The Fine Print By Lauren Asher

Where do I even begin? I think that one of my first issues was that I started using TikTok recently… And I have stumbled onto BookTok. There are so many recommendations that I can’t even keep up with. However, that did not stop me from purchasing most of the things recommended. I just blindly purchased these without even knowing what it was about. If you have been following along with me… then you know it is very hard to take recommendations from others… And I am often wary of books that everyone is saying they love. On the other hand, there is a lot of TikToks of people who hated it. So I had to know what the controversy was about.

I ordered it on Amazon and started reading it right away. I was pleasantly surprised to find out that it takes place in a Disneyland like setting. (I have never been there but I understood the female main character’s zeal for the park.) My issue is that our male MC (Rowan) is described as a grumpy guy to Zahra’s sunshine. However, I think Jackass is the right word. I thought there was no way I would have a soft spot for Rowan but… I digress. There was a lot of negative talk about Rowan’s character but not enough of a look at what trauma he went through. Because people have money doesn’t negate them having serious issues. That being said… He is still a jackass.

So the story opens up with Rowan at the funeral of his grandfather. You can tell already that he is not up to peopling… (But there is a difference. This is a funeral… People are giving you their condolences… They aren’t talking to you for the hell of it. And he is super rude to people.) My mom would say it is because his Grandfather died… And sure that is true but none of these people did anything to you. Rowan and his two brothers get individual letters from their Grandfather prior to his death. Rowan’s letter tasks him with taking his father’s theme park (Dreamland) to the next level. He has billions of dollars riding on whether or not his plan for the theme park impresses the board. (He has no clue who the board members are going to be.) You get the feeling that visiting Dreamland is the absolute last thing he wants to do. Why? What happened there?

Enter Zahra. She works at Dreamland as hairstylists and cosmetic artist. I think that it is awesome. That has got to bring joy to the kids… But at the first meeting to introduce Rowan… She shows up late and almost face plants into his crotch. Secondhand Cringe. The exchange they have is anything but cute… She even points out the crappy wages and healthcare to him. Rowan is unmoved and particularly rude. It is his default setting. His hope is that he can scare people long enough to do what he needs to. Zahra doesn’t seem to care about his shitty attitude. And for some reason that works for him.

Zahra has her own issues though. She has her own trust issues. She had a creative mind and idea that an ex of hers stole and presented as his own. Makes you want to karate chop him in the throat. It keeps her from living her dream to the fullest potential. And there is a lot of that going around. But when she is given the opportunity to voice her opinion about work… she drunkenly submits a scathing review of their biggest ride. She would know. It was originally her idea. Rowan brings her into the creative team to come up with ideas. And something about their close proximity leads to an unexpected connection.

I did think a relationship between a boss and worker was crossing the line. I definitely do not date coworkers. Rowan and Zahra had a connection right away but both of them seemed to try to deny what was there. But work is not the best place to explore that. Particularly when he takes it upon himself to kiss Zahra in her cubicle. He really should be better at controlling himself. And then he had the nerve to accuse her of trying to blackmail him. (Maybe you shouldn’t have been an arrogant asshole then you wouldn’t have to worry about someone trying to take advantage of you. )

Here’s where Spoilers abound. So if you have not read it… Stop here.

So I have realized that giving a male main character money usually diminishes for audiences the traumatic experiences the character has had to endure it. I have seen a lot of reviews saying they didn’t like the book because Rowan was not all that great. (People can like or not like it.) And the assessment is true. He is not great. But what I have noticed is that abuse and trauma goes unnoticed if it happens to a man. Particularly to a man with money.

Throughout the story we are told that Rowan’s mother passed away and he has had a hard time with that. He definitely needs to figure out how to work through that trauma but prior the start of the series, he has no reason to. It’s his defense mechanism and it works for him with his family or the sharks with money that he has to surround himself with. His grandfather also passed away after an accident where was kept alive by machines. So the only two people that may have protected him died. And then he was left in the care of his alcoholic, abusive father.

Rowan describes how distant his father was to him when his mom was alive… The father did not know how to even relate to him and to me didn’t even seem like he tried to. I wonder why a woman would have stayed with a man that would treat her son like that but there are a number of reasons. He constantly bullied the boy and made him feel bad about his interests. In comparison to his two brothers… his father used to make him feel less than because he was the artsy type. It doesn’t take much to destroy a child’s dream and having a parent do so is so common people didn’t even bring it up.

It is part of the reason that he lies to Zahra about being the artist. Why would he share with someone his knack for drawing and art if his own father doesn’t even appreciate it? Why would he elect to open himself up to this again? This does NOT mean that he should be lying to Zahra. His refusal to admit that he liked her made me want to poke him in the damn eye… and the thing about lying… it usually means that it has to be revealed. I get the feeling that he wasn’t prepared to acknowledge his feelings about drawing again as well as the want to help Zahra.

My other issue was his lack of asking questions. He just walks in and says… We are going on a date. Sir what happened to asking people out? Like I get that in the circles he’s used to being in… This may be what they do… But it is maddening. She even has to point out that maybe he should ask her what she wants before ordering the whole menu and having it delivered for only two people.

I think the kicker for me was twofold. He tells Zahra that at one point Rowan describes losing his virginity and having the woman that he is sleeping with records it to blackmail him with. I am sure that if this happened with a woman… the readers would be in their feelings about it. But as it is… People completely disregarded it. The sad truth is no… he is not going to just be great and trust people especially since he has been dealing with shallow people his whole life… So that means the relationship between he and Zahra is going to start off rocky at best. But when given a safe space to be himself… He grows into a person worth being around. (Maybe I am a romantic at heart….But I get that people have baggage… and that takes time to work through it.

When Zahra gets sick… He doesn’t know how to deal with it. He reverts back to his old self. It is a wall that he has become accustomed to. He cannot deal with the parallels between her sickness and his mothers death so he bails. Here is another sign of the baggage taking shape and hold him back from what he obviously wants. It ties into his want to keep things casual… he has to feel like he is in control. Because his life is in shambles when it isn’t.

Which brings me to my last point… Many people took exception to Rowan learning that long reaching consequences of low wages and cut rate healthcare. But while I was annoyed about it… I understood that in order to learn you have to walk in the shoes of someone else. Sadly, many people believe the way they do things is the way that many people handle things. In the beginning… when Zahra first meets Rowan she points out his choices in wages and cut in healthcare and he seems to think that people don’t need healthcare because… He has no need for it. Doesn’t everyone just pay their bills? Like he does. Later he discovers that his workers have second jobs… He is actually puzzled as to why. (In his mind, they are given affordable housing… so why would they need anything else? It is so obtuse… but I have had conversations with people… Who are not billionaires that assume everyone owns a computer and a ) I lived for when his assistant tore into his ass when he asked why she worked a second job. You can’t possibly believe that people enjoy working all day and all not. He’s too smart for that. But in order to see the error in his ways… this is the turn the story had to take. It is even better when he invites himself to dinner at Zahra’s. Just trying to make conversation… he learns that her family has never been on vacation… and that he has something to do with that. Open mouth insert foot. He realizes that what Dreamland needs is to respect its workers more.

I loved the epilogue. I have the hard copy book so I didn’t get the extended epilogue. But I enjoyed that they got married and had children. No I do not think that every story needs to end that way because marriage and children is not everyone’s end goal. But I am glad to see how life had turned around for Rowan in particular. Even though his father is trash… He still ended up where he needed to be doing what brought his life purpose. Getting past his wall and out of his own way. Thanks Grandpa. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

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