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Thursday, February 18, 2016

Sustained: Emma Chase did it! She topped Tangled! (My thoughts on Book #2 in the Legal Briefs series by Emma Chase)

If you’ve read my review for Overruled, you’ll know that I said that I thought that it might be very difficult, if not impossible, for Emma Chase to top Tangled when it comes to deciding which of her books is my favorite and how I would rank each of them. The reason I’m bringing this up is because I’m very excited to say that Emma Chase did it. She completely topped Tangled with Sustained, and I definitely think that Sustained is her best book yet. That being said, I’ll admit that perhaps I’m being a bit premature in saying that Sustained is Emma Chase’s book yet since I haven’t read Appealed at this point in time. However, if I had to say which of her books is my favorite at the moment, it would definitely be Sustained; that being said, I’m totally open to the possibility that I’ll end up thinking that she topped herself yet again once I read Appealed.

Based on Overruled and Sustained alone, I have to say that I definitely think that the Legal Briefs series is even better than the Tangled series. As much as I love the Tangled series, it’s not without its flaws, and I feel like the quality of the writing for the Tangled series as a whole definitely had its share of ups and downs. Emma Chase’s writing for the Legal Briefs series on the other hand is definitely a lot stronger and better than even her best writing for the Tangled series was, in my opinion. Things that I felt could have been handled better in Twisted and Tied in particular are handled a lot better in the Legal Briefs series.

For starters, I’m really glad that she switched back and forth between Stanton and Sofia’s points of view throughout Overruled instead of writing most of the book from one character’s point of view and then suddenly switching to a different character’s point of view towards the very end of the book for the epilogue like she did with Twisted. Plus, as I said in my review for Overruled, I thought that Stanton’s dislike of JD was much more understandable and easier to sympathize with than Drew’s dislike of Billy was after Tangled. If you ask me, the resolution of Stanton’s issues with JD was also handled a lot better than Drew’s hatred towards Billy was resolved in Tied.

When it comes to Sustained, there really is a lot to love about this book, and it’s honestly kind of hard for me to know where to start when it comes to talking about what I love about this book. For starters, one thing that I’ve always felt that Emma Chase really excels at when it comes to her books is being able to pretty much instantly get the readers interested and invested in the story right off the bat. Whenever I’ve read one of her books, I’ve always been able to get invested in the story within the first few paragraphs, if not the first few sentences of the book, and that was definitely the case with this book. It’s definitely a good thing that Chase’s books aren’t the kind of books where the reader has to power through approximately 50 or more pages before the story finally starts to get interesting, especially considering the fact that her books are all less than 300 pages long. That’s something I’ve really come to appreciate about Chase’s books since in addition to all of the books that I’ve reviewed in roughly the past three to four months, possibly longer than that, I’ve also been reading the book The Swan Gondola by Timothy Schaffert so I can review it as well. I’m currently seventy pages into the book, and I’m just now finally starting to get into the book.

Admittedly, a big part of why it has taken me so long to read The Swan Gondola now that I’m actually starting to get into the book is because there isn’t an audiobook version of it, and I just have a really hard time disciplining myself to set aside time to sit down an read an actual book. While I loved reading books as a kid, it’s become really hard for me as an adult to get myself to sit down and read a book for an extended period of time without thinking about all of the other stuff that I either need to do or simply want to do. That’s a big part of why I’ve become such a huge fan of audiobooks these days. Listening to audiobooks on my iPod allows me to enjoy a book while I do other things at the same time, but I digress.

Getting back to the subject of Sustained, I have to give Emma Chase a lot of credit for beginning the book in a way that I’ve never seen a romance novel begin before. Maybe I’m forgetting some other book I’ve read, but I’m pretty sure that this is the first romance novel I’ve ever read where the story begins with the protagonist of the book having a STD scare. That being said, I really like how Chase handled Jake’s reaction to the possibility that he might have gotten syphilis from a woman he’d slept with. Personally, I like how it forced him to think about how he should actually consider going on a few dates with a girl and getting to know them a little bit before he sleeps with them. I would hope that having to deal with contracting an STD or at least the possibility of having contracted an STD would make a person rethink how they handle sex and dating.

Jake is an all around really great character. When it comes to the protagonists of each of Chase’s books, Jake definitely has the best and most compelling backstory, as far I’m concerned. Jake’s backstory definitely has some tragic elements to it when it comes to his father and the fact that his father was physically abusive towards his mother. On the other hand, the whole thing with Jake getting in trouble with the law when he was younger and the judge who took Jake under his wing was definitely very touching, especially considering what the relationship between Jake and the judge is like now that he’s an adult. Personally, I thought it was really sweet that Jake apparently frequently visits the judge at the care center that he lives at now that he sadly has Alzheimer’s. The story behind each of Jake’s tattoos was also really interesting.

The simple fact that Chase has written her books primarily, if not entirely, from the guy’s point of view definitely makes it a lot easier for me to relate to the protagonists of her books compared to the protagonists of most of the other romance novels that I’ve read over the years, and it’s one of the main reasons why I love her books so much. That being said, when it comes to the protagonists of each of Chase’s books, Jake is definitely the one that I can personally relate to the most, mainly because of his internal narrative. Emma Chase did a really great job of injecting humor and heart into the story via Jake’s internal thought process. There were definitely quite a few moments in the book that I thought were genuinely funny and that actually made me laugh out loud. While I don’t have kids, I’ve definitely had to deal with little kids who have a habit of saying “Hi” to people repeatedly, even after you’ve already responded to them the first time. That’s especially happened to me over the years when I’ve interacted with little kids at the grocery store where I work, so I could definitely relate to Jake being annoyed by Regan’s tendency to repeatedly say “Hi” to him. I can also relate to Jake having to deal with teenage girls being rude to him simply because he didn’t know who One Direction were.

Admittedly, I’m a fan of One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer, who were also mentioned in the book, but I’m not a big enough fan that I have the names of each member of those bands committed to memory. I once had a girl send me a very rude and condescending tweet on Twitter in response to a tweet of mine where I asked who Zayn was after I saw that there was a trending topic related to him that didn’t mention his last name. Honestly, the only member of One Direction that I can remember both the first and last name of is Harry Styles. When it comes to 5 Seconds of Summer, I honestly wouldn’t be able to give even the first name of any member of that band, but I digress. That being said, I found Jake’s internal comments about One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer and what the members of both of those bands look like rather amusing. I also have to confess that I listened to a lot of One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer’s music while I worked on writing this review, because their music is definitely a guilty pleasure for me. While I like both One Direction and 5 Seconds of Summer, I definitely like 5 Seconds of Summer’s music a little bit more than One Direction’s.

One of the reasons why I’d say that Sustained is Emma Chase’s best book yet, and my personal favorite of her books is because I’m a huge fan of stories where the primary conflict in the story is very person vs. self driven. At its core the primary conflict in Sustained is definitely of the internal variety, rather than Jake being at odds with another character throughout the book. The fact that a big part of the book is centered around Jake dealing with an internal struggle, as opposed to Jake mostly dealing with an external conflict is something that really sets Sustained apart from all of the other books that Emma Chase has written at this point in time. Jake’s internal struggle with wanting to be a part of Chelsea and the kids’ lives, while also being afraid to make any kind of real commitment to them was definitely handled very well, in my opinion.

When I originally first read the plot summary for Sustained that’s on the back of the book, I admittedly thought that it seemed kind of absurd that Emma Chase wrote the book with Chelsea having six kids to take care of instead of Chelsea just having two or three kids to take care of. However, after reading the book, I really think that Chase ultimately made Chelsea having six kids to take care of work to her advantage. She definitely did a great job of utilizing the overt storytelling opportunities that Chelsea having six kids to take care of where there was a fairly wide age range between the kids presented her with. It was a lot of fun reading about Jake going to Mommy and Me classes, Jake helping Raymond deal with a bully, and subsequently helping Chelsea deal with the principal of the kids’ school after Raymond got in trouble for how he handled things with the kid that was bullying him. For the record, there were a lot of other great moments like those in the book in addition to the ones that I’ve mentioned. Those are simply a few of my favorite examples of Jake helping Chelsea with the kids.

Something else that I really liked about Sustained is the fact that while Jake, Chelsea, and the kids were the focus of the book, Stanton, Sofia and Presley were featured in the book a fair amount, too. The fact that they were featured in Sustained quite a bit really made me feel like the reader isn’t completely losing those characters and that they weren’t being forgotten now that this book was focusing on Jake and Chelsea. Plus, their presence in Sustained all felt very organic to me. Stanton’s involvement in the story in particular really served an excellent purpose when it comes to the resolution of the book.

I feel like Chase also did a great job of giving the readers a bit of a preview of the character Brent, who’s the protagonist of Appealed. Unlike the characters Matthew and Dee from the Tangled series, Brent definitely made more of an impression on me in this book than Matthew and Dee did when I read Tangled and Twisted. As I said in my review for Tamed, I honestly don’t mind that Matthew and Dee hadn’t made much of an impression on me and weren’t all that memorable in Tangled and Twisted. I was still able to thoroughly enjoy Tamed when I read it. However, the fact that Brent made more of an impression on me in this book compared to how much of an impression Matthew and Dee had made on me before I read Tamed is just another one of the many, many, many things that I like about this book.

While I thought that Emma Chase did a really good job of incorporating the fact that Stanton and Sofia are lawyers into Overruled, I thought she did an even better job of incorporating the fact that Jake is a lawyer into Sustained. The parts of the book where Jake was acting as Chelsea’s attorney were definitely a real highlight of the book for me personally. Maybe this will sound like an odd comparison to make, but Jake’s overall demeanor and approach to being a lawyer when he was helping Chelsea in court, and he was cross examining the director of CFSA, reminded me a lot of the character Sharon Raydor from the TV show Major Crimes and Sharon’s overall approach and demeanor to being a police captain. I absolutely love both the character Sharon Raydor and the show Major Crimes in general, so I thoroughly enjoyed seeing Jake act in a similar manner.

I’m not ashamed to admit that when it comes to romantic comedies and TV shows that are classified as dramas, there have definitely been quite a few times over the years when I’ve cried while I was watching them. I’ve been a huge fan of Power Rangers ever since it first premiered in 1993, and as weird as this might sound, even to this day, there have been times when Power Rangers has made me cry. However, when it comes to books, I’m pretty sure that Sustained is the first book that I’ve ever read that has gotten me even just slightly teary eyed. I don’t know why, but when it comes to books, I’ve never been a crier. The part of the book that really got to me was the part where Stanton, Sofia and Brent were doing their “intervention” to get Jake to see that he is a family man, which is something that he had denied being or wanting to be throughout the book.

When it comes to that particular scene, what probably did me in the most was the part where Stanton was telling Jake about what becoming a dad when he was only seventeen years old was like for him. Having Stanton tell Jake about what becoming a dad when he was still in high school was like for him was a great move on Chase’s part, because I felt like by doing that, she wasn’t just taking advantage of the overt storytelling opportunities that were presented in this book, she was also doing a great job of utilizing the overt storytelling opportunities that were presented in Overruled as well. Plus, doing that was simply a really great way to acknowledge Stanton’s own backstory, while moving the plot of Sustained forward at the same time. Honestly, just thinking about that scene as I’ve worked on writing this review has gotten me kind of teary eyed all over again. The “intervention” scene is just such a sweet and touching scene, and it’s definitely one of my favorite parts of the book. I definitely think it’s a real testament to Emma Chase and her talent as a writer that Sustained actually made me cry, which really is something that has never happened whenever I’ve read a book in the past. Plus, the fact that this book actually made me cry, even a little bit, is just one of the many, many, many reasons why I think this is her best book yet.

I feel like I should also mention that Sustained continues the trend of Emma Chase’s books being even steamier than the Fifty Shades books, but honestly, I’ve just come to expect that at this point.

Not only do I think that this is Emma Chase’s best book yet from the standpoint of her writing; I also think it’s Sebastian York’s best work yet as a narrator for audiobooks that I’ve listened to, and I’m including the audiobook version of Lauren Blakely’s book, Big Rock, when I say that. The writing for Sustained is already awesome on its own, but I feel like Sebastian York enhanced my enjoyment of the book even more with his reading of the book. I hadn’t even heard of Sebastian York prior to reading Tangled, but I definitely get excited whenever I look for an audiobook on iTunes and I see that Sebastian York is the narrator, or one of the narrators, for it now.

For example, I’ve wanted to check out Christina Lauren’s books since before I had even discovered Emma Chase’s books, but I recently discovered that Sebastian York is the narrator for the audiobook versions of some of their books, which has definitely gotten me excited to read them. For the record, Deacon Lee who did the audiobook versions of Tamed from the Tangled series and the next book in the Legal Briefs series, Appealed, and Jason Carpenter who was one of the narrators for Overruled, has also narrated some of Christina Lauren’s books as well. Speaking of Jason Carpenter, while I thought that he did a fantastic job reading the chapters of Overruled that were written from Stanton’s point of view, I also thought that Sebastian York did a great job of reading Stanton’s dialogue in Sustained.

All in all, Sustained truly is Emma Chase’s best book yet, and I honestly can’t think of anything that I don’t like about it. There really is a lot to love about this book. Jake is a great character with an incredibly compelling backstory. Chelsea and all of the kids are also fantastic characters. This book had quite a few genuinely funny moments in it, and it definitely made me laugh at times. As I said earlier, I think it’s quite an accomplishment on Chase’s part that this book caused me to get teary eyed when I was reading the “intervention” scene where Jake realizes that he’s a family man after all. I’m pretty sure that this is the first book that has ever made me cry at all while I was reading it. I also really like that this book gave the reader somewhat of preview of the character Brent since he’s the protagonist of Appealed, which I’ll definitely be reading fairly soon.

That being said, my final score for Sustained is 12 out of 10, because a 10 out of 10 simply wouldn’t be a high enough score for this book. :)

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