I always get nervous when I’m about to read a book by someone I know… someone I’ve met or even just someone I’ve had some contact with.
It’s a relief then when I enjoy their work – which is certainly the case with Lizzy Chandler’s latest release By Her Side.
Rory Sutton Whitfield isn’t a princess, even though her wealthy family insists on treating her like one. Fresh from her travels and finally achieving the independence she craves, the last thing she wants is to become swept up in family problems. But her half-brother has disappeared and her grandfather insists on hiring a bodyguard for her. Rory won’t be controlled by anyone, especially not a taciturn detective like Vince Maroney, a man of few words who nonetheless arouses disturbing emotions.
Vince Maroney has learned his lesson about playing the hero; he stepped up once and it cost him everything. But when he saves the granddaughter of one of Sydney’s wealthiest men, he finds himself embroiled in events beyond his control. Rory is beautiful, smart, independent. But her family is all secrets and lies, money papered over injustices. Rory makes him feel things he thought long dead, but the pains of the past create distance, and she comes from a completely different world. How can one of Sydney’s pampered princesses ever find common ground with her reluctant bodyguard?
Chandler’s created really likeable characters in Rory and Vince. She could have gone with caricatures (the poor little rich girl and love interest from the other side of the tracks) but stops short of that and grounds both characters with layers of complexity. Rather than adopt those roles, the characters themselves are both really conscious not to fall into the trap of stereotyping each other.
I also loved the fact there’s no game-playing. I recently applauded a similar approach in my review of Secret Sisters. I often find romance novels formulaic—kicking off with an initial hatred which I don’t always buy into. We KNOW they’re gonna get it on at some point and I often get frustrated with the need for trickery. Such as it is. But fortunately Chandler doesn’t go down that route.
Both Rory and Vince feel an attraction to the other and have some misgivings, but the will they / won’t they? doesn’t take over the book. And when the issue is finally broached I love that it’s done in quite a sweet manner. This may border on a #spoiler, but one of them basically presents their feelings to the other which I found to be both honest and brave (and obviously realistic cos I’m commenting on the character’s behaviour as if they were a real person!).
The novel’s short at only about 150 pages which allows it to keep a good pace. The plot itself is interesting and I found myself engaged in what was unfolding. Chandler keeps some of the ‘clues’ away from readers until near the end. Once that happened I was able to pick what was coming, but the myriad of elements at play offered something a little different.
I’d been warned about the romance / sex scenes before I read this book so I was a tad nervous but quite frankly they’re not gruesome and are handled really well. I know someone else talked about the characters’ fantasy thoughts but as an oversharer myself I didn’t mind their lustful yearnings and didn’t find them at all excessive. (Indeed I’d imagined much worse so they felt quite tame!)
This is an enjoyable and easy read, offering up a solid plot and delightful characters.
By Her Side by Lizzy Chandler is now available via Escape Publishing.
I received a copy of this book via NetGalley from the publisher for review purposes.