One of my favorite themes is the ever-poignant friends-to-lovers storyline.
What could be more wonderful than a love that develops because of a deep understanding of one another?
What could be more terrible than unrequited love for a “kindred spirit”?
The best part of this storyline, in my opinion, is the balance point, the metamorphoses of a friendship into something more. Bella Andre’s I Only Have Eyes for You seems to rush past the shift in thinking that characterizes this moment.
Sophie, one of the 8 Sullivan siblings, has loved her brother’s friend Jake since she was 5 years old. Her love has grown and changed with her own development, but Jake has never acknowledged her as a woman. At one of her brother’s wedding, Sophie decides to shake things up and make Jake reevaluate his preconceptions.
“I told them all I wanted was to have fun with the hairdresser and makeup artist. But I was lying to them. And to myself.” She looked him straight in the eye. “I did it for you, Jake. To see if I could finally get you to notice that I was alive. To see that I’m not a little girl anymore with a silly crush. That I’m a woman.”
It was at this point in the novel that Andre lost me. We’re told Sophie loves Jake. We’re told Jake has struggled to conceal his growing interest in his best friend’s sister. Then the sexytimes commence.
There’s no chance for tension to build, no opportunity to learn about the characters ourselves, before they’re succumbing to their passion.
This seemed premature to me. Besides, what could possibly keep the plot afloat after their raptures end? The answer: Low self esteem, a secret and a plot twist or two.
“Everyone is wondering what the hell a guy like me is doing in a place like this with a girl like you. I should be washing your dishes, not sharing them.”
Despite climbing out of an abusive relationship with his father and becoming a restaurant tycoon, Jake seems to harbour some serious insecurities. For that matter, so does Sophie, for all she’s described as,
…sensual and bright, sexy and sweet, a thousand contradictions wrapped up into one irresistible package.
This is perhaps understandable, given the fact that they are surrounded by a truly elite group of friends and family. Sophie’s brothers number a world traveling photographer, a firefighter, a pro ball player, a movie star, two tycoons and her sister the choreographer. I think it’s safe to say there has never existed a family more intimidating.
Maybe this feeling of inferiority would have been surmountable if Jake’s Big Secret didn’t compound matters.
Given the nature of secrets and plot twists, I hesitate to describe them to people who haven’t read the book. I will say that Jake has some serious similarities to Tim Riggins. His struggles have only made him stronger, if only he could see it for himself.
We aren’t given much of a view into his childhood but it seems clear this man has overcome incredible odds. He escaped his abusive, alcoholic father by spending much of his childhood with Sophie’s family. After buying an interest in the pub in which he worked as a young man, he goes on to own a series of successful restaurants around the Bay Area. Despite all he has accomplished, his insecurities get in the way of his relationship with Sophie, and he manages to mess things up.
Eventually, Sophie and her plot twist bring the couple together again. It is immediately clear to Jake that this development changes everything and he sets about trying to convince Sophie to give him a second chance. In this, at last, we are allowed to learn more about the two characters. Sophie shares her love of reading, her frustration with being an over-protected little sister to some larger-than-life personalities. Jake finally begins to relax and reveals his Big Secret to Sophie.
Together, they explore this new territory of trust. With plenty of sexytimes thrown in for good measure.
I know that Sarah of Smart Bitches, Trashy Books really enjoyed this book, enough to choose it as part of her Sizzling Book Club. I love her blog and really respect her taste even when it differs from mine. True, this book largely skipped my favorite part of the character’s emotional journey, but it did substitute some serious emotional issues. In the end, I wish Andre had delved a little further into the characters, no matter what the focus. Regardless, I know there will be readers who fall in love with this story and its indomitable heroes.
Disclosure: Received for review via NetGalley.