Review

Review: Ghosting: A Love Story by Tash Skilton (2020)

Heat Factor: Almost but not quite fade to black

Character Chemistry: They actually had pretty good sparring partners chemistry

Plot: You’ve Got Mail meets Cyrano de Bergerac plus other stuff going on

Overall: Fun-with-a-lot-of-caveats


Shortly after I received a copy of Ghosting: A Love Story, I was updating my Goodreads list with it, and I noticed that author Sarvanez Tash left a review saying that her and co-author Sarah Skilton’s goal was to make each other laugh with a rom-com homage to Nora Ephron, etc. I think this is helpful to understand because this book is a little bit next-level in the twee department. Especially the emails that begin most chapters.

This formatting is not ideal

Oh, and I was reading an advance copy, so this may have been changed in the final version (I can only hope), but the way the text conversations were written made me absolutely bananas. It was so difficult to read. They were all inline, but without quotation marks, so half the time I was like, “WTF is happening?” And the authors didn’t have anything against quotation marks when the characters were actually speaking! I don’t understand! 

The absurdity is everywhere! First, the idea that a dating copywriting consulting job even exists (but if it does, of course it’s in New York) is pretty wild. Second, the protagonists are working for competing copywriting providers because the husband and wife duo who created the original got divorced, and that’s a whole mess. Third, these protagonists are supposed to be really great at their jobs (especially Miles), but they are honestly terrible at either listening to or meeting their clients’ needs. Fourth, they frequent the same coffee shop and play a “who got the big table first” sniping game with each other. Fifth, they end up living next door to each other (surprise!). I mean, the list goes on. 

Sometimes, especially after a run of reads that are high-angst or that make me think really hard, all I want is a really fun read. Low angst, low drama, playful, fun. Ghosting is not without its serious moments–Miles just got dumped by his fiancé, who is pregnant with another man’s babies(!), and Zoey was pretty much neglected and then abandoned by her selfish, globe-trotting parents–but I would categorize this as a true rom-com. One that leans more playful than outright funny. I never laughed out loud, but I did snort at the absurdity more than once. That said, in some ways it leans into its humor by relying on stereotypes that some readers may not enjoy. Miles is a “Jewslim”–his dad is an Egyptian Muslim and his mom is an American Jew–so we get jokes about Jewish mom stereotypes, for example. Loads of New York, LA, and Florida stereotypes are played on. (I mean, the Brooklyn artisanal scene kind of did this to itself, right?) So if you’re not interested in a type of humor that “pokes fun”, you might want to give this a pass. 

The idea of being involuntarily jobless and homeless isn’t particularly funny, but that’s what both Miles and Zoey are facing–for slightly different reasons–when they end up on opposite ends of a dating match. Their emotional investment in the match is only the first problem they have professionally. As I mentioned, they become so interested in each other–thinking they’re talking to the date, not another ghostwriter–that they begin to actively sabotage the relationship while also trying to keep the couple together. There were moments when I honestly thought they should be fired, because yikes. 

Then, too, because Zoey is terrified of leaving a 5 block radius around her apartment, I spent at least 60% of the book worried that she had pretty serious depression or anxiety. Which, of course, she couldn’t afford to seek help for because she’s a freelancer who can’t even afford breakfast when the book begins. 

The man who runs the competing ghostwriting company where Zoey works–Clifford, ex-husband of Miles’s boss–is a lawsuit waiting to happen, and he doesn’t even care. Racist, sexist, narcissistic → that’s Clifford, and I had mixed feelings about finding humor in what was honestly an extremely toxic work environment (even if it was freelance). It’s clear he was included to be just the mess he was, but women–especially women of color like Zoey (half-Filipino) and her colleague Aisha (Miles’s cousin)–just brushing off this kind of behavior as “Whatever, that Clifford! He’s a mess! Hahaha!” might skate a little too close to condoning and normalizing that behavior for me. It’s no fun to take everything seriously all the time, but… 

Now I’m going to talk about a problem that occurs at the end of the book, because I think it’s really important, but if you don’t want to get into what might feel spoilery, read no further.

***

When Miles and Zoey finally come together, it’s really lovely. Neither of them gets wildly distressed or angry about the situation they’ve found themselves in, which was nice. The real issue ties back to Miles and that ex-fiancé and her babies. And I’m not sure the conclusion of this book really addressed the situation Miles and Zoey found themselves in. It gets, maybe, 80% there. 

Miles and Zoey are both about 30. Miles thought his life was all squared away, envisioning his marriage and future children with the fiancé until it all crashed down around him. He’s on the farther side of 30. Zoey, on the very near side of 30, perpetually (intentionally) single, and trying to figure out her career, has not been envisioning family and children. They end up having a conversation about wanting children, which almost never happens in romance novels, even though I have seen it be a dealbreaker in more than one of my friends’ romantic relationships. So I was like, “YES! We’re gonna have a meaty conversation!” 

We don’t. 😦 Miles, having envisioned a certain life, has to consider what’s most important to him: having the family he wanted or having a partner who’s perfect for him but who might not come with the kids he’d hoped for. And the biological clock is ticking!!! Of course, there are no guarantees in life, so it is important to be with a partner for their own sake, not for the possibilities of something that may or may not happen. But one partner wanting children and another partner not wanting children is a serious flag for that relationship. It’s one of those times when love just isn’t enough. Children are for life. No takebacks. 

I’m not sure I would have been satisfied with Miles changing his mind about children being important to him or with Zoey changing her mind because Miles wanted children. That the authors portrayed this as Miles taking the conversation seriously and Zoey not realizing quite how important it was to Miles was probably the only thing that saved it in the end. But the two of them moving forward and not taking the time to consider the importance of this question seriously–when it had been such a problem for Miles in particular only pages earlier!–felt a little bit too easy. I did not have a ton of confidence in the long-term success of their relationship because the one thing that might keep them apart was never truly addressed. 

I voluntarily read and reviewed a complimentary copy of this book. All thoughts and opinions are my own. We disclose this in accordance with 16 CFR §255.


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