Series: The Wilmington Saga #1 (companion novels)
Publication Date: 3-25-14
Genre: Adult, Contemporary, Romance
Source: ARC kindly provided in exchange for honest review
Arrive at work at 7:58 A.M. sharp. Check. Count forty-seven steps to cubicle. Check. Arrange pens in their red-blue-black-green-purple order of importance. Check. Apply hand sanitizer before opening email. Double check.
And that’s just the first few minutes of her work day.
Thirty-one-year-old proofreader Bailey Mitchell is a slave to her tics. She inherited Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder from her father, and it’s done nothing but inhibit her love life. She’s run the gamut of boyfriends—none of them willing or able to cope with her condition.
Enter 32-year-old Reece Powell, her new coworker at Beach Elite Marketing Firm. He’s more than willing to cope. He finds her habits cute and quirky . . . for now. Reece gets the girl, and life coasts along for them until Bailey experiences a devastating blow. Tragedy exacerbates her OCD, and Reece realizes her tics aren’t so cute and quirky anymore. Just like all the others, he has the choice to leave.
But Reece isn’t like all the others.
I was so sure that I was going to love this book. Even though I’m not normally a fan of contemporary romance, I was really looking forward to reading LoveLines because I loved Walden’s Too Good series and am already such a huge fan of her writing and herself as a person. But, unfortunately, I ended up being a little disappointed by this book. It just felt like something was missing. I had trouble connecting with the characters, and I found myself getting a little bored by the storyline at times, because it was dragging so much.
I really liked the premise behind LoveLines — at first I was worried about how OCD would be treated in this novel because of the jokingly phrased tagline (“Her OCD makes his heart ‘tic.'”), but I think that Walden actually did a good job in her portrayal of the mental disorder. But I think that one of the reasons why I had so much trouble connecting with Bailey is because there wasn’t a whole lot more about her besides her disorder. Her disorder consumed her life, and that’s all that was there to connect with at first…and, because I don’t have OCD, I had trouble relating and getting emotionally involved in the story. As the novel progressed, this got better because Bailey herself started to realize that the OCD doesn’t and shouldn’t define her. But while it was great to watch a character learn and grow like that, it did leave me floundering for a good chunk of the book — I didn’t find myself connecting with her very much at all until around the 70% mark.
This is going to sound a little strange, but I found that one of the biggest problems I had with this novel was not being able to tell the difference between the characters’ voices and the author’s voice. I think that that unique writing style helped make Walden’s Too Good series really great, because the nature of the story was so controversial and the characters were so flawed. But in LoveLines, I constantly kept disagreeing with characters’ choices, actions, and statements, and getting upset that Walden was letting these characters behave like this…only to realize later in the story that they were actually about to learn a “lesson” and, in reality, Walden had been disagreeing with them all along as well. I don’t feel like I’m really describing it well (I think mostly because the examples that I want to use would contain spoilers), but it was something that kept bothering me throughout the novel, so I felt like I needed to say something about it. While I appreciated what Walden was trying to do — keep her characters flawed and of their own mind — I think that the execution of it all could’ve used some more work. I just found that aspect of the novel very confusing and kind of misleading at times.
One thing that also I want to mention, kind of in relation to my last point, is that there is a lot of judgmental behavior in this novel. From Bailey judging herself, to her family judging her, to other characters judging other random people…the whole thing is very judgy. At first, it really bothered me. There were a couple instances of slut-shaming that rubbed me the wrong way (Bailey feeling embarrassed for “shaking her ass” like a slut, and her best friend Erica telling her that “no one likes a ho.”) and Reece even has a conversation with a friend in which the friend accuses him of dating “nut jobs,” a.k.a. “women with issues,” and lists a girl “who wanted you to tie her up and beat the shit out of her every night” as being one of those “problematic” women. But I think that the author is trying to make a point here. Everybody, even people who are often negatively affected by people’s rude judgment (like Bailey), judges other people. It’s just a fact of life. It’s not a good fact…but it happens. I think that the things said in the novel were pretty realistic portrayals of judgments that people make in real life, and even though some of the characters often had some very strong and not-so-nice opinions, you have to separate that from the author’s own feelings. Walden is highlighting the atmosphere of judgment in the world and gives us an inside glimpse into somebody’s life — somebody that we might’ve easily judged if we’d met her in real life. By showing us how wonderful and sweet Bailey is, and how Bailey is also sometimes flawed and judgmental herself, Walden emphasizes the point that judgment is natural, but it’s also not okay. It’s something, like Bailey’s OCD, that we should all be working to improve upon in ourselves.
But, later on in the novel, there was one particular moment that really made me think twice about this novel: “He knelt in front of me and unbuttoned my pants. ‘Reece, I’m not really in the mood.’ ‘I didn’t ask.’ My mouth dropped open. I watched him slide my pants down my legs. I stepped out when he instructed. I just did what he said, just like that, because somewhere along the line it became easier to not make decisions.” This is supposed to be a sexy scene. Honestly, I’m not turned on by this…I’m a little grossed out. We’re about two baby steps away from rape and taking advantage of a person with a medical disorder right here. Don’t get me wrong — I like a little BDSM in my books. But this scene, at least this part of it, just seemed so off to me. Bailey and Reece like to dabble in that type of ordering-around sex, and it makes sense that it helps her OCD because she lets him take control…but they never have a conversation about boundaries, and when she specifically tells him no in that conversation, he doesn’t listen to her. It doesn’t totally cross the line into rape-ville, because the conversation does continue and the sex that follows is mutually consented upon, but that didn’t stop this from making me a little uncomfortable. I do like that Reece’s character is sort of like Mark in her Too Good series, in that, from one minute to the next, my opinion of him was constantly changing. One moment I thought he was totally creepy, the next I was in love with him. She does a great job writing these malleable and ambiguous characters for whom you can’t really decide what your feelings about them are until later on in the book. But, at least for me, this particular scene crossed a line. It wasn’t a huge line…but it was still a line.
Ultimately, I just wasn’t expecting this novel to be quite so…boring. I feel awful saying that, but I spent the majority of this novel pretty disinterested in what was happening, I think both because I was having trouble relating to the characters and because the characters spent such a large amount of the book in honeymoon bliss. It didn’t get “real” until very late in the story…and that realness is what I really look for in this kind of novel. I know that I’m not normally a fan of adult “chick-lit”-type romance, so I did go into this book knowing that I wasn’t really the intended audience. But there are exceptions to every rule…and I can (and do!) appreciate well-written books in this genre, usually ones that contain a lot of grittiness and emotionality. And while Love Lines was well-written in terms of word choice, flow, and relatability, I had a lot of trouble connecting with the characters and seeing this novel as anything more than a cute, fluffy romance. I’m still a huge fan of Walden’s and will read more from her in the future…but, unfortunately, this one just wasn’t for me.
“I watched him gaze at me — that tender look men very rarely get, but dear God, when they get it…well, it makes you feel like you’re the most important person on the planet. The prettiest. The smartest. The cleverest. The funniest. That look. It was love-making. Not sex. It was paying homage to my body, not using it. It was a deep kiss with no expectations, no foreplay.”