Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Sara Dobie Bauer - Abstract love

Sam never expected to move back to Cleveland.
Donovan never expected to be attracted to a man.
Well, shit happens.
After high school, Sam Shelby moved to New York. Eight years later, he returns to Cleveland and lands a job at the best ad firm in town. It would be the perfect gig, if his boss weren’t such an ass.
After his wife leaves, Donovan Cooper questions everything. The arrival of a young, arrogant, gifted graphic designer at Donovan’s firm is the last straw.
Tempers flare over office gossip, and following a nasty argument and scathing kiss, Donovan flails away from heterosexuality while Sam struggles to keep his “no relationship” rule intact.
Despite ugly socks, fiery fights, and their best intentions to not fall in love, these bullheaded coworkers can’t deny their chemistry. Donovan seeks happiness while Sam seeks success, but is there room for more?

Comment: I got interested in this book because it was said that it would contain an enemies to lovers tropes and had age gap but not too much. I was quite curious - as always! - to see how the author would treat these tropes/features and turn them into a good romance.

In this book we meet Sam Shelby, a 20 something bright graphic designer who has returned to Cleveland from NY for reasons and is now working for a good firm, where Donovan Cooper is the one in charge. The two don't get along, mostly because it seems their personalities don't mesh: Donovan is recently divorced and bitter and Sam is unapologetic loud and confident in his value. At first, it felt as if they would never get along, but the more they clash, more certain thoughts get in their way, as well as feelings. But will a man who never thought of other man that way be able to let go of his low moment and embrace happiness again? And will Sam deal with why he returned to a place he wasn't happy as a child and teenager?

It is obvious by my grade that I didn't like this book. I think the idea is great and exciting to read about, but the characters just ruined the experience for me. I often comment on the execution of a story, that sometimes it's not the best - in my opinion - for certain ideas or premises, but here I can't fault the writing, nothing about it felt out of tune, which makes me assume other books by the author would feel much more appealing to me.

The writing worked, yes, but the characters didn't. The less than half I've read showed me two protagonists who were polar opposites in personality and attitude but the enemies to lovers trope didn't convince me because I felt it was more a matter of them not knowing each other and clashing personalities than real animosity or reasons to be enemies. The time it took for them to go from the enemies stage to the lovers one wasn't that big and I found this jarring and too quick, where was the development of each one and why were acting so unconvincingly?

Then, their personalities just... argh. Sam, in particular is loud and proud, that's fine, although he does tend to have a more "twink" behavior which I tend to dislike in books, and he used his bisexual self identity to justify sleeping around. I just did not warm up to him, even though it was obvious he had some sort of childhood or teenage trauma for being gay or bi and didn't get along with his family anymore. I think this would have been developed to enhance his evolution as a character but... no real interest for me, to be fair.

Donovan was more likable but he is facing quite a stressful time, by divorcing. I liked that he was a repressed artist and happiness could come from it but he was also depressed and bitter and I found his sudden desire to be with Sam to be too unlikely for his mind frame at this time. Not that he can't be bi as well, but I wasn't convinced. Since neither guy, for almost half of the book, seemed to have any kind of mental or emotional evolution or development and I was annoyed at Sam's quirks, I stopped reading.

So I've read around 40% before giving up and skipping to the end, just to see at what point the main characters were and if some kind of HEA was happening. I think I got the idea of what happened, plus I've read the reviews of other readers and I think I have a pretty good idea of how things went, and this is enough to satisfy my curiosity or to lay down that feeling of having "unfinished business" which sometimes happens when a book is left unfinished.

Therefore, I might try something else by the author one day but to be fair, right now, it isn't a priority at all.
Grade:1/10 DNF

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