Okay. Let’s start off with a little bit about me. I love romance novels. Everything from Pride and Prejudice to the smuttiest of smutty smut (which can also come in a Pride and Prejudice variety). Give me all of it. What I don’t want are assholes! (Get your mind out of the gutter!). I am tired of romance books that feature men that are clearly supposed to be heroic/romantic/protective, when really they are just abusive, controlling asshats. And that, my lovely bookworms, brings us to Fight or Flight by Samantha Young. While my opinion of this book is probably pretty clear at this point, I do want to break apart the good and the bad.
Synopsis (from Goodreads):
The universe is conspiring against Ava Breevort. As if flying back to Phoenix to bury a childhood friend wasn’t hell enough, a cloud of volcanic ash traveling from overseas delayed her flight back home to Boston. Her last ditch attempt to salvage the trip was thwarted by an arrogant Scotsman, Caleb Scott, who steals a first class seat out from under her. Then over the course of their journey home, their antagonism somehow lands them in bed for the steamiest layover Ava’s ever had. And that’s all it was–until Caleb shows up on her doorstep.
When pure chance pulls Ava back into Caleb’s orbit, he proposes they enjoy their physical connection while he’s stranded in Boston. Ava agrees, knowing her heart’s in no danger since a) she barely likes Caleb and b) his existence in her life is temporary. Not long thereafter Ava realizes she’s made a terrible error because as it turns out Caleb Scott isn’t quite so unlikeable after all. When his stay in Boston becomes permanent, Ava must decide whether to fight her feelings for him or give into them. But even if she does decide to risk her heart on Caleb, there is no guarantee her stubborn Scot will want to risk his heart on her….
Ava is a hardworking (possible workaholic) interior designer who happens to get stuck on a layover on her way back from Arizona to her home in Boston. She happens to be sitting next to this rude af Scottish dude, Caleb and they end up sleeping together, knowing they will probably never see each other again.
Except that wouldn’t be a very long story, now would it?
Caleb turns out to be friends with one of Ava’s favorite clients, Patrice. When Ava meets Patrice for lunch, Caleb happens to be there too. Patrice figures that Caleb is new to the area and will be staying in Boston for a few weeks and that Ava could help show him around.
While Patrice’s intentions are fairly innocent at first, she does want to get Ava and Caleb together. Little does she know, they already know each other quite well.
The book goes on to show how Ava and Caleb come to an understanding that they will have sex but nothing else can be involved. No relationship whatsoever. This is tested multiple times throughout the story. Someone else will offer information about Ava and/or Caleb’s past and they will feel like they’re getting too close for what their set boundaries entailed.
But, of course, Ava catches feelings. We don’t really know when Caleb first starts to feel something for Ava because the story is from her POV but it’s clear from the ways he tries to push her away that he does feel something for her about midway through the book.
Overall, I liked Ava. She had been hurt in the past, had a very tumultuous childhood, but didn’t let that stop her from caring for people. I particularly like her friendship with Harper. They are close. Ava mentions a number of times throughout the book that because she does not like her family and they do not treat her properly that Harper is the only family she has. Harper is a pastry chef who has worked her way up to where she is, just like Ava. And Harper has had bad relationships and an ugly family history as well. Their bond was probably my favorite part of the book.
Ok. Now let’s get to the stuff I had a real issue with. Caleb is controlling and in my mind, abusive. There are multiple scenes where he grabs Ava when she is trying to leave or steps in her way to stop her. There is a scene where it’s described as “he shook me a little and I pressed against his arms in an attempt to rush ahead.” He. SHOOK. HER. She was trying to get to her friend who was hurt and he stopped her to tell her not to get out of a moving car and HE SHOOK HER. There is another scene where it is described that Caleb grabs Ava’s arm and walks her off a bridge. What’s with all this controlling behavior?!?!?!
Oh and that’s not all. There is a scene where they are about to have sex and Ava doesn’t realize Caleb is not wearing a condom until he is inside her. She reminds him that she wants him to wear one but he doesn’t stop (sorry) fucking her. He keeps going until she reminds him again and then he goes and puts one on. WTF IS GOING ON?! How is this okay? How am I supposed to root for this couple to end up together? I genuinely thought this was going to be a book where they broke up and that would be the end, but NO.
There is also a description in this book I see in a lot of romance novels that I tend to have a problem with. Or maybe problem is too strong of a word? I just don’t understand it. Ava describes how Caleb makes her feel by saying “he made me feel small, fragile, feminine…” Why is this a good thing? When I’m with someone, I want them to make me feel strong and secure. Not fragile. If you can explain this to me in a non-misogynistic way, please do.
Oh and guess what my precious bookworms, after they get into a huge fight whereby Caleb pretty much implies that Ava meant nothing to him, he sets up a lie to get her to see him again. Isn’t that fun? Isn’t that romantic?! I am screaming!!!
Needless to say, this was not my favorite book. I am giving Fight or Flight 2 out of 5 stars. I know, you’re probably wondering, how the hell are you giving it 2 stars when you just ranted your head off about it? The answer: Ava and Harper’s relationship and how they help each other. That’s the only saving grace I can find in this book and the only reason I didn’t feel right giving it 1 (or less) stars.
Fight or Flight by Samantha Young comes out October 9, 2018.
Thank you to First To Read and Berkley Books for this free ARC in exchange for my honest review.
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