He Loves Lucy
The reality TV show craze has passed me by, I have to admit, and so I opened this book warily. A woman with self-esteem issues wants to publish her body-fat index on the Internet? She wants to get weighed on live TV? But then the hero strolled in, and oh my, he melted more than pounds. For you, Theo, I’d post my thigh circumference on the web, too!
Lucy Cummingham, marketing executive, has just landed a plum account: the Palm Fitness Club. Her winning pitch involved a reality show premise, with one out-of-shape slob being delivered into the hands on the Palm Club’s top trainer, to be turned into a lean(er), healthier fighting machine. There will be a lot of publicity; monthly weigh-ins on a local morning show, a web site with updates on the slob’s progress, healthy recipes, and fitness tips; and, as an incentive, a thousand bucks for every pound the slob manages to lose, for the trainer and the former slob. And then somehow, Lucy gets picked to be the fat slob, and she’s not so sure she can give up her Milk Duds for a year, even if it will give her enough money to start her own firm and leave behind her psycho boss.
Her trainer is Theo Redmond, the totally buff, perfectly tanned darling of the Miami Beach gym scene. He’s in this marketing scheme for the money. Theo had to leave med school when his parents died and he was left to take care of his younger brother, Buddy, who has Down’s syndrome. Dropping out also cost Theo his girlfriend, who was everything he thought he wanted in a woman, not to mention his dream of being a doctor. If Theo can help Lucy to her goal (losing 100 pounds in a year), he’ll reap a $100,000 reward, which will enable him to quit the Palm Club and apply to re-enter med school.
Lucy’s first impression of Theo is not good; she calls him Trainer Ken doll. But Theo likes Lucy right away. He can tell she’s smart and funny, and also that she wasn’t always fat and didn’t always turn to butter brickle ice cream and Whoppers with large fries. But as time goes on, they loosen up around each other, which is only natural as they’re meeting each other six morning a week at the gym. It’s difficult to expose all one’s cellulite to a person and not develop some sort of relationship.
It was not hard to see why Lucy fell in love with Theo; he had me by February (the chapters go by months of the year, starting in January). Theo gave up the dream he’d worked on for so long to provide a stable home for Buddy, who is a real sweetheart. Buddy also has the Redmond athleticism, and Theo coaches him for the Special Olympics. He works nights as a bouncer for the money, and when he’s not working or spending time with Buddy, he’s studying for the med school exam. Since his girlfriend ditched him for an older physician, he’s had about as much love life as Lucy’s had: none.
Lucy, on the other hand… Well, sometimes I liked her and sometimes I didn’t. The event that sent her from a normal-sized girl to a larger-than-life woman was horrible – a large-scale public humiliation. As embarrassing as it is to let Theo see her in a bathing suit, she knows, deep down, that she’ll be happier if she loses the weight and starts exercising again. She blows hot and cold with Theo; she wants him, then when he finally makes a move, she doesn’t know what he wants and retreats from him. Lucy’s insecure about a lot of things (except her career), which causes her to jump to a number of conclusions that send the plot on several detours. There’s one scene, after they’ve pushed each other away, where Theo comes to try and talk to her. Lucy keeps answering the phone, even though it’s just her parents and friends, sure she knows what Theo wants to say and that she doesn’t want to deal with him. Lucy might have been hurt before and emotionally fragile, but she could be heartless. It was a good thing Theo, that darling, was made of stern stuff, because Lucy needed a lot of wooing and winning back.
For a book that revolves around food, eating, and dieting, this book does a decent job of avoiding a real obsession with body image. Lucy’s truly overweight, and she wants to be size twelve again, the way she used to be. Theo falls for her before she’s dropped more than thirty pounds, although it takes him a while to tell her. When Lucy’s embarrassed to let him see her naked, he reassures her his feelings are deeper than that…and that he likes her the way she is, anyway. Did I mention how much I love Theo?
There is a plotline with Lucy’s skinny sister that adds some late-breaking depth to Lucy, and a wacky supermodel who becomes Lucy’s friend for no apparent reason other than to get Lucy some sexy designer clothes. The plot with Lucy’s boss was inexplicable to me; can’t someone want to start their own firm for reasons other than escaping the Boss From Hell? I couldn’t see any other reason for his presence, and didn’t really enjoy the time spent in his point of view.
The food theme didn’t bother me that much, but it is a major part of the story. If it bothers you to read about a woman hating herself for eating half a pecan pie, consider yourself warned. If you love Ugly Duckling stories, though, or just want to read about Theo (Oh, Theo… why aren’t the trainers at my gym like you?), this book should scratch that itch nicely.