I was sent this book as an advance copy by the publisher via NetGalley for reviewing purposes, but all opinions are my own.
After scientists stumbled across an anomalous human hormone present during moments of emotional intimacy, further research created the ability to harness the direction of living energy and pinpoint when two lines will merge. Personalized chips are now implanted beneath the thumbnails of every infant, where glowing numbers count down to the moment they will meet their soul mate.
Fate is now a calculation.
But loving someone isn’t.
When Shannon Wurther, the youngest detective in Southern California, finds himself face-to-face with Aiden Maar, the reckless art thief Shannon’s precinct has been chasing for months, they are both stunned. Their Camellia Clocks have timed out, and the men are left with a choice—love one another or defy fate.
September 21st, 2017
(Actual rating 2,5 stars)
So, fun story (skip this part if you only care about my review) I requested this ARC because my buddy Rin said it was cute and it was kind of a soulmate AU (I mean it’s not an AU since it’s not fanfiction but you get the idea) and most importantly one of the protagonists owns a cat and he walksher on a leash, like how could I not want to read it?
And I’m glad I did read it, you know. But the funny part of this story is that I finished reading it while having a fever, then proceeded to dream about writing this review (and my dream self even made up a few extra chapters of this book in her head, which she proceeded to read while dreaming, giving the book a completely different epilogue)……. Well I hope I’m not the only one having weird/obsessive dreams while being sick.
Anyway, perhaps the negativity of being sick made my dream self start to see only the negative sides of this book, so that’s why I’m writing this review after having distanced myself a little, but there is one word that dream-Silvia kept thinking about to describe elements of the plot of this book, and awake-Silvia will use it.
I don’t want to start with the negatives though, so I’ll talk about what I liked. The core idea, while not extremely original, was good. I think everyone has read a soulmate AU in their life once, and there’s a reason why they’re really popular. The idea that there is someone (one person only) out there who is perfect for you is appealing for those who believe in it, and soulmate AUs give life to this belief in different shapes. Here, it’s thanks to a timer that people find their soulmate.
The explanation for the whole soulmate thing wasn’t very extensive and it wasn’t anything supernatural apparently but more of a result of science and technology, which I really liked. I would have liked to find out more about it but ok.
Now, another thing that made me want to read it is the fact that the two protagonists are a cop and a thief. I really liked both characters individually and I also liked them together, so in theory I should have loved the dynamic that was supposed to be there (or that I expected to be there) thanks to those two roles (cop/thief screams enemies to lovers to me, which is my absolutely favorite trope ever). That dynamic was actually one of the things that I was most looking forward to, but I’m sad to say that there was no such thing.
There was such potential to explore both the soulmate thing and the cop/thief thing, and I feel like I only saw 1/10 of what I was expecting. And here comes the word that dream-me thought of when trying to describe this: half assed. Admittedly dream-me might have been a little harsh with her wording (it doesn’t help that I don’t actually know a nicer equivalent word for that? #EnglishAsSecondLanguageProblems), but with no offense to the author, this is the best word that fits what my feelings towards many elements of the plot that were barely there and not explored, or not as much as I’d have liked to see them.
The soulmate stuff was basically only an excuse to justify insta-lust, without really focusing on why these two people are perfect for each other. There was a lot of focus on their interactions, which should have showed me why and how the MCs are perfect together. Well, together they were cute I have to admit, but they didn’t scream “soulmates” to me. After all, a lot of the page-time of soulmate AUs is spent with one or both characters before their clock times out, and the reader gets to know them individually, their fears and expectations of their future soulmate, and only later sees them interact as soulmates. I’m not saying that all “AUs” need to be like that, but to me that’s the beauty of them, and here the two MCs interacted almost right away.
As for the cop/thief dynamic, it wasn’t even there. Aiden (the art thief) wasn’t really a morally grey character, and his “hobby” was never truly a point of conflict between the MCs. It was actually never solved (I mean Aiden has more than a dozen paintings he has stolen and nobody cares about those anymore?).
That’s why this word kept coming to mind: half assed worldbuilding (the explanation for the soulmate thing), half assed them being soulmates, half assed cop/thief dynamic. Everything was much more focused on the domesticity of their relationship, which works very well with some books (friends to lovers for example) but it’s not how I personally expected this story to go.
Now, I don’t only want to be negative, because I truly enjoyed a lot of this book, especially the beginning. I kept reading because it was cute and light and I liked the MCs and it kept me interested in seeing their interactions as their relationship developed. I was in that mental space where you see that the book is not perfect but you’re still enjoying it without being too emotionally invested, but at some point it just kept dragging and I was honestly bored.
Nonetheless, I kept reading, and that’s where even more half assed stuff was added to the plot (well, there wasn’t really a plot, was there?). Stuff that actually pissed me off, like the use of the trope “the bitch blond ex girlfriend who’s still in love with her ex and is super mean to her ex’s new SO, who is also filthy rich and doesn’t get why the MC is with someone that she sees as much lower than her in status”. That was literally only used to create unnecessary conflict (the conflict was right there right under your nose???? Cop/thief dynamic hello????) and prolong the book.
Then, there tried to be some art theme (that’s what the title is about, if you were wondering). Guess? Also kinda half assed.
What I’m trying to say is that this book had the potential to be awesome (or at least even good) if it just stuck to its premise and stopped adding 3573730 details that were barely touched upon, taking away page time from originally sounded interesting just by reading the blurb. Sometimes less is more, and it could have been a nice 150-pages story, but dragging it to be much longer than that is what eventually made me dislike a big part of it.
Which is a shame because as I said, I really liked the beginning, and I even think that the author’s writing style, while a little raw, has a lot of potential (I’m not allowed to quote because it’s an ARC but some sentences were really nicely written, almost poetic).
One thing I liked was the representation though, and the fact that because of the clock system everyone seemed to be pansexual since the gender of their soulmate wasn’t previously known and both characters were shown to also be/have been attracted to women previously. There was also talk about how sometimes the system isn’t limited to two people, so even poly relationships are contemplated in the worldbuilding (I just wonder what the deal is with aromantic people since there didn’t seem to be an explanation for them. I assume that since it’s mentioned that sometimes the clock is wrong that would be their case).
There was also representation of chronic depression which I feel was done well but I can’t speak for it since I haven’t experienced it myself.
So, overall: I think the author can grow a lot and I’m going to keep an eye on her next works, but this one didn’t 100% work for me. I would still recommend it if you’re a fast reader (not my case sadly) and you don’t mind spending a few hours on something mostly really light, cute and queer-positive.
TW: non graphic sexual assault on a woman, depression, anxiety, dissociation (most TWs are listed at the beginning of the book)