Crashing into Her
Eva Montgomery is a fitness instructor who gambles that a move to LA will shake up her life. But working at her best friend Tori’s studio means running into Tori’s cousin (and Eva’s one-night-stand) Anthony Castillo, who teaches when not doing stunt work in Hollywood. The big barriers between the two of them? Eva doesn’t trust men not to try to manipulate her, and Anthony doesn’t do relationships because they can hurt. Yeah, we’ve been here before.
Unfortunately, that’s not the only problem with Crashing into Her. Eva comes across as excessively competitive and even kind of mean. Any time Anthony cracks a joke, she always tries to top it, and her humor always has a biting edge. She stress-cleans early on a weekend morning, singing at the top of her lungs, actively reflecting on how her neighbors in the apartment building she lives in are going to hate her. Um, maybe shut up then? People like that are exhausting in real life, and she was equally exhausting on the page.
In one scene, Anthony’s partner for teaching a self-defense class at the gym is late, and Eva offers to stand in. Anthony explains that a groin kick can work on both men and women. Eva, unsolicited, jumps in to declare that it’s better against men because –
“men don’t tolerate pain as well as women do.”
“Debatable,” [Anthony says], flashing her a look of warning.
“Not at all shocked you’d say that.”
As a co-worker (still on probation!), Eva, you think it’s appropriate to interrupt the lead instructor and then take personal shots at him in front of the class? And it gets worse: Anthony explains to the group that if you clearly telegraph to the opponent that you’re aiming for the groin, they can anticipate you and turn the tables. Eva agreeably takes an obvious swing, and Anthony dodges and puts her in a choke hold. Then:
Before I can fully process it, Eva presses a thumb against my hold, sidesteps it, and then pivots to elbow me in the center of my chest. Really hard. The swift blow knocks the wind out of me, and I double over, partly to catch my breath and partly to recover from the pain.
What the hell, Eva? You’ve just undermined your co-worker professionally, given a terrible example to students who were supposed to be learning not to be overconfident, and totally violated the trust of your martial arts partner. (I did martial arts for years. You don’t hit unsuspecting people in the middle of demonstrations. That’s assault.) She hits him so hard it’s bothering him in later chapters. Yes, later in the scene, she thinks about apologizing for it (of course, she doesn’t), but it just should never have happened. After this scene, I would not have finished the book if I hadn’t been reading it for review.
As for Anthony, he’s lackluster, refusing to be in a long term relationship for not one, but BOTH of the two most clichéd reasons in Romancelandia: mommy issues and ex issues. His purpose in this book is to be hot and to lust after Eva despite the fact that she’s awful, and then to have a neurosis that must be overcome by a thunderbolt. I do, however, give the author credit for a very believable reason for their Big Separation Crisis.
This book also has a tic that plagues contemporaries, which is the author’s belief that if she just makes the characters laugh hard enough at something, then it will somehow become funny to the reader. Not only do the characters howl and tell each other – and us – how funny they are, they also have weirdly exaggerated physical reactions. Eva reminds Anthony of a funny scene in a movie, and he holds his chest and falls over. When Anthony mentions a prank Eva pulled, she falls over sideways, roaring with laughter and repeatedly slapping her hand on the cushion. This reaction also extends to arousal, as at one point when looking at Anthony arouses Eva so much that she moans, loudly enough that the person next to her asks if she’s all right.
What did I like about the novel? Well, as mentioned, although the inner lives of the characters are somewhat flat, the plot structure isn’t clichéd, and when I read Anthony’s credible boneheaded move that causes their separation, I actually hissed in an ‘Oh, no, you DIDN’T’ kind of way. I liked that the author clearly knew her LA and her Philly settings and was able to realistically present a heroine moving to LA on a budget, especially her struggles with public transportation. Both Anthony and Eva have interesting relationships with their fathers which are nuanced and intertwine with the main plot.
On the whole, though, Crashing into Her is pretty much a crash.