Under the Hood
By Juanita Kees
Cars, smouldering eyes, troubled teens and ice cold beers - that and more in Under the Hood, an Aussie novel with a raw undertone.
Scott and TJ are your Couple in Crisis. Their love-hate relationship is magnetic from the start, and TJ is one badass heroine! Scott tries his best to take charge of the struggling car dealership, but little does he realise the complexity of the dealership and its employees. The dealership is tied up in a teenage rehabilitation program, and gangs, drugs, violence and danger are an ever-present cloud that hangs over the day to day goings-on.
TJ's kind, open heart towards these teenagers makes you love her from the get-go. Scott is a hottie, but his smoking exterior isn't his only attraction. His friendliness, concern for the teenagers and his protectiveness when it comes to TJ are admirable qualities in a 'pompous arse' (as TJ eloquently describes him as). The teens are loveable; from Marty to the unfortunate Tiny. And Scott's dog Sarge is a heart-stealer as well.
Put all these characters in the setting of semi-rural Western Australia and you have yourself a winner!
My only criticism (not really a criticism - more like a note on what could be improved) was that I thought the attraction between TJ and Scott often overpowered the storyline somewhat. TJ's 'hot and cold' reaction to Scott was understandable, but did tend to get tiring when it occurred repeatedly. I would also have liked to have seen the main plot line develop further and to have been completed - I'm not sure whether a second book is in the making, but the book left the story unfinished. Towards the end (with the clues Tiny left behind) I was engrossed in the plot. But once again, with the ending, the emphasis turned once more to the Scott-TJ relationship.
Which isn't a bad thing (they're a very cute couple!) but I would have liked an ending that tied up the loose ends.
The humour was often spot-on, and made for some good laughs. An 'Aussie' myself, I wasn't completely sold on the amount of beer they all consumed - it seemed almost like each character downed two or three beers a day! - but I guess everyone has their preferences! And TJ definitely needed a good drink after some of the situations she had to deal with.
I praise Juanita for not over-doing the Australian aspects of the novel. So many authors tend to do this - and movie producers - but not Juanita. She manages to transport you directly to WA, but you're comfortably settled into your surroundings. The Australian lifestyle and environment are not thrown in your face every five seconds, with koalas and kangaroos invading the house and the neighbours wearing cork hats.
Juanita does away with stereotypes and gives you a raw novel that entertains as well as informs.