Instalove With a Side of Meh


Layla is a novel that, according to the publisher, “explores life after tragedy and the enduring spirit of love.” I guess that’s one way to put it, but before I tell you what I thought about this story, let’s take a quick look at the plot. Here are the Cliff’s Notes:

Deadbeat and general weirdo (my assessment), Leeds, meets bubbly belle, Layla, at a gig. He’s the suffering moody musician, she’s the upbeat dream girl. It’s instalove. She’s the one and he’s going to spend the rest of his life with her. But then shit happens and Layla is left fighting for her life. 

Layla spends weeks in the hospital and does, eventually, recover physically. Emotionally, however, she is no longer the same girl Leeds wanted. Desperate to save their relationship and get his girl back, Leeds kidnaps whisks her away on a “romantic” trip to the place where they first met. He’s hoping it will help her snap back, but Layla doesn’t behave the way he’d expected her to. Then we add a couple of spoonfuls of paranormal plotline and a triangle drama to this recipe and watch things go south.

I’m at a loss as to how to review this book, to be honest. And that’s despite the fact that I’ve made a very simple assessment checklist to follow.

I thought I would enjoy this read, because I really liked Hoover’s first book, It Ends With Us. For a debut, I thought it was a well-crafted story, and I was quite surprised when I saw it getting thrashed by reviewers on TouTube and Tiktok. I did understand why, though, when I realised it’s promoted as a romance. There’s nothing romantic about domestic abuse – I would have rubbished the book too had I read it hoping to get a slice of sweet feel-good cake. 

So, over to Layla. When I saw that this one was getting mixed reviews too, I wanted to give it a go. Now I wish I hadn’t, because I was sorely disappointed. The problem is, I’m not even sure why.

Here’s what I do know: Colleen Hoover is not a bad writer. I’m trying to understand whether I have a problem with the story itself, with the way it is told, or with the characters. And maybe, in a way, the biggest problem for me is the latter. There is absolutely nothing to like about the main character. he hasn’t got a single redeeming feature. This leaves me wondering whether this book is a victim of misleading branding/labelling too?

Now, I’m the kind of reader who prefers character over plot. If you’re not, this may not be a problem for you. For me, a story needs to feature interesting characters dealing with interesting or fascinating problems. These problems may be physical or mental obstacles – real or imagined – and the character(s) need to either succeed or fail to solve them. And they need to have some kind of learning or emotional response linked to this issue. Something to suggest it meant something.

In Layla, we’re presented with an unlikeable, two-dimensional main character, and I don’t understand why. Especially since a large part of the book plays out inside his head. I guess it could be that it’s harder to write a male MC if you are not a man. But I’m not sure that is the problem here.

Maybe it is the fact that we get thrown straight into the action. We get to see a musician who hates being a musician. He spots a girl on the dance floor and two minutes later we have instalove. Not infatuation, not lust. No, it’s LOVE. This complete stranger is the woman of his dreams and she’s THE ONE, and he’s going to have her come hell or high water. 

Of course, because it’s instalove, he ends up getting the girl, and from there I can’t seem to decide what kind of story this is. 

Now, I love multigenre books. I am by no means saying it has to be one thing or the other, but even in multigenre you need to feel like there is some kind of order. Am I reading romance, horror or a paranormal murder mystery? Is it fantasy? Is it a thriller? Is it just me? The answer here is that for all my ponderings and ramblings, I’m still not 100% sure. Is it romance? I’d say no, definitely not, but that’s what it says on the tin.

This book gave me a headache and I think that’s a crying shame. It could be down to me just not getting it, so in the end I rated it two stars because it really was a meh experience for me. I’m not hating it. I’m not saying it is badly written. I’m just… I’m just not feeling it on any level. Not engaging with the story. Not engaging with the characters. Not feeling particularly good about the time I spend reading this. And that’s a shame.

Even if it had been sold as a paranormal story, I doubt it would have changed how I feel. It gets a solid meh. I’m still going to read at least one more Colleen Hoover book because I thought the first one was brilliant as an account of a mother who breaks the chain of generational trauma to create a better life for her daughter. 

This one, however?

Nope, not for me.

Question of the Day:

– Have you read this book?

If you have, please slide into the comments below and let me know what you thought. Did you agree with me? Did I get this book all wrong? Let’s talk!

For now, thank you very much for stopping by. I hope you enjoyed your stay and look forward to seeing you again.

Puss & Kram,

//Linnea 🖤🏴‍☠️


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This is a book that I am likely to read again (and again) and carry with me for years to come. I’ll probably make references to it here and there, and it may influence my own storytelling in the future. This was a rare treat.



I genuinely enjoyed reading this and may even revisit it again sometime. There were definitely elements in there that I will remember and I’m glad I read it.



There were some things I liked, some things I felt could have been done in a better way, and some that I didn’t care for at all. I can’t see myself reading this again. 



 This was not for me. I did not enjoy it, didn’t find the story interesting or engaging, or I felt that it was poorly executed. 



This was so bad it made my head hurt and I really wish I would have done something else instead. Can I have my time refunded, please.




Linnea Lucifer is the Captain of the imaginary, yet very real, pirate ship Resilience and her merry crew of indie authors. But that is not all – amateur liar, weaver of stories, peddler of merch, lifelong spoonie, ancient dragon lady and Maddox Rhinehart’s irreverent pet are a few more words often used to describe the bearer of many names.

Linnea writes fantasy rooted in Norse mythology and Scandinavian folklore under the pen name Saga Linnea Söderberg. She writes sweet’n’spicy spoonie smut together with Leto Armitage under the joint pen name Linn Rhinehart. As Evalena Styf, she’s known as a knowsy roll model and prolific content creator. She’s also a retired writing coach, editor and graphic designer.



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