2014 · 3 stars · contemporary · fiction

The Look of Love by Sarah Jio

The Look of Love by Sarah Jio
Pub. Date: November 25, 2014
Source: Finished copy via publisher (Thank you, Plume!!)
Summary: Born during a Christmas blizzard, Jane Williams receives a rare gift: the ability to see true love. Jane has emerged from an ailing childhood a lonely, hopeless romantic when, on her twenty-ninth birthday, a mysterious greeting card arrives, specifying that Jane must identify the six types of love before the full moon following her thirtieth birthday, or face grave consequences. When Jane falls for a science writer who doesn’t believe in love, she fears that her fate is sealed.
Genre: Contemporary, Fiction, Magical Realism
Recommended for: Readers looking for something easy and light-hearted, but willing to overlook a few flaws

Second chances were made for Sarah Jio. If you’ve been a follower of this blog for the past few months, you might recall my review of her last novel, Goodnight June. I couldn’t wait to get my hands on Goodnight June (a bookstore! Margaret Wise Brown! the ‘true’ story of how Goodnight Moon came to be!). Unfortunately, it was a struggle to get through that book and I was left with more complaints than praise. I’ll admit that when The Look of Love was announced, I was more than a little skeptical: I had already been burned once, was I really going to put myself on the line again?

Jane Williams is content with her apartment and beloved dog. Oh, sure, she loves the idea of love and would be thrilled to meet Mr. Right, but that clearly isn’t going to happen anytime soon. She’s content working in her flower shop, a Seattle staple, and spreading the love of those around her: Lo is a serial dater, in it for the thrill of the hunt, but easily grows bored. Elaine and Matthew have the kind of life only seen in magazines, so why is Elaine suddenly thinking about her new neighbor? Mel’s wife passed away nearly a decade ago and though he misses her dearly, is it possible to find love again in your 70s? Katie and Josh are newlyweds, completely passionate and more in love than ever, eager to start a life together. Jane’s family and friends are all lucky (or unlucky) in love, when will it be her turn?

On her 29th birthday, Jane receives an odd birthday card from a woman she has never met. When they finally do meet, Colette dishes some pretty heavy news: Jane was born with a special gift. Those eye problems she’s been having all her life? She’s actually seeing love. Love comes in many forms and Jane has one year to identify them before time runs out on her own love story.

After finishing Lindsay Hunter’s Ugly Girls, I was in dire need of some fluff. Enter Sarah Jio. Despite my less-than-stellar introduction to her work, The Look of Love sounding intriguing and, more importantly, just what I needed after the raw and grit of Ugly Girls. So perhaps this was merely a case of being in the right place at the right time with the right kind of mindset. Or maybe Goodnight June was a total dud and not at all representative of Jio’s work. In either case, I found The Look of Love to be a fun, quick read with just the right amount of drama. The perfect cooldown from the hard-hitting book I was still reeling from.

Flynn, Jane’s older brother, goes through girls like they’re going out of style. That is, until he looks out his window and sees the woman in a neighboring apartment. Though they’ve never spoken he’s enchanted and for the first time in his life, actually nervous. Jane’s hairstylist Mary is gorgeous. Her musician husband Eli is sizzling. Together they make a gorgeous pair, but now that Eli’s band has finally made it, his constant tour schedule has starting taking their toll. Over the course of a year Jane comes to realize what’s hiding behind smiles and outward appearances. She also discovers that love can be quiet and unassuming. Now it’s up to her to record everything.

While I enjoyed The Look of Love far more than Jio’s previous novel, it’s not without some flaws. My main issue was with Jane’s neurologist, Dr. Heller. This was a woman Jane had been seeing since she was a child – nearly two decades of her life. Shortly after one of her appointments, Jane receives a phone call and doesn’t recognize the number. It was Dr. Heller. Calling from her office. Am I really to believe that after twenty years Jane wouldn’t know her doctor’s number? Especially when Dr. Heller is, in Jane’s words, a mother-figure and mentor. Clearly these two woman have a strong relationship, they’re not just random acquaintances. It’s especially distracting when, later on in the novel, Dr. Heller’s name shows up on Jane’s caller ID. Another case of sloppy editing.

The other issue I had with Dr. Heller was a spontaneous interview she did. Jane’s love interest, Cam, was initially a slimy weasel, getting close to Jane because he needed a cover story for Time and he found out about her gift. He got in contact with the neurologist and easily obtained an interview about her client, violating all kinds of patient/doctor rights! Dr. Heller could have lost her practice, could have lost all ability to practice medicine. She threw away her entire career in the blink of an eye and thought nothing of it. Her ethics also were questionable when she practically bullies Jane into a surgery she doesn’t want:

“I’ve had to move mountains to make this happen, and you’d have to fly to Baltimore for the operation, but I pray that you’ll consent. Jane, if you don’t have this surgery, I fear you will regret it for the rest of your life.” She sighs. “That is, if you have the brain function left to even feel regret, or any other conscious though.”

EXCUSE ME? If I had a doctor who mocked me like that, you can bet that would be the last time I ever saw that doctor.

So while there were issues I had with The Look of Love, it was still leagues better than her previous novel. At times it can be overly sweet, but it came about at a time I needed something happy and I really didn’t mind at all. I’m disappointed with some of the endings (I didn’t see what made Cam such a great guy), but I’m positive Jio’s fans will be right on board with this novel. Pure escapism – with a gorgeous cover to boot!

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