>> Sunday, July 18, 2010
TITLE: The Blonde Theory
AUTHOR: Kristin Harmel
PUBLISHER: 5 Spot
SETTING: Contemporary New York
TYPE: Chick Lit
REASON FOR READING: I enjoyed Harmel's Italian For Beginners
Harper Roberts is a corporate attorney in Manhattan. She’s smart, attractive, and funny. So why can’t she find a date? Men flock to her at parties when they think she’s a dumb blonde. But, as soon as they realise she’s a Harvard-educated lawyer, they flee. Harper’s best friend is a magazine editor who suggests Harper go on assignment for a month as a 'dumb blonde' and see if it changes her dating perspective. So, for two weeks, Harper goes undercover. She changes her wardrobe, her conversation, her body language. The result is a series of comical encounters. Soon, Harper must take a good look in the mirror and realise that it’s not just men who judge people on their looks.Harper Roberts is only in her early thirties and already has all the professional success she could wish for. She has combined her passion for chemistry and law into a brilliant career as a patents lawyer, and her very specialised and rare knowledge has netted her a partnership in her firm at an unprecedently young age. Not only does she make oodles of money (allowing her to purchase a huge Manhattan appartment and give herself any treat she may want), she truly and genuinely loves her work and finds much satisfaction in it (an element I truly appreciated). In addition to a great job, Harper has had the same group of friends since school, and they provide much support and love. Life is good.
In true chick-lit style, though, Harper's love life isn't as successful. Her last serious relationship was with Peter, another lawyer, who broke up with her out of the blue when it became clear that while his career was stagnated, Harper's was on the up and up. In the years since, Harper hasn't had more than a couple of dates with the same guy.
She doesn't have any trouble attracting men, but all seem to run away from her after the first dates. The solution seems inescapable to Harper and her friends: all those smart, successful professional men her own age, who are supposed to want a partner, someone like them, actually don't. They don't want to go out with an intelligent, successful woman, they want to go out with someone less intelligent and less sucessful than themselves. The Blonde Theory is thus born: if Harper behaved like a dumb blonde, she'd have no problem having men eating out of her hand.
And then Harper's friend Meg, who works for a sort of Cosmopolitan-ish magazine, comes up with a brilliant idea. Harper should actually test that theory, and then write an article about it.
I enjoyed TBT, but not unreservedly. To me, its main weak point was the whole idea of the Blond Theory itself... well, more like the conclusions the characters drew from it, which never completely made sense to me.
So, there are men who feel insecure and threatened if their partner is more successful than they are. Wow, brilliant insight! But ok, fair enough, yes, that could be an interesting magazine article, and Harper's experiment would be fun to write about, and would probably help her convince herself that this is what's been going wrong in her previous relationships.
The problem is, rather than concluding from this that it's these particular men's problem, and that Harper bascially needs to find men who are more secure and self-confident, the characters seem to assume that this is just what men in general are like. There's this idea floating around for much of the book that well, then, Harper might have to simply act a bit dumber and put herself down if she wants to get a guy. And she keeps on this vein against all the evidence to the contrary, because there actually are a couple of guys that she knows that seem to be very clearly suggesting that this is not so at all.
Still, if you're able to give Harper a pass for being a bit oblivious in this respect (as I mostly could), there is much to enjoy here. Harper is a lovely character. I enjoyed her sense of humour and her very real passion for her work. There are also some very funny scenes, when she's going out on all these dates in her dumb blonde disguise. I suppose the very concept of this is a bit offensive, but it's done in such a way that I didn't find it so at all. I also liked Harper's relationship with her friends. These are not perfect, featureless characters, just there to give her support, but are real people, with their own faults and with plenty of drama in their own lives.
A word of warning for other romance readers, though: while there is romance, and there is a happy ending for Harper, there isn't a traditional HEA here. I was ok with this, even felt that this was the right ending for Harper, but other readers might be more bothered.
MY GRADE: A B.