The Bromance Book Club: Regency romance, humour, and well, the importance of backstory

The Bromance Book Club is a perfect mix of humour and heart and I loved it -- the first 23 chapters at least. Then chapter 24 happened.

What is this about?: This is a funny and heartfelt exploration of how Gavin attempts to win his wife back, and confronts his own issues via reading, underlining and highlighting regency romances — to which he was introduced by the unofficial book club that exists in his baseball team. All who attend have had marriage troubles, and regencies helped them learn to understand their significant others.

What else is this about?: It’s an exploration of a marriage that is crumpling under the pressures of a high profile baseball career, and how much Gavin takes for granted in their marriage. But it stumbles massively for me in the last third.

Blurb

The first rule of book club:
You don’t talk about book club.

Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.

Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.

Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.

For the first two-thirds of the book, I think The Bromance Book Club is kind of perfect.

I’m not even kidding. Perfect. It’s is ridiculously funny and heartfelt, but underneath is a relationship that is floundering and Gavin’s determination to win his wife back is yes, trope-y, but I can’t help falling in love with his attempts to understand women, read regency novels and win Thea back.

So enough gushing, let me explain why I liked this book

When Thea asks for a divorce, Gavin is blindsided. Never mind after the revelation that she has never orgasmed with him during their marriage, Gavin retreats from her to the guest room to lick his wounds, but never actually tells her what he wants or thinks. Thea, left with nothing from him to understand what he’s going through thinks their marriage is over and asks for a divorce.

In steps the Bromance Book Club… and well, it’s actually kind of a big book club. They are all baseball players, businessmen … the type of men who people would assume to go straight to divorce, rather than expect any of them to work very hard to understand why their relationships are fracturing and how they can put them back together. They’re the definition of macho men, I guess, and they don’t go to book club.

Despite a whole heap of reservations, Gavin starts to read and from there, he starts to have an English accented Duke in his head, swearing at him like only an 18th Century Duke can when he acts like an ass.

And little by little, as much as Gavin resents reading the book, he continues reading because he doesn’t want to lose Thea and he’ll do anything to fix them. He doesn’t quite expect that bit by bit, with the support of the Duke in his head, he begins to reach her.

So why are they living together? She asks him to pay off their house so their girls will have some consistency in their life after their divorce, and Gavin agrees, but only if she lets him move back in and try to win her back — until Christmas, which is their D-Day.

The addition of his conditions to their deal is understandable, but that one of them is a goodnight kiss when she is asking for a divorce really was… not good for me. It’s not about whether she wants to kiss him or not, it’s that he wants a kiss, so she has to allow it to ensure his girls continue to have a home.

I will admit, things in my head got a wee bit too realistic to be reading this and enjoying that part. I know in the book, Thea loves him still, but that sort of forced physical contact really didn’t well with me. I managed to push it to the back of my mind, that is until chapter 24.

So what happened in chapter 24?

For me, the blurb gave me the impression that Gavin is the one who let his pride get the better of him, and there was going to be a lot of wooing involved to get Thea back, to understand her so that when they do have sex again, he knows what she likes in bed to give her the Big O.

In chapter 24 however, the narrative flips, and suddenly Thea has issues that prevent her from achieving the Big O with him, so really it’s all her fault because she has issues. Thus Gavin really does remain the ~man~ in bed.

Which pretty much goes against everything I took from the first 23 chapters of this book. I liked that Gavin wanted to be better for his wife, he wanted to learn who she is again. I enjoyed those parts more than the sex to be honest. Gavin and Thea are, for 23 chapters, a breath for of wonderful fresh air, and I couldn’t wait to get back to this book each time real life interrupted my reading.

Not to mention, for a book where Gavin is told over and over to learn more about his wife, about her backstory, there’s very little time devoted to Thea understanding her own backstory — especially as at chapter 24, when the story suddenly flips to Thea’s issues being the reason she doesn’t orgasm.

What am I missing?

Where are all her issues/ backstory mentioned in the blurb?

Or the first 24 chapters of this book? The hints, the vague conversations and the like are nowhere nearly enough to give Thea the backstory she needs for everything after this chapter to make sense.

It’s like after this chapter, a decision was made her character needed to be developed more, except there are 23 chapters before that which needed more, without it all being shoved in the end of the book.

Whether the narrative had gone for Gavin doing all the wooing and Thea seeing how much he is trying OR Thea and Gavin both admitting their issues/ their backstories were now affecting their marriage and their sex life – I would have loved this for it’s humour, for its lovely characters and a bunch of big burly baseball players who played dress-up with their daughters and then talked regency romance afterward.

And the thing is, her sister Liv lives with her. That right there is an opportunity to explore her past, their own relationship and their issues (which again come up out of the blue later), but all of this doesn’t get anywhere near the care it deserves for the turn the narrative took in the latter third.

 I don’t need to know about Gavin’s parents, who appear via phone call, but I do need to know a whole lot more about Thea’s parents — her mum who never appears, and her father who appears at the end for not even a handful of pages.

I feel like I may not read enough of books like this to understand this flip. So if you have read this book and disagree, please let me know.

3 Comments

  • Sam@wlabb says:

    I never thought of it like that, but I can totally understand how the “flip” could mar this story for you. I liked that this road back to each other required introspection by both Gavin and Thea. To me, it meant there were no villains in this tale, you know? I was happy to see them both come to terms with their issues, unpack their baggage, and look towards the future.

  • Jen Mullen says:

    Another one to add to my list. It is discouraging to know that I can’t live long enough to read all the books on the list, but I take pleasure in adding each new title!

  • Angela says:

    I really liked this book and thought the premise was genius. I really disliked Thea for most of the book, though, and felt it took her way too long to admit to her role in their issues.

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