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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 Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She self publishes NA and contemporaries (and publishes with Berkley and Montlake) and spends her downtime reading romances and writing about them. Her TBR pile is much larger than the one shown in the picture and not as pretty. You can reach Jane by email at jane @ dearauthor dot com


  1. Kati
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 08:16:31

    No. Just…no.

    I have such issues with books where the heroines lose weight and land a man. In this case, the guy sounds like a self-important douchebag anyway.

    The first one in this series didn’t work for me, so I wouldn’t be reading it anyway, but this sounds like it would hit ALL my hot buttons.

  2. Dabney
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 08:42:14

    Ugh. The line in the epilogue is so egregious I’d like to reach into the pages and smack him.

    Who is he supposed to appeal to?

    There was an interesting piece in the NYT on Sunday about the pressure moms now face to be gorgeous after birth; the new term is momshell. It depressed the hell out of me. Here’s the link:

  3. Jayne
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 08:46:39

    @Dabney: Actually I was thinking a nail gun to his head. Or maybe another part of his anatomy….

  4. Jane
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 08:49:19

    @Dabney: Jezebel did a pretty awesome take down of Janine Min’s piece. Apparently she is shilling a diet book in September.

  5. Dabney
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 09:02:23

    @Jane: Yeah, she mentioned that. I’m sure this paragraph irked many:

    Of course, I am all for looking great, feeling good and getting skinny. There is no virtue in letting oneself go after giving birth. And let’s face it: celebrities aren’t always terrible examples; many eat well, exercise and dress far cuter than we do. They’ve learned how to pull it together, so much so that I wrote a new book filled with simple advice from their stylists, makeup artists and trainers.

    I think her point, though, that new moms feel an absurd sense of pressure to be hot soon after birth is true for many. Momshell is just another harder version of MILF.

  6. Lou
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 09:23:19

    Ugh. Just ugh. I know the author’s books are sold pretty cheap on Amazon, but not even the price tag of £1.19 would ever make me want to read a book with a hero as the one above.

  7. Alex
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 09:32:50

    No way am I reading this.

    I bought the first one in the series before reading the DA review of it and wow, was that a mistake. It wasn’t so much the copyediting issues that put me off but the bizarre behaviour of the characters and particularly the constant use of “little grasshopper”. Gaaaaahhhh. I’m surprised I made it as far as I did but I took great pleasure in deleting it from my Kindle at the point in the holiday cottage when Jason crossed the line from weird to actually bordering on criminal. If Travis is anything like that bad, I wouldn’t touch this one with a bargepole.

  8. JacquiC
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 09:41:17

    I’m taking a pass on this one too. Not gaining any weight while pregnant is usually downright unhealthy… but that sounds like the least of the problems with this book. Ugh.

  9. Jill Sorenson
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 10:23:28

    The cover is very nice, but it shows a woman who looks like the opposite of the heroine (thin, blonde, tan). I’m suprised to see this on a self-published book. I guess I expect authors to care more than publishers about the cover matching the content.

    So I clicked over to the other review and it’s a plain cover. Again, this is a surprise. Do covers matter? Does editing matter? Is this a price thing? Readers seem to be embracing books without traditional polish, which goes against predictions that branding and quality control measures (such as editor stamp of approval) will become important in the digital age.

  10. MrsJoseph
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 10:26:58

    I’m so SICK of stories where a woman has to loose weight to be beautiful (and get a man, of course /sarcasm). And the comments he makes are disgusting.

    This and her spelling/grammar – added with Ally’s horrible attack fangirl comments – puts this author on my DNR list.

  11. KT Grant
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 10:43:47

    The scene where Trevor’s work buddies are making fun of Zoe’s weight and Trevor remains silent because he doesn’t want anyone know he likes Zoe and feel if he defends her, they’ll make fun of him, made me so angry. Also the Trevor’s unhealthy eating habits and his over the top obsession with food made me go WTF most of the time.

    I really didn’t like the hero in this one at all and would have gave it a higher grade if Trevor wasn’t such a jerk. I feel bad for Zoe, whose only reward was the amount of orgasms Trevor gave her.

  12. Patty
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 10:55:14

    Again, I have to say that I liked this book. I don’t want to perpetuate stereotypes or have my subjectivity ruin the greater sphere of giving authors an excuse for poor editing, I never even thought about those topics until I read Dear Author’s latest post on subjectivity and objectivity…However, the case is that I bought the book for 99 cents, enjoyed it and probably will read the next Neighbor from Hell installment…

  13. Jenny Lyn
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 10:59:06

    I think this—->”tosspot wank-bastard fucktarded nonce captain” sums up Travis perfectly.

    (from Beautiful Mess by Lucy V. Morgan)

  14. Kim
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 11:41:57

    I get that Travis’s jerkiness was over the top in this book – but honestly – there are a lot of guys – and girls – out there who are not attracted to plain, heavy people. It’s not a crime or even a character flaw. Yes, it’s annoying at times and yes, I don’t usually enjoy books where the attraction doesn’t happen until someone loses weight (hated He Loves Lucy by Susan Donovan, partially because of this reason) – but for me, in this book, it works (in fact I loved this book, a 2012 top read for me). I am significantly overweight, so it’s not like I don’t get it. But again – it’s honest and it’s real, like it or not. I see overweight guys and think “um, no way, not happening, not interested” – and I’m sure many feel the same about me. Such is life.

  15. Meagan
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 11:50:23

    Wow, thank the stars I didn’t get very far along in this book. I bought both this one and the first together, because they looked cute. The first was annoying, but I made it through. Started on the second one . . . by the time Travis stole Zoe’s food and lied about it, I wanted to punch him in the face and so decided I should not continue reading. I may have had a broken ereader and a big hole in the wall if I had continued. Blech.

  16. karlynp
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 11:50:48

    Everything you said in your review is absolutely true, but I will be honest – I laughed my ass off reading it. Travis was a jerk, and so so clueless at times! But I did feel the growing connection between them, and I loved Zoe’s dry sense of humor. The weight-loss story isn’t a favorite for me either, but I wasn’t offended by it. I have always had a weight issue and saw that situation through my own experience. It is a struggle when dating, no skirting around that issue. In the end, I enjoyed it quite a bit. Humor is a tricky genre to pull off, it’s not for everyone.

  17. Sirius
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 11:58:59

    @karlynp: It is absolutely a struggle when dating unfortunately (yes, speaking from my own experience as well), but I guess different people react differently – at least in the books I do not want to read about the guy who will reject the girl based on her weight and nothing else. I used to be size twelve and was quite happy with it, unfortunately became size sixteen (now fourteen and hopefully will get back to what I had for years), anyway, when somebody on the first date told me that I need to hit the gym (I already did not that I would share that with him), my only desire was to slap him. Nope, passing on that book – I know I would get angry.

  18. MrsJoseph
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 12:09:35

    I know the feeling. I’m not the biggest girl in the world but I’m not the smallest, either.

    I used to date a guy who called me “piggy” because he wanted to “encourage” me to “loose that extra 10 lbs or so.” You know what, this book would probably make me see RED. I love a man who loves me, warts and all. If we’re discussing weight and comedy, I much prefer Jenny Crusie’s Bet Me to the above.

  19. Patty
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 12:24:14

    In my edition of Perfection, the male lead’s name is Trevor…not Travis…

  20. Leslie
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 12:43:30

    Jane, did you get the name wrong? That is so funny!

  21. Jane
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 12:44:44

    @Leslie: I’d love to say it was purposefully ironic but alas, we all know I make these mistakes all the time.

  22. Patty
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 12:49:38

    @Jane: Every time I see the name Travis, I can’t help but think Beautiful Disaster by Jamie McGuire and given how much DA loved that book (light-hearted sarcasm there) I wondered if it might have slipped through into this revie :D

  23. Leslie
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 12:57:58

    @Jane: I am in a cafe laughing my head off while everyone is looking at me and thinking “who’s that lunatic”. Thanks.

  24. Patty
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 13:09:47

    Hey, if I didn’t like a book, I probably wouldn’t remember the main characters names at all…

  25. Kelly
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 13:17:52

    @Jenny Lyn:

    DAMN YOU. I have been waiting for AGES to use that. *pouts*

    Jane – as I read this review, I kept having flashback to a certain godawful Cesspool of Crap by an author with an alpha male fetish that pissed me off more than any book before or since. Both books are very similar in the disturbingly misogynistic message: women must earn the love of a man to have self-respect. I almost prefaced this with “I’m sorry,” but I’m not – demeaning female characters for the sake of playing up the hero is NOT OKAY. There’s nothing romantic about it.

    I loved to see this trope re-gendered…. (hint, hint)

  26. Cara Ellison
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 14:55:31

    Even reading this review was infuriating. I won’t be reading the book.

  27. Patricia Eimer
    Aug 21, 2012 @ 20:51:12

    Wow, that’s disappointing. At least the cover’s sort of interesting.

  28. Jane Lovering
    Aug 22, 2012 @ 03:03:16

    @Dabney: . Re the Momshell cobblers… Do they not see the irony in saying ‘well celebrity moms can be slim and gorgeous straight after giving birth’ – and then go on to say that ‘here is some advice from their personal trainers, dieticians, personal chefs, stylists’ etc? Of COURSE new moms can look great, if they’ve got this army of people at their disposal, plus the money to pay for a nanny to mind the child while they put themselves through this regimen of self-improvement, and the cash to pay for it all do be done. AND most of them have surgery straight after birth to flatten their stomachs, and how many of them breastfeed for more than a week?
    Grrrrr. IMO, it’s things like this that make women feel they should be skinny straight after birth, and men like Trevor/Travis feel that they have a right to women who don’t gain a pound the whole time.
    Sorry, mother-of-five here. And, yes, I am reasonably slim, but then my youngest is sixteen, so I’ve had sixteen years of hellish dieting and step-aerobics to thank for that.

  29. Moenen
    Aug 22, 2012 @ 05:52:16

    Why are so many romance novel “heroes” such complete and utter manchildren?

    “Boo hoo, my ex-girlfriend cheated on me so now I hate all women forever.”

    “Waah, I called a woman a whore based on rumors I heard from people who are known to lie and have a public grudge against her, and now she’s being all unreasonable and angry.”

    “Oh noes, my friends are mocking the girl I like for being fat so now I can’t say I like her because that would be like, totally embarrassing omg.”

  30. Kelly
    Aug 22, 2012 @ 10:20:52


    Whiny faux-angst + misogyny = ::headdesk::

  31. Shannon C.
    Aug 22, 2012 @ 10:50:59

    Food… disability?

    It seriously says that?

    Fucking ableist bullshit!

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