The home page of Ainslie Paton's website, has a little box that says "Favourite Tropes - New Takes" and in that box are pictures of a bunch of her books, including this one, Unsuitable. Unsuitable is a new take on the "busy executive needs a nanny for his kid" trope by making the executive a woman and the nanny a man. I thought this made Unsuitable a fun choice for "Favorite Trope" month.
Here's the blurb:
Can they make trailblazing and homemaking fit, or is love just another gender stereotype?
Audrey broke the glass ceiling. Reece swapped a blue collar for a pink collar job.
She’s a single mum by design. He’s a nanny by choice.
She gets passed over for promotion. He struggles to find a job.
She takes a chance on him. He’s worth more than he knows.
There’s an imbalance of power. There’s an age difference.
There’s a child whose favourite word is no.
Everything about them being together is unsuitable.
Except for love.
Paton does a great job of turning a favorite trope on its head-- all the way to the end when Audrey is the one who has to go to Reece and grovel to get him back. Audrey chose to have a child on her own using a sperm donor. As the book opens Audrey has to find a new nanny. When Reece shows up at her door, Audrey is nonplussed, because she assumed, as she thought of Reese Witherspoon, that this Reece was also a woman. Audrey, however, recognizes her own biases for 2 reasons: 1) Reece is able to establish an instant rapport with 3-year old Mia, and 2) Audrey doesn't want to be guilty of the same discrimination she faces in her male-dominated profession. After some trials, she agrees to give Reece the job as carer to her daughter.
Reece turns out to have an amazing gift working with children. But he continually has to deal with all of the assumptions that people make about him and how painful it is to be denied opportunities with children simply because he's a man. I think Paton explores this issue very well and I liked the way this book got me thinking about my own biases.
Audrey chose to be a single parent because she didn't really trust relationships and she desperately wanted to have a family. She's estranged from her parents and pretty much on her own with the exception of a few close friends. She's good at her job, but she works in the construction industry, and is often passed over in favor of her male colleagues.
It's not long before Audrey and Reece realize how attracted they are to one another. Audrey feels guilty as she is Reece's employer. She also feels awkward over the fact that she's several years older than Reece. She doesn't want a permanent relationship-- she just wants her little family of herself and Mia. It's clear that Reece is the emotionally mature one (again going against trope). So it's Audrey who has to decide that she does indeed want Reece permanently in her life.
Like the other Paton book I read, Grease Monkey Jive, Unsuitable, is on the longish side (about 350 pages). The length gives us a chance to see Audrey & Reece weather some storms as their relationship deepens and develops. In the end, though, it's Audrey who has to relinquish absolute control over her life and let someone else in. This was a thought-provoking, satisfying, and entertaining read.
I'm just sorry I've been so preoccupied by other things that I didn't take the time to write about it sooner.