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Format: Format Kindle
Caveat: I have read the Escape to New Zealand series and this may be my least favorite, but only because I didn't "feel it" for the two protagonists, Kate and Koti. I was spoiled by falling in deep like with the characters in Just This Once and Just For Now (which bookend Just Good Friends).
However, Rosalind James continues to be an author whose books I want to read (even if I'm not taken with the main characters) because of how she treats the reader: as if we're smart and interested in the world around us with a lot of plausible romance and a dash of fun sex. As a bright, highly educated, professional woman, **these** are precisely the kinds of books I want to read. I hate being pandered to, or books graphically filled with ridiculous, meaningless sex, or reading books by authors who clearly aren't as bright as I. (sounds horrible but if you're reading a book by Rosalind James you're probably just like me and therefore you'll know how lucky we are she's writing!)
Kate is a petite American woman who was being stalked in California, to save her life flees to NZ on the advice of her former colleague, Hannah (whom we met in the first book of this series, Just This Once), and Hannah's husband, Drew, who help her settle in Auckland. Drew is a professional rugby player, so a big part of his assistance is getting Kate's resume into his rugby team's business office (she's an accountant) where she secures a job.
There she meets Koti, a Maori and supposedly gorgeous player -- in both senses of the word (rugby and womanizer). They bicker, figure they can't be friends but make a bet otherwise, that they will become friends, nothing sexual (even though they like the looks of the other).
Kate is prickly, no doubt partly from her scary experiences with her would-be murderer / stalker, but also because she just seems to be that kind of personality. Koti is immature and entitled; he's the only son in a family with three older sisters and a single mother. He is reputedly too handsome for words, so has women dropping at his feet and numerous (and lucrative) endorsement deals capitalizing on his scrumptious appearance. Meaning: he has been repeatedly rewarded for his looks so he takes them (his looks) and people's reaction for granted.
And for me, that's the rub. I just didn't care much for either of them. I didn't *dis*like them, but I wasn't taken with either of them. Probably in real life I'd get a kick out of Kate and her feistiness and we'd be friends, and wouldn't give Koti a second thought (although if he's so handsome I might give him a second *look*).
I loved the amount of dialogue, extended, real-seeming and real-sounding dialogue these two had. Loved it. I love reading how the characters come to like and fall in love with one another, and in this book I could really see it. We never have to fill in any blanks -- it's clear they are physically attracted to one another (again, credit the author), but due to the thoughtful conversations they have throughout, we witness and totally understand Kate and Koti falling in love.
Rosalind James writes dialogue so fantastically: in each of her books I've now read I can hear each character and they really have their own voice and are consistent not just throughout the book, but throughout the series (as they tend to pop up in the other books, too). My biggest nit(s) about Just This Once is (are) that we didn't get enough of Hannah and Drew's conversations, especially as they conducted a long-distance relationship for a while, and we also didn't get enough of Drew's perspective (except toward the end which was super). I don't have that issue with Just Good Friends -- we get to be a fly on the wall both to their conversations and also to Koti and his thoughts and thought processes. That's why his immaturity and entitlement make sense and we're able to root for him to figure it out even though he's acted somewhat stupidly.
Another boon to Just Good Friends is how much we get to learn about Maori culture and the (young) history of NZ -- it never felt like a history lesson from the author, or being hit over the head with the "healthy stuff" (as opposed to the "good stuff"). Rather, it was presented in their dialogue, with Koti being understandably proud of his heritage and both sharing with and informing foreigner Kate of mores. What a treat to have learned so much about New Zealand and the Maori culture in such a fun, entertaining way.
Needless to say, Kate and Koti both lose (or win?) the bet, becoming good friends and then becoming lovers. There is more sex and it's more graphic in this book than in Just This Once, maybe than in the other books, too (? have to think about it). In general I enjoy reading well-written sex scenes but a few seemed a little out of character for Kate who is actively recovering from being stalked, but who knows? As Kate herself says after one encounter she surprised herself by liking it, so maybe Koti brings it out in her.
My favorite parts of the book, though, are getting to revisit Hannah and Drew from Just This Once. The extended scene where Hannah is due to give birth is my favorite section of the book, which is telling (to me). And truthfully, if just for that the book is worth it. It's also worth it for learning about NZ's history and the Maori culture. As I wrote, I just wasn't that invested in Kate and Koti either individually or as a couple, but I happily kept reading for both the reasons mentioned above and also because I love a dialogue-heavy book.