99 Percent Mine
Darcy Barrett has undertaken a global survey of men. She’s travelled the world, and can categorically say that no one measures up to Tom Valeska, whose only flaw is that Darcy’s twin brother Jamie saw him first and claimed him forever as his best friend. Despite Darcy’s best efforts, Tom’s off limits and loyal to her brother, 99%. That’s the problem with finding her dream man at age eight and peaking in her photography career at age twenty—ever since, she’s had to learn to settle for good enough.
When Darcy and Jamie inherit a tumble-down cottage from their grandmother, they’re left with strict instructions to bring it back to its former glory and sell the property. Darcy plans to be in an aisle seat halfway across the ocean as soon as the renovations start, but before she can cut and run, she finds a familiar face on her porch: house-flipper extraordinaire Tom’s arrived, he’s bearing power tools, and he’s single for the first time in almost a decade.
Suddenly Darcy’s considering sticking around to make sure her twin doesn’t ruin the cottage’s inherent magic with his penchant for grey and chrome. She’s definitely not staying because of her new business partner’s tight t-shirts, or that perfect face that’s inspiring her to pick up her camera again. Soon sparks are flying—and it’s not the faulty wiring. It turns out one percent of Tom’s heart might not be enough for Darcy anymore. This time around, she’s switching things up. She’s going to make Tom Valeska 99 percent hers.
Dabney: There aren’t a lot of books as anticipated as this one and I think, for me, that was a bit of a problem.
Kristen: Yeah, I had a hard time managing my expectations on this one. I had NONE for The Hating Game, of course, so I sometimes wonder if that made me love it more. So yes, Dabney, I agree.
Haley: I tried to tell myself going in that this wouldn’t be The Hating Game, so there was no way I would like it as much. THG was one of those oddball books that comes along really rarely for me and makes me fall madly in love. The chances of that happening twice were impossible. I just wanted 99 Percent Mine to sound like Sally Thorne and, I think it did.
Dabney: And perhaps that’s part of why I didn’t love it. At all.
Kristen: Haley, did it sounding like Sally Thorne mean you liked it? Because I completely agree it felt like her voice, but man, I did not like this book. The dialogue I found witty and creative in THG felt labored here and I could not stand the protagonists – any of them!
Haley: It actually did. I think I must have liked it more than y’all did because, while it was no THG, I enjoyed most of 99 Percent Mine. It had its flaws, for sure, but I enjoyed the central love story. What was it that you didn’t like about Tom and Darcy?
Dabney: Um. Pretty much everything. I didn’t like them especially as individuals, in large part because they didn’t make any sense to me. I didn’t like their relationship which, again, I didn’t really understand. I found them both to be unnecessarily self-destructive – Darcy borders on selfish as well – and I didn’t think either of them were ready, even by the end of the book, to truly love another.
Caroline: I accept that Darcy was self-destructive, but that’s part of what I found interesting about reading her story. I was interviewing an author about a different flawed heroine, and she made a comment about how literature conditions us to grapple with understanding and loving troubled male characters but our women typically need to be likeable and unchallenging. Since I’ve been guilty of that, it really stuck with me.
Haley: I’d have to agree, Caroline. I think she did have a self destructive urge, but it didn’t make me hate her. I can’t remember how old she and her twin are, but I had a streak in my early twenties where dating jerks, drinking, and acting selfish seemed like great ideas. Now, I will say, one of my bigger hang ups was the twin. The over protective, pushy brother trope almost never works for me. Especially as a device to keep the two love interests apart.
Dabney: There are heroines who are self-destructive, bitchy, cranky, and bossy that I’ve loved. Darcy is not one of them. Her self-destructiveness seemed so self-absorbed which made her a tough love story heroine. I never believed she’d really love Tom as he deserved to be loved.
Caroline: That’s interesting, because the one thing I believed was that she completely and utterly loved Tom!
The thing that worked least for me was the pacing of the beginning of the book. The opening scene, which began with Darcy tending bar and narrated the next day or so continuously, including Tom’s arrival, dragged, especially because the author had to keep coming up with ways to avoid Tom telling Darcy what we all knew about his fiancée, Megan. If those chapters had been split over more time (a phone call with Tom, his arrival and tour, his moving in a week later, etc.), I think it would have been more effective. It seems like a small complaint, but those pages are practically the first third of the book, and it was a big issue for me getting into a reading rhythm.
Kristen: Man, I love how subjective art is. We all saw different things in such a fascinating way. Caroline, I’m glad you pointed out the rhythm issues in the beginning because I think that is one of my key issues: I never fell into a reading rhythm with this. Besides my feelings towards the characters – which are mostly in line with Dabney’s – I just kept feeling unsettled during the reading experience.
Overall, this book was just a miss for me. I found Darcy unappealing, her relationship with her twin to be symbiotic instead of productive, and Tom to be a bit of a meh all around. I’m still struggling to sort a grade, though, because while it didn’t work for me at all I can see how it would work for others. I’ve landed on a C for that reason.
Dabney: I read it less than a month ago and when I think about what I like about it, the only thing that really comes to mind is Darcy’s utterly fabulous best friend Truly. (I have taken to calling myself plush-sized every chance I get.) She and Darcy were lovely together. The novel sparkled every time Truly showed up and that made me even more aware of how the rest of the book did not. And, by the way, I have boy/girl twins who are in their twenties. Darcy and her brother Jamie were just weird – I kept trying to imagine people behaving as they did and I just couldn’t.For me, this book is a C as well.
Haley: I think I liked it more than the rest of you, though I agree the twins came off weird. I’m not a fan of the overprotective brother trope at all. I agree with Caroline that the pacing at the start of the book threw me off, and it took me a bit to get into. Once I did, I enjoyed the dynamic between Tom and Darcy. I really believed she adored him, but thought she had messed up too many times and lost her chance. I also, surprisingly, enjoyed the house renovation element, which I didn’t expect to (although I totally wanted her to keep the house).
I would say it was a B- for me. Probably not a book I’ll go back and reread, but I enjoyed it at the time.
Caroline: I think I’m a B. The challenging nature of the heroine makes this book something I’d read when I’m in the mood for women’s fiction rather than romance. I liked that the characters all had depth – the villainous brother isn’t (Villainous), the perfect man isn’t (perfect), and the disaster of a heroine isn’t (a disaster). We didn’t discuss Darcy’s heart condition much, but I would be interested to hear what people with a health condition think about how the author depicts its impact on Darcy’s behavior and self-image. I think that’s a big part of the reason my grade is so much higher – this book made me think about issues from health to sibling rivalry to unfair expectations of relationship partners. I’d rather have something complex but a bit messy (like Darcy!) than something with fewer flaws that feels bland.
Dabney: I know our readers won’t all agree with us. And I’m hopeful that Thorne has more great books in her. Second novels are often the most difficult to do well–there’s a reason we all know the term sophomore slump. AAR readers–have you read 99 Percent Mine? And if so, what did you think?