Back in 2011, I was one of the many readers who had a love/hate relationship with Jamie McGuire’s runaway New Adult hit, Beautiful Disaster. I loved hero Travis’s intensity but hated his anger management issues, swooned over his devotion to heroine Abby but despised his obsessiveness, prayed they’d stay together but loathed their co-dependent relationship, and wondered when mixed martial arts fighting became the go-to campus job for hot guys. I had no desire to read the self-indulgent money grab companion novel Walking Disaster, which told the exact same story from Travis’s point of view instead of Abby’s. Fast forward seven years and I felt compelled to pick up the first Maddox Brothers sequel (Travis has several brothers) to see if it inspired more exhilaration than exasperation. Beautiful Oblivion proved to be equal to its predecessor: the things I liked, I loved. The things I disliked, I hated.
Trenton Maddox shares his brother Travis’s hot looks, quick temper, bad-boy persona and lady-killer charm. So when he pulls up a chair at part-time college student/bartender Camille Camlin’s pub table one evening, buys her drinks and begins chatting like they’re old friends, Cami doesn’t know what to make of it. Even though they’d gone to school together all their lives, she’d never warranted so much as a second glance from the notorious man-ho. Besides, Trenton can’t be hitting on her because everyone knows she’s dating T.J. pretty seriously. Despite her protestations that she really has no interest in anything Trent has in mind, he manages to weasel his way into Cami’s life until she has to admit that he’s become a real, genuine friend. Truth be told, Trenton has actually become the most stable presence in her life.
This is because Cami’s home life absolutely sucks. Her father is an abusive drunk who finds a way to blame Cami for every problem that the family encounters. She takes on a second job at the tattoo parlor where Trent works in order to help her youngest brother out of a financial jam, and with working two jobs and taking classes at Eastern University, she’s pretty well exhausted. Then there’s her relationship with T.J., who is absent far more than he is present. He’s moved to California to pursue a mysterious job, and when projected visits fall by the wayside and texts become a mere trickle, the temptation that Trenton offers becomes harder to resist. Friendship morphs into something more, and Cami finds herself in love with two guys at the same time.
But when Cami is pressed to admit that maybe her feelings for Trenton are stronger than those she has for T.J., she is hiding a secret, something that she believes means that she and Trenton cannot start a relationship together even if she ends things with T.J.
Beautiful Oblivion is highly readable, perfect for sitting on a porch or lying in a hammock or tanning on the beach. McGuire has an amazing way of capturing genuine, realistic sounding dialogue. Her characters sound like real early-twenty-somethings and say very clever things that I wished I could have said. I love to read their interactions with each other and wish I could hang with every last one of them.
Trenton Maddox is indeed a charmer. His tactics for insinuating himself into Cami’s life are downright dirty, but you can’t help but love the guy for his persistence. Too, in the same mould as his brother Travis, Trenton is a Protective guy with a capital P. Many times he inserts himself into Cami’s family drama in order to protect her. This protectiveness, however, comes at a cost; Trevor is a hot-head who hits first and asks questions later. While charming in a fictional character, it’s definitely a no-go in the real world.
As a heroine, Cami is easy to like. She does have a few doormat moments when it comes to her family, and I kept wanting to shake her for letting herself be the fall guy for every familial issue, but at least she seems to be taking steps to distance herself from the dysfunction. However, I questioned her devotion to T.J. given that they had so little interaction within the scope of the story. I kept thinking something fantastic must have happened before the book began to cause her to be so devoted to a guy who was basically never there. She constantly excuses his work-before-relationship decisions by reminding herself that she’d known what she was getting into and how could she expect more. I just didn’t get that.
Unfortunately, the problems I had with this book were real eye-rollers. Some story lines are dropped completely, such as Cami’s familial dysfunction, which forms a good part of the story, but is never resolved. We have no idea what happens on that front.
Mostly, though, what really pulled down my final grade is the stinking pile of garbage that the main conflict turned out to be. I can’t say anything without spoiling the ending, but suffice it to say that the Big Secret keeping Cami from fully relaxing into her relationship with Trevor is beyond ridiculous. First of all, it is totally implausible that such a ‘secret’ could have existed. If true, Trenton comes off looking like a blooming idiot. Second, McGuire buries all clues and hints so deeply as to make the final reveal come completely out of the blue. It’s as if she unfairly withholds information from readers in order to shock us, but it doesn’t work at all. I kept waiting and waiting to learn some earth-shattering thing that would rock the whole story, only to come to the last couple of pages which I had to re-read three times before the answer finally sunk in, and I still don’t fully get it. Given the total nothing-burger of the whole deal, I kind of wanted to hurl the book against the wall. The concept was sound and deserved to be an open part of the story, a real obstacle that Cami and Trenton should have faced and dealt with rather than some throw away, painted-yourself-into-a-corner authorial cop-out.
Finally, what is the deal with naming all siblings in a family with the same first letter? Cami Camlin’s (!?!) brothers are named Chase, Clark and Colby, and her cousin is Collin. Trevor has brothers named Travis, Thomas, Taylor and Tyler. Really? I do know parents who do this, but they are not the norm. Not to mention the headache it causes readers in trying to keep the characters straight.
After my experiences with the Travis and Trenton instalments, I’m left in kind of a limbo state as far as continuing with The Maddox Brothers series. They are definitely Twinkies® of the book world: they taste so yummy but you know without a doubt that there is a whole lot of crap inside of them that you really should avoid. If you liked Beautiful Disaster, it’s safe to say that you will enjoy Beautiful Oblivion. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Buy it at: Amazon/Barnes & Noble/iBooks/Kobo
~ Jenna Harper