I am setting the Squee Cannon to STUN for this review. Duck and cover, y'all.
I FREAKING LOVED THIS NOVELLA. IT IS HILARIOUS. IT CHARMED MY HANUKKAH SOCKS OFF. GO BUY IT.
Seriously. Hide under the desk, because more squee is imminent. The National Weather Service has issued a Squee Warning for the next 36-48 hours. Accumulations of Squee are highly likely in your area.
I read this novella while in a hotel room with Angela James, and I was laughing so hard she thought something was wrong with me. I think she tweeted about how much I was chortling. It was an ab workout, all the laughing.
The Squee Threat Level is RED.
Notes: I know I got a copy of this novella from the author because I found it in my inbox while searching for my notes on the story. I've had coffee with Sarah Morgan at RWA and she was the last book club selection and some other stuff, but I'm still that person who, even if you're living in my house and I feed you daily, will be honest about what I think about a book you wrote. To my knowledge Morgan isn't living in my house (we do have free WiFi for guests, though, so who knows?) but I like her and I also like this book and I want to try to keep those things clear and separated. K? K.
The Squee Cannon has never met Sarah Morgan, though it has been deployed for her books before.
Ripped is an adorable holiday-set novella, a mix of sweet, hot, funny and poignant. There is so much emotion and empathy packed into a shorter length, and I didn't feel cheated by the fact that it's a novella, though I easily could have hung out with these characters for another few hundred pages. I suspect the heroine's sister may get her own story which is an EXCELLENT IDEA.
We interrupt this review for the following alert: MORE SQUEE.
Hayley is a bridesmaid in her ex-boyfriend's wedding, and the story opens as she is trying to figure out (a) why she agreed to stand up for the bride when the bride asked her, (b) what the bride was thinking choosing polyester nightmare gowns, and ( c) whether she'll survive the wedding because her dress is extremely too-tight. And then, she takes a deep breath and the dress comes apart down both seams. And of course it's strapless and Hayley has considerable assets and can barely keep herself covered.
The best man, Nico, a man she's convinced cannot stand her, steps in to the rescue, wrapping his jacket around her and escorting her out of the church. They end up with a moment of privacy in a vestibule and then end up kissing with enough heat to melt the remainders of the dress.
(Also: Remainders of the Dress will be my Merchant/Ivory soundtrack cover band name.)
The rest of the story, which is all from Hayley's point of view in first person and is completely hilarious to me, recounts the time from the wedding through Christmas to New Years.
I'mma let you finish, Squee Cannon, but first this review has the greatest list of ALL TIME.
Well, it's probably not the greatest list since I get irritated with myself when I have to list what I liked about a book, but all the words are rushing for the brain exit and I have to form an orderly queue or I'll start typing random letters.
1. The heroine, Hayley, is a scientist. She's very smart, and she knows it, and she loves her job and her life, awful breakup with ex-boyfriend the prior year notwithstanding. She might insist a bit too much about how happy she is with her life and how much she loves her job (without providing much detail about what she does – and I wanted more details!) but her confidence and sense of self are clear and evident. I liked Hayley, and since it's first person, I was so happy to be inside her head.
This is Hayley and what it's like to have her tell you this story. If you like this, dust off your Squee Cannon because there's lots more!
I had a degree in aeronautical engineering and was working on a supersecret project to do with satellites. I couldn't tell you more than that or I'd have to kill you and eat you and you didn't need a degree in engineering to know there was no room in this dress for two people.
My Squee Cannon just snortlaughed with me.
My one wish, and it's a big wish, is that there was a bit more information about Hayley's job, a more specific example of what she does, even if she had to kill us and eat us if she told any of us. I get that it's secret (and that's convenient, of course) but I wanted more of Science Hayley to match Funny Hayley, Sister Hayley and Romance Heroine Hayley.
2. Hayley has a wonderful, warm and incredible relationship with her sister, Rosie. They've been on their own together for a long time, and are each other's only family, pretty much. Every year, Rosie and Hayley host a Christmas lunch for everyone and anyone they know who doesn't have a place to go for the holiday, and their apartment is overfull every year with a warm and welcoming party. I loved this about both of them, especially that Rosie was in charge of the kitchen and Hayley was told what to do… and did some things with her own methods of efficiency.
There is a scene with a turkey that nearly made me roll off the bed laughing. I don't want to reproduce it here because it would diminish the funny-funny and that's just not a right thing to do to a reader. Funny-funny should always be at full strength.
3. Nico, the hero, is very much a Presents-model hero in his enigmatic stone-icy-face, which Hayley interprets as dislike, but is really incredible self-control. He's not a Presents-model hero in ways that bug me, like being overly controlling or emotionally ignorant, though. Nico reveals himself slowly, like a gift that has layers of wrapping paper just to drive you bonkers, but the revelation is more and more decency. Nico is a genuinely good, though controlled, dude. And he also has a lovely relationship with his sister. But Hayley has ample reason to believe he really dislikes and disapproves of her:
I wondered why he was so angry….
Outrage started to simmer inside me. I was the victim of a cruel fashion crime, blameless in everything except my proportions, and I wasn't about to apologize for my breasts.
4. Another thing that reminded me of Presents was the wealth – Rosie and Hayley are not super-duper wealthy, though they have a lovely, small apartment in Notting Hill, which I understand is kinda expensive (like most of London). Nico, on the other hand, has some monAY. His apartment is described in terms that made my eyes widen. If you like wealth fantasy real estate and some amazing views from apartments, you'll like this.
His apartment was on the top floor, and my jaw was also on the floor because it was a penthouse, complete with balcony and views over the river toward my fairy-tale bridge.
5. Ripped is hot and poignant at the same time, and mixes the familiar romance elements of holiday parties and personal dating resolutions with subtle emotions, honestly, and the joy that family can be formed within many different groups of people so long as they care for one another.
Friends were like shock absorbers. They made the bumps hurt less.
6. Humor is really difficult and also very subjective. But this story, Hayley's narration and her comedic timing was all of my catnip in a ball of fleece, and reading this novella made me so, so happy. I hope you'll grab a copy and enjoy it, too.
Excuse me. Have to recharge the Squee Cannon.