"By Appointment Only," Janice Maynard

Pros: Unusual and interesting side characters; interesting premise
Cons: Beginning glossed-over; the therapy is a little too quick & effective
Rating: 2.5 out of 5

Review copy (uncorrected proof) courtesy of Penguin Group.
Expected publication date: 7/1/2008.
Visit Janice Maynard’s website.

 

It was love (or at least lust) at first sight for Hannah and Morgan. After a whirlwind romance, Morgan’s more than eager for marriage—but Hannah has a few hang-ups and is terrified of that commitment. She suggests a couples’ premarital ‘sex therapy’ she’s heard of, hoping he’ll call her bluff, but he’s so determined to win her hand that he agrees. Suddenly they find themselves in a session with two other couples, talking to a married pair of doctors whose business is planning sex ‘scenarios’ to help couples make sure they’re compatible.

 

For the first chunk of the book I was rather confused, a bit lost, and feeling somewhat… distant… from the events. In an unusual turn of events for erotica and romance novels, the entire period during which Hannah and Morgan fall in love and start sleeping together is glossed over. We’re told what happened rather than shown it. It’s a jarring approach and made it tough for me to get emotionally involved in the story. Also, since we didn’t yet know the characters, I had some difficulty believing the initial opening scene in which they meet (and kiss!) for the first time—it just seemed too unlikely that two people would behave the way they do, without at least having gotten to know them well enough to believe it beforehand.

The sex therapy concept is interesting, but again, it’s reduced to such a simple form that it ruined some of the suspension of disbelief for me. The three couples—Hannah and Morgan, a young couple with a new baby, and an older couple whose kids have recently left for college—come in for an initial group meeting. Then each couple has two private scenario sessions during the week. There’s a weekend group meeting, another two private sessions during the week, and a final group meeting on the last weekend. The idea of fixing what ails a relationship through four sexual encounters in two weeks makes me laugh, honestly. Sure, I can set aside plenty of ‘in reality’ concerns when engaging willing suspension of disbelief in a romance or erotica novel, but this stretched credibility past the point where I could do that.

Finally, there’s one couple in the novel that ends up planning to get a divorce. I thought this was great when it became an issue; having this as a contrast to the easily-solved problems of the other couples, actually, would have gone a long way toward reestablishing suspension of disbelief. Instead, however, this too was solved (even more easily than the other couples’ problems) and just made it even harder to buy into the book’s premise. (Which seemed to be, all couples can get over their problems no matter what their gripes if they just get over themselves, talk it out, and admit they love each other. Boy do I wish reality worked in that way.)

Anyway, there were some good things about the book. The three couples had very different chemistry and experiences together, and that was sweet and fun and interesting. The setup certainly allowed the author to push her characters into experimenting in bed a bit while remaining in character. There are also some absolutely fantastic side characters, such as Elda, an elderly friend of Hannah’s. This book didn’t wow me, but it wasn’t bad either. If you have an easy time setting aside realism concerns when it comes to believing in a book’s content then you might like it rather more than I did.

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  1. […] today’s reviews are: Patricia Cornwell’s Predator and Janice Maynard’s upcoming By Appointment Only. I highly recommend the […]

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