“Shacking Up” by Helena Hunting

From the inappropriate mind of Helena Hunting comes another egg-inseminating Sexy hernia-inducing funny Romantic Comedy.  “Shacking Up” features an adorably renegade couple who eschew the conventions of the high society to which they were born.  The characters’ internal monologuing regarding their efforts in sexual self-restraint is pure Helena Hunting solid gold.  The storyline’s fun yet meaningful.  Staying true to yourself rather than following traditions and expectations of family and peers has been ingrained into you.  Following your bliss, not kowtowing to the pressures of family and society politics is the theme in this plotline.  Ruby’s once “anarchist” best friend Ami’s marrying a priggish egomaniac with unreasonable expectations that she’s following.  Ami’s becoming weight absorbed, proper, bending to her fiancé’s whims.  Concerning the headstrong Ruby however every once in a while the old Ami briefly emerges.  Even Bancroft succumbs his mother’s demands.  Spoiler Alert:  Nothing happens to the adorable furry mammal.

The Hero’s Bancroft Mills heir to a multi-generation hotelier family and former professional rugby star.  He set out breaking family convention following his dream.  Due to a sports injury Bane’s returned to begrudgingly join the family business.  The Heroine’s Ruby Scott heiress to Scott Pharmaceuticals well known for their penile erection medication.  After only three generations of wealth her family’s still considered “new money”.  She’s bucking her father’s wishes by refusing to be a drone in the pharmaceutical machine.  Becoming a desk-jockey working for her twenty-something year-old step-mother is her worst nightmare.  Ruby’s dream is to be a Broadway actress, her major in college and she’s a triple threat.  Unfortunately Lady Luck’s not on her side and she’s financially strapped.  Ruby refuses to request hand-outs and needs to know she can, stand on her own.  She refuses to be a “kept woman”.

Ruby’s attending her best friend, Ami’s engagement party sneaking hors d’oeuvres into baggies in her purse.  She’s limiting herself to one martini.  Ruby’s avoiding touching door-handles and toilet seats in an effort to remain healthy for the next day’s crucial audition.  She needs this role.  She’s between roles, her manager unexpectedly retired, her bills are unpaid, and she’s living on Ramen noodles.  Ruby makes a last minute stop in the restroom before leaving early to get a goodnights sleep.  In the ladies room there’s a “slut-utant” on the phone with her friend discussing her sexy yet very flu-ish date.  She regales her cohort about suggestive photos involving lollipops and such she’s been texting all evening.  Hoping to get lucky with “Banny”.  Ruby’s a lightweight when it comes to drinking.  Her single Lemoncello Martini has her a bit tipsy as she leaves the restroom.

As she moves down the darkened hallway she bumps into a enormous man who accosts her with a panty-twisting kiss.  Unable to resist the lure of an awesome kiss Ruby reciprocates.  Unfortunately the “society tramp” comes shrieking from the ladies room accusing Ruby of being a slut for kissing “Banny”.  A seemingly disoriented “Banny” looks up and around coughing in Ruby’s face.  Claiming he mistook Ruby for Tiffany, she’s affronted declaring looks nothing like the strumpet who was kissing him.  Mentally “Banny” agrees thinking the mystery girl’s much sexier.  In the meantime Ruby’s on the defensive devouring an entire package of Listerine breath strips on the way home.  She follows that up with a thorough gargling, shower, cup of honey lemon tea and sleep.  When Ruby wakes up she sounds like a Tony award winner; unfortunately that award winner is Harvey Fierstein.

Trying as best she can she drinks more honey lemon tea, showers, and preps for her audition.  Regrettably the role isn’t for one in The Exorcist the Musical since Ruby projectile vomits on the director.  She trudges home intermittently vomiting the entire way before passing out on her bathroom floor.  Her best friend calls comes over in concern after not hearing from her and gets Ruby to clean up.  She finds out Ruby’s being evicted in five days and owes three months in back rent.  Ruby refuses Ami’s offer to bail her out with a loan.  She is willing to go along with one of Ami’s notorious schemes to secure her temporary housing.  Unfortunately it involves dinner with Ami’s fiancé and his cousin, a typical last name for a first name society douche.  Ironically the society douche is the face coughing awesome kisser who ruined her chance at the audition.

Ruby’s still sick, escaping to the restroom when her stomach shows signs of rebelling.  When she emerges Bancroft’s there she once again bumps into him.  Bancroft notices Ruby’s feverish and sweaty.  When he asks, Ruby tells Bancroft the truth about her audition and apartment situation.  Bancroft feels guilty he got her so sick.  Bancroft’s desperate for someone reliable to care for his unusual pets while he’s on a five week business trip.  He asks Ruby to pet-sit, she agrees, so he offers to let Ruby live in his apartment while he’s away.  She moves into his penthouse and learns the care and feeding of his pets.  There’s intense sexual tension between them they both fight it knowing things will be awkward if they succumb.  Ruby wakes before Bancroft leaves for the airport and she hugs him goodbye.  It’s innocent yet rife with heat.

While Bancroft’s away Ruby tries to find auditions and she bombs every single one.  She applies for part-time jobs as well but can’t get hired.  In the meantime she’s bonding with Bancroft’s pets falling in love with one in particular.  She and Bancroft fall into a routine, depending on what country and time zone he’s in.  They video chat almost daily, initially “for the pets”, then they have dinner or breakfast together then chat at bedtime.  Again the conversations begin innocently growing into a close friendship then something more.  Ruby goes to a party and Ami’s fiancé attempts a little matchmaking.  Bancroft happens to call in the middle of dinner.  Ruby’s not thrilled with her pushy dinner companion but Bancroft’s almost caveman levels of rabid possessiveness.  At first Ruby’s finds it adorable but when he starts “forbidding” she becomes angry and belligerent.  They fight and Ruby stops taking his calls.

Ruby, by sheer luck gets a job that uses her dancing skills.  However she knows it is completely unacceptable in her friends circle of society.  She keeps it a secret from Ami and Bancroft.  It pays better than some Off-off-Broadway roles she’s offered, she enjoys it and the people with whom she works.  However when Bancroft arrives home from his business trip things are awkward.  Ruby doesn’t want to mix sex with being his pet-sitting employee.  Luckily their hours conflict so she can avoid sexual situations.  Bancroft is frustrated by the awkwardness and not seeing Ruby after their sexual repartee for five weeks via video chat.  A situation arises that brings to light what Ruby’s job is and Bancroft shows up to catch the show.  As Ruby fears Bancroft is angry, throughout the entire show.  She thinks he’s ashamed however that’s far from the truth.

When they get back to the apartment he explains.  Bancroft’s angry Ruby lied to him about her job.  Her work is in a dangerous location and other men leer at her while she’s scantily clad.  And he’s turned on as frack!  They immediately have wild, semi-angry, freaky sex.  Ruby and Bancroft fall into a boyfriend and girlfriend like routine.  They make an effort to work around their schedules to spend time together.  Unfortunately Bancroft’s mother starts meddling, he unexpectedly must leave for a open-ended trip to London, and an old flame reappears.  Ironically, Ruby’s professional and personal luck turns around just as her love life’s burning to the ground.  Ruby moves out when Bancroft offends her character and doesn’t call nor accepts her calls for over a week.  She moves on.

“Shacking Up” has the cutest Hero and Heroine and the sweetest five week video courtship involving a furry wingman.  Helena Hunting’s talent for Romantic Comedy is tremendous.  This meet/cute is adorable, disgusting, and hilarious – a perfect trifecta.  The background characters, with few lines that are mainly scenery are fabulous.  Most secondary characters are colorful, entertaining, delightful, and intriguing.  Enough so that I am desperately hoping for at least one follow-up book.  “Shacking Up” more enjoyable than I anticipated; it was downright charming!

I’m giving “Shacking Up” 5 Lightning Bolts and a Storm Warning.

 

This novel was provided, voluntarily read, and honestly reviewed.

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