I have really enjoyed and recommend Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City Series and plan to try out other novels she writes, but this one confused me. It’s a bad sign when one is wondering if the contemporary romance one is reading is in some way meant to be the questionable elements of 50 Shades of Grey (which, admittedly, I haven’t read) done right. What a mess. I was making notes by the end of the first chapter.
Working with L.H. Cosway, Reid has written a book about a pig-adjacent man who falls in love with a woman who has major social anxiety issues. By day, Annie works for a PR firm. At twenty-three years old, and a recentish Masters graduate, I found her status as one of the best in the business silly. She *just* finished school. On the side, she writes a hugely successful and profitable blog for which she tracks down and secretly photographs male celebrities (she even gives tips on how to do so), then mocks their fashion choices. Ostensibly, this turns the tables on the way women in the media are criticized, but the fact that she hunts these people down and, unbeknownst to them, documents them was a record needle scratch for me. Moreover, I have some small experience in this area as part of an online community (Pajiba) for several years and having written for its website. From what I have seen, there is NO WAY Annie’s clever little posts are going to make her any kind of income without constant effort and hours of content creation on her part.
Ronan is an Irish professional rugby player taking time off after trying to feed a teammate his fist upon discovering the man’s infidelity with Ronan’s fiancee. Said woman, by the way, is a repellent, avaricious hoochie vilified in the way that anyone other than the good girl heroine is in questionable fiction. He was engaged to her after all, before she turned into a slutty, plastic-surgery-victim bad girl. Anywho, choosing New York City to lay low, Annie takes one of her privacy invading photos of Ronan and he responds to the resulting blog post. Simultaneously, his management wants his image to undergo a transformation and Annie is assigned to help him with social media and his public persona. Juxtaposing the work relationship – which involves pretending to date – and their blog-based email correspondence allows everyone to express their true feelings without taking too many risks. Annie is guilty of a lot of comeheregoaway, the authors are guilty of an inconsistent and confusing characterization.
It’s not that the book was badly written, Reid is always funny and articulate, it’s that I was surprised by the character choices. In addition to those issues, the [insert funky bassline here] left me a bit perplexed. Ronan has a kink that he is pleased to discover Annie shares; however, there’s enjoying sexual play and then there’s warning signs that you are being pursued by a potential abuser. The Hooker and the Hermit had both and I found that combination odd, as surely there is a difference between behavior in the bedroom and being a controlling boyfriend. Ronan says and does every single overly aggressive thing women complain about and it’s NOT CHARMING, especially for someone as social anxiety ridden as Annie is portrayed to be: he’s in her personal space, he cages her with his arms in an elevator, there’s inappropriate touching, comments on her physique (in a professional context no less), ignoring “no”, telling her there are “rules” now they are together. These are all red flags.
Penny Reid’s Catalogue:
Knitting in the City Series
Neanderthal Seeks Human – Strangely compelling
Friends Without Benefits – Meh
Neanderthal Marries Human – More strangely compelling
Love Hacked – Pretty darn good
Beauty and the Mustache – Really liked it
Ninja at First Sight – quite good
Happily Ever Ninja – frustrating
Winston Brothers Series
Truth or Beard – too much comeheregoaway
Elements of Chemistry – Frustrating, young adult romance
The Hooker and the Hermit – see above stabbiness