Bromance Book Club, Book 1
Heat Factor: moderately warm
Character Chemistry: Pretty good, for a marriage in meltdown. But I liked the Bromances best.
Plot: Marriage in Trouble! Romance novels to the rescue!
Overall: It’s fun, but it’s especially great as an intro-to-romance book.
When I first saw the cover of The Bromance Book Club I thought “meh” and moved on with my life. Then I read about it, and of course the premise is pretty fantastic, and I really want there to be romance book clubs for men all over the place because that would be awesome.
This is a “seducing my spouse” romance. In real life, this couple desperately needs therapy because there are about 10,000 red flags here, but in book life I had a great time. Gavin is second baseman of the Nashville Legends, and he and Thea got married when she got pregnant after they’d been dating for three months. He immediately joined the major league baseball team and was promptly gone all the time. And the babies? Twins! Great recipe for a marriage.
Three years later, Gavin hits a grand slam home run (I know absolutely nothing about baseball), he and Thea rip each other’s clothes off when they get home, and he realizes she’s been faking orgasms since their daughters were born. Three years ago. He moves into the guest bedroom and gives Thea the silent treatment, she asks him to move out, he does, she asks for a divorce, and BAM! You’re all caught up. The rest of the story is Gavin trying to save his marriage with the help of a bunch of other high-powered Nashville men who have a secret romance novel book club.
The two aspects of this story that are central to moving it forward are the marriage in trouble and the titular bromance book club.
First, let’s talk about the book club. These guys are macho, and they use macho language and posturing quite a bit, but they are also in touch with some emotional maturity that they attribute to their “manuals.”
“Look, man,” Malcolm said, his Hulk-sized hands stroking a beard thick enough to qualify for federal forest protection. “Men are idiots. We complain that women are so mysterious and shit, and we never know what they want. We fuck up our relationships because we convince ourselves that it’s too hard to figure them out. But the real problem is with us. We think we’re not supposed to feel things and cry and express ourselves. We expect women to do all the emotional labor in a relationship and then act confused when they give up on us.”
“Romance novels are primarily written by women for women, and they’re entirely about how they want to be treated and what they want out of life and in a relationship. We read them to be more comfortable expressing ourselves and to look at things from their perspective.”
It continues with more sassy conversation that boils down to how cultural expectations affect men and women differently. To an extent, this can get preachy, especially if you’re already all in on romance. But at the same time, it puts all the reasons that romance is such an amazing thing in a wonderfully ingestible format, which is why this would be a great intro to romance book. It’s funny, accessible, and it gets its point across. Bing, bang, boom. The only thing I didn’t love about it was that the “excerpted” romance novel they were reading – that mirrored Gavin’s life, obvi – was written with a bit of dramatic flourish, which I didn’t feel presented historical romance terribly well. It is hard to have half a story within a story, so I didn’t get hung up on it, and I’m glad the quantity of Gavin’s smut excerpted got smaller as his own story progressed.
The men are supportive of each other, they debate topics (my favorite is when they play The Little Mermaid for their kids in Chapter 17), they’re great friends. When Gavin calls an emergency meeting of the book club, everybody heads to his house that night. Even with a little rivalry and machismo, these relationships are so positive that it might be the best part of the book. Which is good, since it’s the thread that links the series together.
Then there’s the romance, which is what we’re all here for, right? My biggest hangup with this relationship was that this couple went from discovery of dirty little secret that shows a crack in the relationship to Thea asking for a divorce. In my opinion, the problem wasn’t a dealbreaker (like “surprise, I’m actually a serial killer” would be), so Gavin going from realizing that his marriage isn’t as good as he thought to divorce in less than a month is bonkers. This couple needs therapy like whoa, is what they need, but in Romancelandia the therapy is the book club so we all just have to be willing to let that go, I guess.
Also, Thea’s sister, Liv, is waaaaaaaaaay too involved in her marriage, and not in a good way. I get that the default in this scenario in most storytelling goes something like, “Gurl, your version is obviously the only truth, and because I support you, please just let me know where you want me to bury the body,” but that makes me crazy because not having people call you on your bullshit is not helpful. Gavin is trying really hard to make up for his mistake when the original fight happened and also tackle big problems in his marriage, and Liv undercuts him every chance she gets. AND Thea is agreeing to work with Gavin (more or less, depending on the situation), and Liv doesn’t support her because she’s just totally invested in Gavin being a terrible human being. Objectively, he is not. He’s a flawed human.
Marriage in trouble is not usually my go-to because I typically have trouble either believing that the problem can be overcome or that the problem was reasonable in the first place. In this case, I’d lean toward the latter objection, but it is what it is, so then the question is how well Adams makes the fix believable. There’s a forced proximity aspect where Gavin convinces Thea to let him move back into their house, but she limits it to being done by Christmas, which is a ridiculously short time to actually fix a relationship, given that this all starts right before Thanksgiving. Adams’s development of the relationship getting back to good was a lovely progression from mistrust to remembering why they fell in love in the first place. Yet, most of the way, Thea is actively opposed to fixing her marriage, which is another issue I have with the marriage in trouble, because if you’re unwilling to try, it’s actually pretty unlikely that you’re going to save your marriage. Like I said, the progression was good, but it went from “I want nothing to do with you” to an absolutely epic scene at a party where Thea’s clearly changed her mind in no time flat. It was a fun read, but all this nonsense was the reason I enjoyed the bromance more than the relationship between Thea and Gavin.
Buy Now: Amazon
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