KristieJ from recommending books to me. Or nagging me about them. Which she does a lot. Offensive Behavior by Ainslie Paton jumped to the top of the queue because Kristie said the magic words: "virgin hero." Did I like it? Well, sort of. But I'm a big enough person to admit that a lot of what was a mixed bag for me sits firmly in the camp of Wendy Is A Weirdo.
This book has a plot that honestly can only be found in genre fiction. Once upon a time Zarley Halveston was a world-class gymnast with her eye on the US Olympic Team. Then she screwed it up. Now she's working as a pole dancer in a past-seed bar known for it's food poisoning track record and going to college. Reid McGarth was a dot-com wunderkind before his lack of people skills led to his ouster from the company he founded. So now he's a member of the idle rich, drinking rotgut at a dive bar, feeling sorry for himself and watching Zarley dance.
And that's pretty much it. Eventually they hook up, have sex, have more sex, and have to work through their internal baggage to have a meaningful relationship.
This book started out great for me. I have a weakness for heroes who have hit rock bottom and this book basically opens with Reid doing his best to pickle his liver. I also like no-nonsense, I don't need your pity, heroines and Zarley isn't the sort to get taken in by a drunk (even if he is a regular) who lives in the back booth. But while it started out great, it slid south for me the further it went along.
Here's the thing: when it comes to contemporary romance my brain is wired for category. This book felt entirely too long for me. It would have been perfect as a Harlequin Blaze. A Temptation, if that line still existed. Once Reid sobers up (around the 30% mark) that leaves us with 70% of sex, Reid ticking off his former friends at his company, and Zarley telling Reid he can't buy her. Blah, blah, blah. At 350 pages I felt like this book was 100 pages too long.
I'll be blunt, I got bored. My interest waned. At first I thought it was a combination of 1) my cantankerous nature 2) the Reading Slump That Won't Die 3) my belief that all contemporary romance is infinitely better when it's category length. But then I did begin to notice cracks.
Namely that this book is, at it's heart, a rescue fantasy. Stuff happens to Zarley over the course of this book and Reid wants to make it all better - which he can do since he's fabulously wealthy and doesn't have to work for a living. Zarley does push against this, but then towards the end of the story she breaks things off with him because, wait for it, he's essentially ignoring her (he finds himself working again on a big project and is burning the candle at both ends). Boo-frickin-hoo. He has a job. He is busy. And because he's working his butt off he's not around to spend time with her. She writes him a Dear John Letter to this effect. Seriously?!? Seriously!?!?!?!?!?!
Yeah, it sucks - but it's called being a grown-up. Suck it up cupcake.
So that annoyed. And all the sex, which to be perfectly honest after the First Time felt like page filler to me. The whole He Can Rescue Her With Money/Resources, She Can Rescue Him "Emotionally" thing that after years of reading romance kind of annoys me (Why can't the hero rescue emotionally? Why can't the heroine be the one with resources/money?). The whole New Adult thing - the characters, their baggage, the whole dot-com thing, the fact that the heroine's name is "Zarley" (my apologies for any Real Life Zarleys reading this review - but Zarley? I'd never speak to my parents ever again).
And I'm about 90% sure a lot of this is me being unreasonable. It grabbed me by the throat the first few chapters but once it lost steam? It really lost steam. I skimmed big chunks - including almost all the sex scenes. I have absolutely no interest is picking up any other books in this series. After the initial shine, the character failed to fully engage me (any of them - including the secondary ones). It just....didn't work for me. Lots of other people have loved this book (I get it, I do) - so why didn't it work for me? I'm not sure but I'm beginning to think New Adult is not my bag.
I can read a Harlequin Presents story featuring a 21-year-old heroine, but for some reason you slap on the New Adult label and I'm out. Maybe I'm too old? Maybe I just don't get millennials? Maybe I just haven't found the right New Adult romance for me? Is this story "bad?" I wouldn't call it bad. But it just wasn't for me. If you're a New Adult fan and you haven't already read this, give it a whirl. You'll probably love it. I did like the beginning. I did feel like Reid made for a compelling Jerk Face hero but other than that? Meh.
Cranky Wendy out.
Final Grade = C