The new Abby Abernathy is a good girl. She doesn’t drink or swear, and she has the appropriate percentage of cardigans in her wardrobe. Abby believes she has enough distance between her and the darkness of her past, but when she arrives at college with her best friend, her path to a new beginning is quickly challenged by Eastern University's Walking One-Night Stand.
Travis Maddox, lean, cut, and covered in tattoos, is exactly what Abby needs—and wants—to avoid. He spends his nights winning money in a floating fight ring, and his days as the ultimate college campus charmer. Intrigued by Abby’s resistance to his appeal, Travis tricks her into his daily life with a simple bet. If he loses, he must remain abstinent for a month. If Abby loses, she must live in Travis’s apartment for the same amount of time. Either way, Travis has no idea that he has met his match.
At the end of July or early August sometime, I caught a tweet about this book that sparked my interest and lead me to a first chapter preview. I liked the fight club twist on the love interest, and I stored it in the back of my mind as one of those books to keep my eye out for. So while the hubby was away last week I found myself in Chapters looking for a treat and thought, hey, isn't that book out? I looked all over the teen section and couldn't find it, so I searched it on the computers....and found out it was in the Romance section. Hmph. I've never bought anything in the Romance section, I spent years mocking my mother and my grandmother for their romance addictions. My grandma loved a nice chaste- they kiss/get married at the end type of Harlequin and my mom liked the super steamy bodice rippers (she usually had two-four going at a time, presumably so there was always a sex scene happening). But I was home alone, and nobody need know I was doing it, plus look at that cover, totally incognito. So I bought it with the enormous fall issue of Vogue and called it a girly shopping trip and went home (though I stopped at Canadian Tire on the way just to balance things out a little, I had been eating a lot of cupcakes and looking at a lot of photos of Sean O'Pry online after all).
The very next day I got called out by a Walk-In-Clinic doctor. Seriously. HOW embarrassing. Even more embarrassing then the fact I was being diagnosed with Shingles. Again. He took one look at me sitting there reading and said "Good book?", to which I responded, "Not bad. Kind of fluffy.", to which he responded "Have you read 50 Shades of Grey?". Yup. Just like that. So much for not being caught reading a romance.
Now keep in mind, I've never read an adult romance book before. So my comments might be a little like frowning at an escalator and proclaiming, in a grumpy tone, "Look! Those stairs are moving!". Feel free to complain about my lack of perspective in the comments. Make sure to shout about what I should be reading from the romance section. Then next time I'll have a legitimate excuse to visit the section.
Beautiful Disaster, the title, is supposed to be a reference to Travis and Abby's relationship. I'm not so sold on the beautiful part, but disaster is about as apt as they come. For starters, they're both ridiculously young. Abby turns 19 part way through the book, and although they never mention how old Travis is, the running assumption seems to be about 20-21. So 90% of their ridiculousness can, and will be, easily attributed to their age, until, of course (SPOILER ALERT!!) they run away and get married. Sigh. But they are disastrous and toxic in many, many ways that can't simply be explained away by immaturity.
For instance. They both get trashed on a number of occasions (who doesn't in university?), but there are definite hints of an issue by how often Travis doesn't remember anything that happened the night before. Especially the time he brings home two girls and has sex with them both, but doesn't remember until he sees two condom wrappers lying on his living room floor. Also, ew. Which brings me to the whole man-whore thing. I guess it was supposed to be romantic how Abby was going to magically convert him from slut to boyfriend, but I did not find the unkind way he treated all his one night stands, or the fact he only had sex with them on the sofa (not his bed, so Abby should feel privileged to sleep in his bed?), even remotely attractive. I would absolutely never sit on that sofa, for starters.
And while on that topic, Travis's insane jealousy over Abby so much as kissing another guy, when he was busy having three ways in the same apartment with her, and then crawling into bed with her, was beyond hypocritical and controlling and just plain disgusting. Again, who would want to sit on that sofa??! I know I'm harping but I mean seriously, even his roommate has to have reservations about having a man-whore roommate who will only do the nasty on the shared living room sofa. I'm just saying, the big romantic gesture of buying a new couch, came way too late in my books.
I won't even bother going into the disturbing hints at an all too violent personality when Travis gets upset. But while on the topic, I do want to point out two obnoxious story holes. The first is when Abby asks where he learned to fight like he does his response is:
"I had a dad with a drinking problem and a bad temper, and four older brothers that carried the asshole gene...Don't be embarrassed, Pidge. Dad quit drinking, the brothers grew up."Two things irritated me about this. One, anybody who had that kind of background and was so blunt about it in passing conversation, would likely be aware enough of it to see it in his own actions. Except there is never really an acknowledgment that he's violent (he does say at one point he would stop drinking if she would date him, but not that he had a problem). Two, later in the story we see that he's super close to his dad and all his brothers, and they play an important part of his life. Which brings me back to point number one, I'm guessing sober dad and grown up brothers would point out to him, geez, you have some issues.
The second story hole that really bugged me throughout? Travis is described as "unbeatable", "rumoured to be the most lethal competitor" in the underground fighting circuit, with "lean muscles", and "a set of finely chiseled abs", but not once in the whole 416 pages, and almost a full university term, does he go to a gym, do a push up, or practice in any way shape or form. I'm sorry, but there is no such thing as any kind of athlete, who is the top of their game without doing a thing to earn it, but fight with his brothers when he was younger. And while on the topic, there is also no such thing as a human being with a finely toned body, of any type, who doesn't have to actively work on achieving and keeping it that way. Let's face it ladies, you want a boy with a bod, you have to be uber tolerant of gym visits, protein diets and the likes.
Although there were easily 100 other things that bugged me about this story, the only other one I can be bothered to say anything about is the poor puppy. Honest to god, talk about a throw away character! Travis buys Abby a puppy for her birthday (believe it or not, not even the most outrageous gift she gets, insert eye roll here), because every 19 year old, living in a dorm, needs a puppy. Obviously. Anyhoots, after it's presented to her, the poor little bugger is quickly ignored, only to crop up as the occasional inconvenience. McGuire presents the dog in exactly the way every rescue group and humane society on the planet has lobbied long and hard to persuade people from thinking of animals. They are not things, like a bracelet or a book, they are living, breathing creatures that demand a level of commitment from anyone thinking of adding them to their lives. Abbeys and Travis's everywhere should seriously reconsider adding a puppy to their f'ed up lives.
Beautiful Disaster was drama, drama, drama, semi-torrid sex scene (so not torrid enough to warrant all the drama I had to plough through to get there) and ten times more drama. I will grant McGuire this though, I read the whole damn thing. Every page of it. It was awful, but the good kind where you feel outraged and enjoy it. Not so good that I didn't loudly groan when I found out she has rewritten the book from Travis's point of view, but I won't lie, come next spring I might have had enough time to actually consider reading it. If nothing else it made me imminently thankful I was never that screwed up, or in a relationship that screwed up. Yay me!
Beautiful Disaster, by Jamie McGuire
Published by Atria, August 14th, 2012