Love Overdue by Pamela Morsi: Unevenness Defined
I read this one because another book by Morsi, The Lovesick Cure, was highly recommended to me, and was analyzed in-depth on Romance Novels for Feminists. So, of course, instead of reading that book, I read this random Morsi novel, Love Overdue, with one of those can't-resist-cute covers.
Yes, I am a sucker for those covers with the feet--don't judge me too harshly.
While there were a number of elements that worked for me, particularly Morsi's writing--which is fast-paced and flows nicely, Love Overdue exemplifies the mixed bag, uneven novel, which are some of the hardest to write about.
Love Overdue's premise is a familiar one.
Introverted librarian Dorothy aka DJ finally has the chance to run her own own library, which has been her dream since finishing her MLS program. She's landed a job in small-town Verdant, Kansas, where nearly everyone's involved in wheat farming in some way. It's just the sort of challenge she's dreamed of, and the sort of community she wants to be a part of for years to come.
A number of years previous, she had a memorable and mortifying one-night stand with a college guy years before, while on spring break at San Padre Island. Of course, that guy--it turns out--is now the pharmacist in Verdant and son of the library board member who hired her. (The same library board member is also her landlady.) Of course.
I particularly enjoyed D.J.'s attempts to fit in a new town and new job. Those experiences are awkward and Morsi does a nice job of actually tackling the problems with being the new boss and the new person in town. The scenes depicting D.J.'s meetings with her staff were my favorites in the novel, because these were the moments in which D.J. was most challenged and as a result, her character seemed most authentic.
With that said, other elements of the story were simply bizarre and nonsensical.
In particular, there are a couple of passages from Scott's point-of-view which make no sense in terms of what we know about him: he's supposedly a nice guy (and his actions generally support this), but there are a couple of random "ROAR! I am a creeper alpha male!" -type internal monologues that were incongruous with the sort of character he's supposed to be (there's a particularly unfortunate dog sex metaphor that's particularly full of WTFery). I know that sort of character is trendy right now, but I am so effing fed up with it, I can't even think.
I guess that annoyed me more than I realized. Oops.
The convention of the third-person, alternating POV in romance-ish fiction definitely shows its limitations in Love Overdue.
In the end, this is DJ's story, but the other points-of-view (Scott and his mom, Viv) diluted her story significantly. I wanted to know why DJ was so ashamed of the random hookup she had in college; I wanted to know more about why she was so determined to make a life in rural Kansas, rather than using it as a stepping stone to a better job; I wanted to know more about her strange family history.
Instead of those details, allowing for her character growth to be revealed on-page, the reader is treated to a bizarro subplot about Viv's unhappiness (and maybe depression, but if it is, it's not handled well) and a lot of Scott's musings on his vegetable garden. If the story had been told wholly from DJ's perspective, this would have been a stronger, more character-drive story, with key reveals hidden from the reader until DJ discovers them herself.
Much of the problem with Love Overdue is that it doesn't fit particularly well in any genre, to the point it feels like it's trying to be many things, and not quite hitting the mark with any.
Is it a romance? "Women's fiction"? General contemporary fiction? "Chick lit"? None of those categories feel quite right. And while I appreciate genre-bending/busting when it's successful, I never felt like the limits of any of those genres were pushed. Morsi borrowed from the most vanilla aspects of each, which led to a rather vanilla, though perfectly okay, novel.
If Morsi had explored the whys around Dorothy's shame about her wild spring break and why it is so critical to her personal identity to play the role of stuffy, conservative town librarian and why she's so desperate to be part of a community it a very specific way, that would have made for an interesting character-drive novel verging on "women's fiction" (a term I hate, but that is used in shelving books, so...).
If the conclusion to Love Overdue had examined the moments in which Scott discovers that Dorothy is the girl he met on spring break all those years ago and explored their discovery that that incident was so mutually impactful, it would have been a sweet romance.
If the humor had been better developed and infused throughout the story rather than randomly shoved into scenes, it could have been contemporary fiction or even "chick lit" (ugh, another hated term).
As a result, Love Overdue had more than a small identity crisis, and failed to transcend any of the genres Morsi wedged it into.
Finally, it seemed like the last couple of chapters of Love Overdue were missing.
They weren't (thank you, Google), but there's a big reveal and the reaction to that reveal isn't shown on the page at all. Instead, we get an unnecessary epilogue that serves no purpose whatsoever. This is the moment when there should have been a big emotional payoff for these characters and it's simply hidden from view. I am absolutely perplexed as to why the author made this choice, as it weakens the story tremendously.
I realize this sounds like Love Overdue is a hot mess, but that's not completely the case. It is a well-paced novel and Morsi's writing is engaging and entertaining. And, I appreciated her (light) examination of introversion in a multi-layered way, which is refreshing--it's not depicted as something that needs fixing, but rather something she uses as an asset. And, I enjoyed the scenes in which DJ learns about rural Kansas life. (There's a wonderful moment in a wheat field that, while unrealistic due to the creepy crawlies present in a wheat field, was pretty charming--no it's not that kind of scene, get your mind out of the gutter!)
When it comes down to it, it sounds like I should have read the Morsi novel that was recommended to me and not once again fallen victim to the Cute Cover Ploy. When will I learn?
Disclosure: Review copy received from the publisher via NetGalley.