This review was originally posted on The Geeky Waffle. It has been reposted here with permission.
The most common critique any lover of romance novels will likely hear is some kind of comment about how predictable said romance novels are. That they can be distilled down to tropes and beats and the same happy ending over and over again. But while there is definitely comfort in knowing that things will work out no matter what, I would argue that the real point of interest lies not in what happens, but in how and why. Another critique many seem to have is that too many romance novels skew the reader’s perception of what to expect from real life romance. These questions and more form the background, at least in my view, for Amy Lea’s delightful sophomore novel Exes and O’s.
As a follow-up to Lea’s debut novel Set On You, Exes and O’s follows Tara and Trevor, respectively a starry-eyed romance lover and a man who really doesn’t have the time or energy for a relationship. After Trevor’s roommate Scott moves in with Tara’s sister Crystal, Tara takes the spare room at Trevor’s place, and a beautiful, bantery friendship is born.
Ever the romantic, Tara rejects the notion of dating apps to meet her true love, and decides instead to track down her 10 ex-boyfriends to see if any of them would like to rekindle the flame for that most delicious of tropes: the second-chance romance. Concerned with Tara’s tendency to do things with her whole, trusting, romantic heart, Trevor unwillingly signs up to help her with the search, and you can all imagine where this goes.
Exes and O’s is a sweet love story, Tara and Trevor have great chemistry and it is full to the brim with the kinds of delicious romantic tropes that would make Tara herself very proud. But to me, the true heart of the book is what it has to say about romance as a whole.
Because for those of us who have yet to reach the HEA epilogue portion of our own love stories, it really is as bleak out there as Tara makes it out to be. Meet-cutes are few and far between, something that should be as personal and emotional as falling in love is too often reduced to a calculated numbers game. That might work for some, but it certainly doesn’t work for all.
Tara is someone who loves romance, romance novels and a good love story. She is obviously not alone: romance is the top-selling genre for a reason. But like her real world counterparts, she is often told she is being unrealistic in holding real-life men to the standards of the romantic heroes she reads about. As if a good chunk of the genre wasn’t based around the premise of “what if this man was nice to you and listened to you.” Or as Tara so succinctly puts it, someone who does more than the bare minimum.
I didn’t mean to turn this review of what is, truly, a lovely book into a rant against the state of modern romance. What I am trying to say by this is Exes and O’s confronts the cynicism so often faced by romantics in this day and age, and proudly declares that not only is there nothing wrong with having those ideals, it celebrates those ideals. Encourages them even. A must for the romance lovers out there.
Exes and O’s is out January 10, 2023. Special thank you to Netgalley for the advance copy for review purposes.