Authentically, Dull

Author: Pepper Basham

Izzy Edgewood is your stereotypical representation of a nerd: she never wears heels, likes to read all the time, and lives to watch and quote Lord of the Rings. She’s hopeless and helpless, and always picks the wrong type of man for herself, until her domineering cousin takes romance by the horns and creates Izzy an online dating profile. Despite herself, Izzy plays with the profile a bit until bammmm, a magical, book loving man who is socially awkward but extremely handsome, owns his own bookstore, has a Scottish brogue, and also knows the Lord of the Rings by heart enters the picture. But there are, of course, difficulties, misunderstandings, and miscommunications galore before the sappily-ever-after.

I’m not a romance fan, mostly because the genre is susceptible to such flagrant disregarding of reality and such overused plot devices: the critical miscommunication, the awkward couple, the perfect storm of intrigue, and the sudden, glorious make-up where all is revealed. Deus ex machina, much? But . . this was recommended by my Christian fiction Goodreads group, and I’ve been bad and skipping the selections for a while (Christian fiction writes do realize that there are genres other than romance, right??). And so, it wasn’t long before I was into this book and HATING it.

Frist, Izzy does not have her own picture on her dating profile. She has a picture of an actress from Lord of the Rings. I’m serious. Who does this? I did online dating for years before I met my husband (also through online dating), and I am here to tell you THAT IS NOT HOW IT IS DONE. Despite all the weird things I saw, everyone seemed to manage the basics of using their own names and pictures. Let’s be honest here, what would you think of a site about dating where everyone used pictures from their favorite movies?? Fine y’all. I’m Milla Jovovich now.

But future-love-interest finds this picture choice charming and brave. The man needs help. Possibly a brain scan of some kind.

Then there is misunderstanding number 1, where Izzy conveniently thinks this correspondent is her cousin and not a real man, and so she is totally, 100% her real non-awkward “authentic” self. It’s magic. He likes her, he proves he’s not the cousin, and a long-distance friendship starts. She lives in the Southern USA, and he lives in Scotland. Could it ever work?

But of course, it must work, because he does Yoda impressions during their Skype calls (I’m not kidding, I wish I was). Izzy is smitten. Readers are revolted. The sap thickens.

But wait! Another misunderstanding! Izzy cannot fly. She is AFRAID. There is PAST TRAUMA. Can she overcome these fears for a vacay to Scotland and a chance at true love? Can she up stakes and move away!

Image by Radowan Tanvir from Pixabay

Of course she can, it’s a romance book, and she’ll leave her comfort zone after a lot of complaints and endless back and forth letters to her male cousin (who is totally interested in her romance life – yeah, so realistic) and her other friend. I forgot to mention this is almost 100% an epistolary novel (the only cool thing about it), until the end when the author conveniently ditches this mode of telling to give us the dramatic showdown.

Finally, Izzy takes the leap . . . but wait, more trauma!! A misunderstanding! Who would have expected it! Ensue tears and betrayal (because if you are in a romance novel, never, ever actually just ASK the other person A QUESTION and have AN ADULT CONVERSATION.) Then, run off and take an expensive flight back home. Crank the angst.

But then . . . forget said trauma. It’s reversal time. It’s regret time. Did Izzy make a mistake? Should she have the conversation now? No, no. Let’s not do something sensible. Let’s go for a dramatic flight back (where does she get the money for this sudden jet-setting?) and just apologize without addressing her totally legitimate albeit overblown concerns. Also, while we do that, let’s throw away the entire structure of the book and switch from first person letters to third person recitation of events. Ugh.

In the end, I honestly hated this book so much. It’s as though someone set out to write a deliberately stereotypical romance and make it as dumb as possible. This is a disaster. Just . . . . no. Do not read, even if you are a lover of romance. Pick something more realistic, something that tries, and something that has a real relationship instead of an awkward friendship that immediately becomes too serious and has zero chemistry. Not recommended.

– Frances Carden

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Frances Carden
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