The Shape of You
Crafter Spencer Thompson and lawyer Marti Thomas are preparing for their nuptials. All registered and ready to go, Marti signs Spencer up to attend a Be Your Best Bride physical fitness class, run by Kara Laughlin. It promises to get the person who takes it in shape in seven weeks of cardio, yoga, and weight training. Spencer is terrified of the class – and already having doubts about her marriage to Marti, who’s self-involved and less than attentive – but she wants to please Marti, so she goes.
Meanwhile, Rebecca McCall finds herself called in to replace Kara when Kara comes down with mono and can’t teach. Rebecca was initially reluctant to take over the class, as her approach to fitness is rather different from Kara’s – more realistic, more positive and less drill instructor-like. Exercise is important to her as a life tool, and she doesn’t like the idea of anyone treating it in such a light manner. She chooses to change Kara’s lesson plan accordingly.
Rebecca is horrified by Spencer’s willingness to change her body for Marti, which makes Rebecca stand-offish. The two of them spar until Spencer pushes back, which results in a kiss – which has Spencer tempted to take things further. Will she remain true to her fiancée or will she and Rebecca plunge into true love.
The Shape of You had me torn. Great writing is used in service of some pretty irritating characters, and a romance that’s rife with infidelity.
Part of me liked Rebecca, her love of reading, her cat – named Verruca Salt – but she spends too much time pushing Spencer away, unsure if she wants to embark on a romance. Rebecca only seems to react when Spencer gets mean with her, proving she has a ‘spine’ – which is no better than Marti saying she likes her softer, weaker. Rebecca knows Spencer is off-limits and thus refuses to make a move, until the electricity of their first kiss forces her to it.
Spencer is painfully wishy-washy, a doormat who puts up with too much BS, until Rebecca challenges her to emerge from her shell. The sculpting of her body through working out with Rebecca changes into a tougher person, but I would’ve liked to see her be changed into a more forthright one. Even during the break-up scene, it’s Marti who fills in all of Spencer’s blanks.
Rebecca and Spencer’s relationship is pretty push/pull, hot/cold, and for much of the book they’re stuck in a pattern of fuming at one another, followed by sex. They have more in common than Marti and Spencer, and clearly are better suited to one another on several levels, but they very rarely manage to excite.
The biggest problem with the book that its main relationship is predicated on infidelity. Marti and Spencer never talk about their differing expectations in the romance department; Marti is self-centered, and her passive-aggressive rudeness about Spencer’s body is terrible, but Spencer is too much of a waffler – she never tells Marti that this is bothering her, never says that Marti’s small romantic gestures aren’t big enough (and some of those gestures frankly are nice – at one point Spencer is melancholy because Marti puts a blanket over her and shuts off the light when she falls asleep on the couch instead of waking her up and helping her to bed). Instead, she and Rebecca fall into a sexual relationship, and that sexual relationship becomes complicated. If Spencer and Rebecca had fallen in love after Marti and Spencer had broken their engagement, it would have felt more natural and less worrisome. But Marti isn’t drawn well enough to be a full-blooded character in her own right; she’s a smug, smarmy road bump; she might as well have been named ‘obstacle number one.’ The book doesn’t even really bother to have Spencer be properly conflicted; Rebecca is so clearly the proper choice, with no narrative wiggle room left behind.
What works for the book? Well, I liked all of the friendships Spencer formed during the bride boot-camp and I REALLY liked the way Marti and Spencer deal with the events that take place at the end of the story. But it’s hard to get one hundred percent behind a romance that begins with cheating. Georgia Beers is a massive talent and I’ve enjoyed her other books, but this one didn’t do it for me.