Title: The Proverbial Mr. Universe
Author: Maria La Serra
Genre: New Adult, Romance, Contemporary
When the universe conveys a message, you listen.
Olivia Montiano just caught her fiancé cheating. Now she is forced to question what she wants out of life and love. Striving to live up to her father’s unrealistic standards for the past twenty-three years, every decision she has ever made was with her father’s wishes in mind – until she finds mysterious, handwritten letters tucked away in places only meant for her. That’s when she realizes she’s been on the wrong path all along and gives her heart to a guy her father thinks is entirely wrong.
Washed-up abstract artist Nick Montgomery has had quite a few setbacks in life. He’s accustomed to never needing anyone, thinking he’s just fine – until he meets the girl with the red scarf. She’s not his type. But the universe has other ideas. Nick has a secret he’s been keeping from her, afraid it will bring their new relationship to a sudden halt.
Will they figure out what the universe holds for them?
I received a digital Advance Reading Copy (ARC) of this book (via NetGalley) in exchange for an honest review. Many thanks to the publisher for the generosity!
Prior to writing this book review, I browsed through the other feedback on Goodreads. It turns out that I am the first person to rate this novel with one measly star, which sort of compels me to defend my opinion. What exactly is it about The Proverbial Mr. Universe that warrants a one-star rating? I’d like to present a list of 12 problems I greatly struggled with.
Fair warning: The rest of this review may contain extremely mild spoilers. Rest assured, however, that no major confidential plot information and/or explicit spoilers will be mentioned. Proceed with caution, should you choose to continue reading.
First and foremost, I did not like the heroine. Olivia Montiano was consistently and unfailingly a bloody hot mess throughout the entire story (Problem #1). While I understand that she was struggling to find her worth and coping with her ex-fiancé’s infidelity, her character came across as whiny, overly privileged, rude and shallow. Additionally, Olivia’s supposed “low self-esteem” also came across as her blatantly fishing for compliments. I also hated how self-serving her actions were – why the synopsis claims “every decision she has ever made was with her father’s wishes in mind” is beyond me because that was not the case. She used her father as a get-out-of-jail-free card and as an excuse to be an utter asshole to other people.
“So, are you going to see him again?”
“I don’t know. The thing is… well, I’m not sure we have much in common. Nick works at a bar. I know it shouldn’t bother me, but…”
On the other hand, Nick was a delightful love interest to read about albeit nauseatingly cheesy. While he did not make it into my list of favorite book boyfriends, I admired how very well-intentioned and gentlemanly Nick was. However, my main issue with Nick was, aside from his taste in women because Olivia had no redeeming qualities whatsoever, how his condition was not realistically portrayed and given much attention (Problem #2). If anything, it was merely used as a minor plot device to cause additional strain on Olivia and Nick’s relationship.
The same holds true for Olivia’s father’s mental condition (Problem #3). Rather than witnessing a painfully poignant portrayal of grief and familial heartbreak, I was instead given generic father-daughter interactions with dreadfully melodramatic dialogue — think poorly produced soap opera.
None of the characters were any better, really. They all seemed one-dimensional in one way or another. Olivia’s growth was very minimal as well. Which lead us to Problem #4: the lack of character depth and poorly executed character development.
Problem #5 was the romance in itself. If I were to sum it up entirely, I’d call the romance cringe-worthy and scenes utterly, ridiculously sappy and inconceivably cliché. I could hardly stomach it. The chemistry between Olivia and Nick was so forcibly drawn out it was almost physically torturous to witness. There was no spark. There was no deeper emotional connection between the two. It was all just a baseless, unrealistic attraction.
Moreover, I got so fed up with the two of them squabbling all the time!!! Notice how I used three exclamation points to emphasize this sentiment. Their arguments repeatedly fluctuated between annoyingly childish and wildly unreasonable (Problem #6). Their relationship (or, to some extent, the lack thereof) was very hot and cold.
Moving on to Problem #7 — the notes from the supposed “Mr. Universe” had no relevant contribution to the story. Seriously, if the notes were removed from the plot, the outcome wouldn’t have changed at all. The notes became an afterthought, which was very disappointing as the novel’s premise suggested otherwise. Furthermore, while the idea of mysterious, helpful notes from a stranger was interesting, the execution fell extremely flat. The anticipated (not really) reveal of Mr. Universe’s true identity was done in such an awfully mediocre manner (Problem #8).
As for the rest of my issues with The Proverbial Mr. Universe, they are as follows:
Problem #9: The sudden time-jump and Olivia’s equally sudden fame. Rushed and sloppily done. Also, I could not fathom why Olivia turned into an overnight sensation. It all seemed pretty farfetched to me.
Problem #10: The ending. It was all sorts of cringe and awful, to say the least. Not satisfying at all.
Problems #11 and #12: Overall, the novel is a forgettable, tedious read and has too much material but not enough substance.
Was this worst book I’ve ever read? Definitely not.
Did the writing style make me cringe? No, but the characters and the scenes did.
Did I enjoy reading this book? Not at all.
Would I like to have the time I spent reading this book reimbursed? Yes please.
Would I recommend The Proverbial Mr. Universe? God, no.
Excerpt from the book:
There is something to be said about the light, how it can seep through the smallest cracks. Even when you believe it’s not possible, the tiniest of light can brighten the sourest of souls. When it’s gone, the lack of its presence is so visible, you wonder where it could have gone or how you were able to let it slip away, Mr. Universe wrote.
Olivia sat in the shadows, haggard in her chair with a cup of coffee at hand, her eyes fixed on the morning light filtering through her drapes. The light made her think of Nick. Then again, everything these days made her think of him.
“The most important thing you need to know about art is the light and shadow; you need to know the value. It’s what gives the composition depth and movement,” he’d told her one afternoon while a hauntingly beautiful Peruvian folk tune played on the old radio. He looked directly at her. Under his gaze was where she desired to thrive forever. She felt something undeniable stir within her; there was something more going on than she liked to admit. She was aware of the easy way he moved his body, the way his heather gray T-shirt fit in all the right places. The way his expressive eyes wandered all over her when he thought she wasn’t looking. She never felt so alive and content than she did sitting across from him in his white studio, under the natural light. This was what Nick Montgomery had done to her.