There are reasons why I stick to historical romance novels, and Susan Mallery’s Almost Perfect
provides a perfect
example of why.
WARNING there are spoilers in this review.
Yesterday started Read-A-Romance Month
, where everyday this month a romance novelist will contribute a post about romance and romance novels. One of the posts made yesterday was by Susan Mallery and right away I was interested in reading one of her books because her first statement is: "I am a feminist."
HA! To quote Jinx Monsoon from the fifth season of RuPaul’s Drag Race:
If you are a feminist, why doesn’t it reflect in your work?
Granted, I’m ninety-percent sure that this is the only romance novel that I’ve read by Mallery, so I don’t have much to base my judgement on and I can only hope that this is not representative of her work at large, but I’m not holding my breath.
The heroine, Liz Sutton left her small town of Fool’s Gold and moved to San Fransisco after her then boyfriend the “hero" Ethan Hendrix told his friends that she meant nothing to him. She later found out that she was pregnant. She tried to come back twice to tell him but the first time she found him in bed with another girl and the second she spoke only to his wife, who then sent a letter that was supposed to be from him telling Liz that he wanted nothing to do with her and to stay away from the town. Liz ends up having to return to town when she finds out that her brother is in prison and his daughters have been abandoned by their step-mother.
Her first night in town Ethan, here after known only as the asshole or more fondly the douche-bag, comes to her house and she tells him about their son and her attempts to tell him. He gets pissed and stays pissed about the fact that she kept his son from him for eleven years.
In any other situation I would have commended her attempts to handle this outside of court, but given the douche bags behavior that first night I think it would have been obvious that she needed to consult a lawyer.
And after the second time he confronts her and she shows him the letter that she received that was supposedly from him, she should have been all:
Because this does eventually go to court when the d-bag files an injunction to keep her from leaving town (WARNING SIGN FLASHING IN BRIGHT LIGHTS HERE). And when we do find out that she’s finally contacted a lawyer, the lawyer allegedly informs her that he/she does not need to be present and to work with the judge.
This is a supposed best selling author, so I have a hard time believing that her publishing company would be cool about staying out of this and a lawyer not getting involved when this could go wrong for her career.
Why she didn’t get a lawyer in the first place, who could have been prepared and even petitioned for a change of venue, is beyond me.
Oh, wait, it’s not…
The heroine (term used loosely) is just plain pathetic. She’s repeatedly called smart, but as far as I can see her light bulb is at only about 15 watts. Furthermore, she’s nothing more than a doormat. She’s bullied into hanging out with the girl who tormented her through high school, she’s controlled by the asshole, she lets little old ladies and young mother who know nothing about the situation degrade her on the street, hell even the kids get in on the action. She’s spineless.
The “hero" is a real piece of work, not only can he not accept that he bore much of the blame in this situation but he’s also controlling to the point of being creepy. Seriously, the dude, when he finds out that Liz is planning to leave town after she renovates her brother’s house BUYS OUT THE CONTRACT to have his company to the renovations. He even admits that he filed the injunction because he wasn’t able to control her years before!
The sexism in this book really got to me and it was times like this, reading books like this, that I wish it were a paperback and not a Kindle because I would have thrown it or burned it. Thankfully I didn’t buy this book, only checked it out from my library.
Mallery, at best, has only an elementary understanding of feminism. Don’t get me wrong it’s a great start, but she needs to become better educated about the finer points of feminism. Because seriously… the gender stereotyping alone had me wanting to rip my hair out. It becomes hypocritical at one point (mentioned in the next paragraph). She characterizes women in one way and men in another. The scene in the gym with the asshole and his friend, offers two great examples in only a couple of pages. First stating that the gym is “how girls workout" (obviously not manly men like them) and second that being insightful makes his friend feel like a girl, which is apparently a bad thing.
Then there’s this little gem about sexism, following a discussion with her son who has been talking with his father: “Her son, the sexist, she thought, faintly annoyed." Gee, I wonder where he’s picking that up from? She follows this up by giving her son a speech that sounds like something she probably heard once upon a time and repeats verbatim about how you can’t judge an entire group and place them in one category. This hypocrisy of this passage in this book was laughable.
A couple pages later when she confronts the asshole about it he admits to it claiming that it’s just one of those things guys say to one another and says that he will have to watch what he says to him in the future. For Liz this is a-okay. Because as long as he doesn’t speak them aloud he can still maintain his sexist beliefs and gender stereotypes. BTW, they also kiss following a couple of more sexist statements he makes…
The thing that really did it for me was her decision to stay in Fool’s Gold. Again we have to come back to the fact that this supposedly grown woman is behaving like a spineless child. Everyone, including the children pressure her into staying and she gives in, leaving behind her home in San Fransisco. Eleven years is no paltry amount of time, she’s built a life there, she has a home. The children would have adapted just fine. Instead she doesn’t think twice, she moves back to a town where she was judged and where no one helped her get away from her alcoholic and abusive mother when she was young. Oh, btw, they've all miraculously realized the error of their ways and have established a scholarship in her name. Now call me cynical, but it seems a little strange that the town folk would have a change of heart after she's become a best selling author.
This isn’t uncommon in contemporary romance novels where the heroine comes to the small town where the hero lives. In every book with this theme that I’ve read, in the end the heroine always gives up her life to accommodate his.
In addition to what I've listed above there is also the fact that Liz is pushing another woman into having a baby and that this same woman equates having a relationship with having children, that is not a healthy, mature outlook on adult relationships. There is also the fact that Liz's son and the author presumably believe that a woman cannot be a single mother, that there must be a mother and a father (I really do not want to know what Mallery's views on gay marriage are *shudder*). And to round things out, the author also throws in a random stalker who decides to kidnap Liz.
Dafuq did I just read?
Needless to say I will not be reading another book by Susan Mallery, she can keep her conservative "traditional" values to herself.