Size Doesn’t Matter (148): Gem & Dixie; The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband

I received this book for free from Edelweiss, Publisher in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (148): Gem & Dixie; The Girl with the Make-Believe HusbandGem & Dixie by Sara Zarr
Narrator: Julia Whelan
Length: 5 hrs, 45 mins
Published by Harper Audio on April 4, 2017
Genres: Contemporary
Format: Audiobook, eARC
Source: Edelweiss, Publisher
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From renowned author and National Book Award finalist Sara Zarr comes a deep, nuanced, and gorgeously written story about the complex relationship between two sisters from a broken home.

Gem has never known what it is to have security. She’s never known an adult she can truly rely on. But the one constant in her life has been Dixie. Gem grew up taking care of her sister when no one else could: not their mother, whose issues make it hard for her to keep food on the table, and definitely not their father, whose intermittent presence is the only thing worse than his frequent absence. Even as Gem and Dixie have grown apart, they’ve always had each other.

When their dad returns home for the first time in years and tries to insert himself back into their lives, Gem finds herself with an unexpected opportunity: three days with Dixie—on their own in Seattle and beyond. But this short trip soon becomes something more, as Gem discovers that that to save herself, she may have to sever the one bond she’s tried so hard to keep.

Gem & Dixie is my first experience with Sara Zarr, and I’m pretty sure this is absolutely the worst place I could have started. Either that or I should immediately donate the Zarr backlist books I own, because I did not enjoy this book at all. Gem & Dixie is one of those novels I just don’t get, because it is one hundred percent not fun.

If I hadn’t been listening to the audiobook, I would most assuredly not have gotten through Gem & Dixie. Whelan’s narration gives Gem the illusion of a personality. Even so, Gem has no sense of humor. That’s not just me saying that; Gem comments on it a couple of times throughout the book. Gem doesn’t care about anything but money, food, and her sister Dixie, and she’s iffy on Dixie because her little sister has been such a shit lately.

Obviously I knew going in that Gem & Dixie wouldn’t be a happy book, but I thought that there would at least be sister feels. Nope. Gem and Dixie mostly don’t seem to like each other, and Dixie will throw Gem under the bus at any point if she thinks it’s to her advantage. I’d feel bad for Gem about that except that in her “happy” ending, she leaves Dixie with their mom because that’s what Dixie wanted. Just because Dixie wants to remain with their drug-addicted mother (who forces Dixie to get drugs for her) doesn’t mean that’s the right decision.

Gem & Dixie is pure tragedy porn. Basically the only reason I can come up with for why someone would want to read something so persistently miserable is schadenfreude. At one point, Gem accidentally throws away seven thousand dollars, and she doesn’t realize for hours so it’s too late to go back and get the money. Considering that Gem has a one-track mind about money and food, I find this fairly unbelievable, for one thing. For another, there’s absolutely no plot relevance to this. It’s solely to make Gem’s life even more shitty.

While people do realistically live such miserable lives, it doesn’t work when written as this constant unrelenting awfulness. As a narrative, Gem & Dixie is flat. Gem is always unhappy, even at the end when she’s marginally happy. There are no real highs or lows. This is one of those books where things are always so bad that I eventually lose my ability to take it seriously and started laughing when new bad shit happened. Obviously some readers don’t react this way since so many books like this exist, but I cannot do it.

If you’re into books that are unrelentingly depressing, barely have a plot, lack character development, and are generally quite boring, Gem & Dixie is the ideal book for you!

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:

I received this book for free from Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review. This does not affect my opinion of the book or the content of my review.

Size Doesn’t Matter (148): Gem & Dixie; The Girl with the Make-Believe HusbandThe Girl with the Make-Believe Husband by Julia Quinn
Series: Rokesbys #2
Published by Avon on May 30, 2017
Genres: Historical, Romance
Pages: 384
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
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While you were sleeping...

With her brother Thomas injured on the battlefront in the Colonies, orphaned Cecilia Harcourt has two unbearable choices: move in with a maiden aunt or marry a scheming cousin. Instead, she chooses option three and travels across the Atlantic, determined to nurse her brother back to health. But after a week of searching, she finds not her brother but his best friend, the handsome officer Edward Rokesby. He's unconscious and in desperate need of her care, and Cecilia vows that she will save this soldier's life, even if staying by his side means telling one little lie...

I told everyone I was your wife

When Edward comes to, he's more than a little confused. The blow to his head knocked out six months of his memory, but surely he would recall getting married. He knows who Cecilia Harcourt is—even if he does not recall her face—and with everyone calling her his wife, he decides it must be true, even though he'd always assumed he'd marry his neighbor back in England.

If only it were true...

Cecilia risks her entire future by giving herself—completely—to the man she loves. But when the truth comes out, Edward may have a few surprises of his own for the new Mrs. Rokesby.

Julia Quinn has become one of my favorite authors in the last year. She may not have the best prose overall, but she delivers banter, ships, and feels like few romance authors do. The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband delivers on its While You Were Sleeping premise, and I enjoyed the heck out of it.

Though Edward and Cecilia don’t make my top Julia Quinn ships, they’re very cute. It’s a great set up plotwise but a bit less so when it comes to ship-tropiness, because Cecilia and Edward’s relationship grows based upon a lie. You spend a lot of the book shipping but also prepared for the boom to be lowered. Quinn does a nice job with it (particularly by giving them a back story), and it’s possible that I’ll love the book a bit more on reread. I did spend most of the book braced for something go to wrong in a really problematic, awful way, which FYI does not happen. There’s definitely anger when things come out, but Edward’s too nice to be a real dick about everything.

Probably my favorite thing here, aside from how funny the premise is, is Edward’s character. Though he’s a captain in the military, he is not remotely an alpha male asshole; I typically avoid any sort of military romances because they tend to come hand-in-hand with protective male assholery (even Dare’s Bram didn’t do much for my opinions of military heroes). Edward, however, is a rule-following goober who loves his family a fuckton (as he should, since the Rokesbys are great). I had about a million feelings in the brief epilogue, though I wish everyone had been around.

Cute and funny, The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband is an excellent addition to the Rokesbys series and Quinn’s catalog.

Tl;dr – Review in a GIFfy:




2 responses to “Size Doesn’t Matter (148): Gem & Dixie; The Girl with the Make-Believe Husband”

  1. Averi says:

    Oh my god I love your GIFfy reviews XD

  2. Shira says:

    For some reason, I never “got” any of Sara Zarr’s books. I don’t know if it’s because of the hype they get or what, but I always felt like I was the only one who didn’t LOVE them! And this started with the first one I ever read which was Sweethearts. I remember EVERYONE was going on and on about Cameron Quick and how he was their new “book boyfriend”. I think I forced myself to think I like the book for a while, and then eventually I reread it and realized, nope just didn’t like it. I still read most of the books she wrote after that, again because of hype, but I never liked any of them all that much…I don’t think I’ll start reading her again with this one.

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