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Friday, October 19, 2007

All or Nothing

***** All or Nothing by Claire Cross. Contemporary romance.

Oh. My. God. I cannot believe that I didn't figure out until halfway through this book that it's the fourth book in a series, particularly since I've read and loved the first three:
Third Time Lucky (#29) & (#23), Double Trouble (#18), and One More Time. At least that tells you that they can definitely stand alone.

Jen Maitland is a cancer survivor, sort of. I'm not sure why the back cover copy and the reviews all dance around this--it's made clear on page 6--unless maybe it's because they don't want people to think it's that kind of book. You know, the uplifting (read:
maudlin and melodramatic) story of someone's battle with cancer. Because it's not. But I can tell you that Jen's a cancer survivor because I'm also explaining what kind of book this is.

She's been cancer-free for a year now, but she's mostly living in limbo--working as a waitress, living with her mom, slowly paying off her medical bills, knitting fruit. Small fruits. When the story opens, she's up to an avocado.

So her mom, who's stuck in the 70s, asks her if she's gay, because she hasn't seemed interested in men, then recommends that she find somebody and have sex, and challenges her to bring a date to Thanksgiving dinner. Between Jen and her sister, they come up with a plan to get Mom off Jen's back: find an obnoxiously yuppieish yuppie to bring to Thanksgiving dinner--her mom will hate him and won't invite him back, and Jen can continue her status quo with a fictitious boyfriend.

Enter Zach Coxwell, who's meeting old law school buddies for lunch at Jen's restaurant. They're arrogant and rude, and Jen assumes Zach's just like them. But he stays after the others have gone, then leaves her a huge tip. And when she follows him out of the restaurant to protest, she blurts out the invitation to Thanksgiving dinner.

But Zach's not like his friends--he's the black sheep of his family, a law school dropout, who's spent his life trying to live down to his father's low opinion of him. Jen's family may be wacky, but at least they're loving; his is cold and proper and they've rejected him.

Jen and Zach both have huge obstacles in their path, but in the very best romance tradition, there's a synergy between them, and they're stronger together than they are apart. They don't solve each other's problems--they just provide a catalyst and support.

There are laugh-out-loud moments, like at Thanksgiving when Zach's never-fail lawyer jokes are falling flat, and tears-running-down-your-cheeks moments. There's humor and joy and pain and love and sensuality.

All or Nothing is a wonderfully complete and satisfying story. I'm convinced--I've put Claire Cross and all her alter-egos on my to-look-for list.


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Hey, I still have Claire Cross's Double Trouble in my TBR pile. Since you said it not necessarily to read the series in order, than I guess I should be able to read Double Trouble without a problem than *grin*
Yes, you should be able to. :) Though I'd really recommend you look for Third Time Lucky, too--it's my favorite.
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