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R. L. Mathewson

REVIEW:  Perfection by R. L. Mathewson

REVIEW: Perfection by R. L. Mathewson

Dear Ms. Mathewson:

After enjoying Playing for Keeps, I immediately started on the second book in “A Neighbor from Hell” series. The title is apt because all Trevor Bradford wants is perfection. The concept that you tried to sell here is that the inside matters more than the outside, but the execution of it faltered and not just because there are grammatical and proofreading issues throughout. No, my real problem with the book was the unintentional size-est message that permeated the story.

Perfection R. L. MathewsonTrevor, like his cousin Jason, is an asshole. He will only date certain types of women – beautiful and thin. He expects to marry someone who is a perfect cook, financially well off, “tall, hot, and have a body that left him panting for more.” He owns a home with a rental property and shares this space with Zoe O’Shea, whom Trevor describes as “short, chubby, pale, and plain.” When he catches himself staring at her chest (encased in a perfectly normal t shirt) he thinks to himself, If he was checking out a woman like her it really had been too long since the last time he got laid. When he steals her food order, she marches into his space to get it back and Trevor response is “It’s not like you need it.”

He thinks women play dirty pool by trying to trick him into marriage by using his food disability against him (yes, he refers to his appetite and weakness for food as a disability).

Not that he could fault them for wanting to marry him, he couldn’t. He was a Bradford after all, but he didn’t appreciate their fucking games. How many times had a woman hinted at marriage while she held a casserole under his nose or woke him up with breakfast in bed, musing how nice it would be to do that for him every day? Then when he didn’t drop down on one knee and propose they’d withhold all those tasty treats they’d promised him.

Trevor’ insult combined with Zoe losing her job provides the impetus for Zoe to make changes. She gets a new job at Trevor’ family’s construction firm. She starts dieting. She starts standing up for herself. Zoe’s weight is a big part of the story. Many characters call her fat and plain, of course, including the hero. But as Zoe begins to lose weight, Trevor begins to find her more attractive. But Zoe’s weight loss is dangerous. She goes on such a severe diet that she faints. Her boss, Jared (and Trevor’s uncle) actually lectures her on not eating enough.

As Zoe begins to become more comfortable with her body, she decides to venture out to a bar and pick up a guy for a night of sex. Trevor ends up being at the same bar and scares away the other men despite having thoughts like these:

What the hell was wrong with him? he had to wonder when she didn’t spare him a glance. He was a fucking Bradford for Christ’s sakes. Bradford men were known for being studs and this small, normally plain woman, couldn’t be bothered with trying to get him into bed when she was clearly desperate for it was really fucking insulting.

Obviously I am supposed to appreciate that Trevor is attracted to Zoe in spite of himself, but Trevor’ thoughts are so insulting that I keep hoping for Zoe to find some random guy who would actually appreciate her. But Trevor is the hero so he manfully steps up to be Zoe’s sex buddy.

The story is fairly obvious in that the Zoe is having regular sex, is fainting and is often sick, but only at certain times of the day with no feverish symptoms. Both she and Trevor become insanely concerned that she is sick. I guess they missed health 101?

When Trevor punches out some guy for calling Zoe fat and plain, I wonder what for. Trevor thought those very same things about her and never felt terrible about it. I guess I am supposed to see Trevor as a neanderthal who recognizes that it isn’t how you look on the outside but the transformation isn’t that Trevor begins not to judge people’s worth on their face and form, but only that Zoe becomes beautiful to him because he begins to love her.

The message that is supposed to be sent is that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but Zoe isn’t attractive to Trevor until she starts losing weight and this is only reinforced by the epilogue wherein Trevor kindly tells us that while Zoe never lost more weight, “she also hadn’t gained any even with the pregnancies.”

The fumbling execution made Trevor come off as a real superficial jerk. I know that I’m supposed to feel sorry for him because he had a shitty childhood and suffered from dyslexia but his failure to acknowlege his own prejudice and selfishness meant he maintained his own terrible perceptions of everyone else around him. He never changed and Zoe deserved someone much better. These problems are on top of the poor editing, content and copy, in the book. D

Best regards,

Jane

AmazonBN

REVIEW:  Playing for Keeps by R. L. Mathewson

REVIEW: Playing for Keeps by R. L. Mathewson

Dear Ms. Mathewson:

I purchased this book a few months ago when Has from the Bookpushers recommended it. I believe I started it and set it aside because I couldn’t get into the first chapter. When the book hit the Times list, I pulled it out to read again and pushed through the first chapter to find an engaging and funny romance but not one without its problems.

Playing for keeps RL Mathewson

Playing for Keeps is the first in a series titled “A Neighbor from Hell” and it features two opposites: Jason Bradford and Haley. They both teach school at a local private high school and they both own houses next door to each other. Haley’s home is well cared for, with a garden of flowers and well manicured grass. Jason’s home is a grown up frat house complete with discarded beer cans, rowdy parties resulting in property damage, and unhappy women who screech (author’s word) from the yard.

For shy Haley, five years as Jason Bradford’s neighbor has become hell. She’s tried to sell her home but each prospective buyer has been frightened off by Jason. Worse, she has to contend with Jason sneaking into her classroom and “borrowing” supplies and generally making her life miserable.

Haley’s limits are reached when Jason starts yanking out tulips from bulbs her grandmother had given her, ostensibly because the tulips are encroaching into Jason’s yard. Apparently crab grass and weeds are okay to proliferate but the petals of a flower somehow enrage Jason into action.

Jason knew he had gotten off to a bad start with Haley when he arrived on his move in day, locked out, and in desperate need of a bathroom. It was, as Jason recounts, either piss his pants or water the tree and he choose the latter. Since then Haley has treated him like a pariah and every time he’s tried to make amends by repairing damage or explaining himself, Haley has ran away. Her frightened rabbit routine makes him feel even worse and so, Jason being a five year old, lashes out by behaving in worse ways. Plus, he admits that he’s an asshole, albeit a likeable one.

What makes the story work is that Jason is indeed a likeable asshole, the likeability factor coming primarily from his weakness in regards to food. Jason (and apparently all Bradfords) are addicted to food and can easily be lead around by their stomachs. It is also the source of much humor in the story.

“Are those,” he noticeably swallowed, “brownies covered in peanut butter frosting?”

Did he just whimper?

“They’re chocolate chunk fudge brownies with peanut butter frosting,” she clarified automatically as her eyes caught the murderous glare Amy was sending her way. She was just about to hand the plate over to Jason and leave when everything in her stilled.

After last night she was through with getting pushed around and being intimidated. She was sick of missing out on things because she was too scared to do anything about it. She was a grown woman, damn it, and if she wanted to party it up at her first kegger then she was damn well going to do it and she was going to have fun doing it. Even if it killed her, and judging by the mascara glare being sent her way that was a good possibility.

“Let me just take those off your hands so you can grab yourself a beer,” Jason said, taking the plate from her, gazing down at it lovingly as he stepped back inside the house, leaving Haley to follow him.

“Hey, those look good! Can I have one?” a man she’d seen hundreds of times around Jason’s house asked, reaching out to take one.

“Back the fuck off! She brought them for me, you bastard!” Jason snapped.

After a confrontation over the flowers, Haley and Jason make peace with one another and begin a real friendship. As their friendship transforms, the two begin to lie to themselves about their feelings for one another. They are just friends, they both tell themselves. Even when they begin spending every minute of the day with each other; even when their friends and family point out they are in a relationship; and even when they begin to sleep together, platonically; they continue to tell themselves that they are just friends. When Jason is beset with the urge to beat up any man that looks at Haley, he tells himself that it is because he’s protective of his buddy. When Haley can’t sleep without Jason’s warm body behind her, she tells herself that Jason is just like a giant teddy bear.

Jason doesn’t change much through the book. The character arcs are limited although you do see Haley become more assertive. The funny situations and cute dialogue not to mention the setup power the story. It’s a fun romp. Haley is more than enough of a match for Jason and it’s funny watching Jason tumble head over heels while failing to be aware of it. Jason is not the most introspective of characters so his myopia is understandable. Haley’s is less so.

The whole book is the courtship.

Mitch reluctantly sat down. The two of them watched her walk away as Brad sat there smugly. They sat there silently for a few minutes before Jason spoke.

“Don’t even think about it,” he said firmly.

Mitch snorted. “Just because you think you own Haley doesn’t mean that you speak for her.”

Jason took a sip of his drink, nodding slowly before he placed his cup on his knee. “How about this then? I know you and there is no way in hell I’m letting an asshole like you near her.”

“So, let me get this straight. I’m good enough to be your friend, but not date Haley?”

“Exactly. Glad we’re on the same page.”

“Why is that exactly? You don’t like the idea of some other guy swooping in and getting her first?”

“Because you sleep around, don’t care about any of the women you fuck, and treat them all like shit. I’m not letting you do that to Haley. She deserves a nice guy.”

Haley being the only decent one in her rich family was pretty cliched but otherwise it read fresh and fun.  Good enough for me to buy the second book and then when I heard that Mathewson may be raising the prices from 99c I bought all seven titles.

I’m not sure if you have these books edited by a professional copy editor or content editor, but if you do, I suggest you get new ones because they aren’t doing you any good. There are regular misspellings that a proofreader should catch and grammatical problems that a copyeditor could give an assist. I mention this only because I feel like good editing can push a book from a good read into a great read. For some readers, the roughness of the prose will not be something he or she can overcome. For many others, it will not matter. Probably the most annoying copyediting error in the book (and all other Mathewson books) is the use of the honorific “Miss” with a period as in “Miss. Blaine” I could not give a recommendation of the book to the DA readership without being clear about its publishing problems.  C+

Best regards,

Jane

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