Making the First Move by Reese Ryan

August 29, 2013 Contemporary, Reviews 4

Book cover for Making the First Move by Reese Ryan. A black man wearing a white tank top and a black woman in a pink and white nightie cuddle in bed.Over the past five years, Melanie Gordon has worked hard to make a name for herself in her field of business. Dating, her social life, family relationships – everything in her life has taken a backseat to her career. When she’s offered a major promotion and named the branch manager of a brand new regional office, it appears that all of her work and sacrifice has finally paid off. There’s a hitch, of course, in that the office is in Cleveland – where she had fled from with her tail between her legs five years ago.

As if that’s not enough, Melanie’s friend and sort-of colleague Raine Mason tosses a spanner into the works by acting on a simmering, unspoken attraction between them on the night she gets promoted. Although she’s notoriously demanding when it comes to men, Mel’s pretty sure he’s the perfect man. He’s smart, handsome, and the dedicated head of a non-profit that finds employment for disadvantaged populations. But he’s in San Francisco, so what’s a girl to do?

I freely admit that I grabbed this debut novel from author Reese Ryan because I was browsing through Carina’s contemporary romances and the black couple on the cover stood out. (I’m easy, what can I say?) While I enjoyed the book, and will try another by this author, I didn’t love it. It felt like a debut novel. I wanted to be transported by her story, but the writing kept getting in my way. It was dry and prescriptive with an overabundance of fiddly little details that bogged down the narrative. Characterization was flat; the good characters were perfect, the bad characters downright villainous.

What kept me reading was the story’s freshness. It transcended a number of tried and true romance conventions without crossing too far over into chick lit territory. I enjoyed reading about a grown-up woman with a serious career, a full life and a history of past relationships. Melanie was this capable, confident woman that you don’t often get in romance. She’s not perfect, and she grows as a person over the course of the book, but she’s complete. Raine doesn’t swoop in and solve her problems or gift her with a sexual awakening, he enhances and supports her. Theirs is a true partnership of equals and, clumsy writing aside, I’m always here for that.

Another element that jumped out at me was the emphasis on the markers of middle-class life. Like a lot of chick lit, the book frequently name dropped brands and specified the food they ate in restaurants. Unlike chick lit, though, they weren’t exclusive brands. They were Sevens jeans and Stella McCartney purses and plates of beef osso bucco. They were the sorts of things you can find at your average suburban shopping mall. I’ve always read brand name dropping as a sort of aspirational escapism, so I found the brands in this book an unusual detail. I’m still not entirely sure how to read it.

Final Assessment: An entertaining read with a strong focus on the heroine’s journey, but it does occasionally bog down in unnecessary detail and bland telling. C+

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An ice hockey fan from north of Boston and the genre's most beloved troll, Ridley enjoys reading contemporary and historical romance, as well as the odd erotica novel. As someone who uses a wheelchair, she takes a particular interest in disability themes.

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4 Responses to “Making the First Move by Reese Ryan”

  1. Meoskop

    I nailed a romance for the same thing just prior to my reading to reinforce privilege post. Ever since I have been reconsidering. Are those brands (and/or price points) interpreted differently in different eyes?

    I don’t know but the wealth gap of intended readers has been on my mind. With social mobility a given to the white reader it seems likely that we read differently.

  2. Ridley

    @Meoskop: Whatever the author’s motives were, I really liked the middle class vibe. While I understand the appeal of the shipping magnate sweeping the store clerk off her feet fantasy, I finished this book feeling more optimistic than when I finish a Presents. The world of this story was familiar to me and so it felt attainable (well, mostly. The hero’s “secret” is out there, but, wevs.)

    I’m not really a placeholder reader, so when I say it felt attainable, I don’t mean that it felt like I could get a nice HEA like this. It was more that it felt nice to finish a story about a middle-manager at an unglamorous job (a staffing firm) finding an equitable sort of relationship HEA. It was nice to see the “prize” go to someone I could be friends with. It made HEA seem less like a unicorn and more like a nice dressage horse.

  3. Tina

    I put this on my TBR because it was rec’d by a GR friend. But I may bump it up b/c of the middle-class vibe. I actively seek out books that feature blue collar and/or middle class people.

    I don’t think romance generally does middle class very well. Or rather, it doesn’t display middle class & upwardly mobile professionals enjoying the material results of their own hard work the way they do with the wealthy. I do think that, from what you describe of these characters, that this sounds completely realistic.

    For professional WoC who have attained a certain level of success there is a little bit of that Destiny’s Child Independent Woman pride thing going on where they can afford to buy nice things by dint of the fruits of their own labor. They display it like plumage. In so many places where WoC feel invisible, It becomes a visible message of success.

  1. Love Me Not by Reese Ryan | Love in the Margins

    […] caught my eye and the book leapt into my cart, sample unread. I liked but didn’t love it, giving it a C+. Kind of surprisingly, the author emailed us to offer a copy of this book, set in the same series […]