Without question, my biggest gripe with this book is the way in which you are choosing to market it. The UK title is better. Way better. Better like it was kidnapped by hot Vikings and rowed swiftly across the frozen seas to Betterland and crowned queen of all of greater Betterlandia. In the UK this book was titled Driving Him Wild. In the US?
For God’s sake, people. I can’t even tell you how dismayed I am that this marvelous book is going to be dressed up in the washed out faded tripe that is that title. What a damn fucking shame. “His for the Taking?” I’d like to be taking that title back to 1982 where it belongs. Do I have to move to the UK? I’d have a hell of a time getting a work permit, let alone a visa to live there. I’m doomed to endure these sexist drivel titles slapped onto books that ought to garner MUCH more attention! And wow, does it piss me off.
The tawdry, insulting craptastic shitcake that is the title of this book offends me as an American. What is with the shitalicious retitling for the American audience? Can you please explain?
And while I’m ranting, take a look at the covers for the UK and US versions of this novel:
UK Version: Hot, slightly awkward, but genuine-looking embrace with lithe heroine and normally-proportioned hero? Awesome, with side order of HAWT.
US Version: Instead of “awesome, side order of Hawt,” the waiter has apparently delivered a steaming fresh pile of what-the-fuck. The heroine is a cab driver. She teaches step aerobics, and is described by the hero as being lean, muscular, toned and tomboyish. With short blonde hair, I might add. That right there? Soft focus vanilla yogurt retread of any image you might find on a Presents novel from 2008 to 1998. (Although the female pictured does have very red manhands and an absolutely freaking HUGE thumb like WHOA.)
And this book is not a soft-focus sudsy romance. It’s gritty and real and marvelous and holy crap am I irritated that this lovely story is going to be packaged in chiffon when it ought to be at least dressed in leather if not denim.
Zoe Drake is a New York City cab driver. She arrives at her great-aunt’s apartment to fetch some items for said great-aunt’s funeral and finds Nick Giroux, a park ranger and hot nature man, camped out in the hallway waiting for Ms. Drake. Nick is looking for his father, who abandoned his family when Nick was a little boy. Zoe is looking for the black Vuitton shoes her great-aunt specified in her funeral plan. Nick last heard from his father in a note mailed a few days prior with the return address of Xenia Drake’s Manhattan apartment, and he’s sure that his father is there, or was recently enough that he might come back. Zoe doesn’t know what the hell Nick is talking about, but against her better judgment, she lets him stay in Xenia’s apartment with her. He’s hot, he rescues wounded pigeons, and he’s kind, dedicated, and also, hot. Also, Zoe can take care of herself admirably, and has both sharp judgment of people and the ability to kick literal ass. So if he tries anything funny, she can mess him up like whoa and like damn.
Ultimately, this novel is about finding your family, or discovering who your family really is, and what unconditional love really means. Zoe has to overcome her own feelings of hurt and isolation, brought about by her family’s habit of judging her against the perfection of her sisters and finding Zoe substantially lacking. Nick has to overcome his abandonment issues, and both Zoe and Nick have to take sizable personal risks to be together, changing a little bit of themselves in the process, though that little bit is enough to alarm each of them plenty. And really, honest to crapping damn shitcakes, this book takes on a whole list of major issues, and uses them to layer the characterization to the point where only a handful of pages in, I had a better grasp of Zoe and Nick than I have of other characters in other romances after a few hundred pages of superficial description. Zoe and Nick are original, flawed, but honest and noble people who have real and enduring pain in their lives, and the issues they face in order to seize their happy ending are not contrived or shallow. My only disappointment with the book was that I wished some of the familial issues weren’t all resolved off-screen, but even then, the issues of family are never resolved neatly with a bow and a perfectly-folded seam of wrapping paper.
The conflict between and surrounding Nick and Zoe – and there are several little ones that combine into one big mess – is compounded by the fact that both characters are also grieving. Zoe has just lost her great-aunt, who she felt was the only family member who understood and appreciated her. Nick is still grieving the loss of his father and of his own childhood. Because each character helps the other heal as well as grow, their happy ending is fiercely earned, particularly because Nick is used to being a loner, and Zoe guards her autonomy deliberately and without compunction.
Cohen is a strong and marvelous storyteller in a panoply of ways. The layered characters and genuine emotions and reactions of the characters are just part of the collective awesome,. Cohen is particularly strong at showing, not telling, and uses that skill to her hero’s advantage. For example, at one point, Nick ponders the fact that he’s attracted to Zoe, despite the fact that she’s pretty buff, because until Zoe came along, Nick had only been attracted to frail, delicate women who needed his care. Zoe didn’t need his care, though she welcomed his attention. And when, later in the book, Nick figures out why he’d been attracted to delicate women, his attraction to Zoe becomes that much more telling, and, in both Nick’s and the reader’s understanding, much more significant.
So let me get back to how short the US title sells this book. I could think of any number of better options, even options that include the ever-present hook words. Heck, Cohen’s working title, which I heard was “I Left My Clothes In the Bronx,” is a hoot. The UK title and cover image are sharp – she’s a cab driver, so she literally does “drive him wild,” and those cover models look like real people. But “his for the taking?” It literally makes me sad that a ferociously independent, funny, sharp and charming character like Zoe is being sold behind a title that speaks of passivity, sexual submission, and inertia. Zoe is in the driver’s seat of her life, even after Nick lands in the middle of it, and the idea that she’s in one place long enough for anyone to take her is insulting to her character. So ignore the title, and enjoy the book.
And if anyone has the ear of the title-bestowing folks at Harlequin, tell them I’d really like a word with them. Three words, actually. And the third one is “fuck.”