Review: Instant Gratification by Jill Shalvis
As with the previous book in the series, Instant Attraction, Instant Gratification is set in the high Sierras near Lake Tahoe. And, once again, the setting, Wishful, is spot on. But in true Shalvis style, the best part of this book was the characters. They are just so believable. So darn real. Every single character feels like someone I know. And that is nothing short of amazing.
Stone Wilder is the middle brother. The steady one. The glue that holds the family together. And while he does take an active role in leading some of the trips arranged by the Wilder Adventures company, he generally is the one doing the nuts and bolts running of the company. But lately he's been a bit restless and dissatisfied with being tied to just the company.
Emma Sinclair is a NYC doctor born in Wishful, but raised by her city girl mother in New York. She arrives in Wishful filled with disdain for the area, and for her father, whose practice she is overseeing while he recovers from a heart attack. When Stone Wilder comes into the clinic, injured and looking like a beach bum, she feels an instant attraction that annoys and confounds her.
What I liked about this book is that although it does play on the idealization of small town life and the big city outsider, it doesn't follow that trope religiously. Emma is not scared of the outdoors. She's not disgusted by it. She sees the beauty, understand the appeal, but just thinks it's really not for her. And Shalvis is careful to show that while Wishful does have its charms, there are some real drawbacks to living there.
I've read some other reviews of this book that raised a few issues. The primary one being just how long it took Emma to change her mind and decide to come back. I didn't have the same issues, because, as a resident of rural California, I know just how many doctors LEAVE the Sierras to practice in the more profitable big city. The answer is : A LOT. Keeping doctors in rural towns is getting more and more difficult. Most doctors graduate with massive debt and a small community just doesn't provide enough cash to make that investment pay off. Even more are originally from or graduated from a school located in a big city. Culture shock is not just a side issue, here. Many, many city people cannot stand the slower pace of the Sierras. Cannot stand that the restaurant selection is small. That fast food is non-existent. That the closest true shopping mall is an hour away. They are used to having ample entertainment at their fingertips during all 4 seasons of the year. And while the greater Lake Tahoe region is not without entertainment (it does have casinos and tons of art events), that is seasonal and only applicable to the towns immediately surrounding the lake.
Add all of those real issues to the negative perception of the town that Emma's mother has practically programmed her with , and it's completely believable that it would take her a long, long time to decide life with Stone is worth a few compromises and a relocation.
The only thing that was weird to me about the medical practice angle is the lack of mention insurance received. Even in my podunk town, our doctors bill insurance companies. Surely, not everyone in Wishful is without insurance?
I love Jill Shalvis's writing. It's very simply written, yes, but the dialogue is so snappy that the book just flies along. I love that we don't really need a big suspense plot to mess with a straight forward contemporary romance. And I love that Emma falls for Stone slowly and steadily. It creeps up on her just as methodically as her preconceptions about him fall away.
For those who have never been to the Sierras, here's the town I always picture as a stand-in for Wishful. It's far larger than Wishful, and located at the opposite end of the lake, but downtown has most of the same elements.
My Grade: A-
As a side issue, I'd like to point out how irritating it is to have poor proofing in a TRADE PAPERBACK book. (Yes, dammit, I'm yelling). TPs are expensive. Nearly double the retail of a mass market. And to find no less than 4 errors with quotation marks is ridiculous. I don't care who is at fault. It's unprofessional and horrible that so many mistakes made it through the proofing process. [end rant]