I like the low cost and easy storage of eBooks, but unlike physical books I sometimes forget I’ve acquired them. When I discover them, sometimes I cannot remember when or why I got them, let alone what they are about. I can’t just check the back cover for the blurb, and have no idea how long they are, so they tend to be surprises.
Come Undone (The Cityscape Series Book 1), a 2013 release by Jessica Hawkins, is not a Harlequin. I realized that quickly. It starts with a brief prologue describing the initial meeting of Bill and Olivia, and at the start of chapter one we learn that they are a married couple. It’s not a happy marriage.
They bicker over attending each others’ work functions and spending time with each others’ family. Though Bill is a successful lawyer and Olivia is a magazine editor, he worries about money and works long hours, sometimes traveling out of town for days at a time. The sex is unsatisfactory, and birth control is an issue. He’s wanting to start a family, she’s insisting on condoms and considering going on the pill.
When you are in an unhappy marriage, there are limited options. Fixing it is one, but that requires both parties to agree there is a problem, and agree to work together to fix it. Or you can leave, but that’s a scary step. Then there’s having an affair. You may not actively choose it (and given recent events, you are probably not going to sign up with Ashley Madison), but unhappiness in the marriage leaves you receptive to attention from another possible partner.
Olivia and Bill attend the ballet, though he’d rather be at home watching baseball. During an intermission, Olivia sees a man watching her. And the dance begins. Famous architect/playboy David moves in the same social-business circles as Olivia, and is being featured in her magazine’s article on eligible bachelors, so they have several opportunities to meet. He wants her. She finds him handsome, envies his wealth and style, and is flattered by the attention, but reminds him that she is married. He doesn’t care, claiming that he knows her better than anyone, and could love her better than her husband. This could either be really creepy, or really sexy, and Hawkins goes the sexy route.
One of the meetings arises from a subplot of threats to Olivia. A man is after her, due to her husband’s work, and this leads to a situation where David comes to the rescue and, after saving her, takes her home to care for her during the night. She’s in a guestroom, but “nothing propinks like propinquity.”
Additional complexity and depth come from a large supporting cast of friends and relatives, illustrating different perspectives on love and relationships. One close friend gets engaged, another rarely dates a man more than once, and the death of an older friend adds an incentive to enjoy life while you can.
Come Undone is essentially a long, slow, hot seduction. Although it’s an affair, the reader sympathizes with Olivia, whose husband is at best inattentive and at worst may have put her in danger. The ending is worthy of the buildup, in content and detail, but the story ends abruptly. Olivia does not want to continue the affair, but since there are two more books, it appears that’s not the end of it.
I did not want to like this. Sure, Olivia’s marriage isn’t nonstop joy, but it’s not that bad, and the security of marriage (or any longer term relationship) always seems dull next to the heady but passing pleasures of establishing an intimate connection. Olivia is a relatively passive figure, content to let a man save her from ennui, and David is a larger than life hero. He’s rich, handsome, thoughtful, attentive, desired by all, wants only her, and really does seem to know her better than anyone else. Sigh. This book was a pleasant surprise and a guilty pleasure. It will be interesting to see if the next books can maintain the erotic tension of this first one. I’m looking forward to reading them.