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You Don't Know Jack by Erin McCarthy
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You Don't Know Jack

by Erin McCarthy

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Jamie Peters works for a charity helping (former) criminals become upstanding citizens. She also has a history of dating losers. Jonathon Davidson (called Jack by his friends) is a millionaire who has been asked for a donation to Jamie's charity. Suspecting that the charity might be involved in something illegal, he decides to investigate. But when he and Jamie meet in person, they can't help being intensely attracted to each other. I did have fun reading a book. It's not a keeper, but it's a good book to read on the beach or in the bathtub. There really isn't much wrong with the characters, they are fairly likable. But it's not the kind of book that makes you think, "oh, I wish something like this would happen to me in real life". You see, Jack does display some stalkerish behavior. He just won't take "no" for an answer from Jamie. Granted, he is aware that she is quite as attracted to him as he to her, and he knows that both of them only have the best of intentions with the charity and everyone involved - but I still think that if a woman tells a man to keep his hands off her, he should do so. ( )
  SusiB | Mar 28, 2009 |
This is pure chick lit. No doubt about it. And it certainly would not top the list of “good, clean reads.” But it’s good. The story is believable and the characters aren’t one -dimensional at all. If you’re into these kinds of books, this one’s pretty good. ( )
  jacketscoversread | Nov 22, 2008 |
Let me begin by saying that while I'm categorizing this book as a contemporary romance, there are probably a few other categories you could put it in, such as romantic comedy and even romantica (or dare I say it? erotic comedy?). However, I'm sticking with the contemporary romance description primarily because that's what Romantic Times Book Reviews had it listed as in their review of it. Plus, contemporary romance is pretty much a catch-all for those hard to categorize romances.

I picked this book up primarily because I was intrigued by the premise: girl has her fortune told, is informed she'll meet The One in an accident involving food and an untruth. Boy is investigating said girl and lies about his identity when they do meet (consequently during an accident involving food). There was much more to the back cover blurb than that, I promise you, but that's the basic gist of it. Plus, it sounded funny, and we all know that I have a soft spot for funny books.

Well, it wasn't quite as funny as I'd thought it would be, but it still made me chuckle in places.

On the surface, this is a hidden identity/Big Secret romance, which is a plot device that's almost as overused as the Secret Baby or Single Mom or Unplanned Pregnancy/Shotgun Wedding plot device. Don't believe me? Just go take a look at some of the titles Harlequin's been churning out over the past couple of decades and you'll see what I mean (or you can just go visit Smart Bitches Who Love Trashy Novels and take a look at some of their commentary on romance novel covers--it's hilarious yet informative).

That isn't to say that the secret identity plot device can't work, because it can--especially if there's a good reason for there to be a secret identity (for example, you have a hero or heroine who's in the FBI or Witness Protection Program or something covert). And I could even argue that the secret identity/Big Secret plots work because all great romances are built upon trust, and having your trust broken is a surefire way to create emotional conflict.

Needless to say, our heroine--Jamie--is quite conflicted where Jack is concerned. He's lied to her about who he is. He's her roommate's brother. Oh, and he's a millionaire who just happens to be retired at the age of 29 (which tells you right there that this is definitely a work of fiction). He's also way too good to be true, despite the lies, the sister and the money. Why? Well, his intentions were good--all he wanted to do was protect Jamie and make sure she didn't get hurt by the person who'd been kind of illegally daytrading by using funds from the nonprofit Jamie works for's bank account. When I say "kind of illegally," I mean that the culprit's actions were barely on the shady side of legal, since he was simply borrowing the money, investing it, making a profit and then putting the original dollars back into the nonprofit's bank account and keeping the earnings for himself.

Clear as mud?

The almost illegal daytrading was only one of the things that bothered me about this novel. Sure, it was a great mystery. Plus, working for a non-profit myself, I can definitely understand all of the ramifications that could go along with something like that (if you think Big Brother keeps a close eye on corporations, that's nothing compared to all the rules and regulations surrounding a non-profit's finances, believe me). But it was solved far too soon. As in, barely halfway through the book. There was no danger or intrigue, just Jack catching the culprit in the act while visiting Jamie at work one day.

Another thing that bothered me was the distinct over usage of narrative. Now, I'm the first to admit that I'm a dialogue whore. I love dialogue. I think you learn more from a character by what they say (and their inner dialogue, too), than anything else. Sure, one of the conventions of romance is to have long passages of narrative, those inner monologues where one of the characters (usually the heroine) is over thinking the relationship to the point of mental exhaustion that basically serve to say: "I'm a confused heroine because I think I love this guy but I'm not sure if I do or not but wow does he give me great orgasms and no one's ever been able to do that before."

Okay, I'll stop being snarky.

My point, though, is that there wasn't anywhere near enough dialogue, and as a result, I felt kind of cheated on the whole getting-to-know-the-characters thing. For me, dialogue between the hero and heroine is a lot like the conversation you have with someone you've recently met, are attracted to, and are slowly (or quickly) getting to know. People read romance because they enjoy the feeling of falling in love, and that means from the beginning to the Happily Ever After (HEA). And part of falling in love is talking. Communicating. And this book distinctly lacked communication between the hero and heroine.

There were also points when I felt like the author was trying to hit me upside the head with just how optimistic Jamie was. I got that in the first chapter, thankyouverymuch, and did not need to be told 50 more times throughout the novel that the heroine was "optimistic" or a "glass half full sort of girl." I get it. Her actions say that without Jamie having to think that about herself that many times.

The biggest hitch for me, though, was believability. The novel takes place over the course of two weeks. By the end of week one, both Jamie and Jack are thinking that they're in love with the other. In fact, they meet on the subway (during the aforementioned accident), go out on a date the very next night, stay up all night talking and beginning in the wee hours of the morning proceed to have several rounds of mind-blowing sex.

That first part's believable--people sleep together on the first date all the time (although my mama did always tell me that good girls do not do such things). Staying up and talking all night is believable, too. Hell, I've done that myself. But falling in love with each other by the end of the first week when you've barely even talked to each other during the course of said week because one of you lied about his identity and the other found out and is understandably pissed?

I don't buy it.

Call me cynical if you want, but falling in love that quickly, especially with a distinct lack of communication (not to mention the fact that the guy freaking lied to her), is absolutely ludicrous. Actually, I would even say that under "perfect" (or at least ideal) circumstances, falling in love that quickly is impossible.

Now, before anyone starts throwing virtual tomatoes at me, let me explain myself. I do believe that you can start to fall in love that quickly--or at least very deeply into like. I also believe that you can intuitively know after one of those long getting-to-know-you sessions whether or not you could fall for the other person. But as for actually falling? It just seems implausible, and every time I read a romance novel that spans over the course of a couple of weeks, it irks me (unless the characters were childhood sweethearts/knew each other previously--that's more plausible), and it takes a very talented author to get me to suspend my disbelief enough so that I buy into the love relationship.

And now that I've ranted about the things that I didn't like, let me address the things I did like (yes, there were a few).

What stood out as being the best thing about this book was the fact that McCarthy had some fantastic secondary characters. My favorite was Beckwith--a cross-dressing, psychic ex-con whom Jamie had helped to rehabilitate upon re-entering the real world. He was such a great character, and definitely added a great dimension to the novel (and to Jamie).

Also, I did like the underlying theme of destiny vs. free will. It's something I think a lot about myself, whether or not you control fate or fate controls you, or if it's just a balance between the two. In a way, I wish this had been expanded upon more and really, truly looked at by Jamie and Jack.

There was also a pretty decent plot twist about halfway through the book that I was not expecting (and that I will not give away, because spoilers suck), but that added at least a little bit to the story (although I wasn't very happy with the resolution of it, either, truth be told).

And I have to say, the sex scenes were hot. Very hot. And many, many pages long. They weren't overdone, though, and did serve to move the plot along. The reason why I'm hesitant to call this book romantica, though, is because of the language. For anyone who's ever read erotica, you know the language can get very blunt (and even coarse and crass) and the sex extremely descriptive. While the scenes here were quite descriptive, the language was somewhere in between romance and erotica. Actually, thinking about it, it's kind of funny that the author used the word "cock" a few times, and yet when referring to Jamie's vagina, she used the word "core" (seriously, who really uses that word as a euphemism for "vagina?").

Overall, though, the book did read very fast, which is always a plus. It was entertaining, even if it was a little too much on the fluffy side (maybe I should start rating these books using a "fluffball" system...hmmm). I don't know that this is an extremely memorable book, but it wasn't awful, either, by any means. So if you enjoy a light read that doesn't require too much thought, this might be the book for you. ( )
  chicklitter | Jul 21, 2008 |
Jamie Peters is an upbeat social worker eager to meet the man of her dreams promised to her by her transvestite psychic. Jonathan "Jack" Davidson is a self-made millionaire desperately seeking meaning in his life. When Jack tracks down Jamie to determine if she is involved in a illegal money venture being run through the agency she works with the sparks fly and neither of them will be the same.

You Don't Know Jack was a cute simple story of love at first sight between people at opposite ends of the social spectrum. Lots of fluff, not much substance but not a bad way to pass the time so long as you do not mind graphic and long winded love scenes. As for how bridesmaids keep on their strapless, low cut gowns, all I can say is OUCH! If you're looking for a fun read without too much drama or confusion than You Don't Know Jack would be a great book for you. ( )
  Jenson_AKA_DL | Dec 30, 2006 |
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Jamie is more than a little skeptical when her cross-dressing psychic tells her she's about to meet her soul mate - during an accident. And then it happens...

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