Baby, Don't Go
by Stephanie Bond, contemporary (2011)
MIRA, $7.99, ISBN 978-0-7783-1257-4
Brace yourself, Stephanie Bond has portrayed the so-called feminist heroine of Baby, Don't Go, Alicia Randall, as a man-hating, bitterly cynical, insecure, fickle, and often stupid wench who only needs to have a man in her life in order to have a more healthy outlook about life. In a way, this is a pretty brilliant move because the premise of the Southern Roads trilogy is a modern-day throwback to some pretty antiquated sexual politics. Strawman feminist falls for small town He-Man - this story could have been an amusing collision of stereotypes. Unfortunately, the hero turns out to be a pretty decent and likable guy instead of some stereotypical Marlboro Man, while the heroine is exactly what the box says: a man-hating, bitterly cynical, insecure, fickle, and often stupid wench who just needs a man to shag her in order to make her see the "light". What could have been a fun play at stereotypes turns out to be a bad book that reinforces every negative stereotype associated with a feminist.
So yes, Alicia. She writes for the magazine Feminine Power, and it's exactly the kind of braincell-killing magazine that you can imagine just from looking at the title. After hearing what the Armstrongs have done in order to populate Sweetness with women to make those lonely men happy, she decides to go undercover as one of the women seeking husbands in order to expose the whole thing as... I don't really understand what she is doing even now, to be honest. The whole thought process of the editorial team of Feminine Power goes something like this: their exes suck, their daddies suck, romance suck because these exes and these daddies all suck, and since the Armstrong brothers are men, something must be sucking there too. Naturally, Alicia discovers that Marcus Armstrong, the remaining single brother, and the folks of Sweetness are all nice people. That doesn't stop her from writing about them behind their back. Will Marcus forgive Alicia when the whole thing blows up in her face exactly after she has decided that life doesn't suck anymore now that she is in love with a man?
Baby, Don't Go has some pleasant and occasionally funny scenes, and while the story is very predictable, there isn't anything wrong about this if I can somehow hit my head hard a few times and overlook that colossal blunder that is Alicia. She is simply ridiculous - she embraces some so-called feminist principles that seem more like the charter for the bitter ex-girlfriend crew. Also, for an "investigative journalist", she spends more time gazing at her navel or wringing her hands about the possibility of her falling for Marcus. Then again, considering the type of magazines she writes for, maybe I shouldn't wonder. Her constant back and forth is tedious to follow, since this woman is so obviously wrong from the start. And she has to be so abrasive and confrontational as well, sigh.
Marcus is a pretty decent hero, if a predictable sort. Alas, the author decides that Marcus being a decent hero isn't enough, so she ramps up the drama to the point that the later half of this book sees Marcus doing all kinds of heroic stunts to rescue and repair as every calamity imaginable strikes Sweetness. Everything in this book seems to operate in extremes - it's high drama all the time or nothing at all.
Baby, Don't Go is one of those polarizing books that a reader should sample a bit before buying. Then again, with so many books out there to read, it may just be easier to avoid this one altogether. It's not that good, so it's not like folks will be missing out on anything grand in here.
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