Fortunate Sum

Fortunate Sum - M. Ullrich Nothing screams formula quite like vanilla romances. Combine that with the lightweight blurb/cover and an unknown author and I was ready to give this book a pass. Who'd have thought that the Netgalley book I was least excited about this month would turn out to be my favorite of the bunch?

Catherine Carter has worked her way to the top of a NY financial consultancy firm before she even reached the age of 30(!), thanks to her single minded pursuit of her career goals. Her only remaining life goal is just a little bit more elusive--love. A chance encounter with a psychic assures her she can be happy before thirty... and the color blue will play a big part in it (makes me wonder if 'Fortunate Blue' would have been a more apt title :) ). Catherine initially thinks it's just a lot of crock, but the psychic's uncanny ability to look into her past and see her profound sadness from an old and terrible betrayal, has her taking a second look at everything blue and trying to find true love there. :) (how about 'Love is Blue' as the title, lol)

Imogene is as quirky as Catherine is square. She has translated her eclectic tastes into a stable career as an entrepreneur running a fashion boutique. After receiving a hefty inheritance, she is advised to let a financial advisor handle her money affairs. Enter Catherine. Over several meetings, Catherine can't help noticing the blue eyes and the bits and pieces of Imogene's blue clothes--was it kismet? coincidence? or was it all a setup by Imogene's psychic best friend?

I spent the first 40-ish% of the book wishing I hadn't picked this book. And the last 60-ish% wondering why I hadn't read it sooner. :)

Possible minor spoilers up ahead.

These are some of my initial impressions:

Catherine seemed a bit young to be such a hotshot financial advisor. It's probably doable, but it would feel more realistic if she were in her mid to late 30s. Then again, that would be stretching the believability of her old college flame still keeping her from moving on. Imogene on the other hand, suffered a tremendous loss in New York City over a decade ago (!) that she never recovered from. Just thinking about New York City, never mind actually stepping inside it, makes her go into a panic attack. It's hard to imagine that all that time Imogene and her inner circle have never attempted to help her heal. That's the initial setup. Not very realistic, imho.

A couple of other little nitpicks:
Early on, while introducing her lead character, there was a bit of not-too-subtle hero-worshipping of the lead character. E.g. The firm had become a household name in the world of finance since they had taken Catherine under their wing seven years prior. and Their youngest financial advisor approached each client with a unique combination of care, dedication, and brutality. That technique spelled success. I think it might have worked better if those sentences were better framed, such as if someone had said them instead of it just being thrown out. Maybe they were someone's thoughts, but maybe not. It was hard to tell.

Also, at one point, we were "told" that Catherine thought that Imogene brought back her "spontaneity, humor, and liveliness". This not only made me do a double take, but I actually went and re-read several chapters just so I could be sure it didn't actually happen and I hadn't just missed it--nope, no clear signal of that. Attraction, confusion, some staring, running away from and a host of other feelings, but not "spontaneity, humor, and liveliness". It does actually happen though, in the next few paragraphs, lol, so that was forgivable.

Okay, normally, I wouldn't pay such close attention to these little imperfections, but this is a romance first and foremost, and you know how it is with these books, it's all about the "romantic development". ;)

And this is when it gets better:

Anyway, so once Catherine does get some serious alone time with Imogene (around 42% onwards), that's when the book perks up by leaps and bounds, and never looks back. I've noticed that it is easier to nitpick what's wrong with a book but much harder to analyze what's right with it. You get caught up in it and just let it take you whichever way it wants and everything just flows and feels so natural and so right. That's what the second half of the book did to me. If I have to break it down, it'll be a combination of lots of things done right. The 'telling rather than showing' that plagued some of the earlier paragraphs all but disappeared. Imogene's characterization is another strong point. She's just awesome in every way--scared yet incredibly brave at the same time, daring and willing to take a chance, emotional but centered, strong yet incredibly vulnerable. She's the kind of character that I read lesfic for. Catherine is more stock and therefore predictable. The mythical ex, Linda. I wasn't expecting that. She could easily have been a caricature. Exes usually are just plot devices to drive a wedge between our leads. But this lady literally came alive. Even to the end, she was very human. Not very likable, but human nonetheless.

I seldom give sex in a romance book more attention than a cursory single-word review, because that's usually all the attention it deserves--good but not particularly memorable. But the sex scenes here are amazingly hot. I'd gushed about the erotic scenes in Cake but the ones here are even better. The eroticism is on par with Cake but the deep emotional connection the reader has with the characters makes it way better and more meaningful--truly an expression of love. As it should be.

The plot twists here (if you can even call them that) are such common tropes in lesfic they usually don't do much for me except make my eyes roll. But in this book, I loved what the author did. She even had the chutzpah to do it twice! And I think I even teared-up both times, lol. And to think that I consider myself a fairly jaded romance reader. But it was such delicious drama and angst. I'm trying to analyze what she did differently from other authors and I guess it comes down to how strongly she made me feel about the characters involved. I wanted to strangle Cat at one point, kick Linda in the ass every time, but mostly I wanted to hug Imogene and love her forever.

4 for the first 40%
5 for the last 60%
4.6 stars overall

P.S. Almost forgot to mention the blue connection. The whole psychic thing may sound hokey but it was actually quite well done. Makes you wonder....