REVIEW: Fangirl Down by Tessa Bailey

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Illustrated cover with green background featuring a tattooed and stubbled dark-haired white guy with a backwards baseball cap wearing a yellow half-untucked golf shirt and khaki pants looking back over his shoulder at a pretty red-haired white girl in a white tee and purple skirt, holding binoculars, who is on his back piggy-back style.Dear Tessa Bailey,

I have been so looking forward to this book! When I heard from trusted romance friends that Fangirl Down rivaled It Happened One Summer – my favourite of your books up to then – my excitement only mounted. I’m here to say Fangirl Down lived up to its promise. It was funny, sexy (very) and pretty much hit every one of my good book buttons.

Wells Whittaker is a pro golfer who’s been in a slump for the past two years. He came onto the scene five years ago and won a couple of majors but more recently he’s often missed the cut and his behaviour – tolerated when he was winning – became much more criticised. As it is, he’s barely allowed to be on the tour due to his antics on the course.

Josephine Doyle is his number one fan. She’s followed his career from the beginning. No fair weather fan, Josephine is here to stay.

Josephine knows golf; her family runs a pro shop, The Golden Tee, in Palm Beach and she’s certified to give lessons. While it wasn’t ever specified I got the impression that if she had wanted to, Josephine could have headed to LPGA herself. Her parents have now retired and she runs the pro shop herself.

When Wells is in Florida for a tournament, she’s at the course, cheering him on the whole time. Josephine’s fandom isn’t about a celebrity crush. Sure, Wells is good-looking, but she likes his game, his skill and she has witnessed kindnesses from him which indicated to her he was a golfer worth following.

Wells has had only limited interaction with Josephine over the years but he’s certainly aware of who she is. She’s shouted encouragement and banter at him from behind the rope, she holds up her sign “Wells’s Belle” and wears his merch. Wells is very down on himself and his career. He knows he’s tanking and there’s no saving him. The only thing that makes him want to try is his number one fan. He wishes she’d stop and then he could crawl off to wherever failed golfers go to die.

As the book begins, Josephine has won a competition to have lunch with Wells and for him to give her a putting lesson. She doesn’t really need the lesson of course but she’s very excited to spend some 1:1 time with her idol. However, after another bad round, Wells just wants to throw in the towel (yes I know I’m mixing my sports metaphors). So he tells her there won’t be a lunch or putting lesson. He says she should stop admiring him, he’s not worth her time or effort, then tears up her “Wells’s Belle” sign (because she’s still not giving up on him!) and leaves the tour. Still, something about Josephine gets to Wells and he can’t stop thinking about her. He hated the look in her eye when she finally gave up and left.

There’s a hurricane in Florida which does a lot of damage to the pro shop and Josephine’s already precarious financial position falls into the ditch. She’d let her flood insurance lapse in order to pay the rent on the shop. She’d foregone her health insurance for the same reason – and, as a Type 1 diabetic, healthcare is not really optional. Now with the shop and the stock in it ruined she’s lost as to how she will go on. Worse, her parents do not know about her financial issues and she’s just not sure how she will tell them their legacy is gone. One thing about Josephine is that she doesn’t want people hovering over her, especially re her diabetes. She understands people caring but she’s an adult and can take care of herself. (Even with her financial situation, she has been managing her diabetes.)

Wells, drowning his sorrows repeatedly and getting into bar brawls to let off steam, hears about the hurricane.

God, he needed a drink. Badly.

But he couldn’t seem to make the move to the kitchen to get a fresh bottle of scotch. Everything Nate had said was true—he had behaved like a relentless prick his entire career. Trash-talked the other pros instead of making friends. Been indifferent toward the fans. Either outright ignored the press or gave them answers they couldn’t air on television.

More than anything, he wanted to give the world his middle finger and go back to bed. No one expected anything from him. He had no family to let down. No real friends to piss off. No mentor to disappoint.

But as loudly as oblivion called to him, the crystal-clear memory of her sang louder.

God, it was annoying.

“We’re getting lunch, Josephine,” Wells shouted on the way to the shower. “Dammit, we’re getting lunch.”

When Wells turns up at the Golden Tee on a pretext, he realises quickly that Josephine needs a lot more than lunch.

The knowledge that this person was so much more than his most loyal fan came crashing down on Wells’s head like a ton of bricks. Josephine had problems to contend with. Serious ones. Her family’s shop was underwater and she had to worry about blood sugar going up and down. And he’d ripped her fucking sign in half? What kind of a monster am I?

Wells promptly offers to give Josephine the money she needs (he has plenty of it, after all) but of course she refuses. Her pride is pricked and she lets him have it.

“Are we really pointing out each other’s flaws, because I don’t think you have that kind of time on your hands.”

“I have nothing but time on my hands.”

“Fine! Then your backswing is timid.”

“My—” His neck locked up like a prison cell. “What did you say?”

“I said . . .” … “You used to swing like you had nothing to lose. It was glorious to watch. Now, you handle the driver like you’re worried the ball might yell at you for hitting it too hard.” She stabbed him in the chest with her index finger. “You swing like you’re scared.”

That’s truly when Wells realises Josephine has chops and from there he comes up with an idea.

“If I can get back on the tour, if they’ll allow me back on, why don’t you put your money where your mouth is and caddie for me? Since you know so goddamn much.”

Caddies make a percentage of whatever the golfer wins. If Wells can get back in the money, Josephine can get what she needs with no damage to her pride. And suddenly he wants to try. For her. I’ve tagged this book “morality chain lite”. I think it fits. Whilst Wells does learn to love the game again and do for himself rather than only ever relying on Josephine to be his moral compass, it takes most of the book for him to get there. But – for Josephine he will stop throwing golf clubs. He will make nice (ish) with reporters. He will behave himself. for her. She needs him and he’s not going to let her down.

Wells has a history of being abandoned by those he loves. First his parents when he was a child and then his mentor, after his game slumped. He expects to be left and, as Josephine points out to him, he tends to torpedo things himself before they can go bad and hurt him. At least that way he’s influencing what’s happening; it’s not just being done to him. He’ll do the leaving before something or someone leaves him. But Josephine promises not to give up on him as long as he doesn’t give up on himself and from there, well, the only way is up.

Almost from that first interaction, Wells has a bone-deep unshakeable protective streak when it comes to Josephine. He’d carry her around in his pocket and keep her safe always if he could. It’s ridiculously charming. Sometimes amusingly obnoxious. But, and this is important, while he feels all those feelings, he also knows that it’s important to Josephine to stand on her own two feet and to be respected for being the competent woman she is. Wells does not want her to be sad or scared or unhappy in any way and so he is determined to give her whatever she needs however he can. I 100% did not hate it.

“Thank you, Wells. Really.”

Ask me to walk on broken glass next. Watch me not even hesitate. 

It’s really all throughout the book. If this kind of devotion doesn’t work for a reader, Fangirl Down will be a fail but it super works for me and I lapped it up with a spoon.

Wells.” She tried to slow him down, but her heels only skidded in the grass. “Golfers don’t bring their caddies to the media tent.”

“This one does.”

“Why?”

“I don’t know, Josephine,” Wells fired back over his shoulder. “I just . . . have this pretty intense need to make sure everyone knows you’re very fucking important. Okay? Could you kindly just go along with it?”

I enjoyed Wells and Josephine’s growing professional and personal relationship. I loved how Josephine’s fandom wasn’t just because Wells has the best butt in golf (though he does). Wells appreciates (and so did I) that the chemistry between them is a thing born of their personal relationship and their interactions once the caddie/pro partnership starts. Josephine is attracted to Wells the man, not Wells the celebrity.

I laughed at quite a bit of Wells’s befuddlement about Josephine. She blows him away in all senses of the phrase.

Can’t I just miss the taste of my boyfriend’s cock? she’d purred, kissing his crown.

And his brain went offline after that.

He’d literally passed out from the sucker punch of relief she’d given him. And when he’d woken up, she was back at it. Moaning as she sucked him.

No clothes this time. Not a single stitch.

Now he was supposed to make small talk. Chew things and operate utensils.

How.

and

He had no idea what he’d done to deserve the Cadillac of sexual favors, but he wanted to be a better person now. Volunteer more. Build orphanages with his bare hands. Save the bees. All of it.

I loved the way Wells respected Josephine’s dreams and desires, even at his own expense. I loved how Wells understood that Josephine was his equal partner and wasn’t shy about letting others know it.

The sex was scorching, the banter top notch. There was so much for me to love in Fangirl Down. It truly is your best book since It Happened One Summer (another cracker) and possibly, it’s even better.

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Kaetrin

Kaetrin started reading romance as a teen and then took a long break, detouring into fantasy and thrillers. She returned to romance in 2008 and has been blogging since 2010. She reads contemporary, historical, a little paranormal, urban fantasy and romantic suspense, as well as erotic romance and more recently, new adult. She loves angsty books, funny books, long books and short books. The only thing mandatory is the HEA. Favourite authors include Mary Balogh, Susanna Kearsley, Joanna Bourne, Tammara Webber, Kristen Ashley, Shannon Stacey, Sarah Mayberry, JD Robb/Nora Roberts, KA Mitchell, Marie Sexton, Patricia Briggs, Ilona Andrews, just to name a few. You can find her on Twitter: @kaetrin67.

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