“The word love is open to interpretation. And to abuse” (de Jong 162). This one sentence so perfectly sums up the entirety of Jassy de Jong’s new romantic drama, Drowning. With a great romantic storyline about a strong woman who allows herself to be saved from abuse, relatable characters, and an intense discussion about abuse, Drowning by Jassy de Jong makes for a good read. However, the erotic nature takes away from the plot and distracts the reader at times, putting other romance novels above it on my list of suggested reading books.
I should have realized the content of the novel given that it is labeled as “erotica” along with romance and drama, but I did not know what that meant and didn’t take the time to look it up. Now I know. So I am warning all future readers – be prepared to read that type of content or you probably won’t want to read it. However, the plot almost makes up for the sexual – and masturbation – scenes and it can be a good read.
It all started on a trip to South Africa for a photoshoot. Driven off a bridge by a major flood, New York photographer Erin Mitchell is lucky to have survived. Although she is only alive due to Nicholas’s rescue with resuscitation, all her husband, Vince, can worry about is his precious pictures for Vogue magazine. Now stuck on the wrong side of the bridge with the wrong man, she is drowning yet again – this time in her thoughts and desires about lust and love, right and wrong.
Jassy de Jong knows her setting well, being that she is from South Africa herself, and it certainly shows. Although the majority of the setting takes place at one high-end getaway, the resort has all the major perks of the safari life in Africa, which is one of the reasons it’s so luxurious. While learning about temptations, tribulations, and abuse, one might learn a thing or two about South Africa and the safari animals too. De Jong also understands the importance of living every day like it’s the last after she was hijacked at gunpoint in her own driveway, and she brings that attitude to the forefront when it comes to Erin about halfway through the book. She definitely did a great job incorporating her own life into the story, something that probably doesn’t come as easily as it sounds.
Nicholas de Lanoy, Erin’s charming and mysterious savior, evokes feelings deep inside Erin that she can’t seem to shake, bring up issues of temptation and right or wrong – a great strength for the novel. Although she believes he is a “serial womanizer” (de Jong 127), there is a mutual connection drawing them into each other. Struggling with staying faithful to her husband – whom she has only known for six months and has been married to for three of those six – Erin decides a weeklong no-strings fling might suit her well. While most may not cheat on their still newlywed husbands, the temptation of a straightforward request “to take [Erin] to bed” and “to satisfy [her] sexually” (35) given by the “sculpted lips” with “the blaze of pale blue eyes” and “the warm touch of a strong hand” (22) is enough to confuse any girl. As it is, Erin doesn’t know how she feels, nor what to do (127) but she keeps fantasizing about her handsome rescuer. Knowing how wrong she is, she “[shakes her] head briefly, hoping to clear these dangerous, intruding thoughts” (128) much like one might do to shake other sinful temptations from one’s mind. The enticements and lures alludes to a more religious meaning right below the surface of the text, but as Erin gives into temptation and ends up happy in the end, the novel either loses this subliminal message of temptation or is saying that sometimes it’s okay to give into temptation. Reviewer Marienela believes “though, there is no mention of religion in this book, author Jassy de Jong skillfully tackles this philosophical question” of whether or not one should give into temptation (Marienela). Erin struggles with what she should do – to give into Nicholas and break her vows with Vince, or to stay loyal to her husband and ignore her heart. Nicholas is the temptation and the struggle between giving in or not is a major point in both the plot and in Erin’s life, making this undertow of temptation a great strength for the novel.
Erin reaches out to her best friend, Samantha, for help on what she should do in regards to Nick and Vince. Samantha, even though she is not a main character per sé, portrays perfectly any girl’s best friend. She is honest, caring, and loyal. Before Erin reaches this realization herself, Samantha is kind to inform her that she “think[s] Vince is a prick” and “his behavior is alienating [Erin] from [her] friends” (de Jong 153). Samantha is the desirable type of friend everyone deserves and everyone needs. She makes the story realistic. She is the one tying Erin’s magical and mystical world at the gorgeous Leopard Rock to real life, despite the often brought up fact that Vince is on the other side of the bridge.
With the help of Samantha and the polite but aggressive Nicholas, Erin slowly comes to the realization that Vince is abusive, a key climax of the book and a point that brings up some much needed meaning to this story. As if the bruises on her arms and hip, put there by Vince’s mad jealousy, aren’t enough to immediately suggest his brutality to her, she is so engrossed in the famous photographer that she does not recognize nor realize that she is a victim of abuse. After all, Erin believes that Vince isn’t an unintelligent man; surely he would know better than to let his temper get to him and hurt his wife? Clearly not. Maybe that’s why Vince’s previous marriages did not last. Once abusive, always abusive. As she thinks about it, Erin recalls several incidents where Vince has abused her. She even had to go to the Emergency Room due to injuries caused by him, yet she had “forgotten those incidents – or made [her]self forget – believing them or perhaps wanting them to be incidental, unimportant blips on the radar of Vince’s and [her] relationship” (de Jong 178). Nicholas identifies her abuse before she does, relating it to his mother’s. As a child, Nicholas dealt with his father abusing his mother. He understands “abuse in any form is absolutely unacceptable. It is a crime” (180) but still Erin defends Vince.
These few pages discussing domestic violence brings forth a message that should be developed and explored more throughout the book. Unfortunately, although a main character trait of Vince Mitchell for the duration of the book, it is only deeply, or even mildly deeply talked about on about seven or eight total pages of the entire 236 page novel. Yes, Vince is abusive and it’s obvious to all but Erin for the longest amount of time. Yes, subconsciously Erin knows the abusive nature of her husband which prompts her decision to have an affair with the well-respected, compassionate and caring Nicholas. These rivers flowing just below the surface of the words on the page are not enough however. The few pages actually discussing the heartlessness of abuse should have been much more prominent throughout the entirety of the novel. It is a major issue and needs to be more majorly discussed, both within society and within the pages of a book, even that of a romance, such as Drowning.
The main characters of Erin, Nicholas, and Vince appear to be extremely relatable due to their depth and how dynamic they are. It is these people – the ones who can easily relate to the main characters – who should pick up Drowning and read it. It is easy to see how victims of abuse, near-death experiences, or people who simply fall in love too quickly may relate to Erin. Should a person have been involved in a love triangle or experienced any type of temptation even remotely similar to the temptation Erin has experienced, he or she shall also greatly relate to the lead character. Even people that have just chosen to live life to the fullest everyday can relate to this fierce female. Nicholas represents all who are victims of growing up in dysfunctional households, especially those also containing abuse. The need to hide his childhood and, in a sort of ripple effect due to habit, most of his personal life, stems from the fact his childhood was, well, horrible. The fact that he is drop dead gorgeous just adds to the plot for those who cannot personally relate to him and brings the much needed sizzle into this love triangle. I highly doubt anyone like Vince will be reading Drowning, unless forced to by a counselor. Nonetheless, should any abusers, or any extremely vain, jealous, and heartless people at all, decide to pick up Drowning, they will apprehend that they are Vince.
I especially recommend this novel to victims of abuse, whether currently in an abusive situation or previously engaged in one. It gives a sense of community and belonging to other abuse victims where they can see they are not alone in their struggles. However, it shall be warned that this book contains very explicit content and that should be kept in mind. I definitely do not recommend this to anyone younger than a high school junior, no matter his or her situation.
Overall, I would give Drowning a 5.4 out of 10 due to good storyline, good incorporation of the author’s life and therefore good relatability, and the writing style (not difficult to read at all, but not written for youngins), but am taking points away for the fact it could be more captivating.
De Jong, Jassy. Drowning. ARC ed. New York: Astor + Blue, 2014. Print.
Marienela. "Book Review: Drowning by Jassy De Jong." Marienela. N.p., 22 Oct. 2014. Web. 26 Jan. 2015.