I was already a devoted Talia Hibbert fan – I absolutely LOVE her Ravenswood series – but GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN is Talia on a whole new level, and I adored it. This is a slightly longer version of the stuff I yelled on Twitter about this book!
This book is a fantastic demonstration of why we need more #ownvoices fiction. I’ve read books before with characters who suffer from various physical issues. An ASTONISHING number of them give in the the temptation to have the hero’s magic peen literally PHYSICALLY CURE somebody. Neither peens nor the power of love are a substitute for proper medical care; I shouldn’t need to say this, but… Another thing I’ve seen is having characters with disabilities simply exist in suffering until their love interest comes along to ‘rescue’ them. This is also not great, which I also shouldn’t have to say.
What GET A LIFE, CHLOE BROWN does incredibly, amazingly well is show that Chloe is a Real Goddamn Person with an Actual Life. Her chronic pain limits her in various ways, sure, but she copes. She has a system for coping. She medicates matter-of-factly, and her narrative doesn’t revolve around her suffering. Her chronic pain is simply a part of how she navigates the world. It’s neither set dressing nor sole plot point; it’s just reality for her.
And the sense that Chloe is a real person brings me to my favorite thing about this book: it feels like Chloe could have achieved her self-growth and character arc without Red. I realize that this sounds weird to say about a romance! But somebody once told me that real love isn’t NEEDING to be with somebody, it’s WANTING to, and it really stuck with me. I think it’s important for romance novel protagonists to be whole, rounded people, capable of self-care and self-awareness. Just like in real life, where healthy relationships are important.
Yes, Red absolutely helps Chloe along her journey! But she made her Get-A-Life List before she even met the man, remember? His presence in her life changes the list and the ways she interacts with it some, but she was on her way to the realizations she comes to already. I suspect if she made an effort to complete her list with anybody else, she would have eventually come to some if not all of the same realizations. It would have taken a lot longer, and been a lot less satisfying (and included far fewer orgasms), but Chloe is capable of growth on her own, which means that Red just enriches her in a really lovely way.
There were a lot more things I loved about this book – I’ll be recommending it all over the place – including Red’s appreciation of Chloe’s large body without fetishizing her, his willingness to go to therapy (give me ALL THE MEN GOING TO THERAPY in your romance novels, please), and some incredible communication. Communication is super important to me in romances, and I absolutely loved that Red and Chloe managed to be so honest with each other – to the point where the one time there was a classic misunderstanding between them, they literally talked about it within thirty seconds, through a door! Amazing.
I’m extremely eager to read the rest of the Brown sisters’ stories, so I’ll just be over here. Waiting.