Originally posted at Romance Around the Corner A few months ago, everyone was talking about a self-published book titled On Dublin Street (or at least everyone on my little corner of the blogosphere). The book became a huge success and soon was acquired by Penguin. I thought it was a compelling story, but not a unique or innovative one. The sequel was still on my radar, though, and it became a must-read when I realized that the heroine would be the sexually forward, gold-digging friend from On Dublin Street.Jo is a bartender whose goal in life is to marry a rich guy. Her current boyfriend certainly fits the requirements, so she pampers him and does everything he wants, even if that means not being herself. But before you get excited thinking that we’re finally getting a heroine that completely breaks the mold, I should tell you that the reason why she acts that way is because she has to take care of her teenage brother and their abusive, alcoholic mother. So nope, she’s not materialistic or self-absorbed; she’s just damaged and filled with a bunch of secret pains. Of course she is.One night, her rich boyfriend takes her to an art function where she meets brooding Cam. Sparks fly immediately, but he acts like a judgmental ass and insults her. That’s not enough to stop her from finding him a job, though, and they end up working at the same bar. It takes a while for Cam to realize there’s more to Jo than meets the eye, but when he does, well, they still can’t do anything about their attraction, because both have partners. So they become friends instead. And this is why the book is worth reading, because as predictable and cliché it sounds, the main characters have to develop a relationship before they get to the romance.The last time I read a book with a similar mother, I was angry and disappointed, and this book pretty much goes there yet again. But in this case the mother is more than a plot point. Now, don’t get me wrong, this woman isn’t a complex character, and pretty much behaves like any other similar stereotypical character. However, her actions and presence do have direct consequences on Jo, and dealing with those lasting issues is the central part of the story, even more so than the actual romance. On second thought, the mother is a plot point, and her portrayal is more than problematic, but the end result was highly effective and not as offensive as in other books. Or maybe I’m just making excuses to justify how much I enjoyed the book. I liked Jo a lot. Here we have this character so desperate to find security that she will sacrifice her personality and personal happiness to be with men who will provide that support. Yet when her best friend offers her a stable job, she’s unable to accept it. I spent most of the book thinking she was an idiot, until I realized that she couldn’t break the pattern not because she was stubborn or dumb, but because she was paralyzed by her insecurities. And throughout the book we see her deal with it and discover just how valuable she is. Her relationship with Cam is a big part of that, but her newfound self-respect doesn’t depend on the romance, so when the big misunderstanding happens, she’s able to put herself first. The book is told in 1st person POV, so we only get Jo's perspective, but Cam was far from a cypher. He had a strong presence and was quite open. There’s a heavy dose of insta-lust, but it slowly transforms into friendship and then love, which makes this a surprisingly slow-building romance. I also appreciate the fact that Cam was far from rich, which is a huge change from the previous book. He was still pretty much an alpha, thought, but he had it (mostly) under control.On London Road is a highly readable, intensely emotional book. It’s far from perfect, but at the end of the day, I couldn’t put it down.