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REVIEW: Regularly Scheduled Life by K.A. Mitchell

Dear Ms. Mitchell.

I’ve never actually managed to finish this book before. I’ve had it ever since I discovered your writing, but never managed to get through it, despite numerous friends for whom it is their favorite of your books. I always thought it was because it’s about a high school shooting and my partner is a high school teacher. But as I forced myself through the book this time, I realized that’s not it. It’s because it’s a story about a relationship destroying itself, rather than building itself. And it’s therefore a very tough read.

Don’t get me wrong, you take some amazing risks with this book and write an amazing story with, as always, incredibly real characters. But because it’s a breaking-up story rather than a getting-together story, like most romances, I didn’t actually like the characters very much, because they weren’t being very likable.

Sean is a high school science teacher. Kyle is an architect. They’ve been together for six years and everything’s perfect. They adore each other, the sex is super-hot, and they have nothing to worry about. Then there’s a shooting at Sean’s high school in which two kids and the principal die. Sean is shot twice in the leg and is lauded as a hero because he’s the one to take down the shooter. He insists on being out and proud when the publicity hits, so he’s lauded as Sean Farnham, Gay Hero. With a bad case of survivor’s guilt for not saving everyone, he feels he needs to use his time in the spotlight to preach for tolerance and safety (still and particularly pertinent now with the bullying of gay teens and Dan Savage’s It Gets Better Project started as response).

Kyle doesn’t like this, because he tends to do worst-case-scenario thinking and sees Sean as putting himself in harm’s way again. He’s also jealous of Sean’s publicist, Brandt. He just wants everything to go back to the way it was before the shooting, which kinda makes him sound like a prick, which he acknowledges. But Sean doesn’t like Kyle taking care of him at all, so he’s kind of a prick about Kyle needing to shuttle him to and from PT appointments. He won’t let Kyle massage his leg to make it feel better and snaps at Kyle when he offers to get him anything. And he doesn’t ask Kyle’s input how much and what publicity to do after the shooting. So they’re both kind of being pricks. Which was kind of a problem for me as a reader, although I completely understand that that’s the way the book needed to be for it to be the book it is, if that makes any sense.

The sex is hot, but instead of it building the relationship, as it does in traditional romances, it’s the only thing that they’ve got going for them. While the conflicts between them are NOT easily resolvable by sitting down and talking, because Sean’s priorities have changed for a while, I still just wanted to slap them out of their stupidity and ask them WTF they thought they were doing. They seem to fix things, but then they break again, all the way, before they get back together again.

So this is a very difficult book to read. The characters, rather than becoming better people because they’re falling in love, are already in love and become worse people as it all falls apart. Your genius is in making me still root for them, despite understanding why they were falling apart. Additionally, the angst to groveling ratio is, for me, unbalanced at the end of the book. I didn’t feel that there was enough resolution at the end for the rather massive problems they were having. But I’m a slut for groveling, so that might be me.

I forced myself to read this book because it’s sort of a prequel for your December Samhain release. I’ve been assured they’re both utterly stand-alone, but I wanted to be sure I was caught up. But Not Knowing Jack is also an established relationship story, so it’ll be interesting to see how I like that one, considering not only how much I usually adore your books but also how difficult this one was for me.

I have a hard time putting a grade on this book. It’s not like your Chasing Smoke, which I just thought was badly constructed. This book has your trademark brilliant characters, tight plotting, hot hot sex, lovely imagery, all of that. But it wasn’t about the pains and joys of falling in love, it was about the pain of staying in love. And as much as I appreciated what you were doing and as much as I believe those stories need to be told, and as much as I thought the book was technically brilliant, I thought Sean and Kyle were assholes, adorable as they were and as much as I wanted them to stay together. On the one hand, I want to give this book a high B for being so brilliantly done in a technical sense, but on the other, I really had to force myself to read it all the way through and I don’t EVER see myself reading it again. So…

Grade: B- (but recommended, if that makes any sense)

Best regards,
-Joan/Sarah F.

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Sarah F. is a literary critic, a college professor, and an avid reader of romance -- and is thrilled that these are no longer mutually exclusive. Her academic specialization is Romantic-era British women novelists, especially Jane Austen, but she is contributing to the exciting re-visioning of academic criticism of popular romance fiction. Sarah is a contributor to the academic blog about romance, Teach Me Tonight, the winner of the 2008-2009 RWA Academic Research Grant, and the founder and President of the International Association of the Study of Popular Romance (IASPR). Sarah mainly reviews BDSM romance and gay male romance and hopes to be able to beat her TBR pile into submission when she has time to think. Sarah teaches at Fayetteville State University, NC.

19 Comments

  1. RJones
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 11:09:20

    I completely get what you mean by a B- but recommended. I think I felt the same way. It was a GOOD book but I never felt like it was a good book for me. I need just a little escapism in my romance, and I think I need more of it in my realistic contemporaries. If it’s a real setting, and a real hard-work-required relationship, and it doesn’t even have the rose-colored glasses of new love… Ouch. That’s depressing.

  2. Tweets that mention REVIEW: Regularly Scheduled Life by K.A. Mitchell | Dear Author -- Topsy.com
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 11:30:49

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  3. jayhjay
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 11:44:56

    LOL, I literally just put this book down an hour ago after finishing it. Sarah, you are and I have been on the reading schedule lately!

    I agree with all of Sarah’s comments. It was an unusual book in that it dealt with characters who are already in love and then struggle. I definitely enjoyed it, but I had a hard time watching things fall apart, even expecting there would be a HEA. I am the person who always hates the third act crisis that throws a wrench in the romance so for me this was particularly hard. But yet I did enjoy this book and thought it was a good story. Just not as happy as I wanted. Maybe if the building back up of the relationship was more prominent, instead of the tearing down then relatively quick recovery.

    I am excited for Tony and Jack’s story, but am also a bit concerned it will be too much of a breaking up story. Hopefully they will have fewer challenges. I love KA Mitchell so I am excited for something new!

  4. jmc
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 12:07:33

    The pain of staying in love vs. the pain/joy of falling in love, that’s a great way to describe the conflict.

  5. Inez Kelley
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 13:58:00

    I read it and agree with all your comments but that is actually what I liked about it. It seemed real and not everyone is perfect all the time and yeah, people act like pricks sometimes.

  6. emmytie
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 14:20:37

    My biggest problem was with the fact that their relationship clearly wasn’t as solid as it seemed when the book started and at the end they are back to where they were at the beginning. Sean and Kyle’s lines of communication really suck and it was never addressed much less fixed. I was so frustrated at the end that I hadn’t picked up another KA Mitchell book (this was …I think only the 2nd I’d read) until I saw Sarah start twittering about the upcoming Mitchell release.

    But because Sarah recommended No Souvenirs on twitter, I read it over the weekend and now I’m in love with Jae Sun and Shane.

  7. Stefanie
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 15:03:30

    Thank you for another great review, Sarah. I started reading K. A. Mitchell after you highly recommended several of her other books, so I was very interested to see what you thought about Regularly Scheduled Life. I have to agree that this is a difficult book to read, but I really enjoyed the aspect of two people trying to figure out how to stay in love as opposed to falling in love. Thank you for turning me on to this author. I don’t know that I would have found her on my own without your recommendation, and she has turned out to be one of my favorites!

  8. Joan/SarahF
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 16:14:44

    @emmytie: Yes, that’s it, I think. The relationship was perfect…not so much. Their communication sucked and continued to suck. I trusted them a little bit more, I think, because Kyle insisted that both of them go to the therapist who helped Sean pull his head out of his ass, so I trusted that they’d learn better communication and keep appropriate priorities. But yeah, I’ve seen first-hand how a “perfect” relationship can break down when it’s tested because it’s never actually had good communication practices.

    And oh, I’m so glad you loved No Souvenirs. :)

    Thank you, @Stefanie, for your feedback. I love hearing this type of thing about my reviews. I’m so glad you found K.A.’s books through my reviews. Keeps me going. :)

  9. emmytie
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 16:28:18

    @Joan/SarahF: Its too bad I only read for emotional satisfaction because the book was a great trip through how a relationship can fall apart without good communication (and why I’m saying “B-????? REALLY???”). But I’ve got enough friends who have lived those examples. At least with them I get to ask stuff like “Well, did you tell him/her?”

    I’m really happy that you mentioned it was good! I wasn’t even conscious of the fact that I hadn’t bought another KA Mitchell until you mentioned the new release and No Souvenirs.

  10. emmytie
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 16:29:02

    I should edit better. I meant why I’m NOT wondering why you gave it a B-.

  11. Kaetrin
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 18:16:36

    Hmm. As much as I usually agree with you Sarah, I’m gonna have to disagree this time. I loved it. LOVED it. For me, this is her best book (well, it’s a toss up between this and No Souvenirs for me actually) – a solid A read. I think it’s quite common for people to be pretty happy together when all is going well and then some trauma happens and then… some couples sail through and others fall apart. I love an angsty read and I was completely hooked from the start. I was seriously wondering how KAM was going to pull the thing out of the crapper and was even getting a bit worried but she did it. It’s nice to see a story where the couple love each other but they’re not perfect, something happens, things fall apart and then they work it out. Yes it was messy and yes they both behaved badly at times but I found the book that much more real and believable because of it. This book stayed with me for ages after I put it down and it still resonates. Now that these men have been tested and have fought their way back to one another, even though, like everyone they are still a work in progress, I believe they will value what they have that much more.

  12. Suze
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 18:36:08

    I’m with Kaetrin. LOVED it. I’m so glad DA introduced me to Mitchell. I re-read Collision Course at least every 6 weeks.

  13. Joan/SarahF
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 18:39:33

    See, I knew there were people out there who adored this book. :) And I completely understand why, actually, which is why I was trying to make obvious in my review that it didn’t work *for me*. Just…too much angst for me. Or maybe…the wrong type of angst, because I love me my angst. I think I’m with @jayhjay: I think it needed more build back up again.

    Still can’t wait for Not Knowing Jack, though. CanNOT wait. :)

  14. KA Mitchell
    Oct 25, 2010 @ 19:00:53

    Thanks for the review, Joan/SarahF. I was surprised to have it pop up here so long after it came out and I’ve enjoyed your analysis and reading the comments. It’s really cool to see people talking about and evaluating something I made up. The idea that I made something worth talking about is indescribably cool.

    Thanks to all the commenters who stopped by too. It was great reading. @Kaetrin, thanks so much for the love. @emmytie, thanks for gving me another chance. As a reader, I know how hard it can be to go back to someone who has disappointed you.

    Regularly Scheduled Life is definitely a different sort of book, but it wouldn’t leave me alone until I wrote it. It inspires the most reader email of all my titles, people really seemed to like it, even if most people (me included) want to give both Sean and Kyle a good hard smack).

    I hope you will all find Not Knowing Jack equally interesting. It’s not precisely the same premise since Tony and Jack don’t even have a label for what they’ve got going when the excrement hits the fan. They wouldn’t describe their relationship as perfect, but as sharing a good time. But the story has the same theme of figuring out how to stay together (and in this case end up with a stronger relationship, I think) when your relationship is faced with a game-changing circumstance.

  15. Sunita
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 10:46:22

    Count me in the camp that adored this book. I can understand why people don’t like the plotline or think the characters need to be smacked upside the head. But I love this type of relationship arc; Sean and Kyle start the book so complacently and smugly in love (not in a bad way, just in an oblivious way), and then find out that they have to work so hard. Not at the things they knew would be problematic, given what happened to Sean, but issues that are interior to their relationship. The lack of communication rang very true for me in the context and for these characters.

    Also, I thought that the sex was integral to the story in a very insightful way, in that the sex kept them going and allowed them some communication when nothing else was working, but it was also so reflective of what was going on in their relationship.

    I’m saving No Souvenirs (I’m not sure what for, maybe when I really really need a great book?), but I’ve read a couple of other Mitchells. They’re all great reads in their own ways, but Regularly Scheduled Life is particularly special for me. I read it again right after the first time, and it’s in the top group of my all-time keeper list.

  16. cs
    Oct 26, 2010 @ 13:16:34

    @Kaetrin: I agree with you. I totally disagreed with the review myself as well. This was a solid “A” for me as well. I didn’t understand why the characters weren’t likeable. They went through s huge ordeal, they were unable to deal with the event. It didn’t mean that there relationship wasn’t strong. It means that this was such a huge event, that they didn’t know how to deal. I mean how many people deal with a shooting in a relationship. I use an example of child dying, a lot of parents end up divorced because they can’t deal with it all.

    The likeability well they were obviously going to be things said and done, that weren’t nice. But I never felt they were characters I didn’t like. If anything, it showed me a realistic picture of human emotion.

    I could dissect this book, on how much I loved it. It was however for me, a beautiful read. It’s the type of book I want to read pretty much all the time :D

  17. REVIEW: Not Knowing Jack by K.A. Mitchell | Dear Author
    Dec 08, 2010 @ 04:01:05

    […] met Tony Gemetti and Jack Noble in Regularly Scheduled Life, but readers absolutely do NOT need to read that book in order to read this one. Sean and Kyle show […]

  18. PRIDE WEEK: Contemporary Recommendations from Sunita | Dear Author
    Jun 24, 2011 @ 11:53:22

    […] second book is Regularly Scheduled Life, by K.A. Mitchell, which Joan/Sarah reviewed here at Dear Author. This is a straight (well, not straight) contemporary which employs a storyline […]

  19. PRIDE WEEK: Contemporary Recommendations from Sunita
    Mar 19, 2012 @ 09:57:11

    […] second book is Regularly Scheduled Life, by K.A. Mitchell, which Joan/Sarah reviewed here at Dear Author. This is a straight (well, not straight) contemporary which employs a storyline […]

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