Monday, October 07, 2013

Weak at the Knees by Jo Kessel

It's no great secret that I am a sucker for any books set in France. Other than Laura Florand's usually excellent books, there are remarkably few romances set there so when I was offered this book for review as part of the current blog tour it was really that fact that won me over.

I am going to put it our there right from the start that I actually quite enjoyed the reading experience of this one. It was an easy read that took me just a couple of hours to get through. There were, however, some fundamental flaws.

The main female character is Danni Lewis. She leads a very safe existence. She lives with her boyfriend Hugo in a lovely flat (mainly because he is a successful young lawyer who earns pot loads of money) and she has been with him for the best part of 11 years, even though he doesn't really set her world on fire, if you get my meaning. In all that time, he has never made her feel weak at the knees, which directly goes against her grandmother's advice to only marry a man who does makes you feel that way. Luckily for Danni, because Hugo is well off, she doesn't have to worry too much about working. In her words "I haven't really made it on the career front. I've dabbled here and there" .

Danni's best friend since childhood is Amber, and it is her sudden death that is the catalyst for Danni to change her life, mostly thanks to a death bed conversation (which to be honest was my first huh? moment). Amber's childhood was shaped by the fact that her father had had an affair and ended up moving to another country with his new love, devastating Amber and her mother. As young women, Danni and Amber had promised each other that they would never get involved with a married man. On her deathbed, Amber tells Danni two things. The first is that she wants Danni to be happy, and that she thinks that Hugo is not the man who will bring her happiness. The final thing was "you won't forget that pact we've always had about neither of us getting involved with or ending up with a married man, will you?" The first thing absolutely felt like a genuine thing to be said in a sick bed conversation, but the second felt too contrived.

Anyway, after Amber's death, the very supportive Hugo is given the flick and Danni moves home with her parents. Danni's mum thinks Hugo is quite the catch so she doesn't really understand why Danni has dumped him, and she understands even less when Danni decides to take a job in the ski fields of France, despite the fact that she can't ski. Within weeks Danni is in a car with handsome Aussie ski instructor Rod (which is my brother's name, and is not a sexy name to me at all), travelling to a quintessential French ski village, next thing she is in bed with him, and then he is gone to his own job as a ski instructor in Austria.

When she meets handsome Olivier though, there is an instant attraction between them, despite the fact that he is from all accounts very happily married (at one point he is named as the most happily married man in the whole town) and it doesn't take long for that attraction to be acted on. Of course, there are instant fireworks between them, and he makes her weak at the knees, weak everywhere, so based on grandma's advice, he must be the one. Never mind his wife, the deathbed promise or the fact that Danni can hear Amber's voice warning her off.

I mentioned earlier that there were a couple of fundamental flaws. The first for me was Danni. I just didn't get her at all. She basically sponged off Hugo, had no motivation to get herself a job, and mooched back to her parents place not once but twice in the course of the novel. I just didn't get why all these men found her so interesting.

The second fundamental flaw comes down to the believability of a romance novel where one of the character's is married, allegedly happily. There aren't that many cheating romances around, or perhaps I should say I haven't read many and there is good reason for that.

If Olivier had already been separated and in the course of getting divorced this would have been far less of an issue for me. There was no discussion of him being unhappy in his marriage at all, apart from the fact that he bumped into Danni (literally) when they met and from that point on he only had eyes for her. Maybe if I understood what made Danni so interesting I could have understood this more.

In terms of the writing, I didn't think it was too bad. I am always a bit wary with self published books because sometimes the quality is terrible, but I have read other books that have been good. There is definitely promise in the writing, it was more the story that didn't work as well for me as it could have. I did enjoy the French setting, and I thought that the sexual tension between Danni and Olivier was evident, especially when they start spending time together. There were a couple of editing issues, one around repetitiveness that really stood out in a couple of sections, but mostly the writing flowed well.

There was also an awkward scene towards the beginning of Danni and Olivier's relationship. They had been to a party and originally we were just told that they had spent time coming home together. Later Danni is remembering that they spent time talking, lying in the snow gazing at the starry sky in comfortable silence and making snow angels. In a romantic comedy movie it would have been the flashback montage scene! I am not sure why the reader wasn't there for the scene though, why it was told the way it was. As I looked at the scene for this review, I guess it was because it was to highlight the absentness of his wife, but it seems like one of the key moments in the build up to the relationship and we were only told of it, not shown.

In the marketing blurb for this book it mentions that it is the author's "debut novel in the new adult, contemporary romance genre". I am not sure that it does fit in the new adult genre because I think the characters are too old and I am not sure that the central issue to the book necessarily fits the definition either.

If I was to summarise I would say that this was a readable book that does show some promise but the author has chosen a difficult story to try to tell.

Rating 3.5/5

About the tour

Link to Tour Schedule:
Jo Kessel's website.
Jo Kessel on Facebook
Jo Kessel on Twitter.

To celebrate the release of Weak at the Knees and the blog tour, there is a tour-wide giveaway for a bottle of Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape! Ch√Ęteauneuf-du-Pape is a gloriously rich (and expensive) red wine produced in the Rhone wine region in southeastern France. It is a wine that should be drunk to celebrate a special occasion. It's velvety, full-bodied and divine and features very strongly in Weak at the Knees by Jo Kessel. Must be a resident of the US or Canada and be 21 yrs of age or older to enter. One entry per household. Winner will be randomly selected on Monday, Oct. 26, 2013 and will be notified by email.

About the book

“We got so busy living life that we forgot to live our dreams.”

Danni Lewis has been playing it safe for twenty-six years, but her sheltered existence is making her feel old ahead of time. When a sudden death plunges her into a spiral of grief, she throws caution to the wind and runs away to France in search of a new beginning.

The moment ski instructor Olivier du Pape enters her shattered world she falls hard, in more ways than one.

Their mutual desire is as powerful and seductive as the mountains around them. His dark gypsy looks and piercing blue eyes are irresistible.

Only she must resist, because he has a wife – and she’d made a pact to never get involved with a married man.

But how do you choose between keeping your word and being true to your soul?

Weak at the Knees is Jo’s debut novel in the new adult, contemporary romance genre – a story about love, loss and relationships, set between London and the heart of the French Alps.


  1. Thank you for featuring my new release Weak at the Knees on your fabulous blog funny that your brother is called Rod too!

  2. Agreed. Danni basically did nothing during the entire course of the book! She was a spoiled child. And the romance was skimmed over. They meet, then the book fast-forwards to when Danni leaves. Hard to be invested in a romance when we don't see the development of the relationship AND the guy's married AND YET it doesn't seem like that big of a deal. The only character I sympathized with was his wife.

  3. It sounds like there were some things that worked for you and some things that didn't. As always, appreciate your thoughtful review for the tour Marg!



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