Promising but messy.
Blurb: Gigi Rutherford loves love stories. She reads them, she sells them at her romance bookstore, and she could spend hours imagining the meet-cutes of every couple she encounters. But when it comes to her own love interests, Gigi is out of stock. Instead of enduring bad date after bad date, these days she’d rather curl up with her favorite audiobook and the only man who makes her heart skip a beat: Zane Wilkenson, the smooth-voiced narrator Gigi is convinced is her soulmate.
Then, she’s presented with the chance of a lifetime: a ten-day bus tour through the English countryside, an ocean away from her bookstore—all in the presence of Zane, in person, as he leads the tour.
But when Gigi arrives at the bus terminal in London, Zane is nowhere to be found. Until he shows up, she’s stuck with an eclectic group of fellow travelers: recently widowed and chatty Charlotte;
trivia-obsessed Francis; Jenny, a true-crime-makeup YouTuber documenting every detail for her subscribers; and Sindhi and Roshi, a long-married couple who can’t stop bickering. Then there’s the brooding bus driver, Taj, who Gigi finds infuriating yet also incredibly alluring . . .
With heart and charm, warmth and humor, Chantel Guertin explores the meaning of love and family—and how, sometimes, the journey to yourself is where you’ll find everything you’ve been searching for.
What a cute premise, I thought to myself when reading the blurb. And it’s witty and heartfelt! A win-win! My takeaway is that you really have to love publicists for doing such an excellent job because I chose to read and review this book based on their write up.
Gigi runs a romance book shop called Love Interest, which used to be a regular book shop when her late parents owned it. It also happened to be where her parents first met. Because they were reading the same book, they decided it was fate. Years later Gigi has fallen in love with the voice who reads the audiobook version of the book that brought her parents together. The voice belongs to Zane Wilkenson, whose audiobook narrating career consisted of one book and who now operates a touring business in the UK. For her 30th birthday, her friends gift her with a trip to the UK and a place on this tour so that Gigi can finally meet her soulmate in Gigi, Listening by Chantel Guertin.
For me, a big old red entitlement flag rose bold and bright when, upon receiving a very expensive gift from her friends, Gigi never once says: omigosh, you guys, this is such an expensive present. You shouldn’t have, I don’t know what to say to your abundant generosity. Or: I can’t accept this. It’s way too expensive. Or: You are the best friends a girl could have. I will treasure each and every day of this trip with the complete awesomeness with which it was given. Nope. No gushing. Which made me wonder what they did for 40th birthdays. And for a 50th? Wowzers.
Gigi is completely and creepily, as it turns out, obsessed with Zane Wilkenson to the extent that when he doesn’t show up as tour guide because of a family emergency she practically has a pouting meltdown. On this very expensive gifted trip. How one cannot be awestruck immediately by London and nearby cities that one has read about one’s entire life rather than mooning over a man one has never met and who exists completely in her imagination is beyond me. But there you have it.
I wonder does the author know what Russell Banks’ novel The Sweet Hereafter is about? It struck me as ironic (or weird) that at the beginning of Gigi, Listening the bus driver of the tour would be reading a book about a deadly bus accident. That sent my thoughts spinning wildly!
One of my issues with Gigi, Listening is its superficiality. The characters don’t really have much depth and feel as if any consideration to giving them depth occurred as the writer undertook the task of actually writing the novel. In fact, the book not only feels like it was thrown together, it reads like it was thrown together.
With ARCs we readers take it as a given that there will be some typos. Sometimes there will be two or three but never more. Gigi, Listening had many. And did the author really mean myocardial infraction? Or infarction? And in Southern American lingo, “y’all” is a plural. We only say it in reference to a group. A single person is not a y’all.
But I digress. Somewhat.
Gigi, Listening has an intriguing idea and some characters who could be absolutely delightful if they were fleshed out. The idea of a nurse being a nervous Nellie/Nelle? Not any of the nurses I’ve ever encountered. An older Southern woman who doesn’t cook? There’s such a thing? (haha).
Despite being 30 and having lost her parents and having the responsibility of a bookstore to run, Gigi behaves frequently like a young adult. She is not very self-aware nor grounded in reality and is frequently strung out on her emotions.
However, some of the most well-thought-out passages come near the end of the book when it feels like it’s too little, too late, which leads me to wonder what the book could have been if the author had allowed whatever inspiration that made her write those passages overtake her writing for the entire novel. What if. What if. Oh, well.
I received an ARC in exchange for an honest review.