This is a chapter-by-chapter review of problematic romance novel ‘Walking Disaster’ by Jamie McGuire. Posts in the series will all be linked back to the initial post, here.
‘Walking Disaster’ is a companion novel to ‘Beautiful Disaster’, which is currently being snark-reviewed by the magnificent Jenny Trout. Links to that review and other reviews of Jenny’s can be found here.
Chapter Eleven: Cold Bitch
Well, there’s a title with ominous connotations.
Travis gets a lift home with Shepley. I’m a bit puzzled; it didn’t sound as though the party was winding down, or anything. Sure, Travis wants to go because Abby’s left (and, worse than that, left with Parker, gasp, horror), but did Shepley and America have to leave just to get him home? We don’t find out.
Adam rings; he’s got a fight arranged for an hour’s time. This is weird spacing; the last two were a month apart, and now Adam’s arranging them on consecutive evenings? Travis says he can’t make it. Adam’s pretty annoyed, saying he ‘went to a lot of trouble to set this up’. Well, gee, Adam, maybe in that case you should have taken the trouble to check beforehand whether Travis could make it instead of expecting him to be free at an hour’s notice.
They get home. No sign of Parker’s car (which is a Porsche, apparently, so Travis really wasn’t kidding about him coming from money). Shepley assures him he has ‘nothing to worry about’, in what sound like oddly certain tones. Abby and Parker do in fact get back to the apartment less than ten minutes later.
At this point, a quick recap of a story Travis told us in Chapter Three. On one occasion when a woman who’d gone home with Travis got angry because he ‘didn’t pretend to want a relationship afterwards’ (Travis’s version of her motivations; looking back with a little more knowledge of Travis’s modus operandi, I suspect he was probably trying to chuck the poor woman out on the street in the middle of the night with no way to get home, so I’m not surprised she was angry), she had to phone her friend, who was with Parker, so Parker ended up taking the woman home. Since then, Travis tells us, he’s been impressing women by ‘recounting the time he saved Janet’. So, we now get to see what I think is meant to be this in action:
“Any humiliated, stranded girls in there I need to give a ride?”
[…]”I’m always giving him a hard time. I don’t get to quite as often since he’s realized it’s easier if he can get them to drive their own cars.”
So, for the first time so far in this narrative, I actually have reason to dislike Parker; he’s snarking about someone else’s humiliation in order to score points off Travis. Dick move, Parker.
Abby, alas, doesn’t call him out on that; she laughs along with the joke. Travis tells her it’s not funny, and for once he’s actually right, though probably for the wrong reasons.
There’s a bit of back-and-forth about Travis’s habit of calling Abby ‘Pidge’, and Parker leaves. We then get this:
Abby was busy swooning, so to snap her back to reality, I slammed the door without warning.
Abby snaps “What?”. Coincidentally, that was also my response on reading that.
Travis stomps off to bed without answering, and Abby follows him. In the bedroom, she balances awkwardly on one leg, trying to take off her shoe. Just how complicated is this shoe? If there are buckles involved, wouldn’t she have knelt down to get them undone before trying to pull it off? Oh, well, it’s hardly the most unwise decision we’re getting from Abby as the book continues.
Anyway, that bit is apparently there to give Travis an(other) excuse to be handsy. He watches for a few minutes, then decides ‘to help before she fell over’, which he does by hooking one arm around her waist.
Travis, you know what’s a nice thing to do in that situation? Offer to help. Maybe stand in front of her and say ‘Here, want to lean on my shoulder?’ so that she has a chance to steady herself without being groped if she wants to. Or just say ‘Hey, do you need a hand there?’ You know what’s not a nice thing? Stepping straight in to get your arm around her without caring about whether she might object to that.
Anyway, he then pulls her shoe off himself, without mention of buckles. So… sounds like it was a slip-on? Why was it giving Abby so much trouble? Whatever.
To Travis’s surprise, Abby then changes from her dress to her night-time T-shirt in front of him, commenting that she’s sure there’s nothing she has that Travis hasn’t seen before. (In case you were wondering, she does keep her bra on during this. Travis tells us that she takes it off once her T-shirts on by using ‘some sort of magic bra trick’ which, he tells us, all women seem to know. While I’d guess that all regular bra-wearers probably do know the trick, as it’s hardly that difficult, I’m wondering when Travis would have observed so many women doing it? Do his sex partners regularly keep their tops on while taking their bras off?)
He’s feeling irritated that, having ridden home with Parker, she’s just undressed in front of Travis ‘like it was nothing’. Thus thinks the man who undressed in front of Abby like it was nothing a few nights ago. However, he does at least recognise that this is the situation he’s got himself into by pretending the undressing/bedsharing is all strictly platonic and doesn’t mean anything sexual to him.
He also thinks about how ‘throwing a tantrum’ over it if she dates Parker is just going to ‘drive her straight into his arms’. Because he is incapable of recognising that other responses exist, and also can’t bring himself just to stop spending time with her, he decides he’ll just have to hide his jealousy. Sigh. I guess our plot’s tension has been set up. I don’t enjoy plots based on misunderstandings even when they’re well-written.
During the course of the following discussion, Travis will:
- Rest a hand on her hip
- Run his finger along her arm
- Put his hand over hers and caress the insides of her fingers
- Kiss her hair
Book, please stop pretending this is all sweet and romantic and lovely. Yes, it would be… if it wasn’t happening in a situation where Travis has coerced her into sharing a bed with him and keeps intimidating her with his temper, and where she’s said she doesn’t want to get sexually involved with him. However, it is happening in this situation, so it just feels creepy as hell.
Anyway, here’s what gets said: He tells her about turning down the fight and, when she asks why, he says he wanted to be sure she got home safely. He says he still feels bad about the other night and Abby says she’s told him she doesn’t care. He asks her why she slept in the recliner if she didn’t care:
“I couldn’t fall asleep after your … friends left.”
“You slept just fine in the recliner. Why couldn’t you sleep with me?”
“You mean next to a guy who still smelled like the pair of barflies he had just sent home? I don’t know! How selfish of me!”
I’m not thrilled about the hint of slut-shaminess there, but I am pleased that she’s calling out Travis, who is being a pushy jerk on this point.
I recoiled, trying to keep the visual out of my head. “I said I was sorry.”
Note the annoyance there that… that she isn’t OK with pretending nothing happened? Travis, she’s right. She didn’t want to sleep next to you, and that’s completely her decision to make. Heck, it’s not even about her reasons; it’s up to her whether she sleeps next to you or not. Stop getting annoyed about it, and leave her alone.
“And I said I didn’t care. Goodnight.”
I’m actually liking Abby in this scene. Anyway, this is where we get the hand-stroking and the hair-kissing, and then this:
“As worried as I was that you’d never speak to me again… I think it’s worse that you’re indifferent.”
And Abby, bless her, gives him some straight talking:
“What do you want from me, Travis? You don’t want me to be upset about what you did, but you want me to care. You tell America that you don’t want to date me, but you get so pissed off when I say the same thing that you storm out and get ridiculously drunk. You don’t make any sense.”
Travis’s reaction to this… is surprise.
“Is that why you said those things to America? Because I said I wouldn’t date you?”
Um… yes? If someone hears you saying you’re not going to date them, then surely it’s a pretty normal reaction for them to respond to queries on the subject with ‘No, he doesn’t want to date me’. However, since Abby is presented as reacting to the question with ‘shock and anger’, I suspect that the subtext here is supposed to be ‘Were you saying those things as revenge for me saying I wouldn’t date you?’. In which case, McGuire is actually agreeing with Travis that the reasons Abby gave for believing she and Travis wouldn’t end up dating are actually insults rather than just statements of fact (or, in the case of ‘he’s not interested in me that way’, something Abby genuinely believed was fact and which is in no way derogatory anyway).
Abby says she meant what she said but didn’t mean it as an insult. It didn’t come across as one, either, Abby; Travis’s fury/distress over what you said seems to be solely because you thought he was something other than wonderful. By the way, that’s what we call a red flag, and learn to recognise them because there are a heck of a lot of them around here.
[Travis]”I just said that because I don’t want to ruin anything. I wouldn’t even know how to go about being who you deserve. I was just trying to get it worked out in my head.”
[Abby] “Whatever that means[…]”
While it should be fairly obvious that it means that he does want to date her, I’ll give her a pass on this one; she’s been up all night and I can totally understand her wanting to cut his angsting short and get some sleep already. (Admittedly, this doesn’t explain the level of obtuseness about his actual feelings that ‘Beautiful Disaster’ has apparently been portraying her as having, but I’ll ignore that for the moment as this conversation actually works well if taken at face value.)
Abby tells him she has a date tonight and has to get some sleep. And, yes, it’s with Parker, and can she go to sleep now. Travis finally leaves her alone and, in fact, goes off to sleep on the recliner himself.
So much for keeping my temper in check
Well, now you come to mention it…
It didn’t matter what I said, even the few times that I was clear about my feelings.
Which ‘few times’ would those be, exactly? I can’t think of even one time in the book so far that he’s clearly stated to Abby that he wants to have a proper relationship with her. He did tell her – during their drunken night out – that he wanted to have sex with her, but he hasn’t told her he wants more. (Again, it should in practice be clear enough from his sulks and tantrums around the subject… but being clear about his feelings is one thing he hasn’t tried.)
Her selective hearing was infuriating. I couldn’t get through to her, and being direct just seemed to make her angry.
As I said, I do know from Jenny’s reviews that McGuire really is writing Abby with this level of obtuseness about Travis’s feelings, so I’m guessing that is what’s going on here is more of the same. However, if I hadn’t read that and was taking this book at face value, then what we’d actually be getting here would be a description of someone who wasn’t interested.
This has scary implications. Abby knows what Travis’s temper is like; even if she realised full well what his feelings were and didn’t reciprocate them, it would be very difficult for her to say so. It’s completely understandable that, in such a situation, she’d try hinting or just evading rather than speaking straight out. Travis is getting angry with her for this… but he doesn’t seem to be considering the possibility that this might be the reason. Instead, he’s blaming her for not responding in the way he wants.
Our romantic hero, ladies and gentlemen.
The sun came up half an hour later.
We’re meant to be approximately three months into term here. If we go with late August for the start of the academic year, which seems to be the case for many colleges in the US (I find that weird, but never mind that) then that puts us into late November. I did some googling on sunrise times; even assuming this college is about as far south as possible to be in the US and fudging what little we’ve been given by way of timelines (both of which actually seem legit enough, considering how little information we’re actually given about place and time) I can’t see sunrise as being earlier than around 6.30-ish, which would make it around 6 a.m. when Travis left Abby to sleep. In the first place, no wonder she’s bloody annoyed that he’s angsting at her instead of letting her get a bit of sleep. In the second, when the hell did Adam phone up about this fight? No matter how I wiggle the times we’ve been given, this is still coming up at something along the lines of a 5 a.m. call about starting a fight an hour later.
Damn, McGuire sucks at keeping timelines straight.
Travis falls asleep, only to get woken by his phone ‘moments later’. I’m going to assume that that timing was just how it felt to him, since it turns out to be 10.20 am and if he really fell asleep just moments ago then that would make the timing even more screwed. The phone call is from Trenton, needing Travis’s help with their father’s truck. Trenton says he has to get to work in an hour. From reading the blurb on the Trenton sequel, I know he works at a tattoo parlour, so why the heck is he working on what should logically now be a Sunday? Oh, well, I guess I don’t know the typical hours of tattoo parlours, particularly tattoo parlours that aren’t even in my country, so I’ll let that one go.
Travis points out that he doesn’t know anything about cars, so Trenton tells him to tell Shepley, because… Shepley owns a car and this is taken as meaning that he knows how to fix one. Also apparently call-out services from garages don’t exist, or something. I’m assuming this is all just a clumsy plot setup for… some sort of conversation between Travis, Shepley, and possibly Trenton and their father as well. Anyway, Shepley gets up uncomplainingly and they both drive over to Travis’s father’s house. Oh, and Travis mentions he got four hours sleep, so I guess the ‘moments later’ thing was just hyperbole. OK.
They get there and there’s some technical talk about what’s wrong with the truck; I know nothing about mechanics and can’t tell you whether or not this bit stands up technically, but the upshot is that apparently the truck’s going to be simple to fix and just needs a replacement part. Travis’s dad asks the boys about America and Abby and, for some reason, refers to Abby as ‘Travis’s pigeon’, which doesn’t really make sense since Travis did describe her to his father as a pigeon but hasn’t referred to her in that way while talking to him. Oh, well. We get some chit-chat about it and a recap of Shepley’s concerns over whether this will screw things up with America, yadda, yadda. However, Shepley has now moved on to the point of telling Travis that he’s ‘rooting for you’ despite his misgivings.
We then hear a puppy barking, and, yes, it’s the one Travis is getting for Abby (headdesk, headdesk). Apparently it’s staying here for now. And has already ‘pissed in the bathroom twice’, which Travis’s father is blasé about. No-one is raising any questions as to whether Abby has any desire to own a puppy that isn’t even fully housetrained. I hate you all, characters.
Also, consistency issues: 1. this is supposed to be ‘until tomorrow’. Why? Abby’s birthday was earlier described as ‘a week next Sunday’, and this is Sunday, best I can work out, so one more week to go to her birthday. 2. When did Travis arrange all this? He could have done it yesterday during what were apparently marathon party preparations on Abby’s part, but there isn’t even an oblique mention of this; according to that chapter, Travis spent all that time staring at the TV.
Oh, well, at least we have an implied explanation for the ‘Travis’s pigeon’ line. If Travis has been back in touch with his dad to sort out the business with the puppy, he could have referred to Abby as ‘Pigeon’ during that conversation.
We also get this claim about Travis’s father:
He always knew how to handle us boys when things got tense, and he usually tried to mollify us before we were too far gone.
Come off it, Travis; you’ve already told us you grew up fighting your older brothers so regularly and so hard that you learned fighting skills that’ll knock a man unconscious. Bit late for a retcon now.
Off to the parts store. The day’s turning cold, and Shepley comments “It’s a cold bitch today”. So, on the one hand, we technically have our title grab. On the other hand, I’m just the teensiest bit sceptical that McGuire chose to call this chapter after one offhand comment about the weather and that it has nothing whatsoever to do with a reference to Abby. McGuire, I shall suspend judgement on that point to the end of the chapter; you’ve got that long to come up with something better.
(Heck, could’ve worked if the puppy had been female and had been shivering in the cold and they felt sorry for her. I could have lived with that. Better still – much better still – McGuire could have changed the whole ‘buy a puppy for Abby’ story to one where Travis and Abby find an abandoned female dog and take care of her. That could have been really good.)
Shepley stops in the parking lot to talk to Travis about what’ll happen when Parker picks Abby up for the date tonight. (Neither of them seem to question whether Parker is picking Abby up; how do they know Abby isn’t just meeting him somewhere? To be fair, I suppose Parker’s got transport and Abby hasn’t, so I guess it does make sense for him to collect her.) Shepley points out that Travis’ll look a lot better in front of Abby if he can be polite to Parker and friendly to Abby when they head off instead of losing his temper over it. This actually seems to get through to Travis.
They get the part, Shepley fixes the truck, they head back. Abby is still asleep. We get more description of how the day unfolds, down to Shepley going off for a massive dump and America commenting about how she’s not going to be using the bathroom after that, which, thanks, I really wanted to know that in a book that’s supposed to be a romance but so far has skimmed over almost any actual scenes of the purported couple together other than the ones that involve them arguing about something. Now you decide to start showing us detail, McGuire? Apparently so.
Travis watches films on TV with America and thinks how much he misses having Abby around (as in, awake). He’s grown accustomed to her… face. Well, actually to ‘her voice, her playful jabs, or even the sound of her picking at her nails’. Is all this meant to have happened during the times they hung out before her temporary move over here? All that seems to have happened since then is showering, sleeping, and drunken partying.
Oh, and we’re given a description of the apartment that includes ‘our favorite beer posters with half-naked hot chicks sprawled in various positions’. Didn’t Shepley’s fixation on not doing anything that might offend America get as far as pulling those down?
Eventually, two films later, Travis hears Abby come out of the bedroom and go into the bathroom, whereupon he instantly gets angry as he assumes she’s ‘getting ready for her date with Parker’. Dude, she just woke up; going into the bathroom is pretty normal behaviour at this point. However, Shepley says ‘Trav’ warningly and Travis remembers Shepley’s advice from earlier and actually calms down.
America runs down the hall to go in and talk to America, because apparently no-one here cares about personal privacy. On that theme, Travis gets up and stands outside the door to eavesdrop on their conversation. He hears Abby cry out suddenly and pushes the door open, but Abby tells him she’s fine and to go away, so we don’t find out what that was all about. (I assume that ‘Beautiful’ tells us what that was all about. I would headcanon that it was she and America seizing the opportunity for a few minutes of great sex, but it’s right after the toilet flushes, so that doesn’t really work, alas.)
Trav goes on eavesdropping. Abby complains about the lack of locks on the doors. America is apparently on the pro-Trabby part of her opinion cycle at the moment, because she tells Abby it’s too bad the two of them couldn’t ‘get on the same page’.
“You’re the only girl that could have…” She sighed. “Never mind. It doesn’t matter, now.”
I can’t think of a single good ending to that sentence. The only girl that could have caught Travis’s interest? Excuse me if I don’t have too much sympathy for him, given the way he behaves. The only girl that could have reformed Travis? Eugh. Going into relationships as some sort of supposed improvement project is a ghastly idea. The only girl that could have put up with him? I think Abby deserves better than someone she can ‘put up’ with. Anyone got anything that can go in there that sounds good, or even OK?
Abby gets annoyed with America for talking this way when she (America) is actually angry at Travis, because it doesn’t make sense. Yes, Abby, you’ve got a point there. Travis, meanwhile, leaves them alone and goes back to the living room and we get another rendition of Travis feeling that this hint of approval from America means that dating Abby would be OK, because apparently we need that point explained to us again. Whatever; I’m feeling seriously past the ability to care about any of this anyway.
Fortunately, this chapter is nearly over. Abby comes out of the bathroom all dressed up for her date and looking gorgeous. Parker arrives and tells Abby she looks beautiful. Travis barely manages to hang onto his temper. Parker and Abby leave. Shepley praises Travis for having spent an entire thirty seconds hanging onto his temper. Chapter ends. Thank goodness.