Review: Work In Progress by Christina Esdon

Work in Progress by Christina EsdonFormat read: ebook provided by the publisher
Formats available: ebook, paperback
Genre: Contemporary Romance; Women’s Fiction
Series: A Westwood Novel
Length: 261 pages
Publisher: Booktrope
Date Released: May 20, 2013
Purchasing Info: Author’s Website, Publisher’s Website, Goodreads, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Book Depository

Psychologist Reese Morgan is a feisty workaholic who has devoted her life to helping seriously ill children.

But work is just one of the many walls she has put up to protect herself from the legacies of childhood trauma and heart-wrenching grief. When the family support program she has struggled to build at the local hospital is threatened, Reese must confront her past and embrace her future.

Sparks fly when she comes face to face with a handsome visionary: the contractor who is set to demolish the children’s wing.

Can Reese tear down the walls around her heart to let love in?

My Review:

There’s a cliche that goes “Be patient, God isn’t finished with me yet.” That cliche could be applied to all of the characters in Christine Esdon’s novel, Work in Progress. Also the term is equally applicable to architectural drawings and construction sites, and it serves as a metaphor for multiple places in the story as well.

In other words, there are lots of works in progress in this story. Every structure needs a bit of shoring up.

Reese and Nikki have been best friends since they were little girls, and unlike so many childhood BFFs, their near-sisterhood has continued into adulthood. They even own a house together. But there’s a tragedy in their shared childhood that seems to be keeping both of them from being all that they could be.

There used to be five of them. Five musketeers. Reese and Nikki, their brothers Chase and Drew, and Reese’s little sister Livvy. Until tragedy struck and Livvy died of cancer at the tender age of eight and the light went out of Reese’s world.

Chase has spent his adulthood running away from his grief. Ten years foot-loose and fancy-free, spanning the globe, couch-surfing from job to job and never being there for his sister Reese. Nikki has no confidence in herself, staying in a dead-end advertising job she detests where everyone dumps on her. Nikki’s brother Drew has become a nearly soulless corporate overachiever.

And Reese has let her grief and anger rule her life. She clings to the hospital where Livvy spent her last days, and volunteers as a child psychologist in order to remain near those last precious memories of Livvy. But she detests her regular job as a clinical psychologist, the only paying position she could get that allowed her to stay in Livvy’s presence. She’s never processed any of her anger and grief. Reese is living yet another cliche, a psychologist who very seriously needs a psychologist.

Her life is bound in the past. So she’s threatened when the hospital decides to disband the children’s wing, Livvy’s last hospital room, in order to combine services with the larger hospital in the next town.

Reese focuses her anger on the man who owns the construction company. And she runs headlong into all of his issues.

Josh Montgomery has planned his whole life. Getting the hospital construction contract is part of his plan for his company. Getting infatuated, or remotely interested, in the attractive, angry and extremely angst-driven woman who is so caught up in the children’s department of the hospital is not part of his life-plan.

But it happens anyway. The question is whether either of them can work enough progress to make a relationship worth the pain.

Escape Rating B: There’s Reese’s issues, there’s Josh’s issues, and then there are all the lovely, lovely side characters. Work in Progress is one of those books where the side characters are more than window dressing; they are an absolute treat.

And also the relationships among the women, Reese, Nikki and pediatric nurse Julia, cause this story to pass the Bechdel test with flying colors. These women aren’t just hanging around to talk about the romances in their lives, they talk about their careers, their families and their plans for the future in ways that don’t include men. They are well-rounded characters and not just devices to further the romance.

In some ways, Josh seems too good to be true, and in other ways, he needs some serious work of his own. He forgives Reese way more crap than is probably realistic, but, and it’s a very big but, he also does something huge that is supposedly for her, but does it without telling her, knowing full well that it’s way too large to get into without letting her know. It makes him come off as being either manipulative or paternalistic, with the weight coming down on paternalistic. He thinks he’s not telling Reese things because she won’t be able to handle the disappointment if it doesn’t work out, but again, that’s treating her like less than a responsible adult. Whatever crap she has, and it’s a lot, he’s making decisions that affect her life for her and not with her.

There’s a little too much of Josh overriding Reese’s objections and pushing too fast into a relationship that she says she doesn’t want. While we know from the omniscient perspective of the story that Josh is right, there’s a feeling that he’s taking Reese’s agency away, and it feels wrong. Her angry reaction is over the top, but not totally off-base.

They have to pull apart before they can have a chance, because Josh has pushed too hard and decided too much. Also planned too much, but then, that’s where his issues come in.

Reese’s anger pushes people away, Josh’s über planning mode pushes forward too fast. They both have progress they need to work toward. Watching them work, and watching their friends both help and sometimes hinder, is what makes this story interesting.

I hope there are future Westwood stories where we see the other characters work toward their own progress. These are all neat people, and I want to see them each get their own story.

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