The title of Dawn Atkins’ latest novel is highly appropriate — I was anything but bored while reading about Ariel and Jake. In fact, I found their story so intriguing that I plan to look for more books by Dawn Atkins on my next trip to the bookstore.
As Room . . . But Not Bored! begins, Ariel Adams arrives in California after a frustrating turn of events. A month earlier, she quit her job to move to England and join her friend Trudy’s consulting company. However, her stay in London is short; she learns that Trudy has fallen in love, gotten married, and turned the business over to Ariel. As small consolation, Trudy sold her California beach home to Ariel at a price she couldn’t resist. But Ariel isn’t pleased with either development — the change of plans means that she has to start her solo business two years earlier than planned, and the beach is “too . . . beachy.” In short, Ariel must start over, and all she has to build her business is “just a name, Trudy’s file of stale leads, and her own bravado.”
Things seem worse when Ariel gets to the beach cottage and meets Jake Renner, the man Trudy hired to fix and finish painting the place. He’s been living in the house while he does the work. Jake is all the things that Ariel isn’t. While Ariel is focused, organized, and introverted, Jake is casual, spontaneous, and very social. Jake also recognizes that Ariel doesn’t want him to continue living there, so he sets out to charm her into letting him stay.
In some ways, Jake and Ariel are a classic odd couple, and several incidents show how different they are. In the first few chapters, Ariel sees Jake as a shallow womanizer while Jake thinks Ariel takes everything much too seriously. They clash about style and work ethics. But author Atkins gives the characters nuances and complexities that elevate Room . . . But Not Bored! from the commonplace to the compelling. As the story continues, both characters realize they can’t put each other into narrow categories. They decide to help each other — Jake believes Ariel needs to learn how to have fun, while Ariel decides that Jake should develop more responsibility.
This isn’t a new plot, but Atkins’ treatment makes it unique nonetheless. Books with similar themes often portray conflicting viewpoints in ways that make one perspective more sympathetic than the other. Room . . . But Not Bored! doesn’t do that, which makes the read that much more interesting.
As for chemistry, Jake and Ariel have it in abundance. I found a scene where Jake makes Ariel a congratulations cake particularly memorable.
Also of note is Atkins’ dynamic writing. Her description of Ariel’s phone calls to solicit business is vividly portrayed, which makes Ariel’s disappointment in the lukewarm results all the more real. I could feel Ariel’s pain.
Room . . . But Not Bored! tells the story of two adults who make discoveries about themselves at the same time they grow to love each other. While I wished there had been more time (and pages) to develop the conclusion, Atkins realistically portrays the way that two seemingly incompatible lifestyles can be negotiated by people who love each other.