I’m slowly getting through all of my ARCs and it’s such a relief. I’m definitely going to have to take a break from requesting them because it’s too stressful. I have so many books that I haven’t read yet that I paid for, so ignoring them in favour of ones that I got free seems stupid. Especially as the ones that I’ve read recently haven’t exactly been great. Why am I wasting my time reading disappointing ARCs when I have books I’m genuinely looking forward to reading? My latest is a genre that I normally wouldn’t have picked up but the story intrigued me. Would it break my streak?
There are still plenty of people who see reading romance novels as a waste of time. I admit that it’s not my favourite genre but I can’t agree with this. After all, love, sex and relationships are all important parts of the human experience, which means romance is the perfect place to explore many aspects of human life. This is why I was interested in reading this book. It tells the story of Feyi, an artist who is trying to get back into the dating world 5 years after the death of her husband. A chance encounter at a party puts her on a path that brings both romance and professional acclaim. The only problem is that it also brings her face-to-face with a person she knows she can’t fall for but the only person she really wants.
I think my major problem with the romance genre is that you have to accept the idea that true love is the thing we should all be striving for. A character in a romance can be excused of terrible and selfish behaviour because they did so in the name of true love. The main character here is such a self-involved and selfish person but we’re meant to accept it because she falls in love. I don’t really get on with this idea. I’m not the kind of person who believes that a reader has to like a protagonist but I do believe that awful behaviour needs to be criticised. Here, Feyi never really thinks about anything but her own desire yet we are meant to celebrate her decision.
Now, I get that Feyi is clearly suffering from mental health issues due to the death of her husband and we’re meant to feel sympathy for her. Yet, I still don’t think that excuses a lot of her behaviour. I’m all for the “just do you” attitude but this narrative just didn’t work for me. It doesn’t help that the characters touch on the fact that her behaviour is wrong but dismiss it instantly. Love is the highest power so why worry about ethics? It’s also the kind of love that allows you to fall in love at first sight. There’s a distinct lack of chemistry within this book. At least, it doesn’t build gradually enough for me. It’s as if the book is too keen to get to the interesting stuff that it skips most of the development.
It’s not as if there isn’t anything to enjoy about the novel though. I think the writing is really lovely and it uses a lot of fantastic sensory language. The prose is rich and luscious, which is why I enjoyed the first part so much. It was once Feyi leaves New York that I started to switch off. I guess I was expecting a few ideas to be pushed further and given more attention. There are plenty of great ideas that are mentioned and then forgotten about. Like Feyi’s random confession that she thought she was in love with her best female friend. That’s just dropped in and instantly pushed aside in favour of a fairly standard romance plot.
If you like your romance novels to be direct and to the point then I can see this appealing. It has the type of dialogue that walks the line between romantic and cringe depending on where you sit. For me, it was all a bit much and made the second half of the novel a little tedious. It also brought about an abrupt and slightly nonsensical character change to justify everything that had happened. I guess this isn’t the way that I would have explored Feyi’s story but that doesn’t mean this is a terrible book. I enjoyed most of it and think the writing was mostly very good.