Romance is back with a twist in this post #metoo era. The hallmark tropes haven’t changed if the aspirations and interactions of the characters have shifted. Take the witty bickering in Mick & Moira & Brad by Gerald Everett Jones, an engaging charmer of a romance. The wordplay harks back to classic romantic comedies of the pre-Code era in Hollywood even as the power dynamics of the sexual relations have become more balanced and nuanced.
I confess I am not a romance novel kind of gal, so I wasn’t sure I was gong to like Mick & Moira & Brad, even though it was written by Gerald Everett Jones. Jones is a great writer with a knack for comedy. M&M&B breaks from his quirky style of humor to deliver a straight-up romance that features an admirable main character whose personal transformation influences her choices of partner. Not the other way around. Moira’s journey had me turning pages to find out how it would end both for her and for her relationships. And it kept me right on guessing all the way to the end.
I would expect nothing less from Jones, author of the Misadventures of Rollo Hemphill series of coming-of-age comedies, as well as the Preacher Evan Wycliff mysteries. Just like the best detective writers keep you wondering “who done it” to the very end, M&M&B kept me flipping between wanting Mick and Brad as the boyfriend of choice.
All the classic tropes of the genre lined up at the start the way you’d expect. Will she choose the “nice” guy or stick with the self-absorbed rich guy? Will she find that love is more important than success? I loved how those expectations were used by Jones and subverted.
Jones positions his book as belonging to the post metoo era of sexual politics. And certainly, Moira is not looking for marriage. When she gets a shot at stardom, she takes it. Now, if this were your standard romance fluff, her success would leave her unfulfilled and needing to throw it all over for true love in the end. Spoiler: she doesn’t.
Finally, a book about relationships that does more than dress up the sexual dynamics of the fifties in modern clothes and a mortgage of her own.