Better Than Fiction
Alexa Martin’s Better Than Fiction had so much potential, with a plucky heroine and a cool bookstore setting. Unfortunately, the too-good-to-be-real hero and a lack of conflict between the couple holds the story back.
Drew Young hates to read, so when she inherits the Book Nook bookstore from her beloved grandmother, the irony is not lost on her. Drew had hoped to turn her love for photography and the stunning nature of her home state, Colorado, into a career as a travel photographer, but she hangs up her camera so that she can continue her grandmother’s bookstore legacy. She’s still grieving and feeling overwhelmed by the responsibilities of running a business when the Dirty Bird book club – a group of elderly women who read steamy romance novels – invite hot author Jasper Williams to appear at the Book Nook. Drew is stunned that Jasper is not only young but insanely good looking and a pretty nice guy as well. She’s mortified when the Dirty Birds finagle Jasper into asking Drew out to dinner, but after some prodding from her best friend Elsie and her estranged sister, Daisy, she agrees to go out with him.
Jasper has decided to set his next novel in Denver, so he strikes a deal with Drew. She’ll serve as the expert on the local scene and show him the beautiful Colorado countryside, and he’ll attempt to awaken her latent love of reading. He gives her a reading list with the promise that he’ll take her on adventures that correspond to the theme of each book. They take turns planning adventures and getting to know each other. While her relationship with Jasper is moving in a positive direction, Drew can’t help but lament the life that she’d always wanted to live but must give up forever now that the Book Nook is hers.
Drew really made this book for me. She calls herself a hot mess, and she is definitely a realistic, relatable heroine. She is also very confident, and her self-deprecation is always humorous rather than whiney. Martin’s writing style gives you the sensation that Drew has broken the fourth wall and is talking directly to you, the reader. Drew’s father is a manipulative, narcissistic jerk, and I especially loved that she takes absolutely none of his crap. And the friendship depicted between Drew, Elsie and Daisy is fantastic.
Sadly, I didn’t love the hero as much as I did the heroine. My immediate thought when I read the words “male romance novelist” was to imagine Nicholas Sparks, and for me, that is never a good thing. I shoved that association to the back of my brain, determined to give poor Jasper a fair chance. It isn’t that Jasper isn’t a likable guy. He’s simply too perfect to be anything but fictional. Much time is spent with Drew ruminating on how handsome he is and on Drew noticing other women noticing how handsome he is. He’s extremely complimentary in a way that I think is supposed to be charming but comes off a bit cringy. He worships Drew almost from the beginning, he’s a great lover, and he’s nice to everyone he meets. He simply has no faults.
So when the time comes for Drew and Jasper to experience some form of conflict, the issue between them not only appears out of the blue in the last couple of chapters, but is blown so far out of proportion by Drew as to make her look unhinged. Jasper’s ‘crime’ simply doesn’t fit her over-reaction to it.
In fact, the book is less about their romance and more about Drew coming to terms with living her own, authentic life versus fulfilling what she believes is her grandmother’s legacy. While I understood Drew clinging to the Book Nook because it was the last connection to a person she had loved so much and lost, her inability to look beyond her grief becomes a bit frustrating. Her dumping all of that baggage into Jasper’s lap is downright irritating.
In the end, however, I did have fun reading Better Than Fiction. If you like great heroines and don’t mind a bit of a limp fish hero, I think you might like it, too.