This romance novel takes the historical niche’s Reformation of the Rake plot full boar with its contemporary counterpart, in this case in a new adult story, The Pig Becomes a Person.
Romance novels have a limited number of tropes, to which I have no objection, but there is one, The Reformation of the Rake, which has to be handled particularly carefully. The hero, who generally has been shagging anything that moves finds a magical woman who, often in their first encounter, so rocks his libidinous world that he immediately becomes a one woman man. Generally, before encountering the heroine’s transformative physiology, the hero has been a scoundrel, a rogue, a louche and insensitive, self-indulgent rake. When done well (cast your eyes towards the entire Lisa Kleypas oeuvre and Tessa Dare’s best books) the connection between the two leads makes the hero’s change believable. In the emphatically patriarchal world of historical romances, the reformation of the rake can be more acceptable, but what becomes of it in a contemporary romance? I call it “The Pig Becomes a Person” and I have gotten tired of it.
Dean Heyward-DeLaurentis was a background character in the first two books in this series and he was presented as a complete player:
- ridiculously vain
- hard partying
- sexually indiscriminate
Nothing has changed and The Score opens with Dean and two eager young women getting ready to indulge in a three-way in the living room of the house he shares with three fellow hockey players. This brings me to Conundrum 1:
I have trouble with the way some of the women are portrayed in these books as willing, vacuous partners. It’s underlaid with some pseudo-empowerment of being in control of their own bodies and desires and entitled to the same thing the heroes want, namely to bang, but even with this feminist gloss, they are still presented as fame hungry almost-objects. Even if I am being judgmental about it as a fellow woman, the view seems to vacillate between “women are people responsible for their own conduct” and “look at these spurious bitches over here”.
Dean’s coitus is interruptused by the arrival of Allie, a friend-in-law of Dean’s roommate. She has just had the final in a series of dramatic breakups with her long-term boyfriend and wants a place to hideout. Dean has been asked to keep his dick in his pants, but he’s only human and Allie makes the first move. They have a really great night and embark on a relationship by assignation until their feelings force a move to the next level. Fortunately, and because Kennedy is a writer with a modicum of sense, Allie is extremely reluctant to be seen with Dean in public given his skankerrific reputation. Events force their hand and things go well until Dean has a life event which forces him to take responsibility for himself and grow the hell up, and they truly move forward. This brings me to Conundrum 2:
Dean has everything going for him. Every gift and bit of luck that life can bestow is his. He is entitled as hell. I didn’t buy his transformation to loyal boyfriend from someone who was after anything in a skirt. I didn’t buy his proposed life plan. I did buy how easily everything came to him, such is the power of wealth and influence, but that also means to me that he would end up in a place more in keeping with his social status.
And now a screed: The element of The Score that truly rankled, largely because Kennedy is an otherwise entertaining author, involves a ten-year-old girl*/redemptive plot moppet** that Dean has been teaching to skate. After messing up, he apologises and then this happens:
“She giggles again. Then, proving that kids really are more resilient, she reaches over and pats my arm. “Stop being such a girl, Dean. I like you again.”
Are you kidding me? A ten-year-old girl teases someone by mockingly calling him a girl? Not only would this never happen, does Kennedy realise this represents an appalling level of dudebro sexism? How offensive is it to have a female child belittling the hero by saying his emotions make him similar to her? Screw that!
Contrary to my issues above, I didn’t dislike The Score as intensely as it seems I did. Kennedy has an easy way with friendships and relationships in spite of the creeping sexism. I really enjoyed the first book in this series and recommend it instead.