Overall Grade: ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️ ⭐️
Second chance romance is one of my favorite tropes. Sprinkle in a side of a surprise baby, and this reader gobbles the story. Sara Ney’s The Mrs. Degree is all of these things. Where her first book in this series of standalones, The Player Hater, stalled, her newest story takes off. The story follows Penelope and Jack, college sweethearts, who have been separated for seven years. While in college, Penelope finds out she’s pregnant as Jack is preparing to launch into professional football, and she makes the decision to break up with him in order to protect his decision to become an NFL football player. Years later, he finds himself dreaming of her, and it causes him performance problems on the field. When he seeks her out, he finds she has a daughter, one who fits the timeline of possibly being his. As they navigate a new normal, they must decide if their future involves only co-parenting or if there is more between them.
What I loved most about The Mrs. Degree, a title that doesn’t quite summarize this story, is Jack’s undying love for Penelope. It’s clear, even through his anger at finding out about Skipper, that he’s loved Penelope forever. This isn’t a situation where Jack was a horrible boyfriend. He’s the kind of professional football player who seems like a unicorn: a man who simply wants to be with the only woman he’s ever loved. In modern-day language, Jack is a simp for Penelope, and it doesn’t undermine his virility or masculinity; it simply makes him entirely lovable.
Penelope is the complication of the story. She makes a hasty and ill-informed decision, she lies, and she hides the truth when she needs to be forthcoming. This makes her likability problematic. Thankfully, as Jack forgives her and courts her, she grows into the woman that you need her to be: capable, intelligent, and forthcoming. It takes much of the story for her to get to that place, but her brother, Davis, and Jack help her get to that point.
There are still moments in the pacing of the story that feel slow (like The Player Hater), and Penelope’s acceptance of Jack’s offer of a future drags the flow of the story. As well, the emotional connection between Penelope and Jack doesn’t match their attraction and chemistry. However, I enjoyed The Mrs. Degree far more than book 1. It will definitely make me want to read the next book of the series, The Make Out Artist.
In love and romance,