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Book Review: Fangirl Down by Tessa Bailey

Book Review: Fangirl Down by Tessa Bailey

We love a good romance novel all year round, but there’s nothing quite like cosying up with a romance read at Valentine’s Day. This year, Tessa Bailey has once again stepped up to the plate with her own Valentine’s publication date, bringing readers a sports romance novel with a twist, shining a spotlight on the lesser-written-about world of golf, including a grumpy golfer in need of a comeback and the number one fan-turned-golf caddy determined to help him turn his career around. The result is a quick, fun and steamy read – as you’d expect from any Tessa Bailey romance novel – but a rushed narrative, clunky middle and frustrating character choices can’t help but mean that Fangirl Down doesn’t quite hit the right mark.

If there’s one thing that Josephine Doyle knows without question, it’s that a dedicated fangirl shows up. Even when they’re the last one left – and, when it comes to golf pro Wells Whitaker, Josephine is most definitely the last fan standing. The one-time hottest rising star has hit a career low, with all he has left to show of his “promising” career being a killer hangover, a handful of broken clubs and a festering reputation as golf’s Media UnDarling. Through it all, Josephine has remained his biggest supporter, even when Wells didn’t believe in himself. But when Wells ultimately quits in a blaze of glory in the middle of a tournament, Josephine finally goes home.

The day Wells’ last remaining fan gives up on him is a wake up call, and when he later learns that Josephine’s family’s golf shop has been destroyed by a recent hurricane, and that she hasn’t be able to prioritise her much-needed medical insurance to help manage her diabetes in months either, he comes up with a wild proposal in a bid to help: be his new golf caddy, turn his game around, and use her share of the prize money to finally give her family’s business the kind of upgrades she’s been dreaming about for years.

 As they put their new partnership to the test in the next golf tournament, sharing the golf green by day and neighbouring hotel rooms by night, sparks soon begin to fly and before long, they’re inseparable. As Wells’ game improves, Josephine learns that beneath the moody exterior is a sweet and thoughtful man after all, and one that has maybe even come to care for her too. But he’s still technically her boss, and Josephine has a life outside of pro golf that she needs to get back to. Besides, a multimillionaire athlete falling for his biggest fan just doesn’t happen in real life anyway… right?

I won’t give up on you as long as you don’t give up on yourself again.”

Fangirl Down is a book that comes out swinging. With a fresh, fun premise, a delicious build-up of tension and a whole host of fan favourite tropes at play, there’s a lot to like about this novel. From the sports romance to the workplace relationship, the grumpy/sunshine characters, and the hint of celebrity/millionaire romance wrapped up in the plot too, Fangirl Down is poised to have a lot of fun in a lot of different ways – and, for the first half at least, it definitely does.

Wells is grumpy, snappy and closed off at first, but he’s instantly protective and his determination to help Josephine is an early sign of the sweeter character hiding underneath. Josephine is a wonderful character too, being both sweet and supportive and incredibly driven, determined and loyal to a fault. Seeing these two characters meet, flirt and grow closer offers a lot of enjoyment, and the chemistry between these two leads continues to simmer throughout, delivering some truly brilliant tension.

The problem is that the novel isn’t able to maintain this momentum. In its second half, Fangirl Down swaps simmering tension for clunky, awkward scenes, and fun and flirty dialogue for rambling inner monologues. It slows the pace of the novel right down, with all the earlier tension and chemistry just fizzling out long before the end of the novel. What’s more, there’s a lot about the second half of the novel that I just didn’t believe, from the speed at which Wells’ insta-attraction turned to love, to the timeline of Josephine’s shop’s redevelopment, and it made it difficult to connect with. Couple that with the very condensed timeline of the novel overall, and this book ultimately felt both overly rushed and just a little too unrealistic to really give yourself over to.

There’s definitely a lot of potential here, with strong characters, firm friendships and an easy lead in to book two in the series, set to hit shelves this summer, with the groundwork already set up and holding lots of promise. Even on its own, Fangirl Down has all the hallmarks of a typical Bailey novel with lots to like about it too; it’s entertaining, steamy and offers something fresh that romance readers may not have seen too often before. While it may not have stuck the landing for me, there’s no denying that Fangirl Down still has a lot to recommend it and Tessa Bailey fans in particular will welcome this first entry into an all-new sports romance series with open arms.


Fangirl Down is published by Avon on 15 February 2024

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