By Elisa Lorello and Sarah Girrell
Available May 31 from AmazonEncore (Kindle edition available now)
I loved the first AmazonEncore novel I read. I'll admit to being nervous when I started Andrew Xia Fukuda's CROSSING. I've wanted to rewrite the review of CROSSING, as I don't think I captured the novel well. I felt it exemplified the AmazonEncore statement of "exceptional yet overlooked books." I could see why it would be overlooked - the protagonist is often unlikeable and there is no happy ending. WHY I LOVE SINGLEHOOD had a lot to live up to. Unfortunately, I felt like the novel fit "overlooked" more than "exceptional," because WHY I LOVE SINGLEHOOD would be overlooked due to being average.
WHY I LOVE SINGLEHOOD is Eva Perino's journey from lying to herself and playing it safe to doing the things that fulfill her. That doesn't mean her life at the start of the novel is terrible. She has a thriving business – a coffee shop named The Grounds – and a group of fabulous friends. When her ex-who-she-remained-friends-with Shaun tells her he's engaged, Eva is hurt and realizes remaining close to the guy she used to love might not have been the best idea. Unfortunately, she just started the eponymous blog. Thus, she begins to turn it into a chronicle of her forays into dating again.
I liked that it wasn't immediately apparent which guy in Eva's life would be the one she ended up with. She has several good choices, including The Grounds' manager Norman and regular customer Car Talk Kenny. While WHY I LOVE SINGLEHOOD is chick lit rather than romance, the romantic storyline is the strongest. Other aspects of Eva's life are interesting, but the book meanders. There isn't a strong sense of structure.
In some ways, that's good. The way things unfold in the story feel organic. At the same time, it's sometimes confusing. The Grounds contains the Originals and the Regulars, a reoccurring cast of customers. Members of this supporting cast disappear and reappear. There's quite a few and most are minor, so I kept losing track of who some of them were and what they'd previously done in the story. (I forgot Jan and Dean were dating until it became important, long after it was first mentioned.) It felt like some of them could have been cut.
I also feel like the setting is slightly misued. Elisa Lorello and Sarah Girrell focus on the people that inhabit the coffee shop. The coffee itself is rarely mentioned. (Eva dislikes coffee.) As for the baked goods, two are mentioned in detail - a lemon tart and a halfmoon cookie. Both are excellent, evocative scenes. How is it through the rest of the novel that the sensual power of food is ignored? WHY I LOVE SINGLEHOOD lacks a sense of taste and smell that's right there. Instead it is content to remain floating on the surface of the coffee shop.
WHY I LOVE SINGLEHOOD is definitely the kind of chick lit I prefer. It tends to be humorous and light rather than dramatic and angsty. There are moments of drama. Terrible things happen to some of the characters. But even when a character lands in the hospital, things quickly return to normal.
WHY I LOVE SINGLEHOOD will appeal to those who enjoy stories about women reevaluating their life choices, told in a way that isn't overly serious. Eva is a decent heroine – she's hard-working and a bit controlling, but she's willing to own up to her own mistakes. At the same time, I didn't feel a spark. I found the novel fun, but I'm already forgetting the details and I just finished.