Every time I think about this book it makes me so angry. SO ANGRY. I hated the hero so much, I considered wearing my night guard while I wrote this so I wouldn't get a headache from clenching my teeth so hard.
You know what? Screw it. It's mouth guard time. This is a teeth-clenchingly bad hero, and I hated him with the burning fiery hatred of a thousand suns filled with hate and Fox News which are kind of the same thing. So, mouthguard in, it's time to try to review this book without devolving into a twitchy mass of anger and outrage. It's not even fun hate reading, this book. It's rage reading. The more I read, the more I hated the hero with all the hate.
The more I think about and edit this review, the more angry I get.
It's difficult, really really, to explain how angry this hero made me while also communicating that I liked the heroine, I had a great deal of empathy for her, and I wanted her to have a happy ending. She earned more than a happily ever after; she earned a happily ever eternity. Just not with that jackhole.
Holly and Logan meet on a plane. He's a personal trainer to the rich, famous, and/or athletic, and he's flying home from his latest personal appointment. He sees Holly side-shuffling down the aisle and starts hoping that she doesn't sit next to him. Because she's fat.
You know, I feel like a need to post a trigger warning for some of these excerpts. If you have ever struggled with your weight, this hero might really REALLY hurt your feelings, or worse. Please be warned.
Holly could almost feel his disgust toward her radiating out of him, as if the irritated expression on his handsome face wasn't enough of an indicator. Another round of her pissing someone off just by showing up…..
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 rotten cheese. Tentatively he drew in a breath. She smelled like baby powder and lavender, distinctly lavender. He relaxed a bit, giving a small nod in her direction.
This is not the only time I'm going to say this:
FUCK YOU, LOGAN.
Ahem. Sorry. I've run out of fingers and toes trying to count up the ways his initial impressions of Holly offended me, and made me feel awful, both for myself and on the heroine's behalf. Holly is aware she's fat. She's aware that she's overweight, and she's aware how people look at her and judge her. But she's grieving for her husband who died of cancer, and when her mountain of grief and pain is that high, what's one more mean comment or side-eyed dirty look? The abuses she suffers as a person of size are a few more pebbles compared to the amount of painful sadness she's carrying with her.
Holly jokes about her size, and Logan begins to see that perhaps his first assumptions about Holly were incorrect. She doesn't smell bad; she smells like lavender. She isn't gross or ill-mannered; she's kind and funny in an expected self-deprecating way. So maybe Logan is wrong? Maybe he'll realize that?
Hah. Not likely.
The problem is, Logan's fatism runs deep. And it frustrated me to the extreme because he's a personal trainer. He should know professionally and personally that bodies come in all shapes and sizes, that a person's health and personality are not easily determined by looking at their waistline. He KNOWS that there are endomorphs and ectomorphs, and a person who is an endomorph has about as much chance of changing into a 6'2″ uber-slim supermodel as I do of sprouting wings and flying to Portland. It should not be rocket science to someone whose job it is to ensure increasing physical health and well being that if a body is short and curvy and muscular, it will not easily become short (or tall) and lithe, even if that's the standard of perfection shown to all women which only a small percentage embody.
He pays lip service to the idea that he's proud of her progress, but his ruminations always reveal that in some way, he's embarrassed by his own feelings for her.
FUCK YOU LOGAN.
Can you tell that after awhile I started to take Logan's attitude personally, AND felt he was a crappy human being? I expected that, even if he had some revolting prejudices against All the Fat People Next To Him On Airplanes, intellectually he would know better than to assume people are the shape they are because of laziness.
But no, he's at war with himself, poor poor man, over his feelings of revulsion at what Holly looks like, and his feelings of liking her because she's awesome.
(Also: the head hopping in this book is EXTREME. It could be a realty show on Bravo: EXTREME HEADHOPPING!)
(Also also: At one point, Holly describes Logan as “dark skin, even darker hair, and big chocolate eyes.” I couldn't tell if this was an interracial relationship, though, because that was the only mention of it.)
(Also also also: It's not just the overweight people who are stereotyped and classed by Logan – supermodels are all rail thin, cruel, bitchy and mean. Of course.)
Logan is an ass. He KNOWS he's an ass, and, worser than worse, he refuses to feel bad about being a complete ass. Logan compliments himself a lot on being a personal trainer, and in doing so reveals the barren, jagged, cruel, asshole-ridden wasteland of his character:
The female body in motion was an entirely different animal. It had so much more natural balance, so much more grace…. It had been too long since he'd enjoyed the challenge of showing a woman her true potential. And Holly was in no way Logan's type, so the sexual tension would be minimal. In the early stages of his career, that had often become a stumbling block when it came to female clients. He had long since acknowledged this unprofessional shortcoming with only a modicum of dishonor.
Something about his testosterone and their estrogen, mixed with an endorphin rush, was something more than he could resist. Adding fuel to that fire was the fact that most of the women he took on as customers were women he found attractive to begin with. He refused to feel bad about it….
Oh, Logan. What a first rate piece of shit you are.
But never fear, Holly is safe (despite, you know, being the heroine of this novel):
But with Holly, there would be no problem keeping it professional. She would be the perfect project. He could help her get back in the game of her own life and enjoy watching her transformation in the process.
Yes. He'd have no problems keeping it professional with Holly… because she's not handsome enough to tempt him. And also she's fat. And also also he's a douche.
He's a douche who undermines himself. He'll make a step toward not being a douche, and do something to help Holly empower herself, and then he'll wallow for a few pages about his conflicted feelings regarding Holly and how she's not his type, repeat repeat repeat.
Sadly, Logan takes a long, long, long time to get the hell over himself, and I never felt he fully negotiated the journey from being conflicted fatist shitbag douchewad who, despite himself, likes his client and falls for her. You know how, in Pride & Prejudice, Darcy has to go from proposal one, where in he's thinking of himself and what his feelings for Elizabeth mean and how he loves her despite all the negative consequences of doing so (and he's not wrong about any of those consequences, either) to proposal two, where he seems to humble himself and thinks more of her as a person?
Logan, I presume, is supposed to make a similar journey from feeling sorry for Holly but more sorry for himself that he likes her despite how she looks (because oh, God, she's fat, whatever shall he do), to a point where he doesn't give a shit what she looks like and is ready to find her interesting and charming and wonderful and sexy no matter what her size.
That doesn't happen.
(Now I'm wondering if this book was meant to be Pride & Prejudice & Weight Loss.)
There's a side character who does feel that way, Chase (more on him in a minute), but Logan trips up his forward progress into not being an asshole by reminding himself that Holly is not his “type,” that she's not thin, that (and I'm not making this up) maybe liposuction would help her smooth out her tummy.
Logan never gets over himself. He makes minimal effort to school is way of thinking in a Not-a-Douchebag direction, and barely manages it. That's why I hated him. He was NOT a hero. He was an asshole.
The trouble is, the book starts out with some powerful scenes, and I felt a great deal of empathy for the heroine, Holly. The book becomes more disappointing toward the end when I compare my feelings of outrage and anger at Logan with my admiration and empathy for Holly. At one point, I was crying into my hair trying not to wake Hubby up. As Holly reveals her backstory to Logan, it's heartbreaking, and from that point on I was rooting for her. She was raised by indifferent, cruel people, she's had no one ever really love her for herself, she's been emotionally abused and abandoned most of her life, until her marriage – which seemed like a relationship between two like-minded colleagues content to work together more than a match of passion and emotional fire. Her husband was a detail-attentive dude, very attuned to routine and schedule, and not given to moments of frivolity. When he becomes sick with cancer, he insisted that only Holly care for him, which exhausted and destroyed her emotionally. So when Holly meets Logan, she's been in a state of emotional and physical inertia. She's in a grief fog, and she's not doing anything but eating and existing and wishing she wasn't having feelings.
Out of Holly's grief comes an opportunity to change. After the plane ride, Logan offers her an appointment at a (unbeknownst to her) very low rate, saying that he was trying to build up his client list (not true). He sort of dares her to, and she does it. She starts going to his gym, working out, and is determined to put every ounce of effort into her physical progress – which, of course, yields results for her. She gets stronger, she begins to lose some weight and change her shape, and she keeps trying. But food, specifically comfort eating all the junk foods, remain her weakness.
This brings about Logan's opportunity to not be an asshole. He took it. He wasn't an asshole. It was amazing.
One night, Holly calls him at about three in the morning, begging him for help. He arrives to find her in the kitchen of her very large, very empty home, surrounded by junk food: frozen cakes, pies, cookies – all manner of stuff she shouldn't be eating. Logan dials back the asshole long enough to hear Holly out… and finds out she's been trying to clean out her home and finally, finally get rid of her husband's things. When Logan follows her to the bedroom where she's trying to clean his clothing out of the closet – and it's been over a year since he died – he sees the empty room where her husband died, with the hospital bed and all the other equipment still there. Holly'd been paying the rent on all of it because she couldn't decide what to do next and she couldn't endure getting rid of any of it.
So in a scene of incredible kindness and empathy, Logan offers to disassemble the bed for her, taking it apart and bringing the pieces down to the first floor so they can be picked up in the morning. He moves all the equipment, all the heavy parts, and by doing so he dismantles the equipment that had represented a wall between Holly's inertia and moving past her own grief and loneliness. It was an amazing scene, and I gained so much respect for Logan. I was hoping it would change him or at least wake him up to the fact that Holly is a person he respects and he needs to get over his appearance-based judgmental behavior asap.
Alas. He went back to being an asshole afterward. I'm all for the hero's journey, but I think this book was affirmation that a selfish, self-absorbed person is difficult and might be impossible to change.
Apart from Holly, who made me cry into my own hair, the rest of the cast in the book are ridiculous. She's got Logan, who is mostly asshat, with occasional glimpses of his not being a bad guy. Then there's Chase, who talks in plot development and cliche, and Chase's wife Amanda, who is equally ridiculous.
So much time is spent revealing Chase and Amanda's relationship, too. Just sit right there – they'll tell you the Whole Story of their courtship. With ample use of cliches! Hooray! I couldn't figure out why. Was there another book to be written? I mean, their WHOLE STORY is there – how they meet, the conflict in their relationship, the black moment, the resolution. It is all spelled out in a full-throttle tell tell tell… here's a few more paragraphs of telling… wait… there's more to tell. It was meaningless and confusing. WHY was I being told this? No idea. It didn't make me like them more or less. They were either distracting or boring or both.
The black moment of Chase and Amanda's relationship is that the press caught footage of Chase spanking Amanda, and made it public. It turns out that…wait for it… yes, Chase and Amanda are into bondage and punishment play in their sex lives. Look, you just can't have any contemporary romance without some BDSM right now. How else will we know it's a romance…. unless Ewa Da Cruz is on the cover?!
So in one scene, Amanda sits down to tell Holly allllll about her relationship with Chase, who is a famous baseball player. If you like a little synopsis in your novel, this will make you very happy, because this is a five course synopsis dinner with wine and sorbet.
At one point, Amanda describes Chase:
Chase really has a romantic streak a mile long. He also just happens to be one of those old-fashioned Neanderthal typos who really enjoys whacking ass.
Setting aside all the many, many pieces of WTF in that statement, the big bad oh-crap problem is that Chase and Amanda's preferences for a little kinky play leads Logan into the Scene That Destroyed This Book For Me. And yes, this is a spoiler. I'm sorry. Really, I am. But I can't explain to you what made me so crotchy-punchy ragey about this book without explaining these parts.
First, some background.
Logan begins to get really irritated in general that he has feelings for Holly and he doesn't like that he does. (You stay classy, Logan.) (You shithead.) He doesn't tell Holly or alter their routines so that he isn't doing anything that might make her uncomfortable were she to find out how he felt. They've become friends by this point, and her progress with her workouts has changed her appearance significantly. He soldiers on like a good little douchebag:
It was like having a guy friend, except every now and then, he thought about what it would be like to have sex with her, since by the end of her training sessions he had begun to picture her naked. It was taking more of his concentration to get through her stretches. As soon as she obediently got down onto the mat, he could almost hear her body, firmer now and better proportioned, warm and glistening from her exertions, calling out for his touch.
WHAT. THE ACTUAL. FUCK.
Not only is he way, WAY over the line professionally, but he's decided her body is calling out to him? REALLY? I'm calling out to him right now. With a hammer.
Holly has begin to realize she has feelings for Logan, too, only she's very embarrassed by them, and is not entirely sure they are real, because he's about the only person she sees regularly, and she's his client. And also because Holly has a brain and a sense of appropriate boundaries.
Chase and Amanda counsel Logan on what he ought to do, like any good supporting couple are hell bent on making sure that every other single person in their immediate reach is paired off as blissfully as they are because that's what supporting characters who aren't real characters are supposed to do.
Amanda is on Holly's side, and is more devious about it. Chase has a talk with Logan and Logan brings up the fact that Chase spanks Amanda, and that Chase and Amanda on several occasions have begun playfully negotiating their punishment scenes while Logan (and Holly) have been present. (Even though it makes both Holly and Logan uncomfortable, because characters aren't really kinky unless they remind everyone in their immediate reach that they are kinky every minute.)
So Logan and Chase have a conversation about Holly, how she's making such progress but beginning to research on her own and question his methods, and how Logan is all twisted with conflicting feelings about her. So good ol' Logan comes up with this terrific idea.
He'll spank her.
Except he doesn't tell Holly about that part.
So, I shit you not, Holly walks into the gym to work out, talks back to him a bit (which is something she does normally and he's never said anything about), and he grabs her, tosses her across his leg and smacks her on the ass a few times.
With. No. Warning.
Before she had an inkling of what was happening, he began spanking, never speaking a word, then stood up, taking her with him, and set her back on her feet.
Promptly, Holly slapped his face.
I would have preferred that she grab a kettle bell and bean him with it a few times, but that would probably have been messy.
I cannot even describe the shaking rage that this scene induced. He assaults her because he thinks that's a great idea – since Chase and Amanda do it. He's never spoken with Holly about it. He's mad because he has feelings and they are her fault – and he doesn't like that he has them. He doesn't like that she questions him and pushes him (prior to spanking her, Holly had asked for more weights when she did a particular exercise – so she was asking to be given more to do) and so his response is assault.
Oh, my fucking God, I hate this guy.
And he never really gets any better in my opinion – though that could be because he'd gone to a point where in my eyes, he was not redeemable. Logan's moments of insecurity over his feelings for Holly are expressed in repeated moments of asshattery, wherein he defaults to asshole insensitive player mode and treats women like objects. But then, if he's exploring his feelings for Holly tentatively, his focus was on her body and her appearance, so his lack of awareness of his own unprofessionalism was abhorrent.
He's her trainer. His lack of professional behavior and his ability to switch his caring on and off were distasteful, especially considering the depth of emotion Holly endures as she finally begins processing her grief. Plus, he has no respect for boundaries or, you know, laws governing assault, and she is, of course, supposed to be honored by his attention.
After that scene, I loathed Logan so much, I didn't care if they got together. I wanted Holly to be with someone else. Anyone else! The weight machine repair guy! The bartender! ANYONE. Just not Logan. His treatment of Holly, coupled with the ever-amazing narrative of how he likes her despite the fact that she's not his type and she's fat (and also he's shallow), undid any benefit he gained by being so kind to her in that one scene. He is a complete and utter piece of crap.
That said, all the discussion of working out and Holly's determination were powerful – and it made me want to work out. My admiration for Holly translated to my ass on the treadmill. My anger at Logan made me lift things faster. FUCK YOU LOGAN I SMASH YOUR FACE IN WITH A KETTLE BELL C'MERE.
I admired Holly, and I rooted for her SO hard. But she wasn't given much of a cast that was worthy of her, and Logan was least worthy of all. This book gets an F for me. It's not an F+, which is the grade I give for books that are brimming with fun and crazysauce. This book is brimming with asshole, and I can't recommend it to anyone.