Hot Copy by Ruby Barrett
April 13, 2021, by Carina Press
Review by Melanie
I genuinely did not know how to start this review, to be honest. I’d heard so many things going into it, I was fully expecting to absolutely love this book and much to my dismay…I did not.
First of all, the blurb and the cover do this book no favors. Both give off a lighthearted rom-com vibe but there is a whole heck of a lot of issues addressed in this book that could trigger a lot of people. I’m going to break this review down to the necessary content warnings and deal with each of the topics separately.
Honestly, this was the toughest part of the book for me, for purely personal reasons and maybe also the part that worked the best. Hero Wesley is reeling from the recent death of his mother due to ovarian cancer. Having put his professional and personal life on hold for two years to become her primary caretaker, he is finally ready to reengage in his own life. His grief is addressed really well – there are signs in the book that he is dealing with depression though the book never comes out and directly states it. He has lost contact with his friends and continuously blows them and his twin sister off. Having reentered the work force by way of a delayed internship, he’s further thrown off by his new boss, the seemingly cold and aloof Corrine. Things between them get off to a very shaky start and only begin to thaw when Wes learns that Corrine’s mother has recently been diagnosed with the same type of cancer his mother had. Honestly, it’s heartbreaking and these scenes were painful and wrecked me and if you are someone who has lost a parent or is dealing with a seriously ill parent, I strongly urge you to approach this book with caution.
Sexual Harassment in the Workplace
And now the biggie. The one that really made this book fall apart for me. Corrine is an executive at a marketing firm, a workaholic, dedicated to her career, and the only woman in the executive suite of her company. She’s already gotten a reputation for being “difficult” and “bitchy” and her previous intern started a false rumor about them sleeping together. Added to that, her boss Richard overtly makes unwanted advances towards her making it clear that if she wants the promotion he’s dangling under her nose, she’s going to have to earn it on her back or on her knees. It’s written really well and realistically because corporate culture has shown us time and again how women are really treated in the workplace. Corrine and Wes, as I said before, get off to a very shaky start (she overhears him inappropriately laughing when another intern refers to her with a very derogatory term). But what really poses a bigger problem for me is that here is Corrine, a woman who is systematically harassed and bullied by her male coworkers and she decides to embark on an affair with her intern?!
I appreciate the efforts the book makes to address consent. But I’ve never been truly sold on the idea of a workplace romance trope especially between a boss and an employee because of the inherent power imbalances found within. And here, with a woman being sexually harassed by her own boss and then turning around to engage in a secret affair with her intern, the squick factor is not one I can overcome and in certain instances, it feels like it’s not one that Corrine herself can overcome either.
The two start their secret affair with a negotiation of terms which specifically states that they will keep their relationship and work life separate. So it’s mind-boggling to me that Corrine, who is so dedicated to her career, would behave with such reckless disregard not once but twice, and engage in sex with Wes in her office. The first time it happens leaves her horrified but the second time it happens has real ramifications that lead to a true and much needed reckoning for both of them.
Ultimately, I think my problem lies with the inconsistencies found in the character of Corrine. I was all set to love her based on the blurb. A cold, aloof, problematic heroine is kind of my catnip. However, actions speak louder and a lot of the things that Corrine does in this book are wholly inconsistent with how she’s described. I think this book would’ve worked better for me if there wasn’t such a power imbalance between Wes and Corrine, if they were somehow on an even playing field where their profession was concerned. I know a lot of people loved this book and thought the sex scenes were hot (they were hot and plentiful). But, it pains me to say this, it felt like a lot of times, Wes and especially Corrine, tried to use sex to avoid their real issues.
I would add that despite my issues with this book, I did appreciate the quality of Ruby Barrett’s writing. Perhaps this really does boil down to my inherent dislike of the boss/employee trope in which case, this is clearly a matter of “it’s not you, it’s me” and as always, your mileage may vary.
Final Grade – C