Well, it took this one to pull me out of my reviewing slump. I try really hard not to post negative reviews. Y'all know that. But I had to say something about this book. And I'm not really quite sure what to say about it. Except this. I really wanted to like this book. I really did. I loved Martin's first book. I liked her second book. I reluctantly liked The Penalty Box. But I don't know why I continue to read books about Jewish heroines. It's like I'm on a continuous quest to find a book that doesn't totally stereotype either the heroine or her family. Yet at the same time, something keeps me reading. And I apologize in advance for the rant that is sure to come, because we try very hard not to make this blog a forum for our personal views. So, having said all that...
Delilah Gould is a painfully shy dog trainer who meets and falls in love with Jason Mitchell, one of those hunky hockey players that Martin is so fond of writing. Jason hires her to train his Newf, who is himself a supporting character. Along the way, we meet Jason's over-confident twin (also a hockey player), Delilah's gay best friend (didn't we see this in the last book?), both families, and a host of teammates and old couples from past books.
What I liked: I liked that Jason wasn't your typical stuck-up athlete. He seemed very down-to-earth, and very sweet. He did have a few (ok, several) dumb jock moments, but that is to be expected when reading a book about, well... jocks. I loved that he beat the crap out of his teammate for calling Delilah a derogatory name. He stood up for her not just out of principle, but because he honestly couldn't believe what came out of his teammate's mouth.
Martin did try very hard not to make Delilah into your stereotypical Jewish heroine. She wasn't a JAP, but she did have very stereotypical parents. Why can't there just be normal Jewish families out there?
What I didn't like: I practically peed in my pants and keeled over when I read the word "kike" in this book. One of Jason's teammates is an anti-Semite, and called Jason a Kike-lover, as well as spouting every other stereotype in the book. I wonder if Martin realizes that were this a book about African-Americans, she couldn't have gotten away with calling the hero an "N"-lover. Her editor would have drawn the line. To Jews, the "K" word is the same thing. So why is this ok? I almost put the book down right there, but I wanted to see how she resolved the situation.
Sorry to say, Delilah never once stood up for herself with Denny (the teammate). She let Jason do it for her, even when he was rude to her face. It's a difficult situation to be in, but man oh man, she was a doormat. I don't know what else I can say about this, except I'm still utterly floored at the chutzpah displayed by both Martin and Berkley in publishing the racial slur in this book.
Now on to the families. Why are Jewish families so stereotyped? Delilah's family was totally dysfunctional. Her parents were divorced, always yelling at each other. Her mother picked at her, and she was "daddy's little girl". Mom was always concerned with makeup and obsessed with Delilah's weight and appearance. oh, and "Do you have a boyfriend?" Dad is the local TV "Mattress King," complete with the bad toupee and the 20-something girlfriend. Even their names - Mitzi and Sy? Oy. Jason's parents, on the other hand, were loving, normal folks who showed Delilah what a normal functional family should feel like. They embraced her into the family fold, never once seeming to care that their son was dating a girl who would likely raise their grandchildren Jewish. Let me tell you, people, as one who has lived that situation... it matters. (Although Martin did give them laughable names, too, I must admit - Dick and Jane. But she had them acknowledge the silliness of their names right off the bat, of course.) And Jason, of course, was totally thrown by Delilah's family. Freaked out and felt totally sorry for her.
So as I got angrier and angrier about this stereotyping, I began to think about it a bit more. My own hubby felt a bit overwhelmed when he met my family. Jewish families do tend to be a bit... louder?... than other families. And compared to mine, Bob's family is totally laid back and seemingly "normal". So is stereotyping ok? No. Or is it over the top? Yes. I certainly haven't met any Jewish families as crazy freaky as any that I've read about in a romance novel. Yet, I know why she wrote this NY Jewish family the way she did.
I can't give this book a thumbs up. Yet I kept reading. Like watching a train wreck, I had to see what would happen next. Martin's book is no worse than any other book with a Jewish heroine (the K word notwithstanding). I guess I just read it at a time when I was ripe to jump on this topic. Jews are not a freak side show, people (authors, editors, publishers). In fact, they even came first - remember?
So, here's my challenge to all you authors out there. Please... somebody write a book about a H/H who just happen to be Jewish, just like in most novels they happen to not be Jewish. No stereotypes, no loud, obnoxious parents, no dysfunctional Uncle Arthurs or Aunt Selmas. Just normal people falling in love, who go to temple on Friday night instead of church on Sunday morning. Why is that so flipping difficult?