Paperback: 288 pages
Trapped in an unhappy marriage, a Minnesota housewife indulges in a weekend at a luxurious spa-and a man who'll bring her most intimate fantasies to life. Calling herself Julia Reeves, she hires a gorgeous man-whom she calls William-through the Internet, rents a red Lamborghini, splurges on some ultra-sexy lingerie, and escapes on her clandestine adventure.
The Hidden Springs spa is all that she imagined. "William" is much, much more. Her plan was to live out a fantasy and then return to reality. But a weekend may not be enough.
Yet another book pulled out of the old TBR pile. Kathryn Jordan was a guest blogger on Michelle Buonfiglio's Romance B(u)y the Book, and I was intrigued by her debut novel, "Hot Water". It sounded sexy, empowering, and like something any woman with a love of Thelma and Louise should read.
When we first meet "Julia", she is driving along in her Lamborghini to Hidden Springs, a private escape for "adults only". With the help of her sister, Julia has planned this fantasy weekend for herself, to have something that is just hers. After years of being neglected in her marriage, she feels it's time. Her kids are grown, she has no job or career to hold her back, and it seems her husband has secrets of his own.
"William" is a professional escort in his early thirties, having paid off his student loans with the money he made from his appointments, but after three years, he's had enough. Yet he's drifting, not quite sure what he's going to do with his life. He's stuck in a rut, and the kicker is, once an escort, always an escort. How can he ever have an honest relationship with a woman yet keep this side of himself from her?
But he's already been paid by Julia, so he tiredly accepts the role he plays, expecting to meet another rich, bored wife who's looking for a little distraction and entertainment in her life. But Julia is nothing like he expected. There's a hint of innocence about her, a sweet loveliness that even paid sex cannot harden. He finds himself being more honest with her than he is with anyone, and soon the idea of a never-ending weekend turns into something more.
While I didn't love this book, I have to give it credit for being thought-provoking and touchingly sentimental. Julia is from Minnesota, and having been born and raised there myself, I guess it resonated more with me for that reason. There is a sense of that reserved, inhibited old-fashioned middle-class wife syndrome where the wife becomes invisible that I've seen time and time again in the women I grew up with. It's sad, really, because I know there is so much more to these women than they let show. But that's another story.
I thought this book was a lovely fantasy that took the journey I hoped it would. I give Julia so much credit for breaking away from her comfort zone and freeing the butterfly inside of her. The message this story told was to take that leap of faith, to not be afraid, to live. But. Yes, but. I just felt that as much as I wanted to cheer for Julia, I couldn't. It felt too easy. Maybe it should be, because it sure is for men to do the exact same thing and to hell with the consequences.
I don't begrudge her the weekend she took for herself. It didn't bother me that she was, essentially, cheating on her husband. That didn't seem to be the point anyway. It was about her taking control and not being invisible anymore. Got that. Respected that. Just felt it was maybe a bit too fairy tale-like to convince me completely. Maybe I'm becoming too cynical in my reading, but I was expecting a different outcome, a more realistic one.
I understand from Kathryn Jordan's site that Julia's journey isn't quite over yet, so maybe I'll keep following it, just to see what happens. I really hate loose ends anyway, and this book left a few.
Rating: *** 1/2 out of *****