I almost feel bad reviewing this. I was never meant to read Later On We’ll Conspire. This was not written with me in mind. Before I read this, I didn’t even know there was such a thing as “Clean, Closed-Door Romance.” I have a friend who enjoys using his book club picks to specifically annoy me, and so here we are. His mission is accomplished.
I have two major issues with the way Later On We’ll Conspire is written.
The first is that what the author terms “clean” I would term “repressed.” The author takes numerous shots at Hallmark movies, which are actually clean, for being slow and boring and ending with a single kiss. I can’t believe I’m going to defend Hallmark movies, but most Hallmark romances depict a story of one or two potential romantic partners slowly opening their hearts to each other. The kiss at the end is symbolic that they have accepted their romantic love.
Kissing in this book is sex without saying sex. The characters are constantly looking at each others’ bodies and talking about how physically attractive they find one another. How various stray touches drive them wild. How each kiss is a mind shattering, unforgettable, ecstasy-filled experience that sure sounds a lot like another experience the human body is capable of producing. Hallmark doesn’t have a lot of movies about Christmas flings not because Hallmark is boring (I mean it is, but) because if you want to focus on the nonsexual aspects of romance then you have to…you know…do that. The characters in this book come across as horny teenagers, too nervous to go to second base simply because it’s taboo, even though there is really no reason for it to be taboo for them. They are adults in their late 20’s who made out on an escalator within 10-minutes of meeting. Also they melt a guy’s face and I think his genitals with acid. Then they share a joke over his corpse. You know, clean. Real wholesome, family friendly stuff. They kill…literally…dozens of people by the way, but that was just the most egregious.
The second major issue that I have with this book is the use of the first person. If you’re going to write a book with threeish perspectives, especially three perspectives that shift several times per chapter, then it is confusing to the reader for multiple people to share the pronoun “I”. “I” is typically a singular narrator. Each perspective switch is preceded with a heading indicating which character will now be “I” but it’s not enough to prevent a reader’s brain from needing a few paragraphs to recalibrate. It was jarring when perspectives were shifting each chapter, it became annoying when the perspectives starting switching within a chapter.
Content and Ideas (3/5) – The plot is great on paper. A secret agent winds up in a picturesque small town for Christmas. The traditional Hallmark movie sweetness is soon interrupted by gun battles and fisticuffs. It’s an idea with a lot of potential, but Later On We’ll Conspire falls flat in execution.
Organization (2/5) – Later On We’ll Conspire is all over the place. I’m not a fan of the way it constantly shifts perspectives, setting, and tone. It is meant to be a wild ride, but with every twist and turn easily decipherable from the first few chapters the reader spends a lot of time waiting for the characters to catch up.
User of Language (2/5) – Nate disagrees with me on this one, but I believe that the use of the first person perspective was a complete misfire for this story. I’m sure it is grammatically acceptable, but it is confusing and straight up silly at points.
Personal Preference (3/5) – In spite of the aspects that truly did not work for me, Later On We’ll Conspire was a light read. I never dreaded picking it up. I can’t say that I would ever have gone out of my way to read this if it wasn’t for the podcast, but it makes for perfectly fine airplane reading.
Recommendation Strength (3/5) – I don’t understand the appeal of the “Clean”, “Closed Door” romance. My inability to understand it doesn’t mean that it doesn’t have a devoted audience, though. If you are the type of person who has some idea what those terms mean in reference to romance literature then you may well like this book.