Rating: 2.75 stars
Buy Link:
Amazon | iBooks | Amazon UK
Length: Novel

 

When Dr. Charlotte Hilaire finished her graduate program with honors, she never thought that three years on she’d be stuck as an assistant curator who spends most of her time couriering artwork instead of teaching at a liberal arts institution. However, when she finds herself stranded in Madrid where the illustrious Dr. Adrianna Coates is currently residing, Charlotte can’t help but be grateful for the opportunity to reconnect with her brilliant former crush. Adrianna was an intimidating inspiration as Charlotte’s dissertation advisor at Yale; now that Adrianna is teaching at UCLA and with a prestigious sabbatical fellowship to finish her book, Charlotte feels even less like her peer.

Yet, as accomplished, elegant, and daunting as Adrianna is, the instant connection and passion she and Charlotte share quickly crosses any perceived divide between them and, after three intense days, both women are determined to build upon their brief time together. Unfortunately, working in different countries isn’t the only obstacle to transitioning from white-hot fling to enduring romance. When their separate career ambitions place their fledgling relationship in jeopardy, Adrianna and Charlotte must reexamine what they value most.

Meet Me in Madrid is billed as a “sexy, sophisticated romantic comedy,” but I’m hard-pressed to figure out how (unless lots of sex automatically equals sexy) because there is no comedy—romantic, comedy of errors, or otherwise. I suppose sophisticated fits as both women are urbane, educated, and slightly snobbish in their dress, mannerisms, and entertainment pursuits. It’s just difficult to align the instalove with sophistication as presented here. Charlotte supposedly goes from contentedly single to barely able to get up in the mornings once home, and after only a week of being together, when Adrianna mentions extending her sabbatical, Charlotte spirals into despair and assumptions that Adrianna doesn’t care about her. Charlotte’s emotions become so intense that she gets sick to her stomach and panics at the thought of not seeing Adrianna or a missed text (among other things). Her angsting only ratchets higher and twists her up more throughout the story, as apparently discussing feelings with one another isn’t the done thing for these two sophisticates.

It also doesn’t help that most of the page time allotted to the MCs as a couple is them having sex/sexting/Sex Timing. They rarely have conversations about their relationship status, their feelings (besides being horny), etc. Instead, Adrianna occasionally muses reflectively and compares her feelings for Charlotte to her previous experiences, while Charlotte obsesses about it in her inner monologues—A LOT. Her street cred as an Independent Woman™ is also a bit hard to swallow as Charlotte admits that both of the achievements she’s made in her career are inspired by her desire for Adrianna. She credits wanting to impress Adrianna as the reason her dissertation earned honors and being near Adrianna as why she puts everything into her interview. Mind you, most of Charlotte’s insecurity in herself stems from not obtaining a professorship and a) the job is basically everything she wants, b) openings are few and far between, and c) no one is beating down her door with offers. There is no reason she shouldn’t give her best in the interview regardless of Adrianna being in the picture; thus, Charlotte doesn’t come across as a determined, sophisticated thirty-something, but as kind of whiny and driven more by her libido than self-motivation, especially compared to Adrianna.

Frankly, I just didn’t believe in the viability of or care about their HEA. The entire relationship takes place over the course of a few months and a few in person meetings comprised of a handful of days after a month or so of separation. I know that the running joke is that lesbians meet one day and move in the next, but I just didn’t buy the depth of feelings beyond intense sexual chemistry and basic compatibility. There is no real connection building with one another to support their coupledom; Charlotte and Adrianna spend more time talking to Adrianna’s friend Esther about their relationship than with one another. To me, this imbalance is partially due to the uneven prose that is a bit awkward in its construction—from unnecessary and/or redundant descriptors to sentence fragments that end mid-thought. The transitions can be abrupt, the dialogue is clunky (especially conversations the MCs have about being BIPOC women in a world dominated by cis-het white men), and the pacing is hampered by concocted drama. There’s also an introduction of an “awkward quasi-flirtation” and relationship that feels shoved in. It seemed like a poorly done intro for a book for another character, but no, it’s just there. Maybe it’s supposed to illustrate that even rich, white women presented as entitled, conniving, and mean can be targets of harassment (as if that needs to be stated) and promote female solidarity against the patriarchy that forces them to see one another as competitors, but as written, its inclusion seems unnecessary and forced.

Additionally, as important as being racialized women of color is to Adrianna and Charlotte, their experiences, and the obstacles to their career achievements, the story mostly addresses it as anecdotal asides and commiserations the MCs make to one another. There is one plot relevant episode that is handled well and written in such a way that even the character involved knows its impact will be profound. Yet, the aftermath is handled with such a lazy deus ex machina that it trivializes the issues the MCs discuss. While I like that the characters are academics and the snippets of Adrianna’s research, there is little else for me to enjoy in Meet Me in Madrid. However, for those interested in insta-love, the woes of long-distance relationships, and lots of sexy times (with a few instances of dreadful dirty talk), there may be more here for you.