At age fourteen, Cleo had the most painful, most obvious schoolgirl crush on her big brother's best friend: the dangerous, brooding Jax Monroe—and to be honest, she's always been in love with him, even after he left town without a word. Now, she's finally up on her feet with a handsomely paying casino job and the determination to make amends with her estranged mother, so it's a shock—and not even a pleasant one—when, after all these years, Jax comes barreling back into her life.
I was attracted to the "reunited after childhood" storyline of this novel but it was far from dramatic and really just didn't hit the spot for me. The plot revolving around the cute badboy all grown up is normally my thing—I love myself a reformed hero!—but the two main characters are so shallow and so irritatingly boring that I didn't like or sympathize with either of them.
Regarding the romance element, what Jax and Cleo feel for each other is definitely instalove; with poor relationship development, stilted dialogue, and absolutely no chemistry, the "romance" is unrealistic and mundane. There's nothing that stands out to me about this couple, nothing that makes me swoon or ache or smile. They're both just there, taking up space. The Return of the Rebel is a VERY chaste romance, very PG with no steam or sex at all; sure, it's sweet, but it's also rather flavorless. It didn't seem much like a romance novel to me, other than the (rather undeserved) happy ending.
My biggest issue with this book was Faye's tendency to draw out the blandest, most clichéd literary devices and conventions in her writing. She is not a bad writer; while not immensely commendable, her style is smooth, straightforward, and it gets the job done. However, her prose is full of trite metaphors and stereotypical romance tropes (the cool best friend, the loving but troubled family, the helpless heroine, the hero who instantly falls in love with her for no reason at all) that I had a hard time tolerating. At the climax of Cleo and Jax's emotional connection (or whatever constitutes for it), Cleo says, verbatim:
"[Life is] kinda like looking at a glass of water. You can either view it as a glass half-full or half-empty. I choose to look at it half-full."
Deep stuff, isn't it?
And of course, the last line is "I will always love you." Who didn't see that coming?
Pros: Easy, short-length novel // Quick, light read that doesn't make you think too much
Cons: Boring // Wordy and rambles off on irrelevant tangents about furniture and pets and clothing that contribute exactly nothing to the story // Characters are all two-dimensional, hard to like, and rather unintelligent-sounding // Romance is not romantic // No sexual tension... or sex, for that matter // Very formulaic, unoriginal // Flat, unmemorable
Verdict: The Return of the Rebel was not terribly unpalatable; it has a linear storyline and Cleo has a somewhat intriguing backstory that made it a quick, watery read. I was mostly annoyed by how dull the characters, insipid the plot, and unextraordinary the writing is. While Jennifer Faye's newest release serves as a quick, lighthearted, surface-skimming romance novel, I personally don't think it's anything to write home about.
Rating: 5 out of 10 hearts (3 stars): Doesn't particularly light any of my fires; I feel indifferent about this book.
Source: Complimentary copy provided by author via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Jennifer and Tasty Book Tours!).show more