However, I was compelled to hit the “request” button on Net Galley when I saw that,
- It was published by Carina Press, the massively cool e-publisher that’s doing a lot of creative things both in what they’re publishing and their marketing and DRM-free books;
- It promised a heist/caper sort of scenario and I am a giant sucker for heists and/or capers; and
- It’s set in Australia.
Unfortunately, those positives didn’t cancel out the numerous problems I had with the premise and characters in this novel.
The basic plot of Gentlemen Prefer Nerds is that nerdy (more on that later) girl gemologist Maddie Maloney is charged with caring for a pricey diamond known as The Rose (she also discovered the diamond in a mine in Western Australia). As part of her effort to find a nice man, she ends up being conned by a jewel thief known as The Chameleon into allowing him access to the stone, which is then—shocker!—stolen. Maddie is, obviously, suspected for the crime and winds up hooking up with a mysterious English dude who promises to help her recover the diamond and helps her escape from the police while they pursue the thief.
Okay, so the premise is pretty silly—but I’m often okay with silly premises!
However, in the case of this novel, the silly premise wasn’t the problem—it was the two main characters.
I never bought Maddie Maloney as a nerd (which kind of wrecks the entire premise of the book). Yes, she wears glasses. Yes, we’re told she’s smart and well-educated. But, all of her nerdiness seems to be wrapped up in the fact that she’s a terrible dresser and wears glasses and is clumsy and awkward.
Grace picked a speck of lint off Maddie’s pink sleeve. “Where did you get this awful jacket? Look at those wide lapels!” “It was Mum’s. I love it. It goes perfectly with my outfit.” She smoothed the hem on the patterned sweater vest she wore beneath the jacket and over a flowered dress.
I am completely nerdy. I got great grades all through school, have a graduate degree and I wear glasses. With that said, I am also a decent dresser (the early descriptions of Maddie make her sound like a bag lady, not a nerd girl) and know how to not act like a complete nitwit in public. To me, Kilby’s portrayal of Maddie as nerdy felt like a stereotype and far, far removed from reality.
Fabian (that name!) is an over-the-top, English soon-to-be Lord (yes, a Lord… ugh) who created a phoney 007-type ruse to convince Maddie (and her family) that he’s legit. He orchestrates Maddie’s transformation from poorly dressed nerd girl to sexpot (including having her hair dyed red—because everyone knows redheads are more alluring than brunettes*). Anyway, Maddie thinks he’s a hottie, but I found him to be essentially a know-it-all control freak. Granted, he can leap into a helicopter while holding a squirming cat, but that’s pretty much the most appealing of Fabian’s qualities.
As you’d expect, Fabian discovers that inner beauty is important and that clothes don’t make the girl, but I never really believed it him when he made statements like this about Maddie,
“She has enormous self-confidence, intelligence and a generous spirit,” Fabian went on. “Inner beauty is far more important than superficialities.”
(Also, who talks like that?)
As far as Fabian’s weirdness about Maddie’s (supposed) nerdiness goes, I have a message from the great John Green:
Ultimately I just didn’t buy it—there just wasn’t enough fun, chemistry or tension to motivate me to suspend my disbelief and enjoy Maddie and Fabian’s quest to find the lost diamond. Fabian seemed like a shallow clotheshorse who was far too preoccupied with women’s fashion. And, I never really bought his sincere interest in Maddie—I just couldn’t get to the point where I believed that he’d actually transformed from using Maddie to caring about her. And, the “nerd” stereotype didn’t work for me—I had really hoped this would be more nuanced, positive portrayal of nerd girls.
I feel badly giving Gentlemen Prefer Nerds a “No, Thank You” rating, because I think there is an audience for it.
Folks who are looking for a light, PG-13ish romance (though there is a condomless—arg!—short sex scene in the novel) that has a fun caper feel should really enjoy this book. The gemology aspects of this novel were quite fascinating (and seemed well-researched) and I did enjoy the witty tone present in the early chapters of the novel, but ultimately it simply fell flat.
Verdict: No, Thank You (but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy it)
Awesome animated John Green gif via Epic John Green Quotes.
Note: Carina Press provided me with a review copy of this book via Net Galley. I did not receive compensation or any sort of “goodies” in exchange for this review. Gentlemen Prefer Nerds by Joan Kilby releases on March 12, 2012.
*Sarcasm folks, sarcasm.