I know?"
"Ha! Gotcha. You said yes first."
"I owe you an apology Georgia."
Georgia couldn't believe what she was hearing. She looked at the empty glass, disbelieving. How strong was this stuff? Had Brad's butler drugged her?
I did find the dialogue in this story a little unnatural at times - mostly concerning the butler, Jeffrey, who was often not as formal and concise in his speech as I was expecting. It was almost as if he was trying to be formal, but it just wasn't convincing. There were also a few times I cringed at Georgia's responses when I felt she wasn't being nearly as professional as I'd expect from a woman who'd just become a partner in a law firm, but these moments were relatively rare. For the most part, I was comfortable in the other character's dialog, and there were a few that I genuinely loved.
As for the characters, Jeffrey and Miriam had to be two of my favorites. There were moments when that sly dog of a butler made comments that had me sitting here tongue in cheek snickering:
"Oh dear, sir. Well, it comes to us all eventually. None of us is getting any younger. Perhaps you should think about settling down."
and Miriam had me wanting to high five her:
"Dayton Llewellyn Murray, Georgia Murray's office, how may I help you? Yes, Mr Spencer."
Georgia automatically looked over in the direction of Brad's office, but it was empty.
"Sure, I can check her diary for you."
Georgia mimed "give the phone to me" hand signals, but Miriam carried on talking.
"Yes, Georgia's weekend is free."
"Of course, Mr Spencer, I'll check."
Miriam pressed the mute button on the phone.
"He wants to know if you can go away with him for the weekend."
"I don't know, Miriam. Tell him I'll have to think about it."
Going away for the weekend was a significant step along the path of seriousness. She would have to chew it over before she could commit to something like that.
Miriam released the mute button and recommenced speaking, "Georgia says she would love to."
As supporting characters they really shone in the way they interacted with Brad and Georgia--Miriam especially. Miriam is my home girl as far as I'm concerned. *Thumps chest in solidarity.* The way the author painted the characters was amazing, and I'm not sure everyone would have picked up on it. There are so many moments throughout this story when I sat back in wonder at the tiny ways Ms. Dowling had used the narrative of the story to really paint a picture of who here characters were. I cannot get over how amazingly she portrayed her characters, as flawed as they were.
As for Brad and Georgia, most of the time I wanted to slap them upside the head. They both had so many inner issues and were so absorbed in themselves in a way, that it was no wonder when their relationship became super-complicated very quickly. This wasn't a hot-steamy romance in the way I expected, but a fumbling, awkward, but sweet romance between two characters that were still both children emotionally. They made bad decisions and said stupid things. A lot. They threw tantrums and acted unprofessionally. A lot. Still, at the end of the day, their romance was endearing, because despite their self-sabotage and doubt, it was easy to tell that they both really loved each other... they were just terrified to admit it.
Unfortunately, there were some definite downsides to this novel, and they are the reason I marked this down to 4 stars. First, the copy I got was from NetGalley, and probably a pre-edited version, so forgive me if this is inaccurate to the version sold on Amazon, but there were a lot of punctuation and general grammar mistakes. Those may be cleaned up in the for-sale version. I don't know.
That being said, another issue I constantly ran across was the seemingly random bits of narrative that just didn't fit into the story. At times the writing would become extremely informal and out-of-character. For instance, when Georgia, the lawyer, started talking about "bling" and someone getting "all up in her face". I'd expect that from a teenager, but from a lawyer? Not so much. Another time was when Brad referred to "she-balls" and then later in the story, Georgia used the same phrase. As a writer myself, it stuck out at me. It's not a common saying, and to see two characters use the same phrase stuck out as sloppy writing. It was an obvious author-preferred phrase rather than a character derived one.
Another problem for me was the constant use of slang. The author used phrases like "OMG" and "perving" (which I don't consider a valid verb), and in one instance substituted "uni" for university. Now, I realize the author is from a different part of the world where "uni" may be a common slang term, but here in the USA where "college" is more common a phrase than "university", using the slang "uni" stuck out like a sore thumb. I would have preferred to see the longer "university" which I could at least understand without much thought. I'm willing to let it slide because the book was written as being in Australia, so the slang was probably appropriate for the characters, but as someone from another country, I found the various slang terms very confusing at times. I didn't know what half of them meant. (For instance: What on Earth does "paps" mean? or "coalface" ?) There were also a lot of word spellings I wasn't familiar with (such as "kerb" instead of "curb") but I can only assume those are the Australian-English spellings, and are therefore appropriate.
All of those negatives aside though, I really liked the story. The writing was superb as far as inflections go. Not once did the author have to say "he was angry" or "she was nervous", the way the characters responded to each other inferred everything I needed to know about how they were feeling without it ever having to be said, and that is a sure sign of amazing writing. I feel as if there are going to be a lot of readers who go into this book, skim, and say "eh.. it's a dry romance" and are going to completely miss the subtleties of the writing that really make this story amazing. Maybe it's just easier for me to see as a writer because these are the things I look to do in my own work. Ms. Dowling may not have many books under her belt, but from what I've seen, give her a few years and she's going to be amazing.
I'd recommend this book to anyone who's looking for a less-standard romance. There are some steamy bits, but that isn't really what this book is about. It's a very real take on two people just trying to figure out a complicated relationship, and all the mistakes they make along the way. It's a quick read, and very funny - I'm sure you'll enjoy it.
By the way, isn't that cover gorgeous?!