It’s (almost) summer. Rejoice. I cannot fucking wait for my vacation. I think that my last day to work, before vacation, a gin&tonic will magically appear on my hand the minute I step out of the office, my chair spinning behind me.
But I’m getting ahead of myself.
In view of this and of my need to escape, I have started a book club with my friend AnnaMaria. I would like to note that we are both intellectual women, keen on reading books, going to art galleries, theaters and talking about history while terribly, irresponsibly drunk. And we try (we really do try) to be classy.
However, we are weak.
Allow me to explain. We always talk about books together, suggesting and discussing authors, themes and plots. It is an important part of our friendship and we decided to enrich it by starting the book club. It’s worth noting that the past 6 months haven’t been kind on our lives so we needed to blow off some steam and relax.
One would suggest Austen, Dickens, maybe some Sedaris or even Pratchett.
We went the highway.
We chose a romance novel. And I am not talking romance like Romeo & Juliet or romance like Catherine and Heathcliff. I’m talking about romance like she-is-a-25-year-old-ex-model-with-a-son-and-reluctantly-falls-in-love-with-her-tenant novel (literally the plot of one of the two novels (YES, TWO) that we are reading). We have no shame and we love it, seeing the ridiculousness, sexism and clichés and we cherish every cringe.
Here is my very biased commentary on the books, written by Nora Roberts, a best-selling titan of the industry.
Book no. 1 The Best Mistake, written in the 90s.
Plot: Ex-model Zoe Fleming is now a hardworking single mom—and she wouldn’t have it any other way. Though she would like a tenant to share household expenses. What she gets is confirmed bachelor J. Cooper McKinnon. Coop quickly befriends her son and in no time has the reluctant Zoe charmed, too. But she has zero room in her life for a man! Either this was a recipe for disaster or the best mistake she’s ever made.
Let me start off by saying there are literally no mistakes made in this book. Except maybe when the 4 year old son uses a word wrong.
While reading this I had the feeling that I kept reading the script for a cheesy made-for-TV 90s film. Both protagonists are the quintessential 90s male and female archetypes. She is tall, thin, a Kate Moss meets Claudia Schiffer, ex model who is charmingly messy, listens to rock music (I bet its Bon Jovi)*, owns her (big) house, raises a boy against all odds, works 2 jobs and reads books about everything (even books about drafting tenant contracts I shit you not). The man is tall, athletic, a bit rugged looking, 10 years her senior, a sworn bachelor, basically a tall Tom Cruise. He hates commitment, loves order, doesn’t like children and only wants to relax, drink beer and write about sports.
What could possibly go wrong?
What follows in the next pages is the clichest of all clichés. The Tom Cruise look-alike befriends the little boy, takes him to a baseball match, and teaches him how to throw (because his mother throws ‘like a girl’ as he said, great) and reluctantly starts loving the little guy. The fact that Zoe is jaw-droppingly hot helps a lot to fall for her. She is not just easy on the eyes, she has endless perfect legs that our hero never misses a chance to drool over. He stalks her at her sexy workplace (the unsexy one is a florist shop – the sexy one is a late hour’s bar where she serves drinks dressed, well, like a teenager’s wet dream) to criticize her about the clothes she wears and basically be a creep. And then, realistically, she tells him she is in love with him. Come on, this is the stuff of life, it has happened to all of us to fall for the handsome but asshole tenant, no? They have casual sex (mind-blowing first time sex, that, again, has happened to all of us no?***) and neither can go against their feelings.
And now, for the most 90s plot twist ever:
When they decide to have the Talk, Zoe insists that he won’t be able to accept her as a mother and embrace his son (which is the only part of the book that makes sense, RUN ZOE RUN!), while he agrees since he is a hardcore Man who only wishes to watch sports and have his life in order. If the book ended here it would have been the 90s empowering masterpiece we all needed and prayed for.
But sadly, it goes on. Tom Cruise realizes that he will lose the girl he apparently madly loves, he throws her a home date that her son helped put together (cue in the candles and many, many flowers) and the neighbors brought the food. Touched by his putting-together skills, she decides to spend the rest of her lives together. The book end by her calling him ‘daddy’. Since I read it on a translation, I cannot be sure 100% for the use of the d word, but based on the book, I’m pretty sure it was ‘daddy’.
Down my spine.
If you fast forward to a few years, the marriage ends in bitter divorce full of bickering, shouting and regret.
Coming up: my comments on the second book. Spoilers below.
Book no. 2 Untamed
Plot: Jo Wilder had the heart of a lion and the temper of a wildcat. And when Keane Prescott crossed her path, she bared her claws. Jo was certain her charming new boss imperiled everything she cared for, but she couldn’t deny the attraction between them. Though Keane’s kisses left her breathless, it was his tenderness that threatened to tame her heart.
The plot lines don’t give it away so I’m just gonna say it.
She is a lion tamer at a circus.
There, I said it. I’ll let that sink in for a minute.
** Along with Aladdin from the Disney classic, Johnny Depp, Gambit, Tuxedo Moon from Sailor Moon and many more select gentlemen. I was not very picky.
*** I should mention here that she hadn’t slept with anyone for 5 years (when she was 19) and that the last man was the selfish uber famous tennis player/father of her child)