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Monday, September 30, 2019

'The Friend Zone' by Abby Jimenez

From the BLURB:

Kristen Petersen doesn't do drama, will fight to the death for her friends, and has no room in her life for guys who just don't get her. She's also keeping a big secret: facing a medically necessary procedure that will make it impossible for her to have children.

Planning her best friend's wedding is bittersweet for Kristen—especially when she meets the best man, Josh Copeland. He's funny, sexy, never offended by her mile-wide streak of sarcasm, and always one chicken enchilada ahead of her hangry. Even her dog, Stuntman Mike, adores him. The only catch: Josh wants a big family someday. Kristen knows he'd be better off with someone else, but as their attraction grows, it's harder and harder to keep him at arm's length.

The Friend Zone will have you laughing one moment and grabbing for tissues the next as it tackles the realities of infertility and loss with wit, heart, and a lot of sass.

‘The Friend Zone’ is the debut contemporary romance novel by US author Abby Jimenez.

Props to Dymocks 234 in Melbourne – their romance section is an absolute delight to browse, and a few weeks ago I did exactly that when I found Jimenez’s debut book! This had previously not been on my radar, which isn’t hard these days; I feel like I’m drowning in a TBR-pile which has resulted in this weird FORO (fear of reading-out) and a little reading-stagnation. So I’ve really tried blocking out chatter of the next “must-read” because much like grocery-shopping when hungry, you shouldn’t book-browse when in a rut because you’ll try to fix the problem buying more books you don’t really want to read. But buy this I did after the blurb intrigued me; I started reading it 2 days ago, and last night I finished it just after midnight and on an absolute high from having my mojo back!

What makes this book stand-out is the heroine’s journey and “obstacle” to her happiness. Kristen has fallen for her best friend’s fiancée’s best-man, and despite some initial relationship hurdles, the main thing stopping her from finding happiness with fireman babe Josh is her inability to give him a family. Josh wants enough kids to fill out a baseball team, but Kirsten suffers from Uterine Fibroid Embolization (non-cancerous growths in the uterus which can affect a woman’s ability to conceive children, results in 19-day periods for Kirsten and excruciating cramps/bleeding). Recent medical acceptance that things like endometriosis are in fact *real* and not female-exaggeration have made for really interesting discussions in the medical field (read Gabrielle Jackson’s Guardian piece ‘Why don't doctors trust women?Because they don't know much about us’ which boils down to; “The medical community have known for a century that women are living in constant pain. They’ve done nothing about it”).

In ‘The Friend Zone’ is the first book I’ve personally read that centres this narrative for the female protagonist – and really confronts the pressures and heartache of chronic pain, as well as the emphasis society places on women’s bodies to function a certain way (and when they don’t, some are left to feel “less than”). I’d love to read more books with this narrative focus; it’s refreshing, modern, complex and important. I’m sure many readers will feel seen via this book and story (which is also why the ending *kind of* fails on the premise – but romance is about wish-fulfillment and self-actualisation so I’ll let it pass).

It helps that ‘The Friend Zone’ is also a really HOT book; Kirsten and Josh are a fab couple to read about with just as much snark and spark as they have hot n’ heaviness – it means the stakes in their ‘happily ever after’ feel real and complex.

That being said – I will warn that the latter-half of the book becomes a REAL blindside gut-punch I was not prepared for. I’d already cried throughout the middle, so to be whammied with that ending was … a shock. I will say it left me *desperate* for the second book (‘The Happy Ever After Playlist’ coming in April 2020) but for a romance it was maybe just a little uneven for the last warm and fuzzy I want to be left with? But I guess that’s where ‘The Friend Zone’ is maybe hedging more into ‘chick lit’ and women’s fiction than straight-up contemporary romance. Fair warning.

Overall; I loved this book. It absolutely pulled me out of my reading-rut by delivering on heat and heartache and having me yo-yo between laughs and tears. I can’t wait to read more from Abby Jimenez; even if I’ll be going into her future books with a little more armour, knowing she’s one to enjoy a reader-blindside.


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