Last month, just a few days after I finished reading Driving Her Wild, I saw this post on Romance Novels for Feminists about cross-class romances, and it encouraged me to delve a little deeper in my thinking about this book. (As an aside, that blog is fantastic; you should check it out.) While the characters in Maguire’s book are actually from the same working-class background, the book is chock full of conversations about socioeconomic and cultural issues, and it seemed to me that it contained a narrative about class, despite the characters’ similar backgrounds.
First off, the publisher’s blurb, courtesy of Goodreads:
Winning is good. Succumbing is even better…
Recently retired pro MMA fighter Steph Healy is through having rough-and-tumble romps with sexy blue-collar dudes. Unfortunately, Wilinski’s Fight Academy has hired an electrician with a body built to make a gal weep. And avoiding some full-body contact is taking all of Steph’s self-control.
Carpenter-turned-electrician Patrick Doherty is damn good with his hands. Sure, he’s not what Steph is looking for—yet. But he’s about to prove that she has seriously underestimated her opponent…
The moment Patrick has her deliciously pinned, Steph knows she’s in deep, deep trouble. Because this seemingly mild carpenter has the mastery to give her exactly what she needs…and this is one takedown she’s willing to take lying down!
Your eyes did not deceive you: the heroine is a retired pro mixed martial art (MMA) fighter, and the hero is, at first glance, a bumbling electrician with a poor sense of vocation. It turns out, though, that he’s actually an amazingly talented custom carpenter who, thanks to the economy, has to take lower-paying electrician work that he kind of sucks at, but he’ll do anything to keep from foreclosing on his house.
It would be easy to read this book and pay attention only to surface things — and still enjoy the heck out of it. The chemistry between Patrick and Steph is incredible; the romance is upbeat and fun; the characters are great, an excellent blend of soft and sharp. But Driving Her Wild, like all my favorite romance novels, has more to offer the world.
After years of relationships with blue-collar guys like her brothers — the guys from back home — or with other fighters — professional nomads — Steph starts the novel resolved to find a guy with whom she can settle down and maybe start a family, and she wants to find someone who is financially steady. Having grown up in scarcity and want, she wants a future free from that gnawing worry about money that is the constant companion of those who have not quite enough.
But Steph meets Patrick, a divorcee struggling to manage a mortgage that is slightly bigger than he can handle on his own, a man who appears to be an amalgam of all the guys she’s already dated — kind, well-meaning, a little clumsy — and who seems to offer a future she’s already rejected, a future of struggle and want not quite balanced by companionship and amazing sex.
It’s a romance novel, so you can probably assume that she eventually realizes that a future with Patrick is worth it, and all those concerns about money are superficial and a little bit awful. The beauty of this novel, however, is that Meg Maguire doesn’t force Steph to choose love over security, and she doesn’t introduce some windfall to render the choice moot (they don’t, for instance, win the lottery or receive an unexpected inheritance that solves all their problems). Instead, Maguire allows Steph to see Patrick clearly and to ruminate a bit on the idea of a relationship as a partnership.
Now, maybe you need to take me with a grain of salt, because I just read one of those billionaire/ingenue stories (shudder), but it seems to me that a story like Driving Her Wild with its portrayal of the economic realities shared by so many of us is important and helpful. I, personally, found it reassuring in a way that no fantasy tale of a bajillionaire lover could ever be. Instead of encouraging me to hide from the realities of life, this book encourages me to look at them from a different, more positive perspective, to find the love and beauty in everyday life.
I honestly can’t recommend this book enough…
Driving Her Wild was released on October 22, 2013 as an e-book and paperback by Harlequin Blaze. To learn more about the book, click on the cover image above to visit its page on Goodreads. For more information about Meg Maguire, check out her website or Twitter.