After a “s’alright” from Mrs. Julien and an “I agree with Mrs. J” from Beth Ellen, I set my expectations to middling for Penny Reid’s 6th entry in her Knitting in the City series. Penny Reid is an uneven writer who swings between very good and awful. She is still working her way off Double Secret probation. Dating-ish doesn’t move her in any particular direction. The romance is just ok, the ideas Reid is exploring are quite interesting. I frequently wanted to insert myself into the conversations between Marie and Matt.
What Penny Reid does well, even in her worst books, is snappy dialogue.
“And it’ll look the best?”
“And last for a long time, yes. But it’ll cost a lot. Like, a lot a lot.”
He gave me a flat, teasing smile. “For a writer, you sure do use the big words.”
I rolled my eyes, turning from him. “Fine. The expenditure will be exorbitant.”
Dialogue like this keeps me coming back.
Despite the snappy dialogue and some really good descriptions of pining, Marie and Matt never jelled for me. Either their obstacles felt too manufactured or the resolution was too easy for what should be relationship red flags. Ried stuck her toe into some mental health issues, which she deals with much better in Beard in Mind.
I also thought a lot about the compassion AI that Matt was working on. Marie and Matt have some interesting conversations about the utility and ethics of his work. I kept thinking about the news stories I had read a few weeks ago about the sex robot that was badly damaged at a tech expo and the hitchbot that made it across Europe and Canada before being destroyed in the US. I think Reid was flirting with some interesting ideas, but the whole book didn’t quite come together.
The red flag for me was Matt’s use of “friend-zone.” Marie decides to ask Matt, who has stated strongly that he is not interested in a long term relationship, if he would like to be friends. Given the acrimonious start to their relationship, this seems reasonable. Matt immediately labels it a “friend-zone” maneuver and tells her she isn’t his type anyway. But sure, they can be friends. Boy, bye!
The implication of the friend-zone is that one party wants and was working towards a romantic/sexual relationship and the other just wants to be friends. The whole concept of the friend-zone is misogynist bullshit. It bothered me a lot that Matt pulled that move. It irritated me to no end that Marie felt guilty about wanting to just be friends. Matt engaged in other problematic behaviors that were kind of addressed.
Thanks to Beth Ellen for the loan. This was one of the most interesting books I didn’t quite like.