This month’s TBR Challenge theme is contemporary romance. I figured it was time for a diverse read. I’m pretty sure Delaney Diamond’s The Wrong Man, which is both cross-class and inter-racial romance, was in my TBR because Ridley recommended it. Plus, it’s fairly short and I’m in the middle of end-of-term grading.
I really liked the premise of: Talia is African-American, an upper-middle-class, career-focused, recently divorced woman, raised by a grandmother who insisted on perfection and whose ex describes her as cold. She wears heels to Home Depot. Tomas is a construction foreman, Cuban immigrant, and–well, if this were a Regency, he’d be a rake. He’s The Wrong Man for Talia. Sure, this is a cliché, like so many romance set-ups (earthy man rocks uptight woman’s world and shows her how to live, or vice versa), but when it’s done well it’s one I enjoy. This set-up reminded me a bit of the movie Something New.
The Wrong Man is about 150 pages and my feelings were: first 50 pages, pretty good!; second 50, too much sex in proportion to everything else; final 50, big conflicts resolved too quickly, and with a plot twist I hate. (I will spoil it later). Talia and Tomas know each other through mutual friends; they’ve always liked sparring with each other, now she’s single, and you know what comes next, despite their initial resistance. The middle used sex as a short-cut for their growing intimacy. The sex scenes were well-written and I enjoyed reading them. But what about the rest of their lives? Talia is supposedly dedicated to her career, yet she and Tomas never talk about it. The main scene set at her work is when Tomas lures her into stairwell sex, making her late for a meeting with her boss. This made me a) see Talia’s character as inconsistent and b) see her as a fool. Then in the last third all the looming tensions over their class differences and different life goals (country boy who wants a family, city girl who chose career ahead of kids), not to mention the way Talia can’t stand up to her grandmother, blow up big and are resolved too quickly. (I did like that race and culture differences were never seen as problems, except maybe by Talia’s grandmother.)
OK, about that spoiler. Stop here if you don’t want to read it.