Please Stop It With the Toxic Romances: A You Deserve Each Other Rant Review

***This post will contain spoilers for the book You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle***

Trying to gather my thoughts for this post is proving to be very difficult. I have six pages of notes that I want to pull from on top of other points that have popped up the longer I’ve been away from my initial reading experience. I read You Deserve Each Other this past fall and I still get angry every time I think about it or see it mentioned.

At the core, You Deserve Each Other by Sarah Hogle is a toxic mess. It is hyped as an “enemies-to-lovers” rom-com story about two people who have fallen out of love and enter into a prank war. I think I’m also majorly in the minority with my views. This book currently has a 3.89 rating on Goodreads and a slew of rave reviews.

The synopsis really doesn’t even begin to describe the inner workings of this story. When I first started seeing people talk about the book it sounded like it might be about a couple with cold feet, nervous to go through with the lifetime commitment of marriage but neither wants to admit it so they try to pull away from each other. I was ready for the “pranks” that were supposed to ensue, ready for some complex and heavy conversations about relationships, ready for a candid look at a “real” relationship. But instead I was sorely disappointed and left questioning why so many toxic traits are applauded in hyped up romance novels.

One of the major flaws in YDEO is the fact that while being a story about two people, there’s only one perspective and unfortunately for the reader, that’s the inner thoughts of Naomi. Naomi is a highly flawed individual and outright toxic, her views are heavily laced with casual sexism and not only did she change herself in order to fit into the relationship, she also never communicated. If the author had intended for Naomi to be an unlikeable character who shows growth over the course of the story I think I would have enjoyed the story slightly more but in the end I don’t think that’s what the author had intended. Throughout the whole book I desperately wanted to be able to hear from Nicholas because when he actually was given the opportunity to speak his mind I loved it. I really didn’t think that any of the characters in the book felt developed enough for me to really understand who they were. I was hoping to learn more but the limited perspective that Naomi gave us kept that from ever happening.

In my opinion, YDEO is not an enemies-to-lover story. Naomi entered into a relationship with Nicholas and instead of communicating about the issues that she had and fostering growth, she changed herself and accepted a stagnant and mediocre partnership in which she felt insecure and eventually threatened. The pair rushed into the relationship and instead of, oh I don’t know, GOING TO THERAPY they eventually started this petty “prank” war in order to force someone to forfeit the relationship. I genuinely think that this would have had potential if it was written as a fake dating story and if it also brought in the perspective of Nicholas. I could totally see Nicholas and Naomi pretending to be getting married in some sort of scheme against Nicholas’ parents. The Rose family was absolutely deplorable and this clip from John Mulaney sums up my opinion about how I feel in regards to family and relationships.

I’m really tired of picking up books that are marketed as romantic and then they end up just glorifying toxic relationships and toxic traits. Naomi had such a black and white way of thinking that she often took her reactions to an extreme. At one point, Nicholas sent her a plant and instead of taking a moment to Google it or even simply ask him what was up with the plant Naomi decided that he absolutely had to be trying to murder her with a poisonous plant. She got so caught up in needing to dislike Nicholas that it took over her life. I don’t think that it was inherently bad that Naomi was so stuck in her current position but her stubbornness ended up leading to increasingly frustrating situations for her to end up in.

I’ll admit that there were some parts of the book that I didn’t hate which is why I ended up rating it two stars instead of one. In the end though I found YDEO to be yet another adult romance that glorifies toxicity in order to develop a plot. I felt like the characters were underdeveloped and the story itself was incredibly disappointing. I wrote a post quite a while ago about lack of communication within enemies to lovers books and after reading this book I think I need to avoid adult romances with this plot line for a while. I might need to step away from adult romance as a whole for now because I truly can’t understand how many toxic traits are played up as favored tropes. I don’t think it’s necessary to use these in order to create a story, there are plenty of healthy romances that could be entertaining to read. This is a big reason why I dislike the typical “third act breakup” that so many romances include. Conflict happens but oftentimes the extreme reactions could easily be avoided and it’s not that I find it unrealistic but a lot of times it’s just not healthy.

As is a very common opinion of mine, You Deserve Each Other had potential to be a much better book than it ended up being. I got caught up in the hype and was misled by the synopsis that was provided. It was a disappointing read and incredibly frustrating and it’s not something I would recommend picking up.

Well, love that reviewing again started off with a good old rant review! I just knew I still wanted to get this one posted so I figured it was worth it to finally get written up. I’ll talk to you all again soon with another post.

Review: The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai

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Apparently, romance does still have the potential to melt my cold, dead heart. Y’all, this book was so good. I got an eARC of The Right Swipe by Alisha Rai from NetGalley to review here.

This book centers around Rhiannon, an extremely cynical dating app creator who helped to revolutionize the dating scene. She got burned by a mystery match who ghosted her and then ends up finding out he’s a famous ex-football player and working with another dating website. She fumbles around with the idea of giving him a second chance and going against everything she believes about love and relationships. 

I found myself relating to how hard and cold Rhiannon is to love for herself and yet enjoying seeing it flourish in other people. Every single character was so unique and diverse. The main character is black, the love interest (Samson) is Samoan. Rhiannon’s assistant is a lesbian, her best friend is plus sized and has agoraphobic anxiety (I really really really hope that Alisha Rai does spin off stories of some of these side characters). One of Samson’s friends is a stay-at-home dad.

To me, these characters are coming up on that level of unique that I felt in Red, White, and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston and honestly that’s all I could ask for from side characters.

The relationships in this were also all so good. Friendships, family, and love, just all very healthy and strong and I ate it up. There were also much deeper storylines regarding feminism, concussions in football, and toxic/abusive relationships and sexual harassment.

I hope it comes as no surprise that I rated it 5/5 stars! This was such a breath of fresh air after some of the not so great and sad books I’ve read recently. It was such a kick ass story and I am definitely going to be picking up my own copy of this soon!

One of the things about this story that I absolutely loved more than anything was how well Samson handled learning about Rhiannon’s “baggage”. How he just accepted all the trust issues she had and went with whatever she felt comfortable with. Like when she couldn’t handle being called by her full name, Samson immediately got himself to call her Rhi and never once tried to act like he could change the way she felt about her full name during intimate moments.

And at the end of the book when he said that he would take her as is trust issues and all? Guys, I bawled. Samson was such a sweet and caring man and even when he was getting down and dirty in bed he was still a good man.

If Alisha Rai writes more books in this universe of characters I will definitely be picking them up!

I would recommend this book to you if you like romance with slightly deeper plots, really sweet romance, and aren’t the biggest fan of smut. This definitely had some smutty scenes but it wasn’t overly done in my mind (I’m very picky with romance books in that sense). Also, if you’re like me and lean towards the cynical side when it comes to love and romance, see if this book can melt some of that ice cold heart for you too 😉

This book is out today so you can pick up a copy of your own at the links below if you’re interested!

Amazon Affiliate Link // Barnes and Noble // Book Depository

Review: Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey

Fix Her Up

Fix Her Up by Tessa Bailey is a “romantic comedy” about Georgie Castle and Travis Ford, childhood friends that have decided to fake date to look more adult to those around them in their hometown and beyond. It’s a smutty mess and doesn’t compare to the description that’s listed on Goodreads whatsoever!! (Can you tell I’m salty about having actually read this book or is that just me?)

This book had been raved about by multiple people that I follow and then two people absolutely hated it. I had just gotten my copy from the library and decided to pick it up and see where I stood on it.

I ultimately rated it 2/5 stars because the plot didn’t align with what I went in expecting it to be, the romance felt toxic, and the timing felt completely screwy throughout the entire book. There were very few things that I actually enjoyed.

The rest of the review contains spoilers.

The plot was supposed to be a fake dating plot but there wasn’t a single part of it that felt like it was actually them fake dating. The more that I think about the more that I realize that there wasn’t a single aspect of this book that was truly fleshed out. It jumped around from one plot point to another so fast that I just got tired of reading. I ended up skimming the last 75 or so pages because I was so bored.

So much of the summary on Goodreads is about a life makeover… There was no true makeover scene, it maybe lasted three pages, if that. And that in and of itself was frustrating because it seemed like Georgie had her own style and was comfortable with that. Why change it? It was the stereotypical “girl wears not so flattering clothes so must change and start wearing sexier clothes to be appealing to literally anyone”. The girl “club” the Just Us league or whatever that they created was hardly a club. They really didn’t do anything other than sit and chat. It felt like it was just thrown in there to add some form of “feminist” tones even though they mostly just talked crap about the guys in their lives.

The timing was nonexistent. There was absolutely no transition that indicated a passing of time. It felt like one never-ending day even though I know that more time passed than that.

I found the romance in this incredibly cringey. It made me so uncomfortable that Travis spent so much of the book telling himself that he couldn’t be attracted to Georgie because of the fact that she had grown up as the the “dorky little sister”. It just felt like he was infantilizing her and it really didn’t help that he continuously called her “baby girl”. In general I find pet names really cringey but the two aspects paired together made me feel kind of gross. They didn’t even last more than a few chapters before the whole “no sex while we’re fake dating” thing went out the window. I don’t know why they didn’t just agree to be friends-with-benefits from the beginning and just ham up the romantic stuff for the paparazzi.

The romance between the side characters felt completely thrown in there too. I felt like Georgie’s brother had a very toxic relationship with his wife, he very clearly wanted kids and it sounds like she didn’t and was getting him to stay with her by stringing him along letting him think she’ll agree to have kids someday. It skeeved me out too when Georgie’s mom played “wing woman” so that Georgie and Travis could go do it in the pool house (omg the amount of public or semi public sex disturbed me too, don’t do that y’all, it’s not sexy), like her mom acted like she just wanted her daughter to get some. I can understand being supportive of the relationship but ew?

Even for the people that love smutty scenes I don’t really see any sort of redemption from them. Travis was grossly controlling and dominating and while yes there are relationships in which stuff like that works, it always needs to be discussed beforehand and safety always has to be a priority. I’m not saying that anything went out of hand or that anything bad happened but with the way that everything else was talked about (including the fact that her virginity was a main component of all the sexual stuff) it felt like Travis was borderline taking advantage of Georgie. One line that really stuck out to me was when Georgie was described as this “man’s pleasure tool”… Um no, I’m sorry but women aren’t for being used for men’s pleasure.

And how overly sexualized Travis was? Ew. He truly had no redeeming qualities. He treated Georgie like his savior which is absolutely bullshit. Women do not need to fix men. This book should’ve been called “Fix Him Up” with how much work needs to be done with Travis. It genuinely made me mad at how much Travis viewed Georgie as his “savior”. I think Georgie was young and is still in the midst of finding her footing in the world and figuring out who she is and what she wants. She’s only 23!! Also I enjoyed that she realized the potential that he clown business had by working to expand it to a full on party business but again, none of that was really fleshed out. All the side plots and side characters were so secondary to this overly sexualized lusty relationship. I hated the ending so much because it was so rushed and seriously, I get that you’ve known the guy since you were a kid but WHY are you agreeing to marry him??? And given that there really was no time frame in this I have no idea how long they fake dated but I just feel like this was the worst way that this could have ended. Way, way too soon to get engaged.

I think this book might end up being one of the biggest, if not biggest disappointments of the year. Despite going into it with slightly adjusted expectations because of the negative reviews that I saw the description itself sounds like a completely different book than what ended up in my hands. This book had the potential to be something really good and it just wasn’t. It could have been a sweet, steamy, well developed romance and all it was was a giant mess. All I want to do is send this book back to the editor and ask how the hell they let this get published as is.

I really don’t recommend this book. If you’ve read it, what did you think of it? I’m still trying to find a romance book that impresses me, but it feels like everything I’ve read has something that just grinds my gears by the end of it.

I’ll be back on Sunday with an update for Camp NaNoWriMo and shocker, it won’t be great! Have a great weekend everyone.