Hello! I’d like to start by thanking y’all for your patience between blog posts. Life’s getting busier and posts are getting more infrequent, which is why I was so excited for Isabelle Kenyon to reach out to me about another blog tour!
This time, we’re taking a look at The Love Genes by Eleni Cay and it’s quite the story. It had me smiling and smirking, sighing and gasping. This book was such an emotional roller coaster, so let’s strap in and chat.
The book takes place in near-future 2039—I think this is interesting because it’s a world that, for the most part, is fairly familiar. People aren’t living in some Jetsons-like future with flying cars, but there definitely seem to be an abundance of phone usage. As such, I wouldn’t quite call this sci-fi, but I do think the book comfortably falls into the realm of speculative fiction.
So, here we are: a little more than a decade from now, in Sweden, following London-born transplant Kate, who’s a college professor. Now I could have missed this in the reading, but I’m almost certain she’s a psych prof, but regardless, she’s responsible for research (which seems to focus, in part, on DID) and mentoring a PhD student who needs a lot of handholding during her dissertation writing. Plus, there’s the whole “new workplace, new country, acclimating to all the newness of this Swedish life” element. Let’s call that Plotline One.
Plotline Two follows Kate and her relationship with Mark, a boyfriend from London who says he’ll move to be with her, but clearly has reservations and puts it off for as long as possible. They’re trying to have a baby, but due to Kate’s MS (and I suspect some emotional roadblocks) they’re unable to conceive and eventually break up.
Plotline Three shows us Kate with a friend! Nora works with Kate at the university and has two lovely little girls who are an absolute treat. But then Nora drifts away and Kate doesn’t know why…
Plotline Four introduces Kate to a new, sexy man, Erik, and his adorable rottweiler puppy Bella (spoiler alert, Bella is my favorite). Sparks fly and… something else? But let’s put a pin in that for a second.
Finally, there’s this mysterious Aron character who clearly was a flame of Kate’s. I’m not sure if we know more about Aron from a previous book or if Genes is a complete standalone, but with all the mentions I got about this guy, I wanted to know more and was left with more questions than answers.
So, what did I like—
I loved how developed the characters were. I also liked how there was a real sense of urgency at times. Essentially, Cay is a really talented author when it comes to pulling at your heartstrings, making you think, and making you want to find out what’s next in this train wreck of a new life that Kate has for herself.
Which brings me to the parts I didn’t love—
As developed and nuanced as Kate was, I found her somewhat annoying. She was a slightly confusing character because, at times, she was strong and independent and fun. But more often than not, she’s being pushed around by her PhD mentee, she doesn’t seem to fully communicate her needs and frustrations with Mark, and worse of all, she just seems to ignore or try to justify Erik’s crappy and violent behavior.
Sidenote: Genes kind of reminded me of chats with a friend about Colleen Hoover’s It Ends With Us—you’ve got a compelling story that’s very readable, but frustrating characters who take too long to make certain realizations (i.e., that they might want to reevaluate their relationships).
Mark kicks Bella. He’s a jerk, especially when he’s drunk or high, and while Kate eventually tells him that he scares her sometimes, he doesn’t try to change, he doesn’t try to seek help. There were so many points where I was like, “OMG, Kate, just dog-nap Bella and get the heck out of there.”
Their relationship sparks and interesting discussion about deserving love, if love (and/or anger) are genetic, and mental health. I do think these are important topics to explore in fiction, but the execution here just didn’t do it for me. I do think that the premise was interesting, but to me, it seemed like there was almost too much going on in this book and not enough loose ends tied up.
So The Love Genes has me a little unsure of where I stand. On one hand, I do really like the premise and discussion of love, relationships, and mental health. I love a book that makes me think deeply, and this is one I’ve been dwelling on and mulling over for some time. But on the other hand, since I’m such a character-driven reader, it was a little bit difficult to stay invested in the story. I wanted to know what would happen next, if Kate and Erik would ever find a way to make it work or if she’d leave him, but I’m just not sure that was enough for me. I wanted more from the characters, especially Kate, and I also wanted to know more about Aron, especially since he comes back in an unexpected way that left me wanting a little bit more.
That’s all I’ve got for now, thanks again to Isabelle Kenyon for including me in this blog tour!
And Happy Reading!