3 out of 5 Stars
*I was provided an ARC of Finding Focus by the author in exchange for an honest review. I am not compensated for my honest opinion.*
With nothing else going on in her life, Sheridan “Dani” Reed accepts a freelance photojournalism job in Louisiana. She’s recently been fired from her former job and her boyfriend of years is off on a vacation by himself, so there’s nothing keeping her in New York City. At the Landry Plantation, which she’s photographing, she meets the Landry family and feels a sense of home she’s been missing. Her friendship with playboy Micah Landry is something she carries back to NYC with her when she’s unexpectedly called home.
But life at home isn’t providing any satisfaction, and when her boyfriend betrays her, there’s no longer anything holding her to the city. Things with Micah begin to heat up, but Dani still needs to find her focus and find her home.
Finding Focus is the debut novel for Jiffy Kate, and it’s contemporary romance with a hint of humor and a lot of Southern charm. It’s told in first person point of view from both main characters, but the focus is on Dani. She is essentially at a crossroad in her life with not only her job, but her love life too, and she needs some direction.
While the tale was somewhat enjoyable, it could have used a little more polishing to make it a standout story. The writing was relatively error-free, but it lacked depth in many areas. None of the characterizations really rang true. When the story started, Dani was confused about her relationship with her boyfriend, yet she was immediately attracted to Micah when he left a motel room after being with another woman. Dani tells the reader she needs to stay professional so she shouldn’t be thinking about Micah, but the night before she’d gotten drunk with Micah and his brother.
Micah was a playboy who internally crowed about his accomplishments but then got annoyed when his best friend joked about it. At the same time as he told us about how many women he’d slept with, he claimed to have standards and wouldn’t sleep with one particular woman. Rather than feeling a subtle shift in Micah’s personality from the beginning of the story to the end, it felt like he was two completely different characters: the cocky playboy from the beginning and the perfect boyfriend at the end. Micah also loses his Southern slang at times in both dialogue and narration.
The secondary characters were enjoyable and added some interest to the story, but they weren’t fully developed or incorporated beyond what was needed for the plot. There were romances between the secondary characters, but the reader was only given superficial information.
The story was also very “telling.” It is much more believable to learn about a character through their actions rather than have them tell the reader about themselves or their relationships. I would have preferred some more action and less narration.
Several parts of the story were cliché, like Dani’s boyfriend having been great for years but suddenly becoming a jerk, and the way Dani found out about what a bad boyfriend he really was. There were also inconsistencies in the story. Dani said she was an only child of an only child and she didn’t know her father, but she had aunts and uncles she wasn’t close to. At one point, she was drunk and barely able to text or answer the phone one second and spouting perfectly spoken long diatribes the next. I had trouble determining the timing of Dani and Graham’s relationship based on inconsistent information.
Overall, the plot was creative but the execution could have used some work.