All Shook Up, by Susan Andersen

23 Mar

All Shook UpAll Shook Up, by Susan Andersen

To my recollection (which, alas, isn’t perfect!) this is the only novel by Ms Andersen I’ve read. When I got the urge to read it again a couple of weeks ago, I remembered liking it quite a bit but not feeling any great curiosity about the author’s backlist.

Looking back, I blame the covers and, most especially, the stepbacks¹. The whole cartoony bit made it seem too much “chick lit” for my taste–plus what is written as romantic comedy often misses me by a mile, so…

At any rate, let’s get to the point.

I remarked to Holly over at the Book Binge that I had only read this novel once before, way back when I got it my (used) copy. On this re read I found it interesting how much of the feeling of the story and characters, as opposed to specific passages or events, I remembered. All Shook Up didn’t just hold up well, but was all the more enjoyable this time around.

Obligatory back cover blurb:

A man with a past
J.D. Carver learned life’s tough lessons on the streets, so when an unexpected inheritance sends him to the Star Lake Lodge to claim his half, he’s expecting trouble. Being greeted with open arms by the whole Lawrence gang–feisty Aunt Sophie and calm Uncle Ben, clearly off-limits Dru and her young son, Tate–just convinces him they’re working an angle, and he’s determined to uncover it. Even though a tiny part of him longs for the home-and-hearth life they have…

A woman with a reputation
Dru’s finally beaten her bad-girl reputation, and though life at the Lodge may not be exciting, she’s fiercely protective of her quiet home. Hard-eyed D.J.’s ability to push all her buttons–some of which haven’t been pushed in way too long–just proves how wrong he is for her. So why does her son hero-worship the guy? And why does her heart clench when he gets that “nose pressed against the candy shop window” look on his face?

In love..and all shook up
They thought they knew everything their lives had to offer…until they met. Can a failed good girl and a guy who never caught a break learn to believe in one another long enough to trust their love?

And now, the obligatory blurb quibble:  Dru doesn’t really have any sort of bad-girl reputation. Her one and only bad-girl deed was to get pregnant in college. After she decided to have and keep her child, she moved back to the small mountain town where her family lives.

Drusilla is a great character. She has baggage–her parents pretty much abandoned her at her uncle and aunt’s home in favor of wandering the globe, then her boyfriend abandoned her over the pregnancy, and she’ never felt fully accepted by the smallish community she lives in. She has retreated into motherhood, partly due to said smallish community, partly because once she decided to be a mother², she’s committed to being a good and involved mother and, finally, partly because there’s no one around who makes her wish for something else/more/different.

She’s not hiding from life while ignoring dozens of eligible, hot, available candidates dancing attendance on her and/or her friends, and she’s definitely not languishing away in solitude and self pity. Dru is simply not going out of her way to look for a man because she’s pretty much content where she’s at with her life.³

This makes her reaction to J.D.–available, intriguing, attractive and there, now permanently within her daily sphere–perfectly believable, as far as I’m concerned.

For his part, J.D. is an interesting if just a tad less nuanced character. Briefly fostered by Dru’s late Great Aunt Edwina, he is heroic from the get go, and while Edwina is credited with instilling a sense of right and wrong in him, it’s clear that his decency is an innate trait. He’s naturally skeptic of the easy acceptance of his claim evidenced by the Lawrences. Keeping in mind that their Lodge is their livelihood, it would be utterly stupid to believe that they wouldn’t resent a stranger owning half of it–and J. D. is patently not stupid. Yes, he dwells and broods over old wrongs, perhaps more than one would think appropriate for a man in his thirties, but it comes across as true to his personality and history.

I particularly enjoyed J.D.’s interactions with the other Lawrences–Sophie, Ben and Tate–because they clearly highlight his lack of experience with families. Ms Andersen doesn’t make a big deal out of it, but rather lets it unfold scene by scene: as a single man, product of the foster system, most of J.D.’s adult life has been spent among people with similar backgrounds and/or close to his age and circumstances: single and/or childless, without extended and/or close-knit families. Starting this new chapter of his life, he expects to remain an outsider, forever watching from afar, and is constantly thrown off balance (and moved) when they pull him in.

Which they do, repeatedly. And I must point out that I liked that Ms Andersen does not spend a lot of time making the Lawrences into the perfect family or some such–being friendly and inclusive is just who Ben and Sophie have always been. That is exactly why Dru’s decision to keep Tate, while still hard to do, is possible. Without their open and active support and acceptance, neither Dru nor Tate would be as grounded and…well, normal as they are.

I most particularly loved that Dru becomes J.D.’s rescuer–and not just emotionally speaking. She kicks ass and takes names without suddenly becoming an urban fantasy heroine. As she did when she decided to continue her pregnancy and raise Tate as a single mother, she does what needs to be done and deals with it, regardless of how insecure and scared of the consequences she may be. She’s, in one word, courageous.

All Shook Up gets 8.75 out of 10.

~ ~ * ~ ~

¹ You can see the one for this book at amazon, using the look inside feature.

² Props to Ms Andersen: there’s a brief mention of Dru considering having an abortion and her reasons for entertaining the thought, yet even though obviously she decided against it and loves Tate absolutely and unconditionally, there’s none of that “abortion is eeeeeeeeeevil, abortion is muuuuuuurder” that seems to pop up, explicitly or implicitly in many a romance novel with a teen and/or secret pregnancy plot thread. No implication of disdain towards someone making the opposite decision, nor cheering for Dru for making “the only good/right/moral” decision. Ms Andersen treats it very matter of factually, as something that would naturally cross the mind of a young college student faced with the life altering circumstance of an unexpected pregnancy without any support from the other baby-making party or her own parents.

³ I can totally relate to this–and I think many of us can. We may indulge in the occasional, “oh I wish (fill in the blank)” but mostly we are content enough were we are and see no point in risking that contentment for the fairy-tale-perfect fantasy.

Advertisements

One Response to “All Shook Up, by Susan Andersen”

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. Skintight, by Susan Andersen | Her Hands, My Hands - 25/04/2016

    […] I’ve read, and I’m sorry to say that I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did All Shook Up; partly, because I’ve been in a filthy reading mood–my inner critic (hat tip to Liz at […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: