I didn't expect much from a book that cost me $0.99 at Borders; it was on the clearance rack. I was correct in my skepticism. Nothing Personal contained a rather tepid romance with multiple editing errors, which I'm surprised at since I've read other titles from Cerridwen Press that don't contain such mundane errors. Plus, they've often been better stories. Maybe I just got a bad printing or noticed glaring errors that other readers glossed over.
The setting wasn't really important, and to be honest, I can't remember many of the details regarding it. I know that the main characters, Carla and Leo, live in the same apartment complex. Carla works in a beauty salon while Leo is a computer business man (neither of their careers are highlighted very much). There is one scene where Carla is invited to a family gathering, but overall the locations were as mundane as the romance. I really wanted to be drawn into the setting, but the vagueness made it difficult to get lost in the story. Perhaps the author tried to give Nothing Personal a generic and modern-day contemporary setting that any reader could relate to no matter where they lived. That or the setting really wasn't a concern since she wanted to focus on the romance. This was a poor choice, though, because the setting could have helped develop the plot and characters.
There are a few main characters. First, our heroine is a rather meek and annoyingly self-conscious female by the name of Carla. She is thirty-five, works at a dead-end salon job, and is constantly concerned about settling down and having a family. After all, her biological clock is ticking. Let's meet the amazing man of her dreams next. His name is Leo Mark Spencer; I admit that I love this name! He is ten years younger but has known Carla since he was seven years old. Alice, his older sister, is best friends with Carla. Heck, Carla even babysat him with Alice. Leo's family is rather large compared to Carla's, and Carla's been like one of the family for a long time. Little does she know that little Leo has been crushing on her since that tender age of seven. So, he's had a crush on an older woman for around eighteen years. When I consider that long of a crush, part of me thinks it's romantic while another part of me thinks it's a little excessive, especially considering how young he was when the crush first formed.
As for other important characters, there aren't really any worth mentioning. There are a few family members, Carla's and Leo's friends (I especially liked Cameron Murphy since he started to like Carla and presented a point of conflict other than Carla's own insecurities), and Leo's ex-floozies, all women he used to help him forget Carla.
The plot is simple enough-- Carla and Leo are "star-crossed lovers" that have always been destined for each other despite their ten-year age gap. Now that Leo is a mature adult, he's taken up the hunt. He's going to convince Carla to fall in love with him and isn't afraid to use every inch of his body to accomplish this feat. Meanwhile, there is a bit of family muddling, especially from the pregnant Alice and Carla's own self-sabotage that complicates their budding relationship.
One aspect I really enjoyed about Nothing Personal is that it jumps into the story and romance right away. The beginning laundry scene was one of my favorites, with the quote from Carla's mother causing me to crack a smile as I started to read:
If you had any kind of a life at all, you wouldn't be sitting in your apartment building's laundry room at nearly ten on Friday night. Alone (9).
I really wanted to like this story because it contained a novel concept. I'm not used to reading romances in which the female character is older than the male character, and especially not to the degree they are in this book. Plus, there were so many social implications I hoped would be tackled throughout the book-- the stigma attached to beauty and aging women, the immaturity of younger men, the fact that a woman choosing to not have kids right away, or at all, is a valid and important life choice. Unfortunately, all these issues fell flat purely because Elisa Adams was not interested in tackling such heavy concepts in her romance novel. She gave the reader what they typically expect-- pure and utter fluff. No substance. No purpose other than to entertain and provide housewives around the world escape from their dreary realities. Call me a romance snob, but I expect more heart, depth, and meaning to the romances I read. I especially expect more from the female characters than Carla gave.
Carla is just too weak, insecure, and depressingly mundane for me to admire or even like. She whined continuously, cared too much about what others thought, especially in regards to her age difference from Leo's, and is concerned with settling down and having a family, too stereotypical and predictable behavior. Another frustrating point is that I don't think Carla's last name is ever mentioned whereas Leo's entire name is referenced once or twice. Was she not good enough to have her own name and identity outside of Leo? Carla's a nobody loser working a dead-end job in a beauty salon waiting for prince charming to rescue her, situate her into a comfy home where she can stop working and raise their brood of children. Predictable. Boring. Typical. Blah.
Leo is a much more interesting character, and I did appreciate that Elisa Adams alternated chapters and sections from Carla's perspective to Leo's. It gave the reader a more balanced look at how their romance budded and developed. Leo was the main reason the romance didn't suck completely, him and his interesting and laughable family. As I already mentioned, I like his name. He is also a younger guy, which is a different type of a male protagonist from what I'm used to. I liked that he works with computers because my husband does too. I especially enjoyed how surprisingly mature he was for his age, and the care and fineness he pursues Carla with. He really loves her, more so than he even realizes. Of course, he has his own flaws. He's stubborn, which complicates things with Carla, and he's shielded himself from ever getting hurt by sleeping with every dumb tramp that comes across his path. Of course this turns out to be a good thing because he's developed into an excellent lover.
Being a "fluff" romance, there were no real themes nor motifs other than the usual "love conquers all" attitude. Also, that happy endings are always around the corner, no matter how ugly the situation looks. There are no literary elements utilized in this book because it is not that type of a read.
I've read much better romance novels, and it's books like this that give the entire romance genre a negative stigma in literary circles. There is nothing wrong with having a "fluff" piece to read, but at least have the audacity to write well! If you are looking for some intelligent romances, I highly recommend anything by Amanda Quick and Jo Beverly. My preferred romance setting is anything historical, which is the type of books those two authors write. If you are looking for a good contemporary romance, Jayne Ann Krentz, the same person as Amanda Quick, and Christina Dodd are very apt in that romance style. I've even written a review about one of Dodd's contemporary romances called Tongue in Chic.
There were just too many cons to make this book worth reading. Just look at the cover art. I usually don't put a lot of stock into cover art, but out of all the genres, the cover makes the biggest difference with romances. This one is just plain sloppy. It's computer generated, and it's the scene from the beginning of the book, when Carla and Leo are in the washing room of their apartment building. In my opinion, it doesn't look professional. The shading is all off, and the cover just turns me away from reading it. The only reason I wasted my time on it was because of the inexpensive price, and now I look forward to giving this one away to an interested reader. Any takers?
At least the cover art went with the novel. The title didn't make sense to me. Why Nothing Personal? Who was taking anything personal in the book? Was it the fact that Carla didn't want to date a younger man...you know, nothing personal? I just don't get it.
The entire book had an "I don't get it" feel to it. It was as if Elisa Adams slapped together a novel from a secret hidden fantasy of hers. I've never read anything else by Adams, so I can't compare this to her other writing. I've read, though, that she does have other romances that are better. Maybe this was her first exploration into the contemporary romance genre. Who knows? All I know is that it has weak presentation, writing, and storytelling, especially when compared to other romance giants that I've read.
As for the maturity rating, there are a few love scenes but nothing overly explicit, especially when compared to pieces by Laurell K. Hamilton and J.R. Ward. Because of the content and adult-themed elements, I would recommend this read to anyone that is eighteen years or older.
The book started with some promise, and it even had interesting supporting characters. However, the main female protagonist left me wanting something better and stronger. And you can't have a romance novel without a strong pair of lead lovers. I was disappointed by this tepid romance. I wouldn't read it again, and I would only recommend it to readers that are fans of Elisa Adams' writings. Otherwise, even if you saw this book for free, it's not worth the time it would take to read it.
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