May 21, 2013

Review: The Rebound Girl by Tamara Morgan


Source: A review copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley.

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.

Grade: 2
Sensuality: McSexy
Purchase: Amazon

Synopsis:

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.
Carina Press. May 13, 2013.

8 comments:

  1. My biggest problem with Whitney (and I could care less about the hero who I found bland and uninteresting) was that every time she did something "challenging", her actions were rewarded with disapprobation. I also thought that the scenes that the heroine was placed in to show her "edginess" were problematic such as destroying property in the dressing room or talking sexy in front of school children.

    And her actions resulted in awful consequences not just for her, but for her business partners which made Whitney come off as both selfish and thoughtless. Why not do the dressing room scene without getting caught? Why have her be talking innuendo in front of kids? Why not show her as having some business savvy? If we are going to show a true role reversal, then make the results of her action positive.

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    1. She wasn't talking in front of school children, though. It was in front of the obnoxious moms (or maybe I'm remembering wrong?). That scene didn't particularly bother me, except for the fact that she was pretty much invading his professional space. But I agree that her actions, and the way her actions were received, didn't get positive reactions or outcomes. It was like sending mixed signals: here, have this forward, strong heroine, but wait, everything she does is wrong. So what's the point?

      But it's not so much that she was selfish but that everyone was awful and she was being defensive. The neighbors were against the clinic, and she kind of was reacting to that. Why did they move to a town that wasn't ready to welcome them?

      I think the whole thing was a bit of a mess.

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  2. Oh, what a shame that the execution is not what it should be. The idea is one that appeals to me as well.

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    1. I'm sorry too, because it was a great idea.

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  3. I had to look up TSTL and then it made me laugh. I like that you were honest, I appreciate it. I agree with the above comment, what's the point of role reversal if she's still "wrong" when she does it?! Glad t

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    1. You didn't know what TSTL was? Next time I'll use the whole phrase ;-)

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  4. Hmmm... I actually have had this experience with Contemporary Romance recently. I feel like a great premise is ruined by bad execution. But it makes me sad because I think the consequence of this is to enforce the assumption that a particular premise won't work.

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    1. Hey, Alexis! I think pushing boundaries and trying new things is always tricky and risky, especially in genre fiction where the tropes, rules and conventions can be a bit strict. But that doesn't mean that authors shouldn't try, which is why I'm happy that Ms. Morgan took the risk. So it's more about keep trying until we get it right, than about assuming it won't work. Or that's how I feel, at least ;-)

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