Although briskly paced, this story has an oddly detached style and emotionally remote characters that keep the reader at arm’s length. It’s like watching a backyard bonfire from inside the house - even if the flames are hot, you’re too far away to feel it.
Marie Bertelli is 26 and the youngest child in a smothering Italian family. Three years ago, Marie fled their attempts to railroad her into marriage. She moved to Los Angeles, got a job in the District Attorney’s office, and didn’t let her parents know her address until she was sure they would not send her three older brothers to haul her back.
Now she’s come home to Albuquerque to join a law partnership with two friends from law school but her parents are driving her nuts, constantly trying to set her up with nice Italian boys (the kind only a parent could love). To add injury to insult, her father seems to be in serious trouble with the Treasury Department and, instead of turning to his daughter, he’s retained Ian Killborn as his lawyer.
Ian used to live next door to the Bertellis, and Marie lost her virginity to him at eighteen during a spontaneous encounter in the family pantry. Neither Ian nor Marie has forgotten a steamy moment and both of them want to repeat the performance.
Not long into the book, the reader has to wonder what’s stopping them. Both of them want it, and Ian seems aware that Marie is willing. Their motivations for staying apart are vague and unconvincing so, in spite of hearing about how bad they’ve got it, there’s no tension - just waffling. Not a lot for a reader to grab onto.
Ian thinks her family will only accept an Italian boyfriend and he has some vague concerns about getting beaten up by Marie’s over-protective brothers. He’s supposed to be a successful thirty-year-old attorney, for pity’s sake, not a skittish adolescent afraid of the bigger kids.
Then it gets worse. When he and Marie get together, he’s very happy “boinking” her. He quickly learns that he can “milk” the fact that she wants information about her father’s case “for his own benefit. And, oh boy, had he ever used it last night and received the most remarkable blow job of his life.” But there’s no question of a committed relationship. His reason? “Because. Period.” Wake me up if this story ever involves romance.
For her part, Marie starts out just having rebellion sex to thumb her nose at her family - in secret, though. Heaven forbid they should actually find out she’s “doing” anyone, much less someone they don’t approve of. Then, suddenly, she’s upset because Ian’s not interested in going public - she wants more than just a physical relationship.
Why - or, rather, why she wants this with Ian - is unclear. They have lots of rather relentless, unemotional sex and very few conversations, most of which are about her father’s case. There was no moment at which I believed that these two had fallen in love with each other. Or would.
Swift pacing did keep pulling me along, even when I was aware that Going Too Far wasn’t going anywhere much at all, and there were some moments of crystalline reality that felt as though they’d come directly out of one of the authors’ experience. Those were nice moments and the story needed more of them, but they stood out almost too sharply against the rest of the vague backdrop.
There were also some instances of really clunky writing. For example: “She twirled her wineglass holding the wine Ian had brought that she’d had the waiter open for them” and “too short of notice” and “he only hadn’t realized they would move on to step three so quickly.” Stumbling over this kind of thing tends to kill any mood that has been generated.
At the last moment, all the difficulties prove to be more or less figments of somebody’s imagination, making the hero and heroine look silly and leaving the reader feeling that time with these two has not been well spent.
The genre has some outstanding examples of books written by couples that are deeply romantic and generate some serious heat. Unfortunately, this is not one of them.
-- Judi McKee