I feel badly about the review I’m about to write, because it betrays a cynicism I like to squash when possible, but I feel like this book was published (and picked by Book of the Month) because publishers knew it would sell, and not because it was anything special. This is similar to the way that Hallmark Christmas movies are cheaply made, poorly written, and at best acted with mediocrity, but scratch a specific itch in a specific type of person that watches them anyway. I think maybe when I was younger I was well able to accept mediocrity and even enjoy it, but I just can’t anymore. This book could have been so much better.
So, quick prep, this book follows identical twins Cass and Charlie as they swap lives for the first time in forever, because an incident involving a concussion leaves TV reality show cooking judge/chef Charlie without a sense of taste or smell, which will put her career in jeopardy.
This premise was cute, and I really enjoyed certain aspects of the world the two authors created (Maggie Knox is a pseudonym for a new writing duo, Karma Brown and Marissa Shipley) but I also think the result, while not bad, betrays a lack of cleverness and deep emotion that I prefer in my romances. I also think it’s obvious that it’s both authors first attempt at writing romance (as is noted at the end of the book) because they deploy a whole bunch of tropes in ways that skilled and seasoned (or even new authors who are just very good!) romance writers know how to work more authentically and organically into their stories. This book was rife with coincidences, obviously constructed plot set-ups to move the story where the authors wanted (like one character conveniently losing her cellphone for days and not freaking the fuck out like anyone else would do, or that same character conveniently breaking up with her sister’s boyfriend for her while on a livestream she forgot to turn off).
And because there are two romances in here, not one, there isn’t really room for emotional depth or intimacy. Both sisters meet handsome men and fall for them in quick fashion in ways that left me unsatisfied because it was just so shallow. Don’t get me started on some of this dialogue, or the weird way the authors infodump constantly to let us know what’s going on. I’ve never seen so much infodumping in a romance.
The one part of the book that I thought was actively stupid was that this whole thing kicks off with Charlie getting a concussion on the set of her reality show, and no one on the show seems to care. I’m sorry, in reality, the show would be shitting its pants making sure their asses were fully covered in terms of liability, both so that Charlie wouldn’t sue them but also because recasting her would lose them a lot of money. I also do not believe for one second that someone as smart as Charlie and competent as she is supposed to be would actively ignore TBI symptoms, and not even tell her fucking doctor that she’d lost her sense of smell and taste! That is important information!!!! The whole situation smacked of a lack of research on the authors’ parts, because I’ve had friends who’ve had concussions, and in some cases the recovery is long, and the symptoms obvious and life-changing.
I’m being really harsh on this book, but it’s just hit me in that spot where it’s not bad or terrible or anything, but it’s also not good, and could have easily been made so much better with just a little thought and effort, and something about that drives me absolutely up the wall.
Now, please excuse me while I try to finish Harrow the Ninth by the end of the year, a book which is the exact opposite of this one in every way.
[2.5 stars, rounding up because it wasn’t terrible]