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