This Week, I Read… (2022 #3)

#8 – Act Your Age, Eve Brown, by Talia Hibbert

  • Reading the World Mini Challenge: 2/12
  • Rating: 4/5 stars

So close to being as perfect a rom-com as its predecessor, but it fell a little short for me in some ways.

Eve was an amazing character. I loved the tension between her being unapologetically herself in demeanor and appearance, and her internal struggles about her behavior, her place in society, her status as the family disappointment.

Jacob has also, in some ways, has said “fuck it, I do I want” to society; he runs his B&B with hard-won professionalism but in his personal life, he does what makes him feel good, right down to building himself nests out of pillows and blankets for comfort–not something I expect to see my romance heroes do, or admit to, but he knows himself and isn’t ashamed of how he is.

Obviously they’re going to hate each other at first but end up perfect for each other. That’s what Hibbert does with her romances (at least this series.)

What I felt was lacking was more about Jacob in general, and specifically I would have liked to see his Aunt Lucy have a larger role, as she’s functionally his mother, and his only real family. Since we have the previous two books’ worth of knowledge about Eve’s family to build on, Jacob’s inner circle feels woefully thin by comparison; we get what feels like the right amount of time with his best friend Montrose and a little bit with his more distant friends, Montrose’s twin sisters. (The scene where they show up and chivy Eve off for a night of instant best-friendship was charming and honestly a little envy-provoking. I could use people in my life like that, right now.) But Aunt Lucy is mentioned a few times but only gets two incredibly brief scenes where she’s actually present, and I wanted more.

Another thing that disappointed me slightly was the climactic fight, because no matter how realistic an expression of the couple’s issues it was, it still relied heavily on miscommunication to make the conflict work, and I’ve never been a huge fan of that. If it had been about the different ways they communicate because they’re both on the autism spectrum, I would have been more forgiving about it; but it really just boils down to Jacob being overly defensive and obstinately refusing to listen to Eve, which I’ve seen plenty of in romances with neurotypical characters and doesn’t impress me.

The final issue I had was that the romance felt rushed, but that speed actually wasn’t tied to Eve’s impending departure from her job, it was just that they were really horny for each other and jumped in with both feet. That, I get, but they both started thinking the L word really quickly, and given their incredibly rocky beginning (how were there not more consequences for Eve injuring Jacob?) this pace required a fairly massive suspension of disbelief.

#9 – The Emperor’s Blades, by Brian Staveley

  • Rating: 1/5 stars

DNF @ 12%. I see, skimming other reviews, I stopped short of meeting all three children of the dead emperor, but I doubt I’m missing much.

I found this to have a fairly smooth and readable style, but not to be anything I felt was worth reading about.

I’m simply not interested in a story that has devoted so much world-building time to pain. Kaden is physically abused, supposedly in the name of teaching him their ways, by the order of monks who raised and sheltered him. The order of elite fighters that Valyn belongs to is apparently so violent in its training that many cadets don’t make it to their Trial, plus the cadets like to beat each other up on top of that. As I didn’t get to the female protagonist, the Emperor’s daughter, I’ve been spared whatever horrible and painful upbringing and daily life she’s got, but I’m sure it’s awful, based on her brother’s lives.

I get that having the protagonists suffer is an important way to demonstrate conflict, but on a plot level “suffering” should mean the much broader sense of them struggling or failing to achieve their goals, or losing something important to them. It doesn’t mean that the characters have to be introduced as victims of abuse, especially when the author doesn’t seem to view them that way (even in my limited reading so far.) They’re clearly supposed to be badasses tempered by their harsh environment, or whatever, but all I see is misery, and I don’t want to keep reading about it.

Also, though I have far fewer examples and won’t go into depth because other reviewers have done it better, there’s some rampant misogyny and fatphobia already on display, even this early. Bored with it, moving on.

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