Keane Morgan wouldn't return any of my calls or texts, and I was pissed as hell about it. I didn't want to drive from Seattle to L.A. with the guy any more than he wanted to drive with me, but I had no frickin' choice in the matter - at least, not if I wanted to use his brother Dax's coveted parking spot at UCLA. Okay, so it turned out Keane was objectively gorgeous, and, fine, pretty funny, too. But did he have to be so damned in love with himself? I mean, jeez, the cocky way he flashed those dimples was just so orchestrated. And, honestly, what kind of guy uses the phrase "baby doll" with a straight face? Oh, that's right: the kind of guy who's a male stripper. Yup, the cocky jerk turned out to be Seattle's answer to Magic Mike, a stripper known as "Ball Peen Hammer" - which meant Keane Morgan was emphatically not the kind of guy I'd ever fall for. Not. At. All. No freakin' way. Well, until Keane convinced me to fall for him, that is. Which I did. Hard.
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This book really surprised me. A few chapters in, and I was ready to criticize it in a review. I really didn’t like it. The surfer dude/valley girl/text speech/cutsie pet names hailed down so fast and furious it was painful. The barrage of Yee Boys, hellz yeahs, bee tee dubs, brahs, sweet meats, Pickles, Peenies, Keaneys, kewls, bonin’s, baby dolls, and seshes had me grimacing, and rolling my eyes in sheer repulsion and confusion. Madelyn the Badelyn? Hanna Banana Cream Pie? Dax Frickity Fracks? Peenie Weenie? You could fill up a book with the dude-isms and the cutsie names - and if you did, you’d call it Ball Peen Hammer. This was supposed to be romance novel material? Maybe for some, lord help them. Not for me.
Not, that is, until Maddy and Keane got in a car together. Granted, the Morgan clan and their hilarious text exchange broke the ice for me, but Maddy + Keane = that’s when I started to warm up to this book. I’m not saying that the dude-isms and the swagger-talk eased up - if anything they increased. But, somehow, once I started seeing Keane through Maddy’s eyes, once I got a glimpse past Ball Peen Hammer and into Keane, I found myself giving Keane a real chance. And eventually, like Maddy, I fell a little in love with Keane. I loved the way this book made that happen.
I found this book to be a clever and inventive take on a romance novel. In any other book, Keane would not be the leading man. He’s the gay, best friend sidekick. He’s the too slick lounge lizard giving you the “wink + pleasure + baby doll’.” He’s the sleezy Rico Suave calling women ‘lovely ladies.’ He’s the goofy, irresponsible younger brother who never returns your messages. He’s the cocky, light-hearted, irreverant, stoned surfer dude who dyes his hair blue for his bro. Keane? He’s all of these quirky characters rolled into one. In short, he’s the comic relief. He’s NOT the main man. He’s not romance hero material. Until.... gradually, he IS. That is the genius of this book. As Maddy says, Keane is “Daffy Duck trapped inside Prince Charming’s body,” and it’s so true. Yet, at the same time, it’s not - because this book is a bit of the reverse. This book is all about the reveal - the gradual reveal to both Maddy, the reader, and to Keane, himself, that daffy as Keane may act and seem, Daffy Duck is just the dude persona behind which Keane is hiding a real Prince Charming.
Things this book got right:
We get to know characters 98% through dialogue - there’s very little inner monologue. This makes the book more vibrant and interesting, and helps the reader get to know the characters as they get to know each other and themselves. It’s more real. And because a lot of the dialogue is witty and flirtacious, it’s loads of fun.
The characters are honest, vulnerable, and direct. There is no game playing going on. Keane may talk a big talk, but there’s a brain and a heart of gold behind his fast mouth. Maddy, quick-witted and insightful, parries flawlessly with Keane and quickly sees more to him than his ‘yo-bro’ facade.
There is a very solid, very clear story arc. Everything is there for a reason. Everything helps explain a character or ties into the main storyline. Everything fits. The book is tight.
The author does not employ some of the usual romance novel tricks - evil outside manipulators, glaring ‘if only you’d told the truth earlier’ or stupid misunderstandings. The tension in the novel is created from real issues that each of the characters have, and they grow and deal with those issues in real world ways.
All-in-all, I’d have to give the narration a thumbs up. Apparently the author narrated the ‘Maddy’ sections. So... that must BE Maddy! In the beginning of the story, I found her overly chirpy and young which contributed to the maddening dorky/cutsieness of the novel, but I mostly grew to like her over the course of the book. Keane is read as a total surfer dude. John Lane has a great voice, but in the beginning he read Keane really fast - and again, that contributed to my aversion to him - he just sounded SO much more like a caricature than a real character. But, he slowed down later, and as I grew to like Keane, I also grew to like his narrator. Overall, I’d give the narration a 4.3 on 5 scale. Slower would have been sexier. But I don’t think that was what this book was going for.
Things this book didn’t quite get right:
The sex. Well, Keane is well-versed and a self-proclaimed expert. No doubt he is. And even though this book was all about sex, talking about sex, instructing about sex, and eventually the happening of sex, the overall takeaway was not all that hot. I'm not sure how that happened. But, it did... or didn't, depending on how you look at it. I wasn't swept away in the lust/romance department. Somehow Sweet Sassy Molassey waggling' her boobs and bonin' Keaney Peenie Lionel Richie style just never was going to be seriously hot business for those of us living in the non-dork world.
I didn't really enjoy this story for many reasons. One, I'm a 'one of the guys' kind of girl and I have mostly guy friends and none (and I do mean NONE) of my guy friends have ever talked like ANY of the guys in this story. Two, I had a love/hate relationship with both of the main characters, I just don't understand them at all. And Three, things felt rushed yet slow all at once. For (I think) 30 or so chapters the main characters are on this road trip that just seems to go on and on and on and during this time I felt that there should have been moments of a love connection, but no instead they friend zone the monkeys out of each while trying not to 'bone' one another. This made it where when they actually felt something other than lust for each other the story was almost over and it felt rushed and not at all as amazing as I thought it would be.... Now don't get me wrong I absolutely love how the Arthur voiced this and I thoroughly enjoyed her character wayyyy more than the any of the guys, I just didn't enjoy this story as much as I wanted too, and that my friend is super disappointing