Book Review: This Love by Lea Darragh
I sooo wanted to love this book. Or I would have been happy with liking this book. But…
It started out so well. This is a romance book with conflict between the leads. Real conflict. Not that ‘thrown in from the doorway because Writing 101 said you must have a conflict’ conflict. A few chapters in and I was loving This Love. I was excited as to how this conflict was going to play out, and how the author and characters were going to reach a resolution.
Our heroine, Emerson, is living in a small Victorian coastal town, designing a restaurant for her [new] best friend, Aubrey. Aubrey’s fiance hires one of his oldest friends, Jack, to be the restaurant’s head chef. Obviously, as these things go, Emerson and Jack find themselves attracted to each other. The only problem? Well, you see around 18 months ago Jack was found to be at fault in a car accident which killed Emerson’s then-finance, Ethan. See, this is a conflicted storyline with heavy themes of forgiveness. This had so much potential…
So, I was cruising along, quite happily reading it, checking what else the author had read to add those books to my TBR, anticipating it would be a 5/5 review. And then…
(Minor spoilers from here on. I also feel like I need to apologise in advance for the rest of the review. Sorry.)
The book changes around the 50% mark. Instead of the deep, thoughtful writing that introduced the characters and the plot, I got… M rated fanfiction. Now, this is where I must point out that I love fanfiction. I read fanfiction. Lots of it. Therefore, I know it when I see it, and I would wager my left leg that Lea Darragh has read (and written) lots of it at some stage.
Let me stress again, I love fanfiction, and there’s nothing wrong with reading or writing it per se. After all, 90% of the published works out there are basically fanfic (from Jane Eyre to Bridget Jones’s Diary to 50 Shades of Grey, the list is extensive).
Only fanfic follows a strict formula that works for the fanfiction format but has failed dismally in this case as it wasn’t altered when publishing it as a full length novel.
Unfortunately, the second half of the book is choppy and disjointed, as if it was posted like a fanfic (a chapter a week or something similar — for those unfamiliar think of an old serial or a newspaper/magazine episodic story).
The second half of the book was less deep thoughts about the conflict and more sex. The sex scenes weren’t completely offensive or awful, however, again the fanfic cliches made it difficult for me to appreciate them. There were the cliched settings like the ocean (no sharks there at night then?) and the shower and the forced-to-stay-in-a-cottage-because-of-a-storm. There were even fanfiction cliche terms and descriptions of sex.
Rightly or wrongly, usually once a fanfic writer has added sex to their story, they continue to make their characters be intimate in each chapter onwards. It’s what the reader expects and most like to make their readers happy. This Love has lots of sex in the second half of the book.
A lot of fanfic has the characters working out their issues during sex. In this case, we suddenly get not only the original conflict of Jack’s identity, but at around the 75% mark the writer dropped a ‘bombshell’ of Emerson having body image issues. Such a fanfic cliche. Sorry.
My advice here would have been to stick with the original conflict. It was enough. I would also have liked a bit more of an explanation regarding its (that is, the original conflict of Jack being the one who killed Ethan) resolution. Well, maybe not Emerson’s resolution, that’s pretty obvious from the first moment she has sex with Jack, but Ethan’s family’s resolution.
We do get quite a few scenes of Ethan’s brother, Adam, but no real resolution there even.
Adam, I must add, was quite disturbing at times. And yet Emerson didn’t seem to be particularly scared of or offended by him. I’d have liked some sort of acknowledgement from one of the characters in the book at least that Adam was behaving inappropriately and creepily. I would not have liked to have been alone with him. *shudder* (Will I suggest that these scenes with Adam showed how Emerson became the fanfic cliche of a Mary Sue? No, best not.)
The final thing that tipped me over into fanfic territory was the epilogue. This switches to Jack’s point of view (the rest of the book is written in Emerson’s first person point of view) and we get to hear about the perfection of Emerson’s lush breasts etc. Nothing could scream fanfic more than that, people.
4 out of 5 stars for the first half of the book. If you don’t read fanfic and see the comparison like I did, you might stick with the 4 out of 5 score. But I can only give the second half of the book 1 out of 5. Somehow I’m ending up with 2 out of 5 from that. *sad face*