Torrian Smallwood has written a book. It’s not about his career in the NFL but it is about his childhood, his sister, and her dream. He wants to give her the restaurant of her dreams as a thank you for everything she did for him. Unfortunately a small time blogger of internet fame, Paige Turner, doesn’t take to it—even if she likes the recipes—and Torrian’s ill-advised comment on Paige’s negative review of his book leads to a courtship.
I wish I’d known about this book in 2010. I wish I was reading actively then. But I didn’t and wasn’t and the past couple of years have been hell for honest reviewers who’ve dared to post negative reviews. I’ve seen first time self-published authors sic their fans on a hobby reviewer because of a negative review. I’ve seen established authors dismiss all non-academic negative reviews—no one is criticising the positive reviews. I’ve seen publicists, editors, family and friends leave nasty comments on threads for anything less than stellar maximum stars reviews. Worse yet, I’ve seen friends doxed and harassed for simply daring to post honest, critical reviews and not subscribing to the “be nice” policy.
So, understandably but perhaps unjustly, my reaction to Torrian’s and Paige’s meet cute wasn’t favourable. And that baggage weighed heavily on my reading experience of this story. I’ve no way of knowing just how skewed my opinion is, just that it is.
Huddle With Me Tonight is an uneven book. There were moments that made me smile and moments that had me lifting my eyebrows in disbelief. Torrian would go from the most clichéd pick up lines to the most adorable banter with Paige, and for a moment I’d forget that he was one of those badly behaving authors intimidating a virtual nobody. I’d forget that he stalked her, got ahold of her phone number and home address, and I’d forget that she’d let him in because he’s a famous American football player. (I’m Finnish, the descriptor is needed.)
Torrian had his good moments too, with his family and friends. And yes, even with Paige he could be genuinely charming. His poor impulse control was properly explained, and in another life I could have forgiven him. Only, he absolutely refused to apologise publicly and instead tricked Paige into apologising. After which, he could magnanimously admit having been wrong too. That was the whole book, focusing on him and his problems while Paige’s traumas were sidelined.
It’s all too realistic and surprising in itself that the realism didn’t appeal to me here. The only way I can explain it is that this hit a little too close to home. I would have slammed the door in his face or at least demanded a public meeting place instead of allowing him into my home.
Still, I was leaning on liking this book until the twist at the end happened. It’s a stock plot device that instead of upping the stakes utterly destroyed my ability to suspend disbelief in their happily ever after. Even an honest discussion couldn’t have saved their romance because it all came down to trust and he had none. Maybe if I hadn’t been so set against Torrian’s character from the start, I might have stretched my imagination.
I want to read more from Rochon, I just need to make sure I stay away from all blogger-author romances.
Final Assessment: Read it, if you want to enjoy the fantasy of a famous athlete sweeping you off your feet and if you’ve never had to fear for an online retaliation. D
Series: New York Sabers Football #2