Touch of Fondness (Joy Penny)

Four friends. Four college grads. Four people figuring out that life doesn’t always turn out the way you expected.

Brielle Reyes may not have post-college life planned out like some of her friends do, but she figures she’ll work for her mother’s home cleaning service while job hunting for something that makes use of her history and philosophy degrees. It’ll work out as long as she doesn’t fall in love. Her last relationship was a disaster and she has no idea where she’ll be in a few weeks, let alone the rest of her life. Since the only guy in her age range she sees now on a regular basis is cantankerous if handsome client Archer Ward, she probably won’t have a hard time sticking to that vow. Probably.

Archer Ward likes very few things: illustrating as a somewhat-celebrated comic artist and his privacy. When his meddling mother hires him a cleaning service on an almost daily basis because she doesn’t fully trust her son to live on his own with his disability, he’s at first annoyed — even if his house cleaner is the most beautiful woman he’s ever spent more than a few minutes with. When he realizes her dreams may take her far outside of his restricted orbit, he has to decide whether to stifle his interest in her or risk messing up her plans to explore if there’s something more between them.

Neither can deny they’re growing a little fond of each other, even if falling in love just now makes no sense whatsoever. But how often does love ever make perfect sense?

Hey. Once again, I read this book as a buddy read with  Cátia @The Girl Who Read Too Much, so go check out her blog in the next few days. But just so you know, she’ll be ranting a lot too, because she also didn’t like this book.

So… this was another huge miss for me. I was excited about the blurb, because I really want to see more diversity in NA books, and I’ve read some fantastic books with characters with disabilities, so I was expecting a good thing here. What I got? A badly written, badly plotted and slightly (to majorly) offensive book.

I’m warning now that I might drop some SPOILERS during this review, but there are some thing I feel I need to mention, so I can explain to you why I disliked this book so much, ok?

I have to start by saying that the writing was not good. The book is told in dual POV, through Brielle and Archer’s point of views, but it is told in the third person. The voices weren’t different enough to distinguish them, and a lot of their inner thoughts were too focused on other people or minor things that didn’t actually allow me to get to know the person behind such thoughts that well.

Which leads me to the characters. It was honestly impossible to actually like any of the characters in this book.

Brielle just finished college and she has no idea what she wants to do with her life. I’m ok with that, I think it’s not a big deal to not have your life figured out right out of college. But it sort of bothered me that she had no ambition whatsoever. It also really really bothered me that she was so willing to accept any scrapes that anyone would throw at her. Look, I’m not saying that she should be all proud and not accept help, what I’m saying is that I truly felt like she couldn’t care less about trying. She had been job hunting while finishing college, but after she finished, she admitted that she hadn’t done much of it, but she was still saying how rejections sucked and all of that. Yeah, they do, but I honestly felt like she wasn’t even trying.

Ok, second issue with Brielle… I felt she was too judgmental. She spent most of her time thinking about her friend’s issues, but she had some major issues herself. And that it’s even more clear when she meets Archer, because during the whole book, she never sees him beyond his disability. She’s always self chastising for even thinking certain things, but she keeps doing it throughout the whole book, and she’s never able to think of it beyond how it’s different and how it impacts HER life.

“Wow. Suffer from self-confidence issues much? Brielle felt bad for thinking that. He was disabled, after all.”

“Brielle felt stupid for wondering why there wasn’t a desk chair in front of the desk at first.”

“Despite his top half being rather buff — his arms especially — his legs were awfully thin. So skinny, he looked sickly. Brielle immediately felt dumb for even thinking that.”

“She’d spent the evening Googling how to interact with disabled people and felt stupid doing so.”

Then we have Archer, who I’m going to be honest here, is kind of a douchebag at first. He treats Brielle with disdain and is super rude to her. He’s also one of those guys who thinks girls have no business liking comics, and are fakes, you know?! That on its own was a huge letdown to me.

“He felt a stab of guilt for ever even thinking she might be one of “those”girls with just a passing interest in comics thanks to hunks in superhero movies. That didn’t seem to be the case — and even if it were, who cared?”

“Why the hell would she want to go with you to a comic shop? Not exactly the most welcoming place for a woman — particularly a woman this hot.”

Now, if you’ve read the blurb, you know Archer lives with a disability. Which one? Good question, I have no clue. He uses a wheelchair and is also able to use braces and canes on occasion, and the author says this:

“I never outright mention his condition in the text, but I used Becker muscular dystrophy as the reference. I live with a disabled person and used a lot of what the person goes through for reference.”

I have to say that I feel conflicted about the not mention of the cause. On one hand, I think the person is what matters and not his disability, but on the other hand, most muscular dystrophies have other consequences than just the weakening of the legs and pelvis muscles, and those might be important for the story and the character. For instance, at some points Archer is out of breath when he tries to stand up, is that because of just the effort he’s doing, or because his lungs are affected (like they might be in some of these disabilities). You know what I mean? It felt to me that the only thing mentioned about his condition was how he needed to use a wheelchair, and not much more. I wanted to know more about him, and I wanted to see how he dealt with it, and to be honest, I didn’t feel like he had come to terms with his condition.

I had issues with all the other characters in this book too. Archer’s mother babies him to an extreme, thinking that he isn’t capable of living on his own, or take control of his own life. Sad thing? His own “friends” think the exact same thing. Her friends are all judgmental and self absorbed.

“But with me, you decide it’s necessary to call in the bomb squad?”
“You, you’re…”
He nodded at him and looked him once over, as if taking in his form in the chair for the first time.
“I have a disability; I’m not dying.”

Then we have the plot, and it is all over the place. The rough plot is she’s kind of lost, they meet, they fall in “love”, she’s afraid to get all in because she doesn’t know how her life is going to be, they fight, she finds her way, they make up.

But my biggest issue with all of this was the romance and falling in love part. They meet, and within a week he’s totally smitten and she’s using him. Yep, I said it, I felt like she used him. She thought he was hot, he told her he had never kissed anyone, she decided she was going to be the first. After that she came on to him – hard – and they had sex. Look, I’m all for a strong and independent woman, but she had no consideration or gave a second thought to his feelings and how the experience would impact him. Later on she says she hadn’t realized he was a virgin, but come on… he had said the day before that he had never kissed anyone!!! Then her only concern is if he’s going to get clingy, like so many people get to their first lover.  Am I the only one that has an issue with this?

“Because she knew from experience that former virgins tended to get a little too attached to their cherry-poppers.”

The romance was way too fast and way too little substance. And let’s not forget the the way the intimate moments were written were weird as hell, given that Brielle was actually thinking about her lack of job, her friend’s issues and her ex-boyfriend during it. I mean, I’m going to believe she WASN’T thinking about those things, but if that’s what the author mentions while describing a sex scene, it is weird, right?

In the end, all their issues are resolved when a job and a house fall into her lap, without her having to work for it at all. I… I didn’t like it at all.

Within Brielle’s circle of friends, there are a few storylines trying to emerge. And I have to say, I’m not ok with them at all. Her gay best friend ends up in a relationship with a guy that was supposed to be hooking up with his roommate. Her other friend was almost sexually assaulted by her boss. The third friend ends up dating Brielle’s douche ex-boyfriend, shuts her friends out, and later announces she might be ace. The author messed up royally on the disability representation in this book, so I’m scared as to what might come out of the next three books.

I hope I explained myself well enough as to why this book didn’t work at all for me.

So, to you guys. Have you read this one? Are you curious at all? Do you have any doubts about my review of it? Let’s talk about this one…