I reached the end of Almost Like Being in Love. (And for crap's sake, don't read this if you hate spoilers. I'm not a reviewer.)
When Kluger writes poignant, he writes poignant so damned well, with a sweetness that's almost rarified. I teared up over this or that phrase, teared up over this or that scene, ached for Travis, ached for Craig . . . then wanted to kick them both in the ass by letting my foot connect with the book.
Why? Because there was so much piddling around at the end of the story, such bizarre, herky-jerk pacing, so many scene shifts and switches of perspective, so many incomprehensible reactions and decisions and changes of heart, that the poignancy kept being diluted or completely neutralized. I had no bloody idea who would end up with whom (except in the case of a half-dozen secondary characters) until the last handful of pages. Up to then, I felt as if my chain was being jerked forty-three different ways.
When the Big Reunion I'd been waiting for finally seemed solid enough not to crumble beneath yet another switcheroo -- and I had to re-read a bunch of pages several times to make sure -- it was anticlimactic. By that point, I'd already been duped more times than I could count. (The deus ex machina breakup that paved the way for the reunion was so damned abrupt, I almost missed it. What's more, it was shockingly offhanded, given all the un-breakup-like words and actions that preceded it.)
I wanted buildup, damn it, not a carnival ride! I wanted to be all breathless with anticipation and melty inside and then puddle up at the end . . . because I haven't had a good cry over a book since "Brokeback." Instead, my reaction was more like Finally. Am I allowed to be happy for these guys now? Sheesh.
Maybe the conclusion of this story was the author's nod to real life; happy endings, if they come at all, don't often come tidily. But since the rest of the book was anything but a nod to real life, why start when the romance should be ratcheting up instead of flung around in the Mad Tea Party ride at Disneyland? Or maybe the author was trying to demonstrate precisely how and why the heroes were special, why their love endured, why they were worthy of their HEA. That I can appreciate, but I just can't appreciate the way he did it.
I've been spoiled by the romance genre. I realize now just how much. I've turned into a complete sap. Maybe I've turned into a complete simpleton. Hell, maybe I've always been a closet idealist who craves that satisfyingly predictable march from estrangement to togetherness with no emotional detours or artificial barriers so close to the end.
In any case, kudos to Kluger. I only get this riled up if I'm either totally invested in characters or totally alienated by them. And I wasn't alienated. In fact, I was very nearly heartbroken at a couple of points.
Phrew. Now what should I read?