Talk Bookish to Me
Talk Bookish to Me is the story of a romance novelist who is thrown back into the path of her first love. When Kara Sullivan and her college sweetheart meet again for the first time in a decade, she has to work out if they’re better off apart, or if a second chance at romance is in store for them.
Kara lives in Manhattan and is a prolific romance author. Or she was; lately, she’s had trouble writing anything usable for her rapidly approaching deadline. She has a big vacation planned – that is, if she can ever get through wedding preparations for her best friend’s nuptials, for which she is the much put-upon made of honor. The last thing she was expecting is the reappearance of Ryan, her first love and her first heartbreak.
Still, seeing Ryan again seems to kickstart Kara’s writer-brain back to life somehow, and she’s able to actually make some progress. If Ryan sticks around long enough, maybe she can finish her novel on time, and maybe they actually have a shot this time. Given their past, if Ryan and Kara want a future, they have to forgive first. The question is, will they move forward, or keep making the same mistakes?
In terms of the plot, this book is a total mess. The story seems to have a clear trajectory at first, but at around the two-thirds mark, it completely goes off the rails and feels like it’s running on fumes for the rest of the book. The pacing is also all over the place; it’s mostly on an even keel for the first half, then completely loses its rhythm and never gets it back. While the characters are written to be likable and sometimes feel that way, their actions are pretty deplorable. Ryan in particular is supposed to be passionate and romantic, but he does some things usually seen as unforgivable in contemporary romance. He lies a lot and while the reader is supposed to sympathize, his actions are not understandable from a leading man. It doesn’t help that Ryan is full of excuses, the most annoying being ‘I did it because I love you so much.’
The dialogue has its amusing moments, but a lot of the characters sound the same. Most of them seem to be assigned stock personalities, Ryan’s main traits being ‘dog dad’ and ‘calls his love interest by her last name to be cheeky’. Kara’s family fluctuates between blandly supportive and vague internalized sexism, and she has two friends; one is The Very Pretty One and the other is Every Character Played by Zooey Deschanel, otherwise known as The Quirky One. I was so bored by Kara as a protagonist that I routinely forgot her name when I was reading this book.
The relationship between Ryan and Kara is by far the most interesting part of the novel, and while it was compelling, it failed to sell me on them as a couple. They both have a lot of baggage, much of which they’ve carried over from their adolescent relationship into their adult lives, and which never feels properly resolved. They both repeatedly refer to their past relationship as all-encompassing and a little obsessive, but it’s never established that they have created a new, healthier dynamic this time around. For a proper second chance romance, you need a couple who didn’t work out for a good reason, one that makes a lot of sense, and who make it work later because of how they’ve changed or how their lives have changed. That is not the case in this book.
What’s really disappointing about Talk Bookish to Me is that it takes so many great tropes and then fails to do anything special with them. It’s also an enemies-to-lovers story, and when that trope is done well, the animosity between the characters turns out to be unfounded, something they can move past, or based on misunderstandings. In this book, the characters have really good reasons to be angry with each other, and their issues are serious ones. Talk Bookish to Me is just not a good romance, and a trial to read. The characters are flat and even bland, the plot is a disaster, and the resolution will just make you angry.