Jul 6 2013 10:30am

First Look: Stephanie Evanovich’s Big Girl Panties (July 9, 2013)

Big Girl Panties by Stephanie EvanovichStephanie Evanovich
Big Girl Panties
William Morrow / July 9, 2013 / $26.99 print, $11.89 digital

A rollicking, sensuous, feel-good romantic comedy about a grieving young widow who decides to get in shape . . . and winds up getting her groove back—and a whole lot more!

Holly didn't expect to be a widow at thirty-two. She also didn't expect to be so big. After her husband's death, food was the one thing she could always count on. Now, those extra pounds make flying coach feel like medieval torture—especially when she's squished next to Logan Montgomery. A personal trainer to famous pro athletes, her seatmate is so hot that he makes Holly sweat in all the right (and so embarrassingly wrong!) places.

Though Holly doesn't make the grade on Logan's first-impression meter, he finds himself intrigued by her sharp wit and keen insights—a welcome change from the high-maintenance models he dates—so he impulsively offers to get her back in shape. A little skeptical but ready to make at least one positive change in her life, Holly agrees.

To Logan's (and her own) surprise, Holly turns out to be a natural in the gym, slimming down into a bona fide looker with killer curves—and a new kind of hunger. Before either of them can stop it, the easy intimacy of their training sessions leads to even more steamy workouts away from the gym.

Logan's best friends, professional baseball player Chase Walker and his wife, Amanda, see that this is more than a fling, even if Logan and Holly don't. But can a man whose whole life depends on looks commit himself to a woman who doesn't fit his ideal? Now that Holly's turning other men's heads, does she even need Logan anymore? Are they a couple built to last . . . or destined to fizzle?

Having one partner with self-esteem issues is nothing new, but usually the heroine is extremely shy or feels plain or maybe the hero has some type of disfigurement. Jennifer Crusie took on the weight issues with Bet Me, but in Big Girl Panties, Stephanie Evanovich (Janet's niece) takes it a step further. Holly Brennan is not just a woman with curves, she is overweight. For her trip to Canada, she booked a first-class ticket in order to avoid buying two seats in coach. But on the return trip, first class is full. She ignores the airline rep’s insinuation that she should wait for the next flight so she can get the more roomy seats. Employing a stark stare down, she dares the rep to tell her that she is too fat for just one seat.

But while she is not a mind reader she has an excellent idea of what her seatmate, Logan Montgomery is thinking when he sees her:

Holly could almost feel his disgust toward her radiating out of him as if the irritated expression on his handsome face wasn’t enough of an indicator.

Another round of her pissing someone off just by showing up.

Logan Montgomery never flies coach—in fact he abhors it, but even his understated charm, and movie star looks can’t change the fact that some lottery winner is flying his extended family first class to New York. He missed the bullet of the fussy toddler but his first thoughts upon seeing Holly are:

Oh, please don’t let her sit next to me, he silently begged, watching her make her way down the aisle, her thick thighs rubbing together and her ample hips bumping into seats as she passed them. Her auburn hair was disheveled in ten different directions. She counted the rows and stopped right in front of Logan, giving him a quick glance. Why do I always get the old lady, the drunk guy or the fat chick? Logan thought. God, I hate coach. His mantra transformed quickly into moping.

Logan feels a twinge of guilt after he realizes that Holly picked up on his repugnance, especially after she does the white knuckle thing and forgets to breathe during the plane’s take-off. Holly’s bald comment that watching someone die is an uphill battle too only heaps coals on the burning fire of his remorse. Since Logan believes what goes around comes around, he quickly acts to neutralize any bad karma his thoughts and actions created.

As a highly successful personal trainer, Logan now works almost exclusively with professional athletes. Still, he remembers his early days and the exhilarating feeling of satisfaction he received watching clients transform their body and their life. He ended up crossing some professional boundaries by sleeping with some of those same clients, but there was just something about the mixture of estrogen and testosterone, and endorphins. He refuses to feel guilty about it now, but it not something he wants to revisit. However, he knows there is no chance that this will happen with Holly so he feels safe in offering his services:

“You’ve been through a real rough stretch, I know. It’s easy to let yourself go when you’re focused on someone else. But the fact is, you’re still here, very much alive, and far too young to hang it up. I could help you break some bad habits. Might even make you feel better.“

About half way into the book, I wondered why I had expectations of this book being funny. I chalked it down to associating Evanovich’s writing with her aunt's Stephanie Plum series. But when writing up this First Look, I realized that several blurbs talk about the book as a romantic comedy. There is some humor involving the secondary couple’s relationship, but Holly isn’t a wise-cracking heroine. Initially she makes jokes about her size, but only to cover up her vulnerability. Holly has never had great self-esteem and has always been overweight. She married her husband because she didn’t think she would get another offer and with her illness and then death, Holly has become very isolated. Her closest friend lives thousands of miles away. I found the story to be more about a woman, finding the courage to make changes in her life:

She could see her reflection in the now-dark plasma screen, a distorted mirror image of Holly sitting on the couch. She stared into it. The image on the screen was a amorphous blob. Flesh stacked upon more flesh oozing all over the couch. The neon yellow and green from the top of the Funyuns bag between her legs was reflected with unsettling clarity. She squeezed her thighs together tightly and heard the crunching sound of the Funyuns being pulverized. Holly leaned her head back on the couch and sighed. Tomorrow, all this will change, she told herself. Tomorrow she would become the disciple of Logan Montgomery, the tallest, darkest, handsomest stranger she’d ever met.

And about Logan—even with his philosophical, kind attitude, his preconceived ideas of beauty are impacting his ability to love. Oh, he is open to a friendship with Holly:

“I’m proud of you, you know,” Logan told her when she returned and patted the spot on the couch beside him, encouraging her to make contact with him... "You work so hard. You’re willing to try anything. I never once had to deal with you having a bad hair day or breaking a nail. To find out, what you’ve had to endure, well, I feel like it’s an honor to call you my friend.”

But it takes a while before he understands that Holly is more than his “ugly duckling” and beauty—true beauty is more than skin deep.

Big Girl Panties is a true Pygmalion story. And it does make me want to dust off my treadmill!

Learn more or pre-order a copy of Big Girl Panties by Stephanie Evanovich, out July 6:

Buy at AmazonBuy at Barnes & NobleBuy at Indiebound



Leigh Davis, Blogger

Subscribe to this conversation (must be logged in):
1. Kareni
This sounds intriguing! Thanks for the excerpt.
To the Pain! Jane
2. To the Pain! Jane
In the words of John McEnroe, "You CANNOT be serious."

How is this supposed to appeal to (female) readers? "Oh, goody! I can relate to this book because it heaps disdain on women that look like me, JUST LIKE EVERY OTHER MEDIA REPRESENTATION AND COMMERCIAL EVER."

If I see one more got-danged commercial suggesting that I choose an 80-calorie Yoplait for a meal, I'mma throw one at the screen.
To the Pain! Jane
3. scarlettleigh
To the Pain! Jane . I don't watch television that much so happily I miss at the Yoplait or Special K commercials. I hope the excerpts didn't give you the impression that the author was pushing an "ideal" body type because that is not the case.
To the Pain! Jane
4. scarlettleigh
@Kareni - I glad you found it intriguing.
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