Rating: 2.75 stars
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Jacob is at a huge New York book convention and running a booth for his job with an independent publisher of gay literature. The first tiring day of set-up is almost complete until he realizes he’s missing a box full of things he needs for tomorrow’s customers. In an effort to expedite the process, he tries to procure the box himself, but is told by a grumpy yet extremely attractive worker that he has to wait for someone to deliver it. This process is frustrating and long and ends with another argument with the hot box man that goes much later into the night than he expected. Since he’s basically forced to walk through the city to get to his hotel, Jacob’s annoyed but relieved when Toni, the man he’s grown to despise, offers to give him a ride.
Little is said, but the next evening the same thing happens. Jacob is forced to cover for his mysteriously absent boss and ends up staying at the conference until late. This time, when Toni picks him up, he takes him to a restaurant, owned by his Italian mother, who wants nothing more than to feed Jacob and set him up with her son. The food is amazing, the company much better than he ever imagined, and the two (with help from mama) set up a date for the next evening.
Jacob’s only in town for a few days for the convention, but he and Toni are inseparable during this time. Jacob is grateful for Toni’s support while he deals with some unexpected and unwelcome issues that arise with his employer. Toni, in turn, is happy to have found someone so much better than his ex, who turns out to be extremely bad news. The beginning of this relationship is a crazy roller coaster ride, but they hold on to each other and the rapidly growing love between them.
I thought Book Fair sounded like a fun idea for a book and a great setting for a budding romance. Maybe it was the thought of being surrounded by all of those books that immediately conjures amorous feelings, but I looked forward to seeing a relationship develop at a book convention.
I also thought the characters were confident and strong. I liked that they spoke their minds, and I especially appreciated that there wasn’t any hemming and hawing over one’s sexuality. There was very little angst involved in this regard, and I appreciated the depiction of a loving, supportive family. Toni’s mama, in particular, was a character in every sense of the word. While I do think she was a bit too over-the-top, I loved her devotion to her son and her unconditional acceptance and love of him.
The biggest problem I had with Book Fair is that there was very little story here. I think it could’ve made an excellent short story, no longer than 50 pages. Since Jacob and Toni meet and within two days are declaring their love for each other (yes, it’s insta-love), there’s not much buildup there. So it’s a lot of tedious, monotonous description of every minute of the day, which was insubstantial, and its only purpose was to serve as filler between the few things that happened in this book.
Can we talk about the insta-love a second? I love a good, immediate connection between characters, but these two were ready to live their happily ever after within about 24 hours of meeting, before they knew anything about each other. In fact, the major conflict of the book is based upon the fact that Toni does not know Jacob’s last name! It’s just so unrealistic and too idealistic for me. And once the I love you’s started flying within days of laying eyes upon each other, it was difficult to keep my eyes from rolling.
This book felt contrived to me, not only with the insta-love but especially with the major conflict in the book. How hard is it to pick up the phone and communicate? I get tired of the insecurity and the wrong assumptions that lead to an unrealistic separation between the two main characters. And then, when Toni needs to go after his man, he has no idea which city he lives in or how to contact him, even though he “loves” him. It just wasn’t a story I could connect to, and therefore had a really hard time caring about the characters or their future.
This was amateurish writing that led nowhere. I cannot recommend it. I have, however, read many great reviews from people who loved this book, so you don’t have to listen to me. Maybe you’ll enjoy it much more than I did.