Book Review

Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich


Title: Big Girl Panties
Author: Stephanie Evanovich
Publication Info: HarperCollins July 2013
ISBN: 9780062224842
Genre: Contemporary Romance

Book Big Girl Panties I had kind of a weird reading experience with Big Girl Panties; I enjoyed the book overall, but I didn’t like the hero. I stopped short of actually hating him, but if I met him in real life I’d probably want to punch him for good measure. I'd definately give him the stink eye. 

The book left me feeling conflicted—it was an enjoyable reading experience, emotional, often funny, but my distaste for the hero left me unsatisfied. 

Big Girl Panties opens with Holly Brennan and Logan Montgomery meeting on an airplane. Both had booked first class seats and both were bumped to coach. Logan flies first class because he’s a rich and sought-after personal trainer to professional athletes. Holly is flying first class because she’s significantly overweight and has trouble fitting into coach seats.

Holly is mortified to realize she has to sit next to drop-dead gorgeous man. Logan, for his part, has some fairly unkind thoughts about sitting next to Holly:

“At least she doesn’t need the seat belt extension, Logan mused. He was a little afraid to inhale, recalling a fat woman he sat next to some years ago who smelled of hard-boiled eggs and cheese” (Evanovich 7).

And that pretty much sets the tone for Logan for the rest of the book. He starts out as a dickbag, and I wasn’t convinced that he wasn’t still a dickbag at the end. His mental evaluation of Holly, of fat people in general, made my lip curl. Right from this point he had a lot of ground to make up in order for me to like him.

Anyway, as they make polite conversation, Logan learns that 1. Holly actually smells good, like lavender and 2. she’s fun to talk to. When he finds out that Holly started turning to food for comfort while her husband was dying of cancer, Logan feels guilty. He offers Holly personal training sessions at a reduced price.

Holly is drowning in a cycle of grief and depression. Her husband died a year ago and her life is more or less in stasis. She hasn’t removed his things from their home. She doesn’t socialize, preferring to stay in and watch TV. She binges on junk food to make herself feel better. Holly is unhappy with her weight; although she’s never been slim, she realizes that she’s now out of control. She decides to try the personal training sessions, and takes the first step toward living her life again.

Holly approaches her workouts with humor:

“Each time he weighed her, which was once a week, Holly thought up a new way to maim [Logan]—and kept it to herself. Her favorite fantasies usually ended with Logan being shoved down the stairs at the entrance to the building. The very same stairs she climbed to get to him.” (Evanovich 44).

She surprises Logan with her dedication and focus, doing what he instructs without whining or complaint. Logan normally associated with bitchy, high maintenance women (models who are stereotyped in my opinion), and he finds Holly to be genuine, funny and easy going.

One night Holly is struggling and on the verge of a binge. She calls Logan for moral support. While at her house he realizes she never cleaned out her husband’s possessions; the rented hospital bed still sits in an empty room. Holly explains how difficult sorting through her husband’s things is, and Logan stays the night to help her sort. He disassembles the hospital bed, removing it so she doesn’t have to.

This was why I couldn’t totally write Logan off as an asshole. I got misty reading this scene, partially because I know personally how painful it is to sort through the possessions of a loved one who has died. I know what an act of kindness it is for someone to help with that task, and I had a very personal reading of the text. My reading may have redeemed Logan more than he deserved, but it was enough to keep me from giving up on him. Logan and Holly build an intimacy here, combing through the artifacts of her grief, boxing up her old life. When they get to the end Logan marvels at her quiet strength:

“You work so hard. You’re willing to try anything. I’ve never once had to deal with you having a bad hair day or breaking a nail. To find out what you’ve had to endure, well, I feel like it’s an honor to call you my friend.” (Evanovich 72).

As their relationship progresses, Holly keeps losing weight and becomes more comfortable in her own skin. Logan finds himself more and more attracted to her fuller figure—which is great—except that it seems to bother him that he wants her.  He’s constantly reminding himself that she’s not his type (not a supermodel) and that he shouldn’t be attracted to her.

The dam of sexual tension eventually bursts. Holly believes she’s some sort of pity fuck for Logan, which made me profoundly sad to read. She enjoys their tryst, but never really opens up to him emotionally because she’s waiting for the other shoe to drop. Logan just sort of goes into an emotional tailspin. He knows he should be happy for Holly when she starts getting out more, making friends, even finding a job, but he’s also irrationally jealous. He likes having her to himself, keeping them together in a bubble. Logan’s social group consists of professional athletes and fitness models. It’s not a place he feels comfortable taking Holly. I think he was supposed to be protective of her, and of what they had, but with his constant musing regarding her weight and how she wasn’t his type, I felt like he was ashamed of her. No matter how hard she works, Holly will never be a small woman.

At one point he thinks, “How can I help her get the last of that weight off? Or, Maybe just a little bit of liposuction is in order.  He knew medically she was an endomorph, that no amount of exercise and dietary changes, short of starvation, would have her reaching a single-digit size. He preferred going to her house instead of bringing her to his to avoid any drop-bys that could lead to confrontations. He rationalized that the reason he never took her out was because she preferred a quiet existence, devoid of the hectic pace of the high-profile nightlife. He also knew he wasn’t being completely truthful.” (Evanovich 170).

So yeah, still a dickbag.

Things come to a head when there’s a confrontation with a bitchy model ex-girlfriend (true to romance cliché she even has long nails) and Holly realizes how unfair Logan has been to her.

Despite Logan’s dickbaginess, I still liked the book. I think a huge part of it for me was how much I liked Holly. She’s been dealt a shitty hand, and she deals with it. She pulls up her big girl panties. She’s very funny, witty, a joy to read. I could have read a book about Holly’s weight loss journey, her path to a new life, without a romance plot at all.

Holly’s transformation isn’t about her physical appearance; it’s about her physical and emotional health. When she does reach a weight she’s comfortable with, she is supportive and kind to other women who are similarly overweight and looking to get healthy. She serves as an inspiration. Logan never really deserved her, I think. I want my romance hero to love the heroine unconditionally, to adore her even with her imperfections. I wanted Sheridan from Laura Kinsale's Seize the Fire.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Everyone notices their partner’s physical imperfections. Logan also hesitates to bring Holly fully into his life because doing so is an admission of how much he loves her. He’s afraid of his own emotions. Previously he’s dated women who were more or less interchangeable, blonde carbon copies. Showing off Holly, such a deviation from his dating history, is admitting to everyone that he cares deeply about her. By the end of the book I realized it was Logan was really dysfunctional and insecure, not Holly.

In the end I looked at Holly and Logan’s HEA with a skeptical eye. I never thought he deserved her love, but I was willing to live with it. The humor in Big Girl Panties, and Holly’s awesome personal transformation, saved it for me.

 This book is available from Goodreads | Amazon | BN | Kobo | iBooks | All Romance eBooks.

Comments are Closed

  1. 1
    kkw says:

    OMG I hated this book. I spent the whole time in a state of strange disbelief: what am I reading? Why? Can this really be written by an author I enjoy? Was it written a million years ago and published now without her consent? Could anyone enjoy this? How much of my fucking life am I supposed to give over to worrying about other people’s weight, anyway?
    The hero, as mentioned, is a douche. The heroine in no way interested me, but she wasn’t a terrible person, so there’s that. The B couple, his best friends, were beyond creepy, and threatened to hijack the whole story, I guess they were mad they hadn’t gotten a book of their own? Or maybe they did, and couldn’t let go of their own importance?
    And the whole structure of the book was a shit show. It felt like an excuse, because the book wasn’t about people, it was about weight. And in as much as it was about people, it was about how only crappy people are obsessed with other people’s weight. While talking constantly about how much everyone weighed. I felt dirty, not in a good way, by the time it was mercifully over. It was like someone (I am unconvinced Evanovich actually perpetuated this tell don’t show monstrosity) had some very Deep Thoughts about the obesity epidemic and everyone’s newfound love of B&D and needed a soapbox, immediately. Quick, quick, give me an ironclad reason someone would be fat. Really really fat, with no hint of moral turpitude. Seriously? It’s like even the author thinks most fat people are lazy. But then, no matter how hard she works out, and she works out like woah! really hard, all the time, with a personal trainer, our heroine’s never going to be thin. Not even skinny, she can’t get to a point where average people think nothing of her weight, she’s eternally pudgy. Working out constantly, with devotion, all possible effort, and no excuses. Yeah, that’s inspiring. I think her personal trainer sucks on a whole different level.
    I’m not sure if I’m relieved or saddened someone else read this book, that it actually exists and wasn’t simply my nightmare. Good news being I at least am not responsible for it.

  2. 2
    cleo says:

    Love the dueling reviews. Interesting that you and Sarah had similar responses to the hero and heroine but such different grades. I haven’t read this and after reading both reviews I don’t feel like I need to read it.

  3. 3
    Shelly says:

    kkw, umm, I think you read this book for the same reason many women read this book and why it made it on the bestseller list. (And I think the publisher knew exactly what they were doing with this release by allowing the confusing to linger.) STEPHANIE Evanovich is a debut author. You were thinking of JANET Evanovich, who is not the same person. I almost made the same mixup (Janet is getting into romantic comedy???) until I saw a video of Stephanie and realized it wasn’t the same person, heard some buzz about the hero and heroine and the premise, and decided to pass.

    I’m not a fan of the “pity me” novels. You can be plus-sized and empowered. You can want to lose weight without being a doormat. Even with the dueling reviews, I think I’ll still pass on this one.

  4. 4
    Julie Brannagh says:

    Two books with a plus-sized heroine that won’t leave you infuriated…

    BET ME, Jennifer Crusie

    HE LOVES LUCY, Susan Donovan

  5. 5
    Taylor says:

    The name mix-up is definitely there. Janet Evanovich writes about Stephanie Plum, which certainly links Stephanie and Evanovich in readers’ minds.

    I’m still debating this one… I would like to read a happily ever after that includes the heroine accepting and loving herself without whittling down to a size four. But Logan the douche does sound a bit douchey to make the HEA good.

  6. 6
    Maite says:

    I’d probably read this if there was a sequel were Holly dumps Logan over his remaining a grade-A asshole, at the same time a story breaks about his incredible unprofessional attitude to his clients. Therefore, the book would be about Holly dating and getting to meet people and make friends, while Logan realizes that he is an asshole who labels people because he’s too lazy to get to know them. It would finish with Logan, who’s bettering himself asking Holly for a second chance, and she rejecting him because it is not her job to fix him.
    Or if anyone finds a well-written fanfic that did this.

  7. 7
    kkw says:

    Gah! Now I seriously cannot stop thinking about how much I hate this book. After reading it I was angry and confused, and dealt with it by promptly attempting to forget its existence, which, to be fair, happens even wih books I adore, so it’s not much of an effort. But I was left with a lingering disquiet: could it really have been as bad as I recall? Was an author I enjoy really capable of churning out such amateur, offensive dreck? I am so glad for the reviews, and having it explained how it wasn’t the Evanonvich I thought it was. But now I can’t stop thinking about how awful it was, and I can’t stop being irritated I bothered to read it (if I could remember the name of a novelist after having read only some two dozen of her books, I could have skipped this travesty completely).
    So. Angry.
    And after really *thinking* about the book, which I actively tried to avoid while reading it, it’s proving so much harder to forget. I can’t get past my hatred, which is a terrible feeling, and potentially hazardous. Fortunately I have low blood pressure, but I don’t have a mouth guard, and I need one. And I’m housesitting. I can’t go around smashing things.
    Thinking about baby animals, and waves at the beach, and a stiff drink. Oooh, maybe I’ll make Pimms cup and nap under the rose trellis at the back of the garden. Except the only way to have such a perfect English garden is English rain. But whatever. Scotch then. Deep breaths. Everything is going to be ok. When I’m in charge of the universe everything is going to be different.
    But the way the crappy friend, who is openly jealous of the heroine and repeatedly sabotages her sells her out to facilitate the supposedly happy ending now has me wondering if the author was aware the heroine was being shafted. Did the author really think she’d tacked on enough personal growth to detestable, selfish characters that a HEA was believable? Or was it some sort of insidious commentary on unrealistic wish fulfillment? I don’t know which makes me angrier. My complexion has a greenish cast, and I might be swelling up.
    Am I getting sick, or (oh noes) gaining weight in my fury? Or is this a new hulk origin story?
    So. Angry.

  8. 8
    Mandi Kaye says:

    This is my favorite review of this book yet. You hit the nail on the head with how I felt about the book. My review was scathing – because of Logan. I hated that son of a bitch. But you’re right – I adored Holly. I wanted to be her best friend. I wanted to go work out with her (but NOT with Logan) and help her through her grief and go out and be besties with her.

    But Logan killed any chance I had at truly enjoying this book. His character just could not be redeemed, no matter how hard the author tried.

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