Carmen's Reviews > The Space Between

The Space Between by Victoria H. Smith
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really liked it
bookshelves: fiction, romance, self-published, she-says, american-author, published2013
Recommended for: Romance fans

To him, this world was a bit of fun, a place to get his weed and maybe some kicks by picking up a local chick. To me, this was life. This was my life and nothing to play around with. I wouldn't let him play around with me. I wouldn't be his source of fun, no matter what I felt upstairs.

BOOK #9 in Carmen-Downloads-20-Free-Ebooks-Onto-Her-Kindle-Day. More widely known as March 3rd, 2015.

Wow. I actually really liked this book.

What? You liked a freebie book?!!?

Yes, I know, y'all are shocked. I was also very surprised.

Truman Drake is a rich, bored son of an Illinois senator. He is immature, entitled, and a jerk from the North Shore.

Lacey is poor, hardworking, and responsible. She's West Side, and caring for her mother who is dying from cancer.

The fact that these two even meet each other is stunning. Drake sneaks out of his father's fundraiser and gets involved in a poker game with some ruffians. As a result, he gets sent to buy some pot from Lacey's best friend: the drug dealer Margot.

At first, Drake viewed Lacey as just an "exotic" girl he could spend the last month of his summer before college with. He didn't respect her or even really view her as a person.

Lacey knows Drake is "slumming it," but the shit really hits the fan once she finds out he's only in the neighborhood to buy pot from Margot. Lacey has a zero tolerance policy for drugs, and she promptly calls the cops on him.

Yeah, it's like that! So...

Drake is pissed, but he figures he'll never see Lacey again. Imagine his shock and surprise when she shows up as he and his 15-year-old sister's new "nanny."
...

This romance was really great. If I start worrying about the characters and what is going to happen to them, you know I'm hooked. If I'm actually feeling sad and worried when romance novel characters face challenges - well. This is a great sign. And this was that kind of book. My heart was pounding I was so anxious, I was turning pages like crazy. I really wanted a happy ending for these two.

HIGHLIGHTS:
1.) ASSHOLE. Drake is SUCH an asshole. Now - there's two (2) ways an author can take an asshole male lead in a romance novel. Either a.) they romanticize the man's jerkiness - as if it's sexy he's a sneering, condescending, possessive prick. These are books I DNF. Or, b.) they make the character change and grow and learn, and at the end you think the (former) asshole is a great guy. I love these types of books! And they are hard to write, so major props to Smith on this one. I mean, I went from lecturing and scolding Drake right and left to admiring him and cheering him on. That's a big turn-around! And it's so smooth and gradual.

2.) RACE. This book actually talks about race and racial issues instead of just pretending like race doesn't exist. I found this to be very refreshing.

We have Lacey - who has a black mom and a white dad - living in a poor neighborhood and working hard to take care of her sick mom. When Drake comes around, he gets threatened and beaten by men in the neighborhood who are angry with him for "stealing our women." Lacey herself has to deal with Drake's dad treating her like she's worthless because she's "the help" and acting like it's a huge affront when she sits down to dinner with them.

We have Drake - who is Korean - adopted by a white family and often faced with racism himself. His asshole father makes it clear that he only adopted him to improve his image as a humanitarian and doesn't consider Drake his "real son" the way he does his biological daughter. Even though Drake loves his (adoptive) mother and sister and is very close to them, he has to deal with his racist father every single day. Not to mention his rich, white peers who sometimes treat him as the token minority.

Now, this isn't a Book About Race, you know, message-filled and preachy. Ugh. Who'd want to read that?! Certainly not someone looking for a fun romance. BUT, so often I see books where authors pretend like racial issues just don't exist. As if we live in some world where racism has magically been erased. And I think that's fine - IN ROMANCE NOVELS, because authors are trying to provide light, fluffy escapism for their readers. But I loved, loved, loved Smith's frank and sensible handling of these topics - it was a shock to find a romance novel actually acknowledging that racism exists. The issues weren't shoved down my throat but they weren't swept under the rug either. Great. Wonderful. Extra points.

3.) REAL PROBLEMS.
Because race is just a part of this world, I felt like the characters had real-world problems. Oftentimes in romance, the conflicts the main couple faces before they can have their Happily Ever After are simply ridiculous and convoluted. You're reading the book and screaming at the characters "Just tell him! Just talk to her! Be sensible!" because it's painful to read about people who are so dense and hellbent on miscommunication that they hurt each other.

Here, this is not the case. Drake and Lacey are facing real-life problems. What will Drake's rich white parents say when they find out their only son is dating a poor, black woman who works as a nanny? How will Lacey deal with the hostile men in her neighborhood who see Jaguar-driving Drake as a woman-poacher? How can Drake convince his father that Lacey's not just a golddigger out to get his money? Or how about the fact that Lacey really, desperately needs the money from working for Drake's parents because her mom's medical bills are astronomical. She can't afford to lose her job and they will absolutely fire her if they find out she's involved with Drake.

This is infinitely better than the 'problems' that usually crop up in romance novels, which basically involve the leads inventing reasons why they can't be together that are frankly just stupid.

4.) SHE STANDS UP FOR HERSELF. Lacey is a strong woman who doesn't take any shit from Drake. At the beginning, Drake is really immature and entitled. He says and does some mean things mainly just 'cause he's bored and proud. Lacey is amazing in the way she stands up for him even though she's attracted to him. Usually in romance novels being attracted to a man means letting the man get away with anything because "he's just so dreamy; he's so hot." It's as if 6-pack abs kill a woman's brain cells, or something. Lacey doesn't mess around - she calls Drake on his bad behavior.

5.) Drake says, "Take all the time you need" at one point and those are practically the sexiest words a man can say to me in life. O.O OMG Patient men turn me on SO MUCH.

6.) Drake's funny. Some of his comments had me laughing. Oh, man. o.O

7.) THE EMOTIONS. OMG I was so emotionally wrapped up in this story and how it turned out - that rarely happens for me in romance books.
...

LOWLIGHTS:
1.) DRAKE'S 'VOICE.' Drake does not really have a North Shore, rich-boy "voice" to me. When it is his chapter(s) and he's narrating, he sounds too 'hood to me. I realize it's really hard for authors to do different POVs, and in this case Drake sounds just like Lacey - which is to say, West Side. I was having a hard time believing a private-school-going, country-club-belonging, polo-shirt-wearing, gated-community guy who spent his whole life in this environment would be acting and speaking the way he did. I expected a bit of a cultural shock when he's plunged into Lacey's world. It was unconvincing. I didn't need anything exaggerated - but what was there wasn't gelling. It just didn't add up.

2.) A LITTLE RIDICULOUSNESS. Remember when I said this was a real-world problem book? Well. There were one or two conflicts that seemed a little silly to me - most notably Drake's ludicrous idea that he and Lacey should go on a double date with other people in order to put his parents (and friends) off the scent. Yeah, these kind of shenanigans only happen in romance novels - no one in real life is stupid enough to try to pull this shit. But this was minor and infrequent.
...

ADDITIONAL NOTE
The sex was fair to middlin'. I mean, not BAD, but not amazing either.
...

Tl'dr - Set your phasers to 'stun.' I never expected to like this book, and I ended up very caught up in it. Smith did an excellent job here. This is the first in a trilogy, but it wraps up very nicely (no cliffhanger) and you can easily leave it here if you want to. I (probably) won't be reading the next book. Also, extra points to Smith for no cliffhangers, I hate cliffhangers. Grrrrrrrrr.

Honest acknowledgment of race issues, a edge-of-your-seat romance with emotions running high, and some extra laughs to give it some kick. This was a pleasant surprise.

3 REAL STARS, 4 ROMANCE STARS

P.S. I would most definitely pick up another book by Smith.

I got this for free on my Kindle by just browsing through Amazon, they were having a special. This was entry #9 in Carmen-Downloads-20-Free-Ebooks-Onto-Her-Kindle-Day. More widely known as March 3rd, 2015.
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Reading Progress

April 25, 2015 – Started Reading
April 25, 2015 – Shelved
April 25, 2015 –
1.0% "As her eyes went back to normal size and into a smoldered gaze, I figured she quickly hid her surprise and went back to her pervious pursuit of the guy hiding out by the chocolate fountain.\n \n I wonder if the author really means 'pervious' (permeable, allowing water to pass through) or if she means 'previous.' My money's on 'previous.'"
April 25, 2015 –
14.0% ""So the way I see it, the only reason you put yourself in a sketchy situation where you have no monetary gain was because you were looking for something other than money; a thrill. A chance to hang out with the thugs and pretend to be one of them."\n \n Wow, he just got told. I like this woman."
April 25, 2015 –
15.0% "Obviously, her reservations weren't enough to keep her away; it made me feel like kind of a badass since she clearly couldn't resist me.\n \n 1.) You are full of yourself.\n 2.) You're a moron."
April 25, 2015 –
16.0% "To him, this world was a bit of fun, a place to get his weed and maybe some kicks by picking up a local chick. To me, this was life. This was my life and nothing to play around with. I wouldn't let him play around with me. I wouldn't be his source of fun, no matter what I felt upstairs.\n \n I am actually liking this book. #surprised"
April 25, 2015 –
24.0% "I smirked as I took in her attire. Might as well get in some fun and mess with her a bit before her inevitable firing. "You sure do clean up rather well, don't you?"\n \n This hero is SUCH AN ASSHOLE. Jeez Louise. I really, really hope he gets taken down a few notches because he is horrible. Ugh."
April 25, 2015 –
29.0% "Lacey walked down the poolside in a red bikini, two triangles up top, and one below to hide her treasure.\n \n Don't ever refer to her vulva "her treasure" again. K, thanks, bye!"
April 25, 2015 –
33.0% "Convincing myself of the thought, I shook his shoulder. "Drake?"\n \n I'm just so confused. Why going into a man's bedroom, observing that he sleeps naked, and then waking him up at 2:45 AM for no reason? This is just bizarre."
April 25, 2015 –
38.0% ""Whatever, Drake, and no, you're not saving me. You're being possessive when you have no right to be. We're not dating, Drake."\n \n OMG This woman is awesome. You tell him!"
April 25, 2015 –
45.0% "With a steady hand, I raised the gun straight at Ty's head. It wasn't until I clicked back the hammer of the revolver that I finally got the attention I sought.\n \n Oh, shit!"
April 25, 2015 –
49.0% ""Take all the time you need."\n \n This is practically the sexiest thing a man can say to me in life. O.O"
April 25, 2015 –
59.0% "This guy is so hood it's hard to believe he's North Shore. I mean, I'm kind of baffled. Oh, well."
April 25, 2015 –
62.0% ""You and I both need a valid excuse to go out together. Well, if we take these two out that gives us that reason. We all go out as a group, then you and I make up an excuse to leave. They go home, and we stay out. Done deal."\n \n This is a stupid, horrible plan, Drake."
April 25, 2015 –
66.0% "When I rose up, his lips brushed my neck, and when they started they didn't stop and turned into a full on kiss.\n \n I have NO IDEA how this is going on while they are both sitting next to other people who are supposed to be their dates. I mean, it's just not physically possible for this to go unnoticed."
April 25, 2015 –
68.0% "I'd never admit my weakness for Lacey openly, though. It was kind of embarrassing how I couldn't control myself around her. I mean, I took her into to woman's bathroom and freaking banged her during a show that was well over a hundred dollars a ticket. Not my finest hour of classiness.\n \n Honestly, this guy cracks me UP sometimes. Just too funny! :)"
April 25, 2015 –
90.0% "This girl and I had no blood relation whatsoever, but no one got me more than she did. They said blood was thicker than water, but Adele and I were proof that there was no blood requirement at all for that fact to be true.\n \n Aw, this is so sweet!"
April 25, 2015 –
92.0% "What kind of person leaves someone when they were going through something like that? I knew exactly who: a selfish person, and that was me. Selfish to the end. I couldn't believe I'd convinced myself that she'd call me if something went wrong. Of course she wouldn't. That was who Lacey was. She was strong and dealt with life regardless of how she felt inside. I'd left her.\n \n OMG My heart is breaking!"
April 25, 2015 – Finished Reading

Comments Showing 1-7 of 7 (7 new)

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message 1: by Jennifer (new)

Jennifer Yeah!!! You got a winner finally!


message 2: by Eric (new) - added it

Eric Plume This sounds like it might be worth a read. I haven't heard of a romance novel touching on race issues in a dignified way, or of one where the characters actually grow. I'll toss it on my "r and d" shelf.

Great review as always, Carmen. You never fail to bring the good analysis. :D


Carmen Jennifer wrote: "Yeah!!! You got a winner finally!"

Wow, I know. It took long enough, huh? :)


message 4: by Carmen (last edited Apr 25, 2015 10:51PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Carmen Eric wrote: "This sounds like it might be worth a read. I haven't heard of a romance novel touching on race issues in a dignified way, or of one where the characters actually grow. I'll toss it on my "r and d..."

Eric: 1.) Yeah, actually I think this was the first romance novel I read that dealt with racial issues. It was all new (and shiny!) to me. I was surprised how much I liked it - then again, Smith wasn't pounding me over the head with it, either.

2.) Don't get me wrong, it's not deep - it's still a silly romance novel - just less silly than the fare I usually read. So, a win for me!

Also, thanks for the kind words!


Jennifer Lane Excellent review! I liked what you said about transformation of asshole heroes, and about acknowledging race issues.


Carmen Thanks, Jennifer! I was shocked at liking this one, I've been having dismal luck with Amazon freebies.


Carmen I am so glad you found your true love, Monalisa! What a sweet story. :)


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