My relationship with this book is a bit complicated. On one hand, it gave me an early rush of book joy and left me with plenty of food for thought, but on the other hand, I hated most of it. And this review is hard to write, because I want to highlight the complex good, yet I’m afraid that the simple bad will ultimately outweigh it. But although I’m not sure if it’s a book worth reading, I do think it’s worth discussing.
The story goes like this: Whitney is a plastic surgeon who just moved to a new town to establish her new practice and get over her cheating boyfriend. Matt is a kindergarten teacher trying to adjust to single life after the recent divorce from his cheating wife. They meet, she seduces him, shenanigans ensue, and they live happily ever after.
Sounds simple, right? It’s not.
The Rebound Girl is the ultimate role-reversal story. The heroine is in the business of boob jobs and Botox. She’s not particularly in love with her profession, but she’s not out saving the world in whatever the stereotype of the deep, non-materialistic version of a plastic surgeon is, either. She’s confident to the point of displaying a superior cockiness. She’s into sex and pretty forward about it. She seduces the hero and sets the rules of what is to be a mostly sexual relationship, and relentlessly pursues him even when he initially rejects her. The hero is in the business of teaching cute, little things to cute, little kids. He’s insecure and the epitome of the fish out of water. Sex is fine, if he can figure out how to have it, but not-strings-attached sex is not fine, because he just wants to settle down. He’s younger and softer than her. And they liked each other just as they were.
It didn't take long for me to realize what the book was trying to sell. After countless talk about the state of Contemporary Romance and how it would greatly benefit from fresh ideas, new concepts, and even some transgressions, a book that paired a strong heroine and a soft hero, while playing with traditional gender roles in such a blatant way, felt appropriate and refreshing. But to my despair, the execution was all wrong.
The book is fundamentally flawed, and as much as I celebrate the intention, I can’t get over the spineless, TSTL hero that let his ex manipulate him in the most bizarre way; the judgmental, annoying townsfolk; the big misunderstandings that felt out of character; and the bad plot that didn't even make much sense. Frankly, Whitney and the role reversal were the only redeeming qualities of the book.
Whitney seems to be a polarizing character. We could call her “difficult”, which is not a term I’m entirely comfortable using in this particular case, but it’s better than “flawed”. It’s interesting because everything she does is pretty much standard Contemporary alpha-hero behavior; a behavior that’s almost always welcome by readers (myself included). I get that we can't strip Romance of its social and cultural context, and gender roles are portrayed (and perceived) in certain ways for a reason, but aren't these books the perfect place to experiment and bend a some rules? Maybe the book was too obvious and poorly executed, but the idea was great, so hopefully we will get similar stories in the future.
Book one of Getting Physical.
Plastic surgeon Whitney Vidra knows all about getting over a cheating ex. She followed her boyfriend halfway around the world before she found out about his infidelity. Now she's focusing on her career and her friends, and using men just for single-serving, no-strings fun. Until she meets charming Matt Fuller.
Newly single Matt is captivated by the vibrant Whitney, in every way the opposite of his cheating ex-wife. When he confesses to Whitney that he hasn't had sex since his divorce, she volunteers to be his rebound girl. But Matt's not a no-commitment kind of guy—he's either all in, or all out.
Whitney is determined to remain attachment-free, but Matt is equally determined to prove to her that what they have is more than just a rebound fling.
The Rebound Girl (Getting Physical) by Tamara Morgan
Carina Press. May 13, 2013.