Gentleman Nine by Penelope Ward ~ Sarah A’s Review

From New York Times bestselling author Penelope Ward, comes a new, sexy standalone novel.

Growing up, the three of us were friends.
He was the nerd.
I was the playboy.
She was the beauty.

Deep down, I only ever wanted her. I kept it inside because Rory and I made a pact that our friend, Amber, was off-limits.

He lied.

I went off to college, and he got the girl.
Amber never knew how I felt.
They were together for years—before he broke her heart.

Through it all and across the miles, she and I casually stayed in touch.
When my job sent me to Boston for a three-month contract position, Amber let me stay in her spare room.

Still reeling from her breakup, she’d sworn off men.

One night, I opened her computer to find the shock of my life. She’d hesitantly contacted a male escort company. Afraid to date and get her heart broken again, she was looking for sex with no strings.
Every emotion imaginable ran through me: protectiveness, jealousy—curiosity.
Amber had chosen Gentleman Number Nine and sent him a message.
She opened up to him, confessing, among other things, her physical attraction to her friend—me. But she considered me off-limits—and she thought I was a manwhore. (Ironic, considering the circumstances.)

Eventually, she set up a date to meet Gentleman Nine at a hotel.
When she showed up several nights later to meet him, she got the surprise of her life to see me standing there—with an offer I hoped she wouldn’t refuse.

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It took me two days to read the first 25% of this book and about three hours to finish the rest.  I had a hard time connecting with the characters in the beginning, and I kept hoping there was going to be *that* moment, the one that finally made me NEED to read the rest of the book.  I can’t vouch for a hugely impactful event that made me start to love the story; it happened slowly, as they became vulnerable and real, I found myself needing to know how their story played out.

Gentleman Nine is a standalone novel.  It’s told in dual first-person perspective, narrated by Amber and Channing.  Mostly.

When I started this book, I was sure Amber was going to be the character with whom I connected most.  By the end, I somehow had the shallowest connection with her.  Not that the connection was weak, there was just something about Channing and a few of the other characters that spoke to me on a deeper level.  They needed my affection more than Amber; she didn’t know how strong she was or how much everyone else relied on her unwavering care and support.

Like all of Penelope Ward’s books, this is a much more emotional book than is hinted at in the blurb, it’s a hallmark of her work, for me.  She draws me in with fun, flirty cover copy then hits me with feelings I’m never prepared for.  Gentleman Nine wove several intense situations, primarily different types of loss into its storyline.  Some of them so intense it made my heart ache.  One of the tertiary characters, Boris, that old man, he broke my heart, and his message was so profound; he may have been my favorite person in the entire novel.

The big reveal, the climax of Gentleman Nine completely took me by surprise.  I don’t know what I was expecting, but I was not prepared for what happened, and it changed everything for me.  I questioned everything, much like Amber.  I’m still a little taken aback by it; and honestly, I’m not sure I know how I wanted the storyline to play out after that.  I was torn, devastated by all the information I had.  It was wholly unique and heartbreaking.

My only wish for this novel would be the beginning be more intriguing.  I know there was a lot of things that needed a delicate set-up in this book, but so much time was taken getting all of those little pieces put in place, my attention was lost.  Had this been another author, one I wasn’t as familiar with, I may have given up before the story even started.

Penelope Ward is a great storyteller; as I said earlier, she always weaves fantastically powerful themes into stories that could otherwise be very light.  She usually draws me in from the first sentence, and I knew she’d deliver on this book, so I stuck it out and am so happy I did.  Her characters are wonderfully surprising and never quite what I expected.  Ms. Ward’s books are what they’re talking about when they tell you not to judge a book by its cover because they are always so much more.

Penelope Ward is a New York Times, USA Today, and #1 Wall Street Journal Bestselling author of thirteen novels. With over a million books sold, her titles have placed on the New York Times Bestseller list sixteen times. She is the proud mother of a beautiful 12-year-old girl with autism (the inspiration for the character Callie in Gemini) and a 10-year-old boy. Penelope, her husband, and kids reside in Rhode Island.

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