Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Ann Whynot’s sophomore SmartyPants Romance tome, Checking You Out, returns us to the world of Magecraft. What I love about this story and its predecessor, Dewey Belong Together, is its insistence on highlighting nerdy, gender-fluid characters.
In this story, we meet Lois, the best friend of her FMC in DBT, Max, and a single mother who has moved to Green Valley, hoping to create a better life for her daughter away from the busyness of New York City. In Dewey Belong Together, we meet Norman, the best friend and business partner of that book’s MMC. Jonathan and Norman are also relocating to Green Valley, so that Jonathan and Max can be together. Interestingly enough, Norman and Lois have a past. As teens, they met through a gaming platform and fell in love. They made plans to move to New York City together; however, Norman broke off their relationship. It’s been a decade since they’ve talked or seen each other, and they reconnect in Green Valley, to find out that they are still madly attracted to each other. Norman and Lois waste no time in falling for each other. However, Lois’s life is complicated by an ex-husband/father of her child who lives in France. Additionally, Norman isn’t sure about taking on the role of parenting Lois’s precious daughter. When a tragedy causes her life to hang in the balance, their priorities right themselves, and they find their eventual happy ending.
It’s rather easy to like Lois and Norman. They are likable characters, albeit they are rather mild. Both of them have suffered past traumas, which cause them to both cling to each other AND push each other away. My struggle with Checking You Out is the almost inauspicious nature of their journey. There are clearly plot points that raise the tenor of their coupling, moments when you fear for their happy ending. Yet, for the most part, Whynot lays out their story so staidly that I found myself losing interest in them from time to time. Thankfully, the ancillary characters of Max and Jonathan or Elsa and Max’s mother or David, Lois’s ex-husband, insert themselves to add other dimensions to Norman and Lois’s story. But what I think I like and what saves this book a bit is its deviation from typical romance, namely in the development of the characters.
If you’ve enjoyed the SmartyPants Romance books, if you enjoy Penny Reid’s Green Valley, if you’re a fan of atypical people, you will like Ann Whynot’s Checking You Out. It may, however, take you a bit to move through Lois and Norman’s story.
In love and romance,