My sister highly recommended Female Intelligence, and so I read it. The payoff was only so-so, however. This was an amusing book with an interesting (and familiar) premise and good humor, but, unfortunately, it also had a slow start, rather poor characterization and a plot that did not engage.
Lynn Wyman has made a career out of helping people to communicate. Specifically, she’s helped men to communicate with women. It’s her premise that women are better talkers and expressers, and if men only learned how to emulate them, all would be well. Lynn has certainly done well with her message. She has a thriving private practice, is a media darling, and she’s practiced what she preached in her own life as well. Her marriage is held up as an example of perfect communication between the sexes. Everything is coming up roses for Lynn, until the day she picks up the phone and hears her husband cooing love words to his new honey.
In short order, Lynn’s life collapses. The tabloids learn of the affair and print an exposé. Following that her clients lose faith and exit en masse, her finances go south, and her marriage ends up in divorce court. Things cannot be worse.
Then one day Lynn opens up Fortune magazine and reads their piece on “America’s Toughest Bosses.” Brandon Brock, the CEO of Finefoods is highest on the list. He is apparently demanding and difficult to work with and can’t communicate at all with his female employees. Lynn knows an opportunity when she sees one. All she has to do to get her career back on track, she thinks, is to make over Mr. Tough Boss. Once the media gets wind of her accomplishments, she’ll be back at the top where she belongs. Only thing is, Brandon Brock’s not too interested in having a makeover, and he’s used to getting his own way. Will Lynn be able to change his mind? And will she be able to tolerate being with him before he learns to be more like a woman?
If this book succeeds at all, it is entirely because of Brandon Brock. He’s hilarious in either incarnation – blunt Neanderthal or sensitive New Man. He chirrups back feminine phraseology with ease, repeating to Lynn (with practice) emotional stuff many women wouldn’t even say. The Pygmalion-like transformation Lynn attempts results in a number of scenes filled with playful bantering and clever repartee. Every scene Brandon was in was enjoyable.
But even though Brandon is enjoyable, he’s not very believable. Heller exaggerates his characteristics until he’s almost cartoon-like, and it seems unlikely that he could change to the extent he does. The character of Lynn’s husband is similarly unbelievable. He’s so needy and neurotic that it’s hard to understand what she ever saw in him, and how she could have found him even remotely attractive.
Lynn herself isn’t too likable. She’s condescending and patronizing to her male clients. She tends to look at men as unevolved human wannabes. She spends more time thinking about how her divorce will affect her career than how it will affect her personally. She also has a group of very unattractive friends who make appearances throughout the book. None of these people seemed like a good time.
The book is structured along Lynn’s fall from grace and subsequent resurrection. She doesn’t see some of the things going on underneath the surface of her public humiliation until it’s too late, and later she begins to try and sort out what exactly happened. This part of the book didn’t work very well at all. It’s was too something; melodramatic, perhaps. The book started very slow, and both the beginning and the end didn’t match the book’s much more amusing middle.
Female Intelligence is overall a somewhat unsatisfying story. The characters are too exaggerated, the plot is weak and uninteresting, and the love story wasn’t too convincing. However, the parts with Brandon Brock were so entertaining that the book wasn’t a total loss. I would probably read it again just to enjoy the banter between Brock and Lynn. It’s too bad the rest of the book wasn’t stronger, because what is well done here is quite well done.