2.55 stars rounded up
I love Josh Lanyon (+1). I love road trip romance theme (+1). But new adult contemporary is not my favorite genre of mine (-1). Having said that, considering that this is Lanyon and the promise of the blurb "From Paris to Rome and back again, Jeff and George fall for each other, hard, while quite literally running for their lives" are enough to make me curious to read this. I figure I can try to set aside my feeling of new adult stories (that sometimes I feel too old to enjoy them) and set myself for the ride.
Alas, it's not exactly satisfactorily for me...
First, the new adult characters. Jefferson is supposed to be 22-years old -- but he sounds, well, old. Sure, I believe in old souls, and some people are just mature for their age. However, Jefferson doesn't feel like 'new-adult-ish' to me. Jefferson feels like he is written by someone older who thinks that they know what the 20's are really thinking but at the same time, still lets their own disapproval about the Millenials seeps through the pages. For example...
"In fact, it was kind of beautiful. But…TMI. Right?"
"Away from computer. Okay. Was the real message TTYL or DND or FOAD?"
"I brooded over this as I continued to walk through the crowds of people wielding selfie-sticks and cell phones. By the way, it isn’t that I object to the preservation of the moment, the documenting of an experience—I dreamed of being a filmmaker, after all—but were these people actually experiencing anything? Their backs were to the art, to each other even. Was the experience not enough unless others validated it with likes and comments and retweets?"
It doesn't help that George, the supposedly love interest, keep calling Jefferson with, well, Jefferson. I'm very sorry to say that it made him sound old. Because of that, Jefferson doesn't feel like he has enough character in him.
Second, the road trip/adventure/mystery -- like I said, I am all about road-trip romance. Because road trip for me can actually enhance that intimacy moments. But in here, the road-trip/adventure portion also feels half-cooked. Yes, we have Jefferson visiting places, only to be interrupted by the villains as he is interrogated, kidnapped, and threaten. And nope, there's really no road trip happening BETWEEN Jefferson and George at all. In fact it seems like Jefferson going to one place, George follows, George leaves, Jefferson follows, Jefferson leaves, George follows ... rinse and repeat. As for the mystery, it's supposed to be one of those 'mistaken identity' themes, but the villains feel caricaturish (until it becomes slightly ridiculous, because how in the hell they have the resources to track Jefferson?!?), and not very engaging. And I'm sorry that I feel George's occupation also a little bit over-the-top for new-adult related theme. We do have dead body (dead body count = 1) if that matters to you.
Lastly, the romance -- ah, what can I say, it's meh at best, and uninspiring at the worst. I felt that George and Jefferson have no chemistry. Like something is off between them, even if it turns out that they used to be old friends (and I'm a sucker for reunited couple as well). I usually don't mind Lanyon's version of HFN ending, but gosh, I kinda wish that they end up with different love interest all together.
It's not all lost cause. It still provides Lanyon's trademark of dry humor. Plus Lanyon is excellent when describing unrequited / internal feelings (I'm a sucker for those). I also liked it when Jefferson meets with a bunch of Californians because THAT feel more relatable -- an believable account of someone young on the road trip to foreign country, making friends, going to places together. And I kinda like those quotes from Esquire’s Europe in Style, some of the quotes are full of thoughts I could easily apply on my next solo trip (not necessarily to Europe).
My friend Natasha said in her review that "I had to give this 3 stars (technically 2.5). Giving it 2 felt wrong to me.". I am going to rip a page out of her books. Technically this is 2.5 stars. I usually rounded things down. But when Lanyon is being excellent, it's perfect for me so I still cannot exactly put this in my 2-stars rating. You know what, let's make this 2.55 stars. So I can rounded it up...
The ARC is provided by the publisher via Netgalley for an exchange of fair and honest review. No high rating is required for any ARC received.