Review: "Prince of Womanizers"
TRIGGER Warning. This is my first ever review of a web fic novel. Written by Niño Noel Manalo, "Prince of the Womanizers" (which is in Tagalog), this romantic comedy novel is set in the Philippines and starts out when the two lead characters are in their teens. Word of warning: The male lead Aivan Marcus Gonzales is a dick. If you are not a fan of asshole heroes, stay clear of this one. However, if you're a bit of a masochist like me and curious as to how the writer can possibly turn a cruel, misogynistic, physically and mentally abusive fourteen year old boy who bullies his foster sister (which includes sexual molestation), then you're reading the right book. If you think this character should be boiled alive, skinned, then set on fire, then you're probably not going to enjoy this one. Now, a story like this can only really truly work if the female lead can give as good as she gets, but that only happens in the latter half of the book and our heroine (I use the term loosely) spends the first half playing a doormat to this raging rich kid dickhead. The second part of this book is just utter bananas. The author throws everything but the kitchen sink to keep these two silly rabbits apart and I compulsively read every word.
Fourteen-year-old Avygail De la Cruz lives with the family of a man who may or may not be her father. Avy's mother was the other woman in the situation in which Avy's adoptive father cheated on his wife, with whom he has a son named Aivan. Aivan is unhappy that Avy lives in the house because he blames Avy's mother for almost destroying his parents' marriage and he resents her for it. His father sees his obnoxious, bratty behavior and actually believes Avy (for once) whenever she reports Aivan's abusive treatment of her, for which he (deservedly) receives corporeal punishment. Poor Avy lives in a household where she is constantly terrorized by her foster brother who berates her nonstop, sexually threatens her, encourages his bully friends at school to mistreat her, physically assaults her, and sneaks into her bedroom at night so he could sleep on her bed, while forcing her to sleep on the floor.
Throughout all this, Avy endures the abuse because she is thankful to this family for taking her in when her own mother couldn't care for her. She has no escape from Aivan's daily terrorism because she has no other family and nowhere else to go. And he is relentless. They attend the same school, so she can't even get away from him there. The worst part is, most of Aivan's attacks are psychological. He tells Avy daily she's ugly, worthless, and she won't amount to anything because she's a whore like her "pokpok" mother. When Aivan's dad buys Avy a new phone to replace the one Aivan broke on purpose, he steals it from her and threatens to hurt her if she tells on him.
Soon, it becomes obvious that there might be a bigger reason why Aivan goes ape-shit over Avy. Rampaging hormones. Whenever a boy talks to her a school, Aivan goes and beats the shit out of the dude, even if it's just an innocent conversation. He tells Avy that she belongs only to him, though he doesn't actually like her. He dates other girls and is kind of a manwhore. He forces Avy to go to his basketball games to sit in the stands to hold his towel and water bottle. What a prince. As Avy grows into a beautiful young woman, Aivan's behavior gets worse. It gets so bad that his father notices, probably thinks to himself "Holy shit, my son is a psycho rapist out to get his foster sister," and decides to do something drastic: send Aivan to a whole nother hemisphere for the rest of his schooling.
But poor Avy does not get away from Aivan because he cyber-stalks her (so sweet), calls her every day, and whenever he hears of her having a suitor, he throws massive tantrums that include breaking expensive appliances (trust: this kid is not okay). On Avy's 18th birthday, he forces her to dance with an iPad at her big 18th birthday party in front of other people. He gets jealous of Justin Bieber. When Avy posts a selfie of the Beebs kissing her cheek, Aivan demands that she send him a video scrubbing the kiss from her cheek. His parents know he's up to all sorts of shenanigans, but they're just thankful that he's 16,0000 miles away.
Until he wasn't. Aivan decides three years is just enough time for his banishment and returns to the Philippines without telling his folks and warns Avy not to tell them, either. Aivan sets up shop in Avy's dorm room (though he has his own place) and enrolls himself in Avy's university. What follows is a relationship development with an interesting dynamic. They're quasi-siblings who sleep in the same bed, he makes plenty of sexual overtures to her, he waits for her outside her classrooms, he makes her wait for him outside his; but by this point, Aivan, while still an overly sensitive baby who has tantrums, has become kind of nice to Avy. He chases away her would-be suitors and treats her like his property in public but he's also become solicitous of her: asking if she's eaten, is she getting enough rest. He seems to genuinely care about her well-being and tells her he loves her (all the other girls are just nameless hos, baby). But they do not get intimate. There are no moments of sexual tension with these two because they have a weird brother and sister dynamic for most of the book. They don't snog even once. After all that, Aivan does an UNFORGIVABLE thing. For my money, she lets him off the hook way too easily. Also, his reasoning for this jerkhole act is incongruent with a grand gesture he does for her later (which I believe presents a plot hole).
Aivan talks about his dick and having sex with other women a lot. A LOT. Well, he's just a talkative guy, really, and doesn't have much tact (he brags about being handsome and muscular a lot--which I think might be Filipino humor I don't understand very well). For the most part, he does it to annoy Avy who's at this point become more resistant to his bullcrap. Avy promises him if he graduates university with honors, she'll agree to be his girlfriend, so he works his butt off. I gotta say, I did enjoy Aivan groveling and attempting to do household chores just to please Avy. It was very cute.
Oh, and hanging over their heads all this time is: maybe Aivan got a girl named Stacey pregnant while he was living in the States?
Let's talk about the curveballs because there are a few: paternity drama, kidnapping, and my favorite one, which was "Kids, you gotta break up because you're brother and sister." Hilarious. I'm sure I'm forgetting something. Oh, right! Aivan is blackmailed into getting engaged to someone else in the worst way. Someone gets shot! Someone goes blind!
And yet, somehow, it all turns okay in the end! I'm not sure Aivan is rehabilitated from his womanizing ways, but I think Avy better be suspicious for a good long while yet. This book is very Filipino: the heroine is treated like garbage at first. I mean, like dog shit. But then it gets better. But man, does she get treated like dog shit. For my money, Aivan doesn't get punished enough, but I'm vindictive. He does a very very awful thing in the middle of the book due to some insecurity issues and seriously, it was pretty awful to read about.
Oh and sorry perverts, there's nothing for you here. As much as Aivan talks about his dick and yeah, he does flash it a few times to Avy, the BIG SEX SCENE if you're expecting one, happens off-page. You'd think after all the emotional garbage these two went through, we'd get a couple of money shots, but nope. Nada. Not even a torrid kissing scene with tongue. WTF. Even though Aivan talks a big game, up to and including dropping sexual innuendoes during a meal with his parents and Avy, homeboy has weak game.
The most remotely sexy scene in this book: Avy hears Aivan probably jerking off in the shower. Girl, ask him if he needs a hand. You're a bad hostess.
There are few cultural things that I didn't understand because I'm an ignorant American, but there were an awful lot of circumcision jokes here. Is that a really big deal in the Philippines? The writing style is engaging and the pacing is good. Emotional scenes have the proper amount of pathos without being manipulative, but some of the stuff Aivan does in this book are just downright… cruel. It just doesn't match with his "the guy twith all the dick jokes" persona later on. Avy has the most growth as a character. She really learns to give as good as she gets and then some. I really wish the story had more "mini pay-off" scenes which are a must in web fiction novels. This book needed money-shots! And don't give me this "oh, it's a 'sweet' book." My homeboy Aivan's favorite talking point is his "bes pren."
A fun, quick read with some uncomfortable moments, but I had a good time, anyway. 3/5
This book is available on Goodnovel.