Books

Under One Roof Book Review is full of Terrible communication, Decent Banter, Awkward Endings, and Bachelor References

Pros

  • Good banter
  • Sweet relationship between Helena
  • Friendship between Mara and her friends was
  • Good concept- EPA environmental scientist and Corporate Oil Lawyer
  • Hooked me in
  • References to The Bachelor

Cons

  • Weird prologue returns to the ending
  • Overly clueless MC
  • Plot by communication issues
  • Seriously…their inability to communicate make me want to jump off into the abyss
  • Confusing Demisexuality representation (although the idea of rep is good)

I absolutely loved The Love Hypothesis, so I was pretty excited to read Ali Hazelwood’s new novella, Under One Roof. The book was only $2.99 on the Kindle store, so I figured why not give it a try while I wait for her next book to come out. It wasn’t a bad choice.

This book was a fun read. The dialogue was entertaining and the idea worked fairly well. I think it would have been better if Hazelwood either turned this into an entire book or if she included Liam’s POV as well. The book all takes place from Mara’s perspective, which is fine, but since this was an enemies-to-lover story, I wanted to know what Liam was thinking about Mara and the house situation. I learned about his character primarily through his facial expressions and his stoic demeanor, which isn’t the best way to understand someone.

I liked his character (maybe because I like law and lawyers and his love of video games), and I liked seeing a more reserved/quiet character in a book, but by the end, I still felt like I didn’t know him that well.

The other relationships were pretty well done. Mara’s friends Sadie and Hannah were sweet, and I liked the scenes of three amazing scientist friends talking about their relationships, work, and life stuff. They like to watch Parks and Rec and make brownies together and…Same Sadie. Same.

I enjoyed Mara’s relationship with Helena and the memories that she shares about Helena’s life. Helena felt like a real person, and I could imagine her bold personality as I read. Even though she was dead, she was much more than a plot point. You can tell Helena was a good mother-figure/mentor to her. It feels heartfelt and not too sappy. I enjoyed reading the letter that Mara wrote to her; it felt funny and real.

Mara’s relationship with her mentor, Helena, and her response to Helena’s death is one of the most interesting parts of the book. Helena was a strong-willed and unpredictable woman, and I kind of aspire to be her someday. She cheats at chess, loves Mara like a daughter, sets up her nephew with her by giving her the house, and hates cheesiness and sentimentality I feel like Helena is dropped once Mara and Liam get together, and it is a damn shame. It would have been interesting exploring their grief. Mara’s letter to Helena was one of my favorite parts of the book. I’m going to share some of my favorite parts.

Mara is someone who doesn’t quite believe in an afterlife, or is at the very least unsure about it. She says:

“Truth be told, I stopped pondering eschatological matters in high school after they got me anxious and made me break out in hives”

I feel that, can’t say I don’t ponder these things, but thinking about life after death is anxiety-inducing. There is unpredictability no matter what you believe. I never got hives, though. She also says:

“You probably just sit on a cloud all day being omniscient. Eating Triscuits. Occasionally playing the harp. You lazy bum.”

I don’t get the pervading myth that people play the harp in heaven all the time. Maybe Hazelwood took this idea from Huckleberry Finn. In the beginning of the book, Huck says that going to heaven sounds boring, because people just go around and play the harp all day. I can’t picture omniscient God would make heaven boring–at least Mara’s version sounds kind of fun. I love a good Triscuit and a lazy day. I’m not sure I’d want to know everything though. That sounds overwhelming.

I liked how Helena’s house is her safe harbor, it is a place where she feels comfortable. We never get the ending to that letter she writes.

Mara’s Relationship with Her Parents

I actually liked Mara’s character development. We learn that her parents were people that didn’t want to be parents. We get little details like that her parents saw her as too energetic, and they enrolled her in sports to keep her busy and out of their hair. This is why her relationship with Helena is so important; she acted as a mentor and cared about Mara like a daughter. Apparently Mara only talks to her parents once or twice a year, and she is the one who calls.

Helena also isn’t as close to her family either. I feel like these scenes could be expanded upon more though. I feel like I liked the idea of Mara’s character development, but it didn’t show up as much as I hoped. We never really learn more about Liam’s relationship with his family either, except that he isn’t too close with them.

Other than that, I do have some complaints. This book felt very fanficy, and while that isn’t entirely a bad thing–it feels like it was thrown together or written chapter-by-chapter. The Prologue and last scene mesh together awkwardly.

He likes you, Mara–why don’t you see this?

It bugged me how Mara is completely clueless and has no idea that Liam could possibly be attracted to her. I think Ali Hazelwood likes writing main characters who are oblivious about matters of human attraction and interaction, because Olive was the same way.

But he obviously likes her! The man looks at her awkwardly and then looks away, looks distant when she says she’s moving out, cuddles with her when she’s cold, and feels left out when she’s with another guy. She assumes that he likes his friend Emma and wants to be with her, even after he plainly tells her that he and Emma are just friends and neither is interested in each other. He thinks she’s brilliant and enjoys spending time with her. And there is SO MUCH TENSION between them in these scenes. The man is flustered around her ALL THE TIME. She has feelings for him. How could Mara not consider, even for a minute, that Liam might like her too?

I understand a bit though. I can be oblivious about how people feel, especially if they’re quiet like Liam, but if I had a feelings for someone (like Mara did for Liam during at least half of the book), I would overanalyze every single interaction to find out whether or not he returned my affections. Mara never does this, she just assumes. But Mara is convinced that Liam is dating someone else and just wants to be friends with her.

I’d like to see a confident MC for once. Why wouldn’t he like her? Because he has muscles? She is fit too. Because he is annoyed with her? He doesn’t seem too annoyed when they become friends. I feel like she disliked him first. It could be awkward to admit feelings for your roommate, but still. Get it together. But enough complaining about roommate drama for now, lets talk about the height of romantic drama and tension–The Bachelor.

The Bachelor References

Liam and Mara watch The Bachelor, and I am all here for it. I enjoy watching The Bachelor and The Bachleorette sometimes, and I appreciated their comments on the show. Mara even runs a bachelor franchise blog. I approve. We don’t get real references though, because she talks about season 12, which is JoJo’s season, but they talk use another woman’s name. It is a shame; I wanted to know their thoughts on the real bachelorette. Is there a copyright issue? I’d hope not. It was still pretty fun though. I can relate to rooting for the bachelor/ette to end up with a contestant that they don’t end up with. They also could have talked about all those weird challenges that the producers put them up to; that would be great.

I feel like I would read a whole story of these two reacting to a real season of the bachelor, not because their banter regarding the subject was anything amazing, but I feel like it could be a fun story.

The “Demi Rep”

The book was marketed as “demi rep”, which basically means that one of the main characters is demisexual. According to Web MD, “Demisexual people only feel sexually attracted to someone when they have an emotional bond with that person.” The definition goes on to say,

“Demisexual people do not feel primary attraction — the attraction you feel to someone when you first meet them. They only feel secondary attraction — the type of attraction that happens after knowing someone for a while.”

I originally thought Mara might be demi, but I wasn’t sure. She has problems with guys and finding someone that she is attracted to, as many of us do demi or not, but her relationship with dating seems a bit different than other people’s.

“But even at their best, all my romantic relationships felt like work in a way Sadie and Hannah and Helena never did. In a way actual work never did. And for what? Sex? Jury’s still out on whether I even care about that?”

This paragraph doesn’t indicate whether Mara is asexual, demisexual, aromantic, demiromantic or anything else. One reading is that Mara is demisexual, but doesn’t know the label to explain herself with. She might never have felt an emotional connection to her dates, so she never experiences sexual attraction and thus feels like she’s left out for not feeling what her friends do. Maybe she felt pressured to have sex with people she didn’t feel connected to because it was what people are supposed to do in relationships. Maybe she thought if she would try it; she would like it. Maybe these relationships felt like work because she kept putting effort into people she didn’t experience attraction to, but she felt like she should be in a relationship, so she kept it going.

Or Mara could have bad experiences with dating and could have been with bad partners. An unhealthy relationship can feel like “work” sometimes. She might not be demi and just struggles to find someone she cares about and wants to date. After all, the male engineers that she works with seem like jerks. Some guys are nice, but just because someone is nice and just because you’re friends with someone of a gender you’re attracted to doesn’t mean you want to date them. But on the other hand, sometimes it is easier, for demisexual people and others, to date someone you’re friends with and have developed a connection with beforehand. Mara also talks about how being with Liam is better than others because it is not awkward. She knows him, she is comfortable.

I also can’t tell if she becomes attracted to Liam before or after they develop an emotional connection and start actually talking to each other. She notices his muscles and how tall he is right away, but I’m not sure if that counts as attraction or not. I mean, who wouldn’t be thrown off by a tall, broad shouldered guy living in your new place. Especially if you’re a pretty short woman and now you’re living with this big guy who also works for a company you disagree with. It’s a lot to take in.

Liam also seems like he could be demisexual. There is a part where Liam says “I don’t like sex.” But this is after he admits that he finds Mara attractive and that he has liked her since he first saw her. I know that the trope of “the guy falls for the girl first” is popular, so I wasn’t surprised by this scene. He was always so awkward around her; it sounded like he was attracted to her based on how he either looked or didn’t look at her. He tells Mara how long he’s liked her.

“How hard it’s been, to. . . **** to keep my hands off you. How much I’ve wanted this, almost since the very beginning.”

So, my question is, did he form an emotional connection with her early on? Maybe after they talked about Helena’s death? The whole “love at first sight” thing doesn’t happen to demisexual people as far as I know, so I am slightly confused here. He didn’t know her before.

It also seems like his friend Emma knows he doesn’t date much. There is a point where Mara asks if Liam has been STD tested and he says he goes to the doctor twice a year or so. . . indicating he doesn’t have sex often.

He could be uninterested in sex and be demi. He could dislike sex but want his partner to be happy. He could also be graysexual, which is a term for someone who almost never experiences sexual attraction. I feel like at least Liam is on the ace/demi spectrum. I also don’t get why neither character calls themselves demisexual.

These things can be complex and one is obliged to use a label, but Hazelwood marketed this book as “demi rep.” Not everyone knows what demisexual means, so if she explained and had one of her characters identify with the term.

It wouldn’t be that hard, either. Liam could say,

“I don’t really feel attracted to people often, but once we started talking about (Helena, our passions, etc.) I couldn’t stop thinking about you. Like, I like you, a lot. I like being with you… (cue romantic speech that doesn’t reference her smelling like sunscreen and doing yoga, because that’s kinda odd). I don’t feel this way for anyone. Emma’s mind was blown a little when she saw how I looked at you. I’ve never acted this way before; I never cared about sex or saw anyone that way; I didn’t know what to do with myself I’ve read about it. I’m demisexual, I only feel sexual attraction to others after you form an emotional connection. At first, you were this rando living into my house. I didn’t know what to do, but I figured I’d try to be friends. I think Helena would have liked that. But once we actually started talking Mara, I was a goner.”

That is just a guess on how it could go. I feel like the rep could have been handled better. I also didn’t like the ending. It seemed like Hazelwood decided to throw all the ending, conversation, and dialogue that needed to be had into the middle of a sex scene. it is also kind of creepy how Liam keeps saying “is this how you wanted it?” to Mara.

Liam basically starts recreating a fantasy that he overhears Mara talking on the phone to her friends about. It is so awkward… The characters barely talk to each other beforehand. There seems to be consent, but it is very confusing.

Overall though, this was a fun novella. I enjoyed reading it for the witty banter alone. If you like Ali Hazelwood’s writing style and humor–and if you are willing to suspend your disbelief–this novella is a solid choice. Just don’t put your expectations too high.

Have you read Under One Roof or The Love Hypothesis? Do you plan to? Let me know down in the comments below 🙂