Friday, 20 July 2012

The Booby Trap by Anne Browning Walker

The Booby Trap (2012)
Anne Browning Walker
Grade: C-
Genre: contemporary romance
Sex scenes: tame
Source: NetGalley

Bambi Benson, waitress at the sports bar The Booby Trap is not the dumb blonde bimbo that she sounds or looks like. Yes, her name, job and figure fits the bill, but Bambi is actually a Womens’ Studies PhD student at Harvard writing her dissertation on the sexual objectification of women who work in professions with highly sexualised environments. The Booby Trap belongs to Joe Mula, one of her mum’s ex-boyfriends and the only one that Bambi actually felt close to. The job is a killer on her feet but provides Bambi with a steady income that she needs to fund her trip to London for the Annual Women’s Studies Conference where some of her most respected role models will be in attendance.

It is at The Booby Trap where Alexander Stuart Whitley III – known as Trip to friends and family – first gets an eyeful of Bambi. He is the face of Belles and Beaux, a dating agency run by his father. Trip is well-known as the public face of the company, but his father now thinks it’s time for a change in tactics. After all, who would want to use Belles and Beaux’s services when they see Trip with a different woman on his arm every night? Alexander II and Elizabeth Pinckney (marketing/PR person?) propose a plan to show that even Trip can find true love: he’ll go on regular, filmed dates with a girl for nine months and give all appearances of a solid relationship; the lucky girl of his choice will be monetarily compensated for her trouble. Trip knows that a relationship with a girl like Bambi will grate his parents’ nerves and propositions her for exactly that reason. She initially says no, but desperate for money to go to this conference, she gives in.

And so their pretence begins. Elizabeth quickly discovers that Bambi is not quite the bimbo she appears to be and the pair become firm friends. Each of Trip and Bambi’s dates are accompanied by Elizabeth and a two-man film crew never far behind and soon all of Boston knows Bambi’s face as well as they know Trip’s. Only a select group is aware that this is all in fact a complicated charade and soon, even Trip and Bambi come close to forgetting that it’s only for show …

The concept is different. There are some things on NetGalley that I automatically request without reading the synopsis but this wasn’t one of them. I liked the plot from what I read in the extra information that was provided with the book and thought that it would be a fresh read since I don’t read that much contemporary. I was sorely disappointed.

This book bugged me. I don’t think it is very well written and I didn’t like or couldn’t relate to any of the characters at all. They are all very two-dimensional and I don’t think we got to know any of them deep enough to fully be able to forge links with them and come to care for them as you should be able to with well-rounded characters. The writing didn't flow well while I was reading and this made for uncomfortable reading – not nice.

The concept is a little ridiculous in how over-the-top it all is. Bambi has the most bimbo-y name ever, yet Ms Browning Walker makes her a feminist Women’s Studies PhD student in order to dispel any automatic assumptions that anyone would make based on simply her name. It’s all a little contrived and just plain silly. Yes, I’m guilty of attaching stereotypes to random strangers I pass on the street based on the simplest of things, but I figure that’s the point of the book: highlighting how judgemental society can be based on a single attribute. The combination of Bambi’s name, job and academic studies just takes it a step too far.

Trip isn’t that admirable a character and his looks don’t make up for those deficiencies. It was nice to see him grow out of his player stage, but there is at least one scene in my mind where his reaction to the turn of events was just plain childish. It's his own fault for stereotyping Bambi just like the majority of other people do and even though that's the point of the book, it's just mean and shallow of him.

It’s something that Bambi brings up herself in the book and I don’t like it: Trip is prostitutisizing Bambi and she willingly lets him. Yes, ironically it’s all so she can attend a Feminist conference but it’s still prostitution all the same. Bambi is putting herself out there as a paragon for feminist rights, yet she's hypocritically selling herself to Trip so that his company can get the profits they want. Bambi talks on and on about how the waitresses at The Booby Trap are made into sexual objects to be paraded in front of men, but Trip does the same to her and she has no problem with it.

The cover is awesome. I like the symbolism of the red high heel (should be higher) pinning down the bowtie (it would be better if it was the heel doing this) and the stack of academic tomes is a stroke of genius. I love how it captures the salient points of the novel yet still manages to maintain a contemporary and slightly mysterious look as to it's actual genre. The title, however, leaves no room for any doubt. The font used for the title is flighty, carefree and unmistakeably feminine. I’m not ashamed in admitting that the cover probably played a huge part subconsciously in my decision to find out more about the book on NetGalley.

I don't like to completely slam a book, but The Booby Trap is not a book that I would recommend. I didn't enjoy reading it and my (always high) expectations were well and truly dashed. I admit the concept is novel, but the characters spent way too much time playing on perceived notions of each other that they didn't have enough of a chance to properly get to know each other before our eyes. A shame.

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