Story Rating: 3.5 stars
Audio Rating: 3.75 stars

Narrator: Samantha Cook
Length: 8 hours, 49 minutes

Audiobook Buy Links: Amazon/Audible | iBooks
Book Buy Links: Amazon | iBooks

Supreme Court Justice Victoria Willoughby has a lot on her plate. She was prepared for the work of the position, for the legal research and arguments, the politicking and compromising with her fellow justices; what she wasn’t ready for was the lack of privacy. Owing to the politically charged gay rights case being brought before the court, the pressure on Victoria — as the newest judge and one suspected of being gay — has become almost crippling. Someone is stalking her, she’s being harassed by reporters, and someone on her staff has been selling her private information. It’s causing Victoria to become even more isolated as she draws further and further away from the public eye, until she is invited to a dinner party where Victoria comes face to face with the one she left behind: Genevieve Fornier.

Genevieve is a great lawyer, and she knows it. She’s beautiful, intelligent, clever, and looks great in front of the cameras. She knows how to use her voice, her smile, and her sexuality to manipulate people. More than that, Genevieve knows how to use the law. And she has been tapped to stand before the Supreme Court and argue for gay rights … in front of her ex lover, Victoria, who would not — could not — be open, could not be out and proud, and who chose to run away from the life she and Genevieve were making together.

The spark is still there between them, and neither woman can do anything about it. To rekindle their friendship could risk cries of collusion, leading to disbarring and a dismissal of the case. It would ruin both of their careers. So, instead, it’s long looks and longer silences as both women have to ask themselves what they want, and how much they’re willing to risk in getting it.

Barring Complications is the first book in the Love and Law series and it did two things successfully for me. First, both characters felt like they knew what they were talking about when discussing the law. The story show the small issues that come with a judge and a lawyer knowing each other prior to a trial. There was a focus on research, on the teams of people breaking their backs and giving up their nights and weekends to read endless files and prepare for a tough fight. Second, the background details of the Supreme Court Police handling the privacy leaks, the security, and the whole stalking situation felt well done. This book feels grounded in reality and that very grounding added a layer of interest that kept me going.

On the relationship end, unfortunately I didn’t feel much chemistry between Victoria and Genevieve. Victoria is a very introspective person, often caught up in her own thoughts, so much so that she often didn’t seem to react much to what was going on around her. The calls from someone who shouldn’t have her number didn’t make her angry or afraid, just irked. The idea of a stalker made her tired, and as for being outed as a lesbian? Who knows, as she didn’t seem to really think about or react to it. In law school, she was the one who tracked down Genevieve to start their romance, and she was also the one to end it. Here, twenty years later, I didn’t see signs of regret or loss from Victoria as much as acknowledgement that Genevieve is attractive, Victoria is lonely, and she wouldn’t mind having Genevieve back in her life.

Genevieve is beautiful and she knows it; she was also always more in love with Victoria than Victoria was with her. But in the present day, Genevieve feels like she is back involved because that’s what the story and plot dictate, rather than because she has any reasons of her own. All in all, I found it very hard to nail down any real personality with either woman other than that both of them want some human connection, with no sense that it really matters who that connection is with.

There are ideas that work in here. The two women, unable to talk because it might damage the case and lead to questions of impropriety, have their reunion limited to swimming silent laps next to one another at the gym. The two of them adjusting their strokes to be in sync, the symbolism of the water around them — feeling each other’s motions through ripples in the pools, the silence they can’t break, with only looks between them to convey everything they feel … the idea is there. The image is there. But, for me, it was hollow without a sense of the characters’ connection to fill that echoing space.

I listened to the audiobook narrated by Samantha Cook. The pace was nice and quick, and the bits and pieces of the story fell together in all the right places. It just lacked any sense of character, for me. Cook brought a warmth to the voices and a sense of liveliness, though in scenes with multiple characters speaking it was often hard to tell which character was talking. As I’ve said before, that’s not a deal breaker for me, but it can be for some people. Personally, this felt more like someone narrating a story than performing it. Again, for me, that’s not always negative. All in all, I enjoyed my listening experience and I will be curious to see more from this narrator.