DNF Review: Love Online by Penelope Ward

Reviewed by Caitlin

I absolutely loved Never Sweeter by Charlotte Stein and decided to check out books that were similar. Sexy contemporary romcoms sounded like just the thing, and I’d seen the name Penelope Ward a few times before so I decided to check her out. This book had hundreds of four- and five-star reviews, and I liked the idea of a relationship starting out online before turning physical.

If this is reflective of her work, I think I’ll pass.

She’s not a bad writer. I just hated her hero and was not particularly impressed with the chemistry. Or the casual racism.

Ryder McNamara is the son of a very successful studio head in Hollywood who is being groomed to take over the family business one day. He can get any girl he wants – he says this OVER AND OVER AGAIN which is not an endearing quality in a hero – but he is BORED by women who want things from him to the point that he’d rather masturbate then have a one-night stand.

I’m not mad at a hero who has a lot of sex, but none of this first-person description of his own life made me like him. In fact, it made me think that he was a real big tool who was very pleased with himself and pretended not to be.

He meets Montana Lane online when he’s looking for porn. Montana (real name Eden) is a webcam girl. I was surprised – the blurb made it sound like they met on an equal-footing chatroom, and her being a sex worker is definitely not equal footing – but interested enough to keep reading. Eden is definitely not the problem in the story, even if she’s a two-dimensional character. A nice girl who doesn’t care about the hero’s money and thinks he’s just the greatest guy for treating her like a human being. Her biggest sin is not being a fully-fledged character.

No, Ryder is the problem in this story, and I’m confused as to why anyone would like him. He has a housekeeper who he grew up with, who he sees as a second mother. She is (at least until the 41% mark, which is where I DNF’d), the only person of color in this story SET IN LOS ANGELES. And she is a maid.

Ryder tells this woman (his second mother) about the webcam girl, who she calls “a nudie girl” who shows her “tetas.” Get it? Because the way this woman, who learned English as a second language, talks is a joke in of itself.

(I know, I should have DNF’d here, but I was hate-reading at this point.)

She also wants to set Ryder up with her 20 nieces (the one person of color in this story has 20 nieces, isn’t that hilarious?). Ryder went on a date with one of them and made like 5 jokes about how she had an actual beard. To his housekeeper’s face. Who is this girl’s aunt. That was so mean! Why would you put this in here? Why would I want this selfish, shallow jerk to get an HEA?

At this point, I’m only in it for the sex scene, because I figure that’s what a sexy contemporary romcom delivers well – good sex. So imagine my surprise when Ryder decides the best place for their first real kiss is a buffet-style diner. While they’re waiting in line to get their food. RIGHT NEXT TO HER BLIND LITTLE BROTHER.

(Please don’t make me go into the blind little brother, because that is a whole can of “obvious burden trope is obvious” worms.)

And they really go at it! Hot and heavy! Picture that! AS A FIRST KISS. There is nothing romantic or sexy about that in a diner next to her brother.

They each described the kiss as the best kiss either one had ever had.

Nah. I’m out. I should have been out earlier with the casual racism and the shallow misogyny. I have no excuse for that. But I guess a bad first kiss will be what finally gets me to put it down, because then it’s not even a guilty pleasure – it’s just me feeling guilty.

And I obviously need help on choosing novels because my track record recently has been abysmal.

Rating: F

Click to purchase: Amazon

Love Online
by Penelope Ward
Release Date: August 27, 2018

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