Review: Mine by J. L. Butler
Mine by J. L. Butler is a riveting tale of psychological suspense where a divorce lawyer risks her career, her sanity, and her life when she falls into an illicit, all-consuming affair with her client—who becomes the primary suspect in his estranged wife’s sudden disappearance.
Francine Day is a 37-year-old London lawyer dealing in cases of matrimonial dissolution, negotiating finances and custody. Her life is organized to the atom, and that’s the way she prefers it, with her first-person narration saying, “Even the small detail of my life had a satisfying familiarity.” The biggest item on her docket is the chance for major advancement within her company, and her latest case, if handled properly, will be the catalyst. That case is mega-wealthy Martin Joy, who’s looking to divorce his wife, Donna. But no sooner than you can say Jagged Edge and Francine is bedding her client:
His fingers moved to the waistband of his trousers and I heard him unbutton his belt. The leather sprang back against the small of my back like a short, sharp slap. I started undoing the buttons of my blouse until the fabric fell open and I felt the cool air on my skin. He pushed the blouse off my shoulder and kissed the smooth scoop as if he were tasting me. And when the blouse slipped off with little resistance, I turned around and we had just enough distance between us for him to observe me. Naked, except for my bra, thong, hold-ups and heels. I saw him smile, a small curve of the right-hand side of his mouth, and I felt turned on, not just by the thought of what was to come, but by the way I had made him feel. My power over him.
Perhaps it’s a bit pointless to ponder why she falls for Martin—don’t we all have at least one major romantic “oops!” in our past. But J. L. Butler has crafted a strong-minded lawyer who wouldn’t seem to fall for the “charms” of a lover who sends “sweetheart” texts that read, “I like the taste of your cunt.” Where does one go from there on Valentine’s Day, right?
Still, these are the characters Butler has constructed, and in the confines of this universe, suspense is still achieved in how far Francine will degrade her principles before she digs herself out of the muck. At the first court hearing, Martin acts coldly toward Francine—or perhaps professional is a better word—and she’s already beginning to suspect she’s being used. After the soul-crushing sight of Martin out and about with his estranged wife and then him lying to her, Francine sleeps with a neighbor who lives downstairs in her apartment complex, Pete Carroll, and whose advances she had spurred in the early chapters. Afterward, she cringes:
What have I done? My muscles tightened, saliva hot in my mouth, by the thought that he might still be there in the bed beside me. I froze listening for the soft whisper of another person’s breath. When I could hear nothing, I slowly turned my head, cracking my eyelids. The other side of the bed was empty. Pete had gone. I had no idea when. Certainly sometime after I had fallen asleep, although after sex, I was so repulsed with myself, with him, with the situation I had found myself in, that I had been unable to sleep for a long time, even after Pete had rolled over contented and spent, lightly snoring within minutes.
Sleep is going to be hard to come by, Franny, because Martin’s wife Donna is now missing and some unexplained blood on your clothes is going to complicate matters.
Yes, it might be couched in run-of-the-mill, and yet, it’s just as entertaining and gripping to read.