Exes and O’s by Amy Lea, her second book following Set On You, follows Crystal’s sister Tara. A full time NICU nurse, Tara is not exactly living her best life. After rooming with her sister and her fiance for a while post breakup, Crystal suggests she take her fiance’s Scott’s room at his old place, in an effort to get her out of her post breakup slump. Tara had been dumped by her now ex-fiance a few months prior, leaving her with a partially planned wedding she ended up adjusting for her grandma.
Despite feeling unlovable, she never gave up on it and clung onto her romance novels and her social media following (hello bookstagram and booktube!) to help keep her afloat. She agrees to take Scott’s place at his old apartment, earning her a hot new firefighter roommate named Trevor. Despite the fact that he’s a hot firefighter, Tara didn’t look at him in that way and instead saw a new friend. In an effort to get herself back in the dating game, Tara comes up with this idea to win back her exes in hopes that one of them could be her date to her job’s Valentine’s Day gala. What could possibly go wrong?
In her quest to find a feasible date from past exes, Tara realizes that her issue is that she falls hard and fast for all the men she’s dated. Her friends joke that she’d fall in love with a stick if she spent sufficient time with it, which ouch. It’s clear Tara is a hopeless romantic who wants the kind of romance she loves to read about in her romance novels. As a fellow romance enthusiast, I get her and can absolutely identify with her in wanting the same thing. I also unfortunately identify with some of the antics she’s done with her exes in an effort to maintain the love – which is the key here.
Tara felt like she’s had to work hard to keep love once she got it, which drove her to do things most people would classify as “crazy” like send multiple, long and enthusiastic text messages, mentally plan her wedding and pick out baby names, and just in general think about their future together. In essence, nothing wrong but coming on that strong turned off all her exes. They all called her clingy, and her most recent ex gaslighted her by saying that her romance books uphold unrealistic expectations – we will not be accepting of this kind of slander here!
As a romance enthusiast, I love reading about love and hope to experience a love like the ones I read about. However, I’m not upholding unrealistic expectations about what I look for in a partner as a result. In all honesty, some romance books actually show what you should look for in a partner; someone who’s emotionally intelligent (or at least willing to get there) who is caring, loving, devoted, etc. Folks are too quick to judge the content of romance novels because they’re centered around love, which says more about them than it does about the readers. I digress!
I enjoyed reading Exes and O’s, even though I did feel like it was very cringey at times. The fact that it even felt cringey to me just told me that I share shame and embarrassment with Tara’s character because I’ve done similar things. No one likes to see themselves in these kinds of things! But I saw it and acknowledge it haha. Anyway, it was heartwarming for Tara to realize that she doesn’t necessarily need to change or fight to keep love once she has it. Her being herself is just perfectly fine for the right person.
And for that, I gave Exes and O’s four stars – there’s also a couple spicy scenes but this is a slow burn so ya gotta earn them! Have you read Exes and O’s? Let me know what you thought in the comments!