Friday, July 29, 2016

Not Over Yet by Amber Belldene

The Under Her Collar series is what some people are calling "inspirational erotica." It's christian-themed fiction about female priests, and about them navigating their relationships and their sex lives while also staying true to their faith.

I really enjoyed the first book in this series, NOT A MISTAKE. Jordan was so calm and level-headed, and I loved the way religion was discussed, as well as the truth that many people often ignore: that beneath their collars, priests are human beings, and therefore not above error. It was a great book about an unwed woman coming to terms with her pregnancy and I adored it.

When the author offered me an advanced copy of her then-unpublished sequel, NOT OVER YET, I leaped at the opportunity. Lily Yee, Jordan's friend, is a woman of color, as well as a priest, and dealing with a whole other set of problems.

NOT OVER YET isn't a pregnancy story; instead, it's a second-chance romance between a priest and a billionaire. Before she got her collar, Lily was the nanny for Eric Roche and his two little adopted daughters. Back then, he was newly divorced and really lonely, and Lily was convenient and attractive, as well as the polar opposite to his cheating, high-strung ex-wife. He eventually proposed and Lily turned him down, and Eric never got over it.

When Lily winds up in dire financial straits and is accused by her church of embezzling funds (by none other than the aforementioned cheating ex-wife!), Eric comes into her life again. Their sexual chemistry is undeniable, but past hurts loom heavily in the past, and forgiveness comes steep. Plus, ex-wife Cynthia is determined to wreck their budding relationship and steal the children - oh noes!

At first I really liked the idea behind the story. Like Jordan, Lily seems level-headed. I could respect her decision of wanting a career over a family, and her resentment of Eric trying to buy her and emotionally manipulate her into taking on a role she didn't want. I liked that she had to deal with issues that people of color really do face, like microaggressions and accusations of "reverse racism." I sympathized with her financial plight and the accusations of embezzlement. I was ready to despise Cynthia as the antagonist of the story, while also ready for her to redeem herself later.

But what always kills a story for me is when I don't like one of the love interests, and sadly that was the case with Eric. He's so manipulative, and his only redeeming value is in his wealth and his sexual acrobatics. I didn't like how he was constantly trying to guilt Lily about leaving him. She wasn't his wife - something he seems to forget. She was his nanny and live-in f*ckbuddy. She wasn't under a contract stipulating that she had to stick around just because the kids liked her and he was hot for her.

Eric continued to be a jerk throughout the story, raising many relationship red flags. Like, at one point he gets angry at Lily for buying a vibrator because he takes it as a sign that the "D" isn't good enough for her (can you say insecurity complex?). He keeps telling her that the girls like her, and that he wanted her to be a wife, so how dare she walk away and hurt him like that (what about what she wants?). He knows she's poor, and yet when Lily tells him that the reason she left was because she didn't feel ready for the role of mother/wife in addition to commuting 20 miles for her priest job, Eric tells her that she could have taken BART. Now, those of you who don't live in California wouldn't know this, but BART fares can range from roughly $2-$14 round-trip depending on where you're going. Daily. That adds up. And that doesn't include parking costs or additional public transportation costs (i.e. taking the bus, etc.).

At the end, though, Lily pulls a stunt that made me dislike her because it seemed so out of character. It was such a terrible way to lead someone on, and I didn't think it was cute or funny at all. I think the author was going for one of those dramatic reveals, like you see in chick lit movies, but this just felt mean-spirited. At that point, I was like, "Well, okay, they're both jerks, so I guess they deserve each other."

Also, some of the "racism" elements were a little weird and made me uncomfortable. Like at one point, someone tells Eric that he's an Asian fetishist because he has these adopted Chinese daughters and now he's trying to get a Chinese wife to match the set. Lily comes to this conclusion herself later, and she and Eric argue about it. There's also this moment that I think was supposed to be touching but came off as super icky, when this parishioner who didn't like Lily changes her mind about Lily being a Chinese elitist because she sees that she's got a "mixed" relationship.

For what it's worth, NOT OVER YET does a pretty good job of covering racism in an inoffensive way (except for that one weird part), but I just couldn't get on board with the male hero. He was awful, and I didn't like him at all. Check yourself before you wreck yourself, dude.

2 to 2.5 out of 5 stars.

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