Narrated by Carly Robins
Tawna Fenske writes quirky contemporary romance. Humour that it can be particular; what I find funny won’t necessarily be shared by everyone else. But the humour in This Time Around was right up my alley. I spent a reasonable amount of the listen either snort-laughing or with a big smile on my face. And it definitely did not suck that Carly Robins was doing the narration.
Ally Ross is a 36-year-old single woman whose attorney parents are each in prison for fraud related to a Ponzi scheme. Ally’s grandmother has just died, leaving her the Rosewood Bed and Breakfast, a property which has been in Ally’s family since the 1940s. Only, when Ally goes to check out the B&B she finds that it is now a sanctuary for 14 polydactyl (6-toed) cats. Also, the house is being eaten by woodpeckers. And, let’s not talk about all the strange things stowed in the attic.
When Ally was in college, she was engaged to Jack Carpenter. Ally’s family were wealthy and privileged, Jack’s? Not so much. Jack had a cavalier attitude to things like paying bills, making plans or graduating from college. Ally was, to say the least, uptight. Those differences ultimately led Ally to break off their engagement.
When Jack contacts Ally out of the blue to say he will be in town and asking to have dinner with her to catch up, Ally enlists the aid of her best friend, Wade, to play the role of her fake fiancé and invests in clams she can’t afford to make a fancy dinner for Jack and Paige (who she assumes is his wife). Ally needs to show Jack that she’s absolutely fine; happy and successful so there!
As it happens, Paige is Jack’s 10-year-old daughter. Jack is a widower and now the tables have indeed turned – Jack is a wealthy app developer just moving his company to Portland from Silicon Valley and it is Ally who is struggling to pay the bills.
The setup is somewhat farcical and there are some set pieces which give more than a nod to that style but most of the humour is good-hearted and not ridiculous.
Fortunately, the deception of the fake fiancé doesn’t last long and Jack and Ally are soon exploring a new relationship, 16 years on. What went wrong before and how they’ve both changed is canvassed. There is a bitter pill for Ally to swallow in that another woman was able to convince Jack to grow up and get serious about his future when Ally never could. There was no excuse made for this and it was one of the things about the story which kept it feeling realistic notwithstanding some of the more out there goings-on.
It was obvious to me that the Ally and Jack of 16 years earlier didn’t have what it takes but the Ally and Jack of now, very well could.
The conflict at the end didn’t go quite where I expected. It was the story’s weakest point as the resolution didn’t quite fit. At least, the reasons for the black moment weren’t addressed as clearly as I’d have liked.
Paige is delightful and I loved the dynamic between her and Jack, as well as the growing bond between her and Ally. Jack and Paige have this thing where they come up with silly descriptions for wine, such as “it’s very itchy, with notes of tulip stem and green Crayola”. It’s cute and gross at the same time while demonstrating the close bond the pair have. Great dads are super sexy so it made me love Jack all the more.
The narration is great. Carly Robins is someone I’ve listened to and rated highly before but for some reason she hasn’t been on my radar much. I plan to change that. In fact, I bought an audiobook just yesterday largely on the strength of her involvement in the project because she is very good.
Her comedic timing is excellent. Ms. Robins also delivers the more serious aspects of the story with sensitivity and skill and portrays the emotional and physical intimacy between Jack and Ally well.
I enjoyed the voice she gave to Paige, and the other characters were well differentiated. I was never confused about who was talking.
The broader cast of characters, including Wade and the caretaker of the B&B, Skye, were also very well done. The secondary players were more than window dressing both in text and in my ears.
The very end of the book was a little less amazing than the first four fifths but I’m still highly recommending this one.
TITLE: This Time Around
AUTHOR: Tawna Fenske
NARRATED BY: Carly Robins
GENRE: Contemporary Romance
STEAM FACTOR: Glad I had my earbuds in
REVIEWER: KaetrinBuy This Time Around by Tawna Fenske on Amazon EXCERPT: