Monday, January 27, 2014

Realistically unrealistic romance

Holly Brennan lost her husband to cancer over a year ago. Never thin, her weight ballooned as she
attempted to deal with her grief and depression. On the journey home from settling the last of her late husband’s affairs, Holly is fatigued and weighted down by life. At this all time low she meets Logan Montgomery. Logan, a personal trainer to celebrities and sports figures, has a visceral reaction to Holly as she settles into the seat beside him on the plane. His first glance tells him the woman sitting next to him is grossly overweight, has little care for her appearance, and is most likely poor. Ashamed at himself for his snap judgments about Holly, he attempts to talk to her and, at the end of the flight, gives her his card and offers to be her trainer at a reduced rate. Mortified, Holly nonetheless realizes that this could be an opportunity to change her life around. As she accepts Logan’s offer she tells herself that a few exercise sessions is all she’ll need to develop deep anger and hatred for the trainer, which will surely overcome her attraction to his perfect physique and gorgeous face. As Holly works her ass off, literally, she and Logan begin to develop a friendship based on respect and kindness. The friendship deepens into romance, but it’s not a perfect relationship. Logan is still prejudiced against Holly’s weight (she’ll never be what society deems thin), and is embarrassed to be seen with her and claim her as his girlfriend. Holly, in turn, carries emotional baggage and has low self-esteem. Right now she’s settling for what Logan is comfortable giving, but will she be able to live with herself if she’s always his secret project and never his girlfriend?

This quick read (by the sister of well-known author Janet Evanovich) gives a measure of reality to basic chicklit. Holly is a very believable character that readers will empathize with. Her depression and struggle to control her weight, her small victories, and her baggage are well-depicted, making Holly more than two dimensional. Logan is less developed and more stylized, which serves to puts the focus on Holly. While not as deep as Jennifer Weiner’s In Her Shoes, this novel is similar in tone and theme: don’t judge a girl by her weight; change to be healthy and to fit your body’s needs, not to fit into society’s mold of perfection; and be yourself. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel and recommend it to anyone wanting to read about a heroine they can identify with.

Evanovich, Stephanie. Big Girl Panties. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2013. Ebook. (Print version to be released January 21, 2014)

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