It takes a really funny book to get me to laugh out loud — actually guffaw and even snort a couple of times — when I’m sitting on my patio, enjoying a cool evening breeze wafting in from the Delta through my oak trees, sipping a glass of fine Lodi wine as I read.
But that’s exactly the kind of evening I was in the mood for . . . and precisely the kind of relaxing, thoroughly enjoyable evening I savored as I read the first novel from Maya Jax, a self-described “author, aspiring super hero, closet ninja,” Escapades of Romantically Challenged Me!
Welcome to Pump Up Your Book’s Virtual Book Tour for Escapades of Romantically Challenged Me
Lelaina Zane does not want to be a lawyer. Her parents, both attorneys, want her to take over the firm that they built and nurtured just for her.
But for the past three years since she graduated from law school, Lelaina has been living in Los Angeles and attempting to launch her career as a screen writer. So far, all she has amassed is one completed script . . . and piles of rejection notices. As one agent reminds her, “Ninjas and spies are out. Vampires are in.” Others, like Tom Edwards, are less kind: “I read your screenplay. If I could only get those three hours back.”
Her first love, Conner, lives in their hometown, practicing medicine. He’s the last person she wants to see. So naturally, she runs into him as soon as she is called home when her father suffers a heart attack.
The Bar Examination is four weeks away, and her parents are determined to see her pass it, join their firm, and settle into a responsible, respectable life. But there may be one last hope for her burgeoning career as a writer, if she can just get back to Los Angeles long enough to meet with a potential agent.
And if the meeting goes well, what will she tell her parents? Will her feelings for Conner compel her to give up on her dreams?
I have one major complaint about Escapades of Romantically Challenged Me: It ended, as they say, “just when it was getting good better.” I certainly hope that Maya Jax is already hard at work drafting the sequel, because I am not going to be satisfied until I find out what happens to Lelaina next.
Escapades of Romantically Challenged Me is a perfect summer book. Jax’s crisp writing is fresh, witty, and fast-paced. From the first page, Lelaina’s self-deprecating frustration plays out as she finds herself in one hilariously inappropriate, expertly paced situation after another. Along the way, she manages to encounter a varied and intriguing cast of supporting characters ranging from her caring but needy parents to her roommate, Travis, who supports her unconditionally while encouraging her not to abandon her dream.
“I love Lelaina because I feel her pain. Many of my friends became doctors and lawyers, and you start to question your sanity as a struggling writer when your friends are buying homes, designer clothes and luxury cars, while you’re still eating peanut butter sandwiches for every meal.”
~~ Maya Jax
Of course, there’s Conner, the impossibly charming first love who broke her heart three years earlier. He does not appear to have changed much, even as he swears that he never stopped loving Lelaina. Their mutual friend, Joe, does not want to be placed in the uncomfortable position of having to choose between his two best friends, and offers Lelaina unique and surprising insights into the dynamics of her relationship with Conner. But the lure of that first big love, even years later, is powerful. Lelaina has to decide whether she wants to or can resist Conner’s charm. Settling down with Conner in their hometown could offer comfort and predictability, but where Conner is concerned, that’s precisely the problem.
Amid the fast-paced action, Jax sagely injects moments of tenderness and irony, as when Lelaina finds it impossible to heed the direction given her by the director of the preschool where she has returned to work while studying for the Bar Examination. She morphs into an amateur sleuth in order to aid one of her students and his family, even though she risks losing her job by doing so. Her compassion and determination reveal that, if she focused her efforts, she could be a very effective attorney because Lelaina can also be resourceful, resilient, and stubbornly zealous.
Jax has deftly crafted a subtly complex and nuanced character with whom women readers can readily identify, regardless of their age, because Escapades of Romantically Challenged Me is ultimately about a woman faced with critical choices about her life and how she will live it. Lelaina must decide whether to compromise in order to make the people she loves happy or focus on her own goals — in her own manner, in her own time, and in Los Angeles, the city she has adopted.
In her first published novel, Jax has delivered a clever, entertaining examination of a classic literary dilemma that never seems to grow stale or boring: Can — or should — Lelaina go home again? Summer doesn’t officially end until September 21, so you still have time to find out before autumn sets in.
I read Escapades of Romantically Challenged Me in conjunction with the 2010 Read ‘n’ Review Challenge.
Disclosure of Material Connection: I received one copy of Escapades of Romantically Challenged Me free of charge from the author in conjunction with the Pump Up Your Book review and virtual book tour program. I was not required to write a positive review in exchange for receipt of the book; rather, the opinions expressed in this review are my own. This disclosure complies with 16 Code of Federal Regulations, Part 255, “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”