Sharing Space (The Complete Series) by Nina Perez

February 19, 2014 Contemporary, Reviews 13

Book cover for Roommate Wanted by Nina Perez. A color illustration of a black woman in black pants, yellow shirt and a red cardigan standing next to a white man in khakis, blue and white striped tshirt and a grey long-sleeved shirt.As far as TBR Challenge books go, this is a pretty big failure. This month’s theme is to catch up on a series you were behind on. Not only was I not behind on this series, but I bought the entire series Sunday night after reading book one. No TBRs were harmed in the making of this review. YOLO, my friends.

I am not, as a rule, a big fan of serials, so this was an unusual acquisition for me. I remembered seeing a review from Tina a while ago and loving the premise and the cover art, but not wanting to get into a serial. With the last installment published early last month and the entire series available as a bundle (which I didn’t notice until after I’d bought book one, but I’ll live), I decided to give it a try. I tore through the series, reading until 1:30 in the morning, so it was pretty alright.

Marketing admin Chloe Brooks opens the first book thinking, “What am I going to do with all this soup?” She was trying to be a good girlfriend and bring some chicken soup to her boyfriend after he told her he was home sick that day. When she let herself into his apartment she found him in bed, but he wasn’t resting, or alone. First her roommate moved out on short notice, then her boyfriend’s stepping out on her, and now she’s stuck with a bunch of soup she doesn’t even like. This month so isn’t tipped in her favor. When all the women who come by the apartment turn out to be too perky, too religious, too “ghetto fabulous” or too old for her to imagine them as roommates, things don’t seem to be getting any better. But when the “Pat Murphy” she thought was a woman shows up and turns out to be a Patrick, luck seems to be on her side once again. He’s an aspiring actor with a steady day job, they talk easily like old friends, and he promises to put the toilet seat down. She’d never thought of living with a guy before, but she’s willing to try.

I’m really glad that I waited to get this until all of the books were out because having to wait weeks between books would’ve given me heart palpitations. Those who dislike insta-lust would like the slow, deliberate pace of the romance and how she stretches the sexual tension across multiple books. While there’s attraction between Chloe and Patrick in book one, the book is more focused on setting the stage for who the characters are and what’s going on in their lives. It’s only in the last line of this book that Patrick even thinks about wanting to kiss her. They don’t actually kiss until the end of book two, they spend book three in a kissing and cuddling-only sorta relationship and it’s not until book four that they go to bed with each other.

Most of this time is spent showing who they are through the relationships they have with their friends and family. Chloe has a number of strong, positive relationships with women and girls in her life. Her cousin and goddaughter are important to her and so is her best friend Myra. Patrick also has a pair of close friends in his hometown buddies Paul and Max. Where Chloe and Myra are opposites balancing each other out, Patrick is a sort of pivot point between the loutish football coach Max and the quiet, closeted Paul. Friendships play an important role in the story’s character development. Every conversation, argument and fight shows who Chloe and Patrick are, where they came from and what they value. Patrick and Chloe have a tight bond with their families and their friends, and it was one of my favorite things about this book. I liked knowing that they have an army of a support network to rely on.

Book cover for Slow Burn by Nina Perez. A color illustration of a black woman in dark jeans, pink shirt and a grey long-sleeve stands next to a white man in jeans, white tshirt and a red long-sleeve shirt. he has his arm around her waist.Another strength of the book was the dialog and the author’s voice. The series is told in alternating first-person and starts off mostly in Chloe’s POV before gradually adding more and more from Patrick’s perspective. There’s a minimal amount of replaying the same scene from different view points, so the few times it does happen it packs the appropriate sense of “so that‘s what happened” without feeling manipulative. The narration has a good amount of character to it, so that you can tell who’s speaking, even though the chapter headings name the narrator for good measure. Chloe’s narration is infused with little bits of urban slang here and there – her ex is “tripping,” her cousin’s deadbeat baby daddy is “trifling” and Patrick’s snarky comments are met with an ““Oh, you got jokes.” Patrick’s narration isn’t quite as colorful and is distinguished from Chloe’s less by what language he uses than the language he doesn’t use. He’s more animated in dialog than he is in the narration, but he’s far from flat.

They say writers should read dialog out loud to see if it sounds natural, and I think Perez must’ve taken this to heart. It’s tight, zippy and sounds exactly how people speak in real life.

“You wouldn’t mind living with a white girl?” Myra raised a perfectly arched eyebrow.

I sensed a trick question. If I said no, that would be a lie. It’s not like I have anything against white girls, but I grew up in a Brooklyn neighborhood where my exposure to white people was limited. It might be kind of weird to live with a white girl, but at this point as long as she could pay the rent and not get in my way, I’d live with a green girl. I tried to relay that to Myra.

“And what happens when you come home with a fine-ass chocolate brother and she wants that?”

“Myra please, I’d have to hurt that girl.”

“I know that’s right!” We slapped hands in a high five.

The story starts out light and fun, then grows darker and heavier around books three and four. Chloe and Patrick grow together as friends and draw on each other for support as Chloe deals with her uncle’s poor health and Patrick worries about his sister’s suspected drug use. When that friendship turns romantic, not all of their friends and family are on board. Myra doesn’t trust white men at all, and lets Patrick know exactly what she thinks.

“And what, exactly, do you mean by guys like me?”

“You know what I’m talking about. Don’t try to play like you don’t.”

“What?” I sneered. “Actors?”

She stepped closer, putting her face in mine.

“White. Boys . Used to getting everything you want. You think you can have a little fun by screwing a black girl and then what? You mean to tell me you’re going to take her home to meet your parents? I don’t think so. I know how your people think, and I’m telling you right now that I’m not going to let you play Chloe.”

Patrick’s mother, meanwhile, doesn’t have a problem with black people, you see, shes just worried about those other people who do have a problem making their lives difficult, and she just wants the best for her son. She’s just very concerned, is all.

“Mrs. Murphy, your son is a grown man. If he wants to move back home, that’s fine, but I’m not going to break up with him because you have a problem with the fact that I’m black.”

She blinked twice and her mouth opened and closed before she finally found the words. “I don’t have a problem with black people.”

“Really? Because I heard you at Thanksgiving and it sure sounded like that to me.”

“You and Patrick both misunderstand. I don’t care that you’re black. I care that he loves you, would do anything for you. I saw that the moment he introduced you to us. I know my boy. I’ve never seen him look at anyone the way he looks at you. And that makes me happier than you can ever imagine. You’ll only know that feeling when you have children of your own. And because of that , I care that other people will care that you’re black. They’ll care that Patrick is white and that you’re together. I can’t see any more pain or hardship brought to my children. I can’t.”

Myra comes around fairly quickly and even encourages Chloe to reconcile with Patrick when an acting gig in L.A. breaks them up. It’s clear to me that Myra’s reaction was based on something in her past and that she supports Chloe and Patrick when it really comes down to it. Patrick’s mother doesn’t come around until the very end, however, and I found it much less satisfying. I have my doubts that his mother truly accepts Chloe, but the rest of the family – and Patrick’s one of seven kids – clearly does, so the HEA feels safe enough.
Book cover for Winter Wishes by Nina Perez. A color illustration of a white man in khakis and a green sweater. A black woman in a red cocktail dress stands behind him with an arm around his waist.Patrick is front and center on the cover of book five, Winter Wishes, which is fitting since the story focuses heavily on him for this book. One of the plot threads running throughout the story is his younger sister Charlotte, and how he suspects the drastic change in the college student’s appearance and behavior is due to a drug problem. That thread is resolved in this book, and it’s a punch to the gut. The resolution bucks romance conventions somewhat – I think I’ve read something like this in only one other romance ever – but it’s an honest take, and not played for melodrama. I liked seeing the different ways people reacted to and interpreted what happened. Like real life, there was little that was black and white about it

The only weakness the story has is in the ending to the final book. It tries to tie up all the loose threads and tie them into a perfectly neat bow. Compared to the low-key, true-to-life story that makes up the bulk of the story, the ending is straight out of romance central casting. It’s a fine ending, but it’s just that: fine. A great book deserves better than fine.

Final Assessment: This serial was the most fun I’ve had reading a book in a long time. Great characters, sparkling dialog and a slow-building romance with lots of sexual tension. B+

If you’d like a spoiler on his sister, click here: View Spoiler »

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Ridley

An ice hockey fan from north of Boston and the genre's most beloved troll, Ridley enjoys reading contemporary and historical romance, as well as the odd erotica novel. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she takes a particular interest in disability themes.

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13 Responses to “Sharing Space (The Complete Series) by Nina Perez”

  1. nu

    A few subplots, and it’d make a nice TV drama. Sent a sample to my Kindle. :D

  2. CG

    Oooh, I’m interested, but would you mind spoiling the “punch to the gut” (or point me in the direction of a spoiler) as drug abuse issues can sometimes be a trigger for me.

    Also, how come u don’t include buy links with your reviews? If you don’t mind my asking.

  3. meoskop

    I’ll answer the buy link question – if I get it wrong one of the others can correct me. We want to be a non commercial blog. We’d like to avoid author promo, paid advertising, affiliates, all the things that can lead to conflicts of interest. Sometimes I will link to an Amazon page because I’m lazy and forget to find the author’s blog – but we don’t receive money for that, nor do we track it.

    We believe in disclosure. We never want to be the “Oh, we thought you knew that…” blog. One of us is an author and it’s clearly stated. We don’t edit, beta read, or want to work in the industry. We’re not going to go all Good Reads and start telling authors what’s in it for them if we feature a book – because we’re not about that. I’ve turned down blog tours both here and on my other blogs and disclosure of twitter relationships, etc is something else we want to be transparent about.

    It’s a long answer. TL:DR – We don’t want your money.

  4. Ridley

    @CG: I added a spoiler to the end of the post.

    @meoskop: What you said, although I do occasionally beta read for people writing disabled characters.

    If we get popular enough that hosting costs actual money maybe things might change, but right now we like drawing a bright line between us and a financial interest in the industry.

  5. CG

    Thank you both for the answers, think I’ll give this one a shot.

    The reason I asked about buy links was ’cause I’m lazy and they’re convenient, perhaps too much so for my wallet. But I certainly understand where you’re coming from.

  6. Tina

    Oh, the Sharing Spaces series. It made my top ten list last year. I loved how each book cover telegraphed the growing relationship. I thought it was a clever use of the serial covers.

    I also agree that the relationships and the dialogue are the best parts of the book. I especially liked how deft the author was at using code switching with Chloe. Her speech patterns were more colloquial and relaxed when she was with her cousins or Myra. And then became more formal and standard when she was in the work place.

    I also thought she did a great job with giving each of the friends layers. Myra and Max especially could have easily fallen into cliche (Myra = Angry Black Woman and Max = Homophobic lout) but they didn’t. She gave them room to let us know where they were coming from and it wasn’t as simple as the archetypes above.

    This author is definitely on my list to look out for. Looking forward to her next book.

  7. Ridley

    @Tina: Re: the friends – I just loved how she showed them fighting and how there was never a clear-cut loser after their spats. She really nailed how friendship works.

    I ran out of space to talk about how the books showed masculinity with a lot of nuance as well. Patrick crying after his sister came to dinner while she was high and argumentative. Her uncle the hard working restaurant owner and dedicated family man. Max the jock who covers his insecurity by acting the lout. Even Crystal’s ex had depth to him. It was really nice to see this variety.

  8. J.

    Thanks for that review. I bought it and already finished book 1 and well into book 2. It’s a blessing the series is finished because waiting for the next book to drop would’ve been torture. I was in a reading slump & it’s the first book(s) in months that got me excited & happy, thanks again!

  9. cleo

    @SuperWendy: Thanks for the heads up on the price (although I’m technically not buying new books right now, but I’ve been making exceptions for deals like this).

  10. SonomaLass

    I am really glad this series was all published before I started it. I am ripping through it, and I think I’d be dying if I didn’t know the last installment was there waiting for me. It is a really fun read.

  11. cleo

    I just read this and wanted to come back and thank you for putting it on my radar. I really enjoyed it. At first, I was afraid it was going to be too chick-lit-y for me, with all of the clothes and shoes reference, but once I got into it, I enjoyed it a lot. Thanks.