The First Move, by Jennifer Lohmann

>> Tuesday, February 18, 2014

TITLE: The First Move
AUTHOR: Jennifer Lohmann

PAGES: 304
PUBLISHER: Harlequin Superromance

SETTING: Contemporary US (Chicago)
TYPE: Category romance
SERIES: Follows Reservations For Two

An unlikely encounter... but he'll take it!

It seems like fate…or something! When Miles Brislenn spies the girl he had a crush on in high school—at his ex-wife's wedding, no less—he can't let the opportunity pass. He might not have had the courage to talk to Renia Milek back then, but he definitely does now. And that's not the only thing that's changed. Gone is the rebel Renia used to be. In her place is a beautiful woman who's reserved, cautious... and holding on to secrets.

For Miles, this second chance with Renia is too important to let her past stand in their way. He'll do whatever is necessary to help her accept her choices and move on—even if that means a salsa lesson or two! Because now that he's made the first move, he wants the second to be hers.

My copy of The First Move was provided to me by the Jennifer Lohmann herself, after I tweeted her to ask whether she knew if the e-version would be available in the UK. I'd read Wendy the Superlibrarian's review, you see, and it sounded like just my sort of book.

Renia Milek's world was crushed when she was a teenager, when her father, grandfather and one of her brothers were killed in a car accident. Her mum withdrew into her own head, and Renia (Rey, as she called herself then) reacted by acting out. There was drinking, drugs and sleeping around. It all ended with Rey getting pregnant and her mother shipping her off to an aunt to have her baby. The aunt was very supportive and helped Rey do what she needed to screw her head back on, including giving her baby up for adoption.

At the time Rey thought it best to cut ties to the baby, so she opted for a closed adoption. There was a provision for her daughter to contact her when she turned 18, though, and now that the time has come where she might receive a phone call from her, Renia is both scared and terrified.

It's a really bad time to come across Miles Brislenn again. Miles was a shy kid who went to the same school as her, and he had a huge crush on her. He recognises her the minute he sees her, but Renia has no idea who he is. She only knows he calls her Rey, so he must know her from her worst times. But as things come to a head with her daughter, Miles becomes a surprising source of support.

There was a lot to like here. Renia is a really interesting character, and at a really interesting time in her life. I really appreciated how sensitively the issue of her having given her daughter in adoption was handled. This is not yet another book saying that giving a baby up, even when it’s patently the right thing to do, will screw you up for life. It’s true that Rey IS pretty screwed up about what happened, but I’d argue that it’s clear that this is more about her mother’s abandonment of her teenage self than about her own abandonment of her baby.

That issue with Renia's mother leads to my favourite aspect of the book, which is the very complicated relationship between the two. They have a very civilised relationship now, but a distant one, and it's clear Renia's mother is desperate to fix that, but doesn't know how. There's a long overdue conversation near the end that had me choking back tears.

In fact, the family angst was the best thing about the book, and it was really, really good. In addition to the sections about Renia's mother, there's the stuff with her birth daughter. This is developed really slowly, and Lohmann doesn't make it into some sort of insta-connection. It feels realistic, both painful and hopeful at the same time, and I really liked it. I also liked Renia's relationship with Sarah, Miles’ daughter, in whom she sees bits of herself.

I was a bit less enthused by the romance. Renia questions whether Miles loves the real her or whether he’s just reacting to his old crush on her 16-year-old self, and I must say, I questioned that at times. Also, although Miles was pitch-perfect most of the time, always being very accepting of Rey’s past and her current issues, there was that fight at the end, which seemed to show that deep down, he wasn’t quite as accepting as all that. I’m in two minds about that. On one hand, I liked seeing he wasn’t quite perfect, but on the other, that might have come a bit too late in the book, and he didn’t quite redeem himself from what I felt was a really mean, almost unforgivable thing to say.

On the whole, though, I really enjoyed this. The writing is good and flows smoothly, and the pacing is generally good as well. There's a bit of a draggy section round the middle, but things got going again soon after, and I raced to the end.

MY GRADE: It's a B.


Wendy 20 February 2014 at 17:16  

I loved this book - but yeah, more so for the "heroine's journey" than the romance. Miles was OK, but like you I felt like he was in love with the idea of being with his teenage crush then with the adult Reina (at times). But oh the angst! And that scene with her mother! I did cry. Not gonna lie.

Rosario 21 February 2014 at 07:26  

I know, I might not have been completely successful in choking back all those tears! Are her other books as angsty? Thanks for your review, anyway, I really enjoyed it.

Wendy 6 March 2014 at 00:43  

So I'm finally answering your question :)

The answer is: not really. This is by far her most angsty and also her best book IMHO. I *liked* the first book (Reservations for Two) but thought it had problematic elements (I think I gave it a B-?). I really disliked the third book (A Promise for the Baby - which I rated a D) mostly because I wanted to smack the heroine....repeatedly.

Rosario 6 March 2014 at 07:11  

Thanks Wendy! I'm planning to try at least the first one, will see about book 3.

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