Felicity Stripped Bare, by Vanessa Jaye

8 Jul

Felicity Stripped Bare, by Vanessa Jaye

Felicity Stripped Bare is Ms Jaye’s debut novel, published by Samhain. In my (never humble) opinion, though, this doesn’t feel, doesn’t read like a debut novel. Not at all. The characters are so appealing and the writing so compelling that I read it in one sitting.

Yes, there are a couple of clichés—the big misunderstanding (more than once), the cold, unfeeling parents and unhappy childhood, the evil other woman. But they work in the context of this story and that is what matters for me as a reader.

We start with the obligatory disclaimer—borrowed directly from the Samhain page for the book—Warning: Smart women outwitting gorgeous men, hot explicit monkey-lovin’ and some graphic language.

Here’s the blurb provided by Ms Jaye:

High-school drop-out Felicity Cameron is newly single (by choice), with a new job, a new home, and she’s just signed up with a tutor because of her dyslexia. So what if her new job is at a strip club? No one has to know. And who cares if her new flat is in a ramshackle house? The rent’s cheap. The important thing is: Felicity is finally getting her life back on track.

Until the house is sold and her new landlord nearly causes her plans to derail. The man is yummy chocolate-coated on the outside. Chewy moron center.

~ * ~

Torn between fulfilling his father’s dynastic visions at the family law firm and pursuing his own dreams as a custom home builder, Daniel Mackenzie isn’t looking for more complications in his life. But complications are what he gets when his latest property purchase, slated for a flip, comes with one constantly complaining tenant. It’s a shame they got off on the wrong foot, though, considering said tenant was quite a looker. Too bad all you could look at were her tonsils ’cause her mouth was always flapping.

~ * ~

As they try to get past that little ol’ eviction thing… Felicity strives to keep all her secrets from him, while Daniel does everything he can to pull her into his life and into his arms. But she seems determined to hold something back, and he’s afraid it’s her heart.

First things first: I love Felicity. Every little victory does count! She has a truckload of issues to deal with and another one of obstacles to surmount—the kind that are used all too often to excuse doormat behaviour. Not our Felicity, no sirree! She fights. Perhaps it’s one baby step at a time, but by golly, she fights.

And right now things seem to be looking up for her. She has finally made up her mind for good about her on-again, off-again, cheating scumbag-but-likable ex boyfriend—he’s not the devil incarnate, but he’s just not good for her. She has finally started the process to deal with the one thing that has derailed her life time and again—she’s tackling her dyslexia head on and learning to read. After that, the sky is truly the limit for someone willing to work as hard as Felicity is.

For his part, Daniel is struggling to fulfill his own dreams and dealing with his father’s disapproval, while working on keeping the peace for his mother’s sake. While his problems are very real, they belong in an entirely different dimension than those Felicity faces every day. Different backgrounds, different ambitions, different expectations, different obstacles.

It is not just that Daniel was born with a silver spoon and has enjoyed every advantage since. It’s not only that Felicity comes from the almost exact opposite end of the social spectrum. It is all the little assumptions they have about themselves and, by extension, about each other in relation to themselves.

It is as if there is a dance they are trying to share but everything they do seems to end with them bumping awkwardly against each other. They are both painted so well, their feelings and struggles—internal, with each other, with their past, with their families—so real, that my heart was in my throat more than once while reading this novel.

I loved that Felicity doesn’t allow her hormones to out-vote her common sense, and that she insists that her relationship with Daniel grow slowly. She is starting to value herself and, bit by bit, to ask that others value her as well.

Daniel’s reactions to Felicity are priceless. He is a decent guy, regardless of how much he’s convinced he doesn’t want to be tied to anyone or anything, and before he knows it he’s seeing himself, in relation to Felicity, in a completely different light.

However, there is a lot of insecurity and shame, born of past humiliation, that Felicity must overcome in order to be happy—by herself, let alone in a relationship. Her dyslexia, coupled with the ignorance and downright cruelty of so many, has literally crippled her self esteem. The scars left by physical and emotional abuse while growing up play a large part in every decision Felicity makes, such as doing everything in her power to keep her inability to read a secret; and in every one of her reactions to the people around her, like oh say believing what that evil mean conniving on again, off again ex-girlfriend of Daniel’s has to say.

The misunderstandings stem mostly from Felicity’s insecurities, but feel real to me because her struggles are mostly within herself. She can’t trust Daniel because she doesn’t see why he could care—truly care—for someone like her. Interestingly, she’s not weak or a wilting flower either. She’s willing to pick herself up, again, and start over. Again.

As I mentioned above, the character of the meddlesome ex fiancé/family friend is slightly clichéd but she works because Felicity and Daniel don’t yet know each other well enough to know everything about each other, nor to trust each other with the full depth of their feelings. (And the nickname Felicity gives her is just priceless. Seriously.)

The secondary characters all contribute something important to the story. Daniel’s parents—particularly his mother—are so well realized, even though they have comparatively little time on the page. Rob, Daniel’s best friend, is such an endearing womanizer and loyal friend; Cheryl, the stripper; Stuart, the ex-boyfriend. Even Tony, Felicity’s boss at The Uptown.

Felicity Stripped Bare is a winner for me. Here’s hoping to see many more such novels by Ms Jaye in the future.

This one is 8 out 10.

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