The Worst Guy

Grade : B
Reviewed by Dabney Grinnan
Grade : B
Book type : Contemporary Romance
Sensuality : Warm
Review Date : March 2, 2022
Published On : 12/2021

The heroine of The Worst Guy is a plastic surgeon at a teaching hospital with a practice of reconstructive rather than aesthetic cases. My husband is a plastic surgeon who, for the first twenty years of his career was… at a teaching hospital and whose practice was half reconstructive/half aesthetic cases. I have lived academic plastic surgery. And this book… well, it gets about half of it right. This made me mildly crazy. But, that’s just me. Thus, I will–for this review–forget everything I know about the real world of plastic surgery and teaching medical surgical departments.

So….

Sara Shapiro, at thirty-nine, knows her shit. She’s a plastic surgeon at a busy hospital in Boston. (She, by the way, is the good kind of plastic surgeon–she doesn’t do any cosmetic work, only burns and reconstructive work.) As the book begins she is incensed. One of the ER surgeons, the absurdly hot and famously rude Sebastian Stremmel, has STAPLED a patient’s face. (Staples are used in many cases to close wounds–they’re faster than sutures and tend to have a lower complication rate. No surgeon would ever use them to close a facial wound. Whoops! Forget I mentioned it.)

Sara storms into the ER exam room where Sebastian is doing his charts and, in the confrontation, they manage to destroy the room. This doesn’t go over well with the hospital’s Chief of Surgery who–not going to say a word about the utter absurdity of this–commands Sara and Sebastian to complete eight hours of conflict resolution therapy. Both Sara and Sebastian are horrified by this. Not because they’d have to completely upend their surgical schedules but because they fucking do not want to fucking waste their time in such a useless endeavor with someone they can’t stand to be around.

It will shock absolutely no one that underneath all of Sara’s and Sebastian’s sniping burns a fierce attraction. They’re both perfectionists.  Sara’s drive has left her with serious digestive problems and Sebastian uses work to escape emotions. They’re ambitious, attractive, brilliant, and live in the same brownstone. It’s kismet or at least very obvious that they make a damn sensible and sexy pair. And by the evening after their second session with the insightful hospital therapist, Sebastian’s pushed Sara up against the door to her apartment (she’s on the first floor, he’s on the third), and the two have embarked on a very hot affair.

I love Sara and Sebastian–the book is a dual first person narrative–and their distinct voices. Canterbary writes how surgeons talk. The two have a friend group–they all have their own books–made up of surgeons and their spouses and to a person the MDs and their smart and snarky partners are perfectly limned. I could listen to any of them needle each other all day long.

Sara grew up as the only daughter of a morally bankrupt plastic surgeon, one who makes bazillion of dollars making women and men look like Barbie and Ken. He sneers at her academic work and uses his (unbelievable) influence over her chair and others in the field to unsettle her–he wants her to come and join his group of West Coast aesthetic clinics. Sara isn’t tempted. She’s a medical rock star; double boarded in both general surgery (I think. It wasn’t quite clear.) and in plastics–one of less than 2000 such women in the USA–a great teacher, and a compassionate caregiver. She works to silence the good girl pleaser in her and to listen to her savage-hearted bitch. She loves her work and her friends. She sure as hell isn’t interested in getting sucked into a professionally risky and emotionally chaotic relationship with a grump who rarely speaks and whose glare is famous throughout their world.

There’s no way, however once Sebastian treats her to the wonders of his body, she can stay away. And why would she? Sebastian is fabulous. He’s hilarious, inventive, and understands her. He’s single at forty-two and also loves his job and his friends although he’d never admit to the latter. He gives Sarah what she needs in bed and lets her push him away as soon as she’s come even as he knows they could be so much more than just incendiary lovers. He is the BEST.

As much as I liked Sebastian and Sara as individuals, I struggled a bit with them as a couple. They have the hot sex thing down but they don’t communicate well with each other and, over the 300 pages it takes from them to go from fuck buddies to an HEA, I grew impatient with their obdurate animosity. Canterbary does a good job of explaining why her lovers find it so hard to connect but she does it again and again. I was ready for better sooner.

I enjoyed The Worst Guy. The writing is deft, funny, and detailed in wonderful ways. Even though I struggled with her depiction of a surgical department, I found the world Canterbury created vivid–her Boston is Boston and each environment she writes is easy to imagine. This is a very sexy book and we all know how down I am for that. I’ve already begun reading Preservation, Alex’s story–she’s Sara’s best friend. It’s making me smile–I clearly have a thing for brilliant, profane, funny surgeons. The Worst Guy gets a B from me.

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Dabney Grinnan

Impenitent social media enthusiast. Relational trend spotter. Enjoys both carpe diem and the fish of the day. Publisher at AAR.
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