Rarely have I read books in the romance genre that deal with such issues as mental illness, self-love, even poetry. But there are always exceptions to the rule. Such was it with C.B. Gabriel’s Trey & Kate, a contemporary romance that focused more on the reality of relationships and life than it did romance. This book is written in a completely different style than what you would expect from a romance novel which is why I would tentatively place this book in a cross-genre category: literary fiction and romance.
1. Thoughts on the plot
There are a few things you can expect from a romance novel. One is that there will be romance. Two is that the road to getting there will be difficult, with many ups and downs. This book was no exception, however it did not follow the formula that is often standard for the romance genre. Instead of figuring out life’s ups and downs together, the two main characters were apart more often than they were together. They were figuring out how to deal with their own demons. yes, they pined for the other, but it was learning to deal with their own emotions and traumas that was centre stage. This made for a completely different sort of romance than what I had expected. It was far more realistic and therefore more like literary fiction than otherwise.
2. Thoughts on the main character
These two main characters, Trey and Kate, are extremely realistic; they are messed up individuals with problems that just about anyone can relate to. They have both been burned in the past and it is difficult for them to trust. I can appreciate that this story does its best to be realistic, but I think I would have liked these two to perhaps be a bit more consistent in their journey. They jump around from problem to problem—trust issues to mental illness to dealing with the problems from the past to addiction—without every really solving or conquering one first. This makes them feel a little too much like characters who would perhaps belong in a series rather than a single book, wherein they focus on one primary problem rather than several. Again, though, this fits with the style of realism and so does make sense with the rest of the story. I just, personally, like a little more consistency and linear progression.
3. Favourite part
One of the things that is rarely seen in a romance (though I have seen it more frequently in the last couple of years than otherwise) is the focus on self-love before romantic love. This book manages to make self-love and self-acceptance an extremely important factor. Actually, much of Trey and Kate’s journey is to do with learning to accept themselves and their issues before they can commit to a relationship with each other. I really liked this idea, because it emphasises something which I consider to be really important. You can’t look to another person to make you happy; that comes from within.
My only real critique for this book is to do with the style of writing. This book uses metaphor quite heavily as a means for these characters to both relate to each other and to understand life. That in itself is fine, but the regular interactions that often flesh out a character and make them so interesting are then ignored to be almost non-existent. There is a lot of information that seems to be missing and when coupled with the heavy use of metaphor, this book reads more like poetry than it does a coherent story. Granted, that fits the genre-mash that I mentioned earlier, however it does make the coherence of this story a bit rough. The characters are also a little bit more difficult to get to know because a good number of people do not communicate or think primarily in metaphor and the lack of average interactions makes them feel a little stiff.
Overall, I would say that this book was definitely not what I expected from a romance. It deals more with the issues that one might face in real life. It examines the concept of self-love and it puts the characters through a number of scenarios that you would not typically see in a romance novel. For this reason, I add the classification of literary fiction. I would say that given these things, this book is GOOD.