Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Annie Darling - Crazy in Love at the Lonely Hearts Bookshop

You can go crazy searching for the one…
Tattooed, pink-haired, Bettie Page lookalike Nina is addicted to bad boys. Like Heathcliff and Cathy, Nina firmly believes that true love only takes one form: wild, mad love, full of passion and fire and tempestuous arguments, and she won’t settle for anything less.
But years of swiping right has uncovered nothing but losers and flings, and Nina is no closer to finding her One True Love than she ever was. And when a man from her past walks into the shop Nina knows she has nothing to fear. The geekiest boy in her school has become a boring business analyst who's welded to his iPad and with his navy blue suits and ginger hair, Noah has no chance of making her heart go pitter patter.
Which just shows how little Nina knows about bad boys, business analysts and her heart…

Comment: I was given this book on my birthday last month. The person who gave it to me didn't realize this was book #3 in the Lonely Hearts Bookshop series and although I haven't read the first two, I don't feel as I'm missing out when it comes to follow the main ideas. 

In this story we meet Nina, a rebel looking woman who works in a bookshop dedicated to romance. Since this is book #3, Nina's best friends from the shop, Posy and Verity have had their stories and are now in bliss over their love life, which leaves Nina feeling a little alone but she doesn't want to compromise and wants to find a bad boy like Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, her favorite novel, someone who is strong and intense and who makes her feel all the passion. This means she finds too many disappointments and isn't too lucky on finding the one as bad boys tend to be a bit fickle when it comes to commitment.

The bookshop has gone through some changes and Posy's new husband had the connections to ask a friend, Noah, to do some analysis and let them know their strengths and weaknesses so they can all improve. After a while, Nina realizes Noah is the bullied boy from her school and her older brother was one of his tormentors so she decides to keep quiet.However, as they spend time together because of the bookshop, the more things in common they find, despite Noah having all the traits of a good boy. Will Nina be able to let go of pre conceived ideas and just love Noah for who he is? How will he react when he discovers she is the sister of the boy who caused him so much pain?

This book has many positive details which, in theory, would have made it a great read. It wasn't bad, let me start by saying that, but when I put all the elements together they don't feel as well mixed as they could and the result, despite being OK, wasn't as amazing as I would want. Of course, this is my opinion so I'm certain it works wonderfully for others.

I'd say my favorite thing was how much talk of books there was. It's not over the top, and the fact the main heroine loves Wuthering Heights means that is the most mentioned book, but overall, the setting being in a bookshop, it was quite good that there was some book talk. Another positive thing for me was how the relationship between the main female characters was portrayed. They were friends, they were aware of each other's likes and dislikes but throughout the plot, I liked how interacted, even when Nina (being the protagonist) was at her lowest point.

The story is clearly based on the trope of opposites attract. Nina and Noah are very different, they have similar backgrounds but totally opposed visions of themselves, they went though different experiences and have different personalities. They should not match but we all know a good writer can make it happen and in a believable way too. When they first meet, Nina is wary of Noah and what his presence might mean for her job for she feels he's there to pass judgment on whether she is a good employee. I felt this made sense but then, as the plot progressed, it started to fell less appealing to me.

I suppose what didn't convince me was how their falling in love was displayed. I just felt it wasn't as well done, I missed some more chemistry, some more "zest" between them to make it believable they were, indeed, falling in love. Sure, I can read between the lines, but there was still some more obvious scenes missing for it to be great, in my opinion. They do share things, they go on dates, Noah surprises Nina quite well at some point, we do see them interact.. but we also only have Nina's POV (third person narrator) so Noah always feels a little... understated, and I miss some more awareness from him.

Nina's personality and personal journey are the big elements in this book. I guess I should not be as unmotivated with how the romance progresses for instance, for this is more about Nina as a person and not as much as the sum of the elements of the book. Therefore, Nina had to be this well fleshed out character, to bring the story to life, but I felt the way the author wrote about her was a little...meh. 

She has had an epiphany at some point of her life and she changed her behavior, her looks, her could say she rebelled from the same things girls with her background, with her demanding mother, with her lack of opportunities would have to deal with. She went from being a sheep (her words) into this bright woman with colored hair and a taste for adventure and bad boys. I can understand and accept this change, the whole makeover, and I do feel the theme has a lot to be explored, however, when Nina talks about these things with Noah or with others, I don't have the same sense of urgency, the same need she should have felt in order to act on it. Her explanations feel a little superficial, even if they are quite worthy. I suppose I can say I wish the author had addressed this in a different way, perhaps with more intensity or going at it in a different angle.

As for how the story ended, there was a certain misunderstanding waiting to happen that finally happened and I can't help but thinking it was also not very well done. The possible conflict and how it affected the main characters was developed in a very predictable way and didn't have any special element to make it special. In the very end, as one could expect from a romance novel, Nina and Noah decide to give it a go at a relationship but I was not fully convinced they matched enough to make it last. Ok, I can guess it will, since this is "romanceland" but it wasn't believable to me anyway.

All things considered, this was a good enough read, there were cute things but the overall feel is a little disjointed to me, many things that were pout together but didn't fully mesh in all levels.

Grade: 6/10

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