REVIEW: Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert
Dear Talia Hibbert,
I was so happy to get the chance to read this book early. It did not disappoint. At all. Well, there was one spot late in the piece where I was holding my breath and just about to say “oh no!” but then you went in a different direction than I was expecting and I was very happy about that. So, not disappointed in the slightest.
Chloe Brown is an English Black woman, with her own website-building and SEO business, living with fibromyalgia. (I know from listening to interviews you’ve done that you have this same disability so I was very confident that Chloe’s experience was an authentic one. I don’t think you suggest, either in the book or in real life that it would be a universal experience of the disease but I expect there are quite a few commonalities which other people with this same condition can relate to at the very least. And I expect that readers with other medical issues altogether will also find many things which speak to their own experience.)
Chloe comes from a wealthy family, with a flamboyant grandmother (Gigi), loving if a little over-protective parents and two sisters she adores. When the book begins, Chloe is nearly run over by a car. She comes to the conclusion that her obituary, had she been struck and killed, would have been boring boring boring and so she decides to “get a life”. Chloe being Chloe, she makes a list. And the first thing on it is to move out of the palatial family home.
Chloe moves into an apartment complex where Redford “Red” Morgan is the superintendent. Chloe is intimidated by Red’s gorgeousness, his muscles, his long red hair, his tattoos and as a result, she defaults to snobby and prickly. She thinks he’s everything she’s not. Red thinks she doesn’t like him but he could not be further from the truth.
Red also has some baggage to add to his impression; his former girlfriend was a rich girl who did a real number on him. So when he sees Chloe he initially lumps her in the same category.
Her voice was sharp and expensive, like someone had taught a diamond how to speak.
Chloe knows Red doesn’t like her, he think she doesn’t like him and so it goes, spiraling downwards until the day Red comes across Chloe rescuing a cat stuck up a tree. As a result of that experience, Chloe begins to open up (a very little) and Red starts to see behind the mask she wears.
Before Chloe got fibromyalgia, she was a social person with lots of friends and a fiance. But after she got sick, those friends gradually (and in some cases, not so gradually) fell away. Her fiance left. Apart from her family, she was alone. She does not wish to risk that kind of abandonment again. She doesn’t exactly believe she’s hard work (she isn’t). But she knows that others regard her/her illness that way and she just can’t do it again.
Better to be alone than to be abandoned.
She refused to let that happen again.
But if she explained those facts, her sisters would insist she’d simply had a bad experience, then start insulting everyone who’d ever left her. And then Chloe would be forced to remember all the things she’d lost, and to wonder, for the thousandth time, what it was about her that made her so easy to leave.
Red is a caring, protective, cinnamon roll type hero. He’s big and strong and kind and generous, often helpful even to his own detriment (eating Mrs. Conrad’s vegetable casserole for example). He doesn’t see Chloe as a helpless victim but when he sees she needs something, he wants to fill that gap.
He barely resisted the urge to pick her up and carry her off to bed. Didn’t want her to take it the wrong way. He also didn’t want to care about her problems, but he knew himself well enough to realize that he’d care for a great white shark if given half the chance. He helped. Always. He just couldn’t help himself.
Red is unlike anyone else Chloe has ever met, outside her family. Gradually, very gradually, she comes to realise that Red is easily able to adapt to her needs and accommodate her disability without getting bent out of shape about it or wanting cookies as reward. He just rolls with it and accepts her for who she is. He sees her as brave and badass because she copes with so much just to get through the day a lot of the time. It takes Chloe a long time to trust it but watching their relationship develop is a delight.
The wry humour is fun too. Some of the topics are a bit heavy but the banter and even some of the internal thinking of Chloe and Red lighten things up wonderfully and often had me chuckling throughout the read.
Red grabbed the armchair he kept in the corner of the room and shoved it closer to the bed. Chloe sank gracefully into its tattered, tartan depths. She crossed her legs, which probably made her skirt ride up a little bit, but Red wouldn’t know, because he absolutely was not looking. He had firmly instructed his eyes to focus only on her ears (which, while cute, weren’t especially arousing) or her nose (ditto) or the wall behind her. So far, things were going okay-ish.
Of the two of them however, even though Chloe is the one with the disability, it is Red who’s the less well-adjusted. He is an artist and his work and his former girlfriend all got mixed up together. When she told him he was rubbish and nothing without her, he believed her. He’s had a crisis of confidence and is still recovering. He’s a man who feels deeply and he’s gone somewhat into hiding for the past two years. He’s afraid his new work, which is nothing like his earlier stuff, is no good or is too different and he is afraid to put himself out there again. It aligns with Chloe’s barriers also but because both are frightened and tend to jump to conclusions, each other’s buttons are easy to push.
I loved the way they worked things out. Of course, there is a crisis but it didn’t take forever to resolve (thank you!) and both of them worked on their issues separately and together. They aren’t “fixed” by true love.
I loved also the way you navigated the attraction between the pair, showing the difference between chemistry and consent.
He was almost positive Chloe wanted him the way he wanted her, but that didn’t mean she intended to do a damned thing about it. In fact, she definitely didn’t; she kept making that clear. And he wouldn’t push. He couldn’t be that guy.
The wider cast are great – Gigi is a hoot. Dani and Eve, Chloe’s younger sisters don’t merely appear as sequel bait. The relationship between the siblings is an organic part of the story. That said, for the most part, the novel concentrated closely on Red and Chloe and their journey to a HEA – which is exactly how I like it.