I had two books by Monica Jackson in my TBR pile yesterday and happened to read them both. The Look of Love is a contemporary romance, the story of an overweight woman struggling to find self-acceptance and love.

I am happy to report that I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The characterization, especially of the heroine, Carmel, was fabulous! Carmel, an overweight, single mother of two, is experiencing problems in many areas of her life. She is a registered nurse who co-owns a private nursing agency and they have received some bad news that leaves them in a financial bind. Her daughter is thirteen and dealing with issues of body image, boys, and self-worth. Her son is eleven and beginning on a path of parental disrespect in an effort to hang with “his boys.” Carmel has not had a serious relationship (read NO SEX) in four years and has finally met someone who makes her hormones sit up and sing. But how, she wonders, could he ever be interested in a fat pig like herself?

Steve is a successful, recently divorced plastic surgeon who finds himself attracted to Carmel, a woman unlike any of the women he has previously found himself with. While he loves her for who she is and how she is, he struggles with his own issues about her weight, issues that I believe many men who find themselves in a relationship with a bigger woman might deal with.

The supporting cast of characters, all with their own problems and strong personalities, make this book a treasure trove of characterization. From Carmel’s children to her mama as well as her best friend and co-owner of the agency Jasmine… the people in her family come alive. And Steve’s family is no different. We are given in depth perceptions to his father, mother, and ex-wife.

This book offers what I believe to be a realistic glimpse into emotional agony that can come with being overweight and uncomfortable with one’s own body. Having never struggled with these exact issues myself, I can still appreciate the pain that Carmel feels and her emotional escape into food. This book especially struck a chord with me because my mom was overweight, and I recognized much of Carmel’s emotional pain as things she experienced and exhibited, especially in the years before her death.

In addition to the fantastic character portrayals, I also loved the fact that Monica never treated this subject lightly and did not insult her readers by attempting to show the heroine easily losing weight to win the man. Instead, she offers both the heroine and the reader dignity as the heroine faces some painful truths and realities.

I have few complaints about this book and they are mere quibbles, really. I would have liked to see more development in the relationship between Trey (Carmel’s son) and Steve. It is mentioned and referred to several times, but as readers we are left mostly in the dark. Also, there were a few instances where I found myself wanting to slap Carmel for her denial of her children’s possible problems and the thought that they couldn’t need to know about sex and drugs at their age (I’m simplifying a bit but that’s the gist of it) despite the fact that she herself got pregnant at fifteen.

All in all, I recommend this book to fans of contemporary romance who enjoy a good, character driven book.

My grade: B+

Next up, I’m in search of A Magical Moment by Monica Jackson. And I’d like to know, Monica, does Jasmine have her own story?

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