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Book Review: Bend the Rules (Part One)

Updated: Jan 17


One of our readers put this book on our radar. The reader wanted to know if it was as bad as they thought it was.

I’m here to tell that reader they were wrong. It wasn’t that bad.

It was worse.

So strap yourselves in this is going to be a long review. And it will likely take up more than one post.

But people seem to like to hear me rant, and, oh boy, do I have a lot to rant about.

Let’s get started.

Mary Holmes had the perfect life. She had the perfect job. The perfect fiance. The perfect apartment. And she was about to have the perfect wedding. Then her perfect life became decidedly less perfect. One mess up and one prison sentence later, she’s barely making ends meet and working for the only place that will hire an ex-con accountant: Vetruvious Security.

Crash Coolidge hated his life, but he loves his sister. So when her new boyfriend asks him to help investigate a string of hijacked trucks. He slips on his biker jacket and into Mary’s well-ordered life.

Now they’re after a gang of cargo thieves who aren’t afraid to kill to protect their income. And getting in deep into each other’s lives.

Oh and there’s a dog. And a supermodel. And a tech guru who speaks Klingon. Because of course there is.

I feel that the above gif should be like half of the book’s characterization. While the other half is filled with problematic tropes and body shaming.

Yeah. It’s that kind of book. As I read, I made notes and you get to get my goodreads notes as my sometime commentary.

Where to start.

Gods. How about with Mary’s introduction.

When we first meet her, we get that she’s down trodden. Life has happened to her. She was left at the altar by her jerk fiance (her internal monologue… not my impression.) Her life is horrible.

Here’s how she describes it and my reaction.

Yep… get used to the fat-shaming. I’m not kidding when Mary’s weight gets brought up about once every two pages or so. And not just by her. If she were a victim of society’s cult of thinness that would be one thing, but several other characters call her fat. And she calls other characters fat and shows them as being ashamed of their weight.

The poverty shaming is just as bad.

Then there’s the classism and racism. FYI “hoods” is generally used to refer to young Black men in a derogatory fashion.

I’m not even at the two percent mark and already I dislike Mary so very much.

See?

Here’s the thing. The author is trying to give us character voice, characterization, local color, backstory, and the hook all through what could be considered a comedic lens. The problem (other than we’re getting a character wakes up and gets ready for the day cliche) is that the tongue-in-cheek lighthearted voice is getting lost in the fact that Mary is not a nice, kind, or good character. The author wants her to be. But she isn’t. She’s elitist, snobbish, classist, and a pain-in-the-ass. And I’m not saying that because she’s female. She’s like a female Draco Malfoy without Tom Felton’s charm. And unfortunately, she doesn’t get Malfoy’s redemption arc.

But I’m getting ahead of myself.

So where was I?

Oh yeah. Mary.

She’s not just elitist… she’s a busybody… sticking her nose into other people’s business and deciding that she knows what’s best for everyone.

See what I mean?

This whole trash policing reminds me of a story that my friend Kayt told of when she first moved into her own apartment in Japan. That she’d separate her trash out and take it out on the set days. But that these old women didn’t trust her, so she’d set her trash down and turn to go back to her apartment when a group of the old women would descend to go through her trash to make sure she was throwing things out correctly. She called them the Trash Jawas… and now that’s the way I visualize Mary.

Random tangent, but please bear this in mind when we get to the sex later. I’m literally picturing the John Cena-esque biker boinking a Jawa. It’s an amusing picture.

Mary gets to work and goes into a meeting with her boss – Big Mike and Rocco Neri. Who she describes thusly…

Yeah… I really really hate Mary.

Thankfully it’s now time to be introduced to our MMC, Crash Coolidge.

He’s rude. Crude. And pretty much the perfect stereotypical bad boy alpha male that you see so often in romance.

  • Tall - Check

  • Muscular - Check

  • Tattooed - Check

  • Growly Voice - Check

  • Chiseled Jaw - Check

  • Tortured Past - Check

  • Military Past - Check

  • Criminal Past - Check

  • Crude - Check

  • Promiscuous - Check

  • Misogynist - Check


And of course there’s an instant attraction between Crash and Mary, because of course there is.

Cue me trying really damned hard not to roll my eyes so hard that they fall out.

There’s some banter… or what passes as banter in this book.

And there’s some what I like to call stuff that people think is sexy because Hollywood and male-written stories have told us that it’s sexy, but honestly really isn’t. Things like invading personal space. Objectifying. Minimizing a woman’s achievements.

Have a taste…

Look… we’re not even at the 10% mark. And already I want sit down with this author and have a discussion about body-shaming and how damaging it is. How perpetuating stereotypes like this is damaging. How doing stuff like this in the era of me too isn’t good.

The thing is, at this point, I’m actually interested in the truck hijacking plot and wished this was more the Accountant than this… which BTW… There’s a lot of similarities between the Accountant and this… not enough to be plagiarism. But several of the beats are straight out of that film.

They start investigating… and well… I’d say it was interesting. But I’m not joking when I say that about every other page there’s either misogyny, fat-shaming, or classism.

See…

They talk to one of the hijacked drivers and Crash cements himself as an alpha asshole by assaulting and further traumatizing the poor man. Then they head out to investigate a local truck stop where they think they might have a lead… or something like that.

Yep… we have the “I must kiss you to keep you quiet” cliche. And here’s a pro-tip for all you writers out there. This is sexual assault. If you don’t have permission to kiss someone, it’s not okay.

I know there’s this whole debate out there about Sleeping Beauty and Political Correctness – which is really just a shitty way of saying respectfulness – but in Modern Contemporary Western Culture, particularly in the U.S., grabbing someone and kissing them without permission isn’t okay. It doesn’t matter if the internal dialogue indicates that this is wanted or that they characters are attracted to each other, unless the other character is Charles-Fucking-Xavier they don’t know what the other is thinking. They have no way of knowing if their action is going to be accepted/wanted/reciprocated.

Even in this instance, Crash at the very least should have said something like: “Hey, I’m going to kiss you now. Go along with it.” That gives the other person some agency. I get that there were no good solutions. But I wouldn’t be ranting about him placing a finger or a hand over her mouth and then saying “Quiet!” forcefully. I am ranting about him kissing her without her permission. Not once. But twice.

Which is really not okay.

Period.

Yes, I know what I did there.

So at this point Mary and Crash are abducted by the truck jacking crew. There’s some seriously problematic stereotypes going on here, but this post is getting really long.

So this is where I’ll stop for now.

Want to read the rest of this review? Go here for part 2. Or go here for the full roundup!

Help me get through this by buying me a coffee!


#onestarreview #bookreview #susanamandakelly #contemporaryromance #romanticcomedy #romanticsuspense #triggerwarnings