Firstly, I would like to point out that I have gone with a new look Shallowreader and I would love to know what you think. And secondly, I read Rachel Gibson’s What I love about you and I have lots and lots of thoughts about it. I have loved many a Rachel Gibson book and I have liked many too. She is one of my favourite romance authors so I was quite excited to se that she had a new book out. So let’s start with the blurb:
What I love about you
by Rachel Gibson
GIMMEE A B-R-E-A-K!
Ex high school cheerleader Natalie Cooper could once shake her pom-poms with the best of them. But she’s paid for all that popularity-her husband’s run off with what’s left of their money and a twenty-year-old bimbo named Tiffany. Leaving Natalie to manage a photo store (and having to see some pictures she, well, really shouldn’t!) and just trying to be a good mom.
GIMMEE A S-H-O-T
Then she comes toe-to-manly-chest with Blake Junger. Exiled to a remote cabin in Truly, Idaho, Blake wants nothing to do with anyone.Instead, he’s determined to struggle with his demons and win-all on his own. But he doesn’t count on a pint-sized five-year-old visitor-or on Natalie, the kid’s lusciously curved mother-to break down his barriers
GIMMEE Y-O-U-R H-E-A-R-T
So Blake (damaged military man) meets cute kid (Holly? I can’t remember and I can’t be bothered to look her name up or reach across to my bookshelf to check) and speaks to her in such an asshole way that straight away I knew that Gibson wanted him to be so awful that he needs to redeem himself both to the heroine and to the reader because that is the way that the hero trajectory goes in a contemporary romance. Natalie (mother of child with generic name – dammit if it was Vassiliki I would NOT have forgotten it within a day) considers him a creep because on top of swearing at the cute *ahem* kid he gives her a freeakin’ puppy that he desperately wants to offload (because that is what sentient adults do, right?) So the two adults end up co-sharing a puppy and there are sparks and there are quickies because when two people have their own “issues” (pronounced as iss-ooooos) to deal with they really don’t need to start a relationship. Blake is a self-proclaimed player (and likes his life that way) struggling with PTSD and alcoholism brought on by his service in the military and Natalie has this fraudster dickhead jailbird ex-husband who is about to come out of the slammer to meet his generic name daughter for the first time. But this is a romance, and though they don’t want a relationship somehow they end up in lurrrrve.
Sadly, What I love about you left me underwhelmed. Though the writing flowed and it was a seamless read the story lacked the emotional zing that I look for in a romance. Too much of the story focused on Natalie’s ex-husband where I would have liked for more attention to have been paid on the hero and heroine’s developing relationship. I really wanted Blake’s alcoholism and his PTSD to have been explored more deeply. I also felt that the hero and heroine spent an inordinate amount of time apart. They really didn’t talk much. There were few scenes where they were actually together and the rest of the time they were ruminating on their own about their need to keep away from each other (ZOMG way too much ruminating). I also felt that Blake and Natalie’s “love” was fuelled only through their physical connection, with each sex act having them fall deeper into love but I didn’t feel that their emotional connection was on par. Blake seemed completely unaffected by the power of lurve (and this is totally fine because in reality so few people actually do change due to falling in love – their only difference is that for at least a short while they get to preen that they have a captive audience of one that loves every word they say). Blake is rough and coarse at the beginning and he is rough and coarse at the end. The power of Natalie’s love does not make him overcome his alcoholism or his PTSD or his personality deficiency which is excellent because, in my opinion, that is not the way love works. Conversely, the power of Blake’s love does not change Natalie either. The two of them just find that they are the right people for each other – faults and all as they are faults that are not non-negotiable. They are faults that they can accept in each other. The ending and love declaration though was oddly abrupt (this is not the first time Gibson has ended a story too quickly) and it felt a bit like this:
Blake: Oi Nat – I lubs you
Natalie: Awesome. I lubs you too.
Generic name child: Yaaaaayyyy (oh wait – I can’t remember if the cute kid was in the closing scene).
Sadly, the ending left me unconvinced that these two had any spark or that they would make it forevs and evs.
The thing that perplexed me the most about this book was that there was an inordinate amount of poo and shit talk. Now, I am like the next 12 year old and laugh and snort at poo and fart jokes. And I really do love a fart in a romance. Sandra Antonelli (gratuitous namedropping of author/friend here) wrote about a fart romance on her blog (I may have had a bit of influence *ahem*) and BRILLIANTLY, [spoiler alert] she wrote a romance fart scene in her book Driving in Neutral . But this was the first romance I read with poo references. Now I am used to it in kids books like Captain Underpants or The story of the little mole who knew it was none of his business but I did not expect it in a romance. To be fair there is a child in this romance, so she cutely says a lot of “poopy this” and “poopy that”. Now there isn’t any “weird” shit happening (hehe! Did you see what I did there?) but there were more than the usual amount (ie zero) of “shit” mentions from the not so cutesy adults from “I shit bigger than you” (I kid you not) to “Shit or get off the pot” (which just confused me until I consulted the Urban Dictionary). This amused me immensely especially as it was Blake’s twin brother telling him that he had to make a decision with Natalie and not to keep her hanging *snort* (yes – I am being puerile here). In the end, the romance may have been a tad pedestrian however the inclusion of poo talk garnered the book an extra star bumping it up from two to three stars and saving it from being a stinker (hehehehe – I crack myself up).
I borrowed a copy of What I love about you from a public library in New South Wales.