REVIEW: The Design by R. S. Grey
Dear R. S. Grey:
I didn’t mind some of the early problematic elements but then ending of the book cratered the entire story for me. The Design is a riff off the boss / secretary stories of old. Cammie just graduated from college and with the help of a family friend, gets a job at Grayson Cole’s architectural firm.
For years, Gray has been a good friend of Cammie’s sister but he’s treated Cammie with a lot of cold disdain. Romance readers immediately recognize this as a classic behavior of a man who is secretly in love with someone he doesn’t believe he should be in love with.
The problem is that the story doesn’t have Gray quietly seething. No. Instead, he tells Cammie from the very onset that he doesn’t get involved with employees and proceeds to parade women into his office that he uses to prove a point to Cammie.
Cammie, for her part, hasn’t learned or doesn’t know the word professionalism. Yes, she’s a hard worker but boundaries don’t exist for her. I guess the one thing I can say about Cammie in retrospect is that she is consistently drawn from the first page to the last page. She’s mouthy, has little respect for authority or professionalism, and is interested in getting her own way all of the time. I appreciate an independent woman who knows what she wants and pursues it but Cammie’s behavior came off as petulant rather than confident and immature rather than thoughtful.
But Gray doesn’t display a lot of professionalism either. In the middle of the book, he switches from “no sex with my employees” to “I can have sex with an underling in my office because I own the firm.” I guess that’s true, as owner he can do whatever he likes, but for two people who were supposedly professionals, neither of them acted like it. I get that office sex is supposed to convey that their passion is too explosive to be denied and therefore reason takes a back seat to physical lust. But I didn’t feel that sort of tension between the two.
I read one review that suggested the book was too long and I sort of agree. The conflict between the two wasn’t enough to fill an entire book and so there were things thrown in, like Cammie’s desire to go to Paris, that didn’t fit her story arc but lengthened the conflict between the two. Cammie supposedly wanted to be an architect more than anything but she also desires to save money and go live in Paris and do…I wasn’t really sure what she wanted to do in Paris but if she wanted to study architecture in Paris, lots of colleges have study abroad. Ahem. But she doesn’t study architecture in Paris…she teaches English. It was so weird.
Anyway, the “I need to go to Paris” and “I love architecture and Grayson” were too polar opposite desires but the Paris thing didn’t provide the impediment that Cammie tried to convince me it inserted into her relationship. Take a vacation! Delay work for a year and live in Paris! There were many options for Cammie but she didn’t consider one of them. (I guess she was too artistic to think rationally?)
Finally, the big dark moment between Grayson and Cammie really strained credibility and placed Cammie in a terrible light. When a character does something very selfish, knowing it would hurt the business reputation and pocketbook of someone she professes to love, then I don’t really believe in the character’s love.
Spoiler (spoiler): Show
I liked Cammie’s close relationship with her sister (she’s the subject of a previous book I’ve not read). There are funny moments. Cammie is a hard, dedicated worker most of the time. So there are things that I like including the forbidden office romance atmosphere, but the end of the story with the Paris plotline and Cammie’s actions, legitimately raised my blood pressure into the anger zone. The goodreads star rating system says a two star rating is if you didn’t like the book. A two star rating is equivalent to a D here so D it is.
What a bummer. I haven’t read this book (and don’t plan on it) but I’ve read other books with similiar plot lines to this and what I love most about them is the competence porn. I enjoy seeing a woman in the workplace kicking ass at her job and blowing me away with her professionalism, and a hero who loves her more because she’s good at what she does. And when they both maintain a professional demeanor outside of the locked office door because their careers are important to them – I love that more. So yeah, like you said, it’s sad to see a lack of that. Women can fall in love AND act logically and still make smart career moves, it actually is possible. I’m guessing the heroine above is young? Sorry, that’s still no excuse.
Lately I find myself becoming pickier about the heroines I read, it’s easier for me to nope out of a book if I don’t connect. Not sure if heroines are being written differently, or I’m getting older and wiser?:) But i seem to be identifying more women written as illogical just to increase the angst factor in a book, to the detriment of her character. I read an SFR this last week that I almost dnf’d but finished in a hate read because (like how you described the heroine above) she was petulant and selfish. I couldn’t find her redeemable. I felt sorry for the hero, she treated him terribly! A petulant and selfish heroine doesn’t make for a believable HEA.
@Michele Mills: I’m a big fan of the competent heroines too and while this character could have been competent, and was at times, some of her actions just rubbed me the wrong way and the manner in which the book ended was super frustrating.
Wow. The spoiler made me gasp in shock. That’s a big old NOPE for me – I can’t stand reading about that kind of unrepentant unprofessionalism. (Think it says a lot about me, my career and my reading choices that that spoiler made me gasp and so many other, more graphic / violent / shocking spoilers haven’t)
“The previous book I’ve not read” – You need to read the previous book immediately! That was the best one! I then proceeded to glom on all her books. Some were good (the soccer one, I think? Also the traveling one – about a heart? I’m traveling = sucky wifi = lazy)… but the first book was the best! The sisters relationship was awesome. They were also free on Kindle Unlimited too….
@Kristi – I liked the soccer one which is why I picked this one up!
@cleo – I was pretty disappointed!
That spoiler… wowzers. I’ve always said that rape and adultery are the Big Unforgivables for me in a romance (I’m perfectly cool with theft, murder, and rooting for the American League, go figure) but now I’ve got a new one.
It had never previously occurred to me that someone who wasn’t being set up as the villain would DO something like that!
I liked the soccer one too (I listened to it) and I thought about buying this one. Glad I didn’t now. Thx for taking one for the team Jane!
I was thinking of reading this soon, I’m so glad you reviewed it! It doesn’t sound like a book I would enjoy, the spoiler is a horrible petty thing to do.
I agree with the other poster, it does seems like heroines are being written to beore annoying lately.
With the heroine just out of college it doesn’t surprise me that she is unprofessional and immature. People usually learn with life and work experience to conduct themselves like responsible adults. However, if someone in real life starts out with that kind of unprofessional behavior they may not be given the chance to get that work experience.
Neither the heroine or the hero sound like people I want to read about.