Humor is a very subjective thing. What I find absolutely hilarious, you may find downright boring, and vice versa. So, even though The Misconception is billed as a romantic comedy by its author, my observations on the humor aspect will be brief. Some of it worked for me, some didn’t. The rest of the book was much the same. Some of it, such as the secondary couple, really worked. Some of it, such as the heroine, really didn’t.
Marietta Dalrymple is an evolutionary scientist, with some rather revolutionary views on love, marriage and procreation. Based on both her personal experience and her research, she has come to the conclusion that love does not exist, that men cannot be faithful, and therefore, that marriage is a foolhardy enterprise. However, since she wants a child, but doesn’t want to let some irresponsible man interfere with the raising of it, she needs an independent contractor instead of a husband – a sperm supplier, as she refers to him. So she contracts with a service that specializes in this area for a supplier with the correct intelligence and health credentials. Sight unseen, she comes to an agreement with a man named Harold McGinty. The gorgeous physical specimen who shows up at the airport, however, is far from what she expected. Now she just has to go through with her plans.
Cash “Jax” Jackson is on his way to Washington, D.C. for a business venture when he runs into his old high school buddy Harold McGinty at the airport. It seems Harold was on his way to D.C. to meet a woman for “a blind date – sort of,” but has chickened out. Jax’s gallant nature balks at the idea of standing up a woman, so he volunteers to deliver the message that Harold won’t be able to make it. Somehow, when he gets to D.C. and meets the unattractive yet somehow compelling “Rhea,” he finds himself delivering more than a message. Expecting to stand in for Harold as a date, he finds himself whisked unceremoniously to a hotel room for some rather incredible sex. When he returns to the hotel after his business meeting to find both Rhea gone and an envelope containing $500, he begins to get suspicious. But it’s not until months later when he gets a call from old Harold – who’s received a sizable check of his own – that he gets downright furious. As a boy who grew up without a father, he’s not about to inflict the same pain on his own child, no matter what the mother has to say about it.
Jax is a nice guy. He supports his mom and two brothers, and he wants to be great dad. He’s gorgeous, accommodating, and incredibly patient. In other words, with the exception of his habit of telling extraordinarily bad jokes, he’s essentially perfect. (And even the jokes have their charm.) But the problem with perfection is that it’s a little hard to believe. In addition, he’s attracted to Marietta – very much so, in fact. Now, don’t get me wrong, that she’s described as unattractive is not the only reason that I find this hard to stomach. It’s the fact that even though she has no redeeming qualities and treats him like crap, he still finds her irresistible. There’s a word for that…and it’s not “hero.”
Marietta is unpleasant. Difficult. No sense of humor. A complete female chauvinist pig. Also, she’s given to trying to control her sister’s life, and has no belief whatsoever in love. Perhaps not really heroine material, you ask? Well, you may have a point. But we’re stuck with her. And that’s basically my main problem with this book. You can sympathize with her at times – after all, there are reasons she’s come up with her obnoxious ideas about love and men – but sympathizing isn’t the same as liking. I’d be hard pressed to believe a cat or dog could put up with Marietta. The idea that both her sister Tracy, and the ultra-perfect Jax find her wonderful is more than I can imagine. And the realization that we readers have to put up with her for a full 300+ pages is simply unbearable.
There are a few characters likable and believable characters, however. Marietta’s sister Tracy and her soon-to-be-ex-husband Ryan are both great characters with realistic problems and lives. They love each other like crazy, but trust issues and Marietta’s interference have driven them apart after only fourteen months of marital bliss. Theirs is the real romance in this book, as they learn to take back their lives and trust each other again. And they are the bright spot in this very uneven book that tries for both humor and romance, and, aside from Tracy and Ryan, usually fails at both.
Since the plot and characters and just about everything else in this book revolves around humor, it has to be discussed. There are some things I found very funny, a few witty exchanges that made me crack up, and a few of Jax’s ultra-horrible jokes that made me groan. But there were also attempts at slapstick that didn’t always transfer well to the written word. In addition, there was a lot of what I term “embarrassment humor,” often found in sitcoms. I can only define it as “scenes meant to be funny that make me want to leave the room.” Obviously, this type of humor really works well for a lot of people, or it wouldn’t be used so often on TV. But for the rest of us, well, it’s hard to leave the room when you’re reading a book, at least without missing anything important. All of these situations may well work better for you than they did for me, however. Just be warned that the humor is varied and I’m not sure how good the chances are that all of it will work for any one person.
Another problem for me is that a lot of the plot was very contrived. Marietta, the ultimate scientist with a very low opinion of sex, refuses to be artificially inseminated, with the flimsy excuse that it might not be as successful. Instead of receiving an insemination that may, horror of horrors, not work the first time, she is much more interested in having sex as many times as possible with a complete stranger. Also, the idea that Jax would ever just decide, on the spur of the moment, to pose as his friend and then go through with it to the point of sleeping with Marietta five times without telling her who he is unlikely. There are also issues with Jax’s mysterious “business,” but we won’t go into that for spoiler reasons. Suffice it to say, the skeptic in you will most likely be roused by a couple of aspects.
All in all, there were quite a few things to like in this book – Ryan and Tracy, Jax, and, some of the humor. But between Marietta’s personality issues, the rest of the humor, and the contrived nature of the plot, I can’t – quite – give Misconception a recommendation. I will be very interested to see how Ms. Gardner’s future work turns out, however, as there is much here to give me hope.