REVIEW: She’s Got Dibs by A.J. Nuest
Dear Ms. Nuest:
I picked up She’s Got Dibs when it was free a few weeks ago, but then deleted it when the ebook opened to a dedication that made me think it would be a particularly heavy inspirational. Lesson learned. After I saw some enthusiastic discussion on Twitter, katiebabs was kind enough to lend it to me. I mostly enjoyed reading it, though not as much as she did.
She’s Got Dibs is most notable for its twist on the billionaire hero. Actually, two twists: Dibs (David Isaac Brenner) is not only a very sweet beta but — unusual realism — he’s not entirely in control of his money. His domineering family holds the purse strings to his charitable foundation, a fact that will lead to trouble.
The story is told from the point of view of events planner Tessa, who shares a steamy one-night stand with Dibs after they meet in an airport, then resolutely tries to shake him off. A very painful broken engagement has left her cynical and somewhat hysterical about love and relationships. Dibs pursues for awhile, then — again, a twist — actually gets the message and backs off. But when they wind up sitting next to each other on a plane, his hurt feelings burst out and an ashamed Tessa agrees they can be friends.
Since Dib’s idea of friendship is wining, dining, flowers, and caring for her every need, and he’s pretty darned hot, it’s not too surprising that Tessa finds herself falling for him against her will — which is, of course, exactly what he was aiming for. But things get complicated when both Dib’s disapproving parents and Tessa’s ex come into the picture.
This is the sort of story that inevitably brings the word “cute” to mind. For the first half, it was fun to see Dib’s playful, semi-subtle wooing of Tessa, whom he nicknames Rex because of the way she attacks her food. Even if I didn’t entirely get why he was so into her, a hero with strong feelings who isn’t a controlling asshole is just kind of delightful to read about. The book seemed overly long and there were a few editing errors, but since the storytelling was generally good, it was nothing I couldn’t overlook.
The second half of the story goes in a much angstier direction, and I started having some real issues with it. The prose began to feel over the top:
She longed for Dibs to arrive, needed the comfort of his arms, the soothing murmur of his voice in her ear. And at the same time, terror sizzled along her nerve endings each time she envisioned meeting his discerning gaze.
But there was no stopping the clock, and when the doorbell rang at five forty-five and she lifted her chin, a sob lodged in her chest, the weight of her decisions almost to much to bear.
Love shone like a ray of light on his face.
I also kept tripping over odd turns of phrase:
Cold steel hardened his gaze, and with the next stuttering heartbeat, grim reality sharpened every facet of the room down to one abhorrent truth.
And I started to get tired of the repetition. Tessa’s wangsting about how relationships always go wrong, Dib’s constant adoration, even the frequent references to his cologne got on my nerves.
But the kicker was when Tessa lied to Dibs when he most needed her honesty — practically gaslighting him — and not only was she hurt by his completely justified mistrust, but the lying was later framed as a virtue on her part, something she did for his sake. That rocketed her into my heroine Hall of Shame.
I’m really torn on what to grade this, but because I was engaged for much of the book, I’ll potentially err on the higher side. C-