Big Wild Love Adventure
After being ditched at the altar, Emmy Shaw’s heart, like her dented food truck, is definitely not open for business. Deeply in debt to her parents and evicted from her apartment, she takes a friend’s drunken dare and fills out an application for a new dating-adventure reality show. She never expects to be chosen—or to get a chance at the show’s huge cash prize, which could put her life back on track.
But when she’s abandoned in the middle of the jungle two months later wearing only a bathing suit and a backpack, she questions if being on the show might be even worse than the #emmytrashtruck hate brigade she left back home. Then she meets her fellow cast members—including sexy, inscrutable Wes—and starts to reconsider, wondering if maybe money’s not all she stands to gain from this experience.
After a year of abysmal failures, this summer of cave treks, jungle hikes, impromptu talent shows, and a sexy flirtmance turns out to be just the thing to help Emmy rebuild her shattered confidence. She signed up for the show to hide from the mess her life had become, but this escape from reality might be just what she needs to find herself.
Dabney: I adore Keyes’ Charleston Thrashers series–those books are a perfect balance of romance and humor–so when this one came up for review, it was a no brainer to say yes.. That said,I don’t watch reality TV and I wasn’t sure whether or not I would find the setting interesting. ButI loathe baseball and that hatred didn’t keep me from enjoying the Thrashers books. What did you think about the worldbuilding in this book?
Caroline: I didn’t feel that the reality TV setting was realistically developed. They do talk about cameras, the story is shaped by challenges and events, but I’m not even into reality TV much and I can tell you things that are left out. Nobody wears a mic pack. Nobody ever has to re-enact a conversation or event because of cameras. At one point, we know that another candidate was interviewed by producers, but we never see Emmy do a producer interview. It’s a bit wallpaper to me.
Dabney: I agree. I wish reality TV was like this–full of warm, smart, funny people–in general–who routinely care for one another more than they do the cameras! And I loved that Keyes made her show hilarious to read about. But, no, it is firmly in the fictional realm which, honestly, isn’t the worst. I’m not sure I’d be up for a romance where everything is manufactured and designed to manipulate the viewer.
Caroline: Oh, yes, there’s none of the – to be honest, cruelty – that marks producer-participant relations on a lot of shows, where they try to provoke contestants into fighting and breaking down. My favorite part was the challenges. I love partners or teammates as a foundation for relationships, so it was nice to see Emmy and her partners work together.
Dabney: I too liked the challenges and all the teamwork. But, even more, I liked the humor. Keyes is funny and every few minutes I found myself snorting with laughter. And her humor isn’t ironic or compromised by judgment–the way she writes funny encompasses acceptance for all. That really works for me.
Caroline: Yes. Even her “villain” had her moments of kindness. Of the secondary cast, I especially loved Tad. We stan a thoughtful himbo with a precise internal clock.
Dabney: It looks as though Tad will get his own book–here’s hoping. His story arc was lovely and had a sense of realness to it that some of the others didn’t. This is a book–which is kinda funny given that it’s about something as forced as a reality love show–that finding out who you really are. No one did that better than Tad.
Caroline: I think it’s telling that we’ve reached this far in the conversation without talking about Emmy and the man she falls for. Their relationship is nice, but this is not a relationship-driven book. Neither protagonist is extremely complex, and they mostly grow or make relationship progress because of the show’s obstacles.
Dabney: I guess I’d say this primary focus of this book is about the characters’ relationships with themselves. Emmy came onto the show with a bruised ego, a wreck of a work life, and a really crappy past love life. All of those things made her underestimate herself. Over the course of the book, she learned how great she was. That worked for me. This is a romance and I was rooting for Emmy to find true love but, more than that, I wanted Emmy to see herself as a winner.
Caroline: I also felt that the pacing was off. So much of the early scenes with just Emmy could have been told in backstory or returned to in the show (treating her business struggles like her relationship with her ex), and entire days went by on the show without any narration or character interaction.
Dabney: That didn’t register as much with me although I agree that the book certainly could have started with Emmy arriving on the show.
Caroline: It bugged me a bit that Panama was treated as an uninhabited jungle or resort, nothing in between. Actual people do live there.
Dabney: Well, I think it was for this show. But I hear you.
Caroline: This was a fun, fast read which definitely fits the bill for what a lot of people are looking for in the summer. I’d completely recommend it for a lighthearted poolside read.
Dabney: I thoroughly enjoyed it. I am firmly in the camp that good romance novels can also be frothy and lesson free. This book is just a good time. It’s a B+ read for me.
Caroline: I’d say B+. Highly recommended for a fun, light good time.
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