Mister McHottie by Pippa Grant is a book that has been recommended to me by many, and was getting a lot of love on social media. Hype and good word of mouth is a heady combination for me so I picked up this enemies to lovers contemporary. Unfortunately, few things worked for me, such as the overall wackiness that bled into nearly every piece of dialogue and scene. As I read I realized that the exaggerated humor and comedy style fell flat for me. It made me feel like the fun police.
Chase Jett and Ambrosia “Sia/Bro” Berger have a past. They grew up picking on one another and playing pranks. Let’s say they were friendly adversaries. Until the night Chase ruins Sia’s life and takes her virginity in one fell swoop. Sia hasn’t had to think about Chase for years. Then the small-town-boy-turned-billionaire buys the company where she works, throwing the two into close quarters again.
A majority of my dislike for this book is firmly rooted in my own reading tastes, and I acknowledge that. There’s a subgenre of romantic comedies that are over-the-top, ridiculous in their humor, and feel slapstick in nature. These aren’t for me, though I didn’t know that before going into this one.
The goofiness was too much in both the character interactions and the writing. Every exchange Sia has with either her brothers or Chase turns into a laundry list of previous pranks they pulled on each other while growing up, some of which are concerning. Chase peed in Sia’s cereal at one point.
When it comes to the descriptions, they were rather odd and frequently took me out of the story. In one scene, Sia is described as having a “lizard tongue,” “giraffe legs,” and she looked like a “camel having a seizure” when she orgasmed. What? Are these things supposed to be complimentary from Chase’s point of view?
Because of these overtly silly scenarios, no one seemed real. Take this scene with Sia’s brother, Ares, who is a very successful pro hockey player:
I offer him a chocolate from the glass candy dish my admin insisted I needed. He swallows it, wrapper and all, then grabs the bowl and drinks the rest down.
This adult man not only ate one chocolate, still wrapped, but he proceeded to guzzle down an entire bowl. No one would do this. No one. But perhaps that’s what makes it funny? I don’t know. All I can say is that I didn’t laugh, especially when these moments don’t really seem special or important. They don’t punctuate or supplement exchanges of emotional maturity. There’s no balance and the book felt more like a series of bonkers vignettes without a lot of connective tissue in between.
The crux of the antagonism between Chase and Sia is a moment that affected the course of the heroine’s life. Chase and Sia’s constant pranking and teasing leads to an explosive moment in the back of their small town’s Bratwurst Wagon. He takes her virginity and when the cops show up, Chase tells her to run. He bails out the back, while she guns it in the wagon and leads the cops on a chase.
Ultimately, this could be due to a breakdown in communication. When Chase said run, he could have meant on foot and not in the wagon. Regardless, Sia is caught. Her sentence winds up being three nights in jail and some community service hours. However, she’s due to start college at Vassar and upon hearing of Sia’s arrest, they revoke her admissions. This causes her to–and I quote–”get a bachelor’s degree from a second-rate college.”
Present day Sia is doing fine, though! She works in the marketing department at a very successful company. But I need to rant.
I graduated sixth in my high school class, but completely failed out of university. There was a lot of family stuff going on that I won’t get into, but it led to depression, depression-induced insomnia, and a suicide attempt.
To rebuild my college career, I finished my Associates requirements at a local community college. I wanted to re-apply to my original university, but because of my previous academic standing, I was rejected. I applied to another university and got in. Since then, I’ve earned my Masters and I’m doing rather well–mentally, physically, and professionally. There are many students who share stories like mine, or who have struggled much worse than I did, or who don’t even get an opportunity to go to college (let alone get any sort of second chance).
And this heroine wants to complain about spending three nights in a county jail, having to do community service hours, and being forced to go to a “second-rate” college instead of Vassar.
Cry me a fucking river.
It was hard for me to find much sympathy for Sia’s resentment. College is a struggle for a lot of people, if they manage to get there. My personal experiences were at war with Sia’s experiences and feelings, and it really made me angry at her while I was reading. Her entitlement when it came to college and to what she felt she deserved underscored the feeling that I was really the wrong person for this book.
I can understand Sia still holding onto some bitterness where Chase is concerned. I just wasn’t on board with how much Sia resented Chase, given that this Bratwurst Wagon incident had no bearing on her daily life. It isn’t until Chase reappears in her life that she seems to become obsessed with it again.
Another issue: Whiteness. Most of the book is sent in present day New York City in the headquarters of a health food grocery store chain. Sia is friendly with her coworkers and has hobbies outside of work, including playing in a cover band. But everyone is White. One character is even royalty of a fictional Nordic country. So much thought went into listing and describing the pranks Sia and Chase played on each other as children, but when it comes to the setting, the world building, and the community of people around Sia and Chase, in a book set in New York City, there wasn’t a single person of color.
There were a couple of interesting breadcrumbs in the story that I wish were explored more and that could have brought balance to the silliness. The hero discovers that the board of directors has been quietly sweeping reports of work harassment and inappropriate relationships under the rug. Chase also notes that their most successful department–the marketing team–is all women, but the board is all men. He wants to fix that, so the people who have the ability to make changes accurately reflect the company’s makeup.
I would have loved to see Chase work with these group of women to improve the gender disparity, with Sia manning the marketing department helm. But I didn’t get that. I didn’t get anything even close to that.
For me, a successful enemies to lovers romance hinges on a few concepts.
- The hatred or dislike between the two main characters has to be understandable. Is this level of resentment comparable to the offending act?
- To get from enemies to lovers, there have to be scenes of trust building and a willingness to forgive. I need something to create the first cracks in those negative feelings. With Chase and Sia, I experienced no sense of growth at all, and I never thought Sia wanted to forgive Chase in any capacity.
- Lastly, there has to be some recognition of where things went wrong, admitting to that, and perhaps even an apology. We get one scene–ONE SCENE–that might have taken five minutes in real time that seems to erase a decade of bitter feelings.
My enjoyment of Mister McHottie was dependent on what I can and cannot believe in a contemporary setting. I love a good fart joke as much as the next person, but that’s not enough to build a plot around. Sia and Chase had good sex, though lacked the emotional connection I wanted to believe their HEA. The humor was too much for me and left me with headache from all my eye-rolling. Part of reading romance is finding out what does and doesn’t work for you. It’s becoming clearer and clearer that slapstick comedic romance is not my bag.