Wooing Cadie McCaffrey
Bethany Turner’s début, Wooing Cadie McCaffrey, is the story of two colleagues who fall in love and have to deal with the consequences when that love dents their principles. What begins as a light-hearted, funny, and touching faith-based colleagues-to-lovers romance becomes unfortunately bogged down in self-recrimination and is burdened with a heroine who is ultra-tough on both herself and the hero.
Accountant Cadie McCaffrey tries to be realistic about romance. She’s accepted that, as she hits her thirties, the likelihood she’ll find a sweeping, pulse-racing romance of the sort she idolizes in the romantic dramas she loves is unlikely. So she busies herself by working for the American Sports Network, which is where she meets Will Whitaker – and all the rules seem to turn upside-down.
They meet-cute in an unusual way – he stumbles into her office during a gag birthday party and when she’s stuck with the oversized cake her colleagues have gotten her, tries to help her blow out the melting trick candles before they ruin it. Will is there to interview for a spot as a research assistant on the Daily Dribble, the ASN basketball program, and risks dyed-black-by-frosting-teeth to ask Cadie out on a date.
Four years later they’re in a happy relationship, but Will still hasn’t popped the question due to job insecurity, and Cadie is anxious – especially since she’s chosen to wait until marriage to have sex and they’re having a hard time stopping themselves from ‘crossing the line’. But then a make-up/celebratory date results in a condom-free night of passion, and a pregnancy scare after which Cadie avoids Will for weeks.
Little does Cadie know, Will is rather distracted himself. He’s within inches of breaking a major doping scandal, and his career hinges on the story’s accuracy. When he realizes that his hyper focus on his job has resulted in Cadie losing faith in him, he vows to convince her to marry him – but before he can do so, she breaks up with him. Will decides that the best thing to do is emulate those romantic movies Cadie loves and try to woo her, step by step, back to his side. He enlists the help of her best friend, Darby, and Cadie’s boss, Kevin, and goes about trying to bring her deepest romantic fantasies to life, but sometimes the best love stories are the ones you don’t plan out ahead of time.
Wooing Cadie McCaffrey has a lot of memorable, touching moments, but sometimes it gets sticky with its romance and its translation of Catholic dogma.
The leads are a mixed bag. Cadie had some tendencies that annoyed me; for instance, her reaction to going ‘too far’ with her boyfriend is to run into the bathroom and cry. Cadie is thirty-four, dear reader, and although acts of premarital sex bring her to the brink of prayer-laden hysteria, she keeps engaging in them, then avoids Will and gets upset when he doesn’t want to be near her. She thinks Will doesn’t love her enough – to stop (during sex), to marry her, to notice who she is as a person – and gets upset when he begins to form friendships with other women after she rejects him three times in a row. The man’s dated you for four years and gone home to cold showers every time except once, Cadie, I think he loves you as much as you love him. She’s the reason I can’t rate the book more highly.
Yet it’s hard to hate her when you see the world from which she’s sprung. A lot of Cadie’s baggage is beautifully explained through her father, a kind megachruch pastor who respects her independence, and her mother – who is basically a blunter Tammy Faye Bakker and hosts a not-quite-TBN style talk show with topics like “Rahab and Mary Magdalene – Finding the Harlot in YOU!”. That they keep refusing Will’s attempts to get their permission to marry Cadie also says a lot.
Meanwhile, Will is your average, amiable meat-headed dude; he wants to do well by Cadie and he wants to make her happy, but his problem is he’s bad at applying original thought to the situation. The guy does try his hardest, which counts for a lot – though joke-proposing to her with an empty box because her parents wouldn’t give them his blessing was not the best move, but it’s a bad move that he recognizes as bad so I can’t be too hard on him. I did like it when he deconstructed the stalkerish tropes of some of those romantic movies Cadie liked.
As the book notes, Cadie and Will have a severe problem communicating. All of the conflict in the early part of the story could’ve been wiped away had he explained to her earlier that there was something important he had to shepherd into being. While there are moments of sweeping, irresistible romance where his kindness and attention to detail make the prose sing, at others, the author points out that hey – Will’s applying band-aids to bullet holes when it comes to their actual problems. The book doesn’t let him off easy for that. Eventually, they get it.
WCM also isn’t shy about going all in and exploring the difficulties of grappling with Catholic dogma, even though it doesn’t question it. Some readers are going to also fight with the way it talks about sex – at one point Cadie calls having premarital sex with a loving partner whom she’s in love with as a “two person sin” and begs Will to beg God for forgiveness for it. Watching her torture herself over their one night of happiness made me pity her, pity them both. I wanted to take her hand and tell her that Jesus ministered to prostitutes and lepers – he’ll forgive you for one premarital orgasm.
Your enjoyment of Wooing Cadie McCaffrey will depend on how closely you cling to traditional values. It alternates between being charming and irritating, but its heroine keeps it well out of the reach of a recommendation.