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LOL... ever hear of `don't judge a book by its cover??' Yeah, well... that applies here too.
Don't get me wrong, Lake is quite good at character development. I gave her 3 stars for the writing and for characterization in this book... but this story just isn't interesting at all. There is no magic in her main characters. The main character isn't just dull, she's unlikeable. And the sex was awkward.
There may be some spoilers ahead.
Like Lovers Do follows tall, dark-haired butch Kendra "Kennie" McClain who is apparently recovering from the death of her ex (cancer). But after 3 years and an isolated existence as a security guard and the "secret" owner of the swanky apartment complex she guards (and it's a secret because...??), she only has eyes for her one famous tenant... Lily.
Like, u-haul eyes.
On her 40th birthday, Kennie beds the 44 year old blond and blue-eyed artist and has very awkward strap on sex by page 17. Like 5-6 pages of awkward sex. Seriously. lol. At this point the only character richly described is Lily's chest. We don't really care about the characters at this point. It's way too soon for sex and I'm not sure if Lake's intention was a sexy one (not) or a set up for the dramas of u-haul lesbos.
In any case, Kennie is already in relationship mode after one night of sex, and is IN LOVE. Lily seems to have been thinking of Kennie long before they bed, but this back story isn't well-developed and Kennie comes off as obsessed and u-haulish... childish. Thus, she is devastated when the very next day Lily's ex, PJ (a cop), comes back and Lily falls into her arms. In response, Kennie is brooding and angry and avoids all communication with Lily.
And this is basically the extent of her thinking patterns, personality, and life. She doesn't process rejection or loss very well (think Dez from Gun Shy, same deal without the interesting Xena personality).
Kennie has the emotional development and communication skills of a moody teenager... so it isn't surprising when a few drop into her life and she becomes a kind of pseudo foster parent to some lost teens. This happens rather instantly because like the u-haul love scenario... Kennie goes too fast, too much, too soon when she comes across someone she likes.
Kennie has distanced herself from her own family- and despite trying to paint them as money-grubbing homophobes, she is equally at fault for the broken relationship she has with them. If she lets people in that quick, you can bet she shuts them out just as fast when she feels betrayed... at least on the outside. Her denial of her role and responsibility in her family dramas along with this ongoing assertion that she is such a good person makes her somewhat oafish and unlikeable, in my opinion.
I had a hard time respecting someone who makes loads of cash off dead family (not to mention her ex) via insurance and tries to keep it all for herself thinking she is the only one deserving of it... when she has family members in financial need. Kennie is a bridge burner and is complacently content to shut people out, including her siblings who are only evil in her deluded and childish mind. When she takes a step to be generous with them... she finds an opportunity for more sincere communications and a different tone from her sister... though this isn't a really developed part of the story. Forget redemption. Lake is more concerned with family substitution.
So Kennie's awkward "break up" with Lily, life with teenagers, and a bunch of old people in the apartments make up her new existence and most of the storyline. Lake is more focused on developing this idea of creating family outside the one in which we were born than the romance itself. I felt the "romance" was more of a subplot with cameos at the beginning and end... that's it (& the book is less than 200 pages). A better title for this story would have been "Like Families Do."
PJ and her new date are about 100 times more interesting than any of the other characters. When your secondary characters blow the main characters out of the water... eh, something isn't right.
Lake is fabulous at describing cops, old people, and even elfish teenagers... we barely get any description of Kennie. I had a hard time visualizing her overall. Despite the running, her preoccupation with junk food, the giant TV, and the envy expressed toward Lily's waistline (as opposed to admiration) while in the sack made me picture an overweight girl. Like, an angry or sad, isolated big girl with no self-esteem and no interest in change. It's not that chubby lesbos aren't interesting, lol (no offense, ya'll have my love)... just too much drab negativity here. The main character literally lacked a personality.
I hate to say it, but perhaps Lake ought to steal another personality like Xena if she can't make up her own... or simply STOP processing her own relationship grief in her novels because this doesn't allow them to organically grow as separate entities. I don't know where one should draw the line at plopping your own stuff into your characters... but I can sense that too much of it makes them little more than a depository... therapeutic, maybe. Fiction? Not so much. As a result, Lake is a one-trick pony when it comes to the psyche of her main character. Been there, done that with Dez.
Lake also loves to include a dose of homophobia in her stories... I just have to comment that every time I've seen her do this these homophobic characters tend to be very trite and cliché. And that's what happens with a forced agenda... the life force and originality and plausibility disappears. I recommend Lake explore a little more subtlety in this regard with 2011 in mind (considering the music choices in her novels I'd say she is stuck somewhere between 1984 and 1994!!).... or, like, move her storylines to a few places in the South or some rural town if she wants it to be plausible. As for the homophobic family... I'd say there is a lot of homophobia that isn't always blatant. A refusal to even speak about it or acknowledge your gay relationships is very common... especially with older families like Kennie's who are usually resigned to the family lez and mostly want to just get along. Kennie's sister was a slightly ridiculous and embarrassing character. I have read that Lake's first novel was criticized for this when she first tried to publish it, but she isn't very good at accepting criticism (see Dez and Kennie for oversensitive and stubborn).
There is some good writing here and there is some good character development for all the characters you want to know LEAST, but the romance and overall storyline will not be worth your time if this is important to you.
Another winning book for Lori Lake. I found myself hoping that Kennie and Lily would somehow get back together. I really felt for Kennie. I loved the character of Max, the teenager that Kennie helped out. A story of love that showed me that blood family isn't always as important as the family you choose for yourself.
There is another story in this book. Many gay people find themselves building families of "choice." In a sometimes hostile world where rejection by family and society is common, they choose who to be close to, share confidences with, join with at holidays and where to place their trust. These groups may be only gay or a mixture of gay and straight, but their importance is that they supply the support and nurturing that do not come from blood relations. Kennie creates her family from the people at the Allen Arms. Lake shows how this dynamic works by contrasting those people with the behavior of Kennie's sister and brother. The message comes out very clearly that love comes in many forms and not always from the places that most people would expect.
Like Lovers Do is an enjoyable book to read, with intriguing characters and an interesting story. It's good to see Lori Lake return with such a well written book.