I had seen someone quote this author online, and as I am very interested in smart quotes, I ordered the book without looking into it all . Woe to me. I finished this book in less than five hours. After the first three chapters you already recognize that all the characters are tropes, it does not get any deeper than a wading pool, and the message in the end will be rosy. This book accomplishes all of these things. It is a book about the upper-middle class of privilage and how success is defined by romantic love.
It also forces me to consider if I am so cynical that I cannot enjoy a lighthearted comedy. That may be the case, but if I think about lighthearted comedies, I think about Much Ado About Nothing , or Jeeves and Wooster; and for the life of me I cannot detect any of the same cleverness in this story. The main character is put into a difficult situation with her work, as well as learning to connect with her very different daughters. She meets this ideal man who is everything she needs in life and without flaw, and who eventually says all of the right things to start a relationship. Honestly the interest character has no purpose except to be “the perfect man” and is a blank slate other than enough of a backstory to show how awesome and wise he is. The most interesting character is the shut-in friend, who is actually the character that learns the most from the story, and is also the one who ends up displaying the most agency. She, of course, is predictably set up by the end as everyone pairs off in nauseatingly obvious ways. Hint: if a character appears that has the same interest, or agrees with a female character in even the slightest, then they will be going out by the end of the book. According to this, gentleman, if you meet a girl , just be exactly the same as her, and agree with her, and even if you have to be pushy, as long as you don’t cross any lines (and there is no demarcation about what or where those are), then you will be okay.
The main character is Gus, who is a middle-aged but very attractive cooking show host; has to become part of a live show with Carmen, who is a young, attractive, ambitious Spanish woman who is trying to create a career for herself so much that she has become self-centered. The two clearly dislike each other, and the book focuses on that tension. Their petty squabbling is eventually solved when they have a few namaste insights into each other and eventually become allies by the end of the book. I actually object to this because the Carmen character was clearly cast as “the bad guy”, as if being young, talented and ambitious is a crime. Furthermore, the Carmen character uses her attractiveness in the most obvious ways, clearly making her fit the “Diva” pattern. We are not supposed to identify with her, even though eventually we discover that she is the character with the most to say, has the most talent, and has worked the hardest. She does not end up paired off, like every other female, and I suppose we are supposed to feel sorry for her? Like not having a man is a punishment for bad behavior in the beginning? Which is too bad, because in some of the introductions to the character, we learn that her burden is her homesickness. She very much misses her family, and though she works hard, she still wishes that she could see them more. She is the first character to open up to Hannah, the recluse character, and proves to be very empathetic. But in the game where the true prize is love, she is destined to lose, and I think that is sad and a missed opportunity to explore a character that does not have a love interest, but instead has a goal to accomplish. Pity.
But I am not intended as the audience of this book, nor are the Romance and Erotica domestic housewife readers the targeted demographic. This book was clearly written to be sold to a studio. If Julianne Moore and J. Lo are not already reading lines for this, I would be surprised.
What the author, Kate Jacobs is very good at is dialogue. Her exchanges are quick and natural, and she plays to these strengths very well. She can contribute more to the understanding of the reader, and their immersion, through her written dialogue than through setting, description or narrative. Her dialogue is so good that I would think when the book is, undoubtedly, scripted for a rom-com film, that most of the original dialogue will be kept. She could probably re-write it as a screenplay herself. The author clearly has a very traditional outlook, and that is seriously influencing the way that she is writing. There is nothing wrong with having a particular outlook in your writing, I would rather read a story from someone who has a clear worldview than someone who does not, I simply dislike how formulaic it was and how lacking in challenge.
In honesty, it is clear that this book was not written for me, and I do not want to be unfair to the readers who are passionate about it, or to the author herself; but I must be honest to my own readers as I review it. My own readers, I assume, share my tastes in written literature, and would not enjoy the lack of challenge in this book.