Fun fact: I wasn’t planning to read The Bromance Book Club. Between the title and the synopsis, I really wasn’t interested. But then I saw the cover reveal for the third book in the series and found out it’s about the owner of a cat cafe, and well, here we are. Needless to say, based on that shining one-star rating (the first of the year!), I will not be continuing on with this series.
Unpopular opinion time, because I’m definitely in the minority for this one.
Initially, I didn’t hate this book. I was mostly ambivalent until the halfway point, and then something happened and I just kind of snapped. I want to make it really clear that my main objection to this book is based on my own personal experiences and the bad memories this book brought back, and I can completely understand how people who like second chance romances and books about married couples getting their act together might enjoy this. I was going to try to keep this to a short and sweet mini-review, but the thoughts just kept coming. I’m going to put this very long and very personal rant under a read more tag in case of spoilers.
Click here for a rant.The premise of this book is that Thea and Gavin have been married for three years and it’s just not working. The communication is awful on both sides, with Thea thinking Gavin doesn’t care and Gavin deluding himself into thinking that everything is fine. Thea asks for a divorce. Gavin doesn’t accept it.
The thing is, I’ve been Thea. Not married, but in a long-term relationship of ten years, with our lives entirely built around each other, or, I guess I should say, my life entirely built around his. I’ve had a partner hide from big, uncomfortable conversations, thinking that if we just didn’t address the elephant in the room, it didn’t exist. I’ve had a partner that expected me to carry the whole relationship. I’ve had that “why didn’t you just say you weren’t happy” conversation more times than I can count, and somehow he still “didn’t know” I wasn’t happy. I’ve been accused of “not trying” when all I did for years was try. What I’m trying to say is that I’ve lived the first part of this book, with one difference — I got out. I cut off contact. And Thea might be a fictional character, but I’m so sad for her, because I didn’t even realize how unhappy I was until I moved on with my life. When you’re in a bad relationship, you know it. If your gut is telling you to get out, get out.
Because the thing is, people show you their real selves after you’ve lived together for a while. It’s easy to be polite and helpful and emotionally available for short periods of time, especially if there’s a lot at stake. I can’t tell you how many times my ex told me he’d change, he’d work on himself, he’d do whatever I wanted, we could get married and start a family right now, if only we could get back together. But did he change? No. Of course not. Sure, he’d be nice for a bit, but then he’d go right back to how he’d been, or worse, because he was mad that I’d broken up with him. If I’ve learned one thing in my 29 years on this planet, it’s that people don’t change. You can quit a bad habit. You can’t completely overhaul who you are. Who you’ve been for the last three (or, in my case, ten) years is you, and eventually those personality traits are going to come right back out.
It was little things that Gavin would do that took me right back to that bad relationship. There’s this scene where Thea has two sick toddlers, both of them vomiting (and, side note, why is there so much vomiting in this book?!), and she asks Gavin to grab her some towels. He asks her where they keep the towels, and she looks at him, kind of incredulous, and says something like, “Where we’ve kept the towels as long as we’ve lived here.” And it comes out that Gavin doesn’t even know where the linen closet is. Even after she explains to him exactly where the towels are, he comes back and says there aren’t any in the closet when they’re right there. This is exactly the kind of thing my ex would do and it absolutely infuriated me to read about it.
“You make it sound like things were horrible between us, Thea. They weren’t.”
“Is that the highest standard you aim for? Not horrible?”
Replace “Thea” with “Sara” and you’ve got an exact transcript of probably the last fifteen conversations I had with my ex before I turned off all notifications for him and moved to a different apartment. It’s entirely possible that I’m interpreting all of Gavin’s behavior very differently because of my past experiences, but so many things he did and said came across as manipulative. Like, of course not every minute of the relationship was terrible. That doesn’t mean it was healthy and that doesn’t mean it needs to continue. Can Thea have some agency? Can she make a decision for herself?
More evidence of manipulation:
‣ Gavin must move back into the house and be allowed to kiss Thea every night for a month before he’ll allow her a divorce.
‣ Gavin makes Thanksgiving plans for Thea (without asking!) to hang out with a group of women that constantly berate her, gets mad when he finds out she’d already planned and bought everything to cook her own Thanksgiving dinner, guilts her into attending that event, and even goes so far as to tell her she should have asked him before making plans for herself. After she told him she wants a divorce. After he’d moved out of the house. Of course, this all ends badly when the women (as expected) spend the entire event berating her.
‣ Gavin also refuses to knock on the bedroom door before entering because it’s “his room too,” despite Thea telling him that one of her conditions for him moving back in would be him sleeping in the guest room.
I’m all too familiar with both the Thanksgiving thing and the bedroom thing, so I reacted more strongly to both of those than I think the average reader probably would.
I’m not trying to say that Thea was without her faults. She could have definitely communicated better, especially regarding the main conflict of the book, which isn’t that her husband is manipulative and never helps her, but that she’s been faking her orgasms for the entirety of their marriage. (Though I will say that I think Gavin’s reaction to learning that was a little… over the top.) I think both of the main characters in this book would have benefited from an honest, genuine conversation and a marriage counselor.
I’m also unclear on whether the author knows that there are ways to create conflict and tension that aren’t (a) lying, (b) assumptions and misunderstandings, (c) keeping secrets, and (d) vomiting, because that’s all any of the characters ever do in this book. Well, I guess they have a ton of sex in the second half, but that’s also not without its issues. It’s no wonder Thea never had any orgasms with Gavin because of how absolutely cringey he was in bed, telling Thea to have an orgasm over and over again until she’d lost the mood altogether. Also, he got so pouty when she didn’t have an orgasm, as if it was something she did on purpose! I mean, way to put more pressure on her to have one the next time. No wonder she faked it.
The last thing I want to say is that I had some real traumatic flashbacks when Thea’s sister told her that Gavin was hiding something in the guest room closet, because my ex actually did hide something in the guest room closet. Here I was expecting something bad, and it turned out to be… wait for it… a box of romance novels. God forbid. I wish I would have found a box of romance novels in my guest room closet.
Let me end this rant with two quotes that made me absolutely cringe:
‣ “He looked up with a smile that made Thea’s heart swipe right.” 😬
‣ “You have to find her emotional g-spot.” 🥴
All of that said, I didn’t hate everything about this book. One thing I appreciated was that the male characters in this book tried to fight against typical gender roles. It was little things, like drinking pumpkin spice lattes and reading romance novels, but for famous athletes, who are so often depicted as almost cavemen in romance novels, it was a nice and refreshing change. I also thought that the premise of the book was great — a group of men reading romance novels in order to save their relationships. I don’t know how much that would actually help in real life, but it was cute that they were willing to try.
Unfortunately, those two small points weren’t enough for me to rate this book any higher than one star, and they definitely aren’t enough for me to recommend it or to continue on with this series. I’m incredibly disappointed, but as I said, I fully realize that my major problems with this book were specific to me and my personal experiences and not anything to do with the book itself.
Have you read The Bromance Book Club? Are there any books you’ve disliked just because they brought back bad memories?
Let’s talk in the comments!