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Review – Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich

cover_big_girl_panties

Publisher: William Morrow
Publish Date: Out Now
How I got this book: eARC from publisher via Edelweiss

They say that big girls don’t cry. But when the chips are down and the dip is gone, what can you do? Pull up your BIG GIRL PANTIES and change your life.

Holly Brennan didn’t expect to be a widow at thirty-two. She also didn’t expect to be so big. Through her husband Bruce’s diagnosis and death, food was the one thing she could always count on. Now, those extra pounds make flying coach more than a little mortifying-especially since she’s sitting next to Adonis himself, aka Logan Montgomery, a personal trainer to the country’s most famous pro athletes.

Though Holly doesn’t make the grade on his first-impression meter, Logan finds himself intrigued by her sharp wit and keen insight-a welcome change from the beautiful bubble-headed dolls he usually dates-and impulsively offers to get her back in shape. Ready to make at least one positive change in her life, Holly agrees.

To Logan’s (and her own) surprise, Holly turns out to be a natural in the gym. Throwing herself into exercise, the red head with the blazing wit and welcoming smile slims down into a bonafide looker with killer curves-and a new kind of hunger. Soon, the easy intimacy and playful banter of their training sessions lead Logan and Holly into the bedroom where they share their most intense and steamy workouts yet.

But can a man whose whole life depends on looks commit himself to a woman who doesn’t fit his image? Now that Holly’s turning other men’s heads, does she even need Logan anymore? Are they a couple built to last . . . or is this sizzling affair going to burn out fast?

*blurb from Goodreads

When this book came my way, I was curious. I like a good transformation romance story. The subject of this story touches on a delicate topic and I wanted to know if it could be done without stereotyping overweight people or objectifying women and make me believe that the hero loved the heroine despite what she weighed. The answer to all that is a resounding yes. However, the journey wasn’t easy and the author gave us a very honest portrayal of character’s thoughts that weren’t always flattering but were reflective of what I felt was a true and personal odyssey of coming to grips with inner demons, judgements, hangups and insecurities.

At first, I felt unsure of the primarily narrative writing style. I don’t typically tend to gravitate to that as I find it lends to a more passive reading experience. However, because the author dug deep into the character’s psyche and shared with us the insecurities and personal transformative journey that each character had to take — all while including quite a bit of humor and creativity into the mix — I found myself enjoying the read and its mostly upbeat tone.

There were a few scenes between Holly and Logan that made me squirm just a bit when it came to the personal-trainer-to-client boundary. In the beginning, Holly felt uncomfortable because she found herself having suggestive thoughts about Logan during parts of their workout. Later on in the story, we realize that Logan began having similar thoughts. To their credit, neither one let on to the other for quite some time. I have an almost knee-jerk response when it comes to the blurring of professional boundaries in romance stories. Of course, the reason professional codes of ethics exist in the first place has to do with the fact that humans are involved and sometimes chemistry happens. And, let’s face it, working with a personal trainer means that said trainer will be in your personal space. So even if chemistry wasn’t at work, there could still be an awkwardness to having someone in your personal space while you’re sweaty and smelly and not feeling at all secure about your own self. I have to admit, it was kinda great when these two got together — it had to be one of the most embarrassing/inappropriate (for him), shocking/outraged (for her) and odd/uncomfortable (for me and them) ways to begin a romance I’ve read. But it worked for these two and it made sense within the context of the story (you have to pay attention to the secondary characters of Chase and his wife Amanda who really set up the backdrop for that particular scene). I suppose some may find what Logan did unforgivable but the way it was written, the pent up passion that led to it and how we were able to see into both Logan and Holly’s thoughts made it work.

I enjoyed Holly’s character to no end. I enjoyed her wit and sense of humor and her willingness to be vulnerable. Holly also frustrated me at times to no end:-) I wanted her to be more independent and empowered, but that’s not where she was on her personal journey of transformation. While Holly tended to be a bit on the co-dependent side, she also showed that she was actively working her way toward a more self-empowered state, even if by the end of the story she wasn’t quite there yet (although I think she was well on her way). What Holly’s character did was make me question how I tend to idealize the world of fiction – wanting my characters to do what I *hoped* I would do given the same situation. And you know what? Character’s don’t always do that because they are (if well written) human and fallible and vulnerable. A character’s journey is a reflection of what the author is trying to convey and sometimes that is a messy and imperfect process. The reality is that I have my own insecurities, hangups and judgements and as much as I would like to think I’d “do the right/best thing,” chances are I’d trip all over myself in the process as well. Because the other reality is that we don’t see ourselves with as much clarity in the moment as we think we do. If we did, then the adage “hindsight is 20/20” wouldn’t be so apropos to so many of life’s scenarios. With deeper reflection, comes better clarity and as Maya Angelou says: “When you know better, you do better.” So the fact that Holly was able to see certain things about herself over time and course correct showed me that she was headed in the right direction.

Logan. Our first introduction to him didn’t paint him in such a great light which actually drew me to his character even as I was initially repelled by it. Logan was presented with a level of honesty that we don’t usually get to see in our male protagonists. There was such a contrast between his outer good looks and his private inner thoughts. He may have looked perfect from the outside, but his inner journey would take him on a wild ride of confusing thoughts, heavy denial and projection that ultimately landed him in very unfamiliar territory. Once Logan admitted to himself that he was attracted to Holly, he struggled with his perceptions of himself, where he saw his life going and how he felt he was perceived by others. He projected these hangups onto Holly and initially made his insecurities focus on the fact that although he was incredibly attracted to Holly, he worried about the fact that she would never be thin (and how that might reflect on him). Yes, he even had a singularly brief and passing thought of whether or not liposuction was in order. And yes, that irritated me to be sure. I kept thinking “Grrr. Get your shit together, man, and realize this is all about you not her!” and guess what? He did. It would have been unrealistic to have Logan’s character move from shallow, self-absorbed, nice-guy womanizer to a caring, feeling, sincere man in love with a woman for the first time without showing the psychological transition he would have to move through in order to get there. I think if we are honest with ourselves, we can admit in the privacy of our own thoughts that sometimes we skew a bit judgemental of other people (even if we instantly regret having the thought) when really it’s a reflection of our own insecurities or fears at work (projection, anyone?). This is what I enjoyed about Evanovich’s story – she didn’t shy away from showing us the dark, ugly thoughts that we can sometimes think on our way to personal growth/enlightenment.

This is a very sweet romance with some flawed characters who ended up finding themselves once they found each other. Try not to get too frustrated by the choices the characters make as they bumble along their way. Trust that by the end, the characters will have arrived at a very different place from where they started. This book made me think about life and how I see the world and I like it when a book does that.

I give Big Girl Panties an A-.

2 replies on “Review – Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich”

Great review, thank you! I don’t think I want to read this one myself. I don’t really like books where the heroine looses lots of weight and then suddenly is beautiful. She was beautiful before that as well.

@xaurianx I agree with you there. That’s why I enjoyed this book because a) it wasn’t about the weight but rather getting healthy and getting Holly reengaged with her life (she had rather checked-out and become reclusive), b) while Holly did lose some weight, she didn’t lose “all” the weight and was by no means skinny and c) her personality shined through regardless of what she weighed and I never got the sense that she was just suddenly considered beautiful because of the weight loss.

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