After the death of her mother, Emily decides to get a fresh start by moving to New York, where Dillon, her boyfriend lives and she will share an apartment with Olivia, her roommate from college. As Emily embarks on her new life, she discovers a side of Dillon that she hasn’t seen before that makes her question their relationship. Adding to her uneasiness is the attention by rich and handsome Gavin Blake, Dillon’s friend.
Gail Mc Hugh’s tale about a young college graduate trying to figure out her love life, gives a glimpse into the life of twenty-something characters that are torn between carousing and growing up. McHugh’s protagonist Emily moves between acts of revelry and sexual fulfillment (sometimes both), and acting like a serious adult who want to be respected. This creates an inconsistency in her personality, threatening to leave her looking quite shallow. For example, Emily claims to be in a serious relationship with Dillon, whom she “loves”, yet after laying eyes on Gavin, she describes him to Olivia as “Take-your-breath-away good looking. Want-to-strip-your-body-naked-and –let-him-devour-you-alive good look. Certified-eye-candy good looking.” Moving forward, Emily and Olivia both repeatedly describe him as “f*ckable” – even before Dillon’s possessiveness is fully apparent.
The most fleshed out and consistent character is Gavin, the supposed bad boy, who dates casually because he is against serious relationships – until he lays eyes on Emily. His actions are usually driven by clear desire and care for her and make sense. Even in his casual relationships, he is honorable in that the women know what the relationship is all about. His roles as a son, brother, uncle and friend to those who deserve and don’t deserve his friendship is also well portrayed. Also, the secondary characters of Trevor and Fallon come across as relatively consistent and credible in their naturalness and the normality of their relationship. Even Olivia falls into the trap of needing to establish ownership of her partner in front of the men looking on with interest.
Cliché or generalized descriptions and dialogue add to a general lack of uniqueness and depth to the characters, with Olivia and Dillon inventing names to insult one another, or the repetitive use of f*ck in dialogue or descriptions for sex or to capture an extremity or strong emotion, as in Gavin’s need to see Emily as “so f*cking intense” or the backyard of Gavin’s house being a “f*cking oasis” and a stranger picking up Emily by asking if he is “just the f*cking luckiest guy” at the bar.
There are also some logistical incongruities that seem to be overlooked which include, the three-year-olds playing water polo with adults or the scene when Emily storms out of a party and goes home where Dillon shows up soon after she arrives there, but somehow he has had time to get her bags.
Despite the aforementioned glitches, Mc Hugh’s achievements in COLLIDE are the well-orchestrated sex scenes and deftly paced sexual energy that runs through the book and moves the story along. Much of the effective energy is Gavin’s, whose self-control around Emily matches his words of devotion; however Emily’s escapades with Dillon are equally enticing and reveal sensual and heated love scenes without being overly explicit.
COLLIDE presents a few kinks in the premise and the execution of the story, but the heat and uninhibited sensuality of the sex scenes ensure that the overall flow of the story is not stymied for the pleasure of a mostly twenty-something audience.
Reviewed by Maya Fleischmann for IndieReader