When fellow airline pilots Jack Grayson and Kira Allen barrel down the runway into white-hot lust, Kira proposes a frisky flight plan. They’ll fulfill each other’s sexual fantasies during layovers and revert back to friendship at home.
Footloose by choice, Jack has had the hots for Kira since high school. Unfortunately, she’s his best friend and he promised her late father he’d take care of her. The last thing he needs is rock-your-world sex with a woman he loves too much to marry. But the temptation of her body proves too difficult to resist.
All her life Kira followed a mapped career plan and now wants to settle down and get married. But every time she meets a potential lover, Jack chases him away. Never mind getting married, she can’t even get laid, until a steamy kiss with Jack changes everything and friend becomes lover…and maybe even more.
Wendy: In Ann Wesley Hardin’s Layover, pilots Jack Grayson and Kira Allen have had the hots for each other since the moment they laid eyes on one another fifteen years ago. Save for one “going away to college” kiss they’ve been the best of platonic friends. Until, that is, a good night peck pours gasoline on their already raging hormones. In no time, the emotional intimacy they each give so much lip service to cherishing is quickly jettisoned in favor of an agreement to get physical.
The setup—friends to lovers—is amiable enough and familiar enough. Unfortunately, it’s familiar enough that countless other writers have executed the possibilities more deftly than Hardin. Layover’s plot flits and floats as the characters heat up and cool off toward one another. This change in emotion seemingly shifts from paragraph to paragraph; subsequently the book falters in its attempt to sustain plausible conflict. Poorly motivated conflicts are quickly set up and then even more quickly run out of steam and disappear, often before the turn of the next page. As when Kira decides to pretend to be engaged—to her, by this point, cheating ex-boyfriend—in order to make Jack jealous. And in turn, Jack—who knows Kira’s lying—plays along. The motivation for either of these characters’ actions is suspect at best and without proper impetus, the plot point thankfully fizzles within a page or two. The introduction of a plot point such as this—even one so contrived—either needs to be played big and serious or for comic results. In Hardin’s case, she did neither. She just let it die on the vine.
If, perhaps, the characters had been grounded enough to gain emotional resonance, conflict to maintain a plot would not be at issue. However, the work is light and inconsequential, certainly no harm in that, until that weightlessness mistakenly bleeds over into the characters. Jack and Kira lack consequence and read as though they sprung to life on the first page because they are largely one dimensional.
While dialog heavy storytelling lends swiftness to the pacing, the narrative is cluttered with clumsy and eye rolling descriptions: She licked her lips and Jack’s jet poked its nose out of the hanger. A rather obvious and glaring factual error occurs as Jack and Kira travel I-5 in Seattle, where the book claims they see Mt. McKinley. It’s difficult to imagine catching a glimpse of the Alaskan peak from a distance of hundreds of miles away, though Mt. Rainier does rise majestically over the area.
The book’s high point is the author’s obvious knowledge of aviation. When the prose and dialog turn to flying and planes there is a ring of clarity and truth that the work fails to achieve at any other point. This begs the question: why wasn’t a greater emphasis placed on this strength?
Layover begins with a classic genre construct, full of excitement, but that excitement is lost to choices more simpering than wise, and execution more green than skillful.
HelenKay: Layover is a friends-to-lovers story. For the theme to work, the sexual tension must pulse, the transition in the relationship must unfold in a realistic manner and whatever "ick" factor may arise out of the think-of-him-like-a-brother problem must be surmountable. The problem here is with the first two hurdles.
Kira and Jack grew up together. Her family served as his surrogate one. Through all those years of developing a family-like bond, Jack fell into the role of Kira’s protector. He watches Kira cycle through men while growling his disapproval from the sidelines but never staking a claim of his own. While she enjoys rounds of serial dating and shuns commitment, he…well, that’s part of the problem. What Jack does and feels isn’t quite clear. His motivations and choices bounce around without any clarity of character. Hardin’s descriptions of Jack are rich in detail as to his physical attributes but who he is and what he stands for gets lost.
Both Kira and Jack choose careers as pilots. This choice sets them as co-pilots, where the book begins. The opening scene provides the perfect set-up to establish the hidden sexual interest running between them. Rather than capitalize on all of this potential, Wesley Hardin lets it slip by in a drawn-out opening scene. The beginning chapter drags the story to a near halt before it finally takes off.
The pace does begin to click as the banter improves and Kira’s desire for Jack comes into focus. However, the jump from dear friends arguing over their respective love lives to an agreement to share beds on flight layovers is not grounded or explored in a way that makes the change believable. As a result, instead of cheering the characters on as they realize their feelings for each other, the reader is left to wonder what exactly happened to jump start the process and why it hadn’t happened years ago.
The secondary characters are limited to an oversexed stewardess, Kira’s lame boyfriend and some assorted family members, The choice not to delve into subplots is a good one but the inclusion of a tepid love triangle and wishes of a dying father do not feel fresh or new.
Layover gets off to a slow start and never quite picks up speed. The idea of sex on layovers is promising in an erotic novel and Wesley Hardin’s writing, which at times is very witty and playful, is the perfect tone for a sexy romp. Unfortunately, the promise isn’t fulfilled and the reader is left hoping Wesley Hardin’s obvious writing strengths will be highlighted in the future with a stronger plot and stronger characters.
HelenKay’s response to Wendy: This book is marketed as an erotic romance. Is the mix of sex and romance sufficient here and in the "correct" ratio to work for you? Or, is there a "correct" ratio?
Wendy’s response to HelenKay: Second question first, please: no, there isn’t a correct ratio. But the sex needs to be integral to the plot, character development, and each encounter should advance the story. As long as all of those requirements are met, more is the better. Unfortunately this work substitutes extended sex scenes for plot. The scenes are hot, if clichéd—why must heroes always, in some way, protest blow jobs?—but falls something short of what I think of as belonging to erotic romance.
HelenKay’s Final Thoughts: Layover is one of those books I really wanted to savor and enjoy. Unfortunately, the I’ve-read-this-before feeling and lack of growth in the plot kept this one from reaching its potential. While it has flashes of very good writing and interesting situations, my vote has to be Not Recommended.
Wendy’s Final Thoughts: I found this book much more enjoyable as I read than I did later in examination. For that reason alone, I say Recommended With Reservations.