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REVIEW: Undercover Professor by December Gephart

Dear Ms. Gephart:

I thought that the idea of this book was cute but it limped in the execution. Lucy Benoit has a strict list of dating rules. She sets them forth throughout the book but never observes them so the fact that the hero violates every one of her rules renders the conflict toothless.

Undercover Professor by December GephartAndy Sullivan is a famous gamer and professor who apparently has no ethics because he regularly bangs students. “Usually he dated the blonde bubbly coeds, painfully thin with big tits, and long hair that he had learned was mostly hair extensions to make it thicker.” He has decided to move in with his mother to carry out a plan to obtain answers to a presentation he wants to give on “The Gamer Guy’s Guide to Women: Love, Getting Laid and Beating Level Seventeen of Lords’ Lair.” I guess he’s the Tucker Max of the gaming industry.

The characters’ lust for each other is immediate and by immediate I mean the two meet in a laundry facility and start going at it after exchanging names and a few flirtatious glances. They manage to separate before engaging in coitus but agree to meet for a date despite the fact that Andy violates every one of the rules that are supposedly the premise of this story such as no current job, lives with his mother, and is a scruffy looking ne’er-do-well.

I felt like Andy was presented as this womanizing lothario as a way to make a point that gamers were sexy too and while there were some nice moments (like him painting his mom’s toenails because she is recovering from a hip injury) I felt those efforts kind of missed the point. After all, wasn’t Andy supposed to be sexy for who he was instead of being judged by outward appearances?

His type was young, giggly, with a killer rack and a nice butt. His type was vapid, looked great in a cocktail dress and even better without. They had that wide-eyed excitement to just be with him, he didn’t have to give much effort. Young. His type was easily replaceable.

What does that tell us about him? That he doesn’t have much respect for women?  That he doesn’t have much respect for himself?  I wasn’t quite sure.

But Lucy’s no prize herself. She’s constantly judging Andy for not dressing better, for not having a job, for living with his mom, for not meeting all her requirements. Her rules for dating really aren’t that unreasonable but the ways in which she expressed his unsuitability was offputting.  However, Lucy was right to have been affronted that Andy seemed to be asking out every single girl in the apartment. He had to spend time with them to get answers to his silly paper but it isn’t unreasonable or bitchy of Lucy to be angry about this because she doesn’t know his secrets.  Plus if Lucy was so big on not lying then why did she continue to date Dell (Mr. Dullsville as she sometimes refer to him as) when she was making out with Andy/Drew?

Lucy and Andy hate American Idol and love Rolling Stones. They both love random obscure beer. It’s so obvious how right they are for each other, only Lucy seems to resist. These two seem like Brooklyn hipsters in their effort to like things that are NOT MAINSTREAM and “cool.”

There are plenty of gaming references though and I though that it made sense that Andy thought in terms of game references.

Drew stared. Lucy was so easy to read, yet Dell seemed to not even pay attention. She was like the directions to Super Mario Bros., clean and concise. Meanwhile Dell was still playing Donkey Kong.

What would have been interesting and completely applicable to Andy’s research was how he changed when he went from campus star to average Joe living with his mom.  Isn’t attractiveness, in part, about self confidence? Andy could have written a whole paper on that. Instead, he focused on the girl’s response to guys.

Dr. Drew, PhD, would have some witty comeback. Dr. Drew, PhD, wouldn’t be chasing her around the grocery store, begging for a date. But instead, he was schlubby Andy, with the unruly facial hair and the goofy T-shirts, who wanted to talk about gaming. He rushed to follow Lucy’s lead, pulling out some cheese, detouring to milk and eggs, picked up some yogurt and butter.

I also didn’t understand why Andy had to go undercover. He was gathering information on how guy gamers could attract girl gamers. Why the subterfuge to gain information like this:

Gamer women weren’t fools. He met with a girl named Sara earlier that morning at the coffee shop. She revealed she chose avatars of men specifically so she wouldn’t be hit on. Which he hadn’t considered when playing online himself. Interesting. He asked Sara how a gamer guy could break down her barriers. She explained she usually went to mash-up meets and waited to see which person in the flesh interested her.

As I said in the beginning, there was a lot of potential here but I struggled with connecting to the characters and rooting for their success.  C-

Best regards,

Jane

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Jane Litte is the founder of Dear Author, a lawyer, and a lover of pencil skirts. She 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

9 Comments

  1. MinnChica
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 12:01:39

    I had a lot of the same issues, which was a total bummer! :(

    ReplyReply

  2. Jane
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 12:05:58

    @MinnChica – I know a lot of people had problems with the heroine, but I felt like Andy was no prize. I really disliked his ComicCon presentation. That sounded pretty foolish. There were a lot of great ideas and maybe I would give her another try.

    ReplyReply

  3. Maura
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 13:13:38

    I’m a gamer and I can’t think of any famous gamers. Certainly not famous gamers with groupies. :|

    ReplyReply

  4. Isobel Carr
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 13:18:54

    She was like the directions to Super Mario Bros., clean and concise. Meanwhile Dell was still playing Donkey Kong.

    I have no idea what this means.

    And don’t profs usually get in trouble for dallying with the students? They sure did where I went to school. Someone who made a regular thing of it would have found himself cut loose and looking for a new position.

    ReplyReply

  5. hapax
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 17:55:29

    Wow.

    This summary suggests that the book provides an incredibly unrealistic and unlikable version of professors, gamers, women who date, *and* laundry facilities. (Conducive to flirtation, let alone coitus, they ain’t — at least not in my experience.)

    I do, however, have to give props to the cover, for forcing the hero into an even more awkward and uncomfortable pose than the heroine.

    ReplyReply

  6. Maura
    Dec 12, 2012 @ 22:10:44

    @Isobel Carr: Good point. Donkey Kong is about as simple a game as they come. Climb platforms, rescue princess. Mario Bros. isn’t much more complicated, but it’s certainly no simpler than Donkey Kong. I’m confused now.

    I can’t figure out if the author is a gamer or not. If she is, she seems to be skirting some of the problematic gender issues in the gaming community without quite hitting them. This book would pretty clearly be a wallbanger for me.

    ReplyReply

  7. Merrian
    Dec 13, 2012 @ 01:13:13

    It is interesting to read this review in the light of the revelations about harassment and violently anti-female sentiments in gaming, comics, and geek worlds generally. Filtered through the vicious attacks on Felicia Day and Anita Sarkeesian this year and the experience and discussions of creeping at conventions and online, etc. by many women ( see #1reasonwhy where women report their experience of gaming culture https://twitter.com/search?q=%231reasonwhy&src=tren), at this point I would consider the Professor an exemplar of all that is wrong and sexist in geekery and not hero material. Some links about sexism in gaming:

    http://www.forbes.com/sites/erikkain/2012/07/13/on-anita-sarkeesian-sexism-in-video-games-and-why-we-need-to-have-the-conversation-even-if-it-feeds-the-trolls/

    http://www.themarysue.com/?s=sexism+in+gaming

    ReplyReply

  8. Jane
    Dec 13, 2012 @ 09:37:21

    @Merrian – I debated putting that issue in my review but I felt like that wasn’t the story that the author was telling and I wasn’t sure that I could ding her for not addressing it. I know that it is a big issue and one that should be addressed by the gaming industry.

    ReplyReply

  9. Merrian
    Dec 13, 2012 @ 18:13:47

    @Jane: I thought that was likely to be the case with your review. I probably came over as snarky but really thought it was a world building fail not to have some consideration of the issues. Even though 2012 has seen the ugliest and most awful stuff erupt, this isn’t new stuff.

    Almost always the ethical fail in stories like this one involves lying in some form – by omission at the least and always by ignoring research protocols. I am taken yet again, by the poor understanding of research ethics (let alone the Professor and his student relationships in this instance) in many genre books that have an academic setting. For me, to have people act in ways that are unethical and unprofessional without there being a valid reason sets them up to fail as characters.

    Lois McMaster Bujold’s ‘Memory’ has Miles Vorkosigan lie to cover something up and the book is about the consequences of that act. It is a great book and incredibly important in the development of Miles’ character in the series. He grows and changes and renews relationships in the light of this. For a plot that revolves around such major ethical fails to work it needs this sort of intent on the author’s part. Mostly it seems, the ethical fails are plotting and world building short cuts by authors and I object to that laziness.

    ReplyReply

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