Source: supplied by publisher via Edelweiss
Formats available: paperback, ebook, audiobook
Genres: contemporary romance, romantic comedy
Series: Brown Sisters #3
Published by Avon on March 9, 2021
Purchasing Info: Author's Website, Publisher's Website, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Bookshop.org
In Act Your Age, Eve Brown the flightiest Brown sister crashes into the life of an uptight B&B owner and has him falling hard—literally.
Eve Brown is a certified hot mess. No matter how hard she strives to do right, her life always goes horribly wrong—so she’s given up trying. But when her personal brand of chaos ruins an expensive wedding (someone had to liberate those poor doves), her parents draw the line. It's time for Eve to grow up and prove herself—even though she's not entirely sure how…
Jacob Wayne is in control. Always. The bed and breakfast owner’s on a mission to dominate the hospitality industry—and he expects nothing less than perfection. So when a purple-haired tornado of a woman turns up out of the blue to interview for his open chef position, he tells her the brutal truth: not a chance in hell. Then she hits him with her car—supposedly by accident. Yeah, right.
Now his arm is broken, his B&B is understaffed, and the dangerously unpredictable Eve is fluttering around, trying to help. Before long, she’s infiltrated his work, his kitchen—and his spare bedroom. Jacob hates everything about it. Or rather, he should. Sunny, chaotic Eve is his natural-born nemesis, but the longer these two enemies spend in close quarters, the more their animosity turns into something else. Like Eve, the heat between them is impossible to ignore—and it’s melting Jacob’s frosty exterior.
At the tail end of 2020, I was in a rather desperate mood for stories with happy endings – so I scheduled an entire week of romances. Two of those romances were the first two books in the Brown Sisters trilogy, Get a Life, Chloe Brown and Take a Hint, Dani Brown. Both of them turned out to be exactly what I was looking for that week, contemporary romances with a bit of bite and more than a bit of depth, and with absolutely marvelous and hard won happy endings.
But the series is a trilogy, because there are not one, not two, but three Brown Sisters. Now it’s time for the third and youngest of the Brown Sisters to get her due, by following, as her sisters did in their turns, the titular instruction.
Eve’s parents pretty much force the issue as the story begins. It seems as if 20something Eve is an example of a “failure to launch”. She’s in her mid-20s, she’s still living at home, she’s still living off the generous allowance – read that as trust fund distribution – her wealthy and successful parents provide for her, and she’s never held down a “real” job for any length of time.
She’s tried plenty of things, but Eve has a tendency to give up when the going gets tough. Something that she can afford to do, because her parents are financially backstopping her seeming inability to start adulting.
When Eve gives up her latest venture as a wedding planner because her client turned bridezilla, Eve’s parents give her an ultimatum that admittedly feels a bit like kicking her when she’s down.
They’re taking away her allowance and her room in the family mansion. She has a year to find and keep a job, AND support herself with her own earnings, before they’ll consider supporting her again.
At first, it feels like a bit of necessary tough love. Eve doesn’t seem to be adulting, and her self-talk sounds very self-defeating. She sees herself as a failure next to her driving and successful older sisters, and she does run away when things get hard.
And yet, she tries. She tries hard at everything she does. But just like her sisters, the drumbeat of her parents’ disappointed voices keeps her putting herself down at every single turn. She knows she’s a disappointment to them, because they constantly reinforce that message. So she lives down to it.
Faced with having to figure out things by herself and for herself, or so it seems, Eve first takes herself on a long drive to think over her options and escape her demons. Only to quite literally run right over one.
Eve needs a job. Jacob Wayne needs a chef for his Bed and Breakfast. Cooking classes are among the many, many things that Eve has dabbled in, so she sees his “help wanted” sign and drops in without an appointment or a CV in hopes that she can wow him into letting her have the job, at least on a temporary basis.
Jacob is sure it’s not going to work. He’s anal retentive to the max, and Eve is a master chaos agent. He shouldn’t let her into his B&B, let alone into his life. But once she’s run over him with her car, he doesn’t have much of a choice.
Not that, as it turns out, either of them ever seriously did have any choice but each other.
Escape Rating B+: The entire Brown Sisters trilogy has been absolutely marvelous, but I think that Eve is probably my least favorite of the sisters. Now that the series is complete, I can say that I liked Dani’s story the best, Chloe’s second and Eve’s not quite as much – but still quite a lot.
First let me say that I think these books can each be read as a standalone. The stories don’t exactly depend on each other, or on knowledge gained in one carrying over to the next, but I think there’s more depth if you read them all. And they’re all marvelous so why wouldn’t you?
But I said that Eve was my least favorite of the sisters, or at least her story is my least favorite – and I need to get back to that.
Although this series isn’t in first-person singular, this book still reads as being very much from Eve’s point of view. At the beginning, Eve’s negative self-talk really reads like a downer. And it also reads very much as if Eve’s parents are right – however disastrously they go about it. That Eve’s problems are self-inflicted because she just doesn’t have enough stick-to-itiveness.
It’s only as the story goes on, as we see Eve stick to her new job at the B&B, and most importantly as we see into the heart of her coping mechanisms, that we begin to realize that Eve is dealing with her own shit in ways that are much less obvious than either her sister Chloe’s chronic pain and fibromyalgia or Dani’s commitment-phobic workaholism.
Once Eve is able to put a name to her neurodiversity, that she is on the autism spectrum, as she accepts herself as she is, we do too. And it’s much easier to both feel for her and to see that her coping skills and where they fall short also feed into the way that her autism and the fact that girls are less likely to be diagnosed than boys has fed into her parents’ ableism and assumptions about the reasons for her behavior.
In comparison, Jacob is a whole lot more straightforward. He is also on the spectrum, but, well, he’s a guy. His autism was diagnosed in childhood, he’s been learning to cope with it ever since. His behavior, his actions, his coping mechanisms all seem more obvious because they are – because as soon as he was under the care of someone who actually cared, he got help. And he got that help because his caregiver knew what to look for because he was male and the signs were what they were expected to be.
Also, as much as Eve’s parents and extended family love each other, and they definitely do and it’s wonderfully obvious, her family is also a hot mess. They mean well, but that well-meaning really messes things up in the execution. It was obvious from the outset of Jacob and Eve’s romantic relationship exactly what was going to precipitate the inevitable breakup crisis. It was like waiting for the other shoe to drop while watching it hanging up their heads by a fraying shoelace. That her family turned out to be the agency for it seemed equally inevitable.
Not that the friendship stuff that was inserted to string out that tension a bit longer wasn’t fun and interesting on its own but I had reached the point where the story needed to get on with it so they could reach the happy ending.
I was so very ready for that. And it was awesome and lovely and acknowledged the progress of both of their journeys, all at the same wonderful time. I’m kind of sad to say goodbye to the Brown Sisters and their eccentric family, but I’m looking forward to whatever and whoever this author introduces me to next!