Occasionally, I get people who ask me why I read romance novels if I hate them. The answer is: I don't hate them. I love them. But I also don't think that romance novels should be above criticism just because they weren't written as literary fiction. Yes, they are written "just for fun." Yes, they are "fiction." But they are also consumer products. I call 'em like I read 'em, and if I like something, I'll be honest about why I like it, the same as how I'll be honest about why I don't like something. That's just how I am.
OVERRULED shares a lot of qualities with romance novels I just can't stand. I don't like jerk heroes, and Stanton Shaw, the main character, is eye-roll-worthy levels of "I don't freaking believe this guy." When he gets his childhood sweetheart, Jenny, pregnant, he decides he's going to pursue his dreams of being a lawyer anyway and leaves her and his child in Mississippi. They both agree to see other people in the interim, so Stanton happily sleeps around, popping back home every now and then to court Jenny and drop off some money. It's a great arrangement, and he's perfectly happy with it. Of course he is. Must be nice, not taking any responsibility for your choices. (Cue: "I just can't believe this guy!")
Then one day, he finds out that Jenny is getting married - to a man that isn't him.
His current FWB, Sofia Santos, is a lawyer just like Stanton. She likes their low-pressure relationship because it allows her to focus on advancing her career. She knows he's not ready to settle down and he has the mother of his child waiting in the wings. (Cue: "I just can't believe this guy!") But she also likes Stanton and the two of them work well together, whether it's in the courtroom or between the sheets (lol that was so cheesy). When Stanton asks her to accompany him to Mississippi to help him break up the wedding, she is less than thrilled, but he's determined to get Jenny back and desperately wants her help. And for whatever reason, when he asks her for things, she just can't say "no." (TFW your friend-with-benefits asks you to help win back the mother of their child.)
This is basically the book equivalent of a good chick flick, or an entire package of Lindt truffles. It's superficial and silly, but in a way that makes it a cut above the crap of its kind. I felt like Emma Chase really captures the small town vibe, and it has a pretty good cast of secondary characters that added a lot of entertainment without being too cliche. The relationship between Stanton and Sofia is well done, because even though they have the physical aspect down pat, it takes them a while to establish that emotional connection. Seeing them gradually learn to open up to one another was sweet. Probably the one moment I took the most issue with is this incredibly stupid scene when they're having sex by the water and they decide to bareback it, and have Stanton "just pull out." What is it with romance novels and their prophylactic-phobias? It's a major pet-peeve of mine.
OVERRULED managed to exceed my expectations, though - and I'm a critical romance reviewer. Call me snobby or elitist, if you must, but I have high expectations. Good writing, good characterization, and a dash of humor keep this from falling into the usual contemporary romance rut. Even though I couldn't find the hero sexy (I'm sorry, but I just couldn't believe this guy), I found myself enjoying the story way more than I ever thought I would a story with a womanizing hero. If you're a fan of jerk heroes, you'll probably love this one.
2.5 out of 5 stars