Friday, February 14, 2014

8 Heart Review: Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich

Big Girl Panties
Stephanie Evanovich
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Page Count: 324

Release Date: January 21st 2014 (Paperback reprint)
Publisher: William Morrow (Harper Collins)
Source: Complimentary copy provided by publisher via tour publicist in exchange for an honest and unbiased review (thank you, Harper Collins and TLC!)
Rating: ♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥♥

Holly didn’t expect to be a widow at thirty-two. She also didn’t expect to be so big. After her husband’s death, food was the one thing she could always count on. Then she meets Logan Montgomery, a personal trainer so hot that he makes her sweat in all the right (and so embarrassingly wrong!) places. Charmed by her witty wisecracks and sharp insights, he impulsively offers to help get her back in shape.

To Logan’s (and her own) surprise, Holly turns out to be a natural in the gym, slimming down into a bona fide looker with killer curves—and a new kind of hunger. Before either of them can stop it, the easy intimacy of their training sessions leads to even more steamy workouts away from the gym.

But can a man whose whole life depends on looks commit himself to a woman who doesn’t fit his ideal? Now that Holly’s turning other men’s heads, does she even need Logan anymore? Are they a couple built to last... or destined to fizzle?

"You find something about [my relationship with Holly] funny?" [Logan] asked her irritably.
"I do," Natalie replied, catching her breath. "I find it hilarious that she's the most average, run-of-the-mill woman I've ever seen in my life. She has no glamour and certainly no refinement. She humiliated you publicly, and in a pretty major way. Now the only thing you can think of is how to get her..." Natalie started giggling again, right into Logan's red frustrated face, before turning to walk out the door.
"But the best part?" she said with infuriating glee. "She's making you sweat it".

The only thing that could make Logan Montgomery's flight back home worse than being forced to sit in coach, is being forced to sit in coach next to the fat girl. But luck will have its way, as will fate, and he ends up sitting by unpleasantly overweight widower Holly Brennan all the way to Englewood, New Jersey... and there's just something about her that he can't put a finger on, that makes him want to keep in touch. He offers private training sessions to help her get back on track with her weight, which has significantly escalated since her husband's death last year. No matter that he has a celebrity waitlist and is very selective with new clients—he's going to change this girl's life. What he doesn't expect is for her to change his.

As Logan begins to see the true resilience, strength, and maturity in Holly—as well as the delightful humor and instant likability, he begins to question the matter of beauty versus substance, something he's never had to worry about before, being fit, gorgeous, and famous as he is. Watching his relationship with Holly bloom was interesting because the two are such an unlikely pair. It is very rare to spot a fat woman holding hands with an athletic man in public, let alone in contemporary romance, but that's just the thing: you never see couples like that because society judges compatibility based off body type, based off appearance. Big Girl Panties shreds these expectations and overcomes the typical romance equation by so naturally and fluidly pairing Holly and Logan together. Readers will root for the couple—as unaccustomed to the sort as they are bound to be—and both Holly's sparkling wit and Logan's sexy, collected demeanor will make them instant fan favorites.

Logan seems like the perfect guy personality-wise; even though he's known to be careless with women, I couldn't help but sympathize with him because, he's so humane, so decent. He isn't only every girl's strong, level-headed, handsome dreamboat, but also has a sincere, heartfelt persona to completely seal the deal. Holly isn't used to attention from guys who look like him, nor from guys who have as much experience, generosity, and will as he does, but she soon discovers that her slow-burning feelings for him come at a steep price: his extreme emotional unavailability and noncommittal affections.

I think their relationship met a decline around the middle and by end of the book. It starts off really excitingly and humorously, but both characters become super angsty; there's lots of crying, lots of late-night worrying, lots of "does he like me???" and "DOES SHE LIKE ME" that I got sick of. Beyond the infuriating self-inflicted tragedy of their "forbidden" relationship, though, other doubts begin to seep in, too. Logan's obviously falling for Holly, but she can't help but wonder if he really like her for who she is, or if he's just prone to want to call her and show her off as his protégée, his one-time ugly duckling.

Big Girl Panties held my full attention all the way to the last page because it's so engaging; Evanovich creates a funny, FUN character that you'd want to become best friends with. I was a bit conflicted over the book's overall message, however; while I think it's very important for all body types to be represented in commercial fiction—because not looking like a runway model doesn't make a woman any less beautiful—the way Evanovich pretty much dismisses skinny girls was a turn-off. The only likable female characters in the book, including Holly, are described as "full-figured," which itself isn't a bad thing, but being about self-image that Big Girl Panties is, I was disappointed to see so much skinny-shaming. It contradicts the compelling insights on superficiality and celebrity that are also presented.

I absolutely loved how the romance developed, though. Logan is kind-meaning and warm, but detached and an absolute fool when things start to get serious. And the moment Holly Brennan squeezes into that economy-class seat next to him on the plane, it's clear things will begin to get real serious real soon.

Pros


Witty and charming // Effortless tone // Holly is an original, genuine character // LOGAN!!!!! // I like the idea of the untraditional romance // Chase and Amanda's backstory is intriguing // Hilarious moments // Extremely hot sex

Cons


The central romance is about a "big girl" getting together with a gorgeous fitness instructor, but it only happens as she slims down...?? The message is just unclear to me // Some of the dialogue is unrealistic // Lots of unnecessary dread and lingering, not that much action

Love

"...I've been training you for nearly four months, and in that time I've learned nothing about you. Zero. Zilch. Nada."

"That's not true, I talk all the time," Holly said quickly. "You're always telling me to focus." It was a feeble attempt at diverting attention from the topic.

Logan shot her a look that spoke of extreme tolerance mixed with fatherly reproach. "Telling me I set the incline of a treadmill on Mount Kilimanjaro is not talking. Asking me if I can see the baby's head yet when you're doing abdominal crunches is not meaningful conversation."

Verdict


Combining the introspective meanderings of women's fiction with the hilarious, sassy spunk of chick-lit, Stephanie Evanovich crafts an unconventional, but wholly absorbing romance, while touching upon important issues like fame, fitness, and the art of self-love. Logan and Holly's steamy relationship and Evanovich's delightful style will please readers, for sure. With fierce perspective and winning personality, Big Girl Panties examines the definition of true beauty, the impact of an unexpected other in your life, and the dangers of being quick to judge at first sight—or to judge by sight at all Americanflag

8 hearts: An engaging read that will be worth your while; highly recommended (x)