ALC was provided by Libro.fm and Sourcebooks Casablanca in exchange for an honest review.
This review is being published after the release date (July 7th, 2020)
Content/Trigger Warnings: Homophobia, minor scenes of heterosexism, racist remarks, mentions of cancer, mentions of drug and alcohol abuse, mild depictions and mention of eating disorder, mentions and depictions of emotional abuse (parent to child)
Let me say that I truly wanted to love this book. I really wanted to fall in love with these characters, get caught up in the story line, and gush about it with all of you, but this book wasn’t for me. Even though I gave this book the rating I did, this isn’t a bad book. There are many elements in this book that I know many readers will love. This just wasn’t it the right book for me and that’s okay. I still liked some elements and I hope to share those all with you.
Luc O’Donnell is looking for a fake boyfriend. One that’s perfect and won’t make Luc stand out in a negative light. You see, Luc O’Donnell is famous, reluctantly famous from both of his parents being rock stars, once upon a time ago. After twenty years, Luc is back in the public eye and after one bad photo, it seems like his life is about to fall apart. Thus, Luc starts a fake relationship with Oliver Blackwood. He’s absolutely perfect in Luc’s eyes, too perfect, but just perfect enough for Luc to fall in love with.
I really loved some of the moments that Luc and Oliver shared. Some of them were really sweet, really touching, and I liked the way they seem to balance each other out. Luc is fully disorganized, works for a charity for dung beetles, and not the best in social situations. Oliver is the absolute opposite; he’s serious, a barrister, vegetarian, and thoroughly organized. Complete opposites of each other that somehow balance each other out very well.
“I don’t want fine. Fine isn’t enough. Isn’t not about the open fire or whatever other clichés you can conjure up, but yes, I want a connection. I want you to care as much as I care. I want you to need it and want it and mean it. I want it to matter.”
I also really liked the family dynamic for Luc. You know I couldn’t have this review without talking about the family dynamic. Luc has spent his entire life raised by his mother since his mother and father split from one another. Luc and his mother are very protective of one another. There are a couple moments shared with Luc and Oliver or Luc’s mother and his father, Luc immediately becomes protective of his mother and runs defense to prevent his mother from getting hurt. I loved it so much. I love seeing family dynamics where that love and loyalty is fierce, an undeniable powerful form of love.
Despite these fantastic elements, it wasn’t enough to distract me from the issues I had with this book. The first thing that really struck me from the moment I started reading this book was how much I really disliked Luc’s character. The majority of this book is spent with Luc being really terrible to his friends, overwhelming hateful to his estranged father (which I understand, but it was to the point where it was impossible to focus on the story line when that hatred would be shoved into your face in the chapter), and there’s even a few moments when Luc and Oliver are together where Luc is really terrible and offensive. I just didn’t like his character at all. Nothing in this book made me want to sympathize with him or feel very connected to him. I don’t mind a flawed or broken character, but the fact he only had a few moments where he realized he messed up or the fact that it took 75 percent of this book before Luc started having a turn around, I just wasn’t here for it.
Another issue I had with this book was the whole cycled loop of this hot and cold relationship. Luc and Oliver have this constant break up, get back together dynamic and it was the most annoying element. Now, I’m a full believer that two broken people can heal each other. However, there was a huge lacking of communication, a big lack of honesty, and the constant on and off with their “fake relationship” made it hard to believe it was even a fake relationship. Even though their personalities balanced each other out, it was hard to believe in the relationship between them because Oliver and Luc were so up and down. You could listen to Katy Perry’s Hot n Cold while reading this book and it would fit perfectly. While on the topic of the relationship, I really didn’t enjoy how Luc’s best friend kept trying to force them together. It felt very unnatural and near the end it made me feel a bit uncomfortable.
My biggest issue with this book is with one particular scene that’s about 80-90 percent through the book. Oliver and Luc end up going to some lunch to celebrate Oliver’s parents’ anniversary. I’ll be honest, I completely disliked this entire scene. In this one particular scene, there’s a jab at couples who are in situations where they’re being pressured to have children. This rubbed me the wrong way and the apology was far too short to my liking. Then during the toast there’s a sexist remark toward Oliver’s mother from his father. It was never challenge, none of the characters tried to say anything in her defense, I haven’t seen anyone talk about how Oliver’s mother could be “replaced” in their reviews. I had to pause and relisten to the entire passage to make sure I heard it right. Then, the icing on this scene, was the constant homophobic remarks. It’s not challenged immediately, in fact, you have to read halfway through the scene before Luc tries to challenge the statements, but ultimately everything gets brushed off and excused. If we had been exposed to Oliver’s parents sooner, I feel like (as the reader) you would be able to expect them doing something like this. However, that wasn’t the case and it came out so far from left field that when it happened, I was shocked. And homophobia shouldn’t be used for shock value when it’s a serious issue.
“The conversation hadn’t so much died on us as been taken out back and shot in the head. And I knew I should be playing paramedic but I couldn’t quite bring myself to or work out how.”
With all of this being said, I feel like this book would have benefited from Oliver’s perspective. This entire book is told from the perspective of Luc and with that perspective we suffer details because we’re never exposed to Oliver’s perspective. If I’m being honest, being inside Luc’s perspective was draining some of the time and I feel like Oliver’s perspective would have helped add a little more stability to the story as a whole.
Overall, I just didn’t enjoy my experience with this book. It feels like I read a completely different story compared to everyone else. I truly wish I could have experienced the story everyone else has been enjoying, talking and raving about, but maybe I’m too much of a critical reader for this book. However, this isn’t me telling you not to pick it up. Even though my reading experience was bad, I still want to encourage others to pick this book up if it interests you, and make your own conclusions.
The quotes above were taken from an ARC and are subject to change upon publication.