About the Story: Portia, daughter of a billionaire, couldn’t stand the lie her parents lived. She left her home in California and moved to New York where she found work in a magazine publishing company. She decided not to use any of her parents’s money to live, so rented a one-room studio. She kept who she was, her past and the real Portia to herself, consequently appeared to be a snob with her nose in the air.
Justin worked at the same company and didn’t show any interest in Portia, nor she him. He came from the Bronx, relatively good-looking with an easy way about him. He had his hands full taking care of this three younger brothers, trying to keep them out of gang activity, a chance to just grow up. There was more to Justin than just an easy-going young man.
When Portia drank too much at the New Year’s Eve party her boss gave, she did something stupid. She got into a swimming pool with Justin. One thing led to another. She remembered kissing him, but her memory was sketchy and she couldn’t remember how much further she’d taken it. Or had she? She didn’t even really like Justin, at least, not in that way.
Justin wasn’t interested in Portia until that night, but he just waited to see what she would do. The next day she asked him if they had ‘done’ it together and he was able to reassure her they had not. From that day forward their relationship grew closer. They became friends.
But when Portia wanted to keep their friendship a secret, this rubbed Justin the wrong way. He didn’t want to be a dirty little secret. Would Portia be able to be her real self in front of her working colleagues? Would they be able to bridge the differences of their station and race?
My Thoughts: I’m used to reading Jane Lark as a historical romance writer, and I’ve loved her books in that setting. This is the first of her contemporary romances that I’ve read.
The story was thoughtfully plotted and entertaining with suspense in the latter half of the read. Both Justin and Portia were quite likeable, people with strengths and weaknesses. Ms. Lark wove a story of two young people, each trying to find a better life. Portia wanted to be her own person, independent of all expected from her father and mother. She didn’t want to be the society woman they wanted her to be. She didn’t want to live their life style – her mother putting up with her father’s affairs and her father not having any interest in her mother or herself. If she had to live just from her own hands she would. At least she had nothing to feel guilty about. Her relationship with her family eventually evolves which helps make this story a happily ever after.
Once Portia and Justin started considering themselves an item, their relationship deepened. Portia was looking for this type of friendship and love, not the kind she saw in her parents.
Justin was the eldest of all his siblings. When his father left his mother, he basically took his father’s place, nurturing his brothers. The story shows how much love was in his family even though they had so little materially. The younger brothers looked up to him. When one of his brothers got stabbed by a gang member, he felt guilt and remorse. He should have been there. This part of the story is very touching and quite dramatic. I was carried into the hospital room and sat with the family who were in shock and grief-stricken. I felt the agony the brothers went through when their injured sibling was fighting for his life. I deeply felt the love each of the family members had for each other. Portia is more involved with Justin and joins him at the hospital. The real Portia shines through, showing compassion for Justin’s family and love for him. Again, this is the better part of the story.
The story didn’t engage me immediately. About one-third of the way through, it gets interesting. Ms. Lark created these two people as quite believable with pasts that her readers could relate to. Through her I was able to see how scary it is to live in conditions you have no control over. Portia had money and position in society she couldn’t relate to. Justin offered her love and respect for who she was, not her money. Ironically, what Justin had was more valuable to Portia than what money could buy.
If you enjoy contemporary romance, thoughtful plots with young adults and societal concerns they face, then you should give Jane Lark’s Just You a read.