From almost the very beginning, Jonas knew he had a crush on his new stepbrother. However, the fact that their parents had just married kept him from admitting it to the boy who captured his heart one night under the Christmas tree. A few years have passed and Jonas is now a senior in college and trying his best to forget Quinn—particularly since their parents divorced a while back making them nothing more than former family and not even really friends. However, one snowy winter break the two guys end up at a cabin together, stranded in a snowstorm.
Quinn is hiding—sort of. He has left an abusive relationship, lied to his mother about college, and is in Colorado expressly to get a job at a posh resort. The last thing he needs is to be face to face with a reminder of the guy who gave him his first kiss, not to mention at that time they were stepbrothers. But after getting stuck in the snow, Quinn’s rescuer turns out to be Jonas, and he is looking good—really good.
I have to begin this review of Naughty & Nice by admitting to having a difficult time getting into this story. However, my tastes and other reader’s enjoyment do not go hand in hand, so I mean to be fair here, especially since I do like other work I have read by D.J. Jamison. This is a romance about unrequited love—a crush that begins a few years before the two main characters meet again. Once the two of them stop second guessing their own feelings and try justifying their every emotion to themselves., the story moves forward fairly quickly and takes on a more interesting appeal for me. Prior to that point, I grappled with a few aspects of this novel that I found frustrating.
For instance, the two lovers, Quinn and Jonas, began as stepbrothers, but after Quinn’s mother divorced Jonas’ father, they really ceased having that connection. Still, Jonas’ father telling Quinn to call him “dad” not only made Quinn a little uncomfortable, but me as well. It is bad enough that both men are already fixated on their previous relationship, but to have additional characters push the same idea that they were once stepbrothers is just a bit too out there for me—like circling the incest drain, so to speak. This then led to another factor in the book I had difficulty wrapping my brain around and that would be Quinn’s ex, Clay.
Let’s begin by calling Clay what he is: an abuser. It is mental abuse, a continuous tearing down of Quinn’s self-esteem. This is never really admitted by anyone, including Quinn. Instead, Clay is brushed aside and the damage he leaves behind is pushed away as well. If indeed Quinn was in deep in an abusive relationship, as his reaction toward Jonas hiding things from him would indicate, then I would hope the author could find an opportunity for Quinn to get some counseling. Instead, it was all just talked away and that left me confused as to how Quinn could be so devastated about the past relationship, but not really need to try professional help to promote healing and prevent repeating past mistakes.
Despite these concerns, I do think the actual romance is quite sweet. There are moments when Quinn is bowled over by how Jonas supports him without trying to be controlling. The few love letters we are privy to in the book that Jonas wrote and never sent are really lovely and it’s so nice to see a glimpse of the hidden romantic inside the buff, flirty playboy persona Jonas uses most of the time. I also appreciated how Quinn took his life into his own hands and made some good decisions. In my opinion, he ran from admitting he needed help a bit too long but still, in the end, he made choices that reflected how he matures in the novel.
For me, Naughty & Nice presented a somewhat mixed bag. However, I do think those looking for a nice holiday romance may find just what they are looking for in this story.