Reviewed by: BigAl
Approximate word count: 100-105,000 words
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A former businessman and restaurant owner, RW Bennett is in the process of writing his second novel. For more, visit Bennett’s website.
As Director of Marketing for Love.com, Marsha Underwood is happy at the success the new internet dating service started by her old college friend, Paul Latimer, is having. People are meeting, falling in love, and getting married in unheard of numbers. But Marsha knows her great ad campaigns and their superior matching algorithms can’t account for this much success.
My natural inclination is to be intrigued and generally enjoy novels that explore the impact, positive and negative, of new technologies on everyday life, especially those made possible by the internet. It is a rare day when I don’t marvel at how the internet has transformed life in how we gather information and interact with each other, but not without paying a price in privacy, to name just one area. The plot of Love.com is a perfect fit for my tastes in the way it combines technology and romance into a thriller. The big picture is good, but the execution falls short in the details.
While reading I kept hitting speed bumps, errors or clunky sentences, that would throw me out of the story. The biggest offenders were verb tense errors, unnatural dialogue, and unneeded detail, which bogged the story down. A representative sample of the kind of issues I saw in dialogue is this conversation between Paul and Marsha:
“He’s already on board, Marsha. I would love to tell you about it. Can we meet for lunch or dinner in the next few days to discuss it?” “Sure, Paul. Dad tells me you’re starting an Internet dating service. Is that right?” “Marsha, I think I’m on to something big here. Can we get together this week to discuss it?”
These characters are friends. They’ve known each other since college and still get together to play tennis about once a month. Besides the obvious problem of using the other person’s name every time they open their mouth, which is not how real people talk, the entire quote sounds too formal and contrived. This was a recurring issue.
One example of unneeded details was when a character named Devin was signing up for a new account at Love.com. The description of the process tells every excruciating detail. Most readers understand what is involved in setting up an account online. Why do we need to know every screen involved and what was entered? Does the logic Devin used in picking a password and what it was matter? The only part of this section pertinent to the story is that Devin opened the new account, possibly what he chose for his screen name and why (since this provides some characterization), and the terms and conditions of the site, which is important later in the story.
Other examples of too much explanation are explaining that some men are turned on at the thought of having sex with a bisexual or lesbian woman (people know this; don’t explain something most readers already know), or a character making a wisecrack and then explaining it. The wisecrack was funny without the explanation. Knowing that it was a Seinfeld reference and what happened in the scene it was referencing might make it funnier, for those who understand from seeing that episode. But if a joke can’t stand on its own without an explanation, you’re better off without the joke. In this case, I think it could have stood alone.
Although overall I enjoyed Love.com, I also found it frustrating at times for the kinds of reasons cited above.
A small amount of adult language and adult situations.
A large number of copy-editing and proofing misses.
Rating: *** Three stars