Book Review

Bad Bachelor by Stefanie London

Bad Bachelor is a contemporary romance with two main characters who are a lot like Transformers. Not in the sense that they are robots in disguise, but there is definitely more than meets the eye. There is some amazing banter and some fantastic sex scenes, though I had to overcome one major hurdle.

Darcy Greer is a goth librarian who is desperately trying to get more funding for her branch. Reed McMahon works in PR. His firm has selected him to do pro bono work to increase their image in the community, and Darcy’s library has been chosen as his client. However, Reed hates libraries, though that issue isn’t full addressed until the final pages of the story. If you read it, don’t focus so much on that issue like I did. Because it drove me to distraction.

The main source of conflict is that there’s a pesky new dating app on the market which allows women to rate bachelors, like a dating version of Yelp. Reed has been voted the #1 bad bachelor because he’s received so many terrible reviews from women. All of these reviews note that Reed is not the settling down kind and he’ll pull a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am on your ass. I don’t really see this as a bad thing because Reed seems pretty clear that commitment is something he’s not looking for when it comes to dating.

Darcy is trying to get back into the dating saddle and has been using the Bad Bachelors app to help her find a good guy. She’s obviously surprised when Reed walks into her library as the one to rehab the library’s image. She’s seen him on the app and she isn’t sure she can trust her reputation in the hands of a man who has trouble managing his own personal rep.

Here you have your standard trope of two prickly people who are forced to work together and I eat this shit up with a big ol’ spoon. And while I was all for the setup, it took many, many pages to settle into a good rhythm for one particular reason.


She positions herself and her hobbies in comparison with other women. She’s not into fashion. She prefers burgers over salads. She has tattoos and piercings! Here’s a passage that provides a great example of what I’m talking about:

Before the silence could stretch on too long, the first round of tasting plates arrived. Darcy’s brows rose as she picked up a small hors d’oeuvre with cheese, blackberry, and fresh dill on a skewer and popped it into her mouth. She twirled the empty stick.

“Do people really eat like this?” she asked, shaking her head. “God, no wonder all these rich women are so skinny. Give me a cheeseburger any day of the week.”

“You don’t pull any punches, do you?” Reed asked with a smirk, taking an hors d’oeuvre for himself. Truth be told, he’d have preferred a cheeseburger, too.

“I don’t care for BS.” She reached for another item from the tasting plate and instead of taking a delicate bite like most people would have, she shoved the whole thing into her mouth. “That’s just how I roll.”

I hate using the phrase “not like other girls,” but that’s the most succinct way I can describe the feeling I got from Darcy’s characterization. But women contain multitudes! We can love burgers and fancy finger foods! (Also, no one is going to be serving a greasy burger at a fancy gala. It’s just not practical.) One of my personal mottos is “Let people enjoy things.” I don’t need to shit on a food or hobby another woman enjoys. Something might not be for me and that’s okay. My burger is not going to taste any better because I insulted someone who really digs kale.

This happens with Darcy quite a bit through the first half of the book, but seems to ease up after that. Or perhaps I just stopped caring. That said, if this sort of thing makes you grit your teeth, tread lightly.

I did love the secondary cast of characters in the book. Both Reed and Darcy have a great group of friends and complicated family dynamics. Darcy in particular has a strained relationship with her mother. Darcy never knew her father and she’s always felt her mom was really hard on her growing up and still is now that she’s an adult. There’s a lovely come-to-Jesus moment between the two of them that made me cry. Same with Reed and his dad. Stefanie London does well capturing emotions that resonate and feel very human.

Aside from the characters, the best part was the sexytimes. There are only two sex scenes in the book, but they’re wonderful and I can remember both vividly. Don’t get me wrong; I have no problem reading some erotica, but I also love reading about intimate moments between a hero and heroine that really further their connection.

As a bonus, the scenes are incredibly charming and the banter left me grinning and rosy-cheeked. Darcy and Reed are great with communication and know that sex can be both personal and very awkward. Sometimes humor and light teasing can really ease the nerves.

There is a villain to this story and I was able to suss out who it was before the reveal. I have mixed feelings about it, but in a good way.

Villain Reveal
The one running the Bad Bachelors app is one of Darcy’s best friends, Annie. She’s been severely burned by an ex before, though her history is never fully explained. She sees Reed as collateral damage from her app and while she knows some of his reviews are fake, she believes the end justifies the means if it keeps more women from getting their hearts broken.

I feel for Reed on this because the app winds up putting his job in jeopardy, a job that he uses to care for his ill father and keep his dad from an assisted living facility.

As the next book is about Darcy’s other friend Remi (who is an Australian ballerina – hello!), I’m guessing the third book will feature Annie has the heroine. I really want to see how the author will redeem her in my eyes.

I’m all for this gray area when it comes to characters, but I recognize some readers may find her too villainous for their liking. Truthfully, I was just as relieved it wasn’t some vindictive ex-girlfriend of Reed’s trying to make trouble for him.

There is a moment during the climax of the romance where Reed turns into an asshole to push Darcy away, as romance heroes are wont to do. He throws it in her face that they travel in two different worlds and never the twain shall meet. This didn’t feel genuine to me as 1) Darcy has never been insecure about who she is with Reed and 2) Reed has shown Darcy his down-to-earth side that he typically masks with wealth and elitism. I will say, though, that this scene would be perfect in a romantic comedy. I was immediately reminded of the titular scene (that I can quote line by line) in She’s All That where Rachel Leigh Cook screams at Freddie Prinze Jr., “Am I bet? Am I fucking bet?”

London did a great job creating characters that I came to care about, despite some of the issues I had. I wish it didn’t take as long for me to reach extreme levels of reading enjoyment. The villain of the story complicates things and I really want to know how it’ll affect the friendships and romances in the next books.

Oh, and Reed showers Darcy in books that she loves, which is #RelationshipGoals for most of us.

It wasn’t a perfect read and I know I was coming off the high of The Kiss Quotient, but I’d compare this to a diamond in the rough. I had to overlook some imperfections to get to its goodness, but when it shines…boy, does it.

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Bad Bachelor by Stefanie London

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  1. MirandaB says:

    How do you hate libraries? Even if you don’t use them, why would they inspire anything other than neutrality?

  2. Antipodean Shenanigans says:

    he’ll pull a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am on your ass.

    ON your ass, or IN your ass? Because I read it as the latter, and was like whoooaaa dude moves quick.

  3. Zyva says:

    I recently read Sex Crimes, redux edition, by Alice Vachss. One of the recent cases featured a young predator who appeared in court supported by, among others, the local librarian. The one who read books to groups of little kids.
    Presumably including the teen victims. She’d been there that long.
    Somehow she thought being a family friend of the accused excused aligning herself with rape culture.

    That’s one way to raise a red flag over what the vulnerable thought was a safe space. Sure there are others.

    @Antipodean Shenanigans. Apparently the Yanks don’t have the “reasonable belief” doctrine that beefs up the consent defence, so that could be illegal rather than ‘fast’.
    (The law is the ass Down Here. You don’t get to be such a rev head you don’t read manuals, in my book.)

  4. Alexandra says:

    Totally agree with @MirandaB.
    Also, the app reminds me of two things. One, I’ve seen the idea of being able to rate people/dates after you go out with them floated around before, especially among people that use dating sites, and the response has always been “NO! Terrible idea.” Like, when people on reddit are saying being able to review people/dates will be a complete shit show, you know it’s going to be messy. And if Reed can’t opt out of being rated/reviewed, that feels really gross to me.

    The second thing the app reminded me of was the spreadsheets and whisper networks various communities have created warning of guys who commit sexual assault. You know that in real life multiple reviews would include stories of sexual harassment and assault, and if the book doesn’t acknowledge that at all I feel like there’s a pretty big disconnect between how the author views why women would want a system to warn others of/rate men/dates and why many women would appreciate a system to warn others of/rate men/dates.

    Reed being the “#1 Bad Bachelor” because he doesn’t want a commitment feels gross to me because I feel like it completely ignores the fact that men sexually assault women AND it makes it seem like every woman using the app is solely looking for someone to marry, which is kind of sexist.

    Someone who has read it, is there anything at all in the book about how the app deals with or responds to reports of sexual assault or harassment?

    I don’t think I’d be able to overlook those things to enjoy the good stuff, but I also know that right now I have no tolerance for overlooking things stuff I find problematic to enjoy stuff.

  5. Sarah Yen says:

    She’s All That has influenced my catnip more than it will ever know!

  6. Amanda says:

    Regarding the library element!

    Show Spoiler
    Reed doesn’t hate libraries in the sense he wants to tear them all down and see them abolished. His mom was a librarian, ended up abandoning their family, which then led his dad into a downward spiral of depression. He associates libraries with his mom and would rather not be near or in them.

    @Alexandra: I agree that there’s nothing wrong with a person eschewing commitment and some of the reviews mention that. But there is the trope of women in the reviews thinking they could change Reed or be “the one” to make him reconsider his bachelor lifestyle.

    There’s no mention of sexual assault or anything like that. Or rating a bachelor who truly is bad in every sense of the word.

    The creator of the app made it clear that she’s willing to take the bad (false reviews) with the good, if it means helping women avoid shitty dudes. I don’t necessarily agree with this, which is why I’m curious how the app and the villain will change in future books.

    Hope that answers some questions!

  7. Gigi says:

    I dnf’d this one with a quickness and later thought maybe I’d been too hasty in judging Darcy as a self righteous twit after she insulted the hero within a few seconds of meeting him. Add the “not like other girls” element and I would’ve lit my kindle on fire.

  8. Iris says:

    @Alexandra, your suggestion that there is “a pretty big disconnect between how the author views why women would want a system to warn others of/rate men/dates and why many women would appreciate a system to warn others of/rate men/dates.” was exactly what bothered me about the book.

    Although I hesitate to ascribe the author’s views with the fictional world of Bad Bachelor, having a major plot point be that of disgruntled women giving negative and even false reviews about a man’s dating behavior which adversely affects his job seems at the least ill-considered.

    It’s obviously a too common and pernicious view of the rape culture that women are willing to lie about men’s behavior, and even though the book doesn’t imply that Reed is ever abusive, the simple perpetuation of the lying women trope really disturbed me.

    So much so that I couldn’t enjoy the good parts of the book.

  9. Critterbee says:

    There are people who dislike libraries for sharing knowledge and encouraging freedom of information. Dictators, Tyrants, Autocrats, Despots, etc.

  10. Iris says:

    And I completely agree with Amanda. I’m so tired of the lazy use of items of food, particularly cheeseburgers and salads, being used to signify character. Sadly, whenever I encounter the female protagonist eating a hamburger in a story I have a flashback to those hideous Carl’s Jr. commercials starring Paris Hilton.

    Women and the unseemliness of appetite was historically a topic of interest for morals and manners scolds, but the relationship between food and the heroine in contemporary novels across all genres is definitely worth a dissertation or ten.

  11. Kerry says:

    People hate libraries for the same reasons they yap on about giving “freeloaders” medical care, food stamps, abortions, roads, safe houses, the postal service, etc. Basically not caring about others, wanting to control others’ choices, selfishness, and thinking that because they are or have X, everyone can have it.

  12. Anonymous says:

    So like I hate libraries because I always vaguely feel like someone is watching me. I think they should exist and have funding and whatnot; I just personally feel very uncomfortable inside them.

    I’ve used dating apps — and not to find someone to marry, quite the contrary — and I stopped using them because, after a few extremely mediocre one-night stands, I ended up with this guy who pressured me into doing shit that I was very uncomfortable with, so I didn’t feel safe anymore (or rather, I didn’t really safe before, but after that I felt quite unsafe). Every other woman I know who uses or has used them is concerned about the same thing. So the whole conception of the app and Reed’s placement on it is very bothersome. I like London, so I’m tentatively going to try this, but emphasis on the “tentatively” part.

    Finally, ugh, I am so beyond sick of romance novels shitting on women who try to eat healthily or who just don’t have huge appetites. Nothing you eat or don’t eat is a judgement on your character or worthiness as a person (unless we’re talking about really extreme things and that’s never what we’re talking about).

  13. Louise says:

    Now, wait. Wasn’t there another review of this book just a few weeks ago? Or was it in one of the Cover Thingy categories, or a list of books on sale? Can’t find it now, darn it all.

    In the previous review, there was some talk about books that start with the heroine insulting the hero, which is just as bad as the reverse.

    Besides, cheese plus blackberry plus dill is a revolting combination.

  14. SusanE says:

    Louise, it was in a Books On Sale on June 28.

  15. Louise says:

    Oh thanks SusanE, that restores a little bit of confidence in my sanity. It’s here so I don’t need to go searching again.


  16. MrsObedMarsh says:

    A girl or woman who self-identifies as “not like other girls” because she – unlike every single other girl or woman who has ever lived – prefers pizzas to salads, jeans to skirts, and poker night with the boys to brunch with the gals is called a Cool Girl. Just as Nice Guys are not guys who are genuinely nice, Cool Girls have a tendency to judge other women for being “too girly” or trying too hard to impress in a way that is distinctly uncool. Jezebel sent up the Cool Girl in a video series earlier this year:

  17. Lin says:

    As a vegan I absolutely detest the glorification of cheeseburgers as a device to make a girl cool. People can eat whatever, but eating burgers or steak doesn’t make a girl in any way cooler than smoking a cigarette.

    For the record, I have no problem with people eating meat in books–I respect everyone makes different choices–but I do have a problem with ‘oh, she eats a cheeseburger/a big red juicy steak, so she’s cool and not like the other girls’.

  18. Louise says:

    A girl or woman who self-identifies as “not like other girls”
    A {member of some identifiable class} who self-identifies as “not like other {members of identifiable class}” … is the beginning of a sentence that cannot end well. When someone else applies the label, it reduces to “you are a superior member of an inferior group”.

    But I guess that’s a different thread.

  19. MrsObedMarsh says:

    @Louise: You’re right that the ideal of the Cool Girl is tied up with misogynistic tropes, and I think that’s ABSOLUTELY relevant to the discussion of this book. To what extent is Bad Bachelor dealing in woman-hating? If it is, how should this affect our judgment of London’s work? There’s no one obvious answer – which is either the fun part or the frustrating part. 😉

  20. Amanda says:

    @MrsObedMarsh: Great point! (And to Louise, too!)

    I think what tempered some of the “cool girl” mannerisms was that Darcy still had good relationships with other women. Normally, when I see the “cool girl” characterization, the heroine has no relationships or friendships with women. But Darcy has a great friend group and adored her half-sister.

  21. PamG says:

    I mostly loved this book. I thought the ending was a mite rushed and too neatly wrapped up; I would have been on board for more book. I didn’t get the “cool girl bad-mouthing other girls” vibe from Darcy at all and certainly not based on the food discussion.

    Darcy is a character who is unashamedly herself in the midst of a very traditional family. She is kind of othered by her family, and I think that affects how she responds to things that symbolize the areas of difference between herself and her parents–like appetite. “Girliness” is definitely one of those areas as well.

    I thought Darcy expected to see a similar response from Reed who appeared to be someone more from her family’s side of the spectrum–only fancier. There are multiple mentions of Reed being seen in the media with sleek professional women. I think perceptions of class are more significant than gender issues, with the emphasis on perceptions.

    I agree that the App was definitely problematical, especially with the examples of women using it to trash Reed publicly for a variety of motives. On the other hand, it was a fascinating source of conflict, and the author presented a number of thought provoking interpretations. I actually never thought of the App creator as a villain once said creator was revealed. I totally disagree with the App creator’s decision to allow a few eggs to be pulverized in the making of her woman-saving omelet, but so much of social media has triggered unintended and often horrible consequences that seem impossible to fix without seriously truncating “online freedom”.

    I’ve pre-ordered the next book, and I’m looking forward to the author’s take on these problems and potential solutions–each with its own freight of additional problems. I’m also hoping that the main couple are as individual and well drawn as Darcy and Reed.

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