We’re on week 2 of a new Jamie McGuire novel and I’ve already mixed up the Maddox brothers’ names once.
Beautiful Redemption: Chapter 4
Liis and Val go to the bar. Again. I like how McGuire’s already distilled her formula to the essentials, because while Beautiful Disaster and Beautiful Oblivion both had The Red, Beautiful Redemption just has “the bar”.
“The usual?” Anthony asked.
“You already have a usual?” Val said. “How often do you come here?”
Oh, Val. Pull up a chair and make yourself comfortable.
Liis is a little upset with bartender Anthony for not warning her that she was going home with someone who would turn out to be her coworker.
Val puffed out a laugh. “You let her walk out of here with him? Not even a hint? That’s just cruel.”
It’s like Val has never read a Jamie McGuire novel before. These people are goddamned sociopaths, and they are always going to the one bar in town.
Anothy pulled his mouth to the side. “He wasn’t your boss… yet. Besides, I knew nothing was going to happen.”
I narrowed my eyes. “But you knew he was going to be, and you lost that bet.”
Anthony was stunned. “Maddox? Oh no, honey, you must have hallucinated.”
Say what you will about Jamie McGuire’s writing and her homogenously interchangeable characters, she’s got mansplaining down pat. After Liis assures Anthony, no, seriously, she had sex with Thomas, Anthony… continues to be a perplexing character, to say the least.
Anthony pointed his finger, swirling tiny invisible circles in the air. “You must have voodoo in your hoodoo.”
This is a Jamie McGuire novel about a group of five oversexed, ripped, beautiful brothers whose names all start with T, and also the FBI, and yet somehow the most confusing part of it is this bartender. Is he gay? Is this a bad gay stereotype? Is he racist? This is racist, right? Is he supposed to be racist? I’m so confused about what kind of offended I need to be with this bartender.
Anyway, speaking of how all of Jamie McGuire’s characters are the weirdest assholes.
“Hey,” [Marks] said before bending downt to kiss Val’s cheek and sitting in the empty stool next to her.
“Hey, Marks. You know Lindy.”
Marks leaned forward, took one look at me, and then leaned back. “Yep.”
Val made a face. “What’s that about?” He was focused on the large television screen above us, and when he didn’t answer, she backhanded his arm. “What’s with the douchebaggery?”
“What the… why are you hitting me?” He said, rubbing his arm. “I just choose to keep my distance from trouble.”
I’m not saying that it’s inconceivable that there are men in the world who will blatantly ignore women like this, but something about this combination of the one-word answer, immediately ignoring all conversation to stare at the tv, and then straight up announcing that you’re going to avoid someone sitting right there “to keep my distance from trouble” just doesn’t feel like Real Human Behavior to me. If for no other reason than saying “I am avoiding her to avoid trouble” in front of said her might not really be all that effective as a way to avoid trouble.
Obviously, Thomas Maddox walks into the bar next. He makes brief eye contact with Liis, then sits down next to Marx without greeting the others. He orders a drink and then orders another, which we’re told is not like him. Uh huh. This isn’t our first Maddox rodeo, book.
Liis decides to leave, but when she gets back to her building, she finds that Thomas isn’t far behind her. Jamie McGuire does her thing.
While the elevator climbed five floors, the tension swirled around my supervisor and me, increasing just like the illuminated numbers above the door.
I genuinely can’t decide if this is cheesy or brilliant.
In another surprising move for a Jamie McGuire novel, the Maddox of the moment… actually admits his errors and acts like a reasonable human being?
“Liis…” He paused, seeming to choose his words carefully. He signed. “I owe you an apology for the first night we met. If I had known… if I had done my job and thoroughly reviewed your file, neither of us would be in this position.”
Before you get too confused if we’re really reading a Jamie McGuire novel, he’s still a weird asshole.
“You know as well as I do that your report was exceptional, and you have a bigger set of balls than most of the men in our unit. No one has stood up to me the way you have. I need an agent like that as supervisor.”
“You questioned me in front of everyone just to see if I would stand up to you?” I asked, both incensed and dubious.
He thought about that, and then he put his hands in his pockets and shrugged. “Yeah.”
“You’re an asshole.”
They briefly discuss how they got off on the wrong foot, and that it would be in their best interest to be able to be respectful colleagues with each other. Thomas clarifies that what happened the other night was a mistake, but also says it was “one of the best nights I’ve had since being back in San Diego”, which definitely feels like a mixed message. But in a good way! Because Liis picks up on it, and – truth be told – it’s much more interesting to see McGuire’s romantic male leads make little mistakes like this than just be right all the time because TRUE LOVE.
“Have a good night, sir.”
“Just… Maddox is fine when we’re not at the office. Or… Thom-Maddox is fine.”
You know when you read a line in a book and can just see it superimposed over the night sky or the rain or something on Tumblr?
So you’ve maybe picked up on this by now, but I’m weirdly enjoying this book in comparison to the usual Maddox Bro fare. And there are little moments that I actually like:
A faint knock filtered through the drywall that separated our condos. He was up there, probably getting in the shower, which meant he was getting undressed. Damn it.
Although we’re also two or three books into the Maddox-verse, depending on how you count it, so this means that we’re starting to hit the point where there’s Star Wars prequels-level fanservice all over the place.
One name in particular [in my research] caught my eye […] a washed-up poker legend by the name of Abernathy. His daughter, Abby, was also in a few black-and-white surveillance photos although I hadn’t gotten to the reports on her involvement yet.
Also important in this chapter, we maybe meet this book’s Blando!
Sawyer didn’t look like the creep Val had made him out to be. His hair was freshly trimmed, long enough to run his fingers through but still professional.
Despite having a haircut that would disqualify him from being a creep, Liis quickly decides, wait, maybe he IS a creep. Liis gets one of those little moments I was talking about earlier that make me actually like her considerably more than Abby or whoever was not-Abby in Beautiful Oblivion (like I remember any of these books after we read them).
I lowered myself into my oversized office chair, the tall back making me feel like I was sitting in a throne – my throne, and this joker was trying to piss in my court. I stared him down like he was a mangy dog.
But the moment is interrupted. Right as Sawyer begins to bring up some case that he wants a not-Maddox opinion on, Maddox shows up and tells him to get out. Maddox tells Liis that “if that slimy piece of shit bothers you, you come directly to me”, which annoys Liis, who questions him back with “Do I seem weak to you? […] Are you trying to undermine me?” I bet this is an issue of office politics and gender politics that will totally not just become a screen for the story’s real issue, which is “oooo somebody’s jeaaaaaaalous!”
“I got the distinct feeling Maddox was… I realize how this sounds, but he was behaving like a jealous ex-boyfriend.”
Val shoots this theory down, because Liis just doesn’t understand the all-important factor that is Maddox Heartbreak.
“He just isn’t wired that way anymore, not since that girl made him hate anything with a vagina.”
It’s fascinating that McGuire is on her third book about how secretly wonderful men who hate anything with a vagina really are.
“I want to know if he’s trying to sink me. I want to peel back that top layer and see what’s underneath.”
“Nothing you’ll like.”
“We’ll see,” I said
How on earth does a book that starts with two characters fucking manage to turn into a story where the two characters just need to fuck already?