Title: Field Notes on Love
Author: Jennifer E. Smith
Date published: March 5, 2019
Having just been dumped by his girlfriend, British-born Hugo is still determined to take his last-hurrah-before-college train trip across the United States. One snag: the companion ticket is already booked under the name of his ex, Margaret Campbell. Nontransferable, no exceptions.
Enter the new Margaret C. (Mae for short), an aspiring filmmaker with big dreams. After finding Hugo’s spare ticket offer online, she’s convinced it’s the perfect opportunity to expand her horizons.
When the two meet, the attraction is undeniable, and both find more than they bargained for. As Mae pushes Hugo to explore his dreams for his future, he’ll encourage her to channel a new, vulnerable side of her art. But when life off the train threatens the bubble they’ve created for themselves, will they manage to keep their love on track?
I’ve honestly never been an *enormous* fan of Jennifer E. Smith’s books, but there have been a couple that I enjoyed, so I decided to give this one a shot. Here are some of my thoughts on it:
- I liked the writing style. I don’t always like third person, but I liked how the third person present-tense writing worked with this story. Though I did have issues with the pacing, which I’ll get to momentarily, the present-tense writing did help give the story some momentum, and I thought it fit the theme of travel really well.
- I was glad there were two perspectives. I was not a huge fan of Mae because I thought she was pretty boring, so in this case I was happy that there was a second perspective, aka Hugo, to break things up.
- I wasn’t actually a huge fan of either character, honestly. I felt like we only know basic things about them, and their character development doesn’t move much beyond them. I guess Mae’s relationship with her grandmother counts for something, but even that felt a little contrived to me for some reason and I wish both of them had more friends or something, even though that wouldn’t have really impacted the story much anyway because they were on a train the whole time. One thing I’ve noticed in Jennifer E. Smith’s books is that I can usually remember the plots of them after a few months, but honestly I never remember the characters. I thought Hugo’s story of being one of sextuplets who were minor celebrities because of their mom’s blog was interesting, but everything he felt and did was kind of how I expected him to think and act. Overall they were just very flat and predictable characters.
- I wanted more from the settings. I wish we got to see more of the places they stopped along the train ride. At the beginning, First Margaret talks about stopping at hotels, but that only happens a couple of times in the book, and mostly what we get are descriptions of generic cities, rain, and pizza. I always like reading travel themed books because the settings are usually very interesting, but in this one that was unfortunately not the case and I found it hard to picture the places where they were other than my own knowledge of them.
- The pacing was weird. It was mostly slow, and I was expecting it to be a lot faster because of the travel aspect. The romantic pacing made sense to me because the whole point was that they fell in love in their week on the train so that had to move faster than I’d normally like in a romance, but everything else was kind of slow in a way and I found myself feeling like it dragged a lot, especially any of the parts set on the actual train.
Basically, this book fell very flat for me and my final verdict is a resounding MEH. I’m thinking I’ll probably skip Jennifer E. Smith’s future books after this disappointment, which is unfortunate but probably for the best. If you end up reading this book, hopefully you have better luck than I did.