Dear Ms. Gaines:
The book has a very original opening. Rachel Frye is trying to convince her stick in the mud boyfriend not to break up with her. The breakup is bringing out her least favorite trait, shrillness, and is being done in front of her biggest rival, Garret Calder. Garrett is a fellow creative director at one of NY’s largest independent ad agency.
Rachel is not in love with her boyfriend but she thinks, given time and enough personal investment, this relationship could work out. Garret’s vocal observations about Rachel and her desperation drive the man away leaving Rachel frustrated and alone.
I admit that I disliked Garret from that point. No one likes a know-it-all and even worse, no one likes a guy who professes to know-it-all in public which results in a personal humiliation. The scene is set for Rachel and Garret to be professional and personal rivals when they are both offered the opportunity to fill the one open partner position.
These battle of the sexes books always walk a fine line. Often the females are portrayed at being less career driven by the end of the story while the male ends up with the partnership. There is not enough balance, as if the heroine outshone the hero in the workplace, the hero would be emasculated and thus not worthy of the hero position. Unfortunately that pattern is followed in this story. Rachel is uptight and her ideas are stale. Garret is freewheeling and is always coming up with great pitches, not to mention that he’s the past winner of the top industry awards.
Initially, the two play a game of one-upmanship with each party using some questionable methods to portray the other in a negative light. I think these were meant to be funny but came off as uncomfortable maybe because neither were fully committed. In one scene, Rachel suggests that Garret’s comment about her legs made her feel uncomfortable and exemplified Garret’s problem with women. Instead of leaving that to foment in her superior’s mind, she offers to provide him counseling on the subject. I didn’t really get that. Nonetheless, at least she was attempting to play the same game Garret was.
An effort to show the softer side of both characters was done through the use of their personal lives. Rachel was straight laced and uptight because her parents were not. Garret was more freewheeling because he had grown up an Admiral’s son. They both have to deal with members of their family not acting in the way that they want them to. Garret’s stepmother leaves his father and takes refuge in Garret’s New York apartment. Rachel’s sister is contemplating moving once again to be with Rachel’s parents, something that Rachel is strongly against.
This was the best parts of both the stories. The characters were vulnerable. They weren’t trying to score points off each other. It showed them in a humane light instead of individuals trying to constantly score points off one another. I think what disappointed me the most, however, was that despite the early efforts to show Rachel as a competitor, an equal in the boardroom as well as the bedroom, the standard archetypes remained. Rachel was better suited in a different direction, realizing that not everyone defined success in the same manner whereas Garret’s character arc was about him settling down in one spot and committing to something, whether it is a job or a person. Competently written and even amusing in some places, ultimately the hewing to a more traditional theme disappointed. C