Book Review: Paris is Always a Good Idea by Jenn McKinlay ★★

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“This. This was the last time I’d been truly happy. My year abroad. It hit me then that I no longer knew the young woman who had fallen in love with Colin and Jean Claude and Marcelino. I couldn’t even remember what it felt like to be topsy-turvy, dizzy from a smile, ass-over-tea-kettle crushing on someone.”

I picked this book up on a whim. I hadn’t heard anything about it, I’ve never read anything from this author before, and it was a new release. So I just went for it!

It turned out ok 🤷‍♀️. It was a mostly enjoyable read, but definitely not something that I am going to remember long term or anything that had any real impact on me. A lot of it was grating and annoying, and you had to REALLY suspend your disbelief a lot of the time. A very plain 2.5 stars.

This book follows Chelsea (heyo, that’s almost my name!), a thirty year old woman who has a major frekout when she learns her widower father is getting remarried. Remarried to a younger woman he has known for all of two weeks, who won him in a bachelor auction. Understandable right? Well not according to Chelsea’s family. Her dad and sister decide that she is being an unreasonable, cold-hearted bitch and they basically tell her she has been no fun since her mom died 7 years ago. They say her life has been on pause and she forgot how to be fun and feel love. Ummm fucking ouch?? One of my biggest issues with this book was how Chelsea’s family treated her. They were ready to disown her and cut her out of their lives, because she hasn’t gotten over the trauma of her mother’s death and hasn’t had a boyfriend in years??? Good lord, these people are awful. And it was never addressed! Chelsea is just like wow you’re right I’m a terrible person and I’m dead inside. So she quits her very important job raising money for cancer (that literally saves lives!) to go “find herself” in Europe. Because that is the last place she was ever happy. Because during her year there 7 years ago, she somehow fell madly in love with 3 different guys and managed to break all of their hearts. OkAAaayyyyy.

See what I mean about absolutely needing to suspend your disbelief in order to enjoy this at all? It’s kind of a stupidly ridiculous set up. And while Chelsea’s reaction to her father getting remarried is completely justified, it does set the tone for how she handles herself and her level of maturity. It’s pretty bad. She is supposedly this very serious, professional, straight-laced thirty year old woman, but for a lot of the book she acts like an idiot teenager. Who genuinely thinks that they can revisit an ex from 7 years ago that they barely spent any real time with and barely “fell in love with” to find love again??? That’s a completely skewed and naïve concept, that I, again, just had to roll with in order to enjoy the book at all. On top of this, Chelsea is just all around kind of an annoying character. She is not consistent in how she acts or thinks. She does dumb stuff. She’s woefully gullible and naïve. She acts privileged and entitled, but pretends she’s not. She’s not true to herself and doesn’t own her own feelings/actions. It’s like ok have a silly idea, but own up to the ridiculousness of it. Don’t be so serious/adamant about it (that whole “one of these guys will be my true love and make me laugh again” thing, like c’mon). And she uses weird slang or pop-culture words from like the early 2000s or something, which is just very strange and jarring??? But this could also be a writing flaw, of which there were a few.

One of my biggest complaints about Chelsea and her “journey” was the fact that she was literally trying to use men to heal herself and learn how to live again. Girl, ew. Find clarity on your own; you don’t need a man to fix you 🙄. This is a fine-line in a lot of rom coms and even just regular novels that have a romantic subplot, making it clear that a woman can find love and happiness, but it does not define her. She is her own person and is complete and healthy on her own, but is choosing to be in love with someone. This author did not toe the line. Chelsea decided she was a broken person and literally left everything she had worked for and achieved on her own to chase after men who no longer gave a crap about her. So THEY could heal her. Anything she said to the contrary was just bull. (Also, all of the men straight up sucked and it was weird that they had such strong reactions to seeing her after 7 years when they clearly haven’t cared about her in a really long time and I find it VERY hard to believe that this chick made 3 dudes fall so deeply in love with her even when she was “fun” mmmkay).

So, after the hurdle of getting on board with the book’s premise (which took a MINUTE), I was willing to just go along for the ride. I love Ireland and Italy as backdrops to a rom com (Paris is meh for me), so I wanted to see where the story went and at least experience those beautiful countries. When this book began, just knowing the synopsis, I was fully expecting her to choose one of her 3 guys from Europe in the end or decide that she was fine on her own and come home to find love (which I guessssss kind of happened), but the moment Jason was introduced, it was painfully clear that he was the actual love interest. I know that it’s usually obvious within the first 10 pages in a romance novel who the couple is going to be, but in this case it was kind of frustrating, because we were told ahead of time that there were all these men she was going to interact with. So knowing that Jason, her coworker rival from back home, was going to be the guy she chose in the end, before she even made it to Europe, was pretty frustrating. It made me care less about her journey and meeting the other guys again, because why bother?? We knew at that point it would be shitty and wouldn’t work out for her. I wish the author had written with a bit more finesse when it came to introducing Jason. It was way too heavy-handed and obvious. In fact, a lot of her writing was like that.

The pacing of the book was odd. Some scenes were really drawn out while others felt very short and abrupt. The transitions between scenes and locations was also very choppy. The plot was very “point A to point B to point C” in nature and it made it pretty boring/predictable. Because the points we were going to were so pretty and rich and full of culture, though, I do think this would make a better movie than book. Movies can get away with that scene-jumping a bit more than a novel can. And, the lack of depth and logic here would not be as noticeable in a film. Back to the writing, I have mentioned already that the dialogue and the character’s way of speaking was grating and immature at times. All of it just felt a little off and trying too hard most of the time. Other than that, the writing was fine. Very middle of the road.

Regarding the romance now. Ehhhhh it could have been way better. The “getting together” was SO much better than the “being together” in this case, though. Ugh that ending was terrible. So, like I said, we know Jason is going to be The One from the moment he steps onto the page, because clearly he and Chelsea “hate” each other. Man, that was handled really poorly. There was no real reason for their animosity at work, other than Chelsea being judgmental about Jason’s shoes and frat-boy nature. Jason doesn’t seem mean to her, so Chelsea has this one-sided rivalry that makes no sense. Basically, she is just telling us the whole time how terrible and crude he is and how much she hates him. But there is zero foundation for it. Right away, when he is “forced” to work closely with her after she leaves, he becomes the caring friend that flirts with her. There is no banter between the 2 at all and no real enemies-to-lovers relationship. It falls so flat. And, when they do get together, he reveals that he’s been in love with her for ages and they immediately known they are it for each other. Like what??? You don’t even know each other. You’ve had little to no interactions and this makes no sense. It was hard to take seriously. And the ending with the whole lying and looking through his phone and then arguing in front of a crowd in Italy??? It was so cliche and syrupy, I hated it. There were some fun moments between the 2 of them, but overall it was a pretty boring romance.

What kept me reading, other than wanting to see the countries that I love and the hope that this would be better than I expected, was the fun/lighthearted nature of the book. Once I realized I simply could not take this book seriously, it did make it easier to just enjoy the ride. It was so fast to read and parts were very enjoyable. I liked Ireland the best and wished there was more time spent there. Aoife and the pole-dancing innkeeper were my favorites. I did also like that there was an undercurrent of more serious themes going on, like grief and acceptance. Cancer played a big role in this book and I liked Chelsea’s connection to it and how her mother’s death from cancer fueled her drive to fight it. That made sense and was a good backstory for Chelsea. I did not like, however, that everyone then had the same reason to be working there. It was a little melodramatic to give Jason a similar backstory and to give her boss cancer, as well. It was overkill. Too convenient. It made it seem too dramatic and messed up the tone for me. I won’t go so far as to say she was using their trauma as a plot device, but it was close. At times, it seemed like the author didn’t know which tone she actually wanted to stick with: light and fluffy or serious and important.

Overall, this was enjoyable to read in the moment and easy to fly through, but ultimately a miss for me. There were too many issues and missteps that I could not forgive in order to really care for this one. Once I finished it (especially after that VERY disappointing ending), I could remove myself from the story and realize how much was actually not great about it. And let me tell you, that last scene….the whole “mom” situation…..I was GAGGING. So bad omg. That’s just weird and gross and I was not hear for it. Left a bad taste in my mouth for the whole book.

So yeah. Try it if you want, but you’re not missing much if you don’t.

I’d definitely choose Italy. Laying in the sun under some grape vines. Sign me up!

Thanks for reading! Sorry this one got kind of long 😅

Title: Paris is Always a Good Idea
Author: Jenn McKinlay
Genre: Chick-Lit | Contemporary | Adult | Romance | Cultural: France, Ireland, Italy | Self-Discovery
Publication Date: July 21st, 2020
Page Count: 334 pages
Buy It: Wordery Book Depository

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