Where to Buy*:
I'm sorry to say I have another Not-So-Positive review for you guys. Since I listen to audiobooks while walking the pup and doing housework, it's not like I could very easily take detailed notes at that very moment or bookmark a section of the audio to revisit again later. Because of this, there's also not specific quotes to back up my thoughts, like the last infamous ranty review had. However, I hope that this review will help you if you're considering reading Stuck-Up Suit. As always, I'm not telling you not to read this book; rather, my intent is to explain why it didn't work for me and hope that this information helps you to decide if this is your catnip or your hard pass. Either is fine: to each their own. :)
Okay, on with the review!
When I was scrolling through my library's Overdrive to see what audiobooks were currently available (seriously --- like, 90% of their romance audiobooks have a wait list on any given day), I noticed Stuck-Up Suit. I've not read either author, but I've seen their books around and know that some readers I follow recommend them. After doing a little poking around Goodreads to see what people had to say, it seemed like a good deal of my GR friends loved this book, and their reviews made it sound like a fun and sexy read. I'm all for those two things, so of course I grabbed it.
Here's the thing: the basic premise for the book -- or rather, the premise for the first 30% of the book or so (more on this shortly) -- had such potential to be fun and sexy. The heroine and hero were on the same train one morning, and in his hurry, he somehow dropped his phone. She picks it up and plans to return it to him.
But here's where my first -- admittedly small, especially compared to later parts of the book -- problem comes up. Because how, HOW, does someone not realize they've lost their phone? ESPECIALLY a work-a-holic businessman like Graham? I find that very unbelievable. And it's not like he's missing his phone for a few hours. No, no, she doesn't get it back to him until nearly 2 days later. TWO. DAMN. DAYS. Again: HOW DO YOU NOT NOTICE? More importantly, if you DO notice it, wouldn't you, I don't know, try calling your number and see if someone picks it up? If not, would't you call your phone company and suspend the service? In short, you would do SOMETHING, right?
Unless you're Graham, who is apparently the most oblivious busy business owner ever, and doesn't notice the missing phone, doesn't look for it, and doesn't cancel it.
Meanwhile, Soraya starts snooping through his phone to find out who he is and where she can return the phone to. Oh, did I mention he doesn't have any sort of lock on his phone? Yeah, okay, sure. Anyway, she starts looking through all of his pictures, looks through his contact list, and randomly calls a woman, hoping to find out who the mysterious phone owner is. The woman, whom Soraya assumes is an ex (and we later find out is the friend of his ex), tells her to throw the phone in the water and forget about Graham. Obviously, she doesn't do this. But even still, instead of taking the info she now has -- a name -- and returning the phone right away, she still holds on to it a bit longer, and even texts another random person in his contact list, an employee this time, acting like she's Graham and knows what the fuck she's talking about.
Seriously, girl? SERIOUSLY? I wanted to smack her. The finding of the phone and needing to return it to him, great premise! Perhaps looking at a few pictures in the meantime? Iffy, but I could live with it. But calling and texting random people and STILL not giving it back yet? All on top of him NOT KNOWING IT'S GONE? Ugh. Just ugh.
So finally she takes the time to track down his office and shows up with his phone. But because Graham is this Super Scary Asshole that no one wants to disturb, she can't give him his phone. Never mind that the rational thing to do would be to hand it to the receptionist and walk away. No, of course not. Instead, Soraya gets on the intercom to his office phone and starts telling him off, saying she won't just leave if he can't come out of his office to get it. Note: She doesn't tell him WHAT she has, and he's still somehow oblivious to the missing phone to begin with, so he just ignores her like he does everyone else. After telling him off still doesn't persuade him to come out, she uses her phone to take three pictures -- one of her legs, one of her ass, and one of her cleavage, complete with her flipping him off -- and sends them to his phone before leaving. And yes, she finally leaves his phone there.
He gets his phone back, sees the pictures, and begins to wonder who this woman is who storms in, tells him off, and leaves him "dirty" pictures as a fuck you. Since she didn't show her face in the pictures and he never came out to see her, he doesn't know who she is or what she looks like. They begin texting a bit, and a few days later, while he's on the train again, he notices the woman a few seats over has an ankle tattoo just like his mystery text woman.
Now, like I said, the basic premise for this set up had potential and other than the things I'm complaining about (not noticing the lost phone, taking stupid liberties with said phone, etc), I'm not hating this book so far. It's not blowing me away but I'm liking it well enough. You would think, based on how Soraya stood up to Graham and takes none of his shit, that this would be a banter-filled enemies-to-lovers kind of thing, as they dance around each other until falling into bed and later into love. I would have been happy with that! But that's not really what happens. First of all, that fiery take-no-shit attitude we get from Soraya quickly disappears into a puff of smoke, leaving her a flimsy and often times annoying heroine through the rest of the book. That was the first big disappointment, though again, I wasn't hating the book. Yet.
But then . . . oh, but then we get about 40% in and then there's a new trope thrown in: Manipulative Bitchy Ex and the Secret Baby.
UGHHHHHHHHHHHH. Here's where it all started to spiral down for me.
Graham's ex became his ex after he caught her sucking off his best friend and business partner. That called off his engagement to her and ruined his friendship with Liam. After that, they never spoke, Liam left the company and started up his own, and it's now been roughly 5 years since he had any contact with the man he used to call his closest friend.
Liam suddenly dies from a heart attack, and Graham is contacted by his widow -- yes, The Ex -- to help smooth out the business and whatnot. While attending Liam's wake, he runs into Chloe, Liam's 4 year-old daughter.
Do you see where this is going? DO YOU? SURPRISE! She looks like him/his mother.
Here's the thing: If you catch your ex cheating on you, and within a few months of said cheating she's married and pregnant . . . . WOULDN'T YOU ONCE, JUST FOR A BRIEF MINUTE EVEN, WONDER IF THE BABY WAS YOURS? Apparently Graham, Clueless Fuckwit, never thought about that. "Oh, she's pregnant mere months after we last fucked and then I caught her sucking my best friend's dick? Obviously it's his baby."
I could, I suppose, try to look past the fact that Graham is a clueless fuckwit in this scenario. BUT here's what I can't look past: the fact that NO ONE ELSE considered the timing of the pregnancy. They’re all in the same damn social circles AND in competing business, it doesn't matter if he and Liam aren't talking, they still know a lot of the same people. HOW DID HE GO 4 YEARS WITHOUT HEARING RUMORS FROM OTHERS ABOUT THE TIMING AND/OR HOW MUCH THE KID LOOKED LIKE HIM? I call bullshit on that. People always talk about that stuff, always whisper about whether the baby is the father's or not. No way could they have ALL been so clueless in his city. Chloe looks nothing like her "father" or mother, combined with the fact that EVERYONE knew about the cheating that lead to the fall out and quickie marriage to Liam -- and you're telling me they're all this stupid?
I hated his ex. Hated her. Hated that she wormed her way into his life again, hated that she was using Chloe as the reason for it -- like she suddenly gave a single shit about him knowing his daughter; if she cared, she would have spoken to him long before now, not just because her husband died. Every time she showed up on page -- which is Oh So Fucking Often, in case you were wondering -- I wanted to bitch-slap her back out.
I can't even remember her damn name now and I'm too lazy to look through other reviews to find it, so she shall be called The Ex, or the Manipulative Bitch. Not even sorry about that.
So you have Manipulative Bitch pushing her way in, trying to separate Graham and Soraya, all because she wants him back, wants Chloe to have a family. Fuck that shit. She doesn't care about that otherwise she would have done something about telling him the truth YEARS ago. And of course Graham is, once again, clueless to most of her manipulation and bitchiness. On the one hand, he doesn't care about The Ex; on the other hand, he DOES care about his daughter and wants to be part of her life now. But I felt like he just let The Ex get away with so much in the name of "playing nice" so he could see Chloe. I'm fine with him wanting to be part of Chloe's life -- but he doesn't need to encourage, in any way, Manipulative Bitch's delusion that they're going to get back together.
Remember how I said Fierce Soraya left after telling Graham off at the beginning? Yeah, this is made obvious as this all unfolds. She spends most of the book convinced that Graham and The Ex belong together -- even though Graham has told her he has no desire to be with The Ex, there's no "Graham, Ex, and Chloe living HEA" in his future. And yet still she thinks this and all but pushes him towards that plan.
Back tracking a minute, Graham has a really close relationship with his grandmother; it's shown in the early part of the book. But once he finds out he has a daughter? Suddenly grandma is MIA, with, I think, one brief mention of her while he's talking to Chloe. Fucking inconsistencies. This isn't at all true to the character we were being shown up until now.
Oh, and Chloe? Total plot moppet material. What 4 year-old talks like she does? I know this is a common issue in romancelandia, but this was more proof of, in my opinion, lazy character development. Chloe -- and The Ex -- were really only there to be a huge pain in my ass and to add dramatic conflict to the story that didn't need it to begin with.
More examples of lazy writing: earlier in the book, Soraya mentions in passing that she has trust issues because of her father. Which is a legit thing for many, don't get me wrong! But she doesn't unpack it in any way, literally just says to him "I have trust issues and I guess it's from my father but I've never cared to confront this and figure out why." Which to me is lazy shorthand for "I NEED TO HAVE TRUST ISSUES THAT COME INTO PLAY LATER IN OUR RELATIONSHIP BUT FUCK ANY ACTUAL CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT BASED AROUND IT JUST MOVE ON."
Her issues with her father pop up again after Chloe/The Ex show up and I hated it. Again, I get that having a parent leave WOULD cause some problems with a child and those problems can easily stick around into adulthood. I'm not questioning that! I'm annoyed by how childish she acts about it all now, when she's supposed to be a grown adult. Specifically her belief that if her father had stayed they would have all been a happy, perfect family with no issues, the end.
Um. No, not necessarily? Things still could have went to shit, even if he hadn’t fallen for another woman. Don’t romanticize how "perfect" things COULD have been if only he hadn’t left, that’s not fair nor accurate. Her mom has depression, that wouldn’t have magically changed by him staying. If the two weren’t happy, if he wasn’t happy for whatever reason, staying would have only lead to more problems in the relationship and therefore in the household. But she throws this tantrum while trying to speak with him where basically she blames him for screwing everything up by leaving. Do I think he was innocent? No. He was totally a dick, since he stopped talking to her/caring about her once he had his new family. I'm not going to say he was this misunderstood man who didn't deserve to be yelled at by his daughter. What I am saying is her tantrum was complete bullshit, claiming that if he had only stayed, then there wouldn't have been ANY problems. I cannot repeat enough: if he wanted to leave, wanted to start a new life with another woman -- love or not --- things were already messed up in that relationship and his staying would NOT have fixed any of it. It just wouldn't have.
Between her view on her father and her insistence that Graham belongs with his ex, I wanted to smack Soraya silly. Being biological parents to a child does NOT equal the need to be a traditional, happy family. Fuck that shit. Graham can be in his daughter's life without being married to the mother. Soraya seemed stuck in this delusional fantasy world where the secret to a happy family life is for the biological parents to always stay together and that's just not the case. It especially wasn't the case here, but she never strayed from this annoying and narrow view.
Now things start to slip into ShitVille even more. Soraya, still convinced that Graham and The Ex belong together, decides she's going to back away and let that happen. She gets THE WORST FUCKING "ADVICE" EVER that the only way to make Graham accept her leaving is to hit him where it hurts the most: cheating.
YEP. Her plan is to fake-cheat on him, therefore pissing him off and making him run back to The Ex to live HEA and raise his daughter.
I. Can't. FUCK THIS WHOLE PART OF THE STORY.
I don't give a shit that she doesn't actually "cheat", that she has Graham catch her out with a friend of a friend, nothing more. THINKING ABOUT FAKE-CHEATING TO PUSH GRAHAM BACK TO HIS EX WHO CHEATED ON HIM IS SUCH BULLSHIT I WANT TO STRANGLE SORAYA.
I'm sorry, are these highschool students or adults? Grow the fuck up. This was such a disgusting, low-handed, cowardly move from Soraya and I could NOT forgive her for it. I can't believe that Graham does.
But wait, Manipulative Bitch has to pop in again with EVEN MORE MANIPULATIVE BITCHY EVILNESS.
Graham goes over to The Ex's house to have dinner with Chloe again. He gets there and she's all "Oh, Chloe's playing at a friend's house, didn't I tell you? She hasn't wanted to do that since before Liam died, so how could I say no? *flutters lashes* I hope you're not mad. But she should be back in a bit, how about we have dinner ourselves while you wait?" To which, Clueless Graham, just swallows these lines and says yes. The Ex starts plying him with booze at dinner, something he's always avoided every other time he plans on visiting with Chloe, but tonight he decides what the hell? and starts downing everything she slyly hands him. After their dinner, and while he's in the other room, The Ex suddenly "gets a call" from Chloe. "Oh, she wants to sleep over and she's been so sad lately I couldn't possibly say no! Is that okay? *flutters lashes*"
In case you can't tell, at this point I was rolling my eyes so hard I just about caused permanent damage.
But wait, this evening isn't done! Now that Chloe won't be coming back, he's going to head out -- except he's too drunk. Huh, how did that happen? So Manipulative Bitch Ex tells him to stay, relax for a bit, and she'll get him some coffee and he can drive home later. He passes out for a bit on the couch, wakes up to find The Ex all dressed for seduction and encouraging him to come upstairs and sleep it off. That doesn't work, so she just drops the pretenses -- and her clothes -- and asks him to bed.
I can't even begin to unpack how much I hated this scene. First of all, let's imagine if the roles were reversed, okay? What if The Ex was a man trying to manipulate and get the heroine drunk in order to sleep with her again and therefore get back together. UM, WE'D BE SCREAMING ATTEMPTED RAPE. But we're supposed to just shake it off because The Ex is a woman? Fuck that. What she did, whether she ended up getting him into her bed or not (she didn't, by the way), was completely, disgustingly, wrong and made my hate for her, which was already as high as a damn skyscraper, intensify by ten-fold. And of course the next morning she tries to play all innocent and "Oh, we were BOTH so drunk, I never would have acted like that, will you forgive me but also come back because we belong together. Chloe, remember Chloe, she needs us."
Again, fuck all this shit.
Of course Graham has to figure out that Soraya's cheating was faked "for his own good", forgive her, and get her back and suddenly everything's just peachy and happy.
Really? REALLY? I find it really fucking hard to believe that The Ex is suddenly going to back off and allow them their HEA and time with Chloe and all that. No confrontations, no arguments, just BAME! HEA for Soraya and Graham. Nah, that was wrapped up in a neat bow to end the story after dragging out The Ex's vileness the rest of the time. Add in all this unnecessary conflict and dram and then take it all away with a tap of a wand? That's just lazy AND annoying as fuck.
Okay, this is dragging on, so one last thing I want to bitch about: Soraya's new tattoo. The tattoo with his name on it? That's fine, I have no issue. But adding Chloe’s name, too, when she’s met her all of two times? ALL THE SIDE EYE AND EYE ROLLS HERE. I get it, we’re supposed to buy the HEA is forever (like in any romance) so with that in mind, why wouldn’t she put her future step-daughter’s name there, too? But realistic me rolled my eyes; how about show him his name permanently inked on you and then say “Hey, sometime in the near future I’d like to add her name above it, okay?” IT GETS THE SAME MEANING ACROSS (That is: "I get that she’s part of your life and she’s important to me too") without jumping into the crazy-deep end by inking the girl's name permanently into your skin.
I think this book is a good example of when different readers have completely opposite reactions to the same book. As I said, many readers that I follow on GR, and often have a lot of book opinions in common with, adored this book, giving it 4 and 5 stars. But for me, I spent the bulk of this book irritated, pissy, and rolling my eyes. If this still sounds like a book you'd love to read, that's great -- I truly hope you enjoy it. But for me, this one was a complete flop, and the premise that originally caught my eye couldn't save the rest of the mess.
A quick note about the narrators:
Maxine Mitchell was okay – Nothing really bad to say about her narration, I liked it, and would easily listen to her again.
But Joe Arden . . . . Oh, he was horrible! Something about his voice and the way he would pause, etc., came across as both annoying and also somehow sleazy/creepy. Sorry, dude, I’m sure you’re a nice enough guy IRL, but your voice, at least for this production, was off-putting to me. I will not listen to him again if I can help it.
Total Narrator rating = 2 Stars (3 for her, 1 for him, averaged out)
Final note about rating:
Originally I listed this one as 2 stars. But once I sat down to actually write up my review, I realized 1 star was more accurate. I couldn't pinpoint any one scene or part of this story that I actually liked. To me, 2 stars means it's a big mess but there was SOMETHING redeeming about it, even if it was teeny-tiny, some proof I could give you guys about why it deserved 2 stars rather than 1. But I couldn't think of anything to put down in the "Meh, this part wasn't half bad" column. Hence the updated rating.
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I borrowed this audiobook from my library's Overdrive.
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Honestly? I don't think I'll try another from either author. I wasn't impressed -- quite the opposite, obviously -- and I already have an endless TBR pile and limited reading time. Why waste it on the off-chance that a second book MIGHT be better?
That being said, if you loved this book, or any other from Keeland/Ward, feel free to let me know why below. I do enjoy hearing opinions that are not my own. I'm not The Opinion That Matters. :)
Until Next Time,
*TBQ's Book Palace is a member of both the Amazon and Barnes and Nobles affiliates program. By using the links provided to buy products from either website, I receive a very small percentage of the order. To read my full disclosure on the matter, please see this post!