Breaking All Her Rules
A chance encounter splitting a cab leads throws Grace Song and Zach Camden into instant attraction, but perfectionist, buttoned-down Grace is leery of anything as unpredictable as emotion. Despite her misgivings, she follows up with Zach, who turns out to be an artist reeling from a tragic personal loss. Maybe this novella is too short to investigate these topics in depth, or maybe the treatment would have been shallow at any length, but this book substitutes chemistry and sex for relationship development and is, on the whole, too superficial.
I picked the book because I am always looking for diverse characters, and Grace is Chinese-American. She’s a bit of a stereotype, trying to be an “ice bitch” and worrying about pleasing her parents. In one scene, she fights with her boss because he’s been misogynist and racist. (The outcome of this work plot was incredibly irritating, essentially telling women that the solution to harassment at work is quitting your job.) On the whole, though, you could have changed her name to Grace Smith without much impact. I didn’t like that she was unjustifiably rude to Zach in the first scene. When he has his cab stop to pick her up and then agrees to go out of his way to let her be dropped off at her appointment on time, he deserves better than a snarky comment on his cowboy hat: “Aren’t you supposed to be naked in Times Square?”
I don’t have much to say about Zach. He had a tragic loss so he doesn’t want to feel again, which is a cliche, and he’s a super-successful artist seemingly by accident. He seems like a nice guy. Moving on.
There are writing and editing flaws, which is frustrating in a book flying the flag for two prominent brands (Harlequin and Cosmo). There are typos, like when Grace’s father tells her “I’ll always worry. I’m your father. Bu that’s my job.” Bu? Grace thinks of her sister “who had gone off the rails, into parties and drugs and now, to the point where no one had a clue where she was.” The author often ends inexplicably questions with periods (“Are you going to let me in, or am I going to have to stay in this incredibly narrow hallway all night.”) The content editing is sloppy, too; at one point, Grace’s former boyfriend is called Mark, but later he’s called David.
The voice is more New Adult than contemporary, so sometimes the poor writing is supposed to be Grace’s. She plans “to do things… perfect” instead of “perfectly,” wonders “what the eff was wrong with her,” and proclaims herself “a single woman, with needs and stuff.” Staying in Zach’s suite “made her feel like a fancy call girl. Or, you know, something less sordid but kind of naughty.” Unfortunately, this valley-girl uptalk made me see Grace as silly and immature.
Or it jolted me out of the narrative entirely. During foreplay, Grace muses that “orgasm was a rare, elusive creature for her. One that she caught glimpses of through the forest, only to have it vanish into nothingness the moment her partner sneezed while still inside her, or something.” Unless you’re dating one of the Seven Dwarves, that really shouldn’t be a recurring problem.
Fortunately, Zach’s foreplay is so potent that Grace “doubted even a sneeze could scare this [orgasm] off.” Congratulations, Zach! Maybe he was capable of such a mighty achievement because “[h]e was so very much a man, a stupid observation maybe, since obviously he was a man… There were men, and then there were men. He was a man.” Well. Glad we cleared that up!
I did like some details, like country-bred Zach struggling to figure out how to buzz up to Grace’s New York apartment. I appreciated that while Zach and Grace’s relationship was largely based on sexual attraction (and the sex scenes are reasonably hot), both of them did change for the better because of each other. I also liked the fact that her parents were supportive of Grace making changes in her life, but that made Grace’s obsessive pleaser-perfectionism inexplicable. I smiled when Grace rued moving things with “her stubby little T. Rex arms” and liked the description of sleazeball clients as speaking with “a greasy film coating the words.” But overall, Breaking All Her Rules is no better than okay.