The first rule of book club: You don’t talk about book club.
Nashville Legends second baseman Gavin Scott’s marriage is in major league trouble. He’s recently discovered a humiliating secret: his wife Thea has always faked the Big O. When he loses his cool at the revelation, it’s the final straw on their already strained relationship. Thea asks for a divorce, and Gavin realizes he’s let his pride and fear get the better of him.
Welcome to the Bromance Book Club.
Distraught and desperate, Gavin finds help from an unlikely source: a secret romance book club made up of Nashville’s top alpha men. With the help of their current read, a steamy Regency titled Courting the Countess, the guys coach Gavin on saving his marriage. But it’ll take a lot more than flowery words and grand gestures for this hapless Romeo to find his inner hero and win back the trust of his wife.
On the surface, The Bromance Book Club, with its hand-drawn cover and light-hearted title, seems like the perfect beach read, or so they say. But wait! It actually takes that entire notion and the sexist ideologies behind it and completely. Unpacks. Them.
Lyssa Kay Adams takes readers through the “pause” on Gavin, a professional MLB player, and Thea’s marriage, in which he tries to win her back after discovering she has been faking her orgasms in an already faltering relationship in which they have twin daughters. He does so with the guidance of a Regency romance novel that was introduced to him by his romance book club, made up of other men. It’s genius. Just hang on.
FIRST THINGS FIRST, ROMANCE IS THE REALEST
First and foremost, stereotypes of the romance novel genre are completely dismantled. Romance is often dismissed as lesser than, “chick lit”, things “ditzy women read” – and solely because women enjoy it. This dismissal is in the same vein as occupations that are woman-dominant or caretaking professions which are undermined, because the societal patriarchal underpinning is the belief that feminine things are inferior.
Quote from the book here:
“Romance novels are primarily written by women for women, and they’re entirely about how they want to be treated and what they want out of life and in a relationship. We read them to be more comfortable expressing ourselves and to look at things from their perspective.”
[describing Regency romance] “Modern romance novelists use the patriarchal society of old British aristocracy to explore the gender-based limitations placed on women today in both the professional and personal spheres. That shit is feminist as fuck.”
There is strength to be had in the reflection and direct mirroring of real life in romance novels, in a more soft and vulnerable way, and the men in this book club have to embody that willingness to be emotional which is difficult a lot of times because of the toxic masculine messages that are embedded, taught and learned. It’s especially prevalent in this community because the wives are defined as “baseball players’ wives” and they socialize in this group where the women are titled with relation to their husbands’ profession.
MENTAL HEALTH COUNSELING? WE LOVE TO SEE IT.
The narration alternates points of view between Gavin and Thea, but what connects them is their discovery of their breaks in communication and buildup of resentment. They are both finding out what went wrong and, if they choose to further pursue their marriage repair, what they need to fix and change. In couples counseling, they say the client, or who is experiencing the main challenges, is “the relationship”, and so here we can say is that the points of view are both of “the relationship”, even though they alternate between people. I loved this thread that tied the whole book together.
Another theme that has a counseling and psychology background is how the relationship modeling of Thea’s mother and father trickled down into how she reacted to challenges in her own marriage with Gavin. Thea’s father was a serial cheater and every time he cheated, her mother relented and let him back in. Thea’s defense mechanism and natural thought pattern, in response to what was modeled to her, is to do the opposite: put up walls and withhold forgiveness. Throughout the story, she and Gavin work through how his actions, or lack thereof, mixed with her history, create the perfect storm leading to discord.
CLASSIC CONTEMPORARY THEMES AND SEXY ROMANCE STUFF IN THE NINTH INNING
The Bromance Book Club is a truly great contemporary romance novel because it does some classic elements well: supportive, uplifting friendships; fun, drama filled scenes; and steamy sex scenes. Because Thea was faking her orgasms, she and Gavin had to relearn and reintroduce each other sexually as well as emotionally. Seeing some of those unsure, yet eager, tense moments was unique to their story because there is already that familiarity of their teamwork in building a family together and being committed enough to marry in the beginning. I loved every aspect of this facet of their relationship.
MY CONCLUSION: HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Readers who like romance novels would definitely appreciate this in a “praise, bless, finally!” kind of way, and readers who don’t like romance novels would appreciate this in an eye-opening way.
This book is especially important during this awful time in the world, where most people are being affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. We are seeing a lot of relationship dynamics change, for example, being stuck in the house with a spouse or partner 24/7, being isolated from a spouse or partner because one or both are working health care and they don’t want to bring the virus home. I saw on Instagram a quote that resonated with me: that we are all being forced to revert back to basics whether it be communication, or connection with immediate family. This book does exactly that: it boils down Thea and Gavin’s marriage down to the basics in a complex way.
Is this book for you?
Premise in a sentence: After a secret is revealed, Thea suggests a divorce to her husband, and he tries to win her back with the guidance of the romance novels that his all-male book club reads.
Perfect for: Readers who enjoy adult romance and dislike toxic masculinity.
Think twice if: Don’t think twice about feminism.
Genre: Adult contemporary romance
Trigger/content warning: Explicit sex, brief mentions of infidelity, discussions of divorce, drinking to excess and disorientation