Natalie Jones — socialite, sister, daughter, aunt, perpetual failure, and flibertygibbet — lives in the shadow of her siblings, all of whom are brilliant, clever, driven, successful, and talented. Natalie, on the other hand, follows her passions, which are … often short lived. Her siblings have companies of their own, families, children, and careers. Natalie has a string of things she’s tried, but gave up on. Much like cooking. She enjoys cooking, enough to go to culinary school, but not so much that she could bring herself to cook meat. So, as with many things in her life, Natalie put it aside.
While Natalie is trying to figure out what to to next, her crush, one of her brother’s best friends, ends up needing her help and badly. Not that Jamila seems to know it. Jamila is tall, confident, beautiful, and brilliant. She is the CEO of her own company in the middle of launching a new app and has been caught threatening a reporter. Natalie knows how to fix this, knows how to turn the tides of gossip, how to smooth ruffled feathers and ease the tension in the room. But Jamila doesn’t seem to think she needs help, let alone Natalie’s help.
Well, Natalie isn’t a Jones for nothing. Jamila’s about to learn that she should be more afraid of Natalie than the press, because Natalie is a force of nature. She’s going to save Jamila from herself and get over this crush while she’s at it.
Tempt Me takes place in the Synergy Office Romance series, all of which feature a Jones sibling in some way or other. This one is about Natalie, the baby of the family, and can easily be read on its own. While her family is present, the story is entirely about Natalie learning two things about herself: The first is that she isn’t the family screw up; the second is that she wants to be loved and won’t accept less than that.
In a world of specialists, Natalie is a Renaissance woman. She’s had so many hobbies and so many interests that she’s usually able to find common ground with others. She knows people, and if she doesn’t, she knows someone who does. What Natalie lacks, however, is self confidence. Having compared herself all her life to her siblings (having been compared to her siblings), she sees only what talents she doesn’t have rather than the ones she does. This is amply pointed out several times where Natalie turns into the socialite her mother trained her to be.
Natalie gets along with people and prevents a conversation from being awkward or unpleasant. She knows how to use small talk to skirt around difficult conversational areas and ensure everyone leaves with — if not the best of feelings, then at least pleasant ones. It’s a skillset that Jamila turns her nose up at, telling Natalie she should be herself instead of a Barbie. And it’s one thing that rubbed me the wrong way in this romance. Natalie seems only good enough when she’s being the person Jamila thinks she should be; Natalie is the one who has to change to suit Jamila. While Jamila makes a token nod to this, about how she’s a work in progress and she knows she needs to be better, it’s all a promise without any action behind it.
However, that said, the banter between the two women is slick and sweet in equal measure:
“So I’m your girl now?” My heart thudded like I was in spin class after drinking a double espresso.
She pretended to look around the bedroom. “I don’t see anyone else here.”
Gently, I shoved her shoulder. “You know what I mean.”
“I’m new at this, okay? I’m not sure what it’s supposed to feel like. But when I woke up this morning with you sleeping beside me, my first thought wasn’t, ‘How do I get this bitch out of my house so I can get some work done?’ So I guess that means you’re my girl.”
I fluttered my eyelashes. “You know just what to say to make a woman happy.”
“Now I’m wondering how to get you out of my house.”
Jamila is a driven woman who has endured a great deal in her life. Having lost her father when she was young, Jamila and her brothers were left with their grandmother while their grieving mother tried to find work. The grandmother, having lost her son, was hardly in the best place to take on three children, so Jamila became both parent and protector. Money was tight and Jamila had to work hard to teach herself how to code, had to work to get grades and money to attend Stanford and, as a black woman, also had that extra disadvantage. It’s left her protective of her privacy, of her person, of her heart. Add to that her best friend’s little sister is the one with the crush? Jamila doesn’t want to lose a friend over Natalie’s crush.
There’s a power imbalance here that isn’t quite addressed, and I think the focus on the romance took away some attention that could have been more focused on who these two women were outside of one another. And who they are on their own without one another. However, this is a pleasantly easy to read romance with strong family dynamics. And I’m pleased Natalie’s vegetarianism — picked up in her Butchery class — wasn’t thrown aside as a whim. Her friends and family respected it. I also enjoyed the relationship between Natalie and her stepfather, a man who helped raise her. Their bond was sweet, and I’m left wanting to read more of this series for those glimpses of strong family bonds.
The writing is good, the pace is good, and the romance is well established and believable. I enjoyed this book and hope you do too, if you give it a chance.