Andie J. Christopher is a new-to-me author, so zero expectations going in. After shutting the last Kindle page on Not the Girl You Marry, I’m still not sure what I thought of it. It was definitely not a DNF, because “duh” here I am writing about it. So, a page-turner, not in a thriller I want to know what comes next way, but well-paced and engaging. There were many scenes I enjoyed and I think Christopher has a cool way with words. But … there were things about it that turned me off. These may be more about my taste and sensibility than flaws in Christopher’s book, which means it will find many a loyal reader, irrespective of my moues of disapproval/dislike. I know, for one, I didn’t like the premise. Hero Jack Nolan is handsome, charming, and fancies himself “the perfect boyfriend”. He wears the “not a dick” button proudly, as compared to his moronic dickish friends. When the novel opens, he’s drinking with said friends – reluctantly – because he’s sworn off the dating scene; too many of his girlfriends, though he did all he could to keep them happy, have dumped him. He’s sacrificed too much of his career to them, so his career (more of that later) is what he’s focussed on.
He meets a beautifully feral woman at the bar, however, and the best laid plans of mice and charming, green-eyed men go astray, at least initially. The beautiful woman is heroine Hannah Mayfield, who’s out with her female buds, having sworn off men after she was dumped by her last boyfriend, Noah. The chemistry, she is thick; the banter, she is sharp. Over a street-burrito, Jack and Hannah kiss …
… and the plot thickens because, despite all evidence to how much Hannah and Jack like and are attracted to each other, they separately decide to use the other to further their careers. Jack works for an online paper writing fluffy dating-scene pieces, but he wants to write politics. His boss says he might give him a shot at it if he writes a fluff-piece on what to do to get yourself dumped by a girl. Jack decides his guinea-pig girlfriend for the dump-piece will be Hannah. Hannah, in turn, works as an event planner of raucous sports-themed events, but yearns, despite her cold, cynical anti-love heart, to plan weddings. When she approaches her boss with this desire, and with no less a senator’s daughter’s wedding on the line, Annalise, Hannah’s boss, says she might give her a chance to prove her wedding-planning chops were she to show Annalise that she can be someone’s girlfriend. Hannah decides, though she’s sworn off men, sex, and relationships, that Jack will be her pretend-boyfriend. And what Jack doesn’t know won’t hurt him. So, you have two people resolved to lie to the other builds this romance novel.
The dating dance, which at least now, under pretense, can be sustained to keep these two apart and yet together deals with Christopher’s need for a conflict. Make it internal and make it a lie (well, lies). What is lost, in the interim, at least from this reader, is any liking for the protags, and what is added is an impatience to get the ruses out of the way. Christopher never convinced me to like Jack, or to believe Hannah’s hard-ass act. Jack often came across as smirky and Hannah as soft vulnerability … except for her constant harping on emasculation, in one scene with her stilettos; in another, an ice pick.
Hannah and Jack’s banter was funny, clever, and quick and I did enjoy it when Hannah wasn’t being particularly bloodthirsty. The extended premise-lie? Not so much. Christopher is a pithy writer and I enjoyed the writing if not the characters, or premise. The other thing I found annoying was the strangely crude, yet strangely closed-door love scenes. However, to give credit where credit is due, I think Christopher had a good thematic reason for them. And when the grovel-HEA-final-love-scene arrived, it was magnificent. I loved it. So, some good, some bad is my final half-baked verdict. Would I read Christopher again? I’m still not sure. With Miss Austen equally-conflicted and way more scandalized, we say Not the Girl You Marry is “almost pretty,” Northanger Abbey.
Andie J. Christopher’s Not the Girl You Marry is published by Jove (Berkley). It was released in November 2019 and may be procured at your preferred vendor. I received an e-galley from Jove-Berkley, via Netgalley.