Good Girl Complex is a contemporary cross-class romance which is weighed down by its formula, and while the author gives an excellent view of her working-class hero, she doesn’t deliver on the heroine’s wealthy side of the class divide.
Mackenzie – Mac – Cabot is just one of the many filthy-rich brats who pass through Garnet College. At least, that’s what townie Cooper Hartley presumes. So it won’t matter if he uses her to get revenge on her boyfriend Preston, who threw his daddy’s money around to get Cooper fired. Cooper and his friends semi-drunkenly plot for Cooper to win Mac over and then drop Preston for him, whereupon he will laugh in both of their faces and stride off. Of course, he will fall in love with Mac and swear everyone to secrecy about his original intent. Of course this isn’t going to work.
If I had known this would be a ‘big secret’ book, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up, because it’s a trope which, like ‘secret baby’ or ‘shooting people before antibiotics’, almost never works for me. Sitting around and waiting for the formulaic revelation is a frustrating combination of uncomfortable and boring. I would love to read a secret reveal with an original spin, such as the characters talking to each other and working through it, but… this is not that book. At least Cooper and his friends debate the ethics of his plan, and they do put in the caveat that Cooper cannot initiate any seduction (Mac has to kiss him first, etc).
I’ll try to outline what might and might not work for other people for whom that specific plotline may not be a dealbreaker, or is perhaps even be desirable.
The beach town setting, and Garnet’s college/townie tensions are well developed. I liked the dynamics of Cooper’s ‘set’, a group of townies who would die for each other but also probably draw dicks on each other’s faces when they’re passed out. It’s a funny, authentic representation of immature new adults who have, of necessity, had each other’s backs since kindergarten. Evan, Cooper’s twin, with his self-destructive behavior and desperate faith in their user mom, caught my attention in spite of clearly being the hero of the inevitable series sequel. Cooper’s erstwhile hookup Heidi proves to be more than a one-dimensional vicious ex, and we realize that Cooper actually merits her bitter resentment. Cooper and Evan’s relationship with their uncle Levi is touching, and their mother is a realistic portrayal of an abusive parent, love-bombing interspersed with abandonment and exploitation.
Mac, by contrast, is not as well-drawn or as internally consistent. It felt as though the author has made Mac’s family horribly dysfunctional because she felt she had to do something to make us feel sorry for Little Miss Trust Fund. I don’t mind a messed up family – see Cooper’s mom – but while that level of neglect and trauma has profoundly impacted Cooper’s personality and ability to have a relationship, Mac seems completely unaffected by her toxic upbringing. She has a strong sense of self-worth despite stating she thinks her congressman father conceived her for voter appeal, and she demands fidelity and love despite living among the set where it’s expected for a husband to have a wife and a “Marilyn” (a mistress). Where and how did she develop these feelings?
In addition to Mac’s family money, she has made her own millions with an app called BoyfriendFails. While I don’t question that Mac could have hit it big on an app, she doesn’t spend anywhere near the time on it that she should given that she remains the CEO. Nor does she have any passion for tech (or gossip) which would explain her success. Additionally, in the book, she falls in love with and buys an old hotel. If she owns and is running an app, it’s unlikely that she’d have the liquidity to buy property (ad revenue, as AAR can sadly tell you, is not what the author seems to think it is). Let her have sold the app, or have her money come from real estate – something to be more consistent.
Overall, I’d say this is a solid New Adult book, and I desperately appreciate that it isn’t full of horrible angst and navel-gazing. There are some terrific secondary characters, and even the flatter ones like Mac’s roommate do more than just advance other people’s stories. Even Preston, the boyfriend, is interesting in his ability to maintain two faces (although Mac’s obliviousness to his duplicity is sort of moronic). Also, there is an adorable golden retriever. I just wish it hadn’t all been overshadowed by waiting for the ‘Hey, he did this on a bet!’ hammer to drop and the obligatory separation/grovel formula to play out.
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