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2.0 out of 5 starsRomance series normally delight me far more than standalones because there's nothing I ...
Reviewed in the United States 🇺🇸 on July 13, 2017
Romance series normally delight me far more than standalones because there's nothing I like more than revisiting the same beloved and familiar friends over the course of several books. (Yes, I'm lame enough to consider many fictional characters "friends"!) Sadly, reading Jill Shalvis' series actually makes me like each individual installment even less than I normally would. That's because the series format just highlights how incredibly contrived and repetitive her plots are, how flat and unoriginal her prose is, how often she recycles the same exact alleged humor, how annoyingly similar all of her sex scenes are and, most egregiously, just how generic and indistinguishable her characters are.
Nearly every single Shalvis heroine is haunted by a past that usually isn't even her fault and is dragged down by characterization that's about as shallow as a kiddie pool: into junk food, likes giggling about sex with her equally flat and juvenile friends, has a cute pet by her side, and...and...sorry, I've got nothing, because that's pretty much a comprehensive description of all of these heroines' personalities. (Though those pets ARE absolutely adorable, by the way---I can say without exaggeration that the animal characters nearly always have more personality than Shalvis's human ones and are far more enjoyable to read about!)
Yet these heroines can almost be considered layered, compelling and distinct characters compared to Shalvis' astoundingly identical, cookie cutter heroes. I get that there are only so many tropes and types out there, and someone who writes as many novels as Shalvis has is bound to create some similar characters along the way. But these heroes are all literally almost EXACTLY the same guy---and it's not even a guy I find interesting! They're all bland, stock alphas (Shalvis is very into the supposedly cool alpha type and routinely has other characters remarking in clunky dialogue about how very ALPHA these guys are just in case we made the mistake of thinking otherwise), they're all commitment phobic and wary of softer emotions (because, again...alpha! Or something), they all like cursing and sex and doing vaguely juvenile, eye rolling things in the name of being brave and 'macho', and I swear that they all have the exact same personality---or lack thereof.
So Willa and Keane (I literally just finished this last night and still had to look up this guy's name, which tells you all you need to know about how much of an impression he left!) are flat, embarrassingly immature and vaguely unlikable. As with nearly every Shalvis couple EVER, the "plot" of this book consists of them running in to each other and having the same conversations over and over, having sex, miscommunicating in contrived and frustrating ways, taking turns randomly and inconsonsistently deciding that they don't want to be in a relationship for reasons that make little sense before changing their minds 5-10 pages later anyway, and FINALLY, after a gazllion or so pages, confronting some past 'secret' that the reader has known about the entire time and which is never nearly as big a deal as the characters make it out to be. The foreplay/sex scenes aspire to be steamy but just feel vaguely cringe-inducing to me, especially because they always seem to substitute for any real love and connection between the H and h rather than reflecting it. There's a lot of cursing (which I'm not necessarily opposed to but feels somehow gratuitious and obnoxious in these books, like Shalvis is trying too hard to 'edgy'), friendships among these poorly defined characters feel forced and shallow and nearly always consist solely of trading juvenile sexual innuendo that even most middle school students would roll their eyes at, and, as with the vast maority of the other Shalvis books I've read, I'm never swayed that the characters feel anything more than purely hormonal lust. Love?! Please. I honestly wasn't even sold on these two LIKING each other or knowing each other beyond what each was like in bed, let alone feeling a deep emotional connection and genuine love.
I'm really not nearly as picky and exacting as this review might make it sound :) When it comes to romance novels, I can happily overlook the frequently lackluster plotting, the excessive length (seriously, WHY are so many of these 400 pages these days?!), and the repetitive, excessively explicit sex scenes that ironically make it all LESS sexy in my admittedly unpopular opinion. As long as I love the characters, dialogue and prose, and just generally get that joyful, "makes me believe in love and feel happy to be alive!" feeling that the best and even not quite best romance novels provide, I'm a very satisfied reader. The problem is that these books just don't give me any of that. The characters are pitifully flat and one dimensional at best and downright unlikable at worst, the 'humor' feels really forced, unfunny and juvenile, the book is poorly written and in dire need of editing, the plot is...nonexistent, and all of her characters and storylines are becoming totally indistinguishable.
I've finally given up on learning to love Jill Shalvis books like nearly everyone else does, but hopefully if a few other people out there share my complaints about this series, this review will at least let them know they're not alone and save them a few bucks :)