>> Saturday, June 18, 2011
TITLE: Love, Unexpectedly
AUTHOR: Susan Fox
SETTING: Contemporary Canada
SERIES: Second in a series about the Fallon sisters. The first one (Sex Drive) was written under the author's Susan Lyons pseudonym
At thirty-one, Kat Fallon's luck with men shows no sign of improving. But when she asks her best friend Nav Bharani to be her date at her younger sister's wedding in Vancouver, she has no idea that she's about to get on board the most surprising ride of her life...Nav has been secretly in love with Kat ever since he moved in next door.Nav Bahrani has lived next door to Kat Fallon since he moved to the city, a few years earlier. He fell completely in lust with her the very moment he saw her, and as the years went by and they became best friends, the lust turned into love. Nav has always wanted a relationship with Kat, but she, as he puts it, stuck him in the best friend category and has never allowed him out.
When she reveals that she loves taking train rides, especially the meeting-strangers part, Nav devises a plan to win Kat's heart. On every leg of her trip to Vancouver, he shows up disguised as a different sexy stranger.
Stunned by Nav's daring, Kat finds herself succumbing to his inventive transformations. But what starts out as an innocent adventure soon becomes much more for Kat as she is forced to choose between her long-held fantasies of the perfect mate - and the prospect of something far more real...
Nav's chance to shake things up comes when Kat invites him as her date to her sister's wedding. Kat loves travelling by train, especially the long journey to Vancouver, and Nav is supposed to fly and meet her at their destination. But Nav sees this as the perfect opportunity to get Kat to see him in a different light. One of the things Kat loves best about train travel is meeting interesting strangers, so why not, Nav thinks, turn himself into one of those strangers?
The idea of this series, I see in the author's website, is "Planes, trains, automobiles and a cruise ship", and this second book in the series is the "trains" installment. I love this idea, and I loved starting with this particular book, because while plane travel has lost most of its luster (too many crap Ryanair and Iberia flights in the last few years, probably), trains (especially long-distance ones) still have a definite air of romance to them. Part of that might be because there are no trains in Uruguay, where I'm from (it's a tiny country with no jungles or mountain or any other type of difficult terrain, so we just use coaches). Growing up reading books like Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient Express created this very glamorous image in my head. And even after moving to England and experiencing the charms of the trains here, I still have a bit of it left.
Apart from this, having the action set on a train meant that there was a lot of conversation between Nav and Kat. It was really good conversation, too, because the hidden identity thingy meant that these two people who had been good friends forever were actually saying things they had never said to each other before. I especially liked that the issues they discuss are not at all simplistic. For instance, Nav is allergic to people who are all about appearances, due to having grown up in a wealthy family and amongst people who were all surface, no substance. But Fox doesn't leave it at that. Kat and Nav discuss this, and he begins to see he might be seeing superficiality in every single instance of someone caring about what something looks like, when this might not always be the case. He even acknowledges he might be wrong about some things and Kat might be right!
I mention the secret identity thing in the previous paragraph, and I know this is a trope many people will be a bit doubtful about... I know I was, myself. However, I thought it was really well done. I wouldn't have bought a Clark Kent/Superman thing, with Kat suddenly not recognising Nav at all just because he's changed his clothes and shaved off his beard. Fox doesn't try this at all. Nav never intends to deceive Kat about who he really is, and he doesn't. The "new" identities of his are about both of them deciding to play the game and have a sort of relationship outside their normal relationship (even if, in Kat's case, she tells herself it's just during the trip, and they'll forget all about it when they get home. Yeah, right!).
Something else I was slightly doubtful about was the structure. The book is narrated in alternating viewpoints in alternating chapters. Kat's are first person POV, while Nav's are third person. It does work surprisingly well, though, so I was sold.
In fact, everything about this book worked for me. All the above, plus so many other things:
- The steamy, steamy love scenes, steamy because they were all about how these two felt, not merely what they were doing. Very emotionally affecting.
- The Canada setting. This is one book with a strong sense of place, which I always appreciate
- the Indo Canadian hero
- Kat's relationship with her family, especially that with her three sisters. These four clearly love each other to pieces, even while they can (and do!) push each other's buttons. I loved it.
Read it, it's a good one!
MY GRADE: An A-.