Waking Up by Amanda Carpenter

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Waking Up by Amanda Carpenter
Publisher: Samhain Publishing
Genre: Contemporary
Length: Short Story (139 pages)
Heat Level: Spicy
Rating: 2.5 stars
Reviewed by Hollyhock

Friends for life…but could they have even more?

Robbie Fisher had been friends with Jason Morrow for years. A lifelong confidant, he’d listened to all of her hopes and dreams for the future before leaving to pursue his.

After years away, Jason is back in town, looking after his parents’ house for the summer. But Robbie’s all grown up now, and suddenly uncomfortable with spilling all of her secrets to her handsome neighbor.

The cute boy next door has become a stranger…and a disturbingly sexy one at that. But can they forge a new relationship to replace the old?

If you’re feeling nostalgic for the eighties‒big hair, leg warmers, acid-washed jeans and all‒and you like friends-to-lovers stories, then Waking Up, a Retro Romance from 1986, might be just what you’re looking for.

The story begins with the heroine, Robbie, defending her lack of direction in life. She’s twenty-two years old, never went to college, and works as a waitress. Her childhood friend Jason, a successful businessman who has recently moved back home, is prodding her to do something with her life, but Robbie says she has to do things in her own time. That beginning really resonated with me. I remember being a directionless twenty-something and how difficult that was, and I was looking forward to Robbie’s journey of self-discovery. Unfortunately, rather than chronicling that journey, the story moves from one commonplace scene to the next as Robbie slowly realizes that Jason is no longer just her pal next door. The romance is the point of the story, of course, but it is played out against a backdrop of Robbie’s evening shifts at the restaurant, her housecleaning chores in the home she shares with her father, and lazy afternoons spent working on her tan. Not much scope for interesting character growth there.

Equally problematic for me, is that Jason is more old-school hero than I am comfortable with. He’s sometimes violent toward Robbie, shaking and shoving her more than once: “He held her by the shoulders and shook her steadfastly until she shouted in outrage.” He’s also a borderline stalker who stands outside her window at night and stares into her bedroom. And when she asks him to back off his aggressive sexual pursuit of her, he refuses to admit the fault and instead turns it on her: “No. The conflict is all within yourself. You can’t place the blame on me for what you’re feeling.” For the most part, the author portrays Jason as a gentle, caring man who truly loves Robbie, but occasionally I thought his behavior crossed a line no hero should cross in any era.

Overall, though, the story is well-written and a quick read, but I would have liked it much better if Jason had been less menacing and if the novel had been as much about Robbie’s personal journey as her romantic one. But if you like your retro heroes with a touch of machismo, and this frozen winter has you longing for a story that brings hot-shouldered summer to life, Waking Up might just be the book for you.

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