Top positive review
Love the premise, execution marred by two unlikable characters
Reviewed in the United States on November 15, 2019
I freely admit I am a guy who is a huge fan of contemporary romance. Don't like Regency romance, and have bad memories of 1970's era ripped bodice novels and book covers. I also don't get grief from guys for reading romance novels.
Given my background and experiences, I was intrigued by the idea of a secret romance book club for men, to better understand women. I didn't initially like the idea of the guys using a Regency novel as Gavin's manual, but it was well done and led to some humorous lines. I liked Gavin's willingness as well as his resistance to the idea in order to romance his wife back. I also appreciated that Thea had her own issues that she had to recognize and repair, so that both Gavin and Thea contributed to the problems in their marriage.
What I didn't like was Thea's sister Liv, Bromance book club member Mack, and the author's views on toxic masculinity. Liv was a sister Thea didn't need. Liv was toxic towards marriage and Gavin. But I truly despised Mack. He was just a toxic jerk to everyone. I could not see any reason he was a member of the BBC, as he was a single guy and treated every member poorly. No one would put up with his behavior in real life. The only reason I could see for his character here is his role as the Male main character in the second book. Toxic masculinity (TM) is mentioned three times in the book. The first states pumpkin spice latte is denigrated because women love PSL, but pumpkin spice is EVERYWHERE in the fall, which seems at odds with societal condemnation. PSL toxic masculinity then leads to the statement that romance novels aren't taken seriously because of toxic masculinity. If there really is a societal dismissal of romance novels, maybe it is because the image is of cheesy bodice rippers. And the RWA survey says 19% of romance readers are men. The second and third instances of TM involve Mack and Gavin, and I couldn't determine if the author was serious or not in invoking TM. My reading of the book shows both Gavin and Thea both have toxic issues, behaviors, and lack of communication that almost destroys their marriage, so is TM really the problem in the book?
I do recommend this book. The concept of a Bromance book club so guys can learn to understand their wives better is original, and except for the despicable Mack, great to read. However, don't know if I can stomach reading the next novel featuring both Mack and Liv.