Before Jamaica Lane, by Samantha Young

jamaica lane

Grade: A

Doing It at: 50%

Catnip: Friends to Lovers; Funny Guys; Strong female lead; librarians; Pygmalion; Sex Lessons; Stranger in a Strange Land; Beta Hero

Shame Scale: Very low, the cover is not the best, but the book itself is well written, incredibly readable, and hot where it’s supposed to be hot

Fantasy casting: Tom Hiddleston and Mindy Kaling

Book Description:

Despite her outgoing demeanor, Olivia is painfully insecure around the opposite sex—usually, she can’t get up the nerve to approach guys she’s interested in. But moving to Edinburgh has given her a new start, and, after she develops a crush on a sexy postgrad, she decides it’s time to push past her fears and go after what she wants.

Nate Sawyer is a gorgeous player who never commits, but to his close friends, he’s as loyal as they come. So when Olivia turns to him with her relationship woes, he offers to instruct her in the art of flirting and to help her become more sexually confident.

The friendly education in seduction soon grows into an intense and hot romance. But then Nate’s past and commitment issues rear their ugly heads, and Olivia is left brokenhearted. When Nate realizes he’s made the biggest mistake of his life, he will have to work harder than he ever has before to entice his best friend into falling back in love with him—or he may lose her forever….

Full disclosure? I adored this book, I couldn’t put it down, was sad when it ended, and had that good book buzz the whole time I was reading. Nate and Olivia are well-developed, interesting characters who have some of the best banter I’ve read in any romance novel to-date. The pair bond over Star Trek, movies, and video games. They like each other as people well before any sex comes into play and it’s not just a case of insta-lust and no actual shared interests.

Olivia has moved to Scotland from Arizona with her father, following the death of her mother. She had missed out on much of the normal high school dating and sexing experiences taking care of her sick mother; and is painfully awkward around the opposite sex and has no idea how to flirt. Her self-esteem is also pretty awful; she dresses to hide her body and blushes every time her crush enters a room. Nate lost his childhood sweetheart to cancer as well, and now sleeps with everything that moves and has no plans to ever commit. It’s a testament to the writing in this book that Nate can be a total man whore and still come off as not only completely charming but also pro-women. Olivia remarks more than once that Nate doesn’t seem to have a “type” and that he flirts with, sleeps with, likes all body types and personalities and etc… No one is safe from his silver tongue, ladies. When Olivia drunkenly reveals to Nate that she has no idea how to flirt, have sex, be confident, or have a romantic relationship he very selflessly volunteers to teach her on all fronts. His building os Olivia’s self-esteem was one of my favorite parts of the book, he tells her not to talk shit on herself to guys she wants to have sex with (solid advice for the real world, too) and playfully appraises all of her parts

“Curvy, And I’ll let you in on a wee secret: There are still men out there that like a woman to be soft under their hands, to have curves, hips, tits and arse.” He tapped my butt gently with the palm of his hand. “It’s a good arse, babe. I don’t want to hear you refer to it as anything else”

And when Nate decides that part of the tutoring should include actual sex, Olivia doesn’t need much persuasion to agree. Because of course that could never get awkward or ruin their friendship or lead to something more. These pop culture fanatics are clearly not up on their romantic comedies.

When things between our casual sex having protagonists Do get awkward the conflict feels real, and their turmoil is close enough to what two people who care about each other might go through that my frustration and eye rolling was at a bare minimum. The inevitable happy-ever-after was also damned satisfying.

Jamaica Lane is book three in a series (I’ve read one but not two), and characters from the first two books make appearances. One of the couples has a conflict that rings true to the experiences of their original books, it was nice to see that the HEA hadn’t magically fixed these two people who felt so real in their own story. The love cures all ideology that is so prevalent in romance novels can be grating.

Before Jamaica Lane earned a solid A rating, it hit a lot of my catnip with a beta hero, interesting supporting characters, and well written dialog. The sex is plentiful and mostly free of cringe– I’d happily recommend this one to a casual romance reader that I might be trying to lure into our shameful world.

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