Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert

I went into Get a Life, Chloe Brown by Talia Hibbert with certain expectations. 1) It will have a fat-positive plot starring a black woman. 2) It’s set in England. 3) There will be a “bucket list” to getting a life that will cause misunderstanding. 4) This will be a rom-com/meet-cute type of book. 5) Chloe will have a chronic disability. I only got a few of these correct.

Chloe Brown is a wealthy woman in her 30s who lives with her parents and dramatic granny. She feel smothered by these adults, and her two younger sisters, because they’re always worried that her fibromyalgia makes her vulnerable. To move on with her life, she creates a list of things she wants to do but would never, and the first is move out. She does.

Enter “Red,” her landlord at the new flat. He’s a ginger-headed brick house of a dude who loves to paint and rides a motorcycle. Of course, Chloe and Red hate each other at first and then fall in love in the process of Red helping Chloe check the to-do’s off her list. That’s sort of a meet-cute, right? And it’s definitely set in England!

Everything else gets very muddled for me.

1) It will have a fat-positive plot starring a black woman. This is true and yet not. On the fluffy romance cover, Chloe is definitely fat. But in the book — and I watch for this sort of thing — her fat body is only acknowledged twice. She is “big boned, and well insulated for winter.” She is also described as “soft, soft all over, from the gentle weight of her full breasts to the lush roundness of her belly. . .” Other than that, you could forget that Chloe is supposed to be fat. In fact, Red is constantly picking her up to carry her, and while viewed as sweet in traditional romantic films and books, isn’t often an option when one or both people are fat. And that’s okay, but let’s not pretend like carrying your sweetheart around is the ultimate sign of love. Logically? Using our brains, we can deduce that despite a person’s strength, carrying a fat body would require some freakishly long arms to avoid dropping the other person. And getting her into her bedroom? Through the door frame? I’d like to see writers respect the reality of fat bodies and not make them fit into a thin narrative when it’s cute.

I did appreciate the way Red adjusted his expectations of Chloe due to her disability. Not in a mean way, but accepting of who she is. I often get frustrated with “issues fiction,” and Get a Life, Chloe Brown didn’t read like that. I’m ashamed to admit that I didn’t learn until I was an adult for many years that I need to approach everyone differently, file them all differently, in my head. My memory of people’s preferences for treatment has grown strong. The adage to treat everyone the same is nice on the surface, but doesn’t work.

But her race? I could easily forget Chloe’s race. Why do I bring up the color of her skin? Can’t she just be a person, not a black person? It’s because Red’s is described so much. His liquid fire hair (what does that mean?), his pale skin, the golden-red down on his legs and arms. His hair. Did I mention his red hair? He touches his hair a lot. Red’s whiteness is unforgettable, as if his looks tell us something about him that Chloe’s looks don’t tell us about her. She’s all hostile personality.

4) This will be a rom-com/meet-cute type of book. I was super wrong. Hibbert, I now know after looking at the covers of her other novels, is not a rom-com writer. There was so much graphic sex, which is delightful if you want to get some inspiration for your bedroom. But you would be surprised by the way Red’s language leans toward porn dialogue when he’s pleasuring Chloe. All those words to describe female genitals that make most women feel objectified? Yeah, they’re all in there. It was disconcerting to go from Red helping Chloe out of a tree after she rescues a cat to erotica. What a marketing team behind this novel; kudos on sneaking it into the hand’s of women who wouldn’t pick up books like Hibbert’s Undone by the Ex-Con.

But not only has Hibbert taken erotica and tucked it into a meet-cute. She also woven in a toxic relationship. Red’s former girlfriend built him up and then gaslighted him to the point of causing psychological damage. The author includes a content warning for this toxic relationship, and we explore what happened and how it affected Red’s perception of his situation with Chloe, making him behave irrationally and out of fear.

The focus is on him again. However, Chloe had a fiance who walked out on her because he thought she was faking her fibromyalgia symptoms — also gaslighting. Not much is made of her ex-fiance, except Chloe thinks she shouldn’t make new friends or date anyone because they’ll walk away, too. Fairly simplistic, and cliched in the romance genre, compared to the deep psychological damage Red history is afforded. Chloe’s ex is a jerk, whereas Red’s past needs understanding and a therapist. Again, I was surprised that the focus was on the male character in this novel for women. Personally, I found it distracting.

Overall, Get a Life, Chloe Brown is a mixed bag. Predictable at times, yet surprising in others. Highly sexual, but sweet in places. Fat-positive without the bodies. A well-handled depiction of treating people with chronic disability with respect, yet she’s carried around. It’s male-focused women’s fiction. I will say that I read the book completely and didn’t mind picking it up. I’m just not sure to whom I would recommend it. If Hibbert’s novel were a beverage, it would be SmutTea (Shell’s blog inspires me).

19 comments

  1. Well I very much enjoyed this review even if this be a book I would never pick up. And I hate the idea that being picked up is part of romance. I mean if it works for ye sure. But being a small person, people tried to pick me up because I was cute and they thought it was funny. Of course, I be older and wiser now so I have no problems telling someone to take their damn hands off me. Grrrr.
    x The Captain

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  2. I’ve seen this book a lot and now with your review it would definitely be a pass for me. Your review was thorough and I appreciate how you listed what your expectations were and how it didn’t quite meet them. Yes, it falls into the SmuTEA category, remember how you described your experience with tea, a bag of brown water that tastes blah. 🤣

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  3. Interesting – certainly sounds like a mixed bag. And I just added this to my TBR list on Goodreads today, ha ha! Oh well. I might still try it. I’m just starting to get into Romance with a Capital R books. Ones with covers like these certainly appeal more to me than the one with the shirtless six-pack man. Anyway, great review!

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      • I really appreciated the thoroughness of your review. It’s important that we analyse what messages a work is sending, and this is a perfect case study of how to do that. You have to imagine the author wanted to add something to her usual erotica and didn’t quite carry it off.

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        • Thanks so much, Bill. I’m always worried that my reviews sometimes learn more toward academic criticisms rather than straight “you should buy/not buy this book.” The more years I’ve been involved in reviewing, though, the more I see how different each person or venue does it. Some of the big, professional review places pretty much summarize the book and give one sentence of opinion (which drives me INSANE).

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  4. So my eyes pretty much bugged out of my head when I saw the cover of ‘undone by an ex-con’. Wowza even the cover is explicit-a pretty far cry from Get a Life, that’s for sure. Kudos to the marketing team indeed! And yah, carrying your partner is impossible for almost everyone outside of the movies, the one time my husband tried it he dislocated a disc in his back LOL

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    • I am losing it laughing about you’re husband’s back, Anne! 🤣

      When I was a kid, someone challenging my dad to pick up this woman (physically pick her up), and he pulled his bicep so that it dislocated and slid down into his elbow. He had to have surgery, and all I remember is being a little kid and feeding him his cereal one morning! 😂

      So, did your eyes bug out over that cover in a “holy crap” way or an “ah-woooga” way?

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I appreciate this full and frank review, too, because it’s a book I might pick up and now I won’t! Which is fine. I don’t think my husband has ever picked me up but I’m another small woman who used to get that a fair bit.

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    • You should only be picked up when you’ve asked to be picked up or if you are on a stretcher and the ambulance folks are planning to wheel you away.

      Glad I could give you a good steer with this novel. That tricksy cover would have done you! I would recommend The Bookish Life of Nina Hill if you want something rom-com-ish that still has substance.

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  6. Those are two very different covers! I’m curious how much say Hibbert had on each.

    I hate, hate, hate being picked up. I’m tall and it’s awkward and I’m an adult and I don’t need to be carried around like a baby. It makes my skin crawl when characters in books and movies do it (even though I can objectively understand that some people might like it) and that alone makes me not want to read this book!

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    • So, what you’re saying is your about as easy to carry around as a baby giraffe? 😀 I’m just teasing because I like the image in my head of carrying around a baby giraffe. But you’re right; you’re not a baby, and I can see nothing but lost agency when people (men) pick up women. Thanks for reading my review! Glad I could steer you clear of a novel that would drive you bonkers.

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      • That’s a pretty accurate image! It’s definitely the infantilization that bothers me but also the sheer physical awkwardness of it. It makes no sense for an adult to cary another adult unless there’s an emergency!

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  7. Hmmm “male-focused women’s fiction.” That’s disappointing. I did know that Hibbert was coming from the more x-rated side of the romance genre, but was hoping that the change in cover style reflected a change in the sort of romance that she was writing. I’m glad the chronic disability element is handled well, and that’s the top reason I would still consider reading this book, but overall it doesn’t sound quite as strong-woman cute as I’d been hoping for. It sounds like she’s more interested in selling the male love interest than anything else which is… not what I’m here for. Darn. I had high hopes for this one, but I think it’s going on the back burner for now. Great review!

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    • I know Red frequently describes Chloe as “strong,” but she’s mostly stubborn in a way that I didn’t think was cute. It’s hard to recommend a book like this because some women want more sexual content and less “oh, now they’re putting their boots on in the next seen, so we all know what happened.” Let me know if you have questions!

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      • Thanks! I don’t usually mind the explicit content as long as the characterization and relationship is good as well. Not that there’s anything wrong with romance novels that mainly exist for the sex scenes, but I definitely prefer something a little more substantial and memorable alongside. And saying a character is “strong” (or basically any other adjective) but then not showing it believably is a pet peeve of mine!

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