I bought this book immediately after finishing Off Campus, because I loved that book so much. But this story had some things to overcome in my brain. First, it’s a reunited lovers story, which is one of my least favorite tropes (some people love it!) Second, the main character Jack was a grade-A jerk to Tom in the previous book. Tom called Jack his evil nemesis because Jack was always taunting him. That’s a big character deficit. Third, Jack has a thin hipster/porn mustache, which is almost as bad as his behavior.
Jack’s parents lost a lot of money because of Tom’s father’s criminal actions. Jack lost his whole college fund, including a semester abroad in Paris. Then, because of his bullying, he got kicked out of school. The story opens as Jack gets dropped off in his small home town, bitter, angry, and hopeless.
Mike/Miguel was Jack’s best friend and boyfriend in high school. Jack left for college, though, and Mike stayed behind to work on his family’s farm. Now he runs a Farm to Table cafe on Main Street. Mike has a lot of feelings about Jack. He’s mostly pissed that Jack left him, and he also kind of hates Jack for being a stubborn, selfish jerk.
Jack needs a job, and someplace to go so that he doesn’t sit around the house with his alcoholic mother all day. He plays the banjo (how’s that for a quirk?), so Mike hires him to play in the cafe in the afternoons, mainly while high school students hang out and drink coffee.
Mike and Jack spend a lot of time being angry at themselves and each other. It’s hard for them to establish just a friendship, since Mike assumes that Jack will leave him behind again, and Jack is indeed a selfish jerk who doesn’t communicate well with others.
I have to admit that I didn’t like Jack for most of the book. I just couldn’t ignore his behavior from the last book, or blame it on his mother, or see him as some tortured hero. I read this the day after the other book, so his actions were fresh in my mind. I read all the stuff that made Jack the way he was, and it still wasn’t an excuse for me. The book was 76% in when Jack realized that he had been a bully. Better late than never.
In comparison, Mike was almost a boring character. He’s loyal to his family, and a responsible business owner. He looks out for his single-mother employee, and likes giving the high schoolers a safe space. He doesn’t make waves in the small community. He knows that Jack needs him, and he lets himself be used, even though it’s not a great relationship dynamic.
Jack and Mike do not have an easy road to happily ever after. Mike is full of resentment and Jack is full of himself. They kiss angrily. With all that, the author does manage to smooth things out at the end. I believed that Jack realized his mistakes and wanted to change, and I enjoyed reading about him once he let go of his emotional baggage. I also appreciate that he shaved his mustache.
I wonder if I would have liked Jack better if I hadn’t read the other book first? If you like reunited lovers and a messed up hero, try reading this book first, maybe it will be easier for you. As for me, I couldn’t get on board until later.
Click to purchase: Amazon
Nothing Like Paris
by Amy Jo Cousins
Release Date: March 3, 2015