No Strings Attached, by Bridget Gray

>> Sunday, December 23, 2012

TITLE: No Strings Attached
AUTHOR: Bridget Gray

PAGES: 175
PUBLISHER: Escape Publishing

SETTING: Contemporary Australia (Brisbane)
TYPE: Romance

If you saved a cute guy’s life, would you want him to know?

Mei Jing can’t decide whether to tell Rod Keller she was the one who saved his life in the aftermath of the tsunami or not. He’s funny, compassionate and committed to finding his rescuer but he has no idea that the girl he’s falling in love with is that very woman. What if he likes the concept of a heroine more than he likes her for herself?  Born in Australia to traditional Chinese parents, Mei Jing isn’t used to a relationship that doesn’t have strings attached.
Another of my purchases from Escape Publishing, bought right after Grease Monkey Jive, when the December titles were on sale.

Mei Jing and Rod were both in Thailand during the 2004 tsunami, and she saved his life. In the years since, he's devoted much effort and money to finding the woman who rescued him, based only on his friend's half-remembered glimpse of her at the hospital, and a couple more small details.

And then one night they meet in Brisbane, where they both happen to live. When it becomes clear that Rod doesn't remember her at all (he was pretty much unconscious during the rescue), Mei Jing hesitates, and decides not to tell him just yet. They have clicked from the very beginning and, quite reasonably, she feels introducing the whole "you owe me your life" thing into the equation will colour their developing relationship.

I really liked the premise, and completely understood Mei Jing's thinking, and her reluctance to introduce an element of obligation and debt into the relationship. This fear is exacerbated by the fact that she was raised in a traditional Chinese family, where such concepts were made much more transparent and explicit in relationships than would normally be the case in Western culture.

The thing is, the way this is all developed felt a bit off, not quite right. Forced, even. I found it very difficult to believe that Rod wouldn't have figured it out on his own. I mean, when they first meet, Mei Jing makes it clear that they have met each other before. Rod trying to remember where is even a running joke between them. She tells him they have kissed (well, the CPR she administered involved mouth to mouth), and that she's seen him with his top off. He knows his rescuer was Asian and that she had trained to work with children (Mei Jing is a special education teacher). But nope, not a clue. And then when he finds out it's all misunderstanding after misunderstanding, which felt a bit frustrating.

Additionally, the romance wasn't particularly well-developed. It felt very shallowly done. I felt like I knew and understood Mei Jing, but not so much Rod. We spend very little time in his POV, and at the end of the book, I just didn't know much about him beyond the superficial.

Actually, we spend too little time with Mei Jing and Rod, period. I wish we'd spent more time understanding how they fit and why they should be together. It's a short book, under 200 pages, I'd say, and we get 3 different romances. In addition to the main one, there are Mei Jing's best friend, Tina, and Mick, her neighbour and friend from childhood. Mick's loved her forever (even though he's spent the years sleeping with blonde cheerleaders), and here they finally get together, but Tina doesn't know if she wants to take it further. Then there's Tina's sister, Ksenija, who's a moody artist, and Rod's friend Stewey, who braves her prickliness.

All 3 of the romances were ones I was interested in, and would have read an entire book about each. Unfortunately, trying to cram them all in such a short book left them all feeling slightly underbaked and unsatisfying.

I did have a good time reading this, though. It felt breezy and fun and fresh, with people I haven't really read about much in romance. It's just that it could have been much better.



Susan/DC,  28 December 2012 at 20:29  

Just saw the movie "The Impossible" about a family caught in the tsunami. It's well acted and traumatic, and I recommend it (even though I had trouble sleeping the night after I saw it). Might make it hard to read a romance about a couple who meet during the tsunami, however, at least until the memories of the movie subside a bit.

Rosario 29 December 2012 at 07:56  

The tsunami bits are not particularly traumatic here. They're mainly narrated in a flashback, and not very vivid or scary, really. But I guess if you've just watched The Impossible, your brain will fill in the blanks.

I was listening to a film review programme on the radio the other day, and the reviewer noted that the director's previous film was the horror film The Orphanage, which I found quite terrifying. She said the tsunami scenes were that level of terrifying!

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