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Book Review: Bend the Rules (Part Two)

Updated: Jul 26, 2023

Missing the earlier parts of these reviews? Go here for Part One. Go here for the full list!

When we’d left off, the protagonists were about to be kidnapped. Hijacked. Truck-jacked. Whatever! There was fat-shaming. There were unwanted kisses. There was trash policing.

So yeah. Just a normal romantic comedy suspense… or whatever the author is calling this.

You know… I’ll give the author credit; she’s put herself in viable categories. The animal thing is about to come up, but let me get there, first.

We rejoin Crash and Mary now trussed up like a Christmas Goose just waiting for the axe. It’s not a great simile, but it is an apt one. They come to in the back of the truck they were using as a lure. There they meet the gang and that’s when we get one of the most problematic tropes in this book. See if you can spot it.

The truck jacking gang is all Hispanic.

Now that wouldn’t immediately be a negative. Except all of the good guys are white. All of them! And all of the bad guys are from a marginalized group (Hispanic, Gay, or Both). This is a problem. It reinforces stereotypes. It’s a problem. It’s about punching up and not down. Especially considering that this book was released in July of 2018. This is feeding into the narrative that Hispanics and other marginalized groups are a threat to “real America.” Yeah.

During the convo, it’s revealed that part of Crash’s Tragic Past™ is that his family runs a different truck jacking syndicate and this group assumes he's trying to muscle in on their territory. So they leave to call in a wetworks person, while Crash and Mary immediately try to escape. As you do.

Considering they are tied up, things are a bit awkward. And Mary, much like pretty much anyone in this situation, is rightfully terrified and embarrassed that her skirt has ridden up to expose her panties. She’s also clumsy.

Now at the time, I thought it was because of her fear. But it turns out that Clumsy is a character trait just like her anal retentiveness is and her body-shaming internal dialogue.

I may or may not have been watching Princess Bride for the umpteenth time while reading this. (RIP William Goldman)

So the wetworks guy shows up, and frankly I got way too interested in this currently nameless character.

Seriously. He was interesting.

Of course he also calls Mary fat… but at this point I don’t think that there’s a character who hasn’t. It’s not so much the character’s problem as it’s the author’s and I’m sticking by that.

She can’t even talk about Matryoshka Dolls without shaming them.


FFS the dolls are adorable. A child’s toy. And from a different culture. Stop projecting!!!

I may or may not have started letting out little groans of despair every time I ran into yet another body-shaming phrase. My dogs were worried about me.

I have good dogs.

Speaking of dogs, the heroes find an old, deaf guard dog in the warehouse housing the truck. And as you might expect I immediately started chanting “Save the dog!”

Thankfully they did.

Except the dog’s name is Oscar. And he smells. A lot. Which okay, he was abused, malnourished, dehydrated, etc. But it gets to the point of dog-shaming. Which I’m also not okay with.

Especially since Oscar is one of the best characters in the book. And I’m not just saying that.

The dog is protective of Mary and won’t let Crash take advantage of her. I am so pro this dog.

BTW this is what the dog is growling at…

This is sexual harassment, coercion, and dubcon. And it is not okay.

But they make it home, and Mr. Blain – the crotchety next door neighbor who does not like Mary initially (with good reason) or Crash at all (with good reason) makes a reappearance.

First he drops off his dead wife’s clothes for Mary to wear. Which is super kind of him. And he does it without fanfare, which is even better.

Of course Mary doesn’t get that some people don’t want effusive thanks or attention.

So yeah.

He also charges Crash an arm and a leg to use his landline. Like $30 for a call. Why Crash doesn’t have a cell phone, I don’t know. Or it’s not explained… even though he buys Mary a cell later.

It’s funny.

The problem is that the funny is at the expense of the plot. Which I DO have issues with. Unless there is a VERY good reason, most people carry cellphones. And burner phones are a thing. FFS has this person not watched Leverage, Burn Notice, and White Collar?

Burner phone... look it up, Crash!!! It’s cheaper than using the old man next door’s phone.

When he talks to Mary, she’s at work trying to find out stuff about the assassin and the gang.

This is when Ronald, the Klingon-speaking IT guy, shows up. Now I will give the author credit for knowing her Trek and her Klingon… but like everything else… she has to ruin it by a) making the guy perv on Mary in a definitely sexual harassing way and b) having the other characters belittle Ronald.

Yes, there is nerd shaming… it’s like kink-shaming but for fandoms.

Yes, there’s nerd shaming and fat shaming in the same sentence. That takes talent.

But not the good kind.

They get a lead – the Trucking Company’s real estate lawyer. He’s like a male version of Mary.

Something she brings attention to.

I’ll be honest. That’s a funny line. Also speaking as the child of two VERY neat obsessed people… you don’t get neat obsessed children. You get kids who hate cleaning and find new and unique ways to avoid having to clean.

Trust me on this.

My house may not be messy, but that’s because I’m really good at hiding my mess.

The guy Charles I’ve-Forgotten-The-Last-Name gives them some interesting information. He also introduces us to a new word… pergola.

The word is used so much, it might as well have a giant freaking sign on it saying “THIS IS IMPORTANT!!!”

Also this is a pergola.

This is an arbor

This is also a plot point.

And yes, I like the sims… it’s a thing.

They finish with the lawyer and then we have the obligatory reveal of why Mary is in the dire straits that she is. We’ve gotten some hints before that. Including a hint in the blurb,

But like Crash, I assumed it had something to do with either being caught up in a white collar crime or something like a neighbor who she was trash policing took a swing at her and they both got jail time.


It’s worse.

The worst part is up to and including this scene (and later) Mary blames her ex, Andrew, for driving her to this point. This is victim blaming. And men can absolutely be victims. This is not okay.

But because this book is this book. It’s treated like a joke.

A punchline.

It diminishes what Mary did.

It’s problematic as fuck.

Now, I’m okay with redemption arcs. I love them. Let me tell you about Vegeta some time. But part of the redemption arc is owning that what you did in your past was wrong and that you regret it. You take ownership. You apologize. You change. You make amends.


She’s still the same person she was before the stalking incident. The text makes that clear.

Therefore, this isn’t a redemption arc. Not for her.

It makes me so angry. Like super duper angry.

And the author doesn’t realize what she’s done.

She can’t.

Because this is literally how the scene ends.

Yep… Stalking is a punchline.

I have to stop now. Not only is this long, I need something to clear my brain… alcohol might help.

Want to read the rest of these reviews? Go here for Part Three! Go here for the full list!

Want to help me get through this? Buy me a drink!

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