Reviewed by Marlene
I have a lot of mixed feelings about this book. I picked it up because I love Jeanette Grey’s writing. I was first introduced to her through her science fiction romances, but I have also really liked her new adult romances. As in liked to the point where her Take What You Want made it on my Best Ebook Romances list at Library Journal in 2013.
Howsomever, Seven Nights to Surrender does not reach that height. The concept is good – a young woman comes to Paris to decide what she wants to do with the rest of her life – without giving in to the abusively dismissive voices in her head from her past. A young man is bumming around Paris, running away from his responsibilities and the nasty echoes of his own past.
Kate is searching for her future. Or more correctly, she is trying to find her own vision in her art, so that she feels justified in pursuing an MFA instead of a job as a corporate graphics designer. She knows what she wants, but is having a hard time mustering the faith in herself to believe that she should pursue it. Both her dad and her ex were emotional abusers, shooting down her confidence and her self-esteem at every turn, trying to keep her under their thumbs and dependant. It’s the trap her mother fell into with her father, and it’s the trap she nearly fell into with her ex. While she escaped before marrying the arsehole, she still hears his cutting remarks in her head, because they echo dear old dad’s so very well.
Rylan Bellamy is basically a rich kid on the run from his responsibilities. While he’s in his late 20s and not his early 20s, he’s still in Paris acting like a spoiled brat. Not that he doesn’t have cause to turn his back on his home, but there’s a time for wallowing and a time for “adulting up”. Rylan has been in Paris for a year, picking up tourists, wining and dining them on his Black Amex, and then letting them leave Paris with a smile on their faces, having kept him from thinking too much about his own empty life for a day or two.
When Rylan pulls his patented “pick up the tourist” shtick on Kate, he’s the one who is caught by it. She’s a struggling graduate student, but she has a purpose. Whatever Kate is, and whatever demons she is wrestling with, the one thing that Kate is not is empty. As much as Rylan is attracted to Kate physically, he is even more enamored by not just her pursuit of her dreams, but the fact that she has dreams to pursue.
So Rylan decides to show her the Paris that he loves and that she wants to absorb. In the process of taking her to art museums and watching her finally blossom as an artist and as a woman, Rylan compares the relatively “normal” life he is pretending to have with Kate against his real rich and empty lifestyle, and can’t let her go.
But he doesn’t tell her the truth, either. So while Kate is openly and honestly with Rylan, sharing her hopes, her dreams, her fears and yes, her body, Rylan is telling a huge whopping lie of omission. He’s pretended to be a normal guy on a normal budget, taking a bit of vacation to show a girl a good time.
The truth is that he is a trust fund baby and that his family name is filled with scandal. He has the opportunity to make things right, but he is too busy blaming all his disappointments on his own dear old dad to grow up and take responsibility for his own actions.
When the truth comes out, Kate is broken-hearted and feels betrayed. But it finally shocks Rylan back to life. It just may be too late.
As I said early on, the concept of this story is lovely. The problems come a bit in the execution. On the one hand, this story happens because these two fall into insta-lust, and both of them are immature enough to mistake it for insta-love. At the same time, it’s also a slow-build story, as Kate takes her time trusting Rylan, as she should. The emotions come on fast, the physical relationship takes a couple of days, which seems short, but it goes slowly in the story.
Because Rylan is protecting himself from the scandal that follows him, he doesn’t let people know who he really is. He doesn’t expect anyone to really touch him, and when Kate does, he’s already in too deep to back out of his lies. He’s correct that he is so far above her in the socio-economic sense that if she knew who he was, she would stay away from him out of self-preservation. But the lies he piles on, even though they are all lies of omission, dig him way too deep a rut to climb out of once she discovers the truth.
There’s also a big heaping helping of “magic peen” in this story. Kate finds her true artistic vision because she falls in love/lust with Rylan, and he’s more than experienced enough at sex for her to finally discover that it can be good. In fact, it can be fantastic. But her sexual awakening gets tied in to her artistic awakening in a way that makes her seem lesser, as though she needs regular applications of the magic peen in order to retain her artistic vision.
On the one hand, part of the way the story ends is terrific – Rylan comes home and faces all the responsibilities he’s been ducking for the last year plus. On the other hand, he’s chasing Kate after he’s already not just broken her heart, but totally screwed her over, planning to wear her resistance down so she’ll take his lying ass back. The romanticism of his pursuit feels a bit over the top, but I suppose we’ll all see in the next book. But because this story ends on this massive cliffhanger, it feels incomplete.
I give Seven Nights to Surrender a B-