Partner Track by Cat Wynn
April 26, 2022, by Carina Press
Review by Melanie
I’m going to be perfectly honest here, when I finished this book, I was really torn as to how I felt about it and wasn’t sure I could actually write a proper review about it. After spending some time thinking about it, I’ve come to some conclusions regarding my feelings toward this book.
The reason I was initially so torn about this book is that for the first 88% of the book, I really enjoyed it. It had a messy FMC who was emotionally complicated and stunted when it came to feelings, a younger MMC who was a delightfully dirty talker and emotionally very open and available, and a workplace romance set against the backdrop of a fancy law firm, which given my own professional background, is always a draw for me.
The book is actually 2 love stories in 1: a rather fast-paced romance between Perdie, a 39-year-old attorney desperately trying to make partner at her law firm, and Carter, the 32-year-old golden boy attorney who swoops in to grab the partnership Perdie thought was hers; and secondly, a friendship/found family love story between Perdie and her longtime best friend and roommate Lucille…and Bananas, the pug they share. In fact, you’ll note that the pug is even featured on the cover of the book, a terrible cover, to be sure, but still, there stands Bananas, front, and center.
I’m always a little dubious about the heat level in books with such cartoonish illustrated covers but was delighted to discover Perdie and Carter engaging in sexy times within the first 15% of the book. It was a delightfully tropey book – two lawyers, initially on opposing sides, snowbound due to canceled flights leading to a hotel stay with only one room left which had, you guessed it, ONLY ONE BED!!! I thought I had hit the romance trope jackpot.
Secondly, I really liked them, both as individual characters and also as a couple. Perdie is, as I mentioned above, messy and complicated and as is eventually pointed out to her towards the end of the book, kind of selfish and self-involved. And I like that because far too often, we accept those things in MMCs and I like a FMC who is a bit of a hot mess and trying, perhaps unsuccessfully, to get her life together. Perdie’s inability to let people in stems primarily from her upbringing with a mother who was emotionally checked out and never really paid any attention to her daughter.
Carter, meanwhile, does have his life together, is blessed with a loving if a bit overbearing family, has already made partner, and basically reaped all the benefits afforded to him as a white cishet male living on planet Earth. You would think reading that sentence that Carter is a bit of an asshole but what I do like about him is that he’s not clueless and oblivious to his privileged existence. And so when he gets the partnership that Perdie was hoping to land, he earnestly assures Perdie he will do everything in his power to help Perdie achieve the professional success she so desires. And he means it! He truly does whatever he can to help Perdie.
So, now you’re probably wondering why on earth I rated this as low as I did. Remember Bananas, the pug? The one who is featured on the cover of this book? Well, at about the 88% mark, comes the truly dark moment in the book, when Perdie has walked away from it all, her job, her growing feelings for Carter, and in a scene that is as inexplicable as it is unnecessary, she gets news over the phone from her best friend that her beloved Bananas is not doing well. Cut to the next chapter and Bananas has died. WHAT EVEN??!?! It comes out of absolutely NOWHERE with no build-up and is basically trauma porn, gratuitous and emotionally manipulative. I’m not even bothering to put this in a spoiler because quite frankly, this will no doubt trigger some people and the book needed proper CWs and had none.
I have actually gone back to reread the section that follows Bananas’ death and one could potentially argue that the author uses that as an impetus to Perdie making some much needed life changes and even going to therapy. But, if that was the case (and it’s not but more on that in a bit), I would say that it’s unnecessary and quite frankly, lazy and cheap storytelling to use the death of a pet as a plot device to further character development. It could have been done in many other ways. But here’s the thing – Bananas’ death really isn’t the driving force behind Perdie making some necessary changes to her life. Yes, she’s sad, she’s downright heartbroken but it’s really her running away from Carter and her realization that she’s in love with him that forces her into therapy and eventually back into Carter’s arms. So then I have to ask, what is the point of having a dog in this story, a dog who is on the cover, might I repeat, only to kill him off at the very end? How does that further the story or the overall character development or romantic arc of this book in any way? To put it bluntly, it doesn’t. And so, a story that up until that point was edging pretty close to a 5-star review, crashes and burns all for a scene that, had it been taken out, would not have impacted the story in any significant way. In fact, I’ll add that Perdie going to therapy and facing some harsh truths about herself plus the professional moves she makes would have had a greater impact on the overall story had they not been preceded by the unnecessary demise of her dog.
Anyways, I was initially very excited about this book – terrible cover notwithstanding, I loved the MCs and the way their relationship developed, even if it felt fast, it still felt plausible. But I just can’t deal with a book that involves a pet death that serves no greater purpose to furthering the plot or the character development of the story. It felt unnecessary, trite, and cheap.
Content Notes: on-page death of dog, off-page toxic parental relationship, on-page drug and alcohol use, workplace sexual harassment, volatile behavior from an ex-boyfriend of a secondary character;