Reviewed by E. B. Heath
New York Nights is reminiscent of a sexy fairy tale – with complications – a fun romantic comedy; it is the latest story in C.J. Duggan’s the ‘Heart of the City’ series.
Now I was worried. From the moment Dr Liebenberg had spoken of helping with a ‘situation’ it was obvious that I was signing up for something strange. What was this place on Lafayette? If I woke in a bathtub of ice without my kidneys, I was going to be seriously pissed.
Sarah Williams has taken the plunge into the big world away from Australia. On a recommendation from her previous employer, Sarah lands a job as an au pair in New York. Yes, New York! How lucky is she? Well, as it turns out, her luck is in a variable state. Sarah has to deal with the Worthington Family.
Her first introduction to the rich and powerful world of the Worthington is an interview with the ice-maiden matriarch, Penny Worthington and her daughter Emily, ice maiden in training. Sarah is told, bluntly, that she must do as told, ask no questions and sign a non-disclosure form. It isn’t going well until daughter Nikki turns up, she represents the human side of the Worthington clan. Sadly, it isn’t Nikki who needs an au pair; rather it is the moody, troubled Ben Worthington. Ben is the Worthington eldest son and heir, a wifeless architect with an adorable baby, and, as they say, drop-dead-gorgeous. But he is also remote, rude, and occasionally thoughtful, in unpredictable turns. His life is lived in a shroud of secrecy and grief. Outspoken Sarah loves baby Grace but living on the edge of this dysfunctional family becomes a multifaceted problem, especially when errant youngest son Alistair turns up.
Sarah’s is from a working-class Australian family, she knows how to ‘tough-it-out’ when faced with a challenge, but baby Gracie has not caught-on to the art of sleeping; sleep deprivation, the cruelest of tortures, is weakening Sarah’s resolve. To complicate matters she finds herself falling in love, or is it lust? She’s too tired to know.
The New York setting is a highlight of the novel; even in her exhausted state Sarah manages to do some sightseeing. This is an exotic and exciting city for a country girl. The reader enjoys accompanying her around Tiffany & Co., Central Park, the Village and Washington Square. Duggan makes it live; the reader senses Sarah’s joy.
It is also through Sarah’s perspective that the reader accesses the Worthington characters; consequently they feel stiff, distant, their motivations and thoughts are sketchy, unsurprisingly since Sarah is groping for the truth. She is always uncertain about these people, especially when she is ushered into the presence of patriarchal Mr. Worthington.
I walked tentatively toward the lounge. The only sign of life was a puff of smoke billowing from a wing chair . . . It was then I heard laughter – no, it was more like a dark chuckle – and I thought that maybe I had entered a vampire’s lair, and I was on the menu.
New York Nights is the second book in the ‘Heart of the City’ series by C.J. Duggan and her twelfth novel. An Australian author whose writing career started with a self-published e-novel, The Boys of Summer, in 2012; the summer series sold 300,000 e-books. Signed by Hachette in 2015 she published Paradise City and Paradise Road. Duggan’s books are in the ‘new-adult’ genre. This category caters for ages between 18-25, but is considered to be a ‘cross-over’ category, also appealing to adult readership. The genre can be defined by focal points of higher education and career choices, leaving home, fear of failure, empowerment, developing sexuality and gaining more mature perspectives. Sex and sexuality features heavily, consequently, the genre has been criticized as over-sexualized versions of young adult fiction. The young adult grouping covers readership between the ages of 12-18. The distinction between the two genres is important as it gives instant insight to the suitability of the contents for potential readers and buyers.
New York Nights is a light, fun read, perfect for a bubble bath with a drink of choice. It is reminiscent of a Cinderella fairy tale; only Cinderella is having serious doubts about the handsome prince.
One thing is irrefutable – this genre in the hands of this author is a huge publishing success.
By C.J. Duggan