Wednesday, August 7, 2013

His Uptown Girl - Liz Talley (HS #1854 - June 2013)

Life doesn't follow rules

Jazz pianist Dez Batiste knows this all too well. It's taken him years to return to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina swept away what mattered most. His musician's soul is still lost in the wreckage, but he's after a brand-new future by opening an Uptown jazz club. Too bad the distractingly sexy Eleanor Theriot is getting in his way. Sure, she may be protecting her community, but there's passion underneath that upper-class exterior of hers.

With a little seduction from Dez, that passion sizzles to life and soon they're enjoying an exclusive friends-with-benefits arrangement. The intensity between them reawakens his music and Dez knows they're more than temporary. Now to convince Eleanor to bend those rules she lives by...

Very good book.  There have been a bunch of "younger man" stories lately, not usually my favorite reads, but I really liked this one.  Dez has finally returned to New Orleans after Katrina, following his dream to open a jazz club.   Across the street is Eleanor who is one of the locals who isn't sure that she wants a nightclub in their neighborhood.  Dez is determined to change her mind, and soon finds that there is unexpected passion between them.  

I really liked Dez.  Before Katrina he had been a rising star in the music world.  Afterward he couldn't get it back.  So he tried living a "normal" life, but that was killing his soul even faster.  He's finding happiness in starting up his club, though the local opposition is frustrating.  When he meets Eleanor there is something about her that he connects with.  He doesn't care that she is older than he is, the chemistry is intense.  I loved the confidence he had in himself and how he was sure he could convince Eleanor.  I really liked the way that he was persistent about getting her to go out with him.  He could see the passion behind her walls and once that passion was unleashed he found the inspiration he needed.  Though they had started out as a no-strings arrangement, Dez finds that his feelings are changing.  He wants more with Eleanor but he doesn't know if he can convince her that it's time for her to live her own life.  One of the things I really liked about Dez was his passion for life.  He had stopped sitting back and letting life come to him, he was ready to go after what he wanted - both his club and Eleanor.  

Eleanor was an interesting character.  She had married young, her husband was local upper class destined for politics and she had remodeled herself into the kind of wife she was expected to be.  She went into a depression after Katrina and the destruction of her business.  During that time her husband cheated on her and was killed by his mistress, plunging the family into scandal.  Now she's dealing with a mother-in-law who hates and belittles her, a daughter who is being influenced by that mother-in-law, and an unwelcome attraction to a younger man.  When she starts to accept that attraction and decides that dating Dez is just what she needs she gets a boatload of grief from that mother-in-law and her daughter (who actually wanted Dez for herself).  Her daughter accused her of being old enough to be Dez's mother One of my favorite parts in the book is when she says this "First of all, unless I ovulated a seven years old, it's highly improbable I could have given birth to Dez.  Second, I've spent my life taking care of you and your father, worrying about what everyone else wanted.  I'm tired of being just a mother.  I'm tired of being just Skeeter Theriot's poor cuckolded widow.  And I'm really tired of trying to please everyone else and not myself.  So, honestly, honey, I love you, but I couldn't give a rat's ass if you approve of who I date."  That was the beginning of Eleanor finally going after what she wanted.  I loved seeing the changes that Dez brought to her life.  Her happiness was fantastic.  Even when her family went after her again she had the growing confidence to stand up to them.  She had a moment of backsliding when she panicked over Dez's feelings, but in the end she had the courage to go after what she wanted.  One of the things that I really liked about Eleanor was that Dez's ethnic background was not an issue for her at all.

Besides the story of Dez and Eleanor, which was a beautiful rendition of the diversity of New Orleans, there were other characters that were just as vivid.  Tre and Blakely showed the two sides of the city.  Tre was on the "have not" side, trying to take care of his brother and cousin while avoiding getting into trouble.  He had had so much bad happen in his life that he had trouble letting anyone get close to him or help him.  I loved the way he met Alicia and the positive impact she had on him.  I liked seeing him finally let Eleanor and Dez in and how it opened him up to music again.  Blakely was on the other side of the coin.  Through most of the book I really didn't like her.  She really came across as a spoiled brat.  And to side with her snotty grandmother against Eleanor really made me mad.  I was glad to see a little growing up in her by the end.  

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