The Girl Least Likely to Marry is a delightfully lighthearted, funny contemporary romance with a heroine who is a socially inept nerdy scientist. Think ‘Sheldon’, from “The Big Bang Theory”, but not as inconsiderate or mean – just someone who learns social rules by rote memory instead of intuition. Even though this book had some tropes I normally disliked, they were all played for such light-hearted comedy that I was completely charmed.
Cassie is a scientist who is extremely logical and who relies on her friends to instruct her in how social cues and behavior work. I don’t recall Cassie ever being labeled with anything, but her behavior is typical of somebody with a spectrum disorder and she has a few other issues that surface later in the book as well. Cassie is at a non-wedding (a wedding was cancelled at the last minute at the end of a previous book, but they are having the party anyway). At this non-wedding, Cassie meets Tuck, an ex-football player. She is instantly madly in lust with him and is both confused and appalled by the attraction. Cassie assumes that Tuck, who is a Southern jock, must be dumb, and when he senses this he plays right along, confusing Pi with a dessert, for instance, while they dance and flirt at the non-wedding.
But Tuck is, in fact, no dummy, as Cassie’s friends inform her the next day. In fact, he’s quite an intellectual, with a summa cum laude degree in maths. And Cassie can’t stop thinking about him. Her friends convince her to try a fling, leading to this hilarious and sexy passage. It’s pretty long, so I’m condensing it somewhat to give you the general feel, no pun intended.
Cassie shows up in Tuck’s hotel room to ask for sex, explaining, “I find myself unable to concentrate on my work, and Gina suggested that, because I’m a female in my sexual prime, my libido is demanding to be…serviced, and that a spot of copulation…might be the solution to my problem”. After a hilarious and sexy conversation, this happens:
“So,” he murmured, his fingers dropping from Cassie’s sleeve to stroke up and down her arm, “would you like the standard copulation package or one of the many variations I offer?”
Cassie pulled her arm away as an army of goose bumps marched across her skin and a seductive waft of Tuck flared her nostrils. “Oh, I think the standard will be fine…I still have a paper to get back to. No time for variations.”
“Okay”, he said…”Long, sweet, slow loving it is.”
“That’s your standard?” she asked, her voice squeaky.
Tuck shrugged. “I have high standards.”
Needless to say, the more Cassie and Tuck enjoy the standard copulation package, the more she wants to be with him. And Tuck loves being with a smart woman who likes him for himself (or at least, for his pheromones – Cassie has a major attraction to his pheromones). Tuck is getting over a career-ending injury and a divorce, and he has coped by enjoying casual relationships with many women, but they tend to be interested in him for his status and money. Cassie doesn’t care about money except inasmuch as it helps her do science. And she doesn’t care about sports, or fame. What she cares about is reconciling her newfound pheromone obsession with her need to focus on her science career. And somewhat to the surprise of both Cassie and Tuck, they enjoy just spending time together, not just having sex.
Cassie and Tuck are made for each other because they are both wickedly intelligent, because her career has highly specific demands and his is flexible, and because they share interests. But above all, Cassie and Tuck are great together because Tuck is impossible to offend. Every time Cassie does something that would irritate, or possibly infuriate, another man, Tuck finds it to be hilarious. He’s not patronizing – he has huge amounts of respect for Cassie’s inner strength and intelligence and honesty. He’s just immune to insult (although woe betide the tabloid that insults his girlfriend).
I have to say that insta-lust is one of my least favorite tropes, but in this book, I found it to be absolutely charming. I think this is because it is so clearly played for humor. Cassie is attracted to Tuck’s smell, but she never tries to compare it to anything. I’m rather attracted to my husband’s pheromones so I sympathize when characters say they like the scent of their partner, but then they usually go on to say something like “he smelled like sweat and diesel oil and man” and I’m all, “WTF?” Also, “Ewww!” But Tuck doesn’t smell like anything in particular. He just has that subtle chemical thing going for him that speaks directly to Cassie’s chemical receptors. Watching the normally robotic Cassie go all googly eyed about it is very funny and endearing.
The book also subverts some tropes in ways I thought were refreshing. This is the kind of book where at some point someone realizes that they have to give up their career, or re-think their career. Spoiler alert – Tuck happens to have a flexible, work from home career. If Cassie needs to go to Antarctica for months, he’ll miss her, but he can deal. The Antarctica prospect does give him pause, but he adjusts to the idea pretty quickly. If she needs to go somewhere else for years, he can go with, especially if she’s going someplace with Wi-Fi. He values her dreams and her work ethic and her commitment. She doesn’t have to run off of the plane and say, “Tuck! I choose YOU!” It’s more like he helps her pack.
I appreciated the fact that the heroine has mental health issues that she treats with both behavioral techniques and medication – and that the magical power of luuurve does not mean that she no longer needs meds. I realize that there is infinite diversity in what techniques people find effective to treat mental health conditions, and I also realize that over-medicating can be a serious problem. But I also think that under-medicating can be a problem, and it bothers me enormously when people assume that you can snap out of mental illness, or treat it without meds all the time, regardless of the nature or severity of the illness. The scene in which Cassie explains why she needs medication is powerful and Tuck has the good sense, and sensitivity, not to push the issue (or, for once, laugh off the issue) when he realizes how damaging her condition can be.
I felt a little nit-picky about a few things. For instance, Cassie thinks there is no evolutionary or scientific reason for love, but I reviewed several books about the science of sex and love and Cassie should know that scientists have many ideas about why we might experience love and she certainly should be aware of the research that points to orgasms as a helpful health thing.
Also, her friends tell Cassie that she should watch more romantic comedies and less science fiction so she can learn about romance. Please. Cassie is a Star Trek fan. There’s lots of romantic love (not to mention camaraderie, familial love, and casual sex) in Star Trek.
But this is petty stuff. This book swept me right off my feet. It was so damn cute, but it also had enough serious emotional content that I was invested in the characters, not just mildly entertained. Apparently this is part of a series (The Wedding Season) but although I was clearly missing some context I didn’t have any trouble reading this as a stand-alone. It was just the light confection I was craving during a busy, tiring week.