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.
This was initially a companion series to the magnificent Jenny Trout‘s review of the original novel, ‘Beautiful Disaster’. Jenny has since stopped her review, not wanting to give McGuire any further publicity in the wake of her attempts to run for office.
Bloody hell, it’s been a while. I left this for almost six months, came back and wrote up half the chapter, left it again and came back to it again, just over a year after doing the last chapter. But now! I have done another chapter! And calculated that if I can keep this rate up, I should finish this book not too long after I start drawing my pension! Or, y’know, I could do what Jenny did and just DNF. Should I do that? I should probably do that. But here, FWIW, is the chapter review.
Chapter 15: Tomorrow
Kind of ironic I spent so long getting to it, then.
Two weeks. That was all I had left […]
Three, not two. McGuire, it should not be this difficult to keep track of a basic timeline. I’m wondering whether maybe an original draft had the bet-to-party timeline taking two weeks but got edited to one and she forgot to make other changes in the draft to allow for the fact that it would then be three weeks from the party till the end of the month; that’s about the only way I can explain it. Still, it’s sloppy.
Travis says that two weeks was all he had left to ‘somehow show Abby that I could be who she needed’, so he goes for a charm offensive, saying he ‘pulled out all the stops; spared no expense’, but, of course, doesn’t make any mention of straight-out letting her know how he feels. You know what this is reminding me of? That awful ‘Nice Guy’ article that was doing the rounds years back by an anonymous author whose strategy of following women round trying to do as many favours for them as possible was somehow failing to get them to spontaneously decide to dump their boyfriends and go out with him instead. In addition to everything else wrong with that article, it never seemed to occur to the author that, rather than this indicating that the women in question didn’t want to go out with nice guys, it might just possibly mean that they were not fucking telepathic. If you want a romantic relationship with someone, either tell them this or accept that it’s highly unlikely to happen, but don’t faff around feeling sorry for yourself just because they don’t pick up on your wishes through seizing them out of the ether.
Anyway, McGuire speeds the plot up a bit (hooray) and summarises the rest of the month:
We went bowling, on dinner dates, lunch dates, and to the movies. We also spent as much time at the apartment as possible: renting movies, ordering in, anything to be alone with her.
Uh, if you’re going on all those different dates you’re not spending as much time at the apartment as possible. But whatever.
Travis does a couple of fights for Adam during this time so that he can earn some money, but keeps them as short as he can in order to get back to Abby faster, which Adam isn’t too happy about.
…for the first time, I felt like a normal, whole human being instead of some broken, angry man.
Folks, your regular reminder here that using a relationship as therapy for your own brokenness is a horrible idea. Get some actual therapy; that’s what it’s there for.
Abby laughed a lot, but she never opened up.
…says the man who’s now spent weeks failing to mention the rather salient fact that he desperately wants a romantic relationship with her.
Anyway, they get to the last morning and Travis is angsting over what it’ll be like after the bet’s over:
Pidge would be around, maybe visit occasionally, probably with America, but she would be with Parker.
Why is Travis still worrying about Parker? The story so far is supposed to be that Abby and Parker had a few dates, Parker caught Abby and Travis asleep in the same bed and thought they’d had sex, and that, over the next two/three/however many weeks it’s supposed to have been since then, Travis and Abby have been spending all available time together. Whatever is or isn’t happening romantically between Travis and Abby, that sequence of events does not sound as though he has any reason to think Abby and Parker are a thing any more.
I was on the brink of losing her.
Oh, the tension! The tension! After weeks of being mysteriously unable just to tell Abby straight out how he feels, he’s going to… go on seeing her regularly as a friend with ongoing opportunities to just tell her straight out how he feels!
Shep, in another of his intermittent moments of ‘person who actually talks some sense’, comes in and points out to him that he’s going to see Abby again. Travis says it won’t be the same and even if she doesn’t end up with Parker she’ll end up with ‘someone like Parker’.
“I’ve tried everything. I can’t get through to her.[…]”
OH, FFS, AT WHAT POINT DID YOU ACTUALLY TRY TELLING HER HOW YOU FEEL? I mean, that’s a pretty obvious thing to try, if you want someone to date you; try asking them instead of hoping to transmit your feelings via telepathy. Honestly… I would buy it if we were going with a ‘She can’t possibly feel the same way and I don’t want to ruin the friendship!’ plot, or a ‘She deserves better than me’ plot (which was where we started out and which would, of course, have the bonus of being absolutely correct, not that that helps the romantic tension much). But somehow we’ve swerved into a plot where the obstacle is an invented communication problem that is nowhere either demonstrated or explained.
Travis says that maybe she just doesn’t feel the same way – which is indeed a possibility to be considered, and is something he could find out if he just, y’know, asked – and Shepley says ‘Or maybe she’s trying not to’, which, if so, would be a good reason just to let it be. No, Shep advises that he make her a romantic meal that night with a bottle of wine, while he and America clear out somewhere.
Trav implements this plan and Abby seems to like it. He tells her how much he’s going to miss her and frets about how she’s going to be dating Parker. (Since it’s fairly obvious that she’s not dating Parker by this point, it’s weird that she doesn’t point out that she’s not.) He asks her to stay and she says she can’t move in because that’s ‘crazy’.
“Says who? I just had the best two weeks of my life.”
THREE!! THREE!! Grrrr.
“Then why do I feel like I’m never gonna see you again?”
It’s called catastrophising, Travis.
Abby comes round, sits on his lap, starts stroking his face, bends over to peck him on the side of the mouth, and he turns it into a lingering kiss on the lips. I would have thought that surely at this point they must have lost the plausible deniability on the whole ‘he/she can’t possibly really feel this way about me’ thing; I mean, this would be a perfect moment for “Wow, that happened, guess we should talk”. From the literary POV it would also work to have one or other of them go into panicked babbling ‘MUST AVOID TALKING!’ mode because that’s also a fairly natural reaction at this sort of point. What actually happens is that Abby pulls away and acts as though nothing much has happened and Travis goes along with it. She says she’s got a big day tomorrow (why? Was that explained at some point that I missed because of having temporarily fallen into a boredom-induced coma? Possibly) and will get the kitchen cleaned up and then head to bed.
We did the dishes together in silence, with Toto asleep at our feet.
Sounds like a bit of a hazardous place for Toto, who would be at constant risk of getting splashed, accidentally kicked, or accidentally stepped on. I guess McGuire has had one of her moments of remembering Toto exists and wanting him there for cuteness purposes but without, as usual, thinking through the practicalities.
She also really doesn’t seem to have thought through what it would be like standing working next to the person you just shared a passionate kiss with for the first time without either of you talking about it. I mean, that’s a weird tense situation, and it’s the sort of tension that normally would be played up to the hilt in a romance novel, with lots of ‘I could feel the warmth of her shoulder inches from mine’ and ‘the scent from her shampoo tantalised my nostrils’ and ‘I sucked my breath in sharply as her hand accidentally brushed against mine’, etc. Good grief, I didn’t realise how much I’d picked up from reading romance novels. The point is, we don’t get any of that from McGuire. It’s… well, literally as dull as dishwater. Duller, since hearing about the dishwater would probably make it more interesting.
They go and get changed for bed and there’s still absolutely zero sexual tension. I mean, there’s tension over this whole fake ‘last chance for Trav to get together with Abby’ thing, but there’s no hint that he’s physically attracted to the woman undressing in front of him and climbing into bed with him. I guess that’s been the case all along, thinking about it; it’s striking me now more that I’m coming back to this book after reading a few ‘there was only one bed’ romances and noticing the contrast. Anyway, he holds her (still no hint that he’s sexually aroused) and feels miserable about the morning coming. She realises he’s miserable.
“This is silly,” she said.
“We’re going to see each other every day.”
“You know that’s not true.”
After a pause, Abby starts kissing his neck. Flippin’ FINALLY. Trav starts kissing her properly. She tells him she wants him and Trav reassures her that she doesn’t have to do this. She says “Don’t make me beg” and they start kissing properly. McGuire screws up the timeline yet again:
Six weeks of pent-up sexual tension overwhelmed me
No. You had sex just before Abby and America came to stay at the flat. It’s been just over a month since then (two days from then till the bet, a month from then till now because that’s the time interval stipulated in the bet). Where is McGuire getting six weeks from? Grrr, whatever. I’ve got to read a sex scene with Travis Maddox now; I think some skimming is in order.
Oooookay, here’s what happened (and what didn’t). He did check in again to make sure that she wants sex, so at least this time it really is consensual. And he does think about how it’s important for him to be gentle. And they do use a condom. So this could have been a lot worse. However, despite supposedly being this stud with lots of experience who’s amazing in bed, he doesn’t even try to make her come or care that she hasn’t. Seriously, there is nothing about that side of things at all. This is supposed to be our romantic hero. So… yeah, they finally had The Big First-Time Sexual Experience, and the best I can find to say about it is that he used protection and didn’t actually rape her.
Anyway, she makes a joke about “That was some first kiss” (which it… wasn’t? Because they already had that out in the kitchen?) and he says “Your last first kiss”, which sounds like an assumption waaaaay too far. Then he falls asleep next to her without asking what he can do to help her come, because he’s a dick. But he now thinks they’re a couple and assumes she’ll now stay with him, so he’s happy. And there we go, another chapter finished.