Online plot summary: “Regan O’Riley has just about given up hope that she will ever find a woman into shy, geeky programmers. She yearns for a connection, but can’t seem to make the first move. Mel Raines knows all about making moves. After a childhood under the thumb of her alcoholic father, she avoids intimacy by drowning herself in fiery, fleeting encounters with strangers.”
My review: As I was reading Infinite Loop, Meghan O’Brien’s immensely enjoyable and very, very sexy first novel, I couldn’t imagine not giving it five stars. That it ultimately failed, in my estimation, anyway, to deserve that accolade in no way detracts from how thoroughly entertaining it was.
There are many pluses here: Great characters, not just the two principles; realistic growth of both main characters, which adds the depth needed in a novel; some gorgeous descriptive passages; a really sweet romance; some off-the-charts sex; plenty of humor and wit; drama — not exactly cataclysmic, but enough to liven things up from time to time; intense emotion; believable dialogue, including some totally cute geek-speak; some cool pop culture references; an improbable premise made credible. Oh, and did I mention the totally hot sex…
Characters, and character growth: Mel, street cop, something of a “player,” realizes she’s dissatisfied with her job and her lifestyle; Regan, adorable computer geek beginning to wonder if she’ll ever find “The One.” Regan’s not only a computer geek, but of Irish descent. (Somewhat geeky, unrepentant Hibernophile reviewer sighs wistfully.) After what Roger Ebert would have called a “meet cute” opening, they decide, after only a few week’s acquaintance, but an undeniably strong mutual attraction, to take a mega road trip. Improbable? Sure, but, they’re obviously falling for each other, and, as Buffy told us — god, was it really sixteen years ago? — “love makes you do the wacky.” Both characters, despite obvious strengths, exhibit considerable vulnerability. In a sense, though both are adults, you could almost call this a coming-of-age story, as Mel and Regan are ruled by childhood trauma. Mel is still working at the impossible task of trying to live up to her father’s unrealistic expectations, and Regan’s insecurities are the result of high school bullying. How they help each other overcome their individual bêtes-noires is the story’s driving force. What’s impressive here is that, despite the intensely emotional personal issues involved, Mel and Regan are both completely engaging, likable, and entertaining, the most fun characters I’ve read since Kate Allen’s Alison Kaine and Stacy, in fact.
The road trip, and the instant romance: As I said, improbable, but somehow, O’Brien makes it all work. The frequent and effusive professions of undying love, potentially cloying and hokey, even in a romance, don’t seem at all out of place, here, largely because the intensity of feeling results from the character growth that both women are experiencing, and it seems perfectly natural.
Some have referred to this as an erotic romance, but, I prefer the word sexy. Did I point out, very sexy? To me, erotica’s primary raison d’être is to titillate, to arouse. In Infinite Loop, the focus is on the characters, the romance and how the characters grow; the sex is just (very enjoyable ) lagniappe. I’m reminded of Katherine V. Forrest’s comments about sex scenes as a unique means of developing character, displaying facets of the characters you wouldn’t see in more mundane scenes. That’s exemplified in O’Brien’s tale. Of course, these scenes are one helluva lotta fun, too; if that’s what you’re looking for, look no further.
So, why only four stars? What’s unsatisfying to me, despite how much I enjoyed the book, is that it really isn’t a novel, but a string of, admittedly quite pleasant, individual vignettes. Though there are several dramatic incidents throughout, there’s not enough sustained conflict to lead us to a satisfying climax and denouement, though there are plenty of other climaxes. (Wink-wink, nudge-nudge.) Since this one structural defect is the only issue I have with Ms. O’Brien’s book, I still highly recommend it. It’s fault is in the area of serious lit-crit, but as sheer entertainment, it’s an unqualified success.