A Beautiful Disaster by Willa Okati
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I always think of Willa Okati books as easy reading, sort of romance light. The writing is ethereal and tends to lack a real connection with the drama presented. I knew this going in so I wasn’t disappointed with the book. However, I didn’t always particularly like it. The concept is good but like other books by this author, any attempt to add depth is superficial at best. This reads like magical sex cures deep-seated emotional and physical trauma. Sean is entirely different by the end with the love of a good man and some hot sex. That’s a nice thought and the problem isn’t that it’s unrealistic, this is romance after all, but that the story does very little to sell the change to the reader. There’s nothing that makes you want to believe in the transformative powers of sex.
The plot is basic and familiar with Sean, recovering from a horrific car accident that left him scarred in all ways. He’s convinced his scars make him a monster and that no one will ever be able to stand to look at him again. Enter Riordan, a nurse and a tattoo artist who specializes in tattooing scars. He takes one look at Sean and decides that he wants the man. Although Sean is skittish and scared, Riordan knows he can tame the man.
To open the book, Sean is trying to run away from an abusive lover in the prologue but instead gets run over by said lover’s car. This is the best part of the story. The raw emotion and fear are palpable and I connected with Sean almost immediately. I felt for him and wanted to know more. When the story abruptly shifts to an opening scene between Jae and Riordan, I was thrown. I kept wondering if one of them was Sean in disguise/hiding. I couldn’t focus on the scene because I wanted to know why it was such an abrupt shift and what happened to Sean. When we finally see Sean again he’s constantly described as a feral cat. I can’t help but wonder what happened to make him this way? Sure he was in an abusive relationship but with no details and no further explanation it’s hard to understand the level of wary fear Sean displays.
Likewise Riordan has his own scars, which supposedly make him more able to understand Sean. However I never could get a clear understanding of this character. First he’s a nurse, but I’m not sure why this was added. Riordan only works in the tattoo shop for the duration of the story and other than a few minor references to his physical therapy for some unknown ailment of his hand – I think from his gunshot wound but it’s not clear – there’s no need to include the nursing reference at all. Riordan exists as a white knight, ready to save Sean from the world and himself with the powerful force of sex and I guess love, though it’s never mentioned.
This isn’t a bad book, all things considered, and the writing is light and easy. It’s not especially descriptive or moving, though I think the tattooing descriptions and scenes are by far the best. However there’s a distance between the characters and subject matter that never quite connects. Sometimes I couldn’t tell who was speaking and who’s POV was the narrator. These were minor but it led to an overall feeling of discontent. I couldn’t sink into the story and enjoy it. Instead I forced myself to turn the pages and liked it well enough without ever engaging with the characters or their emotions. I think this ranks about the middle of WO books and maybe not one I’d recommend.