Yes, the cover is pink. Yes, the v in the word love is in the shape of a heart. No, I would never pick up this book in a bookstore. But I’d seen several bloggers say good things about Crossed Wires (one of those things being that the cover doesn’t suit it), so when author Rosy Thornton offered me a copy, I couldn’t say no. I had a feeling it might be just the thing for the end of the semester, when my brain is slightly fried. And I was right.
Crossed Wires is a light romance that isn’t quite chick lit. It has a lot of what I want in chick lit and none of what annoys me. It’s easy to read and has a straightforward plot that you pretty much know is going to end well. It has characters who would obviously be good for each other if they could just find a way to get together. There’s just enough dramatic tension to keep you reading and wondering what’s going to happen. It’s a lovely comfort read. There are perhaps not as many laughs as I’d expect when reading chick lit, but there are plenty of smiles—and frankly, I’d rather the characters keep their dignity than become slapsticky messes just to elicit a laugh.
Thornton manages to entertain while avoiding the familiar, obnoxious tropes of so much chick lit. The leading characters are not overly neurotic, although they do have problems and worries. When they go into crisis mode, they have a good reason to. The main characters, Mina and Peter, are depicted as equals—not in social status but certainly in desire for a partner. And they get roughly the same amount of “page time,” which keeps this from being a book about the needy woman finding her prince (or “earning” her prince by finding herself or some such nonsense). Peter and Mina’s friends and family members feel like authentic people with inner lives of their own. I liked them.
So what’s the story? Well, it begins with Peter, a Cambridge geography professor, calling his insurance company to file a claim for a car accident in which he hit the stump of a tree while swerving to avoid the neighbors’ cat. Mina takes the call. She appreciates his self-deprecating sense of humor, even if his jokes aren’t very good. He appreciates her reassuring tone, so much so that when he gets into another accident not long after, he asks for her when filing his claim. Before long, they’re exchanging calls regularly—a ritual that gives them each a brief respite from the stresses of their daily lives that comprise most of the book. They commiserate about being single parents and share what’s going on, never talking about what’s happening between them and where these conversations might lead. There are other threads involving Peter and Mina’s friends and family that explore the connections we make and the ones we sever, whether we choose to travel as ones or twos or threes or in a pack. And it’s all very well done.
I do want to make one point that is not actually a complaint about this book but about chick lit/contemporary romantic fiction in general. I kind of wished as I was reading that Peter and Mina weren’t parents—or rather I wish someone out there would write a romance like this about singles who aren’t parents. You see, so much chick lit seems to make fun of the single women it purportedly celebrates. They’re neurotic, filled with self-loathing, and have problems that are either all of their own doing or that are just petty problems that aren’t worth worrying about. Litlove sounded off about some of this a while back, and I whole-heartedly agree with her. Thornton avoids some of this by making Peter and Mina parents. It’s easy to take their worries seriously when they’re worrying about their children. It gives them and their concerns heft that you don’t find in a lot of chick lit. But must our problems involve children in order to be real?
This bothers me for a couple of reasons. Obviously, I want to see women I can relate to in literature. As it happens, I can to some extent relate to women—and men—that I encounter who are married, parents, and from other times and places, but there are times when I long to find what a friend once called a “companion on the page”—someone whose place in life is similar to my own. But also, and more seriously, I don’t like the message that gets sent when practically every single childless female in contemporary literature is depicted as a comic figure who doesn’t deserve to be taken seriously (or else as a cold, heartless career woman, but that’s a rant for another day). It sends the message that we aren’t quite grown up, that we need to straighten ourselves out, that we need rescuing. That’s not a good message for us to hear, and it’s not a good message for others to hear about us. Because it’s a lie, and it’s time we called it that.
Note, however, this rant has little to do with Thornton’s book, which is delightful! See other reviews at Tales from the Reading Room, Vulpes Libris, Unruly Reader, She Reads and Reads, Rhapsody in Books, The Biblio Blogazine, Bookstack, As Usual I Need More Bookshelves, and The Zen Leaf.