“I don’t want to sound overdramatic, but he’s crystal meth. In a good way.”
Title: Love Your Life
Author: Sophie Kinsella
Expected Publication: October 27, 2020
Rating: 3/5 stars
Notes: I received an advanced reader copy via Netgalley
For lovers of contemporary romances (especially of the rom-com variety), Sophie Kinsella is a staple. She has written plenty of beloved stories: from Confessions of a Shopaholic to I’ve Got Your Number, Kinsella truly excels at quirky heroines and meet-cutes.
Her latest, Love Your Life, is no different. In the new novel, we meet Ava, a woman who “believes in feelings, not algorithms,” and, as a result, is not a fan of dating apps. After a breakup and then a bad date, Ava wants nothing more than to forget about her own romantic entanglements and get lost in the fictional one she’s been fantasizing about. That’s right: she wants to write a romantic novel. So she leaves behind her dog and her friends and travels to Italy for a writer’s retreat, determined to finish writing her novel.
The writing retreat is special: no one is allowed to use their real names or reveal anything about themselves. Even more interesting? When the neighboring martial arts retreat gets cancelled, one very handsome stranger chooses to stay and learn the craft of writing. Sparks fly between Matt and Ava, despite keeping reality under wraps. The pair believe they have a true connection and profess their love…but then they have to head back to London and reveal who they really are.
Based on their experiences at the writer’s retreat, Ava and Matt have idealized versions of each other in their heads, and when the fantasy makes way for reality, the two find themselves in some humorous situations. For instance, on their first date at Ava’s house, her “vintage school chairs,” which she chose because she prefers the character of old, used furniture to the function of new, collapses…and takes Matt down with it, leaving him with a terrible gash on his arm. “Right now, I would probably take function over character,” Matt tells her. Sure, injury isn’t funny, but this scene is just one showing after another of just how completely opposite and mismatched these two are.
Also during this same scene, Ava, who claims to not believe in deal-breakers when it comes to relationships, cooks a vegetarian stew because (thank you, Ms. Kinsella!) she is vegetarian. Matt is far from it, which shocks our heroine because the writing retreat only served vegetarian meals. He even asks if he can try the lamb bone broth Ava is making for her dog. Ava is dismayed, disheartened, and pretty offended too. However, she manages to find some solace when she asks Matt if he thinks he could ever be vegetarian. His answer? Well, it starts with a “no” before he backtracks into a “never say never,” bringing Ava around to his side again.
“I can see that I’ve overreacted; in fact, it’s all very clear to me,” she thinks. “I’ll convert him! The vegetarian gods have sent him to me for this very purpose!”
As a vegan, I found this part to be very funny, and it brings up a lot of questions for vegans and vegetarians. Will you date someone who eats meat? Is that a deal-breaker? Will you try to convert them? What if they aren’t receptive (but are great when it comes to everything else)?
So absolutely, the novel is funny. The side characters certainly help with that, as they are the complete opposite of the heroine. Ava’s group of friends is tight-knit and even features representation for those with serious (but sometimes invisible) health conditions (her friend, Nell, has lupus). Despite their differences, the group absolutely adores each other, and Ava even manages to appeal to Matt’s more gruff set of friends. Nell, Sarika, and Maude, Ava’s pals, even warm themselves to Topher and Nihal, Matt’s roommates.
And of course, there’s Harold, Ava’s bad-mannered dog. He’s definitely a highlight. Harold refuses to sleep anywhere but in bed with Ava, and he absolutely loves stealing people’s food. Hide your shirts and your steak because neither will be the same if Harold is around.
Love Your Life is not without flaws, of course. The characters, Ava especially, are a bit…much. Most of them are over-the-top, too outlandish. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing – it definitely adds to the humor of the novel – but at times, it just felt like a lot. When just about every main character feels like a caricature, having one straight man feels necessary to even things out. However, this is a problem I have found with the last couple Sophie Kinsella books I’ve read. The characters don’t seem real. They’re too quirky and not relatable enough, and I need to be able to relate to characters to properly connect with them. It’s fun for a little bit, it’s fun for a book or two, but after a while, it gets quite old.
Part of the problem might be that we only ever see Ava’s perspective. As it stands, the novel is fairly one-sided, but, if it contained back-and-forth points-of-view, this might not be the case. Having Matt’s POV would have balanced it out some more: we would understand him better, get his unfiltered thoughts on Ava and everything that surrounds her, as well as his thoughts on his family, his ex-girlfriend, and the family business. It also probably would have allowed me to get a better understanding of why I should root for Matt and Ava. The two were definitely mismatched, and I struggled to get why they were forcing themselves to ignore so many red flags once they returned to London.
Still, Love Your Life is a fun, light read. It’s easy, it’s breezy. However, if you like a little more depth in your romance novels, you might find this a bit frivolous. But if you’re overwhelmed by all of the craziness of the world, this book will definitely give you a break at least for a little while.
Love Your Life is expected to be published on October 27, and, after the year we’ve all had, it might be the perfect comic relief.
Are you a fan of Sophie Kinsella? What’s your favorite of her novels?
Psst…are you in need of a writer who can capture your brand’s voice and create content sure to resonate with your audience? Are you looking for someone to proofread and edit your own writing to ensure it’s free of errors? If you answered “yes” to either question, let’s talk!
We should be friends!