When Jamie Peters bumps into a gorgeous man on the subway, spilling his take-out dinner all over his shirt, she figures this must be the occasion her cross-dressing psychic friend has been predicting, the moment she would meet the man of her dreams. Jamie isn't sure she's ready for Mr. Right, but how could a guy this hot be wrong. Not knowing what has come over her, Jamie invites him to dinner to apologize for the one she ruined and he accepts. Jonathan Davidson has been following Jamie as part of an investigation he is doing into her social services agency for his grandfather's charitable trust. Jack discovered that someone at the agency is engaging in illegal day trading with agency funds, and he wants to make sure that Jamie isn't involved. It doesn't take long for Jack to realize that Jamie isn't the perpetrator, but neither does he want her to know about his covert operation to weed out the guilty party. Not to mention, he's tired of dating women who are only interested in his fortune, and wants to know what it feels like to go out with someone who is really attracted to just plain old Jack. Jack knew he shouldn't have accepted Jamie's invitation, but her sweet personality and luscious curves beckoned to him in a way no other woman ever had. He also knew that he should have told her the truth right from the start about the investigation, about his money, and most importantly that he was really her roommate's brother, but the lies just seemed to keep stacking up until there was no turning back. After the most amazing night -- and day -- of his life, Jack knows that he wants Jamie in it forever, but when his fibs start to unravel, it will take everything Jack has to convince Jamie that he's finally telling the truth about loving her.
A few months ago, I read a novella by Erin McCarthy that I absolutely loved, and during that same time frame, many of my online friends had been raving about her recently released Fast Track series. I had also found the first book of the NY Girlfriends series, The Pregnancy Test to be a pretty good read even though it didn't earn keeper status from me, so when I picked up You Don't Know Jack, I was expecting something equally good if not outstanding. Unfortunately, what I got was a story with virtually no plot that never sucked me in and held my attention. In fact, it was dragging enough that I actually set it aside and didn't read for two days, which is a very rare thing for me. There were a lot of reasons for this, starting with what little plot existed relying almost exclusively on the love/lust at first sight scenario. Once in a great while, I can buy into that premise depending on how the author handles it, but I just wasn't feeling it in this one. Ms. McCarthy does include a bit of mysticism in the form of a psychic's prediction that the heroine is going to find the man of her dreams, and while elements like this can make love at first sight more palatable to me, I think I'm just too much of a cynic to believe that psychic phenomenon happens the way it was portrayed in the book. I think the author was going for a light humorous angle on some of these things, but that fell flat for me too. Even though the protagonists jumping into bed with one another at the beginning of the story has, in my opinion, become a tiresome and overused plot device, especially in contemporary romance, I expected that with such a sexually explosive beginning to the story, the characters would at least have decent chemistry. Instead, after that first day together, Jack and Jamie barely even shared a kiss until another night of wild sex at the end. This just didn't work for me, because I never felt any real emotional connection between them at all.
In my opinion, the plot itself was lacking in both focus and substance. It starts off with Jack "accidentally" meeting Jamie while he's following her to investigate illegal day trading at the social services agency where she works. Jack also lies to Jamie about who he really is (her roommate, Caroline's brother and a millionaire to boot) when they go out on a date. I thought this whole "secret identity," investigation plot could have been a rather interesting little mystery, but Jamie finds out the truth about Jack after their first night together. Then it was equally easy for Jack to discover the identity of the person who was "borrowing" funds from the social services agency, which left little else to the story except Jack pursuing Jamie while she protests his initial lies, and both of them dealing with dysfunctional family issues and Caroline's wedding, none of which was all that exciting to me. I also thought that the premise of Jack and Jamie not knowing each other was pretty weak. Since Jamie had been a roommate to Jack's sister for a while and they both live in the same city, it seems odd that they wouldn't have had occasion to meet at some point or that Caroline wouldn't have at least had a picture of Jack around the apartment that Jamie had seen. In addition there was a lot of unnecessary narration and dialog which didn't really tell the reader anything new or propel things froward. In my opinion, the plot was diluted and haphazard. It felt like the author just couldn't find a good central point from which to build, so,in the end, it never really gelled for me.
Jack and Jamie were likable enough characters, but I felt like their characterizations were very shallow. Not that the characters themselves were. In fact, it seemed like they had depths that just simply weren't explored, and in the end, I really felt like I didn't know Jack (pun intended), or Jamie either for that matter. I just don't think the author delved deep enough for me to fully understand what made either character tick. Jack was a Wall Street financial genius who got sick of the rat race and quit his job one day, much to the chagrin of his rich, uptight family. Now he's living the life of a bored millionaire who is temporarily working for his grandfather's charitable organization while searching for something in life to make him happy. I liked that Jack was kind and sweet enough to offer more than one person a place to stay when they were down on their luck, especially his elderly grandfather whose nursing home situation wasn't working out. Jamie is a free-spirited social worker who primarily helps ex-cons find work after they get out of prison. I appreciated her somewhat plain and plump appearance with her smattering of freckles and D-cup breasts, but of course Jack adores her lush figure even thought she isn't his usual type. Jamie doesn't want to get too close to a man for fear that he will walk out on her like her dad did years ago. In spite of that, I thought Jamie acted rather immaturely by stealing away while Jack was sleeping, when she found out who he really was, instead of staying and confronting him about why he lied. For his part, Jack partially lied because of his investigation and not wanting Jamie involved, but he also lied because he was tired of dating women only to find out they were just after his money. I thought that aspect could have been an interesting and deeper part of his character, but it didn't really go anywhere either. Jack did make a grand romantic gesture with his money at the end of the story which was sweet, but it just didn't have the impact on me that it would have if there had been a more convincing connection between these two. Overall, both characters were rather flat to me, and just didn't capture my imagination the way many romance novel heroes and heroines do.
Even though You Don't Know Jack fell short of the mark for me, there were a couple of things I liked enough to help keep the rating from dipping below three stars. One was the cast of colorful secondary characters: Jack's straight-talking, curmudgeonly grandfather, Will; Austin, the smart-mouthed, ex-con teenager who is too smart for his own good; Beckwith, the cross-dressing psychic; Jamie's other roommate with an attitude, Allison, and even Allison's partner in the wedding, Finn, a brooding artist-type who was made more interesting by being on the outs with Caroline. If Erin McCarthy ever decides to finish this series, I think that Allison and Finn would make a great couple. The only problem with these interesting characters is the fact that they really overshadowed Jack and Jamie. I also enjoyed the steamy love scenes, which were classic Erin McCarthy and the one thing I can say she always seems to do well. However, without the deeper emotions involved, it really wasn't much more than just hot sex for me, and I have to admit that they sometimes got a little too chatty for my taste as well, reminding me a bit of Sarah McCarty's writing style. Readers who are looking for a light, very easy read that doesn't require any thinking at all may enjoy this one more than I did, but for me it was a pretty slow, plodding book that left me somewhat relieved just to finish it. I guess I simply need more substance to my romances, or any reading material for that matter, to be fully engaged and entertained. You Don't Know Jack is book #2 in the NY Girlfriends series, and currently Ms. McCarthy's website indicates that the series is on hold indefinitely. If she ever does finish it, I would consider reading those books, even though You Don't Know Jack was a less than stellar read for me. I'm sure I'll also give her books another try in the future, since she has given me a couple of good reads in the past.
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