It’s hard to take on a workplace romance between a boss and an intern, but in Hot Copy, Ruby Barrett succeeds with something sexy that also manages to have a firm emotional grounding and clear consent. While the heroine is challenging to like, that’s not always a bad thing.
On his first day at his new internship, Wesley Chambers has been assigned Corrine Blunt as his mentor. A bro fellow intern riding the elevator gossips that she’s reputed to be a bitch (“Blunt the C-,” precisely; you can figure it out). Embarrassed by this unprofessional and misogynist behavior, Wes laughs. Unfortunately, Corrine is in the elevator, too, and assumes Wes’s laugh indicates agreement, not awkwardness. By the time Wes officially meets Corrine, it’s too late: she is already convinced he’s yet another member of the business boys’ club.
I liked that their misunderstanding starts with something I haven’t seen before. I am also an awkward/embarrassed laugher, and can totally empathize with Wesley. What I didn’t like was Corrine’s reaction. I’m not sure what I’d do if I overheard somebody seemingly laugh at a coarse joke at my expense (probably assume it was awkward, actually), but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t take revenge by abusing my power as his supervisor to ruin his internship. Instead of training Wes in marketing, Corrine gives him not just professional admin tasks, but personal assistant ones, sending him for coffee, dry cleaning, and shopping for a gift for her ex’s wedding. Two HR violations do not cancel each other out. Fortunately, the two eventually talk it out, but not until Wes takes a lot more than he should have had to.
Once you accept that Corrine is a very sharp-edged character, that characterization is consistent and well-executed. When you see what Corrine has seen, including conduct from a previous intern and treatment from her current boss, you understand better why she is so easily convinced that Wes is cut from the same cloth. I didn’t forgive her quite as easily as Wes (and, I think, the author), but I did understand her. Ultimately, I think the author successfully captures a heroine who is willing to be vindictive without characterizing vindictiveness itself as laudable (or using it to create ‘hilarity’) which other authors unfortunately have done.
Excessive sharpness leaves a fragile, brittle edge, and the author knows that. Corrine needs Wes’s goodhearted softness. Wes is what people often refer to as a cinnamon roll hero. He is a few years behind other interns because he cared for his mother while she was dying of cancer, and he brings that same sense of selflessness to caring for Corrine (even when Corrine is not as caring). He has a difficult relationship with his twin sister, who was able to pursue her culinary dreams thanks to Wes’s labor. Again, it’s interesting to see this from a reversed-gender perspective. The author accurately captures the lost-ness and the isolation of someone whose life has been on pause for caregiving, with Wes too overwhelmed by the prospect to even text his former best friend.
While I thought Corrine initially did misuse her professional power over Wes, I never questioned that their relationship was completely two-way. If you like the frisson of characters who absolutely, positively cannot be caught together and yet cannot stay apart, this is your book. Sex and makeout scenes burst with chemistry, sometimes echoing Wes and Corrine’s non-bedroom dynamic (boss/subordinate, caretaker/caretaken) but sometimes subverting it. I did, however, find myself flipping to the end of every scene before I read it to see if this particularly indiscreet boink would be the one that got them caught, thereby advancing the plot. Because, yeah, we know how this goes.
Workplace romance is one of my favorites, because professional boundaries are a legitimate obstacle and create a sense of taboo. I also appreciated Corrine’s sharpness being characterized as with a cost – ultimately, almost the cost of Wes and their future. Throw in the interesting gender flip of the cold, harsh boss and the healing caregiver assistant, and you have a Hot Copy that’s worth picking up.
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I'm a history geek and educator, and I've lived in five different countries in North America, Asia, and Europe. In addition to the usual subgenres, I'm partial to YA, Sci-fi/Fantasy, and graphic novels. I love to cook.