Need You Now
By Emma Douglas
Publisher: St. Martin’s
Release Date: August 29, 2017
Reviewed by Janga
Reviewed by Janga
Faith Harper is the middle child of Grey Harper, lead singer of Blacklight, a legendary rock group. CloudFest, a music festival founded by Grey in 1992, has continued to grow, and six years after Grey’s death, the thousands of music fans who pour onto Lansing Island, a small island off the California coast where Blacklight built homes, are a major factor in the island’s economy. Faith is a busy woman. She is the organizer who makes the festival possible, booking the performers and overseeing the countless other tasks that are part of keeping CloudFest a premier music event. She also serves as the public face of Harper, Inc., and she is excited about a new project that will be hers in a way that her inherited responsibilities are not.
Faith, like her older brother Zach, inherited her father’s musical gift, but, unlike Zach, lead guitarist for a rising indie rock group, Faith does not want the kind of life her father led. She likes her life on the island with her mother, her younger sister, and a few close friends and without the frenetic pace and paparazzi-plagued existence that accompanies celebrity, but she is looking forward to her post-festival vacation. A friends-with-benefits relationship ended six months ago when the guy fell in love, and Faith is ready for a vacation fling. She likes sex, but she is not interested in commitment. Because she places a high value on her privacy, she has maintained a policy of no affairs on the island. She has no expectations of meeting someone on the island who will tempt her to break her rule.
Caleb White is one of the elite in the world of professional tennis. After shoulder surgery, he recognizes that it is unlikely that he can continue to perform at his current level of success. Preferring to go out at the top of his game, he announces his retirement shortly after he reaches the semifinals of Wimbledon. As a star athlete, he is accustomed to media attention, but he is not pleased with the media frenzy that follows his announcement. When his friend Liam Sullivan, an entertainment lawyer, invites him to spend part of the summer on Lansing Island and offers a ticket to CloudFest as added inducement, Caleb accepts. Free for the first time since he became serious about tennis at twelve, he accepts Liam’s invitation, looking forward to some down time and perhaps an island fling. He does not expect to be staying at the home of Danny Ryan, once Blacklight’s lead guitarist. Even less does he expect a life-altering encounter with a woman whose name is more famous than his.
Faith and Caleb meet, and the attraction is immediate, mutual and strong. At first Faith is reluctant to get involved, but when she has a meltdown set off by a festival crisis, Caleb proves a more tempting distraction than booze. What starts as an island fling soon becomes more complicated, but Faith has watched too many men she loved leave to trust easily. Can she allow herself to become vulnerable to love?
Need You Now is the first book in the Cloud Bay series by Emma Douglas, aka MJ Scott and Melanie Scott. I had a mixed reaction to this novel. As an introduction to a series, I give it an enthusiastic 4.5 stars. Cloud Bay, the principal town on Lansing Island, and its connection with an iconic rock group makes a fascinating setting. A dozen or so characters are introduced, each with the promise of an interesting story. Grey Harper is dead before this novel opens, but he is very much a presence in the book. Clearly, Faith is only the first of the Harper offspring to have her story told. Faith’s mother, Lou, Grey’s second wife but the matriarch of the family and mother figure to Zach and Mina, Grey’s children by his first and third wives, is intriguing, as is the aging Danny Ryan, semi-reformed bad-boy rock star and protective father figure. Faith’s friends, Caleb’s friend Liam, and various island characters all have potential as protagonists. So, as the start of a series, Need You Now hooks me on a fictional world and leaves me eager for more books set there. In that sense, it is a winner.
However, the novel is less successful as a romance. First, the balance between Faith and Caleb is skewed in her favor. The reader knows a great deal about Faith’s history and her emotions, but Caleb remains largely unknown. The reader is told that he makes some decisions about his post-retirement life, but very little of his process is revealed. The novel is essentially Faith’s journey, and Caleb’s role is a supporting one, more in the vein of women’s fiction than of romance. The conclusion comes with astounding swiftness. I find quick, simplistic resolutions to complex problems unsatisfying. Finally, readers who long for an HEA will be disappointed to be left with a barely there HFN. As a romance, I, after considering a 2.5 rating, gave NYN three stars.
Despite the mix of enthusiasm and disappointment the book evoked, I’m glad I read it. I recommend it to readers who like small-town romance with a bit of an edge, a complexity of characters, and low-key conflict. Next up is the story of Grey’s youngest child, Mina, a twenty-three-year-old widow who has become something of a recluse since the tragic death of her young husband. A Season of You, a Christmas romance, will be released October 3. Zach’s story, No Place Like You, follows shortly (December 5). I have added both titles to my must-read list.