Review: The Bro-Magnet by Lauren Baratz-Logsted

Like many others, I passed on this book at first because the cover and the title put me off. But when Jane at Dear author read it and recommended it, I decided to give it a try. Glad I did, because it was an enjoyable read.

Unusually for a hetero romance, the book is in first person POV from the male character. I had no trouble getting into that, which surprised me a little. I think it was because the tone was very much story-telling; Johnny wanted to relate incidents that explained how he overcame being “a disappointment to women.”

It also takes a little while to figure out who the female love interest will be; I know a lot of readers want the two main characters in a romance to meet quite early in the book, but about a third of the book passed before Helen was introduced. I thought it was worth the wait, because the rest of the book revolves around Johnny changing, or pretending to change, in order to make romantic progress with Helen, and it was good to have a strong sense of who he was before he started trying to be different. Plus the early incidents are funny — the whole book is.

It’s really rare for me to find a comic romance that works so well (it helps that I’m a sports fan, although not of the Mets or the Jets, much). This book reminded me of a screwball comedy from the late 30s or 40s — in fact, I can see Katharine Hepburn playing Helen. Events happen, but the focus is all on how the characters negotiate those (hilariously) in order to end up together, even resolving the misunderstanding that turns out to be ridiculous. The reader sees it coming a mile away, which in first person POV is a neat accomplishment. There’s no suspense plot, there are no evil exes trying to derail the relationship. On the contrary, everyone in the book seems to want these two people to get together. That’s right: no villain. There are some stereotyped stock characters, but I felt that those were mostly used to good effect, as in those screwball comic films.

This is the kind of contemporary romance I frequently see readers asking for — fun, light-hearted, without external conflicts that detract from the focus on the developing romance. It is not sexually explicit; in fact, the description of Johnny and Helen’s first time making love is one of my favorites in recent reading, and it only refers to body parts as “body parts.” Yet it’s still clear that they used a condom, which I really appreciate in a contemporary story.

A couple of things didn’t work for me. One was the portrayal of Johnny’s lesbian best friend, Sam; she just didn’t ring true, and sometimes it felt like her sexual orientation was being exploited for a cute plot point or funny moment that demeaned her a bit. I felt that way occasionally about many of the secondary female characters — there was a nasty edge to them that I didn’t sense in the male characters. The ending also didn’t work for me a hundred percent; I won’t spoil it, but I felt that Johnny’s grand gesture might not have been appreciated by the other people present.

Overall, though, this was a very enjoyable book, and just what I needed — it made me smile, and laugh, and feel warm and fuzzy, without any angst. I think readers who like Jill Shalvis or Jennifer Crusie would enjoy this book. WIN

Unfortunately I can’t recommend the other book I tried by this author, The Thin Pink Line. It’s about a woman who thinks she might be pregnant, tells her boyfriend, and then when she soon finds out that she was mistaken, decides to fake being pregnant until she can get that way for real. (The line in the title is the one on a positive pregnancy test, which she fakes with a pink marker.) I read through the first three months (the book is divided in to sections by trimester of the non-existent pregnancy), and I could not go further. If the main character succeeded in actually getting pregnant, I would be disgusted; on the other hand, I can’t imagine that I would enjoy reading about her getting what I felt she deserved for this stunt, especially not in first-person POV. Some readers might enjoy the chick-lit tone and funny/awkward situations in this book, but the underlying premise kept me from being one of them. DNF

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. jmc
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 12:55:42

    I really enjoyed The Bro-Magnet. It was a very quick, lighthearted read. Yet the things that bothered you also bothered me. The ending dropped it from an A- to a B for me: it made me think Johnny hadn’t really learned how to think outside of himself, which was at the heart of all the things that women found asshole-ish about him.

    Reply

  2. Holly
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 13:12:10

    I had the exact same thought about Johnny’s grand gesture at the end. Still, like you, I found this to be a well done rom con.

    Reply

  3. Phyl
    Feb 01, 2012 @ 20:34:13

    I was going to pass on this at first, but another good review and more positive comments made me change my mind. I suspect I’ll enjoy it too. Thanks!

    Reply

  4. Kaetrin
    Feb 03, 2012 @ 03:33:11

    I enjoyed it too. Johnny was, I thought, mostly clueless but generally well intentioned. He was also generally kind – eg, his idea to include young Alice and pick her first in the ball game they played when they were children. I also appreciated that he didn’t have sex with “three sheets” because he was concerned about her level of consent.

    I agree that the grand gesture was thoughtless and I can’t see it having gone down well. I also would have liked to see a snapshot of how Johnny and Helen were going to be in their HEA and I missed that we didn’t see Johnny fumbling through his own confession.

    But: super funny. I nearly wet myself laughing about the loopholes, ice holes, sinkholes, peepholes, blowholes and assholes. And then, when he got a cat? And the General Hospital references? Made of WIN for me! 🙂

    Reply

  5. sonomalass
    Feb 04, 2012 @ 13:29:04

    Thanks for commenting, everyone! I’m glad to know that I’m not the only one who found the grand gesture unsatisfying.

    I agree that Johnny is clueless, basically harmless, and essentially self-centered before he falls for Helen; that’s the source of his trouble, and I think that’s what he sort of fixes about himself. He wasn’t really selfish, because he’s very giving to his family and friends in some ways, but he had self-centered thought patterns that he had to break in order to make a real connection with a partner or potential spouse. Going through the process of the makeover gets him to think about things from another point of view, which is why some of his changes become real, not faked for the sake of getting Helen.

    And the humor? is great.

    Reply

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