Reality TV just got real in this Cinderella story about a factory worker and a CEO’s son…
Jennifer Wright is finishing a long shift on the assembly line at Brickman Foods when she meets her newest trainee, Jason Baxter — only that’s not his name and she knows it. She recognises him instantly as Jared Brickman, internationally renowned playboy and son of the CEO of Brickman Foods, working undercover to film the reality show, Joe Average.
Jared is also the father of Jennifer’s son, Chris, although he doesn’t know it. The six years since they dated have been momentous for Jennifer, but it’s clear when they meet again that Jared doesn’t even remember her. Jennifer knew Jared the boy — irresponsible and reckless. Now she has the opportunity to discover Jared the man. She’d like to tell him about his son, but fears his reputation as depicted in celebrity magazines.
Is Jared an infamous heartbreaker, or is he the man she sees now: sweet, shy, and dependable — someone who can be trusted in her son’s life…and maybe even her own?
Jennifer glanced down and saw Mandy’s Juicy Weekly on the couch. She picked it up and leafed through it, knowing exactly what she was looking for.
And she wasn’t disappointed. One entire page was dedicated to him, ‘Heir Apparent?ly Cannes Dress to Impress’, in bold across the top.
Cringing at the bad puns, Jennifer took in the page. Three shots of Jared at the swanky film festival: one in a navy pinstripe Brioni suit, the second in a velvet tuxedo jacket and the third showing Jared sprawled across the bow of a yacht wearing swim trunks — Prada of course.
He wasn’t alone in the third shot. Jared’s on-again, off-again, Catherine Colby, lay beside him on the bow in a string bikini that matched her skin tone so perfectly Jennifer had to look twice to make sure she was even wearing something. She did it intentionally, to be sure. Catherine loved making a splash.
She was the daughter of the founder and CEO of Colby Enterprises, Carl Colby, the Frozen Food King — hence her nickname, Ice Princess.
The caption beneath the yacht picture mentioned a rumoured engagement between her and Jared but that was nothing new. Still, Jennifer sighed.
Half of her wished the rumour were true, a sign that Jared was finally growing up, ready for a serious commitment — and perhaps ready for news that he was a father.
The other half — OK, more than half — wished he really had arrived at the plant today to sweep her off her feet and carry her away to a better life, a la Richard Gere in An Officer and a Gentleman.
But that hadn’t happened. What’s more, he hadn’t even recognized her. Really though, was that so surprising? Forget ‘flavour of the month’, she’d been more like the ‘flavour of the minute’ and damn well knew it. How could the guy be expected to remember her among so many?
Without thinking about it, Jennifer touched the first picture, her finger skimming down the side of Jared’s face, his goatee trim and neat, hair slicked back, the blue of his eyes vivid against his tanned face and dark lashes.
She yanked her finger away and closed the magazine wishing she could slam it shut like a book. How could he still have this effect on her six years later? How the hell was she going to deal with being with him tomorrow, and possibly two more days beyond that?
Jennifer heaved out another breath. She just would. Deal with it, as she had these past six years, all those little pitfalls and setbacks constantly springing up, threatening to derail her.
What she needed to do was trust herself, trust the strength she’d gained — earned — over the past few years.
Jennifer nodded resolutely to herself and set the magazine down on the coffee table, putting an end to her little freak-out moment.
She could do this.
And if she really thought about it, what a fantastic opportunity this was to get to know the real Jared Brickman, outside of the tabloids. She could discover for herself what kind of man he’d become, if he was still the immature, hedonistic boy she’d known or if he really had changed as she so hoped he had, for Chris’s sake if nothing else.
Sudden uneasiness sliced through her belly. What if he recognized her? After all, he hadn’t really taken a good look at her. How could he, covered up as she was with the safety glasses, her face mask and hair net?
What if he learned she had a child and did the math for himself? Even if Jared didn’t step up as a father, the rest of his family might stake their claim.
Alarming visions played out in her mind: high priced attorneys busily filing motions, pleading arguments against her, running circles around whatever attorneys she could afford; and suddenly she was only seeing Chris a couple times a week while the Brickmans raised him.
Unacceptable. Jared would find out about Chris on her terms or not at all.
So, priority number one? Keep the fact that she had a son from him, at all costs.
Jennifer Wright had no idea her brief relationship with frat-boy Jared Brickman would be a life-changing event. She finds out she is “just another notch” on Brickman’s belt when she catches him in bed with another girl. When she learns she is pregnant she turns to her parents for help and is stunned by her father’s anger when he throws her out of the house. Jennifer is alone with a baby on the way. She succeeds in making a life for herself and her son. She lives in a small apartment and works at the Brickman Foods factory. Even though frat-boy is the heir to the Brickman fortune, Jennifer figures the odds are slim to none she will ever run in to Jared, but she is wrong.
Jared Brickman is participating in a reality show named Not Your Average Joe. He is supposed to disguise himself and mingle with his employees as a trainee; hidden cameras tape his performance for three days. Much to her horror, “Jason Baxter,” the fake name they give Jared is assigned to Jennifer for training and despite the good attempt to disguise his appearance she recognizes him immediately. What hurts her the most is Jared does not recognize her at all. She has read in the tabloids Jared is a jet-setting playboy but during the couple of days they are together she sees glimmers of the sweet side of the frat-boy she loved many years ago. She agonizes over a decision she needs to make; should she tell him he has a son and can she survive if his response is another rejection?
Not Your Average Joe is a well-written romantic novel. Nell Carson crafts a heart-warming rags-to-riches love story while tastefully addressing the societal challenges of being a single mother, sexual bigotry and harassment in the workplace, and the dangerous environment factory workers have to endure in order to make a living. Jennifer is a strong woman, loving mother, and kind person. She is a hard worker who is always willing to help one of her fellow employees. Her best friend, Mandy Springer, is also a well-developed character who acts on the inappropriateness of the plant manager’s sexual advances on Jennifer and other female workers. I enjoyed how the author allows the relationship between Jennifer and Jared to develop; there are many issues each of them must face to find love. Not Your Average Joe is a contemporary love story that is a good read and I highly recommend.
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