Maria Ismine – Johnny Smith(Jobless in January, #2)


Author: Maria Ismine
Reviewed by: Yvonne
Torquere Press Inc.
M/M Contemporary
ISBN 13: N/A

Rating: ★★★★☆ 


Joe Smith finds himself suddenly jobless in January. Yesterday he was the manager of Burger Excellence, today he is out of work. He needs to make plans for the future. He needs to do something about his boring, sensible life. He just isn’t sure what.

A walk on the beach leads him to take shelter in a beach café when a storm blows in. Dave, co-owner of the café is low on staff, his regular waitress being out with a broken arm. He offers Joe the job. Joe is actually more interested in Dave than the job until he hears the dreaded p-word — partner, the one Dave owns the café with. Will Joe be able to change his life, or is he a day late and a dollar short?

From the cover to the title, there’s nothing about this book that screams must read. The main character is named John Smith for goodness sake. Plus this is one of those sometimes frustratingly slow built up stories that seemed directionless at times. I had to check the blurb to see if this was even a romance book. But something happened along the way upon reading about poor & sometimes pathetic John Smith & I fell under the spell of this slow moving story.

Johnny Smith is newly divorced from his wife, doesn’t have custody of his two kids and is recently let go from his job. He finds himself at 32 years old living with his parents and following all their dictates. He’s miserable, drinking too much and out of shape. About the only positive is that his job has left him with a nice payoff and he’s seeing a therapist. He decides to escape his oppressive parents by going on holiday to see his brother who he hasn’t had contact with for 8 years. His parents had kicked out his brother for being gay.

This is about Johnny finally getting his act together and you can’t help rooting for him. Who doesn’t love a good come back story? Seeing his brother Joe again forces John to confront things in his life. He meets Charlie who’s like an evil male version of Jillian Michaels from The Biggest Loser with a no pain no gain attitude towards workouts. The blurb calls him an unpleasant git which I kind of like. And as you may suspect from that description, this is a British book and Charlie wins the prize for being the eventual love interest. The book hits its stride when the two of them come together first in a hate/friend way and later as lovers.

There were some things that put me off in this book as again there’s an evil ex wife. I’d love for once to see some nuanced portrayal of an ex. In this case we do get an explanation about her behavior but it still didn’t make her likable. There was also a scene involving the police that felt like an extended therapy session. But maybe that’s how things are done in Anwell-by-Sea. It had a bit of a folksy atmosphere.

This book grew on me and I really ended up liking it. Every issue is not resolved and it does have a HFN style ending. This isn’t a typical love story with wedding bells & I love you’s but I loved seeing Johnny getting to a place where he was ready for it. If you enjoy a slow developing story and you want something a little different than the insta-love that populates the genre, you might want to give this one a try.


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