I received this book for free from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.Risking It All by Christi Barth
Published by Loveswept on March 8th 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Barnes & Noble
Who doesn’t love Naked Men? In Christi Barth’s irresistible series, a group of close-knit friends talk out their problems with naked honesty on a popular blog. Bonded by a high-school tragedy, they’re moving on from the past—and fighting for the future with strong and sassy women.
Griffin Montgomery helps people. As a teenager, he kept his best friends alive after their soccer team’s bus crashed in the Alps. Now, as a Coast Guard search and rescue pilot, he saves lives with reckless abandon—until he goes too far and earns a lengthy suspension. Working on the Naked Men projects keeps his mind busy, but Griff’s itching to get back in the action. That’s when he finds his latest rescue mission: a pretty wallflower who’s stuck in her comfort zone.
Chloe Widmore doesn’t take risks. As a professional letter writer, she gets enough excitement out of expressing other people’s emotions. So when the hottest man she’s ever seen invades her coffee shop, Chloe surprises herself with how much she wants to be with him. Routines make her feel safe. Griff makes her deliciously unsafe, in so many ways. But falling for him is one risk she might just have to take . . . whether she’s ready or not.
Includes a special message from the editor, as well as an excerpt from another Loveswept title.
This one is a tough one for me to review one way or the other. I liked the story, I liked most of the secondary characters, but I didn’t connect with the main characters at all. They did a lot more telling, and not as much showing, and as a result I couldn’t feel the connection between them enough to feel one myself.
Chloe Widmore is a professional letter. (Side note – I have no idea if this is a real thing or not but I suspect that it is. And I am insanely jealous of anyone who has not only the creative juices to pull that off but the beautiful penmanship to make it a viable profession.) Anyway. She’s a professional letter writer, and Griff Montgomery is a Coast Guard search & rescue pilot with a hero complex. They don’t have much in common, since Chloe is scared of absolutely everything. Every. Thing. Their first date involved Segways. Segways. She referred to Griff as an adrenaline junkie based on riding Segways. Which she referred to multiple times as “motorized death machines”. Segways.
The “Naked Men” in the series name refers to a blog Griff and his friends run. The blog is called Naked Men, though, unfortunately, it doesn’t involve any of them actually stripping down. The only thing they bare on the site is their souls.
Stripped back all the bullshit and posturing and wrote about what it felt like to be guy. They’d covered everything from the injustice of having to shave twice a day if they had a date to being respectful to a prick of a boss, to helping a family member through cancer treatment.
It actually sounds like a decent blog. And during the course of this book, they’re approached about doing a podcast as well, which goes like gangbusters and seems like a fun addition. However, this is also what led to my biggest frustration with the book. Chloe is a virgin. My own virgin-romance-heroine-fatigue aside, her reasons for being a virgin are valid and understandable. Without giving too much away, she and her college boyfriend were on the verge of having sex when something happened. Chloe spent a lot of time, years, in fact, recovering both physically and emotionally. In fact, she’s still not completely healed from it yet. She retreated into herself, became more and more withdrawn, and now she’s twenty-seven and a virgin.
Griff does not deal with this information well. Like, at all. He’s a pretty big dick about it, in fact. He knows about her past, knows what happened, she tells him “I don’t expect an engagement ring with sex. Just an orgasm.” but he flips out anyway about what a “huge responsibility” and “complication” it is. He’s angry she didn’t tell him earlier (it’s been about two weeks at this point, 31% of the way through the book) and he storms off in a huff. After assuring her that he’s not questioning whether or not he’s up to the challenge, because he certainly knows how to take care of a woman in bed. But it changes everything for him and he doesn’t know if he wants to be with her anymore. Chloe, for her part, kicks him out of her apartment, which made me quite happy.
Griff discusses this huge problem of his with the other Naked Men, nodding along and agreeing when they all express the opinion that if a woman isn’t holding out for religious reasons, then she’s obviously only looking for marriage and is therefore not desirable. Griff actually refers to them as “Women who want to lay all that responsibility at our door.” Virgins take all the fun out of dating, they’re extra work, they expect marriage the first time they do it, and all the women will do next is doodle her first name with his last name and little hearts and babies all over her diary. How do they know this, you ask? How many virgins their own age do they know? Well, exactly zero. Except Chloe now. Who expressly said she wasn’t looking for marriage. Not that Griff points that out or even tells his friends she said that. Which leads them to their first podcast topic: “Virginity in the Modern Woman: A Feminist Choice or a Curse Against Men”, which just… I don’t really have the words for how rage inducing that load of horseshit is.
To be completely fair, Griff did tell Chloe ahead of time about this topic and get her go-ahead to use her story, as long as they change her name. But, wow. What a group of dickbags. Especially Griff, who repeatedly tells his friends that he’s a total stud in the bedroom and has nothing to worry about in that area, but doesn’t want the responsibility of being Chloe’s first and having her see visions of engagement rings dancing in her head. If his lovemaking skills were on Yelp, they’d be all 5-star reviews. (Yes, he actually thought that) Chloe would need “special handling”.
Once he does decide that it’s acceptable to lower himself to sleep with a virgin, he then informs her that they can’t do it until he decides it’s the right time. She’s ready to go, is in fact doing her best to get him to have sex with her, but he can’t do it until he feels it’s right. Seriously. And does manage to gaslight her into thinking she’s in the wrong. An “unappreciative, slutty horndog with a one-track mind”. And makes her wait until he determines it’s the right time. And it’s not quick, either. They’re back together at about 42% of the book, and he makes her wait to have sex until 81%. No reason. He just didn’t think the time was right for her to want to lose her virginity.
You know, the more I write this out, the less I like this book. Griff was a condescending, patronizing asshole to Chloe. He was absolutely sure he knew better than she did about everything, her own life included. And that never really changed. He never really realized that she had every right to live her own life as she wanted whether he agreed with it or not. He just decided he was a big enough man to deal with her and her issues as they were. Which isn’t terrible. It’s better than an ultimatum. But to me, “I guess I’m gracious enough to put up with the terrible decisions you make” isn’t exactly the same as “I don’t agree with everything you do, but it’s your life, and it makes you happy and isn’t illegal or endangering you or others, so go for it.” The same way “I’m so sorry you were offended” isn’t really an apology. I started my review saying I liked the secondary characters, but the more I re-read some of that stuff, the less I like them. I still like Chloe and Griff’s story: both of them going through some pretty huge tragic events when they were really young that scarred them emotionally and physically. Their reactions to these events really changed their lives and shaped how they viewed with the world and interacted with it. Griff became a Coast Guard search and rescue pilot, an adrenaline junkie (though not because of the Segways) who confronted death and his own mortality at every turn. Chloe retreated and withdrew, becoming scared of everything and determined to play everything safe. It could have been a really interesting look at how these two differing viewpoints came together and influenced each other. Instead it turned into a completely chauvinistic, condescending view of Chloe’s virginity and how weird and undesirable it made her. (At least there was no discussion of her hymen once Griff deigned to consider her ready to receive his mighty penis).