I bought this on the strength of another novel by this author which I absolutely loved (Undecided) and although there were similarities, I didn’t find this book quite as strong.
It’s a contemporary romance set in China for the most, in the small city of Lazhou. Olivia fled a bad situation at home in the U.S. to work as a kindergarten teacher in a Chinese school teaching EFL. She’s alone and lonely when along comes moody Jarek. He’s handsome and casually dangerous and takes an interest in Olivia. Jarek’s ex-military – an interrogator, actually – and now works construction sites as a carpenter.
As there’s a total of 12 foreigners in this city, they tend to club together and Olivia uses the small gym on the construction site, so that’s how they meet. When Jarek first walks her home, they kiss but he walks away, telling her he’s not what she’s looking for. But he can’t stay away from the perky blond teacher and after apologizing for the mixed messages, gets it on with her, giving her a nice but not spectacular orgasm. After realizing his failing, he, who’s a hit-it-and-quit-it kinda guy, decides he can do better and takes on a challenge of giving her the orgasm of her life. Just as long as she doesn’t expect more of him.
Well, the inevitable happens, but there’s a fair amount in the way of this couple. She’s got issues from her last relationship; he’s got years of an evil job and a bad childhood to work through before he can give or accept love.
Now, usually I like this sort of trope – the hard guy whose shell is cracked by the love of a good woman, but though I liked Olivia and the setting was pretty unique, I didn’t much like Jarek or the situations the author put him in, particularly in the second half of the book. It made his character either emasculated or just unpleasant. He’s a dick to her at the beginning, but by the end he’s disenfranchised, and though he’s been on a journey, it was like he’d been brought in line like a naughty child. I didn’t hate him; I just didn’t love him either. I wanted him to be stronger, to help Olivia with her issue back in the States, to provide some support and power to this unfortunate woman, but it was not to be.
There’s a fair amount of story based in the school, too, which wasn’t really that exciting for me. Lessons with the kids no matter how cute weren’t thrilling, and having a whole school play described where no child I know is in it was something I just had to skip over. It had an authorial purpose, but I could’ve done without it.
Not to say it was badly written – it wasn’t. Julianna Keyes is a great writer and I’ll go pick up her next NA novel in a shot, just this one wasn’t for me.
Click to purchase: Amazon
Going the Distance
by Julianna Keyes
Release Date: July 27, 2015
Publisher: Omnific Publishing