Review: The Happy Ever After Playlist by Abby Jimenez
This was a bad, bad, bad book. Abby Jimenez should immediately quit her job as a writer and never write another book. She's awful.
I have said it before and I'll say it again, I do not hold kitschy romance books to the same standards that I do my other fiction. In my view, the whole reason I read kitschy romance novels is because I want nonsensical fantasy escapism - I don't want to be confronted with the dramas, the questions, the deep philosophizing about real life that I would get in my other books (for example, the books I wouldn't be embarrassed to be seen reading on the subway, or in the office kitchen. Remember subways and office kitchens? I don't.) It's also why I read fantasy - in fantasy, all the questions deal in absolutes; there is obvious good and obvious evil, and all the shades of grey and nuance that you have to navigate and reckon with in real life are wiped away in the face of the one over-arching doom for which the hero must sacrifice all but his most resolute principles to stop. In romance novels, I want to live a life where everything is sublimated into the main relationship; where there are no questions to answer or confront outside of the relationship; where literally the entire climax (get it? GET IT????) relies on whether or not the sex is going to be any good. Also, I like getting turned on by the hanky-panky in my romance novels. I will forgive bad writing, bad characterization, bad dialogue, and bad plot in the name of some hot book sex.
Reader, this kitschy romance had nothing. It had one sex scene in an almost 400-page book, and the sex was awful. It was not hot book sex. I texted my guy I AM NOT AROUSED in all caps, and he responded with "If it's that bad of a book just stop reading it" (I'm slightly concerned by the fact that he immediately knows exactly what I mean in all situations - have I lost my ability to be mysterious and spontaneous? Did I ever have that ability? Discuss). Have I mentioned how bad the sex was? The author used a helicopter metaphor to describe the penis. Also, the main female character climaxed literally three seconds after the main male character put his penis in her. I know I've already said that I expect my kitschy romances to be escapist fantasy, and the idea of climaxing seconds into penetrative sex is pure fantasy, but come on. THAT IS NOT HOW SEX WORKS, ABBY JIMENEZ. JUST BECAUSE YOU HAVE FAKED EVERY ORGASM YOU HAVE EVER HAD DOESN'T MEAN WE ALL GET OFF ON THAT. LIFE IS TOO SHORT TO REWARD BAD SEX. And, just for good measure, she throws in a judgey "we're not having babies until we're married!" thirty pages from the end which just made me cringe.
Right, so having now established that the sex is awful and therefore nothing in this book is forgivable, let's examine how bad it actually was.
First off: terrible plot. Terrible. The story is supposed to follow a young woman who's still grieving after her fiancé's death two years ago, and a young up-and-coming musician who's career is just about to take off. Sloan, the girl, finds Jason, the guy's, dog by accident one day, they exchange a few flirty texts and one phone call, and then bam! They're in love! They see each other in the Starbucks a few weeks later, and lo and behold! What a coincidence! They're both gorgeous and immediately want to bang! But oh nooooooo, there are so many problems - she's still grieving; he's about to become a famous rock star and therefore has no time for a relationship! Oh no! HOWEVER WILL THEY COPE! Well, worry not: our author has crafted plenty of stupid, nonsensical, entirely unbelievable and ridiculous reasons why this couple has so many obstacles to overcome. The first? Sloan is still grieving. But all it takes is two kisses from Jason and voila, it's a miracle - all her grief is cured and she's ready to move on. Now, I don't in any capacity want to minimize how complicated and difficult grief is to manage and overcome. But the fact that Sloan gets over her depression and her grief over her fiancé literally thirty seconds after Jason starts flirting with her made no fucking sense, and undermined the entire credibility of their relationship. Also, Sloan's friends (who are so bland and boring and honestly were not written to have any personality I have not bothered retaining their names, so I will just refer to them as Thing 1 and Thing 2) keep giving her the advice of "he wouldn't want you to still be sad! He would want you to move on! Fuck him to get all the grief out of your system!" instead of, I don't know - suggesting she go see a fucking therapist? Would have been a much healthier option (especially because Jason is just the absolute fucking worst, which we will get to soon). Also, just so we're clear, Mr. Guy-Who-Told-Me-To-Start-This-Blog-and-Now-Doesn't-Read-It: if I tragically die, I do not want you to move on. I want you to grieve for me forever. Otherwise, my ghost will be massively offended and will haunt you and make sure you never enjoy sex again. Right, anyway. Jimenez also invents a massive conspiracy in the music industry to try and force the two main characters apart, throws a bunch of hideously traumatic stalking and harassment towards the main character's way and then just doesn't mention it ever again after the two paragraphs that they get brought up in; and jumps around in time to speed through all the potential speedbumps of the relationship. Also, I'm sorry - I know kitschy romances aren't supposed to be believable, but nothing in this story made sense, nothing was properly explained, the ups and downs that were supposed to invest us in the relationship never were properly explored so there was no momentum and no stakes, and the suspension of disbelief required to properly invest in the story and not constantly be distracted by how ridiculous it was was just too unattainably high. Terrible plot.
Right, now onto how terrible the characters are. The female characters are all interchangeable and have no defining character traits. And the main male character, Jason, is an actual fucking fucktard. He's manipulative, he's dismissive, he's paternalistic as all fucking hell - I can't basically describe him any better than saying he's a watered-down version of Edward Cullen from the Twilight series. He makes decisions for Sloan without ever bothering to take her opinions or desires into account, including deciding when she should be on tour with him and when she should go spend two months with his parents; insisting that he pay her mortgage so she can go on tour with him; sending his manager to keep tabs on her after they break up (but it's so he can keep an eye on her and make sure she's safe, so it's okay); insisting that he protect her and keep her safe even as she insists that's not the relationship she wants; throwing a hissy hit when she tells him she doesn't want kids right away; calling her out and monologuing to her in front of a huge crowd at one of his concerts with no indication from her whether or not she would find that acceptable; letting himself into her house when he hasn't been explicitly invited; repeatedly calling his ex-girlfriend crazy when his ex is suffering from drug and alcohol addiction and very obviously needs professional help; and, the absolute kicker, continuously withholding relevant and pertinent information from her in the guise of 'protecting' and 'sparing' her and then insisting she's overreacting when she, quite rightly, says she's upset about that. He makes decisions for her and for her career without consulting her wishes, insists that they wait for each other while he's on tour even though she tells him multiple times that that's not what she wants, keeps tabs on her. He's awful. He's whiny and entitled and indecisive and can't pick a fucking lane and also is probably really fucking bad at sex, and we're supposed to like this guy for no other reason than he's a successful musician. Look, we've all fantasized about a musician - Harry Styles where you at - but he's got no redeeming qualities, nothing that makes him attractive beyond the fact that we've been told we're meant to fancy him. And Abby Jimenez repeatedly introduces defining personality and character traits for the characters that she then completely abandons within fifty pages, so it's also just really lazy, bad character development and writing and the fact that the main characters are so boring (Sloan) and so awful (Jason) that I'm not willing to cut her any slack. Another negative check.
And this was just such bad writing. The dialogue was awful. The pacing and the plotting was all over the place and made no fucking sense. The characters were poorly developed, and made massively inconsistent choices, and nothing had any consequences to the point where nothing that I was reading felt important. The ending was so cheesy I actually gagged, and was especially infuriating because nobody had to work for anything - and the guy was such an absolute asshole and still ended up with everything he ever wanted? That's not what I want from my escapist fantasy, Abby! Plus, again - only one sex scene. And a bad one at that.
There is nothing redeemable about this book. It's bad from start to finish. Gooreads wouldn't let me give it less than 1 star, but I'm giving it -5 (it's my blog and I do what I want). I sincerely hope this author discovers something that she's good at it, because God help us, if she's allowed to publish one more book she might single-handedly bring down the publishing industry.
I'm going to read a Scandinavian thriller noir about a Satanic cult now to cheer me up.
I AM NOT AROUSED,