Second First Impressions
My first (reading) impression of this book was that it was worse than the last Sally Thorne book, 99% Mine, a book I gave a C grade to only because I so liked the best friend that I couldn’t bring myself to give it a D. Thus, after reading about 25% of Second First Impressions, I put it down and decided I’d come back to it when–maybe?–its annoyingly quirky characters and overly twee heroine didn’t irritate the hell out of me.
A month or so later, I gave the book another try and… nope.
This time, I managed to make it to the 75% mark and then, well, I just quit. The best thing I can say about this book is that it is not for me and I’m just happy that all those readers who love a painfully sweet, twee heroine with the real world sense of Michael Scott to fall in love with a man-child who’s supposed to be charmingly asinine but is really a dullard finally have a love story they can treasure.
I didn’t finish this book–I’m about to turn 60 and knowing I have only a quarter or so of life left to me made me feel that time could be better spent
doing anything else watching Taylor Swift videos and deciding, definitively, which is her best. (It’s this one.)
Here’s what I can tell you about it based on the first three quarters. Ruthie, age 25, lives in a town in someplace that one would be hard pressed to
believe in know where it is. She is the acting office manager of the Providence Retirement Villa whose inhabitants are each so specifically nutty you’d think the place only admitted extras from a poorly received Wes Anderson film. Ruthie is single, prissy prim, and the sort of person who allows her temp, whom she’s known all of three weeks, to commandeer her love life. You see, Ruthie’s experience with men is, with the exception of a disastrous prom date that ended in shame, nominal.
Thus, when Teddy, the book’s immature–think a five year old whose talent for charm is outweighed by his self-absorption, something I forgive in small children but dislike in adults–hero roars up on his motorcycle, Ruthie is smitten immediately because… he reminds her of her Teddy Bear.
I actually have a stuffed bear from my childhood called Teddy in my room right now. They both have a lot of experience sitting on girls’ beds. Bright-eyed, adorable creations made for hugging and finding in your sheets in the morning. The spark in Teddy’s eyes intensifies; he’s biting his lip, holding the laugh in. I brush some hair away from my face; my cheek is hot.
What’s the hold up, you ask? Why can’t Teddy and Ruthie fall in love and run off and make lots of Build-a-Bears? The two are
so cliched perfect for each other. Teddy’s a bad boy with a heart of gold. Ruthie is a beautiful–on the inside AND outside of course–young woman who just doesn’t know how soppy precious she is. Ruthie needs to be saved and Teddy, for no reason I can fathom, wants to be the man who rescues her from her oh so dull life. Surely, there’s a decent, if unremarkable, romance there.
Thorne, whose first novel The Hating Game is one of the great contemporary romances of the past decade, seems to have lost her sense of humor, passion, pacing, and plot here. Teddy’s and Ruthie’s romance is so glacially dull it could work as a soporific for those who struggle to fall asleep. The two, both unappealing stereotypes, have little chemistry and their banter made me wince. Instead of story, there are endless pages of Ruthie ruminating on what should she do with her
boring life. Instead of sparkling dialogue, Ruthie and those in her world natter.
Here’s Ruthie and Teddy discussing a tortoise.
A golden bonnet tortoise is making its way over to us. I see some red on it, then relax when it’s not blood. It’s Sharpie. “Hey. Look. It’s Number One. Teddy, it’s my first tortoise.”
He’s smiling up at me from my lap. “You never forget a face? This girl is so cute,” he adds to himself.
I lean sideways and pick up the tortoise. He’s a healthy boy now, big as a paperback, kicking and protesting his midair situation with vigor. I look down at Teddy and try to suppress my smile at his rapt expression. “I’m just going to have a moment here with this tortoise, which might be weird, but who knows when I’ll see him again.”
“Have your moment.”
I say to the gimlet-eyed creature, “Number One, when I first picked you up, I didn’t know a thing. But you made me realize that I can still help without being a vet. You gave me hope. You were the one who changed everything for me and I hope we meet again someday. Let me just . . .” I put the tortoise back down on the blanket, take a few photos of him, and then rummage through my bag. Using my headphone cord, I measure across the shell and mark it with a hair clip. “I can record his size in his chart.”
Just kill me now.
To be fair, I didn’t finish this book and it’s possible that the last quarter is so magnificent that the first deeply disappointing 275 pages were worth it. I’ll never know. I’ve got Taylor Swift videos to rewatch. (This one makes me smile every time.)
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Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day.
|Review Date:||April 14, 2021|
|Book Type:||Contemporary Romance|
I’m loving this book! I’m 48 and I can just put my grumpy middle aged mind out of the way and enjoy a hilarious cute romance. The first couple of chapters I laughed until I cried.. there’s a really positive review on this book as well. I hope everyone gives it a chance
I am happy to hear that. It just wasn’t for me but I can totally see that it would work for someone less cranky.
Thank you for your review Dabney. This is why I regularly check this website. I adored The Hating Game–agree 100 percent with your assessment of that one–and could not finish 99 percent Mine. You have saved me from reading this one. Sad. I want to put Sally Thorne on auto buy because of how much I liked The Hating Game (characters, humor, timing and plot, etc.), but I can’t.
I enjoyed reading the contrasting reviews although, on this occasion, Dabney’s review was more helpful in that it highlighted far too many “no, not for me, thanks” issues. Afraid the MCs seem pretty unattractive to me. The dual POV reviews are wonderful so I hope they will continue to feature here.
There should be more reviews like this, including the snarky faux corrections. There are multitudes of romances that lend themselves to this treatment, in my opinion, many of them by celebrated authors. I’m sure there are some famous authors who one of the reviewers here doesn’t get the appeal of? More competing reviews of the same book, the serious and the savage, would be lots of fun! Reading both reviews today sure helped me make my own decision about trying the book.
I agree that it would be great to be able to do more of these but they’re difficult to orchestrate – how does anyone know if they’re going to like – or not – a book until they’ve read it? Nobody is going to deliberately select a book they think they’re likely to dislike.
(It’s more likely that someone will like a book that’s already received a negative review and then write a positive review of it later.)
I love two reviews and happy to hear you do too!
I’ve started doing mini-reviews on TikTok. Here’s mine of this:
OK you made me break my “I’m never going on TikTok rule” to watch this. Thanks for the laughs, I appreciate the sunglasses action at the end to drive the point home! Lol
It’s my new thing!
Here’s my one from two days ago.
Yeah this book doesn’t sound like it’s for me either (I’m too old, not cool enough) but I may take a look at it from the library just because the differing opinions have piqued my interest.
I’m not a huge T.S. fan but that’s an utterly gorgeous video with the equally gorgeous Scott Eastwood in it. I also like the Ava Gardner-esque wig she’s rocking. Be warned this is a VERY controversial video choice as it’s been called out a lot for glamorizing Colonialism. Which to be fair, it does.
That was Scott Eastwood? He certainly is gorgeous. And I was thinking Elizabeth Taylor vibes but Ava Gardner works too.
He is a total babe in that film. And Taylor is something else in that orange dress!
Taylor is something else period, lol. Can you imagine having the money and power to just act out all your fantasies at will?
”You know what, I think I want to kiss Scott Eastwood as a 1950’s starlet and I want to frolic in a couture gown with a lion and a zebra. Make it happen.”
I think she’s a force for good in so many ways. #bigfan
Eh, I have mixed feelings about her. She’s probably one of the most enormously privileged people on the planet but she always seems to think of herself as a victim.
She decided to be a force for good after receiving a lot of really bad press for a lot of years. As many others have pointed out, Katy Perry was a big advocate for LGBT causes for years and years and it seems very organic with her.
Glad Taylor is finally coming out behind causes that are already very popular. I can’t help but cynically think it’s more about her wanting to be liked and revamp her image than her being truly committed.
I enjoy her music but I don’t always love her. I don’t think she deserves the wildly varying views people have, either hating her or adoring her, but she comes off time and again as extremely self centered and has a tendency to stuff her foot in her mouth.
I see her really differently!
And that’s just fine.
He’s a beautiful man for sure. He definitely makes a great “Old Hollywood” hero.
I was thinking Ava because I felt the whole video was supposed to be Mogambo inspired. Plus I just personally love Ava Gardner.
The disparity between the reviews I’ve been seeing for this are pretty interesting. Gonna eventually read the book myself and see what i think!
I can’t say I share your love for Taylor Swift videos, but it sounds like this one is a non-starter. Having read our other, more positive review, I still can’t say that it appeals at all; the heroine sounds like a drip and the hero… well, I don’t even know about him. I did enjoy THG – but maybe Ms. Thorne is, sadly, going to turn out to be a One Hit Wonder.
Funny stuff! Good work.
I read the excerpt, and while I can see the appeal of the author’s style, the heroine was too cutesy-adorkable without any sort of drive or backbone. Plus, all that equally cutesy faffing around with secondary characters made me start skimming to see if anything was going to happen. This author probably isn’t for me either.
Yeah, I’m 63 and have absolutely no interest in this book—but I don’t attribute that to my age (I do read romances with N/A-ish characters and, let’s face it, there aren’t too many romances with sixty-something protagonists—and I’m not sure I’d want to read them even if there were), but rather to Thorne’s style, which does not work for me at all. I was amazed at how popular and critically well-received Thorne’s debut, THE HATING GAME, was. To me, it felt like an office romance written by someone who had never actually worked in an office—and the MCs read like eight-graders involved in some “let’s pretend we’re adults with important jobs” cosplay. Even worse was that so many reviewers thought THG was fresh and original when Sarah Mayberry’s earlier and much better HER FAVORITE RIVAL had pretty much the same setup and plot, but featuring adults with real adult lives.
TL;DR: Sally Thorne just isn’t for me.
I adore The Hating Game.Both characters had bite which made the story sing for me. And the heroine in 99% Mine is downright unlikeable. Teddy and Ruthie are so darling, and, well, darling doesn’t do it for me. #differentstrokes
I do like some N/A but it has to have strong realistic characters who don’t whine or hector. Fantasy romance, like Holly Black’s incredible The Folk of the Air Books, often work for me. And Anne Calhoun’s Uncommon Passion and Jenny Holiday’s Famous both are N/A books on my all time favorite romances list.
I like N/A when the characters don’t “read” as N/A, if that makes sense. I read a lot of dark/mafia/mob romance and the heroines (and sometimes the heroes too) are often quite young, sometimes just on 18; but because they’ve been raised in circumstances that do not take “new” adulthood into account, they read as older.
That makes sense. I just finished Katie Roberts’ Neon Gods, coming out the first of June. It’s a very fun book and with kinda a Mafia feel if the Greek god pantheon were reimagined as the Mafia.
Robert must be one of the most prolific writers in Romancelandia. I’m reading her latest, BRODERICK, right now. It’s the second of a seven-book series that’s kinda-sorta based on Seven Brides for Seven Brothers—if everyone in SBFSB were beautiful and bi and having lots of wild sexy-times in between political machinations and dodging bullets. She’s also two books into an MMMF vampire trilogy. And also Neon Gods…and who knows what else.
She’s not normally my cuppa, but I’m a sucker for stories based on Greek/Norse/Roman mythology.
Hailey Turner’s urban fantasy Soulbound series is steeped in mythology from pantheons from all around the world – Greek, Nordic, South American, Celtic and others. The main romantic pairing is m/m, but while the romance is key to the story, the plot and action are in the forefront. I’m doing the series in audio (the narrator is fabulous) and really enjoying it.
Sounds perfect for you!
Well, yes, but I thought the mythology aspects might tempt you…
*perk* I must check out this series.
I surprised myself by actually really liking SFI. (Dabney and I are generally reading twins.) There was definitely something off about it… maybe the lack of chemistry. But there was also a lot that I enjoyed. I do think her prose is just wonderful, in a genre which tends to prioritize story over writing.
I DNF’d her second, after loving The Hating Game, and now I want to give it a second chance.
I think it’s just that I have a very low tolerance for quirky as a plot device. I do think she uses language in engaging and smart ways but the personalities in this book are just too sweetly quaint for me.
I am reminded of a card I gave to one of my best friends recently. On the outside it said, “When I first met you, I thought you were a bitch.” Inside it says, “It turns out I really like bitches.” While this does not necessarily reflect well on me, it does, I suspect, explain my lack of interest in the characters that people SFI.
I don’t remember if you read YA, but I have a book for you: In Other Lands by Sarah Rees Brennan.
It looks very interesting. Thanks for the rec!
I loved Sarah Mayberry’s Her Favorite Rival! I think it’s time fora reread.