Long review: Bridal Bootcamp
Author: Meg Cabot, 2019
The below contains medium-level spoilers (like, ‘in this scene she did this’, kind of spoiler, not ‘Darth is Luke’s dad’ level spoiler).
If you’ve been following me for a while, you’ll know I’m a huge Meg Cabot fan; have been since I was in Year 9 (8th grade).
I was a Meg Cabot message board member way back, and I even wrote fan fiction for my favourite of her books. I spent all my pocket money on her new releases; I could quote beloved passages from memory; THE WORKS.
Meg’s blog post back in 2005 about the F Word was my first proper introduction to feminism. After I read that, me and my best friend would make little F symbols when we passed each other in the hallways between classes. F for feminism, baby.
(PS: the symbol we made was just the Floogal Floop thing from Spy Kids. Don’t reinvent the wheel, you know).
My boo and I live in different countries now, but when we are together, we still sometimes do the F at each other. Nowadays, it doesn’t just mean ~Feminism~, it means Fuck the Patriarchy. So same idea, but escalated from third wave.
Anyway, sorry, this sort of turned into a love letter to my best friend, as many of my convos do. I regret nothing because my BFF is my queen, but she deserves her own whole blog.
Back to Meg. My other queen.
I have Meg to thank for both my love of romance and my belief that feminist romance is a real thing, even when my university (college) professors were telling me vehemently it was not, and snickering at me for citing romance in a linguistics assignment one time.
I like all Meg’s books, but here are some of my faves:
- The Mediator series (these were the first Meg books I ever loved, although I didn’t know this was she, the first edition was published as Jenny Carroll)
- Lady of Skye (this is as Patricia Cabot and is one of my all time favourite historical romances. Don’t worry, I’ll do a dedicated review on this soon)
- The Abandoned series (IT’S HADES AND PERSEPHONE YOU KNOW THIS IS MY KINK)
Art by Abigail Larson (c) http://www.abigaillarson.com
• Educating Caroline, another of my all time fave historical romances. I’ve already reviewed this one, but you have to scroll to the very start to find it!
• The Princess Diaries, obvs
• The Heather Wells series (This needs a movie. ASAP)
• Every Boy’s Got One (you know I’m a re-reader, right? Well I actually kept a tally in the front cover for how many times I’ve re-read this one, and it’s currently at 8. I think it was the first adult contemporary romance I ever read)
Okay, I have to stop listing.
You get the idea, I am very knowledgeable in the field of Meg and there are so many of her books I love!
Which is why it pains me to confess that I did not love Bridal Bootcamp.
I didn’t dislike it! It wasn’t terrible! But it wasn’t great. I realise my Meggish expectations are high, but this one didn’t even come close.
In hindsight, I should have realised this book was never going to be for me.
I don’t believe in shredding for a wedding in the first place (get married in whatever body you have in the mo, the idea that looking thin in wedding pics is the best possible thing that a woman could aspire to has me all gag-y). To be fair, it was clear no one in this class was very seriously trying to get thin, and it was all a bit of a fun fitness hang out, which I am all for. But the title/name of the class stuck so badly in my throat.
People equate beauty with thinness, especially for women, and this is incorrect. So when we idolise fitness and bootcamps because of an implicit or explicit hope that it will lead to thiness, I feel deeply uncomfortable. Fitness and bootcamp is great! Thinness is not! Say it with me!
Plus, I’ve been spoiled of late by really mealy novellas like the Scandalous, Dissolute, No Good Mr Wright (Tessa Dare), Mrs. Martin’s Incomparable Adventure (Courtney Milan) and Can’t Escape Love (Alyssa Cole), and so BB felt a bit like watery Bell tea with splenda, when I had been living a life of full cream English Breakfast luxury.
No offence Bell tea, but also offence. You not nice.
Bridal Bootcamp is a new novel, but it felt dated.
Don’t get me wrong, Meg writes beautifully as usual, and there was some of the razor sharpness she’s famous for. But the Bootcamp premise was a miss.
In particular, I really don’t like seeing sterotypically flamboyant gay men in content written in 2019 by straight woman.
Yes, I know, homosexual men who are super femme and flamboyant exist. To borrow a beloved phase from the 1990’s: duh.
But for far too long, het women writers have been using a stereotypical flamboyant gay character to further the narrative of a cis female protagonist, or as an accessory, comedy foil, or ‘pop of colour’ for her. I’d really like to leave that in romance’s past, please and thank you.
People could start throwing examples of IRL men who fit a similar profile to the men in BB, but I ask that you don’t; not because I don’t believe you, but because I think that we should make a rule for romance where we cut out tropes that are harmful. Like gangrene. Let’s cut the green, tropey limb off at the knee, don’t bother faffing about trying to fix it, just chop chop m’fucker.
Leaving the gangrene metaphor behind, where it belongs, let’s go to the nice things.
I really loved the setting of this book. It was luscious and real. Something that I think writers quite often forget about when establishing place is smell. We focus a lot on sight & tactile. But places have smells, and I swear I could smell the hot concrete, salty wind, sugary cocktail mix and not-unpleasant mix of sunscreen and sweat that would be on Little Bridge, in the Florida Keys.
But not even the smells of a holiday could redeem this read for me. It just did not milk my coconut.
(I’m so, so sorry, I was trying to continue the tropical island theme but ‘milk my coconut’ just made it hecking weird. On that note, I should wrap this review up).
I have hated every second of writing this. As I say, Meg’s me hero.
I do have to ask myself, was I reading this more critically than usual, just because I love Meg so much? Are my expectations dangerously high? Yes, probably. But it’s like, if I was a gymnastics judge (LOL) and Simone Biles failed to stick a landing (LOLOLOL), I couldn’t just be like, well, you’re fucking amazing anyway Simone, I’m giving you a 10 for this routine with the stumble.
Of course Simone is amazing! Of course Meg is amazing.
But BB is a stumble.
Feminist romance is a really important concept to me. I take finding it and reviewing it very seriously. Before I started my page I found it incredibly difficult to find feminist romance reviews, and even harder to find Bookstagrammers who I thought were giving it to me straight, rather that just courting authors or publishing houses for reposts.
I always promised I would be honest with you all, even when I didn’t want to be.
This is one of those times.
This is a 1.5 star for me.