ARC Review: The Meeting Point by Olivia Lara

I read this book as part of The Write Reads blog tour.
Special thanks to NetGalley and Aria Fiction for providing an ARC in exchange for an honest review.

Goodreads: The Meeting Point
Publisher: Aria Fiction
Publish Date: 02 September 2021
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Panda Rating:

(2.5 pandas)

What if the Lift driver who finds your cheating boyfriend’s phone holds the directions to true love?

‘Who are you and why do you have my boyfriend’s phone?’

‘He left it in my car. You must be the blonde in the red dress? I’m the Lift driver who dropped you two off earlier.’

And with these words, the life of the brunette and t-shirt wearing Maya Maas is turned upside down. Having planned to surprise her boyfriend, she finds herself single and stranded in an unknown city on her birthday.

So when the mystery driver rescues Maya with the suggestion that she cheers herself up at a nearby beach town, she jumps at the chance to get things back on track. She wasn’t expecting a personalised itinerary or the easy companionship that comes from opening up to a stranger via text, let alone the possibility it might grow into something more…

Come on this 5* journey to love, laughter and back again, perfect for fans of Mhairi McFarlane, Josie Silver and Sally Thorne.

TL;DR: I read Olivia Lara’s debut last year and I enjoyed it well enough to want to read more of her books, and I think I had very high expectations, especially after seeing how much everyone has loved this. Sadly, it really didn’t work for me! There was a lot of telling and not enough showing and as a result I couldn’t connect with the characters and I actually found it difficult to like the heroine. I’m definitely in the minority with my unpopular opinion though so I would encourage you to check out other reviews and to try the book for yourself because it does have a cute concept!

The majority of the book is set in Carmel by the Sea, which sounds like a really charming and picturesque little coast town and reading this book made me want to visit it ASAP! I would love to retrace Maya’s steps in the town and of course, to Big Sur and all the other places in between. It wasn’t hard to picture the story and locations come to life! I wouldn’t necessarily say this was a small town romance but it had the vibes and it leant the story some comfort and charm that I think (generally) worked well with the concept.

I don’t think I’ve ever read a romance involving a Lyft driver and I thought that it was quite a romantic and serendipitous sort of idea that, as a hopeless romantic, I was completely sold on! They also played a game of 50 questions, which I love the idea of and it reminded me of the experiment where couples ask 36 questions that can potentially lead to love. I thought there were some really sweet and funny moments in their banter while they played the game and Maya explored Carmel by the Sea for the first time. That said, even though this started well, it only took a few questions for Maya to already start feeling strongly for our mysterious driver and it rapidly became ‘instalove‘— a trope that I’m not fond of. It just never feels realistic to me and sadly, it was no different here. I also thought the romance itself wasn’t helped by the characters or the somewhat plodding storyline.

Despite being almost 400 pages, not a lot happens and the story moves along at a crawl because of the repetitive nature of Maya’s monologue. I often found myself feeling bored and I started skimming pages towards the middle of the book. Having read the author’s debut last year, I found that the same issues I had then were also the same now. There’s a lot of telling and not enough showing and that made it harder to connect to the characters and their emotions, and to feel invested in the romance. Ultimately though, it was the characters themselves that I had the most trouble with, and particularly with our heroine, Maya.

I don’t like to say negative things about heroines in romances because they’re always judged the harshest, and over the years I’ve come to appreciate flawed but realistic characters. However, I really struggled to like Maya! She’s judgmental, entitled and so bitter. She didn’t have the smoothest path over the last few years but I just didn’t understand her thought process and reaction to things. She hated Ethan before even meeting him because he wrote a story that she felt was hers. As he’s a popular romance author this story got published and she’s extremely bitter about it because it was “her story first”. Her reaction to the whole thing was so petty and immature and… W H Y? I also didn’t like how she refused to take responsibility for the decisions she made whether that was in her past and her present. She also becomes a ‘fairy godmother/saviour’ type of character as she pushes people together through various situations and credits herself for giving them a ‘happy ever after’ that she has created in her head. It was a bit much? Suffice to say, her character made it very difficult for me to enjoy the story.

While I wish I could say that our hero was a lot better, we didn’t really get to know him. He’s a famous author, twin to Celine and is divorced but we don’t get much depth from him. I guess he seemed like a nice enough bloke, but what we do learn of him is from Maya’s POV and again it’s a lot of telling and not showing. We’re told “he can be silly and funny” but his expressions are always blank or severe, and Maya can’t even tell what he’s thinking or feeling 90% of the time. It made it difficult to care about him and to understand his motives or what drives him.

Overall, I guess you can say I was pretty disappointed that I didn’t enjoy this as much as I thought I would! The idea sounded really fun and cute, plus, I loved the coastal small town setting, but the writing wasn’t compelling and I cared very little for the characters, and as a result, I wasn’t sold on their romance.

Have you read The Meeting Point or is it on your TBR?