Saturday, 11 April 2020

#CBR12 Book 18: "Get a Life, Chloe Brown" by Talia Hibbert

Page count: 384 pages
Rating: 4 stars

Official book description:
Chloe Brown is a chronically ill computer geek with a goal, a plan, and a list. After almost—but not quite—dying, she’s come up with seven directives to help her “Get a Life”, and she’s already completed the first: finally moving out of her glamorous family’s mansion. The next items?

• Enjoy a drunken night out.
• Ride a motorcycle.
• Go camping.
• Have meaningless but thoroughly enjoyable sex.
• Travel the world with nothing but hand luggage.
• And... do something bad.

But it’s not easy being bad, even when you’ve written step-by-step guidelines on how to do it correctly. What Chloe needs is a teacher, and she knows just the man for the job.

Redford ‘Red’ Morgan is a handyman with tattoos, a motorcycle, and more sex appeal than ten-thousand Hollywood heartthrobs. He’s also an artist who paints at night and hides his work in the light of day, which Chloe knows because she spies on him occasionally. Just the teeniest, tiniest bit.

But when she enlists Red in her mission to rebel, she learns things about him that no spy session could teach her. Like why he clearly resents Chloe’s wealthy background. And why he never shows his art to anyone. And what really lies beneath his rough exterior…

This is another one of those books that have come highly recommended on a number of blogs, as well as by a number of Cannonballers whose opinions I trust. It became available in an e-book sale at the start of March, and fit nicely with my #BlackHistoryMonth goal of reading more by and about black women (I'm fully aware of my privilege as a middle-class, middle-aged white woman and I know I still read far too many books both by and about mostly white characters with a very similar background to my own, but I am trying to expand my horizons, I really am), I dove right in.

Get a Life, Chloe Brown deserves all the positive reviews it's been getting. It's a lovely little romance, and it was even better for featuring a plus-size, chronically ill character, who at no point in the story is in any way suddenly magically healed by her romantic encounters, or made to feel like she's worth any less because she's ill. Since being diagnosed with fibromyalgia, she's lost a lot of her support network, including a boyfriend and most of her regular friends. She's been isolating herself for far too long, and after a near-death experience, she decides things need to change. She loves making lists (and they help her when her short term memory is muddled from the meds she frequently has to take) and she makes a special to-do-list. She moves into a new flat and immediately ends up in conflict with Redford, the handsome super of the building.

A few months later, she's had a few more mortifying encounters with Red (she's also spied on him painting at night), but not really made much progress with her "Get a Life" list. She offers to design a new website for Red in return for help with some of the items on the list. The two fairly quickly discover that the animosity that exists between them because of their first meetings are mainly down to misunderstandings, and it doesn't take long before they are fast friends, quickly moving towards something more.

Both Chloe and Red have supportive families, but emotional baggage from their pasts. While working together to cross off items on Chloe's list, it also becomes clear that Red needs to reevaluate his current choices and decide whether he wants to relaunch his painting career or do something else. It's very obvious that he's not content being a building superintendent. Of course, their pasts cause some friction along the way to the HEA but nothing that annoyed me too much, and there is suitable and appropriate groveling from the protagonist responsible.

This is the first in a series, with Chloe's younger sisters being the stars of the other books. While her sisters are nice supporting characters, one of them has an annoying quirk where she uses the wrong word and her sisters keep going "don't you mean ...?" A whole book with a heroine doing that is likely to drive me nuts. Nevertheless, based on this book, I will absolutely read more of Hibbert's books.

Judging a book by its cover: Whether I like it or not, the publishing world has clearly decided that cutesy cartoon covers are the standard for contemporary romance now, until the next trend comes along to replace it. This cover, though, I really like.  Chloe and Red look so cozy, and the reader can see that Chloe really is a big woman (which isn't really focused on in the story at all, another thing I really liked). The cat in the background is obviously also very appropriate.

Crossposted on Cannonball Read.

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